Here's a sampling of readers' write-in votes:
Best Non-Authentic Mexican: Margaret's Cantina
Best Vegetarian Cafe: Sage
Best Kid Venue: Museum of Life and Science, Durham
Best Waitstaff: Bloomsbury Bistro
Best Church Name: Faith Tabernacle Oasis of Love, Rogers Road, Chapel Hill
Best Ice Cream Parlor: Inside Scoop, Chapel Hill
Best View of the Sunset: Maple View Farm Dairy, Orange County
Best Gallery: Lee Hansley
Best Radio Station: 88.9 WSHA
Best Outdoor Patio: Tosca
Best Margarita: Blue Corn Cafe
Best Place to Nurture Yourself, Friends & Family in Public: N.C. Botanical Garden-- soothes the soul
Most Mourned Local Restaurant: Pyewacket
Best Thrift Store: Time after Time
Best Online Local Music Resource: ncpunk.cjb.net
Best Local Recording Studio: Downtown Sound
Most Passionate About Their Business: (tie) Caffe Driade and Open Eye Cafe
Best Art Gallery: Horizon Gallery
Best Barbecue: Allen and Sons
Best Community Party: Last Fridays in Hillsborough
Best Bookstore: Quail Ridge Books
Best Lingerie: Crash & Coco, Cary
Best Local University: North Carolina State University
Best Local Web Hosting Company: host-local.com
Best Folk Rock Diva: Jess Pillmore
Best Place to Introduce Your Kids to the Thrill of Live Music: Festival for the Eno
Best Second-hand Store: Beggars & Choosers, Pittsboro
Best Up-and-coming Bar: Goldies
Best Place to Hang Out and Enjoy Nature: Eno River State Park
Best place to become target for panhandlers: Any I-85 exit in Durham
Prettiest Road: Cameron Avenue
Best Way to Spend the Fourth of July: Festival for the Eno
Best Alternative Bookstore: Internationalist Books
Best Hot Dog: Squeaky's
Best Cheap Thrill in the Triangle: Tasting balsamic vinegars at A Southern Season
Best full-service reduced rate real estate agency: New Castle Realty
Most Underrated Bar: The Speakeasy
Favorite Music Promoter: DJ BumrushBest
Jewelry Store--and best write-in campaign
Every year, we generally see outstanding ballot stuffing in a couple categories. At the office, we generally smile and remark on the cleverness of the method--be it online ballots, Xeroxed ballots mailed together--and have to guess about the stuffers' motivation. Not with Roberto Jewelers. While the jewelers went the Xerox route, people had hand-written additional superlatives to the pre-printed ballots: We surmised that everyone really, earnestly loves owners Roberto and Amalia De Angelis Restucha and the service they get there. Roberto sounds like the kind of guy you find out about from a friend, you go to visit to get your watch fixed and from then on out, you can't imagine living without--like a great tailor or hairdresser. He's your find. What a gem!
Best Reason to Go to North Raleigh
There's lot of 'em. Not what you figured we'd say? Well, as it becomes a town unto itself, it's got its share of olde favorites as well as new hot spots. Shelley Lake has been and is one of the best parks in the region;
Raleighwood Cinema Grill is the best place to watch a flick and drink a milkshake at the same time;
The Fresh Market on Falls of the Neuse is the best grocery around (especially since it's still locally owned--and because one reader told us they sell H&H bagels fresh from New York);
Scout & Molly's is an adorable women's clothing boutique that's a nice alternative to driving all the way to Cameron Village; the
Colony Theater shows great art house flicks; and
Kuki has some of the best Japanese food around (ask The N&O's Greg Cox). There's plenty more going on up there that we don't have room to drool over. Go and find some bests for yourself.
