Entertainment
2011 Readers Poll
2011 Critics Picks
Best Bar Staff

As they say, this place is the reason Prohibition was repealed. And we don't doubt it. The bar staff here has the know-how to mash, muddle, box, shake, mix, and stir a libation worthy of a flapper dress and a trilby. Not sure what you want to drink? Perhaps a spot of absinthe is in order – this is, after all, Austin's authentic absinthe bar, with vintage tools of the trade lining the long, dark bar. Whichever beverage you choose, you'll be served by a smart and friendly staff that is knowledgeable in all things drink. Stop by for a chat and a beverage (and stay for unique locally sourced cuisine) today – you'll be glad you did.

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

Best Beer/Wine Prices

Deals for days (well, except for Sundays) is what you can expect from this Texas-grown booze outlet. It's been owned and operated by the same Houston family since 1962, and boy are we glad Spec's made its way to Austin. Spirits galore and gourmet food to boot. Some locations even sport delis. Cash-paying customers are automatically given a discount, and if you sign up for a Spec's Key, you can unlock even more great deals. If you're in need of some good liquor but are short on cash, Spec's is the spot for you.

Spec's
5775 Airport, 512/366-8300
4978 Hwy. 290 W., 512/366-8260
10515 MoPac N., 512/342-6893
201 University Oaks Blvd., Round Rock, 512/341-9066
9900 S. I-35, 512/280-7400
13015 Shops Pkwy., Bee Cave, 512/263-9981
739 Old Bastrop Highway, Bastrop, 512/308-0250
3550 S General Bruce Dr., Temple, 254/771-1518
4970 W. U.S. 290 SVC Rd
www.specsonline.com

John Leach

Best Club Night/Theme Night

Thank the Glitoris and crew for building Tuesday into a night worthy of its own weekend. Twenty- and thirtysomethings come here to grind, sweat, and be gay-curious in one form or another. The music can be mysteriously touch and go, but the dancing is free-love furious nonetheless. With ample space on the dance floor and several bars at the new Barbarella, there is no excuse not to "dance dance like it's the last last night of your life life."

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

Best Cocktail Menu

The cocktails at East Side Show Room are obsessively good. It's all in the OCD details like using the hardest ice available and picking herbs fresh daily. Head barkeep Chauncy James' menu has vintage and creative elements, and the results are exceptional. It seems every element of this place is an intentional work of art, from design details to the locavore cuisine to the live music. It's clear that these drinks are not slung, but rather are achingly crafted.

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

Jana Birchum

Best Drag Performer

It's no surprise that Austin, with its land spreading out so far and wide and its charming penthouse views, would produce such a thoroughly modern Millie as Rebecca Havemeyer. Our resident Zsa Zsa in cha-chas charmed her way into our hearts with her glam-bang personality and her ongoing Celluloid Handbag film series at the Alamo Drafthouse. One can only imagine what she has yet to pull out of her infinite Poppins-style handbag. The man behind the ma'am is artist Paul Soileau. Soileau's various personalities have taken to globetrotting, but Rebecca Havemeyer and gutter-slut alter ego Christeene are ours, and we are theirs. The Clark Kent to Christeene's Supertran and Rebecca's Wonder Woman, as well as the prancing prince in step at the annual QueerBomb fest, Paul Soileau and his Austin reign of art terror show no signs of letting up. And we are all the dandier for it.

Paul Soileau
www.rebeccahavemeyer.com

Best Jukebox

There’s no other jukebox in town more legendary, more talked about, or more revered than the jukebox of wonder at Casino el Camino. Readers Poll pick for "Best Jukebox" since 1996, it’s now alive on the Web so you can shuffle through the awesome from anywhere in the world. Our last click-fest yielded Bowie's "Panic in Detroit," the Flamin' Groovies' "Teenage Head," the Ramones' "She's the One," and (OMG) Sweet's "Hell Raiser." (Badass burger and beer not included.)

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

Best LGBTQ Hangout

The gay mafia is going to have a field day with this one. In what can only be called an upset victory, Cheer Up Charlie's, that scraggly, charming upstart, has dethroned queen of the gay bars, Rain on 4th (with which it tied in 2010) as your favorite LGBTQ haunt. We chalk it up to the resurgence of gay radicalism, Cheer Up's queer-as-fuck vibe, and its expanded backyard. For Chronicle readers, it's raining men on East Sixth Street.

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

Best Live DJ

Mondays at Nasty's are a potpourri of people with a need to shake that ass. Rugby jocks, dykes, and hip-hop kids all choose to get down on that tiny dance floor each week, as they have since 1997. Yep. Same mix of freaks, same man behind the mix. It's the decidedly nonhouse that DJ Mel built, a continuous old-school-meets-new-beats throwdown, the longest running hip-hop night in Austin, if not Texas.

DJ Mel
www.djmel.com

John Anderson

Best Local Beer

Okay everybody, raise your hand if you love beer. What's that? You can’t raise your hand because you're holding a delicious Live Oak HefeWeizen? And you have to run anyway because you’re headed to Live Oak’s brewery for a free tour and brew sampling? Well, we’ll just take that as a "yes."

