The 2016 winners of the LEO Readers' Choice Awards

Oct 5, 2016 at 12:59 pm
The 2016 winners of the LEO Readers' Choice Awards

The waiting is over, and once again we bring you LEO Weekly’s Readers’ Choice awards, your selections for the best in the city. The votes are in, and you will find a few surprising results (best band is Kudmani, apparently a popular wedding band), and some annual swapping of first and second places. The results also show how the city is changing and growing (newcomer HopCat takes first for best beer list). But mostly what the list shows is that we have an embarrassment of greatness in this city.

Forecastle - photo by Marty Pearl
photo by Marty Pearl


Best Festival Forecastle Festival Whether you love, loath or don’t care about the bands playing Forecastle, it’s a tough event not to respect — the way it has developed into a premier national festival, bringing a major event downtown. And from featuring such reunions as Slint and The Replacements to booking such bumble-gum favorites as Sam Smith and the Avett Brothers, Forecastle grabs names that makes it a top-notch festival in a highly-competitive circuit. —Scott Recker #2. Kentucky Derby Festival #3. Louder Than Life

Best Art Gallery Tim Faulkner Gallery There are two terrific reasons why the Tim Faulkner Gallery won best art gallery: founder Tim Faulkner and gallery director Margaret Archambault. And I can add a third reason too: Portland. The gallery’s move to the Portland warehouse district (it was in NuLu and Butchertown) has given them room to materialize a lot of dreams. To call their space mixed-use is an understatement and a disservice to Faulkner and Archambault. It’s an “Art with a capital A” space with visual art at its core. —Jo Anne Triplett #2. Revelry Boutique Gallery #3. Swanson Contemporary

Best Live Music Venue Headliners Music Hall A mid-size room like Headliners has always been my favorite place to see a concert — there are enough people there to make the room feel alive, but not too many where you either have to fight your way to a vantage point, or, worse, watch everything from a Jumbotron. But, having the right-size venue isn’t the thing that makes Headliners special — it has smart people booking great shows, a bar that has reasonably-priced drinks and a chameleon-like environment, where reserved seating and rowdy pits both seem to make sense. —Scott Recker #2. Louisville Palace #3. Mercury Ballroom

Best Live Theater Venue Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts Back in the mid-’80s, downtown was in bad shape and needed a shot in the arm to bring it back to life. Somebody was smart enough to build the Kentucky Center. Now downtown is bustling and thriving. Coincidence? Hell no. Art makes a city, fool. Whatever you think of when you picture the center — big budget Broadway touring shows, the Louisville Ballet, Stage One, a half dozen smaller theater companies, community outreach, free workshops — I guarantee there is a bunch of stuff you don’t know about. Do yourself a favor and go explore. —Eli Keel #2. Louisville Palace #3. Actors Theatre

Best Local Comedian Tom Mabe For the second year in a row, Amiri King was voted LEO Reader’s Choice Best Local Comedian. But we at LEO cannot condone King's comments and views regarding the Donald Trump video, Black Lives Matter and other issues. While we respect that a majority of readers voted for him, we wonder whether he would have gotten their support if the vote had come after his remarks about Trump. Regarding Mabe, in 2015, LEO comedy critic Brent Owen wrote: "Tom Mabe is one of the most famous Internet celebrities. He’s up there with Grumpy Cat, Antoine Dodson and a young cherub-faced Justin Bieber. With a billion YouTube hits (or somewhere close), Mabe has taken the old “Candid Camera” prank concept to the viral, digital age. Hustler named him “The World’s Best Prankster.” You’ve probably seen some of his stuff and didn’t even know it: “Fight Me,” “Identical Shoplifter” and the classic “How to Feed the Homeless.” #2. Chris McConnell

Best Local Band/Musician Kudmani Listed on their website as a family-friendly wedding reception band, Kudmani is a family-friendly wedding reception band. I am able to confirm that they play “Don’t Stop Believing,” “Uptown Funk” and “Wagon Wheel.” I am not able to confirm whether they play “Thrilller,” “Genie In A Bottle” or the song where everyone acts like a chicken. Either way, I’m sure they’ve brought many fantastic drunken dance moves and, possibly, a few oopsie babies into the world. —Scott Recker #2. The Louisville Crashers #3. Petar Mandic

Best Museum Speed Art Museum This is the Speed Art Museum’s year. After reopening in March after a three-plus-year renovation, the museum continues to showcase its beautiful new glass box. The building, with its proposed LEED (super environmentally-friendly) certification, has become a destination. As important, the permanent collections housed within are displayed as the prized objects they are. Large works, once stored because there wasn’t room in the old museum, are now seeing daylight again. Special exhibitions and the Speed Cinema continue to introduce viewers to new works. What a comeback — it’s a gift that keeps on giving. —Jo Anne Triplett #2. Kentucky Science Center #3. Kentucky Derby Museum

Best Performing Arts Group Kentucky Shakespeare The ongoing renaissance of this company under artistic director Matt Wallace is the biggest story in the Louisville art scene since … I don’t know, maybe forever. After languishing and shrinking for over a decade, the oldest free Shakespeare festival in the country is growing, with an 11-week summer season this year, greatly expanded educational shows and touring, and winter and fall productions as well. I get to see Titus Andronicus this October, in an empty warehouse in Butchertown! I’m so excited I could grind your bones up to make a pie. —Eli Keel #2. Va Va Vixens #3. CirqueLouis

Best Theater Production “Dracula” Celebrating his 900th birthday, Vlad the Impaler lives on in 2016’s “Dracula.” A Louisville Halloween tradition unlike any other, the can’t-miss show at the Actors Theatre features this classic character. In the beautiful Bingham Theatre, spooky, un-dead characters roam among the audience, while being chased by vampire hunters. While some scream, some hold their breath, and others laugh at the performance. But everyone is engrossed in this awe-inspiring performance. On a single set that sits at the bottom of the theater, completely surrounded by seats, spectators watch the characters travel from Dr. Seward’s study in Carfax Abbey, to a graveyard, Dracula’s ship and the dungeon lair of Dracula for the final battle. The brilliance of the cast and crew maximize all 360-degrees of stage, audience and auditorium, with spectacular lighting, audio and visual special effects, nobody is left out of this mesmerizing experience. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Shakespeare in the Park #3. “Wicked”

Best Visual Artist Antonio Pantoja I’m a fan of nice. And while Antonio Pantoja did not win “best nice person,” he should have. After years of receiving awards, he’s still humbled and surprised when he wins Best Visual Artist again. One of the reasons he continues to win is his mastery of the various forms of photography, working across the genres of fine art, commercial work and film/video. Pantoja is proof nice guys do not finish last. —Jo Anne Triplett #2. Marc Murphy #3. Julius Friedman

click to enlarge Churchill Downs
Churchill Downs


Best Place to Have an Event/Party Mellwood Arts Center Mellwood Arts Center has three rooms to pick from, ranging from a smaller, more-intimate setting to one that can fit hundreds of people. It is the perfect place to have a wedding, considering Mellwood doesn’t charge extra if you bring in a caterer, and you are allowed to throw rose pedals (let’s be honest, that’s way better than bubbles). Not sold yet, not to worry — you can even bring your own alcohol. —Aleeza Gardner #2. Copper & Kings #3. Ice House

Best Local Landmark Churchill Downs I grew up near Churchill Downs, and, throughout the years, I have been lucky enough to see all sides of this historic racing grounds, from Millionaires Row to the infield and from the backside to the boxes. Every area has its own vibe, but no matter what area you’re in, one thing is always true: Everyone is there to have a good time, and they don’t mind if join in. —Ethan Smith #2. Big Four Bridge #3. Louisville Slugger Museum

Best Neighborhood The Highlands How can you pick just one neighborhood? What’s great about Louisville is that offers a diversity of neighborhoods, each with its own flavor of food, shopping and feel. But to be certain, The Highlands has a high concentration of restaurants and places to drink, dance and see comedy or plays (Oh, and buy vape and pot supplies). It also has beautiful Victorians and bungalows, and it is close to Cherokee Park. Perhaps, it also is where many LEO readers live, which could account for its winning. —Keith Stone #2. Germantown #3. Clifton

Best Place to take your Dog Cherokee Park My dog is hyper. She likes to run laps around the apartment for hours and then go on a run afterward. That kind of hyper. But one thing is guaranteed to settle her down, and that is taking her to Cherokee Park. We walk the many beautiful trails, play around in the creeks, and, if I’m feeling lazy, I can just let her run around in the Cherokee dog park. —Ethan Smith #2. The Parklands at Floyds Fork #3. Barkstown Road

