Our readers pick their favorite people, places and things in CoMo

It’s the most anticipated announcement since football prodigy Dorial Green-Beckham donned a Mizzou hat. It’s this year’s Best of Columbia list and you made it happen, Columbia.

It all started in November, when thousands of you made preliminary nominations in more than 100 categories. The final ballot included the top nominees in all those categories. Throughout December and on into January, you flocked to the InsideColumbia.net website to choose among the finalists. When the dust settled, more than 410,000 votes had been cast for your favorite Columbia people, places and things.
Several new contenders emerged as your favorites this year, but we also have plenty of perennial favorites on the list. As you read through the categories, you’ll be pleased by some of the winners, puzzled by others, and proud to be part of this vibrant community.

PEOPLE

Favorite TV Newscaster

KOMU's Michelle Bogowith, Sarah Hill and Chris Gervino take a break at 44 Stone Public House.

KOMU’s Chris Gervino Michelle Bogowith and Sarah Hill take a break at 44 Stone Public House.

This isn’t the first time Sarah Hill from KOMU-TV8 has won this category, but this year we’re sure she gained some new techie fans when she launched “U_News@4#SarahHill” on Sept. 12, 2011. The show, now airing at 11 a.m., uses the Google+ hangout feature making viewers the co-hosts and providing mid-Missouri with a revolutionary program. The nine-time Emmy winner is a star on the screen, but she also gives back to her community; she helped start Central Missouri Honor Flight, which brings World War II veterans to their Washington, D.C., memorial free of charge. No wonder Columbia thinks she’s a winner. Silver: Megan Murphy, KOMU-TV8; Bronze: Teresa Snow, KRCG-TV13

Favorite TV Weathercaster

It’s been a year of crazy weather, so it’s a good thing Columbians have Michelle Bogowith of KOMU-TV8 to tell them how to deal. This first-time winner takes the term weathergirl to a whole new standard. The St. Louis native has a bachelor’s degree in meteorology and communications from the University of Missouri, along with a master’s degree in meteorology, which she earned in December 2011. We don’t like tornados, but at least we have Bogowith to tell us when to head to the basement. Silver: Sharon Ray, KMIZ-TV17; Bronze: Dave Schmidt, KOMU-TV8

Favorite TV Sportscaster

A former KOMU student describes Chris Gervino as “the most kind, understanding and genuine person I have ever met in my whole life.” That’s an impressive compliment, but that’s because Gervino is an impressive guy. The Columbia sports expert graduated from the University of Missouri in 1988 and stuck around to cover the city’s sports scene. As the sports director for KOMU, Gervino is a fixture at sporting events around the city. With Mizzou Tiger basketball doing so well this year, we’re sure to see much more of him, and we’re not complaining. Silver: Eric Blumberg, KOMU-TV8; Bronze: Rod Smith, KRCG-TV13

Favorite Radio Personality/Team

A Country Music Association award is one of the most coveted prizes in the world of country music, and Scotty & Carissa from Clear 99 have one. On Oct. 17, 2011, the duo received a call from country superstar Taylor Swift, letting them know that they won a CMA for Small Market Personality of the Year. Clear99 (KCLR-FM 99.3) also won for Small Market Station of the Year. As Swift told them, “This is huge.” Looks like Columbia agrees. Silver: Simon Rose, KBXR-FM 102.3 and  KFRU-AM 1400; Bronze: Cosmo & Whitney, Y107(KTXY-FM 106.9)

Favorite Newspaper Reporter

It was a year of highs and lows for Mizzou football, so it was a big year for the Columbia Daily Tribune’s football beat writer Dave Matter. From Mizzou’s move to the Southeastern Conference to Coach Gary Pinkel’s DWI arrest, Matter gave us the play-by-play for our favorite team. Matter also covers other sports from high school basketball to Mizzou gymnastics. If the daily paper isn’t enough for readers, sports fans can also read his Tribune blog, Behind the Stripes. Matter is even writing a book to introduce Missouri fans to the SEC. This college town can’t get enough sports, and it can’t get enough Matter. Silver: Justin Willett, Columbia Daily Tribune; Bronze: Joe Walljasper, Columbia Daily Tribune

Favorite Local Columnist

For the last three years, Irene Haskins from the Columbia Daily Tribune has dominated the columnist category with her witty tell-it-like-it-is style. The writer never had any training for her craft, but she thinks she identifies with her readers because she likes to write about everyday people. Sporting a pink splash in her hair, Haskins is a well-known character around town, but for the full Haskins experience, we recommend following @S**t_Irene_Says on Twitter, an entertaining profile brought to you by a couple of Tribune staffers. Silver: Doug Pugh, Columbia Daily Tribune; Bronze: Joe Walljasper, Columbia Daily Tribune

Favorite Elected Official/Public Servant

As a member of 10 legislative committees, Missouri Rep. Chris Kelly barely has time to sleep. It hasn’t been 2012 for that long, but the legislator for southern Boone County in the Missouri House of Representatives has already been an advocate for higher education and prison reform. The next time you’re on the Katy Trail, you can thank Kelly for that, too, because he was instrumental in creating the popular Columbia outdoor spot. Columbia keeps him busy, but Columbia likes him, too. Silver: Mayor Bob McDavid; Bronze: Boone County Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller

Favorite Local Entertainer

Columbia residents must love singing the blues as the Chump Change Band has won another Best of Columbia award. For more than 25 years, this group has been electrifying audiences at popular local venues, from Roots ‘N Blues ‘N BBQ to The Blue Note. With more than 130 years’ experience among its members, the Chump Change Band won’t disappoint the next time you’re looking to cut a rug. www.chumpchangebluesband.com. Silver: Man In The Ring, www.reverbnation.com/maninthering; Bronze: Norm Ruebling Band, www.normrueblingband.com

Favorite Local Athlete

It’s been a big year for local racing hero Carl Edwards and Columbia has noticed. He placed first in this Best of Columbia category, but Edwards came in second to Tony Stewart in a NASCAR tiebreaker for the Sprint Cup Championship Series last November. Some have called it the most exciting title race ever, and it was the first time there has ever been a tie in the Sprint Cup Series Championship. We’re hoping Edwards clinches the 2012 championship, but he’ll always be No. 1 to his Columbia fans. Silver: T.J. Moe, Mizzou football; Bronze: Kim English, Mizzou basketball

Favorite Local Educator Charlotte Brumfield gets a new do from Favorite Hairdresser Tia Brown.

Favorite Local Educator Charlotte Brumfield gets a new do from Favorite Hairdresser Tia Brown.

Favorite Local Educator

In the Columbia Public School system, one particular educator stands out to our readers: deaf educator Charlotte Brumfield. After 11 years of educating children with cochlear implants and hearing aids, Brumfield still strives to continue her knowledge of auditory verbal teaching and therapy techniques. In her free time, she volunteers for Columbia’s Dolly Parton Imagination Library, a program providing a book a month to local children. Silver: Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Chris Belcher

Favorite Bartender

Since opening its doors in 2010, a favorite watering hole among locals seeking a frosty brewski has been 1839 Taphouse. With co-owner Billy Cabral behind the bar, customers get a perfect pour every time. Patrons come to 1839 Taphouse for the tavern atmosphere and the selection of 24 draft beers, but we think they stay for Cabral’s upbeat and knowledgeable demeanor. With Cabral’s 14 years of drink-slinging experience, your beer mug is in good hands. 212 E. Green Meadows Drive, Suite 2, 573-441-1839. Silver: Kenny Townsend, McNally’s, 7 N. Sixth St., 573-441-1284; Bronze: Tee Grant, Houlihan’s, 2541 Broadway Bluffs Drive, 573-815-7210

Sycamore's Chef Mike Odette takes time out for some pampering at Riversong Spa.

Sycamore’s Chef Mike Odette takes time out for some pampering at Riversong Spa.

