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2010CriticsEntertainment

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

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

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

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

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

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