Best Parade Kentucky Derby Festival It almost seems unfair to let the Pegasus Parade even compete in this category. As if anything in Louisville can compete with the pageantry and excitement surrounding Derby. Some people are fans of the celebrity guests, or the increasingly complicated floats and balloons from local business and non-profits, but, for me, the draw will always be the marching bands and the step teams, as Louisville’s teens and tweens show out for the whole city. —Eli Keel #2. St. Patrick’s Day Parade #3. Kentuckiana Pride Parade

Best Park Cherokee Park I’ve spent a lot of time in Cherokee Park: Going on hikes, walking my dog, meeting friends, having picnics, having barbecues, driving around to clear my mind, enjoying the summer, fall, and winter weather and going sledding when it snows. And since it’s right between Bardstown Road and Frankfort Avenue, I always end up eating some delicious food afterward. So it’s fair to say my hours (maybe even days) in the park were well-spent. —Ethan Smith #2. The Parklands at Floyds Fork #3. Seneca Park

Best Place to Take Kids in the Summer Kentucky Kingdom The summer fun is back (in local hands) where it began nearly 30 years ago. Kentucky Kingdom is the Louisville destination for summer days, filled with rides, roller coasters, games and attractions. With five roller coasters, dozens of other rides, a 5-D cinema, Hurricane Bay water park and King Louie’s Playland, for the younger patrons, the Kingdom promises days of fun for the whole family. If you missed making it there this summer, be sure to plan some summer fun in 2017 at Kentucky Kingdom. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Louisville Zoo #3. Louisville Waterfront Park

River House
River House


Best Bakery Nord’s Bakery I didn’t know how good doughnuts could be until I went to Nords. It’s embarrassing to admit now, but until I was in my 20s, my only doughnut experience was with a certain chain store that has two Ks and sounds like “crispy creme.” Then one day I went to Nords, tasted what a doughnut should taste like, with fresh dough and chocolate, and I’ll never eat sub-par doughnuts again. My taste buds have been awakened. —Ethan Smith #2. Plehn’s Bakery #3. Blue Dog Bakery and Cafe

Best BBQ Feast BBQ The competition is tough, but the meat is not, and the readers have spoken. Feast has won. It is a cool spot with TVs and a bar, and also that true BBQ feel, with family-style tables, as well as all the sauces and silverware on the table. It may get a lot of attention for its bourbon slushy … because that’s really good. But it has also got some ridiculous sides and snacks, from the fried pickles and loaded (tater) tots, to collards greens, two slaw options and the most ridiculously-good baked beans. They are sweet, spicy and unlike any beans I’ve had. Definitely a must try, either for lunch, dinner or catering a BBQ cookout (if you’re likely to screw-up the cooking part of the cookout, like me). —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Momma’s Mustard, Pickles & BBQ #3. Mark’s Feed Store

Best Breakfast Wild Eggs Regardless of the location, day or time, what you order or how busy they are, you are guaranteed to get a great breakfast with great service from delightful people. In addition to the basic breakfasts, it offers an assortment of amazing, large omelets, or you can build your own. Need a sweet to go with those eggs? They’ve got crepes, a cinnamon roll the size of Gov. Matt Bevin’s ego, waffles, French toast and a variety of pancakes that are all excellent. (Not just in the you-can’t-mess-up-waffles excellent, but actually excellent.) And honestly, if you’re looking for a little something light, the house-made granola is awesome. Oh, and so is the coffee. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Highland Morning #3. Toast On Market

Best Boozy Brunch Wild Eggs Louisville is certainly not devoid of stellar brunch options, and libation-filled brunches aren’t few and far between, either. Wild Eggs takes the cake this year as Louisville’s favorite boozy brunch, and rightfully so, with its endless breakfast cocktail options and delectable eats.  My suggestion? The Kalamity Katie’s Border Benedict and one of their specialty cappuccinos (with, of course, a variety of spirits available to add), or a pitcher of mimosas. I’ve got time for that. —Kelsey Westbrook #2. LouVino #3. The Silver Dollar

Best Burger Mussel & Burger Bar Yeah, I thought the same thing: What kind of place is going to serve mussels and burgers? The answer must be: If they are as good as the mussels and burgers at Mussels and Burgers, it doesn’t matter what it sounds like … it’s amazing. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Grind Burger Kitchen #3. Holy Grale

Best Chef Edward Lee Perhaps the most certain sign of Chef Edward Lee’s success may not even be the national publicity he has earned as a frequent guest on television’s “Top Chef” and other programs, his colorful cookbooks and carefully-curated image as a Korean-American guy from Brooklyn who has embraced “Southern” cuisine in a town that’s not very Southern. It may be, in fact, that hardly anybody still thinks of him as “the guy who took over 610 from Ed Garber” any more. Lee’s careful stewardship over what was already recognized as Louisville’s finest restaurant, after 25 years under Garber’s watch, has maintained that reputation with 13 years of Lee in the wheelhouse. It is Lee’s own, now, and has been for years, and yet the restaurant’s reputation for quiet elegance, spectacular chef-driven fare that sweats the details, and the kind of premium price that such quality earns has stayed untarnished, and is now entirely associated with Chef Lee. —Robin Garr #2. John Varanese #3. Anoosh Shariat

Best Chinese Restaurant August Moon Chinese Bistro Some people like their Chinese food plain and simple, the familiar Chinese-American fare that has been a part of our culture since Gold Rush days. Some — call them food geeks — like their Chinese food as authentic as can be, even if some of the dishes are challenging, and the menu has to be translated for us. And then there’s August Moon, which fits neatly in the middle, offering delicious, chef-driven Chinese fare with a touch of Malaysia added from the native home of Chef Peng Looi, who also wins applause as host of the more upscale Asiatique. Excellent food, a stylish venue with one of the city’s best al-fresco dining decks out back and a bar that’s memorable in its own right: What’s not to like? —Robin Garr #2. Oriental House #3. Cafe Mimosa

Best Coffee Shop Heine Brothers’ Coincidentally, a lot of LEO readers enjoy coffee. Not coincidentally, LEO readers love to drink Heine Brothers’ coffee while reading LEO. For over 20 years Heine Bros has developed the coffeehouse culture in Louisville, and now spreads over 13 locations. They also are a great corporate citizen, operating sustainably, partnering with, and donating to, numerous community groups, recycling and offering some quality wifi free to the public … so good, rumors are that people desperate for some wifi will camp out in the parking lot during off hours. If you’re a coffee sommelier, or just desperate for caffeine, you have to try Heine Brothers. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Sunergos Coffee #3. Quills Coffee

Best Deli/Sandwich Shop Stevens & Stevens deli Stevens & Stevens has been a Louisville favorite for over 25 years. Located behind Ditto’s, it offers authentic New York City-style deli. It makes phenomenal hot and cold sandwiches, packed with plenty of your meat of choice — corned beef, turkey, pastrami, ham, chicken, roast beef or fish, or veggies and cheeses, if you’re cutting down on the meats — with locally sourced products whenever possible. Side note: I’m a creature of habit, and always find myself in a decision crisis when looking at the assortment of options. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Morris’ Deli #3. Frank’s Meat & Produce

Best Delivery New Wave Burritos It still may only deliver in Germantown and Old Louisville, but with a new storefront at 3311 Preston St., New Wave has become more accessible than ever this year. Which is good news for everyone, because how could you not like its combination of a few classic-leaning favorites and then a revolving door of interesting twists — recent ones include Nashville Hot Shrimp Tacos and Korean Fried Rice Burritos. —Scott Recker #2. Cafe Mimosa #3. BoomBozz Craft Pizza and Taphouse

Best Fine Dining Jeff Ruby’s steakhouse Whether downtown for a concert, show or ballgame, or celebrating a special occasion, Jeff Ruby’s will bring the best food and drinks in town. It’s always lively — even nightly live music with phenomenal a piano player and singers doing classics, mostly from the Motown era. It pours quality, classic cocktails and has an incredible wine list. There is never a night where you leave thinking: “They were off tonight.” And Ruby’s isn’t just a steakhouse but also offers a sushi and raw bar with consistently excellent fresh seafood. The staff is professional, knowledgeable and makes sure that — whatever the occasion — you have a great experience. And don’t let the fine-dining sobriquet fool you: You’ll see suits dining next to jeans and a cowboy hat. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Le Moo #3. Varanese