Favorite Chef

Give your taste buds the royal treatment with Chef Mike Odette’s juicy steak filets, flavorful lamb shank and moist chocolate cake — dishes that are fit for a king. The co-owner of Sycamore Restaurant has been in the business for more than 20 years and prides himself on using local ingredients whenever possible. Overwhelmed by Sycamore’s delectable menu? Odette recommends trying a pork dish like the Patchwork Farms pork sandwich or pork belly sliders. 800 E. Broadway, 573-874-8090. Silver: Brook Harlan, Chef Instructor at Columbia Area Career Center, 4203 S. Providence Road, 573-214-3800; Bronze: Craig Cyr, The Wine Cellar & Bistro, 505 Cherry St., 573-442-7281

Favorite Barber

He wields his scissors with the discerning eye and dexterous hand of an artist, transforming unruly manes into sleek coifs in mere snips. Not only has Brad Holt managed to trim stylish cuts for clients, he has created a comfortable and traditional atmosphere in his shop. Constructed in 1926, Holt has owned Tiger Barber Shop for nearly 20 years, proving he is a shear professional, providing ‘dos a cut above the rest. 118 S. Ninth St., 573-449-5951. Silver: Melodi Beach, The Beach Salon, 110 Orr St., Suite 109, 573-875-0060; Bronze: Damon Robinson, Tiger Barber Shop, 118 S. Ninth St., 573-449-5951

Favorite Hairdresser

Some consider hairdressers akin to real-life magicians, transforming mop tops to luscious locks with a series of beauty tricks. Let Tia Brown of The Marc Salon work her magic on you. For nearly 13 years, she’s tamed cowlicks and fought frizz to make tresses a treasure. She says her favorite part of her job is making people feel good. After a visit with Brown, you’ll definitely feel good when you turn every head in town, no magic wand required.
Eighth and Walnut streets, 573-449-7900. Silver: Melodi Beach, The Beach Salon, 110 Orr St., Suite 109, 573-875-0060; Bronze: Wendy Howe, Salon Rouge, 2900 Falling Leaf Lane, Suite 105, 573-256-7447

Favorite Chiropractor

Got a crick you can’t fix? It’s Dr. Amanda Signaigo of Tiger Family Chiropractic & Wellness to the rescue. Whether you suffer from whiplash or tension headache, Signaigo has the cure. Inside her cutting-edge office, Signaigo uses several chiropractic techniques, such as spine rehabilitation, to set you on the path to healing sans medication or surgery. Both back and mind will feel at ease at Signaigo’s friendly, family-oriented practice. 3600 I-70 Drive S.E., 573-443-1414. Silver: Kyle Bowers, Bowers Chiropractic, 3906 Peachtree Drive, 573-256-6506; Bronze: Curt Kippenberger, Focus on Health Chiropractic, 4200 Merchant St., Suite 101, 573-777-5900

Favorite Do-Gooder

A “do-gooder” is defined as a selfless citizen of Columbia who is capable of positive change. With a resume overflowing with 50 years of volunteer work, Cindy Mustard fits this description perfectly. Mustard recently retired after working at the Voluntary Action Center for 20 years. During that time, Mustard helped with the formation of the Boys and Girls Club of Columbia and served as the first chair of the Office of Cultural Affairs. Currently involved in 16 volunteer projects, Mustard has no plans for slowing down after retirement. Silver: Darwin Hindman; Bronze: Almeta Crayto

DINING

Best Overall Restaurant

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and Flat Branch Pub & Brewing is the perfect destination. Known for its award-winning beers, Flat Branch brings people from states all over offering more than a meal; it’s an experience. Try out the brewery’s famous beers, or if you’re not in the mood for an ale, they’ll gladly provide you with a mug of their original root beer or cream soda. You’re sure to leave with a full stomach and quite possibly a new friend. At Flat Branch, the beer will bring you in and the people will surely keep you there. 115 S. Fifth St., 573-499-0400. Silver: Murry’s, 3107 Green Meadows Way, 573-442-4969; Bronze: CC’s City Broiler, 1401 Forum Blvd., 573-445-7772

Best Place For Al Fresco Dining
When it’s warmer than 65 degrees in Columbia and you’re looking for a place to dine, visit Flat Branch Pub & Brewing and take a seat on their spacious patio. With lots of greenery around the gated area, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on such a lovely day. The patio provides 20 additional tables to its already full and busy indoor area. Tell the waiter to open one of the umbrellas included at every table if the sun is too bright. Then sit back and enjoy one of the brewery’s famous beers (their strawberry-flavored draft is popular during the summer) and a delicious meal outdoors. 115 S. Fifth St., 573-499-0400. Silver: Les Bourgeois Blufftop Bistro, 12847 W Highway BB, Rocheport, 573-698-2133; Bronze: Sophia’s, 3915 S. Providence Road, 573-874-8009

Best Barbecue Restaurant

Bury your face in a plate of ribs from the best barbecue spot in town when you visit Buckingham Smokehouse BBQ. No matter the season, the restaurant is always flaming up its grill to offer delightful and tender ribs that are sure to satisfy anyone. It’s a great place for a family dinner, guys’ night out or even an escape from the usual wine and dine date. To say you’ll be leaving licking your fingers is an understatement; Buckingham’s barbecue is finger-biting good. 3804 Buttonwood Drive, 573-499-1490. Silver: Bandana’s Bar-B-Q, 3405 Clark Lane, 573-256-2229; Bronze: Smokin’ Chick’s BBQ, 603 John Garry Drive, 573-256-6450

Best Place For Breakfast
When Columbians’ stomachs are growling on Saturday morning, they roll out of bed and drive to Ernie’s Café & Steak House. Customers don’t mind waiting in line for the delicious eggs, pancakes, bacon and other breakfast favorites, but a good meal is only part of the appeal at this local diner. Ernie’s regulars like the downtown spot because of the friendly customer service the staff exudes. They graciously refill coffee cups and strike up conversations with customers, even at 7 a.m. We can’t all be morning people, but if it’s a morning at Ernie’s, we’ll happily set the alarm. 1005 E. Walnut St., 573-874-7804. Silver: Broadway Diner, 22 S. Fourth St., 573-875-1173; Bronze: Café Berlin, 220 N. 10th St., 573-441-0400

Best Place For Brunch

Being in service for 29 years is an accomplishment, but being known as one of the best places in town for brunch is an even bigger feat. Since 1983, Boone Tavern and Restaurant has been providing its customers with delicious midday meals. Stop in on a Sunday and serve yourself at the buffet complete with freshly made waffles and omelets. Add to your plate some of the family-owned restaurant’s famous fried chicken and you’ll be begging for seconds. 811 E. Walnut St., 573-442-5123. Silver: Sophia’s, 3915 S. Providence Road, 573-874-8009; Bronze: Café Berlin, 220 N. 10th St., 573-441-0400

Best Place For Burgers

If you’re searching for the best burger in town look no further than Booches Billiard Hall. What makes this burger stand out from the rest is the fresh meat fried on a flattop grill and served at an unbeatable price. It’s hard to beat the setting, too. Booches has been a staple in Columbia since 1884 and not much about the building has changed since the pool hall moved to its current location in the 1920s. And after you eat, you can still grab a cue for a game of pool. 110 S. Ninth St., 573-874-9519
Silver: Five Guys, 2703 E. Broadway Bluffs, Suite 240, 573-777-4568; 233 N. Stadium Blvd., 573-777-4568; Bronze: 1839 Taphouse, 212 E. Green Meadows Road, Suite 2, 573-441-1839

Best Catering

Planning a party can be stressful but Hy-Vee can take care of your catering needs. From weddings to company picnics, Hy-Vee has options you and your guests will love. Every detail of the event is implemented professionally with your budget in mind. Download the free catering guide to see a full list of food options, including Chicken Cordon Bleu, Sweet & Spicy Salmon and N.Y. Strip Steak. 25 Conley Road, 573-442-7703; 405 E. Nifong Blvd., 573-442-8595; 3100 W. Broadway, 573-447-0133. Silver: Hoss’s Market, 1010A Club Village Drive, 573-815-9711; Bronze: The Upper Crust, 904 Elm St., 573-874-3033; 3107 Green Meadows Way, 573-874-4044

