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2010Entertainment

Best Advocates of Drinking and Fact-Checking
Encyclopedia Show

Chicago transplants Mike Graupmann and Ralph Hardesty are no doubt masters of the nerdly arts, but they've harnessed their powers for good with the monthly Encyclopedia Show. Raging against the shadowy Institute of Human Knowledge and Hygiene, the series aims to crack wise on various topics like mythological beasts and vice presidents and has gone through several volumes at the ND at 501 Studios, gathering writers, comedians, poets, musicians, and other bons vivants in an environment where you can still knock back a few. Smarty pants optional. Eggheads welcome.

Best Approximation of the Fall of the Roman Empire
TIE: La Dolce Vita; 'The 24 Hour Roman Reconstruction Project'

Although it took hundreds of years for the Roman Empire to decline and fall, Austinites only needed two nights. The first was the Austin Museum of Art's annual Food and Wine Festival, where Austinites tasted "the sweet life" from more than 50 restaurateurs and liquor purveyors, all on the gorge grounds of Laguna Gloria, prompting visitors to exclaim (we hope), "The whole of Austin is my triclinium!" Look it up, friend. Anyone who can bring art world types, cosplayers, schoolkids, engineers, and historians together is our personal hero, and that's exactly what artist Liz Glynn did with the local iteration of her internationally renowned performance/participation piece The 24 Hour Roman Reconstruction Project at Arthouse last September. A year out and we still remember the father-daughter team studiously building a Roman villa out of cardboard, a group of engineering students ripping apart leaves of drywall, and a prominent historian giving a tour of this ticky-tacky Rome in miniature. Of course, everyone worked hard knowing that come midnight, hundreds of participants would file in to kick, stomp, and tear it all to bits, transforming everyday Austinites into vicious Visigoths and razing the old Arthouse to rubble so that it could be reborn in 2010 – look out, "BOA" 2011!

The Contemporary Austin at Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th, 512/458-8191, www.thecontemporaryaustin.org

The Contemporary Austin, 700 Congress, 512/453-5312, www.thecontemporaryaustin.org

Best Baby Girl
BabyGirl

photo by Todd V. Wolfson

You may have never heard of Alicia Sedwick, but she is a one-woman Eastside institution. And so is her uncle's bar, T.C.'s Lounge. You might catch Sedwick shakin' it to her favorite song, or she might catch you first and lure you out onto the floor. You might even hear her cheering for her favorite acts from the back: "That's all right! That's all right!" Dubbed a juke joint by some and a curious mélange of white college kids and black neighbors by others (indicative, perhaps, of East Austin's gentrifying growing pains), T.C.'s is holding it down, plugging away in these hard times, and offering a cozy home to R&B east of the highway – a place to dance, cut loose, and nestle in the groove. You might know Ms. Sedwick better as "BabyGirl," the fiercely friendly door woman who seems to run the show and can sense newbies and make them feel at ease in a heartbeat. You don't? Well, sweetheart, you should go introduce yourself right now.

TC's Lounge, 1413 Webberville Rd., 512/926-2200, www.myspace.com/tcswednesdays

Best Brewery
Live Oak Brewing Company

The fact that we can even give this award is a sign that Austin’s brewing scene has arrived: There are now enough breweries in town (nine, if you count brewpubs and Blanco’s Real Ale) that we can actually haggle over which one is best. Even more exciting is that the decision was difficult – there’s a lot of good brew in Austin right now. However, we lean toward Live Oak – every time we spot their handmade wooden tap handles behind the bar, we start drooling.

Live Oak Brewing Company, 1615 Crozier, 512/385-2299, www.liveoakbrewing.com

Best Emblematic Hangout or Don Draper Bowl-a-rama
The HighBall

Every generation of Austinites has an emblematic local hangout that defines the heyday of their carefree youth in River City, such as Barton Springs Pool, the Armadillo World Headquarters, Liberty Lunch, etc. Judging from the crowds that have packed the HighBall since it opened last fall, Tim and Karrie League's ultra hip and quirky pleasure palace is likely to figure prominently in the cherished memories of a whole generation of Austin residents. Someday, they'll reminisce about playing the vintage bowling lanes or attending crazy parties in the themed karaoke lounges, lapping up delectable cocktails and feasting on chef Trish Eichelberger's local-focused food. Ah, these are the days.