Best Fish Sandwich The Fish House What makes The Fish House a favorite for LEO Weekly readers? We’re certain that its convenient location, where The Highlands meet Germantown at the busy intersection of Winter and Barrett avenues, doesn’t hurt, but unlike in real estate, “location, location, location” isn’t everything when it comes to restaurant popularity. Let’s give credit where it’s due: Friendly, caring service from longtime owner David Hilsenrad and his family is a draw, but it’s the Kentucky Green River-style fried fish sandwiches that make The Fish House’s engine purr. What’s Green River style? Mild white fish cloaked in a crunchy, golden-brown cloak of cornmeal with plenty of fragrant black pepper, that’s what. Try it. You’ll like it! —Robin Garr #2. Cunningham’s Creekside #3. The Fishery

Best Food Truck/Cart 502 Cafe Food Truck My wife prides herself on her love of barbecued meats and is a bit of a connoisseur. So when she hipped me to the 502 Food Truck, I knew I was in for a treat. Pretty much everything is smoked. Their ribs are a little spicy (a lot, if you’re a baby like me) and delicious. Their brisket sliders are as awesome as they sound, a tiny taste-bomb that’s super easy to eat. The staff is super friendly, which might not have much to do with the taste, but boy it makes it easy to go back. Their truffle mac and cheese — and, well, everything — is the kind of amazing that makes you remember why you go to the gym. —Syd Bishop #2. Hi-Five Doughnuts #3. Momma’s Mustard, Pickles & BBQ

Best Hot Dog Lonnie’s Best Taste of Chicago If you haven’t been, you just don’t understand … these hot dogs are the real deal. A family-operated joint in St. Matthews, Lonnie’s specializes in authentic, Chicago-style hot dogs. It also serves burgers, beef sandwiches and other specialty items, including gyros, po’boys and wings. But seriously, it’s all about the dogs. I always go for the Clark St. Hot Dog, which is the staple, Chicago-style with all the accouterments, and on rare, really hungry occasions, I will double-up with a State St. Dog. Truly can’t go wrong though, and a must-try place. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Red Top Gourmet Hotdogs #3. Skyline Chili

Best Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt The Comfy Cow Wow, Comfy Cow sure jumped onto the scene fast. Maybe it’s because its ice cream is amazing (I can’t get over the bourbon ball …). Maybe it’s the convenient locations (now four across Louisville and two in Southern Indiana). Maybe it’s the greatest logo of all time … if you don’t get it, don’t worry — it’s just a happy cow enjoying its delicious ice cream. For creature’s of habit, like myself, you’re truly in a bind, because everything looks amazing, and they’re always introducing new and seasonal flavors. Family-friendly, as a creamery should be. If you like ice cream, cookies, smoothies or other sweet treats, gotta try Comfy Cow. Oh, and don’t leave the dog at home … they’ve got pooch pops for the family fur as well. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Graeter’s Ice Cream #3. Homemade Ice Cream & Pie Kitchen

Best Indian Restaurant Shalimar What’s your favorite Indian restaurant? This question is sure to start a debate among Louisville foodies, and the ensuing argument is pretty likely to end up in a trip to one of the city’s half-dozen fine Indian eateries. We didn’t used to have this tasty option, as it took a long time for Indian food to stick here. A few pioneering Indian families would start restaurants, but none lasted long. We hadn’t yet been introduced to the joys of Indian food, and it was hard for a new place to build a sufficient fan base for success. It was Shalimar that broke that sad situation, and it has proven its worth over more than 20 years, serving a happy public with a very broad menu of mostly Punjabi and Northern Indian delights. —Robin Garr #2. Kashmir Indian Restaurant #3. Clay Oven Indian Restaurant

Best Italian restaurant Volare Italian Ristorante Sometimes you attend a play, or a ballet, and don’t have time to eat beforehand. After you’ve paid good money for a fine cultural event, you’d like to follow it with a meal befitting the occasion. Certainly, options grow limited when the event ends at 9 p.m., with most restaurants closing at 10 p.m.  And yet, there is Volare. On a cozy corner of Frankfort Avenue, Volare is open until 11 p.m. for dinner Friday and Saturday. Score! Please prep the Blueberry & Basil Gimlet, a starter of Bruschetta, and have my table waiting. If I’m taking longer to arrive than expected, please get the Filetti Di Manzo (medium) ready. The Filetti is the perfect cut of beef covered in brie, prosciutto and a cherry white balsamic reduction. Reductions are the happy place of diners. Please, Volare, hit me with all the reductions; and next time I come, Imma’ need to match the Osso Bucco Milanese with your Barrel-Aged Volare Manhattan at a seat by the window. I’ve got dreaming to do. —Erica Rucker #2. Come Back Inn #3. Vincenzo’s Italian Restaurant

Best Late-Night Bite The Back Door The Back Door is my favorite place to go for a late night-bite because 1) It’s on Bardstown Road, which is close to some of my favorite bars 2) they always pour stiff drinks and 3) their chicken wings are amazing. And if you didn’t already know that, make sure and catch the next late-night football game there, and you will see what I mean. —Ethan Smith #2. Burger Boy Diner #3. White Castle

Best Latin restaurant Havana Rumba Mama like-y. There isn’t much that I could eat while pregnant; but craving meat (yes, that’s what she said) and having Havana Rumba nearby was a match made in prenatal heaven. The steak chimichurri, a grilled skirt steak with chimichurri sauce for dipping (or drinking) on the side set my cravings right and kept me happy. Before the steak, though, be sure to try inserting your whole face into a dish of Camarones Al Ajillo. This celebration of shrimp sautéed in garlic and lime juice far exceeds what one might expect of these snappy little creatures. Word to the wise: I have found this isn’t a dish for the dainty. Put on a bib and plan to get garlic and oil on your whole face; and hopefully share a little with the face of your friend who will try to eat some with you. Don’t be nice. Don’t share. —Erica Rucker #2. Seviche, A Latin Restaurant #3. Mojito Tapas Restaurant

Best Mexican Restaurant El Nopal El Nopal may have won on the familiarity vote, since it seems there is an El Nopal on every corner in Louisville. But the appeal here is cheap, good Mexican food with a long menu and free chips and salsa. Seriously, you can go to an El Nopal and eat like a king for under $10 if you put your mind to it. The lunch specials are always consistent (who doesn’t love a Speedy Gonzalez?), the micheladas are spicy and the fajitas come to your table sizzling like a bomb. Don’t sleep on the crabmeat quesadilla, either. —Kevin Gibson #2. El Mundo #3. Guaca Mole

Best Middle Eastern Restaurant The Grape Leaf My husband is indecisive. When we decide to go out to eat, he never has an opinion, unless it is something that he definitely doesn’t want, despite not knowing (ever) what he actually wants. However, if I say, “Let’s go to the Grape Leaf,” there is never a protest — never a scowl. But often, I’m rewarded with the satisfied agreement of a man who knows that he will get a proper shawarma or the right beef and lamb gyro, which both include salads and lentil or cauliflower rice. The kid chimes in cheerfully, understanding that the Grape Leaf means he’s getting a plate of fresh warm pita and creamy, perfect hummus with a vegetable garnish that’s actually worth eating. I get to smile knowing my family will eat a meal with joy, and I will have the extended quiet of a woman who calmed two hungry bears with excellent Mediterranean vittles. Certainly, makes my shawarma all the more enjoyable. —Erica Rucker #2. Safier Mediterranean Deli #3. Shiraz Mediterranean Grill

Best New Restaurant River House With new restaurants popping up all the time across Louisville’s thriving dining scene, this was a hotly contested race. But John Varanese’s pet seafood project, located firmly on the banks of the Ohio River, stands out not just for its fine dining atmosphere, its al fresco dining, and its companion bar, The Levee, but it’s also the only raw bar on the river. Seriously, the mix-and-match options of a variety of oysters, colossal lump crab and more are tantalizing, to say the least. And just check out the River Tower. Holy cow … er, fish. Yes, fresh seafood is River House’s business, and business is good. —Kevin Gibson #2. Butchertown Grocery #3. Finn’s Southern Kitchen

Best Outdoor Dining Captain’s Quarters Captain’s Quarters Riverside Grille continues to provide the best riverfront drink and dining experience in town. Overlooking the Ohio River, you can drink and eat while watching barges and boaters, and parties on boats pull up to dock just feet away from the CQ patio. It is a wonderful combination of serenity and activity … although on some nights, the party on the patio tips that balance. And new this year, a view of the spectacular East End bridge. If the weather is too nice to be inside, there’s no question Captain’s Quarters is too nice to pass. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. River House #3. Mike Linnig’s Restaurant