Best Coffeehouse

Kaldi’s Coffeehouse has been a favorite of those looking for a good place to study, read or enjoy a cup of coffee with friends. Popular with college students because of its proximity to the University of Missouri campus, Kaldi’s location on Ninth Street makes it an easy stop for anyone. Kaldi’s bakery items are made in-house so next time you’re looking for a quiet place to work, try the award-winning Espresso 700, signature Gooey Butter Cake or scones made from scratch. 29 S. Ninth St., 573-874-2566. Silver: Lakota Coffee Co., 24 S. Ninth St., 573-874-2852; Bronze: Coffee Zone, 11 N. Ninth St., 573-449-8215

Best Ice Cream/Frozen Custard

Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream made national news this year with its Cicada Ice Cream. Sure, health officials reportedly advised not to use the ingredient as a tasty treat, but we say kudos for creativity. Even with Cicada Ice Cream off the menu, you can still find a delicious scoop, from s’mores to cherry almond. Can’t decide? Ask for a sample. We can’t wait to try the creamery’s next creative flavor. 21 S. Ninth St., 573-443-7400. Silver: Andy’s Frozen Custard, 610 N. Cooper Drive, 573-442-8866; Bronze: Cold Stone Creamery, 904 Elm St., 573-443-5522

Best Asian Restaurant

Those looking for authentic yet simple Thai cuisine will not be disappointed with the 22 dinner entrées and full bar offered at Bangkok Gardens. With a spicy heat scale ranging from 1 to 5, patrons can order their food exactly the way they want it. The employees of this popular local restaurant pride themselves on their service and ambience. Head to The District and try the Phat Kaprow if you’re a fan of fresh basil or order Bangkok Gardens’ most popular dish, Phat Thai, with or without peanut sauce. 811 Cherry St., 573-874-3284. Silver: Osaka Japanese Restaurant, 120 E. Nifong Blvd. #A, 573-875-8588; Bronze: Jina Yoo’s Bistro, 2200 Forum Blvd., Suite 109, 573-446-5462

Best Italian Restaurant

There’s no need to buy a plane ticket to get a little taste of Italy. At Sophia’s you’ll find delicious Italian food and an extensive wine list sure to please everyone. Order the popular Chicken Mudega or Ravioli Carne with Three Cheeses. Co-owner Matt Jenne says if you’re looking for something a little more off-the-wall, the Horseradish Encrusted Salmon is the perfect choice. 3915 S. Providence Road, 573-874-8009. Silver: The Rome, 114 S. Ninth St., 573-876-2703; Bronze: The Pasta Factory, 3103 W. Broadway Suite 109, 573-449-3948

Best Mexican Restaurant

With endless combinations of reasonably priced enchiladas, tacos and burritos, why not order one of each? The menu at El Maguey will leave you wanting only for a greater stomach capacity. Start your culinary fiesta with unlimited tortilla chips and salsa, or try the chicken nachos appetizer. Polish the meal off with flan or fried ice cream. Sit back and let the attentive staff serve Mexican food so authentic, it will knock your sombrero off. 901 E. Nifong Blvd., 573-874-3812; 21 Conley Road, Suite U, 573-443-7977; 504 Business Loop 70 W., 573-449-6558. Silver: Tequila Mexican Restaurant, 3605 S. Providence Road, #1, 573-256-1115; Bronze: Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant, 3306 W. Broadway Business Park Court, 573-445-2947

Best Place For Late-Night Dining

After a long day at work, there’s no better way to wind down than listening to live jazz at Murry’s and savoring the mouth-watering taste of the restaurant’s famous Blue Chip’s Cheese Bread. When the kitchen doors swing shut at midnight, there’s no need to rush out. Diners are encouraged to sit back and enjoy the smooth tunes all night long.
3107 Green Meadows Way, 573-442-4969. Silver: Addison’s, 709 Cherry St., 573-256-1995; Bronze: El Rancho, 1014 E. Broadway, 573-875-2121

Best Place For Live Music & Dining

In a college town cluttered with bars and dance clubs blaring bass and techno, it is refreshing to see a live jazz lounge like Murry’s attracting late-night crowds with its “good food and good jazz.” Since 1997, Murry’s has hosted “We Always Swing” Jazz Series artists and performances at the popular “Sunday at Murry’s.” Swing by on weekdays to listen to “house pianist” Tom Andes and pianist Leighton Roden. And don’t let a shallow wallet worry you, there’s no cover charge. 3107 Green Meadows Way, 573-442-4969. Silver: Jazz, A Louisiana Kitchen, 1605 Chapel Hill Road, Suites B&C, 573-443-5299; Bronze: Shiloh Bar & Grill, 402 E. Broadway, 573-875-1800

Best Pizza Place

It probably comes as no surprise to Columbia residents that Shakespeare’s Pizza has once again been voted Best Pizza Place, and soon there will be even more to love. Plans are in the works for a third Shakespeare’s to open at 3911 Peachtree Drive. “We should be open this summer, plus or minus a year or two,” manager Kurt Mirtsching says. In the meantime, stop by the other two locations for lunch and get two slices of this popular pie and a drink for $7. 225 S. Ninth St., 573-449-2454; 3304 Broadway Business Park Court, 573-447-1202. Silver: Arris’ Pizza, 1020 E. Green Meadows, Suite 102, 573-441-1199; Bronze: 1839 Taphouse, 212 E. Green Meadows Road, Suite 2, 573-441-1839

Best Place For Sandwiches

During the mayhem of lunchtime rush, you’ll find exactly what you’ve been craving at Pickleman’s Gourmet Café. Choose a toasted sandwich, pizza, soup or a freshly chopped salad and watch them create it over the counter deli-style. If you can’t choose, try the popular Buffalo chicken or Italian club. You can also custom-order your meal online and have it delivered right to your doorstep. 1106 E. Broadway, 573-875-2400; 2513 Old 63 S., 573-886-2300; 3103 W. Broadway, Suite 105, 573-875-0400. Silver: Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, 1019 E. Broadway, 573-815-0043; 4008 W. Broadway, 573-256-1661; 212 Corporate Lake Drive, 573-499-4442; 912 Rain Forest Parkway, 573-256-7600; Bronze: Sub Shop, 209 S. Eighth St., 573-449-1919; 2105 W. Worley St., 573-442-7827; 212 Green Meadows Circle, 573-449-1919; 601 Business Loop 70 W., Suite 203 (Parkade Center), 573-449-1919

Best Place For Seafood

Whoever said the Midwest doesn’t have good seafood must not have stopped to eat at Jazz, A Louisiana Kitchen. This little pocket of coastline cuisine offers a variety of Cajun classics such as crawfish, crab cakes, tilapia, catfish, frog legs, alligator bites and enough shrimp to make even Bubba proud. Take a quick trip to New Orleans at this flavorful and festive eatery.
217 N. Stadium Blvd., 573-443-5299. Silver: CC’s City Broiler, 1401 Forum Blvd., 573-445-7772; Bronze: Chris McD’s Restaurant & Wine Bar, 1400 Forum Blvd., Suite 38, 573-446-6237

Best Sports Bar

With Mizzou basketball quickly climbing its way up the ESPN rankings, have a drink and cheer alongside your fellow sports fans at D. Rowe’s Restaurant & Bar. March Madness starts March 13 and with 19 televisions, 14 of which are around the bar, you won’t miss a minute of it. Grab a sports jersey and get your fair share of smoked wings; you won’t leave hungry.
1005 Club Village Drive, 573-443-8004. Silver: Trumans Bar & Grill, 3304 Broadway Business Park Court, 573-445-1669; Bronze: Harpo’s, 29 S. 10th St., 573-443-5418

Best Place For Steaks

CC's City Broiler is a multi-year winner in the Best Place For Steaks category.

CC’s City Broiler is a multi-year winner in the Best Place For Steaks category.

