Entertainment
2000 Readers Poll
2000 Critics Picks
Best Bar Ambience

Imagine that in the Cold War 1950s, your hippest, thrift-store-shopping uncle built a bomb shelter that could double as a cocktail lounge. That's this place: So casual and funky and dimly lit you'll forget you're not underground - unless you're chilling on the big patio outside. You don't have to wait for the return of Mutually Assured Destruction to sequester yourself in this crypto-swanky gin mill and drink to your own personal perestroika. Your comrades are probably already waiting for you, too. And the barkeeps? See next entry.

Best Bar Snacks

Merry olde England with a twist: Whether you want bangers & mash or fish & chips from across the pond, or just some good ol' Texas nachos from across the creek, the green freehouse nestled downtown just off the Gallery District has the perfect complement for your pint of ale. Once you've doused the basket full of fried goodness with vinegar and lemon, you'll be singing "God Save the Queen." Easily Austin's most British of watering holes, the D&D is a salute to the best suds under the Union Jack, including ESB, Newcastle, and McEwan's. Texas microbrews are also served.

Best Bar Staff

Mixology: It ain't rocket science, folks. But if it were, these cunning booze jockeys could send us to the Horsehead Nebula and back a dozen times by Christmas. Barbacks Christopher Walker and Jacob Schulze and bartenders Mendy Frohlich, Davis Comeau, Michael Nowlin, John Nordstrom, and Montgomery Conner comprise a sort of National Alcohol and Suaveness Administration in our own downtown. Outta-this-world service, stellar concoctions, just the right fuel to feed your drive. Houston, we have no problem.

Best Casual Hangout

Kick back with a $2.50 bottle of Fat Tire and a plate of homemade tamales and watch the scenery go walking by. During the school year, Spider House is a people watcher's haven; choose between the open-air patio and the dark, cozy interior of this restored house just north of campus for a quiet place to sit and write your first novel, meet interesting strangers, or catch up with old friends.

Spider House Patio Bar & Cafe
2908 Fruth
512/480-9562
www.spiderhouse.com

Best Dance Music Club

Hundreds of specks of light rotate around the dance floor while the best selection of Seventies and Eighties pop songs pump through the speakers. This is disco without the cheese. Boogie lovers can choose from three floors of dancing pleasure that play everything from retro to techno. You can't go wrong at Polly Esther's, whether you're there to get down or to watch those who already have.

Best Drink Specials/Happy Hour

Mango, prickly pear, strawberry, banana, and the ever deadly "Swirl": just some of the famous, tropical fruit-bursting margaritas oozing with sun-kissed flavor that await your palate at Trudy's Happy Hour. While the official period of merriment (and slacker prices) extend from 2-7pm (and all day Monday), the place is so comfy, you'll feel happy there no matter what time you visit.

Trudy's
Trudy's North Star, 8820 Burnet Rd., 512/454-1474
Trudy's Little Texas Lane, 901-C Little Texas Ln., 512/326-9899
www.trudys.com

Best Jukebox

Now appearing this fall, David Allan Coe, Ike & Tina Turner, Iron Maiden, and Glen Campbell. Well, maybe not in person, but for the best diversity of jukebox music, nothing beats the sounds that emanate from the Casino - a must-do pitstop on your next Sixth Street crawl.

Casino el Camino
517 E. Sixth
512/469-9330
www.casinoelcamino.net

Best Live Music Venue

Austin's internationally known blues club is where the legends play: Bell, Ball, Clark, Vaughan, not to mention touring icons like Etta James, Maceo Parker, and Wanda Jackson. With minimal seating, the large room is perfect for milling around, seeing, and being seen. People come to hear the music but they leave with a taste of history, music history that the name Antone's conjures. Expanding the booking roster - from its stalwart blues and R&B acts to include a variety of styles including jazz and pop-punk - has only solidified this landmark's home in our hearts.

Best Movie Theatre

The Alamo started as a simple concept - "dinner and a movie," all in one location - but has since branched out into even more adventurous territory. Since the popular downtown movie house opened a few years back, its repertoire has broadened to include midnight movies, free Saturday films for kids (and their adult guardians), and silent films with musical accompaniments.