Best Pizza BoomBozz Craft Pizza & Taphouse A Louisville original, Boombozz should be proud for outlasting Papa John’s in this category. Let’s just say Boombozz doesn’t have quite the same marketing budget and leave it there, shall we? Boombozz also has far better pizza, which prompted Readers’ Choice voters to crown Tony Palombino’s baby the 2016 champion. From specialty pizzas to calzones, small plates (try the Meatbozz!) and sandwiches, there’s a little something for everybody, and with an Italian flare. Oh yeah, and there’s a pretty fair beer selection as well. Beer is good. —Kevin Gibson #2. The Original Impellizzeri’s Pizza #3. Coals Artisan Pizza

Best Place for a Romantic Dinner Jack Fry’s Historic Jack Fry’s is beyond a Louisville favorite … it’s a Louisville landmark. While it was originally established in the 1930s — as a different sort of establishment — for decades it has been the restaurant we all know and love. But it’s the full, lively atmosphere, dim lighting and live piano music that surround the always-great food that make this place the place to take your special someone. The food may not be complicated and inventive, but it is classic and focused on preparation and execution. The staff is always tremendous — professional, knowledgeable and accommodating. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Buck’s Restaurant and Bar #3. Varanese

Best Restaurant Jack Fry’s See above. Not much else to say, other than: go! —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Seviche, A Latin Restaurant #3. Butchertown Grocery

Best Salad Ghyslain While it took customers a long time to get the pronunciation right (Gee-sleigh), it’s only because they kept coming back that it mattered! “I’ll meet you at Gee- yeah that place.” The expert chocolatier and pastry chef-artist continues to produce eye-catching, mouthwatering sweet treats that are as beautiful as they are delicious. Owner/founder Ghyslain Maurals has more tricks up his sleeve. With great food up-and-down the menu, however, if you are looking for a full, fresh salad (to eat while reading your LEO), Ghyslain is the place to go. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Texas Roadhouse #3. Ramsi’s Café on the World

Best Steakhouse Jeff Ruby’s steakhouse While Jeff Ruby’s won Readers’ Choice for fine dining for all of the aforementioned reasons, it’s truly the steaks that make Ruby’s so good. On the special occasions that take you out for a steak or fine-dining night, there is nowhere better. The steaks are always prepared absolutely perfect, to your request. The staff is beyond polite and professional, but absolutely make every effort to make your experience special. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Pat’s Steakhouse #3. Morton’s The Steakhouse

Best Sushi Sapporo Japanese Restaurant Sushi hasn’t been a thing in Louisville much longer than Indian food has, but it caught on a heck of a lot more quickly after a brief audition as a Thursday-only lunch feature at a downtown diner. Before long we had plenty of options, but it was Sapporo that took sushi to the next level, marking the millennium as the first fancy, sit-down sushi emporium on Bardstown Road’s restaurant row, and the first that gave it to us in a Tokyo-style industrial-techno-pop setting. Its long, colorful sushi bar is staffed by teams of chefs who can fashion just about any kind of sushi your heart desires, plus an extensive menu of other Japanese dishes, and even tappanyaki slice-and-dice Japanese steakhouse tables for those who insist. —Robin Garr #2. Oishii Sushi #3. Sake Blue

Best Taco el Taco Luchador This is sort of a trick category. Why? Because we have no idea exactly which taco Readers’ Choice voters were voting for. Was it the tasty al pastor, a tradition made with pork marinated with pineapple? Perhaps the tinga, made with guajillo braised chicken, queso fresca and crema? Or the barbacoa, which are braised short ribs with pico, crema and guacamole? It really doesn’t matter, though, does it? Because, hey, they’re all delicious, so why couldn’t our readers simply be voting for all of them? (Confidentially, the mole’s pretty darn good too.) —Kevin Gibson #2. Citizen 7 #3. Migo

Best Take Out Yang Kee Noodle So I feel as though most (most-to-many) people still think this is some sort of chain restaurant. Perhaps because the first location was in Oxmoor Mall (still there). On the contrary! This is a Louisville-born establishment. Partner and menu developer John Castro also is executive chef at Sullivan University and Winston’s Restaurant. The only reason it is now a “chain restaurant” of three locations is because it’s so good and so popular. If you haven’t tried it, you should; It’s fresh, made-to-order asian stir-fry. It is quick, delicious and not expensive (unless you build-your-own and get carried away, like I do every time). Oh, and since it won best takeout, I feel like I should mention that, even at Oxmoor, you can pull up to the curb, staff will spot you on their camera, and run your takeout order to you in the car. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Simply Thai #3. Clay Oven Indian Restaurant

Best Thai Restaurant Simply Thai Simply Thai is simply … amazing. While the original location in St. Matthews continues to grow and outgrow itself, another has opened in Middletown (good for all of you out that way). It is locally-owned and offers phenomenal, authentic Thai food, made and spiced-to-order. It offers a pineapple fried rice plate that comes inside half a pineapple. And with any of the fried rice, noodle or curries on its menu, you can choose chicken, beef, shrimp, tofu or keep it veggie … as well as choose your spice level, one through five. One is spiciest … or wait, is it the other way …? —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Thai Cafe #3. La Que

Best Vegetarian Food Heart & Soy/Roots Roots and its conjoined eatery, Heart & Soy, is one of my absolute favorite places in Louisville. It’s so good, you won’t even remember it’s vegetarian. While both are open every day for lunch and dinner, and you can even order from either menu, I always think of Roots as more of the sit-down, refined meal, and Heart & Soy as the quick, casual lunch meal. That is not to say that either is better than the other … they are both fantastic. They offer a wide-range of vegetarian options — even some sweet snacks and desserts — that are mostly Asian-influenced, like the pad thai, pho and Korean rice bowl … but definitely try the jicama and spring rolls … and egg rolls. OK, done. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Zen Garden #3. Ramsi’s Cafe on the World

Best Vietnamese Restaurant Vietnam Kitchen Another year, another Readers’ Choice award for VK. Why? Because it is consistently good, true. But also because it is familiar. How many conversations have you had there through the years over a steaming bowl of pho? Now, I am a man of routine, so I know what I am ordering before I even pull into the parking lot (J7: “char-broiled pork or chicken with egg roll, lemon grass, cucumber, lettuce, bean sprouts, mint, and peanuts”). Still, the menu offers plenty of opportunity to experiment. And I just found VK has a fabulous website with the full menu and photos of almost every dish. —Keith Stone #2. Nam Nam Cafe #3. Basa Modern Vietnamese

Best Wings Momma’s Mustard, Pickles & BBQ I don’t know about you, but, growing up, my momma never made wings like Momma’s Mustard, Pickles & Barbecue. This place already has amazing homemade mustard and pickles — but now, for the second year in a row, they have the best damned wings in town, too? Momma’s has two locations in town (119 S. Hurstbourne Parkway and 102 Bauer Ave.) and their recipe for wings is unflappable. These wings are rubbed down with Momma’s super-secret mouthwatering dry rub that adorns almost all of the meat on the menu. So no sauce needed here. Then they are slow cooked on a smoker giving them a nice external char that allows the meat to retain its natural juices. —Brent Owen #2. The Back Door #3. Buffalo Wild Wings


Against The Grain - photo by Ron Jasin
photo by Ron Jasin
Against The Grain


Best Beer List HopCat A brand new entry into the Louisville beer scene, HopCat received no shortage of fanfare leading up to its summer debut, which no doubt helped its case in this category. Of course, 132 draft lines probably didn’t hurt. What we like about HopCat is that it highlights local brews on its long list, carrying no fewer than 20 at any given time. But there’s also a wide range of styles and hard-to-find brews, plus a funky cool vibe in the place that sort of feels like you’re on a late-19th-century riverboat. Well, if late-19th-century riverboats had velvet paintings of modern rock stars. —Kevin Gibson #2. Holy Grale #3. Sergio’s World Beers

Best Wine List Louvino Once L&N Wine Bar closed, there was a void in Louisville — we were sans wine bar. While bourbon is king around here, it still defied our sensibilities to be without a wine watering hole. Enter LouVino. It has over 70 wines by the glass, and offers various, thematic flights — commemorating some of the great Louisvillians, like Muhammad Ali and Jennifer Lawrence. And of course you will not be left without something to pair that wine with … offering “Southern-Inspired Small Plates” that are great for sharing … except the bacon-wrapped dates, which are good for eating all yourself. It’s so good, LouVino is now preparing to open its third location. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Commonwealth Tap #3. Brix Wine Bar