Best Conservative Ally
He may not agree with many liberal causes, but when he does, The Rev. Mark Creech is willing to stand up and be counted. The burly Creech, who heads the Raleigh-based Christian Action League of North Carolina, has been an outspoken champion of raising the state's 5-cent-a-pack tax on cigarettes--now the third lowest in the country. He was the star of the show at a press conference announcing the first of several cigarette tax hike bills introduced this session. Creech joined liberal state House members like Jennifer Weiss (D-Wake) and Paul Luebke (D-Durham) at the podium, where he spoke with a preacher's fire about the "moral issue" of reducing teen smoking, and the need for alternatives to a state lottery. Creech grew up working tobacco fields in eastern North Carolina, among congregations where tobacco plots raised money for local church needs. But he's not afraid to say that taxing cigarettes has "redemptive value." "I think every thoughtful Christian out to abstain from tobacco and support legislation like this," he said, as the TV cameras whirred.
Best Reasons to Go to Cary
Godfrey Cheshire wrote in our 20th anniversary issue that the Triangle is blessed with an abundance of great art house theaters: Madstone Theater is near the top of the list. The small art house chain cleaned up the old Imperial cinema and now brings us the best of Bollywood, old classics, an insiders' club that shows us hyped-up art films before they're released and discussions with filmmakers. They recently paired their opening of soccer-themed crowd-pleaser Bend it Like Beckham with another great reason to go to Cary: performances by women's soccer dynamos, the Carolina Courage. They're making it awfully hard to keep making fun of Cary--we're even a little jealous.
Best attempts at recreating Raleigh as NYC South
If you've been to certain areas of Raleigh's Inner Beltline lately, you catch an unmistakable whiff of something pretentious but accessible, expensive but worth it, pretty and cute but uberclever--why, it's New York City. But with terror threats and outrageous prices, who can blame folks with classy sensibilities for recreating their spiritual hometown right here among the azalea bushes? The easiest place to spot these changes is in the mixed-use-planned neighborhood, Glenwood South or GloSo(according to one shop owner). The area features well-appointed nightclubs, fine dining, pubs, coffeeshops, boutiques ... exactly the place you might find Katie Coleman Koon, aka She She Me, figurehead in this NYC South zeitgeist.
Koon is Raleigh's answer to Carrie Bradshaw: Sex in the City of Oaks. From organizing and hosting the Chic Market and the upcoming Spring Fling (boutiques from all around come to sell their cocktail dresses and handmade handbags in a haze of pink balloons) to her postings on her Web site (www.shesheme.com), Koon is capable of making everyone crave champagne and a pair of Manolo Blahniks, just like the Big City girls.
And of course, all good New Yorkers appreciate a good, beautiful magazine to document their hard work on the scene. Last December, GloSoers got their wish when former Indy arts editor Mark Hornburg hung out his own chic shingle, Lather. The all-color, slickly packaged, easy-to-carry, sass-mouthed rag has become a must-have accessory for everyone in the know in NYC South (besides our paper, right?). From Yoko Devereaux's cheeky musings to the Rogues' Gallery, it makes a Southerner feel downright civilized, and more importantly, part of it all. You, too, can be a New Yorker, without leaving the comfort of good barbecue.
Best True Believer
We'd be cynical about the prospects for public transportation in Raleigh were it not for Todd Allen, Raleigh's new transit planner who--if this gig blows up on him (and we are talking public transit in Raleigh), now--can give workshops to other gummint employees on the power of positive thinking. Next time Allen's on your agenda, and you're tempted to slip out of the room for a personal grooming checkup while the subject is "Capital Area Transportation, The 5-Year Improvement Plan," ...
Don't! Give this guy 10 minutes and he'll have you thinking buses and Raleigh CAN go together ... nay, MUST go together. Anyway, it's always nice, when watching your tax dollars at work, to see somebody who's jazzed about what he's doing.
Best Place to Honk Your Horn
We don't listen to John Tesh, and we don't listen to Enya. But when one heads down Raleigh's massively multilane blacktop brute--also known as Capital Boulevard--nothing short of Tesh or Yanni soothes our souls and quells our temper. Anything harder or faster would surely drive us to unrestrained fits of violent road rage. "Murder," you ask? Perhaps, but probably two middle fingers flashing from the driver's side window, backed by the most menacing face in the history of the automobile industry. Capital Boulevard stands as perhaps the single most egregious error Department of Transportation officials ever performed anywhere, anytime. And no, we won't let you in our damn lane!