Alamo Drafthouse
Alamo Drafthouse Village, 2700 W. Anderson #701, 512/861-7030
Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, 1120 S. Lamar, 512/861-7040
Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz, 320 E. Sixth, 512/861-7020
Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane, 5701 W. Slaughter, 512/861-7060
Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline, 14028 Hwy. 183 N., 512/861-7070
www.originalalamo.com

Best Other Club/Venue

New ownership and recent renovations haven't much changed the spit and spirit of this Austin punk rock cornerstone. Though the competition is growing down on Red River, Emo's is still the Austin stronghold of music scene integrity with all-ages shows, cheap cover, eclectic bills featuring impressive local and touring national acts, and an indier-than-thou atmosphere that challenges egos and ears seven nights a week. And don't feed the bouncers; they're some of Sixth Street's surliest.

Best Place To Hook Up

It may be hard finding somewhere to sit most Friday nights, but who cares? Standing out on DeVille's massive outdoor patio, you can scan the crowd for someone to talk to and strut your stuff at the same time. Once you've made your move, go inside and lounge in one of the club's cozy, shadowy booths and get to know each other better. After all, everyone looks beautiful in red light.

Best Place To Meet Your Friends

Feel the buzz of energy when you walk into this place? You're not alone. Trudy's defines fun eating. Whether you're a UT frosh or a local yokel, this Austin original's genuinely fine folks and genuinely comfy food ensure a good time will be had by all.

Trudy's
Trudy's North Star, 8820 Burnet Rd., 512/454-1474
Trudy's Little Texas Lane, 901-C Little Texas Ln., 512/326-9899
www.trudys.com

Best Pub

Merry olde England with a twist: Whether you want bangers & mash or fish & chips from across the pond, or just some good ol' Texas nachos from across the creek, the green freehouse nestled downtown just off the Gallery District has the perfect complement for your pint of ale. Once you've doused the basket full of fried goodness with vinegar and lemon, you'll be singing "God Save the Queen." Easily Austin's most British of watering holes, the D&D is a salute to the best suds under the Union Jack, including ESB, Newcastle, and McEwan's. Texas microbrews are also served.

Best Retail Beer & Wine

Visiting chefs from all over the country are regularly dumbfounded by the depth and breadth of the available produce selections we've come to take for granted at both Central Market stores. If it's in season somewhere in the world, the produce section here is likely to have it. These days, they'll even prep it for us and provide recipes on the best ways to cook it. What could be easier? Justifiably bedazzled by the bounty of produce, we then make our way to the retail beer and wine department, where a well-trained, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic salesperson is always there to assist us. No stuffy, pretentious wine geek but a regular gal (or guy) who just happens to have the up-to-the-minute scoop on the best wine deals in town. We live in grocery store heaven, and don't we know it?!

Central Market North
4001 N. Lamar, 512/206-1000
4477 S. Lamar, 512/899-4300
centralmarket.com

Best Swanky Joint

Imagine yourself sipping martinis on the rooftop deck while swinging your hips to live blues. Legendary musicians have played here among the brass and dark woodwork. While mostly known for its appeal to the martini-and-cigar set, Speakeasy still welcomes the Bud-and-Marlboro set - which might explain the expanded booking policies to include not only jazz and swing, but blues and rock as well.

Speakeasy
412-D Congress
512/476-8017
www.speakeasyaustin.com

Best User-friendly Web Site

In markets across the country, Cox Interactive (the new-media arm of the American-Statesman's parent company) has established the template for the local-info Web site, and it looks exactly like Austin360.com. Not only Austinites, but millions of Americans, have voted with their mouse fingers for the Cox structure and interface.

Austin360.com
512/445-3500
www.austin360.com

Best Video Store

The campus-area and SoCo Vulcan locations are the video store of choice among genuine film fanatics, and we know the reason why. When you're looking for film entertainment that exists somewhere outside the Hollywood mainstream, when an old and obscure film noir or a cutting-edge indie flick are what you crave, locally owned Vulcan is definitely the best, and often the only, place to find them.

Best Webzine

Not just another Web site-for-grrls, Smileandactnice.com, created by former Chronicle staffers Jen Scoville and Louisa Brinsmade, has grrrl-attitude as focused as a surgical laser and visuals that are vibrant and sharply welcoming. But it's the crystalline writing and the variety of topics that sets this e-location apart from the rest of the cybercrowd. You know you wanna check them out, regardless of your chromosomes. Collusion.org's an edgy cabal of net-savvy punks and vinyl-scratching, video-gaming malcontents, laying it down in no uncertain terms with a lot of dark backgrounds and urban-toothed graphics and in-your-face-yo rants. Just the sort of thing a testosterone-fueled meat puppet dreams of stumbling onto. Runners-up include Roboninja.com, Clockworkstorybook.com, and Queerios.com.

 
Readers: Arts & Culture
Readers: Food

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