Best Local Brewery Against the Grain Many restaurants have come and gone from Louisville Slugger Stadium, maybe because we were all waiting for Against the Grain. The beer brewed at Against the Grain is a truly-local product — schemed, designed and brewed on-site … in a baseball stadium. A lineup of beers that covers the spectrum of flavors and rotates on a seasonal basis. It’s so good, I’ve been told, that people will travel hundreds of miles to attend the release of its new products. And Against the Grain does more than brew and drink and brew and drank and drunk and drenk … it also has phenomenal food. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Goodwood Brewing Company #3. Monnik Beer Company

Best Local Distillery Copper & Kings Copper & Kings is one of the great additions to Louisville, the development of downtown and, in particular, the Butchertown neighborhood. I am not a brandy aficionado, but I have been fortunate to attend several events at Copper & Kings. I only wish that there were more businesses, parks, plazas, etcetera around town with a plaza/courtyard/event space like the one in front of the distillery. And on the third floor there is a rooftop deck and event space with an awesome view of downtown Louisville. It’s great for receptions, gatherings … any sort of party with booze, brandy and a view. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Evan Williams #3. Angel’s Envy

Best Bourbon List Silver Dollar The old firehouse near the bottom of Frankfort Avenue has added new life to the Clifton neighborhood. Silver Dollar has great modern, Southern food and a surprisingly-excellent brunch on weekends. But this is LEO’s Readers’ Choice for best bourbon list, which is no small feat, and not something we take lightly. I honestly can’t say how many bourbons it offers. I thought about counting them on the menu, but I want to go home tonight. While I’m not sure anyone can guarantee some of the rarer releases in this era of bourbon, I can assure you there’s a good chance it has what you’re looking for. With a cool, knowledgeable staff, the barkeep and bourbon menu will keep your interest … and glass full. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Bourbons Bistro #3. Haymarket Whiskey Bar

Best Margarita El Mundo El Mundo … Spanish for, “The world.” For over two decades, the once “little burrito shack” is now an awesome little Louisville eatery, making what all y’all say are the best margaritas. (Editor’s note: The “Real Margarita” is excellent. Dangerous, but excellent. Don’t drink two and drive.) —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Galaxie #3. Wild Rita’s Modern Mexican

Best Cocktail Garage Bar This delightful, former-filling-station-turned -bar on Market Street has long played host to cocktails, amid ambient string lights and two cars having a head-on collision. Garage Bar has staked its claim as a piece of quintessential Louisville since opening five years ago, and while its menu is often subject to change, Louisvillians and tourists alike have spoken: the Basil Gimlet is our favorite cocktail. Light, simple, and herbaceous with minimal ingredients limited to New Amsterdam gin, fresh-squeezed lime juice, and basil, the Basil Gimlet is perfect for brunch, with its signature pizzas or a game of air hockey. —Kelsey Westbrook #2. Butchertown Grocery #3. The Hub Louisville

Laura Shine
Laura Shine


Best Local Blog Card Chronicle Card Chronicle, which proudly boasts that it is “Rick Pitino’s 6th Favorite Website,” is definitely my favorite website for Cards-related news. There are plenty of other UofL sports-related blogs out there, but they’re mostly filled with speculation. Card Chronicle is the perfect mix of fandom and facts. —Ethan Smith #2. Amiri King #3. Never Nervous

Best Local Writer Mike Rutherford As the college basketball editor for and the site manager of the Louisville-centric Card Chronicle, Mike Rutherford, writes longer, analytical pieces that make you think and quick, news-oriented hits that keep you up to date, all while spearheading a website that always has a bunch of content to dive into. —Scott Recker #2. Sue Grafton #3. Wendell Berry

Best Local publication LEO Weekly I agree. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Insider Louisville #3. The Courier-Journal

Best Local Radio Personality Laura Shine When you think about public radio, you think about Laura Shine. That confident voice you hear on your ride home — that’s Shine doing her thing like she was born to it. Shine is a tastemaker, introducing people to all sorts of goodness during her afternoon-drive spot, keeping you company on the way home after a hard day at it. As the host of “Live Lunch,” she’s hosted local luminaries including Twin Limb and Dr. Dundiff (and by extension tons of local hip-hop), as well as touring acts including Bully and Andrew Bird. In doing so, Shine has helped make Louisville artists part of the national conversation by bringing them to the widest possible audience alongside your favorite up-and-coming indie acts. —Syd Bishop #2. Kelly K. #3. Carter Mann

Best Local Radio Station WFPK About a decade ago, I left town on what I’d intended to be a bit more of a permanent move out of state. Keeping me company on my way was WFPK, specifically a show hosted by then-host Kim Sorise. I made it to Evansville, Indiana, before it left me, and I felt a little sadder for losing it. While there are a lot of great choices in local radio, none quite touch as many ears as does WFPK. While its live lunch series exposes the best in music, local and beyond, in an intimate setting, Waterfront Wednesday makes hump day a day to remember. For anyone looking to explore music, there isn’t a better and more accessible resource than WFPK. —Syd Bishop #2. WFPL #3. WHAS

Best Local TV Personality Dawne Gee I won’t lie to you, I’m not the biggest fan of local TV news. But, by golly, I will watch anything when Dawne Gee is on. Whether it is Thunder, Derby or some other big event around town, I tune in to hear Dawne Gee tell me about it because she is as real as they come. —Ethan Smith #2. Terry Meiners #3. Rachel Platt

Best Local TV Station WAVE3 In Louisville, a town crazy for local news, this is quite a feat. The competition is intense, with three other gritty competitors in WHAS11, WLKY, and WDRB. But the voters have spoken, and WAVE3 is 2016’s winner. What put the team over the top? Was it “Touchdown Friday Night”? Exhaustive weather coverage by the Storm Tracking Team, featuring Chief Meteorologist Kevin Harned? Heck, it could simply be the popularity of the inspirational Dawne Gee. Whatever tipped the scales, WAVE3 takes home the trophy. —Kevin Gibson #2. WDRB #3. WHAS11

Best Local Website Insider Louisville Big cities including Louisville used to have at least two newspapers, one delivered in the morning, and the other, in the evening, and they would publish extras for major news outbreaks. Now, with The Internet Machine, we are back to that almost-continuous news cycle, and Insider Louisville — an online-only publication — has done well by embracing the urgency of the web, in addition to exploiting the luxury of never running out of space. Its website is a go-to for people interested in finding out first about the newest restaurant or latest business dealing. —Keith Stone #2. Card Chronicle #3. LEO Weekly

Best Place to Pick up a LEO Weekly Heine Brothers’ As a reflection of you, LEO readers, and your intelligence and sophistication, you not only love Heine Brothers coffee (see Best Coffeehouse), but you love to read LEO there. It is truly a match made in heaven. Well, it’s more like a menage a trois — you, Heini Bros and LEO — but, hey, it’s Kentucky … that won’t be the weirdest thing that goes on this week. Anyway, Heine Brothers serves excellent coffee at 13 locations, great places for enjoying alternative reading. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Qdoba Mexican Eats #3. Liquor Barn

Best Twitter Feed Card Chronicle Amiri King was voted LEO Reader’s Choice Best Twitter Feed. But we at LEO cannot condone King’s comments and views regarding the Donald Trump video, Black Lives Matter movement and on other issues. While we respect that a majority of readers voted for him, we wonder whether he would have gotten their support if the vote had come after his remarks about Trump. As for the Card Chronicle, which won Best Blog, giving it first place just makes sense. #2. Louisville Humor

Nowhere Bar - © J Marko
© J Marko
Nowhere Bar


Best Bar RecBar A new kid on the block, Recbar opened in April, offering pub food, video games and an expansive bar list. With more than 40 arcade games and 10 pinball machines — priced at a quarter each — Recbar has the Ninja Turtles four-player side-scroller, Street Fighter, Crazy Taxi and many others, all in a large, relaxed atmosphere in Jeffersontown. —Scott Recker #2. The Back Door #3. Nachbar

Best Club DJ GlittertitzDJZ My first exposure to GlitterTitzDjz was a weird one. I was at a folk concert at Zanzabar, and when it ended, I went out to the patio for a little bit, and I came back in to find the lights were dimmed, laser lights were flashing around and GlitterTitzDjz was blasting out some sort of combination of high-speed techno and top-40 bangers. Within 10 minutes, it was like stepping into a parallel universe, and the mood inside totally changed. It was strange. It was also kind of awesome. —Scott Recker #2. Sam Sneed #3. Derby City DJ’s