The folks behind the scenes at CC’s City Broiler think the secret to their success is consistency. For the last five years in a row, CC’s has received a Best of Columbia nod, and it shouldn’t be a shocker to most locals. The steakhouse is known for its customer service, fine dining atmosphere and, of course, the steaks. They don’t share their ingredients but one manager says he knows how it’s prepared, and he still can’t recreate it at home. Must be some magic in the kitchen. 1401 Forum Blvd., 573-445-7772. Silver: Murry’s, 3107 Green Meadows Way, 573-442-4969; Bronze: Longhorn Steakhouse, 31 Conley Road, 573-874-3000

Best Place For Sushi

Rivaling Japan’s sushi in mid-Missouri may be difficult, but nobody does it better than Osaka Japanese Restaurant Sushi Bar and Hibachi Steak. For sushi novices, taste the California roll or the Tiger roll, a Columbia favorite. Popular among locals for its affordable food, entertaining atmosphere and more than 20 unique types of sushi, Osaka will satisfy any sushi-lover’s appetite.
120-A E. Nifong Blvd., 573-875-8588/ Silver: Kampai, 907 Alley A, 573-442-2239; Bronze: Jina Yoo’s Asian Bistro, 2200 Forum Blvd., Suite 108, 573-446-5462

Best Place For Vegetarian/Vegan Dining
Looking for a healthy, all-natural meal? Head over to Main Squeeze, a café known for its homemade vegetarian and vegan food selection. Roughly 80 percent of the shop’s ingredients are organic and local products are sourced whenever possible. If you’re not hungry enough for a salad, soup or sandwich, try a fresh juice or fruit smoothie.
28 S. Ninth St., 573-817-5616. Silver: Café Berlin, 220 N. 10th St., 573-441-0400; Bronze: Bangkok Gardens, 811 Cherry St., 573-874-3284

Best Place For Wings

With the slogan “home of the Midwest’s Best Wings,” it’s no wonder CJ’s in Tiger Country won the blue ribbon for wings. Dare to test your taste buds with the B.Y.F.O. — Burn Your Face Off — sauce. It packs extreme heat, but the great flavor is worth melting your face. Choose from any of CJ’s five signature sauces and you’ll be licking the plate clean. Buy your own bottle and take some home. 704 E. Broadway, 573-442-7777. Silver: Buffalo Wild Wings, 505 E. Nifong Blvd., 573-441-2244; Bronze: D. Rowe’s Restaurant & Bar, 1005 Club Village Drive, 573-443-8004

Best Place For Bar Food

Known for its bar, D. Rowe’s Restaurant & Bar also provides a family-friendly atmosphere and a varied menu. For three years, D. Rowe’s has been serving barbecue smoked chicken wings, the No. 1 selling item on the menu. Cooking 1,000 pounds of chicken wings a week, the kitchen ensures you can eat to your heart’s content.
1005 Club Village Drive, 573-443-8004. Silver: Trumans Bar & Grill, 3304 Broadway Business Park Court, 573-445-1669; Bronze: Shiloh Bar & Grill, 402 E. Broadway, 573-875-1800

Place With Best Beer Menu

Columbians love to support local foods, but it’s no different with beer. At Flat Branch Pub & Brewing, you can get a tall glass, a pitcher or even a whole keg filled with some of the brewery’s award-winning beers. From chili-flavored to pumpkin, the brewery is always adding to its list of handcrafted ale. And with a changing list of beers on tap, your tongue will never get bored. 115 S. Fifth Street, 573-499-0400. Silver: 1839 Taphouse, 212 E. Green Meadows Road, Suite 2, 573-441-1839; Bronze: 44 Stone Public House, 3910 Peachtreee Drive, 573-443-2726

Best Place For Margaritas

Achieving the perfect margarita is a chemical feat any mixologist would be proud to master, but it would be hard for them the keep up with the bartenders at El Maguey. Order the icy blend to wash down your favorite Mexican dish, or simply to take the edge off. Choose from a series of flavors or keep it classic. Priced at $1.50 during happy hour, you can try them all.
901 E. Nifong Blvd., 573-874-3812; 21 Conley Road, Suite U, 573-443-7977; 504 Business Loop 70 W., 573-449-6558. Silver: Tequila Mexican Restaurant, 3605 S. Providence Road, Suite 1, 573-256-1115; Bronze: Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant, 3306 W. Broadway Business Park Court, 573-445-2947

Place With Best Happy Hour

Maybe your small typo led to an embarrassing memo or you poured coffee all over your white pants, but that work stress is sure to go away as soon as you pull into the Houlihan’s parking lot. During happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m., or from 9 to close, choose from $4.50 Long Islands, half-price well drinks and more. No wonder the Houlihan’s menu calls it “Happier Hour.” 2541 Broadway Bluffs Drive, 573-815-7210. Silver: Trumans Bar & Grill, 3304 W. Broadway Business Park, Suite D, 573-445-1669; Bronze: 1839 Taphouse, 212 E. Green Meadows Road, Suite 2, 573-441-1839

Best Place For A Girls’ Night Out

Is there really anything better you could put in a white Styrofoam cup than Trops? The alcoholic slushies from Tropical Liqueurs are a Columbia staple, and it’s the best way to inject a quick dose of fun into any girls’ night. We also think it’s the best for a girls’ day by the pool. Or on the sledding hill. Or at home in front of the TV. Trops is acceptable for all occasions.
515 E. Broadway, 573-442-8098; 3805 S. Providence Road, 573-256-7141. Silver: Room 38 Restaurant & Lounge, 38 N. Eighth St., 573-449-3838; Bronze: Houlihan’s, 2541 Broadway Bluffs Drive, 573-815-7210

Best Place For Guys’ Night Out

1839 Taphouse has all the “Guys’ Night” essentials. Take your pick of 24 draft beers and a menu full of pizza, wings and burgers built to satisfy a man-sized appetite. And with a different drink special every night of the week, there’s no need to limit your night out to the weekend. Why not meet up with the guys on Monday for trivia and pitcher specials?
212 E. Green Meadows Drive, Suite 2, 573-441-1839. Silver: Harpo’s, 29 S. 10th St., 573-443-5418; Bronze: Shiloh Bar & Grill, 402 E. Broadway, 573-875-1800

Most Kid-Friendly Restaurant

Manager Kurt Mirtsching admits he isn’t sure why Columbians think Shakespeare’s Pizza is the most kid-friendly restaurant in town, but he guesses it’s the restaurant’s laid-back style that allows kids to be, well, kids. While you wait, employees are happy to give your child a golfball-sized piece of dough to play with before they enjoy this award-winning pizza. We’ve seen kids eat it after dropping the dough on the floor, but at least they’re having fun. 225 S. Ninth St., 573-449-2454; 3304 Broadway Business Park Court, 573-447-1202
Silver: Chuck E. Cheese, 2003 W. Worley Road, 573-445-1728; Bronze: McDonald’s, 500 E. Nifong Blvd., 573-442-2433; 3206 Clark Lane, 573-474-2031; 205 Business Loop, 573-443-7785; 1012 Smiley Lane, 573-449-6336; 415 Conley Road (in Walmart), 573-449-4913; 415 Stadium Blvd., 573-445-6211

Best New Restaurant Opened In 2011

They say a restaurant’s first year is always the most difficult. But, Columbia’s premier gastro-pub, 44 Stone Public House, had no trouble impressing our readers since opening its doors in February 2011. Serving contemporary food inspired by the British Isles, owners Dave Faron and Mark Sulltrop strive to create an approachable atmosphere for patrons to enjoy gourmet entrées and craft beers. Among the bevy of steak, seafood and pork dishes, crowd favorites include the authentic fish and chips, and the bangers and mash.
3910 Peachtree Drive, 573-443-2726. Silver: Babbo’s Spaghetteria, 1305 Grindstone Plaza, 573-442-9446; Bronze: Red Mango, 1009 E. Broadway, 573-442-8066