The HighBall, 1120 S. Lamar, 512/383-8309, www.thehighball.com

Best First Date Bar
The Tigress

photo by Todd V. Wolfson

Finally mustered up the courage to talk to that friend of a friend (possibly even of a friend) but unsure of what to do after you get the all-important phone number? Suggest a date at the Tigress. It won't have the potential for long-form dinner awkwardness, and you'll be able to hear your date talk. The cocktails are made with precision at this one-woman bar that's pleasantly reminiscent of an airy English club.

The Tigress Pub and Cocktails, 100 W. North Loop, 512/600-3232, www.thetigresspub.com

Best Free Course in Film Appreciation
'Film Score Focus'

Sure, movies are a feast for the eyes, but don't forget the ears. Brian Satterwhite sure doesn't. A respected film composer in his own right (including the score for Austin comedy Artois the Goat), Satterwhite hosts KMFA's weekly program Film Score Focus, hitting just the right note with new and classic sounds, from spaghetti Westerns to Vegas glitz and the tunes accompanying classic Tex Avery 'toons. We're all ears. 8pm, Fridays; 7pm, Sundays.

Film Score Focus, 3001 N. Lamar #100, 512/476-5632, www.filmscorefocus.org

Best New Gay Destination
M Two

For having such a thriving gay scene, Austin has surprisingly few designated gay destinations. Now we have one more. M Two offers a relaxed loungelike atmosphere for food, cocktails, and camaraderie. And it's pleasantly affordable, too. The brainchild of Joe Reynolds (M Bar, Hollywood), M Two's menu features innovative, light American fare – such as the delicately fried squash blossoms with roasted garlic puree and charred lemon, beet chips with olive dust, roasted Texas peaches with Round Rock honey and crème fraîche, and the pulled lamb sandwich with Dijon mustard. Interesting and reasonably priced wines and cocktails round out the selection.

M Two, 208 W. Fourth, 512/478-7222, www.m2atx.com

Best New Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection
Anarchy Championship Wrestling

"You got wrestling in my music venue!" "You got your hipster cred in my wrestling ring!" The preeminent pro-wrestling promotion in Central Texas found the perfect tag-team partner when it moved out of the gym and suplexed its way into Red River's buzz club for all things alt and noise as its regular Austin venue. Now with Mohawk operators Transmission Entertainment bringing the ACW ring to Fun Fun Fun Fest, it's a power-bombing mosh pit of high-impact pleasure.

Mohawk, 912 Red River, 512/666-0877, www.mohawkaustin.com

Best Reason To Shake Whatcha Momma Gave Ya
Texas Burlesque Festival

A hint of sin, a flash of flesh, a whiff of perfume, and a sly wink under the spotlight: Since 2007, the Texas Burlesque Festival has played host to dazzling debutantes, vivacious veterans, and pulchritudinous performers of all strip(e)s and put Austin’s tantalizing troupes and seductive soloists on a national stage. Just keep yer pasties well-secured, ladies. After all, this is a family show.

Texas Burlesque Festival, www.texasburlesquefest.com

Coolest Local Drink Trend
Skilled Mixologists

When considering this award, we realized there wasn't one specific place deserving of recognition but rather a select group of restaurant bars and cocktail lounges staffed by innovative mixologists turning out spectacular libations. Some of these talented folks have represented Austin in national and international bartender competitions and are part of the ever-growing Austin delegation making the summer pilgrimage to New Orleans to further their cocktail education at the annual Tales of the Cocktail festival. Their creations are the antithesis of sweet sludge in shot bars or DayGlo swill masquerading as margarita mixes. We salute the talented guys and gals who respectfully prepare classic cocktails, create their own garden-to-bar herbal infusions, and make syrups and flavorings from scratch in order to satisfy discerning drinkers.

