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2010ReadersEntertainment

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

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

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

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

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

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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