Best Dive Bar The Back Door The Back Door is a time-honored Louisville tradition for its cheap drinks, its regulars, the bar staff and an undeniable everybody’s-welcome atmosphere. Of course, Readers’ Choice voters may well have been swayed also by the bar grub, from egg sandwiches to the chili to the wings. If that doesn’t suit you, grab a booth (if you get there early) and just wait for Rusty the Jerky Man to come along with his legendary basket of snacks. And hey, once in a while people also enjoy a game of pool at the Back Door. Or so we’ve heard. —Kevin Gibson #2. Mag Bar #3. Nachbar

Best Gay Bar Play Louisville My love of drag started with the show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” and it blossomed thanks to Play. It’s a magical place where the men can dress like women, the women can dress like men, and everyone is welcome to be whatever and have a good time. And with drag shows every weekend (with plenty of appearances by Drag Race Royalty), there is always a good performance to see. So go for the shows, stay for the dance party, and don’t forget to Play nice people. —Ethan Smith #2. Nowhere Bar #3. Big Bar

Best Happy Hour The Hub Louisville The Hub Louisville took home Louisville’s best new bar/club title, and that award is certainly appropriate, thanks, in part, to its stellar happy hour. Tuesday through Friday from 4-6:30 p.m., make sure to pop over to Frankfort Avenue to enjoy $5 craft cocktails, including an Old Fashioned and a Negroni, among others, and a special $5 cocktail of the day, such as the delight I enjoyed a few weeks back: the ELeven — vodka, fresh lime, Giffard Pamplemousse Rose and muddled strawberry. Happy hour goes beyond the bar, too, as all its happy-hour menu items are $5, including chicken sliders, black eyed pea cakes, soy hoisin tartar and more. Drop $20 (plus tip) on a weeknight, and leave with a buzz and a full belly. —Kelsey Westbrook #2. Napa River Grill #3. Dragon King’s Daughter

Best Karaoke Akiko’s I’m still not entirely convinced Akikos is a completely real place. I mean, it exists, but like the Cave of Wonders in Aladdin, it probably only pops out of the night under certain circumstances. In this case, it’s having more than five drinks, which magnetizes you to that back room, where slurred Talking Heads, Brittany Spears and more gems fill the room. —Scott Recker #2. T. Eddy’s Bar and Grill #3. Highland Tap Room

Best Neighborhood Bar/Pub Nachbar The first time I went to Nachbar, I sat down to get a drink and was greeted by a tubby cat that wanted to get some pets. Then, I went outside to find everyone in the neighborhood with their dogs. So not only is Nachbar the perfect place to meet your Germantown neighbors, but it’s also the perfect place to introduce your dog to your neighbors. —Ethan Smith #2. Recbar #3. Shenanigans Irish Grille

Best New Bar/Club The Hub Louisville The Hub Louisville was a welcomed addition to Frankfort Avenue, as Louisville’s “best new bar/club,” bringing refined pub fare and craft cocktails together in an industrial, yet quite comfortable ambiance. Its patio includes a long fire pit, stadium-style seating and a bar facing the bustling sidewalks of Clifton, yet the best feature might be the rotating cocktail menu, on which you will find various specials throughout the week and on certain event occasions (UofL games, etc.). Give me an Aperol Spritz with the Veggie Nachos on that patio, and I’m one happy girl. —Kelsey Westbrook #2. HopCat Louisville #3. The Pearl of Germantown

Best Place to Dance Play Louisville The first thing to know about Play is it has the best drag shows in Louisville. So good, that it’s impossible not to get amped up by the performances and want to strut your stuff on the dance floor. Which is why, as soon as the shows are over, everyone sashays to the dance floor for the best boogie down in the city. —Ethan Smith #2. Nowhere Bar #3. Zanzabar

Best Place to Find a Date Nowhere Bar Well, I haven’t actually found a date here, but I know why: Nowhere has amazing drinks and drink special and great shows and DJs. If it’s a late night of dancing, or a chill night out playing pool or hanging on the patio that overlooks Bardstown Road, Nowhere Bar is somewhere for you. (And speaking of somewhere, head to Somewhere restaurant, right next to Nowhere, the next morning for brunch, lunch or dinner with your new date. It’s affordable, upscale cuisine in a relaxed, but stylish environment.) —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Zanzabar #3. Play Louisville

Best Place to Shoot Pool Diamond Pub & Billiards The name says all you need to know about this Readers’ Choice winner. It is half pub and half billiards mecca (and its food is pretty damn good, too). So grab a bite, grab a drink and shoot some pool while you wait for your team to come on one of the many big screens. —Ethan Smith #2. The Back Door #3. Barret Bar

Best Sports Bar Buffalo Wild Wings Sure, give most of your dollars to local bars and restaurants. I get that. But, if you’re looking for sports on dozens of TVs, cheap booze and greasy food — especially during NFL season — this is your change-of-pace. With the variety of sports fans cheering for franchises from coast to coast, it’s a great way to watch your favorite team and not look out of place when you get visibly pissed off after they lose by a last minute field goal. —Scott Recker #2. Recbar #3. Diamond Pub & Billiards

Best Strip Club PT’s Showclub Downtown was once full of strip clubs. Little Eli often stared at them through the windows of his parents’ burgundy Astro, wondering what boobies looked like in real life. Years later, when I first stepped into PT’s, I wasn’t disappointed. Brandi was a chemistry major working her way through school, and, as the years roll by, I often imagine Brandi’s successful career in STEM, and I hope that wherever she is, she knows she made a lot of nights very special for a lot of lonely guys who needed to see some breasts. PT’s was and is the best strip club in Louisville. —Eli Keel #2. Trixie’s Entertainment Complex #3. The Godfather

Best Trivia Night Drake’s Do you know how long it takes for Neptune to go around the sun? Which president coined the term “The White House”? Who are the only two actors to win Academy Awards for playing the same role? If you know the answers to these questions, then you are undeniably a giant nerd — and you should probably close that book and get down to one of the two Drake’s locations (3939 Shelbyville Road or 3921 Summit Plaza Drive) on Sunday and Monday nights at 8 p.m. You can actually apply all of that useless knowledge, while managing to be somewhat social (this is supposed to be a group activity, weirdo). It’s free to play, the hosts are full of witty banter and teams try to out-do one another with the most over-the-top team names. —Brent Owen #2. Molly Malone’s Irish Pub #3. Zanzabar

Great Escape Louisville
photo by Nik Vechery
Great Escape Louisville


Best Adult/Erotic Store Cirilla’s For LEO’s last Valentine’s Day issue, I drove to every adult/erotic store in the city to ask: “How kinky is Louisville?” I didn’t know what to expect, but the people working at Cirilla’s couldn’t have been nicer. They know their trade, they don’t judge and they just want to help you find your kink. But seriously, don’t ask them to come home and try out your new toy with them ... not cool. — Ethan Smith #2. Adam & Eve #3. The Love Boutique

Best Antique Store Joe Ley Antiques Here are some of the reasons why Joe Ley won best antique store: Toys, doors, doorknobs, vases, signs, postcards, streetlights, mantels, books, jewelry, glass, chandeliers, chairs, gates and, of course, an outstanding collection of carousel horses. All crammed in a three-story, former schoolhouse and spilling out onto the grass. If you can’t find it here, I’m not sure it exists. —Jo Anne Triplett #2. The Crazy Daisy Antique Mall #3. YesterNook

Best Clothing Boutique Dot Fox This trendy, locally-owned clothing boutique has something to offer everyone. I’ve been shopping there for years and always find the right thing for every occasion. The staff is always willing to help and offer a smile as soon as you walk through the door. Not only that, but they always have a good sale going on, just look for the tags with the red line going through them. Dot Fox has more than just clothing — it also has shoes, jewelry and unique things for the house. I even got a grocery list pad there once. —Aleeza Gardner #2. Apricot Lane Boutique #3. Blush Boutique

Best Comic Book Shop The Great Escape I was a late bloomer to the world of comic books. I never read them as a kid and didn’t pick up my first one (“World War Hulk”) until I was in college. With all of the intertwining storylines, hundreds of characters and decades of material in circulation, it seemed a bit daunting at first, that is, until I went to Great Escape. The people working there are living encyclopedias for comic-book mythologies. All I had to do was say “I really dug this book — know anything like it?” and I left with a stack of new books and a list for the next time, when I had more money. —Ethan Smith #2. The Destination #3. Heroes Comics and Gaming

Best Instrument Shop Doo Wop Shop Being a musician is expensive, and unless you’re fortunate, it doesn’t always yield rock-star money. Enter the Doo Wop Shop. If you’ve ever had to scrounge nickels for ramen, then you know how unattainable that dope-ass Marshall half-stack, or righteous Les Paul, might be. Doo Wop has you covered. Did your gear take a dump at the last minute? Holler at your boys. Want to test out a sweet new toy? They’ve got you there, too. Doo Wop is quick and easy, and, while they might not have serious gear-nerd stuff, I promise you they’ll have something that’ll get you where you need to be. Hell, they’ll even teach you how to play, if you’re so inclined. —Syd Bishop #2. Guitar Emporium #3. Mom’s Music