Most Glam Gay Party
aGLIFF's Oscar Party

The Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival waved its magic wand, and the mezzanine at the Driskill Hotel became the Austin version of the Vanity Fair Oscars Party. Emceed by the inimitable Rebecca Havemeyer and Mocha Jean Herrup, the red carpet was awash with the gorgeous glitterati of Austin in jeweled gowns, furs, tailcoats, and top hats. The seated dinner was seasoned with delicious repartee in a variety of separate dining rooms while guests viewed the Academy Awards ceremony on multiple large screens. Proceeds benefited the festival as well as the Paul Kirby Emergency Fund at AIDS Services of Austin.

Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival, 1107 S. Eighth, 512/275-6227, www.agliff.org

Most Luxurious Movie Theatre
Gold Class Cinemas

photo by Bret Brookshire

It's like an ultra-spacious first-class cabin on the swankest airplane to destination: Luxury. There's a cocktail lounge to relax in before being escorted to your incredibly comfortable, fully reclining seat with a small lighted table and offered complete food and drink service at the touch of a button from professional, attentive servers. A full-size screen dominates the viewing room, which, though designed for 150 traditional seats, only seats 40 or fewer due to the posh recliners. Again, a touch of a button brings you a blanket or pillow or, seemingly, whatever your heart desires.

iPic Theaters Austin, 3225 Amy Donovan Plaza, 512/568-3400, www.ipic.com

Best Bar Ambience
East Side Show Room

photo by John Anderson

It's like some opium-fueled steampunk dream, the interior of this posh eatery and bar that incorporates the industrial and fine-art metalwork of owner Mickie Spencer and features a few big works by mad-scientist sculptor Steve Brudniak. Such a setting's an oddly compelling fit for the locally sourced weekly menus of Executive Chef Sonya Cote, the potent handmade concoctions and mixological miracles wrangled from unique spirits and native herbs by executive barkeep Chauncy James, and the crowds of savvy foodies who've turned the sweetly lit joint into a mealtime and music-gig mecca of bustling proportions.

East Side Show Room, 1100 E. Sixth, 512/467-4280, www.eastsideshowroom.com

Best Bar Staff
Péché

In this time of fiscal belt-tightening, you can feel both your belt and your wallet loosening as you step into the expansive room lined with a huge bar, a Tardis taking you to the 19th century. Here, there's absinthe. Lots of it, since it was relegalized in 2007. The ritual is the same as ever: the glass with the bulging stem, the slotted spoon, the sugar cube, the drip of ice water from the ornate urn. The only thing missing is the thujone, but it's easy to make up for that with endorphins from the luxe entrées that include duck, lamb, and beef. If you don't feel up to working your way through all the varieties of absinthe tonight, the smartly turned out and helpful bar staff can also make traditional cocktails with your liquor of choice, from Blood and Sand to French 75. Time to party like it's 1889.

Péché, 208 W. Fourth, 512/494-4011, www.pecheaustin.com

Best Beer Selection
The Ginger Man

An Austin beer-lover's landmark for variety, this Downtown pub has been serving up frosty mugfuls for more than 15 years. It offers nearly 100 bottled varieties (more than half international brews) and almost as many draft selections – a beer snob's paradise. Check out weekly specials like Texas Tuesday or Sunday Spaten Specials.

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

Best Beer/Wine Prices
Spec's

When the almighty selection can be measured in yards, there's goodness in the graciousness of the powers that be that decree the dollars make cents at Spec's. It's got weekly specials as well as frequent-shopper and cash discounts that make hosting a little happier. All the featured local Texas selections and expert advice? That's just lagniappe.

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 Cocktail Menu
East Side Show Room

It's like some opium-fueled steampunk dream, the interior of this posh eatery and bar that incorporates the industrial and fine-art metalwork of owner Mickie Spencer and features a few big works by mad-scientist sculptor Steve Brudniak. Such a setting's an oddly compelling fit for the locally sourced weekly menus of Executive Chef Sonya Cote, the potent handmade concoctions and mixological miracles wrangled from unique spirits and native herbs by executive barkeep Chauncy James, and the crowds of savvy foodies who've turned the sweetly lit joint into a mealtime and music-gig mecca of bustling proportions.