Best New Bar Opened In 2011

Perhaps the stock of craft beers rotating on tap, along with “approachable but high-end” whiskeys from the British Isles are why 44 Stone Public House grabbed the “Best New Bar” title. Or maybe integrating one brew into several dishes on the menu for a specialty “beer dinner” gave the gastro-pub an edge on the competition. Most likely, though, it was owners Dave Faron and Mark Sulltrop’s aspiration to create a tone where everyone feels welcome that clinched the award. At 44 Stone Public House, anyone and everyone is welcome to grab a stool and enjoy a pint, which are imported from all over the world. 3910 Peachtree Drive, 573-443-2726. Silver: Babbo’s Spaghetteria, 1305 Grindstone Plaza, 573-442-9446; Bronze: 10 Below, 29 S. 10th St. (below Harpo’s), 573-443-5418

PERFECT COLUMBIA MEAL

Best Appetizer

As a repeat winner, Addison’s Nachos Bianco is a local favorite and we know why. Prepare your taste buds for the restaurant’s homemade Italian pasta chips, Asiago cheese, tomatoes and more. Then choose between chicken, black beans or chorizo sausage. Customers leave Addison’s satisfied with a full stomach and ready to join in on the chatter about the best appetizer in Columbia. 709 Cherry St., 573-356-1995. Silver: Chokes ‘n Cheese, Flat Branch Pub & Brewing, 115 S. Fifth St., 573-499-0400; Bronze: Brock’s Green Pepper Rings, Murry’s, 3107 Green Meadows Way, 573-442-4969

Best Soup

Panera Bread Co. takes broccoli and cheese to another level with its Broccoli Cheddar Soup. Made with chopped broccoli, shredded cheddar and velvety smooth cheese sauce, you’ll melt away with the café’s famous homemade broth. Top it off with a slice of Panera’s freshly baked breads and you’ll have a meal that’s perfect for lunch or dinner.
Panera Bread Co., 102 S. Ninth Street, 573-442-4455; 3709 S. Providence Road, 573-449-6466; 2300 Bernadette Drive (Columbia Mall), 573-446-7374. Silver: Tomato Basic Bisque, Pickleman’s Gourmet Café, 1106 E. Broadway, 573-875-2400; 2513 Old 63 S., 573-886-2300; 3103 W. Broadway, Suite 105, 573-875-0400; Bronze: Broccoli Cheese Soup, Bread Basket Café, 2101 W. Broadway, 573-445-1965

Best Salad

You may have come to Murry’s for dinner, but with the Dinner Salad with Peppercream Dressing, you may find yourself too full to finish an entrée. Mixed with lettuce, provolone cheese and carrots then tossed with homemade dressing, we won’t judge if you order seconds even before your steak comes. 3107 Green Meadows Way, 573-442-4969. Silver: House Salad, CC’s City Broiler, 1401 Forum Blvd., 573-445-7772; Bronze: Custom Salad, Ingredient, 304 S. Ninth St., 573-442-1502

Best Entrée

The official way to describe the Chairman of the Board Steak at CC’s City Broiler is to call it a 12-ounce barrel-cut filet mignon. Most CC’s fans just call it delicious. The restaurant has been a Columbia staple since it opened, and so has this entrée’s traditional recipe. It’s wrapped in double-smoked bacon, and though customers love the bread, salad and side it comes with, the steak is the main event. 1401 Forum Blvd., 573-445-7772. Silver: Bangers & Mash, 44 Stone Public House, 3910 Peachtree Drive, 573-443-2726; Bronze: Scallops, Sycamore, 800 E. Broadway, 573-874-8090

Best Dessert

With a constantly changing list of daily dessert specials, Murry’s not only keeps diners on their toes, but also satisfies their sweet tooth. Among chocolate, brownies, cheesecakes, pies and ice cream, the Gooey Butter Cake is the icing on any dessert-lover’s cake. Don’t hesitate to sink your teeth into this sugary treat or else it might sell out before you get a taste.
3107 Green Meadows Way, 573-442-4969. Silver: Stout Brownie Sundae, Flat Branch Pub & Brewing, 115 S. Fifth St., 573-499-0400; Bronze: Chocolate Decadence, The Upper Crust Bakery & Café, 904 E. Elm St., 573-874-4044; 3107 Green Meadows Way, 573-874-3033

Best After-Dinner Drink

With a base of vodka, rum, gin, and sweet and sour, the Long Island Iced Tea at Houlihan’s is a heavenly concoction. Add more ingredients to create the 11 flavors available — there’s a fruity flavor for everyone, from raspberry to Georgia peach. This drink is tasty, but the best part is its size; order the 1 liter pitcher, and enjoy a perfect end to your evening. You could order a smaller size, but we don’t know why anyone would do that. 2541 Broadway Bluffs Drive, 573-815-7210. Silver: Taphouse Ale, 1839 Taphouse, 212 E. Green Meadows Drive, Suite 2, 573-441-1839; Bronze: Blueberry Singe, Room 38 Restaurant & Lounge, 38 N. Eighth St., 573-449-3838

SHOPPING

Best Place To Buy Flowers

Just as another world seemed to open to Mary Lennox when she entered her secret garden, so does a world of wonder open to those who step inside My Secret Garden. This Columbia flower shop offers flowers from all over the globe, including roses from Ecuador, European garden flowers and Hawaiian ginger and birds of paradise. My Secret Garden’s floral designers know the magic behind creating beautiful arrangements as the perfect expressions of clients’ desires.
823 E. Broadway, 573-443-1546. Silver: Kent’s Floral Gallery & Gifts, 919 E. Broadway, 573-443-0232; Bronze: Hy-Vee, 3100 W. Broadway, 573-447-0133; 405 E. Nifong Blvd., 573-442-8595; 25 Conley Road, 573-442-7703

Best Place To Buy Gifts

When it comes to gift-giving, it’s the thought that counts — the thought to go to Poppy’s for one-of-a-kind finds. Nothing says, “I’ve given this gift some thought,” like a handcrafted work of art, whether it’s a whimsical piece of metallic sculpture, a spectacular beaded necklace, a beautiful, artful children’s book or some other remarkable gift. With such a delightful selection, a friendly sales staff, and free giftwrapping, Poppy’s is Columbia’s gift to thoughtful gift-givers. 920 E. Broadway, 573-442-3223. Silver: Bluestem Missouri Crafts, 13 S. Ninth St., 573-442-0211; Bronze: Mustard Seed Fair Trade, 25 S. Ninth St., 573-449-6166

Best Place To Buy Hardware/Home Improvement Items

Sometimes even do-it-yourselfers can use a little help and direction, and both are readily available inside Columbia’s favorite home improvement store, Westlake Ace Hardware. Every store department — lawn and garden, general hardware, plumbing, electric, tools, and housewares — has a sales associate to help customers quickly find the right part or tool and to answer questions. It’s a small, friendly store with no room for intimidation.1910 W. Worley St., 573-445-4012; 1900 Business Loop 70 E., 573-449-7277. Silver: Lowe’s, 201 Conley Road N., 573-499-6767; Bronze: Menards, 3340 Vandiver Drive, 573-474-1502

Best Place To Buy Home Furnishings/Accessories

Every room in the house gets some love at Pier 1 Imports. Stocked with furniture, accent pieces, wall décor, floral arrangements, rugs, window treatments, dinnerware, candles and other fragrance, this shop is full of fun, bold and traditional styles. And there to help shoppers feel great about their choices is a sales staff ready to brainstorm and explore possibilities. It’s a casual decorator’s dream.1901 Bernadette Drive., 573-446-5075Silver: Ashley Furniture Homestore, 5710 Bull Run Drive, 573-777-1234; Bronze: Lifestyles Furniture, 63 E. Broadway, 573-874-1550

Best Place To Buy Wine & Spirits

With a selection of wine and spirits to make Bacchus giddy, Hy-Vee is Columbia’s favorite place to purchase alcohol. Each location offers some 1,300 varieties of wine, 1,100 choices of liquor and 600 different beers. Shoppers musing about which bottle to choose can turn to an educated sales staff for discernment on the proper libation for the occasion.
3100 W. Broadway, 573-447-0133; 405 E. Nifong Blvd., 573-442-8595; 25 Conley Road, 573-442-7703. Silver: Top Ten Wines, 111 S. Ninth St., Suite 160, 573-442-2207; Bronze: Joe’s Wine & Spirits, 2001 Corona Road, Suite 201, 573-447-5637

