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2008ReadersEntertainment

Best Bar Ambience
The Belmont

The Belmont continues to hold sway over the sophisticated set, despite a rash of more-recent club openings that haven't fared as well. Matt Luckie and Daryl Kunik are the guys who can turn straw into gold and have their fingers on the pulse of Austin's nightlife like no other bar owners in town. Among their many successes, the Belmont is poised to lead the pack for a very long time.

The Belmont, 305 W. Sixth, 512/476-2100, www.thebelmontaustin.com

Best Bar Staff
Molotov Lounge

Maybe it's just the Cold War talking, but you'd think a Russian-inspired bar would be stiff, strict, banal, formal, even mean. Rocky IV bias? Perhaps. But the fact that all the bartenders at Molotov seem to be genuinely nice, warm, efficient, and the type to make conversations unforced, easy, like two friends catching up, well, it makes the happy hours even happier. Don't forget to tip.

Molotov Lounge, 719 W. Sixth, 512/499-0600, www.molotovlounge.com

Best Beer on Tap
The Ginger Man

The outdoor patio! The comfy couches! The darts! Oh, oh, ohhh, and all that beer! So, so much great beer. So much on draft to choose from, so many countries represented. USA, Germany, Ireland, Belgium, Beerzistan. It breaks our heart that the Ginger Man will soon be moving to make way for more condos, but there's no doubt that the new location – opening at 301 Lavaca, possibly by the end of the year – will be a whole new level of beertastic.

The Ginger Man, 301 Lavaca, 512/473-8801, aus.gingermanpub.com

Best Beer Selection
The Ginger Man

The outdoor patio! The comfy couches! The darts! Oh, oh, ohhh, and all that beer! So, so much great beer. So much on draft to choose from, so many countries represented. USA, Germany, Ireland, Belgium, Beerzistan. It breaks our heart that the Ginger Man will soon be moving to make way for more condos, but there's no doubt that the new location — opening at 301 Lavaca, possibly by the end of the year — will be a whole new level of beertastic.

The Ginger Man, 301 Lavaca, 512/473-8801, aus.gingermanpub.com

Best Beer/Wine Prices
Spec's

It's not enough to have a literal warehouse stocked with every imaginable spirit from the ends of the world. It's not enough to offer an amazing deli for gorgeous nibbles and an international selection of treats. It's not enough to have a staff superknowledgeable about the liquidities encased on the shelves. No, they have to be unbelievably economically priced as well. Discounts for cash purchases, weekly specials, and a frequent shopper program, to boot.

Spec's, 5775 Airport, 512/366-8300, www.specsonline.com

Spec's, 4978 Hwy. 290 W., 512/366-8260, www.specsonline.com

Spec's, 10515 MoPac N., 512/342-6893, www.specsonline.com

6 more locations

Best Cocktails/Cocktail Menu
TIE: 219 West, Brown Bar

From the Brown Bar's jaw-slacking list of specialty martinis to 219 West's mouthwatering Southern cocktails, both watering holes have enjoyed our readers' attention in the "Best of Austin" but never before in a tie. Both offer scrumptious appetizers (and then some), but each has its own take on hospitality served alongside the colorful, exotic cocktails.

219 West, 612 W. Sixth, 512/474-2194, www.219west.com

The Brown Bar, 201 W. Eighth, 512/480-8330, www.thebrownbar.com

Best Drag Show
TIE: The United Court of Austin, Charlie's

With the likes of Kelly Kline, Jame Perry, Rachel Blackstone, Nadine Hughes, Erica Andrews, and Vanessa Gordon shaking their groove things at Charlie's on Sundays, appearances by the United Court of Austin and its bevy of royal beauties are somewhat rarer … but every bit as entertaining. There is a vibrant drag scene in Austin, and both Charlie's and the United Court of Austin are responsible for a great deal of it. Seek, and ye shall find.

Charlie's Austin CLOSED, 1301 Lavaca, 512/474-6481, www.charliesaustin.com

The United Court of Austin, PO Box 2567, 512/689-5609, www.unitedcourtofaustin.org

Best Gay/Lesbian Hangout
TIE: Rain on 4th, Oilcan Harry's

Oilcan's is back in the running again after an absence of a few years due to the opening of Rain. With "Best of Austin" awards dating back to 1994, Oilcan's has long ruled the gay scene, until the upstart, Rain, hijacked its throne in 2005. Winning continually ever since, Rain finds once again that its formidable opponent was only taking a breather and is back once again, packing a punch and drawing the crowds. Duke it out, boys, but Austin loves you both equally.

Rain on 4th, 217 W. Fourth, 512/494-1150, www.rainon4th.com

Oilcan Harry's, 211 W. Fourth, 512/320-8823, www.oilcanharrys.com

Best Jukebox
Casino el Camino

Triskaidekaphobia? Pssssh! Dominating the tunes for the last 13 years, Casino el Camino's jukebox gets more traffic than the intersection where it lives. Even while we were in line checking out the latest batch of CDs, the guy behind us was impatiently fidgeting, in need of his Bad Brains fix. In honor of those 13 years, we recommend these picks: 69/01, 25/06, 11/11, 23/08, 58/07, 63/04, 74/02, 37/10, 17/02, 35/04, 52/04, 51/01, and 87/01.

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

Best Karaoke
Austin Karaoke

Last call at bars is 2am, but that doesn't mean you have to go home. Oh no. Especially not when there's a microphone with your name on it at Austin Karaoke. It's open as late as 5am on some nights and has private rooms, making this place a hit with groups of pals who are looking to belt out classics such as "I Want It That Way" and "Copacabana" as they fully take advantage of the BYOB policy.