East Side Show Room, 1100 E. Sixth, 512/467-4280, www.eastsideshowroom.com

Best Drag Performer
TIE: Rebecca Havemeyer; Saffire Trinity Stone

Rebecca Havemeyer (l), Saffire Trinity Stone   photo by Jana Birchum (l), Celesta Danger

They may have you wondering, "Is she or isn't she?" Well, you, dear readers, selected these two performers as the "Best of Austin," so you might as well know. The answer is: "Yes. They are." Are what? Faaabulous. Each takes a radically different approach to performing in drag, and both can entertain the grumpiest of audiences and have them rolling on floor – either in admiration, hilarity, or pain. Saffire (Olin Meadows) does glam and classic Hollywood and Broadway, often with a sense of humor that belies how serious his performance is, and Rebecca … well, Rebecca (Paul Soileau) defines glam in her own messy and hysterically twisted way. With one or the other performing regularly around town, no matter what they're doing, be assured you will flip your wig.

Rebecca Havemeyer, www.rebeccahavemeyer.com

Saffire Trinity Stone, www.facebook.com/saffire.stone

Best Jukebox
Casino el Camino

By no means is this jukebox like the Waffle House ones of yore, with songs lauding the burgers and fries and wings, though that would be wholly justified. No, this jukebox has for years held a rotating playlist of rock and punk rock classics old and new, with quirky gems like Johnny Cash and Serge Gainsbourg filling out the mix. Despite recent competition from bars points east and digital jukeboxes, Casino still upholds the gold standard of what bargoers should expect from a jukebox, even if you're nearly done with your food by the time your songs play.

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

Best LGBTQ Hangout
TIE: Rain on 4th; Cheer Up Charlie's

What more can we say about Rain? That we dance until there's more water outside our body than liquor inside it? That this one time we saw a drag queen laid out like Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra on the patio daybeds and our only wish was to be in her inner coterie? We can dream! If we keep going, maybe one day! Lesbihonest, across town, Cheer Up Charlie's transition from food-cart heaven to fully functioning bar and party space couldn't have come at a better time. Coinciding with Austin's veritable queerenaissance, CUC's became ground zero for the new queer nation (southwest council). The interior is small and spare, but the patio is where it's at on any given night. You can find us there, sipping on those fresh, young coconuts with radical abandon.

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

Cheer Up Charlies, 900 Red River, 512/431-2133, www.cheerupcharlies.com

Best Live Club or Party DJ
TIE: DJ Hella Yella; Toddy B

Fresh from winning the 2010 Southern Entertainment Awards Club DJ of the Year, DJ Hella Yella is keeping hip-hop tight on the ones and twos around Austin at joints like Club Fuze and Red 7, spinning his way into your hip's swivel and bounce. Last year's winner, Toddy B whose annual Labor Day bash at Speakeasy marks the end of summer, keeps the house-music scene rolling with that glorious get-up-and-get-moving dance vibe.

Best Local Cocktail
Mexican Martini

photo by John Anderson

In Austin, we like to tipple dry. As in desert dry. As in tequila dry. As in: Shake, don't stir and with tequila, not gin, please. While the beloved margarita may be a more ubiquitous Austin libation, it's her not-so-distant "martini" cousin that has whetted our readers' boozy appetites in this first-time category. Like the traditional margarita, it's all in the preparation: Some use bottled mixes; some squeeze limes. All versions have their diehard fans. Taste and compare to find which has the shake that best complements your palate. Ladies and gentlemen, may we present the cocktail of Austin, for Austin, and by Austin: your favorite, the Mexican martini!

Best Movie Theatre
Alamo Drafthouse

Just because the place draws raves internationally doesn't mean that locals aren't wise to the keep-Austin-weird splendor of the Alamo Drafthouse, the house that Tim and Karrie League built and are now expanding across the country, where the newest or the biggest or the freakiest films are only part of the brilliant programming that includes sing-along nights, videoke, celebrity hoedowns, Master Pancake Theater, Foleyvision, the annual Butt-Numb-a-Thon, and the sweetest movie-based spectacles this side of David O. Selznick.

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

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

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

2 more locations

Best Neighborhood/Dive Bar
TIE: Nomad; Liberty

It's all about the patio. Whether it's the misted and lit-by-gas-station Nomad or the expansive sea of picnic tables at Liberty, we like to do our inebriating outside. Heat be damned. Escape from the increasingly crowded East Sixth Street strip or just avoid Downtown altogether. Either way, you're getting drunk.