Best Women’s Clothing Boutique

For all the must-haves in a woman’s wardrobe, Elly’s Couture is Columbia women’s favorite place to shop. This designer clothing boutique offers dresses, tops, handbags, jewelry, hats, outerwear, shoes and accessories for getting noticed. Whether a woman wants an outfit for a casual girlfriends luncheon or for a corporate dinner, the exceptional selection at Elly’s — and the store’s fashionista sales associates — will hook her up with her sensational, chic inner self. 914 E. Broadway, 573-499-4401; Silver: Britches, 130 S. Ninth St., 573-499-1401; Bronze: Swank Boutique, 913 E. Broadway, 573-256-4795

Best Men’s Clothing Store

No other store offers mid-Missouri men what Binghams Traditional Clothing offers. The staff makes frequent trips to New York City, Chicago and Las Vegas to research the finest fashions for men, in sportswear and dress wear. With exclusive brands and a custom department providing made-to-measure suits, sport coats, trousers and dress shirts — as well as the shop’s stock of the newest Surefire flashlights and Fisher space pens — Binghams is all a man could want from a clothing store and more.
827 E. Broadway, 573-442-6397. Silver: Kohl’s, 1010 E. Green Meadows Road, 573-256-1188; Bronze: Dillard’s, 2300 Bernadette Drive, 573-876-8600

Best Children’s Clothing Store

There’s so much little kids can’t do until they get bigger, but dressing in the season’s top trends isn’t one of them, thanks to The Children’s Place. Clothing newborns to tweens in everything from graphic tees to formalwear — and, of course, shoes, accessories, pajamas and costumes, The Children’s Place is Columbia’s place for adorable, affordable fashions that parents and children love. 2300 Bernadette Drive, 573-234-2880. Silver: Children’s Orchard, 3906 Peachtree Drive Suite E, 573-443-5700; Bronze: Kohl’s, 1010 E. Green Meadows Road, 573-256-1188

Do-Gooder Cindy Mustard gets outfitted for adventure at Columbia's Alpine Shop

Do-Gooder Cindy Mustard gets outfitted for adventure at Columbia’s Alpine Shop

Best Place To Buy Outdoor Gear/Apparel

Nowhere does the phrase “outdoor enthusiast” make more sense than at Alpine Shop. Customers come here to get outfitted with equipment, inspiration and education for all kinds of outdoor adventure: backpacking, camping, paddling, cycling, snow sports, climbing and adventure racing. This is where wild places call looking for explorers. 1102 E. Broadway, 573-817-2955. Silver: Bass Pro Shops, 3101 Bass Pro Drive, 573-886-7100; Bronze: Dick’s Sporting Goods, 227 N. Stadium Blvd., 573-447-1001

Best Bicycle Shop

Adventure gets rolling at Walt’s Bicycle Fitness & Wilderness Co. This shop boasts more than 40 years of service to Columbia, and what service it has been! From free lifetime labor on all bike sales to a passionate sales staff excited to help customers find the perfect bike for them, the shop’s exceptional customer care has allowed Walt’s to grow from a small bike shop to an outdoor and fitness emporium of empowerment. 1217 Rogers St., 573-886-9258. Silver: Tryathletics, 1605 Chapel Hill Road, 573-447-2453; Bronze: Klunk Bicycles & Repair, 211 E. Broadway, 573-874-0090

Best Pet Boutique/Pet Supply Store

Lizzi & Rocco’s Natural Pet Market’s passion for animal care has pet owners sitting up and taking notice. The store offers premium, holistic, natural pet foods, as well as a quality selection of treats, toys and other pet-pampering supplies. It’s more than just a store; Lizzi & Rocco’s is a place for animal-lovers to come together, for fun social events, from Yappy Hour to holiday parties to joining forces for animal rescue work. It’s no wonder Columbians find this store so doggone exciting. 503 E. Nifong Blvd., Suite J, 573-875-2288. Silver: Award Pet Supply, 1610 I-70 Drive S.W., 573-445-8249; Bronze: Treats Unleashed, 1400 Forum Blvd. #35, 573-234-2275

Best Place For Eyewear

In Vision Eye Care Center has patients seeing stars — line after line of five stars rating the In Vision experience. Dr. Heather Webster invites patients to review their experiences on the same public webpage where clients make appointments. The comments are neither edited nor deleted, and out of more than 150, just two are less than four or five stars. Explaining their high satisfaction, customers cite convenient scheduling, a relaxing environment, friendly service, personal attention and great results. It all adds up to a stellar combination. 30 S. Hampton Drive, Suite 109, 573-874-3937; Silver: Eyemart Express, 2901 W. Broadway #101, 573-474-4181; Bronze: Andrew Stone Optometry, 2012 Cherry Hill Drive #201, 573-445-7750

PERFECT DATE NIGHT OUTFIT

Perfect Date-Night Shoes

Sometimes shoes provide the perfect punctuation to an outfit’s statement — and sometimes shoes arethe statement! Columbia women who love to express themselves with their choice of shoes appreciate the selection at Dillard’s, which offers such go-to brands as Vince Camuto, Antonio Melani, BCBGeneration, Jessica Simpson, Nina and Steve Madden. Step out in confidence; there’s nothing more to say. 2300 Bernadette Drive, 573-876-8600 Silver: Macy’s, 201 N. Stadium Blvd., 573-446-8755; Bronze: Elly’s Couture, 914 E. Broadway, 573-499-4401

Perfect Date-Night Dress

Whether it’s a glamorous night on the town, a fun time of flirtation or an evening of quiet romance, find the perfect date-night dress at Dillard’s. With a selection of top designers, the fashions are varied enough for a woman to find the perfect look whatever her date-night intentions. 2300 Bernadette Drive, 573-876-8600. Silver: Elly’s Couture, 914 E. Broadway, 573-499-4401; Bronze: Swank Boutique, 913 E. Broadway, 573-256-4795

Perfect Date-Night Coat

Baby, it might be cold outside, but there’s no need to spoil a perfect date-night look to keep warm. At Macy’s, women (and men, too) find designer-label coats that let them wrap up in warmth and style. And making the shopping even hotter are the famous Macy’s sales! 201 N. Stadium Blvd., 573-446-8755. Silver: Dillard’s, 2300 Bernadette Drive, 573-876-8600; Bronze: Swank Boutique, 913 E. Broadway, 573-256-4795

Perfect Date-Night Accessories

Think of a little girl playing dress-up: What stands out most? Her dress, or her generous accessories? For a lot of grown-up women, too, the greatest fun in dressing up is in choosing just the right accessories, and when the accessories come from Poppy’s, the fun is even greater. Whether it’s a fantastical glass and sterling ring or an exquisite necklace of finely woven wire, putting on a handcrafted work of art makes a woman feel as refined and special as she once did wearing her mother’s costume rings and pearls. 920 E. Broadway, 573-442-3223. Silver: Dillard’s, 2300 Bernadette Drive, 573-876-8600; Bronze: Elly’s Couture, 914 E. Broadway, 573-499-4401

PERFECT COLUMBIA WEDDING

Perfect Wedding Rings

With a rock-solid reputation for  fine selection and superior service, Buchroeder’s Fine Jewelers shines in engagement and wedding ring sales. Buchroeder’s offers five to six times the diamond selection of competitors and sells an average of 50 to 60 diamonds each month. As a result, Buchroeder’s can sell engaged couples more diamond for less. It’s sheer brilliance. 1021 E. Broadway, 573-443-1457. Silver: L.C. Betz Jewelers, 601 E. Broadway #303, 573-449-1070; Bronze: Tucker’s Fine Jewelry & Gift Gallery, 100 N. Providence Road, 573-817-1310

Perfect Wedding Dress

A full-service bridal salon, The Gown House loves to make brides feel special. Brides on all budgets find beautiful gowns, on the rack and available to order, from such favorite designers as Maggie Sottero, Casa Blanca, Allure and Alfred Angelo. The selection of accessories, bridesmaids’ gowns, mothers’ dresses and tuxedos make the shop even more appealing, and the relaxing, reassuring atmosphere encourages brides to breathe and take in the experience. 1729 W. Broadway Suite 9A, 573-442-4696. Silver: David’s Bridal, 203 N. Stadium Blvd., 573-446-0255