Austin Karaoke Studio, 6808 N. Lamar Ste. B-120, 512/323-9822, www.austinkaraoke1.com

Best Live Club/Party DJ
Toddy B

What makes Austin Music Award-winner Todd Burgener more than just a DJ? He doesn't just play at a party; he is the party, understanding that the success of an evening at a club or party is essentially in his hands. He's not just a master behind the turntables but a master emcee as well, whipping the crowds into frenzies with his energy and skill. On the radio or live in person, the B in Toddy B stands for Best.

Toddy B, www.myspace.com/toddyb

Best Movie Theatre
Alamo Drafthouse

We're spoiled, and it's almost unanimous: Austinites would rather not see a movie at all if they can't watch it with a bucket of beer and a Godfather pizza. The very best in innovative and original programming, great community events, world-class menu-movie pairings, and film-geek staff all make this homegrown movie theatre the best in this city and, according to Entertainment Weekly, the very best in this whole damn country.

Alamo Drafthouse Village, 2700 W. Anderson, 512/861-7030, drafthouse.com

Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, 1120 S. Lamar, 512/861-7040, drafthouse.com

Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz, 320 E. Sixth, 512/861-7020, drafthouse.com

7 more locations

Best Neighborhood/Dive Bar
Nomad

Tucked away in a strip center in the Windsor Park neighborhood, this new kid on the block is the coolest new hangout in the area. Nomad specializes in cocktails, beers, and wines from around the world, as well as coffee. The service is friendly and fast, and it's never too crowded to find a table. The patio sports as many tables as inside. And even on the hottest of summer days, this dog-friendly bar keeps the patio cool with misters and plenty of shade. Stop by on Sunday for all-day happy hour – Bloody Marys to die for and $3 mimosas. Get there early at 11am for all-you-can-eat brunch.

Nomad, 1213 Corona, 512/628-4288, www.nomadbar.com

Best New Club
TIE: Black & Tan, Rusty Spurs

It's about time we gave the masses a new direction to stumble. Seventh Street. The new Sixth. On one hand, we have Black & Tan. Ask a hipster, and you may hear it called "the new Beauty Bar." Oy. Ask the owners about it, and they just want to play good music and find the best DJs in town and definitely aren't about "starting a scene" but rather "just having a good time." Brilliant. Right next door is a vastly different format, Rusty Spurs. While B&T is sleek and loungy, RS is like Midnight Cowboy meets Elton John meets a mess of gay country & western dancers who are serious about their two-step. And their belt-buckle collections. The kind of place with peanut shells on the floor and a tip jar that's a boot.

Black & Tan, 405 E. Seventh, www.blackandtanaustin.com

Rusty's, 405 E. Seventh, 512/482-9002, www.rustysaustin.net

Best Party of the Year
SXSW

It's the biggest industry party in the world. Cutting-edge multimedia technology and focus on the newest developments in the video-game industry? Mm-hmm. The best and brightest filmmakers, plus all aspects of the art and business of indie filmmaking? Oh yeah. Panels people talk about for years and music so cool you won't hear about it until next month? You'd better believe it. And who else would deliver all this over 10 days? South by Southwest. You love it. For more than 20 years now.

South by Southwest, 400 Bowie, 512/467-7979, www.sxsw.com

Best Place to Dance
Elysium

Tease your hair to its highest heights, and strap on your brightest leggings, because Sundays at Elysium present serious Eighties awesomeness. On other nights, this repeat "Best of Austin" offender rocks with live bands and DJs pumping out industrial, Nineties, and more. And as Austin's goth central, you know this is the place for All Hallow's Eve.

Elysium, 705 Red River, 512/478-8385, www.elysiumonline.net

Best Place to People Watch
Barton Springs

No wonder we all wear dark sunglasses. We're all scanning the crowd. That tan 40-year-old man in the red banana-hammock riding his 10-speed or the European topless crowd toward the back or even the class-skipping share, looking for a solar cure for last night's dorm-room tequila. Barton Springs' true scenery is the people. Keep your eyes on the swimsuit-clad masses in search of the way to jump in without losing your breath to the brrr.

Barton Springs Pool, 2201 Barton Springs Rd., 512/867-3080, www.austintexas.gov

Best Scenester/Mover & Shaker
TIE: Stephen MacMillan Moser, Diane "Kitty" Murray

These prodigal siblings may not realize they were cut from the same cloth, born of the same womb: the belly of the dishy diva. Prodigal? Both Stephen "Your Style Avatar" MacMillan Moser and Diane "Kitty of Foodies" Murray lived opulent and crapulent lives back in those fabled Austin Eighties, then left Texas to find themselves (Moser to New York and Seattle to design fashion and Murray to work both coasts in the film biz), and later returned, bigger and badder than ever. Our readers love these community juggernauts and trust them to lead the way: for Moser, every week in the pages of this newsweekly and for Murray, organizing events for women who love women … who sometimes eat food.

Stephen MacMillan Moser, www.austinchronicle.com

Diane "Kitty" Murray, www.myspace.com

Best Wine Selection
Vino Vino

As the condos rise, so must our cultural cachet. Pinkies up darlings, your palate is thirsting for a well-guided tour of the world's grapes. The oenophiles at Hyde Park's Vino Vino are ready to share the nuances of their passion, offering hundreds of wines by the bottle. Chances are if you can't pronounce it, it's pretty good, and most of the wines on their extensive list are a challenge to say.

Vino Vino, 4119 Guadalupe, 512/465-9282, www.vinovinoaustin.com

Readers: Arts & Culture
Readers: Food
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