Best Jewelry Store Shane Co. We all know the radio commercials by heart, with the monotone voice saying: “Now you’ve got a friend in the diamond business,”  “on the corner of Hurtsbourne Parkway and Taylorsville Road.”  Thanks Tom! It’s also got a great website, offering help to those, like me who have no idea about stone shapes, like the baguette (it’s not just bread). They also make it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for — the website allows you to filter what you want. From the perfect apology to an engagement ring, Shane Co. has the resources to make you an expert. —Aleeza Gardner #2. Davis Jewelers #3. Genesis Diamonds

Best Liquor Store Old Town wine & spirits Proprietor Gordon “Gordo” Jackson has the go-to store for all of the finest bourbons, craft beers, wines, spirits and party accouterments you’ll need. He also offers a selection of premium cigars. He and his staff are attentive, knowledgeable and eager to help with anything, whether you have a special request, or you are looking for advice on what wine to pick. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Liquor Barn #3. Party Mart

Best Local Bookstore Carmichael’s bookstore A solid independent bookstore is a good anchor for a neighborhood — a place, like a record store, to get lost in. And Carmichael’s Bookstore, an inviting shop where everything’s easy to find, is a staple of The Highlands. From new releases, to books on travel, to novels that are missing from your collection, to a large magazine selection (something that’s not exactly easy to find anymore) and everything in between, Carmichael’s has you covered. —Scott Recker #2. Half Price Books #3. Barnes & Noble

Best Local Hardware Store Brownsboro Hardware & Paint Serving the Louisville community since 1960, Brownsboro Hardware & Paint continues to be the locally-owned shop for Louisville’s home and garden needs. It’s grown over the years and opened a second location in Prospect, which includes a greenhouse. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Keith’s Hardware #3. Oscar’s Hardware

Best Local Health Food Store Rainbow Blossom Rainbow Blossom has been family-owned and operated by the same great people for almost 40 years. You will not find a more committed group, from the staff to the top, providing Louisville the freshest, healthiest food and wellness options. Over the years, it has grown to four grocery locations, and recently opened its first wellness center. The wellness center offers wellness “resources, education and products for mind and body health.” It even has full kitchen for cooking classes and workshops. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Whole Foods Market #3. Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

Best Local Record Store Guestroom Records With a section devoted to local music as well as in-store events, Guestroom Records takes seriously its position as an ambassador for Louisville music. Guestroom Records actually started — and still exists — in Oklahoma, but founder Travis Searle moved here a few years back (after visiting friends and family with co-owner Lisa Foster), and decided to run the store on Frankfort full time. —Scott Recker #2. Better Days Records #3. Underground Sounds

Best Place to Buy a Unique Gift Work the Metal While I enjoy looking at Work the Metal’s latest displays of jewelry, home accessories and gifts, what I admire most is the service and attention to detail. Apparently, I’m not the only one who loves to have my purchase encased in a box, wrapped with a ribbon and placed in a gift bag. It makes whatever you bought, however small and inexpensive, float on gossamer wings. —Jo Anne Triplett #2. Revelry Boutique Gallery #3. Regalo

Best Smoke Shop Cox’s Smokers Outlet Cox’s Smokers Outlet is a tobacco wonderland for smokers. With a massive selection of cigarettes, cigars (stored in a walk-in humidor) and all the “tobacco only” accessories you could need like rolling papers, glass pipes and small bongs (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, cough, cough). —Ethan Smith #2. Puff Puff Pass #3. Up-N-Smoke Syndicate

Best Tobacco Store Cox’s Smokers Outlet Whether you’re just looking to grab a pack for the road, that perfect cigar for Derby, or any other tobacco products, Cox’s Smoker Outlet has what you need. And with over 18 locations, chances are there is one in or around your neighborhood. —Ethan Smith #2. J. Shephard Cigars #3. Riverside Cigar Shop & Lounge

Best Vintage Clothing Store  the Nitty Gritty Vintage clothing stores are depositories of wearable history. While Louisville is blessed with many good sources for vintage clothing, Nitty Gritty has won — again. And for good reason: Its two floors of men’s and women’s clothing and accessories are good quality and fairly priced. Owner Terri Burt, who can rock a vintage frock, knows her stuff; her website is full of helpful tips, especially if you are new to the collecting biz. And as Halloween is almost upon us, note that Nitty Gritty also does costume rental. —Jo Anne Triplett #2. Acorn Apparel #3. Elizabeth’s Timeless Attire

Best Farmers Market Douglass Loop farmers market It’s easy to get to and has abundant parking. But more important, the Douglass Loop Farmers Market is huge! Its vegetables and plants reflect the slow slide from spring to summer to fall. Talk with the farmers and vendors who actually grew or made what they are selling, including dairy, meat, soap and jams. After Derby, buy those tomato starts and other plants for your garden. And all the while, enjoy live music and several choices for a snack or meal, with shaded picnic tables. Bring your dog (but not your cat). —Keith Stone #2. The Original Bardstown Road Farmers’ Market #3. St. Matthews Farmers Market

Park Side Bikes
Park Side Bikes


Best Barbershop Derby City Chop Shop I’ve tried getting my haircut at a chain before because it was convenient, and every time I’ve ended up coming home and shaving off all of my hair, because it just looked god-awful. Haircuts can either make or break your look, and Derby City Chop Shop knows that. The lines can be long, but that’s because the barbers don’t rush anything, and they take their time cutting everyone’s hair until it’s just right. —Ethan Smith #2. Market St. Barbers #3. Underground Classic Cuts

Best Local Bank Republic Bank They were once there for you yesterday, here for you today and there for you tomorrow … now it’s just easier here. Republic Bank is one of Louisville’s great homegrown businesses. While big banks were cheating the system in New York, Republic was banking the responsible, ethical way. It was a leader in mobile banking before it was cool, and it continues working to find ways to make your banking experience easier. I mean, how could LEO bank anywhere else? —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Stockyard Bank & Trust #3. PNC Bank

Best Bicycle Shop Parkside Bikes The folks at Parkside Bikes care about what they do. Superficially, they have a nice looking shop and stock it with solid stuff. Behind the scenes, they compensate their people well, because they want them to stick around and think about the relationships that they make. And this is all real talk. When owner Ben Botkins read a concern I had mentioned about a previous mention (read on Facebook), he reached out to me and took ownership of the problem, while explaining the situation; they care enough to reach out to individuals and want to be the best neighbor in your community that they can. They love bikes and the people that ride them, which is how they’ve managed to expand their franchise to a second location. —Syd Bishop #2. Scheller’s Fitness & Cycling #3. Middletown Cycling

Best Caterer Wiltshire Pantry Wiltshire isn’t just a great restaurant in NuLu, or a one of Louisville’s great bakeries … it is both of those things. But Wiltshire Pantry has been catering Louisville’s event and hospitality needs since 1989. Whatever your special occasion entails, be it a wedding, corporate retreat or private dinner party, founder and owner Susan Hershberg will make it happen, and you will not be disappointed. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Mastersons’ Catering #3. Ladyfingers Catering

Best Dry Cleaner Holiday Cleaners Holiday Cleaners and Laundry offer same-day service that is done in house. It has longer hours to accommodate busy schedules and those of us who work 9-5. The people at Holiday Cleaners tell us they try to do everything in their power to help their customers, even the ones who come in late on Saturdays. And they have been doing it for more than 18 years. —Aleeza Gardner #2. Highland Cleaners #3. Nu-Yale Cleaners

Best Gym/Fitness Club YMCA of greater louisville When it comes to keeping yourself healthy and in shape, you just can’t beat the Y. Sure, there are cheaper gyms, more specialized gyms and gyms that offer you pizza on Fridays. But if I have learned anything in my time exercising, variety is the key to keeping you going to the gym. And the Y has it in mass. You can lift weights, work on your cardio, swim in the pool, do some yoga or pretty much anything that involves staying fit. —Ethan Smith #2. Derby City CrossFit #3. Orange Theory Fitness

Best Hair Salon Z Salon & Spa Z knows hair. During my consultation there, my stylist talked me through the cut and answered my questions about how a certain style would look. And you know what? She was right. Two locations in Louisville provide clients with multiple hair care options, from cuts to color and more. They have models come in to show that real women can rock edgy haircuts, and their master stylists have the training to provide just that. The staff is friendly and willing to hear out thoughts about styles and colors. —Aleeza Gardner #2. Joseph’s Salon/Spa #3. Under the Dryer Salon