Perfect Tuxedos

Up on all the trends of men’s wedding fashions and offering both suits to purchase and tuxes to rent, Men’s Wearhouse has the backs of Columbia’s grooms and groomsmen, and, of course, the rest of their fine selves, too. 303 N. Stadium Blvd. Suite #107, 573-234-2300. Silver: Savvi Formalwear, 136 Columbia Mall, 573-445-6602

Perfect Wedding Cake

The Upper Crust Bakery & Café has enticed Columbia with beautiful wedding cakes that taste as good as they look, and they look amazing. From whimsical to traditional, elaborate to understated, large to small, the designs stretch the imagination and give wedding couples one more chance to surpass their guests’ expectations. 904 E. Elm St., 573-874-4044; 3107 Green Meadows Way, 573-874-3033. Silver: Cakes with the Personal Touch by Edith Hall, 4830 E. Flamingo Drive, Hallsville, 573-696-2505; Bronze: Hy-Vee, 3100 W. Broadway, 573-447-0133; 405 E. Nifong Blvd., 573-442-8595; 25 Conley Road, 573-442-7703

Perfect Wedding Flowers

My Secret Garden understands a bride’s need to sit down with her wedding professionals, share her wedding dreams and learn the possibilities for making those dreams come true. At My Secret Garden, those conversations don’t take place over the counter or in some corner of the store but in a beautiful, private consultation space. The sensational service continues right through the wedding, where brides see their wedding visions realized in fantastic floral designs custom created to make their dreams come true. 823 E. Broadway, 573-443-1546. Silver: Kent’s Floral Gallery, 919 E. Broadway, 573-443-0232; Bronze: Allen’s Flowers, 111 S. Ninth St., #170, 573-443-8719

Perfect Wedding Venue

It would be hard to imagine a more romantic wedding setting than Les Bourgeois Vineyards. With blufftop ceremonies overlooking the Missouri River, an accommodating bistro with a balcony and bell tower views, and a rustic A-frame winery on the grounds, Les Bourgeois Vineyards imbues weddings with nature’s romance. There are practical draws, too, to having the wedding and reception at the same venue. It’s like taking a destination wedding to the heart of Missouri. 12847 W. Highway BB, Rocheport, 573-698-3060. Silver: Lela Raney Wood Hall (Stephens College), 6 College Ave. N., 573-876-7257; Bronze: The Tiger Hotel, 23 S. Eighth St., 573-875-8888.

Perfect Wedding Photography

Documenting a wedding isn’t just about telling one big story; it’s about capturing hundreds of little stories. That’s what’s so compelling about the work of SilverBox Photographers. Each photograph tells the story of its moment. Knowing where to be to capture those stories takes artistic vision and practical experience, and with a portfolio of more than 300 weddings, which have taken place everywhere from tree houses to cathedrals, the SilverBox photographers are sharply focused. 107 Orr St., 800-741-3696. Silver: Love Tree Studios, 18 S. Ninth St., Suite 203, 573-999-4010; Bronze: Ashley Turner Photography, 3807 Blue Cedar Lane, 573-268-7953

BEST OF THE REST

Best Public Restroom

People love to come and go at the Columbia Mall. That’s because readers have voted the public restrooms there the best in town. Appointed with such amenities as scented soaps, leather couches and seasonal changes in décor, they are an oasis of tranquility in a sea of shopping frenzy that includes Dillard’s, Sears, Target, JC Penney and 100 specialty shops. There’s even a “Family Restroom,” where Grandpa can escort his granddaughter without embarrassment, and a nursing lounge to placate Junior in private. 2300 Bernadette Drive, 573-445-8458. Silver: Houlihan’s Restaurant, 2541 Broadway Bluffs Drive, 573-815-7210; Bronze: Bleu Restaurant & Wine Bar, 29 S. Eighth St., 573-442-8220

Best Place For A Massage

The massage is the message at Riversong Spa & Salon. The expert staff will loosen up those tense muscles with a variety of techniques from the basic to the exotic, including the hot river stones method. For a treat, book a couple’s massage, where you and your significant other can restore and refresh yourselves. In these fast-paced, chaotic times, a fine massage is no longer a luxury — it’s a necessity. 2100 Forum Blvd., Suite C, Columbia, 447-1772; 109 W. Ashley St., Jefferson City, 573-636-9796. Silver: Massage Envy, 2703 E. Broadway, Suite 131, 573-446-3689; Bronze: Alternative Healing Therapy, 19 E. Walnut St., Suite A, 573-355-6636

Best Taxi Service

Here’s the recipe for running Columbia’s best taxi service: Start with knowledgeable, courteous drivers; add a large dose of customer service; and maintain a fleet of immaculate cars. Mix together and you have Taxi Terry’s. This close attention to detail has paid dividends for the company, which has been in Columbia for almost three years. Feel like swanking it up? Call for the VIP taxi or ask about the 12-passenger van. Sit back, relax, and leave the driving to the pros. You’ll find that’s where comfort meets the road. 1200 Wilkes Blvd., 573-441-1414. Silver: Rick’s Taxi, 1120 Wilkes Blvd., 573-449-6282; Bronze: American Taxi, 611-A Big Bear Blvd., 573-234-6547

Best Live Music Venue

“You like me, you really like me.” No, not Sally Field, but The Blue Note, Columbia’s oldest and finest showcase for live music. It’s no accident this place is the perennial winner in this category. It’s staffed by the hardest-working people in show biz, trying to present a wide variety of music for the community — from rock to country to pop to hip-hop to punk rock. Whether it’s a new group or a national touring band, every attraction is staged in the best possible atmosphere, complete with cutting-edge sound equipment. 17 N. Ninth St., 573-874-1944. Silver: Murry’s, 3107 Green Meadows Way, 573-442-4969; Bronze: Mojo’s, 1013 Park Ave., 573-875-0588

Best Place For Botox

In the war on the aging process, one of the most effective arrows in the quiver is Botox. Designed to smooth and rejuvenate the appearance by relaxing dynamic wrinkles (that is, those created by facial movements, as opposed to those due to gravity). Don’t go around looking perpetually angry and scaring small children when you are really in a happy mood. Visit De Spain Cayce Dermatology Center and Medical Spa for the safest, most effective Botox treatment in town. 2011 Corona Road, 573-234-1000. Silver: Dr. Gregory H. Croll Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, 1504 E. Broadway, Suite 214, 573-817-1800; Bronze: Concannon Plastic Surgery, 3115 Falling Leaf Court, 573-449-5000

Best Place For Yoga

Whether you are young or old, fit or out-of-shape, flexible or board stiff, almost anyone can practice yoga. With a unique staff from a wide variety of backgrounds, alleyCat Yoga is the best place to start or continue the process of finding the quietness in your mind. Specializing in Kripalu Yoga, which means compassion, alleyCat encompasses very relaxed practices to more vigorous experiences for students of all ages. The studio also offers special classes for children. 23 S. Fourth St., 573-864-4132. Silver: Wilson’s Fitness, 2902 Forum Blvd., 573-446-3232; 2601 Range Line St., 573-443-4242;111 Orr St., 573-777-6700; F.I.T., 2900 Forum Blvd., 573-449-2606; Bronze: Element Yoga & Health Studio, 1506 Chapel Hill Road, Suite E, 573-446-9700

Best Family-Friendly Attraction

With 116 acres of fun for the whole family, Stephens Lake Park is the jewel of Columbia’s recreational areas. Winter offers opportunities for skating and sledding, as well as walking trails open year-round. In summer, take a dip at the swimming beach, get wet with the kids at the spraygrounds, frolic on the playgrounds, and drop by the amphitheater for monthly events. Biking, jogging, fishing, boating and picnic facilities are also available for a pleasant day at the park. It’s a wonderland, and a heck of lot cheaper than flying to Orlando. 2001 E. Broadway, www.gocolumbiamo.com/ParksandRec. Silver: Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, 5901 S. Highway 163, 573-449-7402; Bronze: MKT/Katy Trails, 800-334-6946.