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

The Liberty, 1618½ E. Sixth, 512/600-4791, www.thelibertyaustin.com

Best New Club
Barbarella

photo by Sandy Carson

In less than a year, Barbarella (aka Barbs) rocketed into the stratosphere of legendary Red River clubs. Its success is based on a string of smart choices by the management. First, there's the support of local movers and shakers like the Glitoris, whose TuezGayz have become the weeknight gay night. Second, there's the interaction with fans. New Noise, Barbarella's Saturday themed night focusing on new indie and dance, calls for contributions from attendees. The audience programs much of the music to which it boogies. Third, there's the dance floor, surprisingly larger for a smaller bar. Barbarella took the focus off plush surroundings and fancy, expensive drinks and placed it where it belongs: the music and the dancing. Small wonder it's been such a success.

Barbarella, 615 Red River, 512/476-7766, www.fb.com/barbarella.austin.9

Best Party of the Year
TIE: QueerBomb; South by Southwest

We all know what South by Southwest is supposed to be: industry yadda yadda networking blah blah conference yammer yammer. Let's cut the bullcorn, shall we? Open bars, dancing, making out with people from across the world, and meeting hotshot new musicians/filmmakers/techies/journalists turns SXSW into the biggest and best party this town has ever seen. Which makes the tie-for-the-win with QueerBomb all the more interesting. The upstart counter-Pride held only one night of debauchery and politicized expression, earned a mayoral proclamation, and made as big an impression on the Austin populace as the whole of SXSW? Whoa. We know a market does not a movement make, but when does a party make a movement? Now.

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

Best Place To Dance
Barbarella

In less than a year, Barbarella (aka Barbs) rocketed into the stratosphere of legendary Red River clubs. Its success is based on a string of smart choices by the management. First, there's the support of local movers and shakers like the Glitoris, whose TuezGayz have become the weeknight gay night. Second, there's the interaction with fans. New Noise, Barbarella's Saturday themed night focusing on new indie and dance, calls for contributions from attendees. The audience programs much of the music to which it boogies. Third, there's the dance floor, surprisingly larger for a smaller bar. Barbarella took the focus off plush surroundings and fancy, expensive drinks and placed it where it belongs: the music and the dancing. Small wonder it's been such a success.

Barbarella, 615 Red River, 512/476-7766, www.fb.com/barbarella.austin.9

Best Scenester/Mover & Shaker
TIE: Mike Litt; Paul Soileau/Rebecca Havemeyer

ILoveMikeLitt, a social organization founded by Mike Litt, started out as a T-shirt in 2001. (Try reading it aloud without pauses – get it?) It eventually became a club at the University of Texas supporting Mike Litt's campaign for homecoming king in 2004 and continues providing Austin with a variety of "Community-Based Entertainment Solutions," including dance-offs and veggie hot dog eating contests. Also tied up in this award is the high-class hostess of such folderols as the Alamo Drafthouse's Celluloid Handbag and Lambert's annual holiday "ho"downs, Rebecca Havemeyer, BFFs with Paul Soileau. (Side note: If you're one to judge a book by its cover, you'll never know the many personalities – all (in)famous – of Soileau.) Give Havemeyer a call if you need advice, a babysitter, or "a swingin' socialite to spice up ya event."

Rebecca Havemeyer, www.rebeccahavemeyer.com

Mike Litt, www.ilovemikelitt.com

Best Video-Game Studio/Developer
BioWare

In addition to churning out AAA titles such as Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect 2, BioWare is hard at work to maintain supremacy with Star Wars: The Old Republic. Though SWTOR is BioWare's first entry into the MMO scene, it's poised to be that World of Warcraft killer we've all been looking for.

BioWare, 3110 Esperanza Crossing #110, 512/382-8682, www.bioware.com

Best Wine Selection
Vino Vino

Everywhere you look, Vino Vino is nudging you to take it home, like a sultry late-night encounter. But this won't end in a walk of shame; the staff know their grapes, and their grapes are good. So good, in fact, by the taste, glass, or bottle, you'll be shouting this name twice. Vino! Vino!

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

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