Best Hotel 21c Museum Hotel While the colorful penguins are multiplying all across the country, the original will always be 21c Louisville. The hotel/art gallery/event space/restaurant sits in the heart of Louisville’s museum row, and within walking distance of other attractions including the Kentucky Center for the Arts, KFC Yum! Center and Fourth Street Live! Maybe it’s symbolic that the 30-foot statue of David stands guard over the cultural heart of the city. The revolving art exhibits always are a must-see. What truly makes 21c special, and a local favorite, is that the gallery is open and welcoming to everyone, not just hotel guests. And the same goes for the restaurant, Proof. It’s not just great food, but great atmosphere, and designed to attract locals, not just remain an amenity or perk for guests. It’s truly a must-eat-at for visitors, whether they’re staying at the hotel or not, as well as for Louisvillians. —Aaron Yarmuth #2. The Seelbach Hilton Louisville #3. Galt House Hotel

Best Local Pet Grooming The Pet Station Salon and Boutique The Pet Station prides itself on taking extra-special care of customers’ pets, which sounds like your usual sales pitch for any retailer or business, but, in this case, it’s extremely important. Because you can’t trust your beloved pets to just anyone, since a bad groomer could potentially traumatize your furry friend. One Facebook reviewer said about a particular groomer there: “She was very patient with my late Samoyed when he became blind and frail.” —Ethan Smith #2. See Spot Grooming & Daycare #3. Connie’s Groom Room

Best Massage/Spa Z Salon & Spa Not only will Z whip your hair into shape, but the staff will make your skin look and feel refreshed. Spa amenities include massages, waxes, facials and makeup. Ranging in price, there’s a little something for everyone. It offers an array of massages, including a full-body deep massage and a 15-minute chair massage. Offering more than massages and facials, makeup lessons and makeup for special occasions are available. Let’s be honest, we all should be pampered from time to time. —Aleeza Gardner #2. Massage Envy #3. Elements Salon

Best Mechanic McCormick Motorsports At 16 years old, Matt McCormick was working at the former Azalea Restaurant under John Varanese and had big aspirations of becoming a chef — until he was cheated by a mechanic working on his car. The experience drove McCormick to learn how to fix cars and break the stereotype of the untrustworthy mechanic. Now in its 12th year, his Old Louisville business has evolved from feeding his passion for fabrication and building off-road vehicles (hence, the name, McCormick Motorsports) to providing quality service and client relations — at a better price than you might expect elsewhere. —Taylor Springelmeyer #2. Reece Service Center #3. Conn’s Auto Services

Best Car Dealer Sam Swope Auto Group Last summer, when I was looking desperately for a car, I hit Sam Swope’s, unsure whether it could match my annoyingly specific needs. The sales people did. When I found the car I wanted, but not in just the right color, they quickly looked through inventory at other dealerships, found what I wanted and even offered to bring me the car. What more could a girl ask for, the perfect car brought right to me? Yes, please. —Aleeza Gardner #2. Bachman Auto Group #3. CarMax

Best Place to Adopt a Pet Kentucky Humane Society Let me first say that any place that lets you adopt pets (as opposed to purchasing them) is the best. But a special kudos goes to the Kentucky Humane Society, which is the largest organization in the state that works toward making sure that every dog and cat (young and old) finds its forever home. —Ethan Smith #2. Feeders Supply #3. Shamrock Pet Foundation

Best Tattoo Studio Tattoo Charlie’s I never seriously considered getting a tattoo, but I talked with the owner of Tattoo Charlies for last year’s Readers’ Choice (this isn’t their first rodeo), and he told me about his focus on hiring artists of all styles, his love for the art of tattooing, how he collects antique tattoo equipment and his involvement in their annual Tattoos Against Cancer benefit. Now, he has me seriously considering getting one. —Ethan Smith #2. Twisted Images #3. Acme Ink Tattoos

Best Yoga Studio Bend & Zen The yogis of Louisville have spoken: At just over a year old, Bend and Zen Hot Yoga is helping us achieve our best bodies and minds in Westport Village with various levels and yoga practices.  Offering a range of styles — from traditional Bikram yoga (you know, that mega-hot room) to restorative yoga options for all skill levels — it seems to be all about the details for Bend and Zen. Upon entering its beautifully-crafted space, whether you are new to yoga or a bendable veteran, you’ll be greeted with warmth kindness from owner Meredith Conroy, or a talented member of her staff.  When you’ve finished your practice, you’ll be lying peacefully in savasana and handed an icy towel drizzled in essential oils. Simply delightful. —Kelsey Westbrook #2. 502 Power Yoga #3. Yoga on Baxter

Best Roofer Commonwealth Roofing Corp. One of my pet peeves is calling a place and having to push a bunch of buttons to get to the person who then redirects me to the person I want to talk to. When you call Commonwealth Roofers, you get a real person immediately, not an automated system. That saved me a lot of hair from being pulled out, and it might do the same for you. Commonwealth has been around for 35 years, and they told me it has no intentions of going anywhere soon. —Aleeza Gardner #2. HKC Roofing & Construction #3. Highland Roofing

Best Plumber BC Plumbing Company According to our records, BC Plumbing is closing in on at least a 10-peat of LEO’s Readers’ Choice for Louisville’s best plumber. Going back to at least 2008, BC Plumbing has run the table. Owner and master plumber Bruce Cohen makes sure his entire staff lives up to the reputation and are prepared to tackle any challenge — whether that be updating the efficiency, green plumbing and water conservation for new buildings, or repairing and maintaining the look and feel of older homes, like the Victorians of Old Louisville. They do it all — they’ll even rent out a larger-than-life toilet for a parade (you have to see it to believe it). —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Tom Drexler Plumbing #3. Maeser Plumbing



Best Community Role Model Dawne Gee Once upon a time, when I worked at a grocery store that starts with a K and sounds like ogre, Dawne Gee came through, and you would have thought she was everyone’s best friend. She talked to everyone like they were a long-lost relative, and everyone wanted to meet her. Because no matter what you think of local TV news, Dawne Gee is as sincere as they come, and we are a better community, thanks to her just being here. —Ethan Smith #2. Muhammad Ali #3. Mayor Greg Fischer

Best Place you Wish had Never Gone out of Business Ear-X-tacy Since the departure of Ear-X-tacy, I have no doubt that my musical tastes have fallen into the bland zone. Sure, I could find any band, any song and any genre of music I ever dreamed off on the internet, but the idea alone of diving into that much content gives me anxiety. That’s where Ear-X-tacy came in. You could pop-in while you were out, listen to the staff’s picks on the listening stations, and leave with a new favorite CD that you had never heard of until then. It was pretty nice, while it lasted. —Ethan Smith #2. Lynn’s Paradise Cafe #3. WHY Louisville

Best Thing That’s Happened this Year The Lincoln Bridge Yes, The Lincoln Bridge is an interesting piece of architecture added to our city skyline. And walking on the bridge for the opening ceremony was pretty cool, too (who knew so many people would come out to see the opening of a bridge?). But I have a feeling most people voted this to the top simply because it means we are that much closer to fixing the cluster-fuck that is downtown traffic! —Ethan Smith #2. Turkey Run Park #3. Recbar opened

Best Local Sports Person of the Year Muhammad Ali When I think back on Muhammad Ali’s funeral earlier this year, the first thing that hits my mind is that kid who ran along side the hearse, shadowboxing. There’s a possibility that the kid’s dad wasn’t born before Ali’s last fight, which shows just how legendary The Greatest was — through the sort of ability that will probably never be matched, and the sort of courage outside the ring that was monumental in so many ways. His legacy is timeless. —Scott Recker #2. Teddy Bridgewater #3. Lamar Jackson

Best Entrepreneur Gill Holland We all owe Gill Holland, and his wonderful family, a huge thank you. His time, energy and commitment to transforming East Market Street into the NuLu neighborhood has brought  immeasurable change to our city. What was once drive-past territory is now a thriving hub of shops, art galleries and food … lots of amazing food. Now, he’s working on the Portland neighborhood. While there will undoubtedly be frustrations and setbacks, Gill is showing the patience, determination and vision to, once again, transform the culture of Louisville. He’d actually make an amazing member of the Metro Council … which he is running for this year. Good luck Gill! You have our (my) endorsement! —Aaron Yarmuth #2. Junior Bridgeman #3. Aaron Yarmuth