2022 Readers Poll
2022 Critics Picks

photo by John Anderson

Best Humanitarians for the Houseless

The Other Ones Foundation offers easily accessible work opportunities, humanitarian aid, and individualized case management services for people experiencing homelessness in Austin. The nonprofit, founded five years ago by Chris Baker (who had much inspiration and little experience), also manages the state-sanctioned refuge known as Camp Esperanza near U.S. 183 and SH 71, which has transformed from a shanty row to a community where many of the residents stay in comfy fabricated structures and all eat well. TOOF's best qualities? Listening and adapting. Esperanza residents serve on a leadership committee that meets frequently with TOOF staff to help them better understand how best to serve their needs.

Best Place to Donate a Cup o’ Noodles for Your Hungry Neighbors

There are 15 neighborhood pantries in the Austin area, and those are just the ones mapped on! These DIY boxes, including the homegrown Petite Pantry network, are like Little Free Libraries, but for food, and are just about the easiest way to offer direct assistance to your neighbors in need. Drop off ready-to-eat nonperishable foods (and hygiene products, too) without all the hassle of organizing a donation drive for the Central Texas Food Bank (which would prefer monetary donations anyway). This way, you can unload those granola bars you got at Costco and that your kids rejected on sight and know that hungry folks around town will have easy access to snacks and easy-to-eat foods.

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photo by Jana Birchum

Best Unsung Homelessness Heroes

The self-described "weirdest little church in Texas," South Austin's Sunrise Church (part of the Christian Reformed Church in North America) also calls itself "a movement of God's people that refuse to ignore suffering or be motivated by fear." For almost a decade now, that word has been made flesh at the Sunrise Navigation Center, which helps neighbors without homes access the services they need to be able to find and keep stable housing. It hasn't always been popular work, and at times it's been lonely, but Sunrise has delivered consistently even when much bigger public and nonprofit agencies have struggled.

Sunrise Homeless Navigation Center
4430 Menchaca Rd.

Best Source for Daily Pollen Counts

Sometimes we know exactly what's causing our eyes and noses to seep and drip the moment we walk out the door. Other times we know something's afoot in the air, but the data is too broad to parse. Enter, the brainchild of an anonymous developer who provides nuanced data points aggregating pollen counts, mold, and more, refreshed frequently throughout the day, to help allergy sufferers pinpoint precisely what's making them feel like the walking dead. Thank you, Mx. AustinPollen, for allowing us to know precisely which cursed allergen to blame on any given day.

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Best Way to Freshen Up Your Face

In the summer of 2020, Leslie Sazon embraced the pandemic chaos, left her fancy medical spa career, and changed course to open her very own one-woman microblading show. “Kilay” is Tagalog for “eyebrow”! With over 10 years in the biz, her unparalleled eyebrow skills are showcased front and center on a growing sector of Austinites. Whether it’s plumping up Nineties pencil brows, creating “window treatment” for post-chemo peepers, or fixing old-school tattoo gun situations, Sazon’s freshening up faces and boosting self-esteem with elegant permanent makeup. Even better, she’s one helluva cool human.

Kilay Method
4101 Medical Pkwy. #105

Best Support for Creatives of Color

As evidenced by their packed-out U*N*I*T*Y showcase outdoors at Stubb’s during South by Southwest, DAWA has made quite the community impact since its launch in 2020. Short for Diversity Awareness & Wellness in Action, DAWA – meaning “medicine” in Swahili – provides financial support to people of color who work as musicians, artists, social workers, teachers, healing practitioners, or in the service industry locally. Launched by Jonathan “Chaka” Mahone of Riders Against the Storm, the fund swiftly directed assistance throughout the pandemic and continues to support the healers of Austin to do what they do best.

Best Champion of Black Musicmakers

Conversations regarding racism in the Austin music industry – from discriminatory booking to city arts-funding structures – culminated in the late-2020 launch of the Black Austin Musicians’ Collective. Focused on preserving the local community of Black creatives, the organization narrows in on policy and reform, artist sustainability, and community outreach. Since then, members like Mobley, Magna Carda, Torre Blake, and Eimaral Sol have passionately advocated for equitable funding at Austin Music Commission meetings. On the festive side, the collective threw their first-ever showcase during SXSW, featuring Jackie Venson, Geto Gala, Alesia Lani, Urban Heat, and Jonny Jukebox. Definitely follow their locally sourced playlists on Spotify: @blkatxmusicians.

Best Pandemic SAFE Haven

There was a hidden pandemic within the pandemic. Domestic and intimate partner abuse reports skyrocketed, while health care professionals saw an unprecedented spike in injuries consistent with such assaults – and the SAFE Alliance knew that it couldn't just lock its doors and stop providing those essential, often life-saving services. It pivoted to online when it could, but made sure that those vital havens like its housing programs and the Eloise House sexual assault clinic kept their doors open for abuse survivors, but closed to COVID.

The SAFE Alliance
1515 Grove

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Best Way to Chat With the Ancestors

When Addie Broyles left her longtime career as a Statesman food writer in 2021, she embarked on a journey of healing for self and community. One of several new ventures (don’t miss her “The Feminist Kitchen” Substack!), Broyles pulls tarot cards to help clients explore their grief, learn healing tactics, and build relationships. Whether it’s a one-on-one session, hiking group, or a tarot party, Don’t Fear the Death Card is a lovely conversation starter for anyone who wants to learn to interpret the ancient art of tarot and discover ancestral wisdom.

Best Way to Keep Things Moving Right Along

We don’t spend a lot of time thinking about our sliding doors. That is, until something goes wrong, and then we waste hours on the internet or wandering around hardware aisles trying to chase down some essential, very specifically sized, and – turns out! – super-rare busted thingamabob. What we should have done was gone straight to Austin Sliding Door & Window Repair. We like their straightforward, no-nonsense name, and we really like how it perfectly reflects the prompt and professional service we got. And now we can go right back to taking our sliding door for granted, reassured that the next time something goes wrong, we’ve got ASDWR on speed dial for all our thingamabob needs.

Austin Sliding Door & Window Repair
6705 Hwy. 290 W. #502-278

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Best Total-Package Care for Exotic Fur (and Furless) Babies

We all love cats and dogs, but when it comes to health care for the wide world of non-feline/-canine pets, finding a vet can be truly exhausting. Few are willing to see a hedgehog, iguana, or tarantula, and many only see an "exotic" pet two or three times a year. Luckily for Austinites, there's North Austin Animal Hospital. With specialty vets for a variety of breeds, including most domestic reptiles, birds, and rodents, NAAH is a one-stop shop for animal health care, from birth through end-of-life. Their doting staff will leave you with full confidence that your dear ones are receiving top-notch care, and their full-service facility delivers everything from diagnostics to surgery to boarding/day care.

North Austin Animal Hospital
5608 Burnet Rd.

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