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

Best Local Liquor

Founder Tito Beveridge was born with a name so perfect he had no choice but to create this worldwide favorite. Made for the fussiest of drinkers and liquor connoisseurs alike, this smooth, thoughtfully made vodka is truly the key to getting into your mouth's pants. Let's get it on.

Tito's Handmade Vodka
8119 Exchange
512/243-2755
www.titosvodka.com

Rio Rita   Sandy Carson

Best Lounge

Kitschy and swanky: That’s how Austin loves her lounges. Rio Rita spreads the chintz love around its colorful space with glorious mix-matched seating, local art, and to-die-for Bloody Marys. The HighBall channels classic retro swank with smooth seating; mad, manly decor; and fabulous infused cocktails. Opposite angles with the same outcome – laid-back lounging for your tippling delight.

Rio Rita
1203 Chicon
512/524-0384
www.riorita.net

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

Best Movie Theatre

Take a left down the yellow brick road past the incredibly bored guy whining about the recession, a right down the red carpet, click your heels three times at the Blue Velvet rope, and you've arrived at Austin's favorite film sanctuary. The folks at the Drafthouse have a love of the fringe and the niche that guarantees to hold the attention of even the most avid film buff. With an endless bevy of crazy new ideas for recontextualizing cinema and the moviegoing experience, the Alamo Drafthouse spearheads the movement to make going to the movies an event again. Bravo.

Alamo Drafthouse
Alamo Drafthouse Village, 2700 W. Anderson, 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 U.S. Hwy. 183 N., 512/861-7070
drafthouse.com

Swan Dive   Sandy Carson

Best New Bar

This year’s winners could be described as day and night – or perhaps a gloriously sauced-up day into night. Begin with Yellow Jacket Social Club and be sure to snag an outdoor table. It’s going to be a long day, so be decent and get some seasoned saltines for the whole table. Drink local beer and make new friends until the world goes all watercolor with booze and sunset, then head home and make a costume change. Next up is Swan Dive, and whether your duds be vintage, goth, or themed, it's time to bust out the big-kid clothes. The crowd will be beautiful in the glow from the whitewashed walls, a strangely intoxicating band will be playing, and dancing will be mandatory – or at least you’ll think it is, because you’ve arrived appropriately (but not excessively!) squiffy.

Swan Dive
615 Red River
www.swandiveaustin.com

Yellow Jacket Social Club
1704 E. Fifth
512/480-9572
www.yellowjacketsocialclub.com

Best New Club

Done up in white on antique white, Swan Dive is Austin's new venue for all things piquant. Home to this issue's cover model, the monthly Jazz Age ode Vintage Vivant, Swan Dive specializes in the eccentric, atmospheric, and anachronistic. Created by the owners of the East Side Show Room with the same attention to detail, this bar is intentionally booked with music that marches to a different off-beat.

Swan Dive
615 Red River
www.swandiveaustin.com

Sandy Carson

Best Party of the Year

Launched with the best of the music, film, and tech industries at heart, SXSW has exploded into a mid-March block party for the people. Austin's signature party has so much to do in so little time, it can drive you to the bottle, but that's what all the free drinks are about. If you just relax, take a moment to scour and mark your own personal schedule, and try not to let that overwhelming feeling that you're missing something awesome (and you probably are) win, you will have the time of your life. So schmooze, booze, and don't worry, be happy, because there's always next year.

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

Best Place To Dance

There are very few spots in town as consistently bangin' as Barbs. This no-frills hot spot always has room on its dance floor for your head and your heart. And if your drunken ass forgets them there, you can always come back next week. With its dedication to dance fever above all else, Barbarella once again reigns supreme as the leader of Austin's dance dance revolution.

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

photo by Sandy Carson

Best Scenester/Mover & Shaker

It's no surprise that Austin, with its land spreading out so far and wide and its charming penthouse views, would produce such a thoroughly modern Millie as Rebecca Havemeyer. Our resident Zsa Zsa in cha-chas charmed her way into our hearts with her glam-bang personality and her ongoing Celluloid Handbag film series. One can only imagine what she has yet to pull out of her infinite Poppins-style handbag. The man behind the ma'am is artist Paul Soileau. Soileau's various personalities have taken to globetrotting, but Rebecca Havemeyer and gutter-slut alter ego Christeene are ours, and we are theirs. The Clark Kent to Christeene's Supertran and Rebecca's Wonder Woman, as well as the prancing prince in step at the annual QueerBomb fest, Paul Soileau and his Austin reign of art terror show no signs of letting up. And we are all the dandier for it.

Paul Soileau
www.rebeccahavemeyer.com

Best Video-Game Studio/Developer

Megadeveloper BioWare's Austin offices have been an anchor for the local gaming scene since it set up camp in our fair city. It doesn't take a Jedi mind trick to imagine that our readers voted for this studio in anticipation of the long-ballyhooed release of Star Wars: The Old Republic, which is set to live up to its classification as a massive, multiplayer, online role-playing game upon its release in December. Massive indeed.

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

 
Readers: Arts & Culture
Readers: Food