Breaking News! Reporter Dave Matter goes to Wilson's Total Fitness to get that buff bod.

Breaking News! Reporter Dave Matter goes to Wilson’s Total Fitness to get that buff bod.

Best Place To Work Out

According to the latest polls, fat is out and thin is in. And the best place in Columbia to shed those excess pounds and develop some meaningful muscle is at Wilson’s Fitness. Celebrating 30 years in business this spring, this landmark provides a neat way to look better, move better, feel better and live better. Invest in a membership for your passport to all the latest equipment, exciting programs and amenities. This is a one-stop shop, where you can even hire your own personal trainer, and be guided to success. 2902 Forum Blvd., 573-446-3232; 2601 Range Line St., 573-443-4242;111 Orr St., 573-777-6700; F.I.T. on Forum, 2900 Forum Blvd., 573-449-2606. Silver: MizzouRec, 213 Rothwell Gym, 573-882-2066. Bronze: The Arc, 1701 W. Ash St., 573-874-7700

Best Dry-Cleaning Service

What are you looking for in a dry cleaner? Most people want quality combined with prompt service. And that’s what you get at Tiger Cleaners. But wait, there’s more. How about convenience? Just turn around and you’ll probably find a store, staffed with courteous people, who practice the fine art of customer service. Not enough for you? Then consider the free pick-up and delivery service to home or office. That way, you can spend more time partying with your clothes than cleaning them. 126 S. Eighth St., 573-442-6107; 1608 Chapel Hill Road, Suite B, 573-234-2528; 3905 Peachtree Drive, 573-442-6613; 3302 W. Broadway, Business Park Court., Suite G, 573-445-5657; 3100 W. Broadway, 573-447-0133 (Hy-Vee drop-off); 405 E. Nifong Blvd., 573-442-8595 (Hy-Vee drop-off); 25 Conley Road, 573-442-7703; 901 Rollins St., 573-884-8526 (MU Student Center drop-off). Silver: Robinson’s Cleaners, 2901 W. Broadway, 573-445-6712; 1204 Business Loop 70 E., 573-875-2568; 21 Conley Road, Suite O, 573-442-8621; 3601 Buttonwood Drive, Suite A, 573-442-8526; Bronze: The French Laundry and Alterations, 3910 Peachtree Drive, Suite D, 573- 442- 9274

Best Golf Course
Everyone of every skill level can have fun here. That’s why our readers voted The Club at Old Hawthorne the best in Columbia. First of all, the course is wide and forgiving, and the conditioning is second to none. It’s 7,222 yards long and offers the advanced player plenty of challenges, yet boasts three par-4 holes that are close to being drivable, so you don’t have to be a micro-handicapper to enjoy it. Second, there are the different kinds of options available. You can try the dangerous shots, which might be more rewarding, or opt for the safer areas, so as not to implode your game. There’s also a 22-acre practice facility, with a short-game area, so you can practice pitching, chipping and putting, and a driving range featuring 50 stations. 6221 E. Broadway, 573-442-5280. Silver: Eagle Knoll Golf Club, 5757 E. Eagle Knoll Drive, Hartsburg, 573- 761-4653 or 800-909-0564; Bronze: Country Club of Missouri, 1300 Woodrail Ave., 573-442-1310

Best Place To Take A Tourist

Aunt Min is arriving from Minnesota next week. Where do you take her to get a feel for Columbia? You could run her out to a generic shopping mall, but a better choice would be The District. Awash with 110 retail shops, and 70 bars and restaurants, Columbia’s eclectic downtown also features live performances and independent films galore. Don’t forget to check out the burgeoning North Village Arts District on Walnut Street, with its rapidly growing new galleries, studios and theaters. Aunt Min will appreciate it. Besides, she’s probably already seen Walmart. www.discoverthedistrict.com. Silver: The University of Missouri campus, 573-882-2121; Bronze: Les Bourgeois Vineyards, 12847 W. State Highway BB, 573-698-2300

Best Local Festival
It all began as a 150th birthday bash for Boone County National Bank. Besides being a great party, it was designed to boost economic activity in Columbia and draw people downtown. Six years later, it has evolved into a premier community event. Yep, it’s the Roots ‘N’ Blues ‘N’ BBQ Festival. You’ll find something for everyone, including the barbecue competition, which is the largest outside the American Royal in Kansas City, and the top blues musicians from all over the country, performing on three stages, one absolutely free for everyone. The 2012 edition takes place Sept. 21–22. rootsnbluesnbbq.com. Silver: True/ False Film Fest, truefalse.org; Bronze: Art in the Park, Columbia Art League, 573-443-8838

Best Public Artwork

They’re big, they’re gray, they’re ugly, and they’re graffiti magnets, sucking the life out of downtown streets. But they cannot be ripped out because they’re traffic boxes, hiding some kind of esoteric electronic equipment designed to keep the cars running on time. Enter the Columbia Police Department and the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs. Together, they hatched a plan to beautify and de-graffitize these eyesores by contracting with local artists to transform them into bold, brilliant paintings. The pilot program in 2007 was a success, and you can see these works of art on Broadway, from Seventh Street to Hitt Street. www.gocolumbiamo.com Search: GoArts. Silver: Metal Horse Sculptures, Landmark Bank, 200 N. Stadium Blvd.; Bronze: Keys to the City, outdoor plaza, City Hall, 701E. Broadway

Best Parade

Talk about tradition — 2012 will mark the 101st anniversary of the MU Homecoming Parade. A massive undertaking by the students and ably coordinated by the Mizzou Alumni Association, between 30,000 and 40,000 people are expected to be rubbernecking at the 125 parade entries. It’s the only parade that marches through the MU campus and downtown Columbia, bringing together town and gown. This year it will be held on Oct.27. The opposition will be the Kentucky Wildcats. Everyone loves a parade and this one is a must-see.
www.mizzou.com/homecoming. Silver: True/False Film Fest Parade, truefalse.org; Bronze: Holiday Parade, Columbia Jaycees, 2315 N. Stadium Blvd., 573-445-0627

Best Place To Go Dancing

Grab your Tony Lamas and hit the floor at Whiskey Wild Saloon for the best you-know-what-kickin’ dancing in Columbia. Opened in 2010, the saloon features a magnificent dance floor, bars up the ying-yang, a mechanical bull, darts and pool areas, and, most especially, live country music by some of the top groups anywhere. Visit this wild and wooly place — it’s the only country bar in town. Open Thursday through Saturday from 7 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. 2508 Paris Road, 573-474-WILD (9453). Silver: Déjà Vu, 405 Cherry St., 573-443-3216; Bronze: SoCo Club, 128 E. Nifong Blvd., 573-449-9483

Building With Best Architecture/Design
Designed by the firm of Jamieson and Spearl, Memorial Union was built in three stages from 1923 to 1963. Its Neo-Gothic or Collegiate Gothic style harkens back to that of the magnificent cathedrals of the Middle Ages. Their soaring arches were said to be reminiscent of hands folded in prayer; their huge number of windows were to admit the light of God into the interior. There’s something magisterial about the bell tower, which was built to honor the 117 Mizzou men killed in World War I, and later augmented by those who died in World War II. Architects might dismiss the Union as old-fashioned, but it obviously has captured the hearts of our readers. 518 Hitt St., 573-882-6310. Silver: Jesse Hall, University of Missouri, 573-882-2121; Bronze: Columbia Public Library, 100 W. Broadway, 573-443-3161

Best Place To Watch Live Theater Productions

With a capacity to seat more than 1,700 people, Jesse Auditorium is the largest performance venue in Columbia. Throughout its long history, the auditorium has played host to such varied events as opera and ballet; jazz, rock, and hip-hop shows; famous authors and actors; and just about anything that you can think of — such as William Jennings Bryan speaking in 1900, four years after his famous “Cross of Gold” speech and 25 years before his appearance at the Scopes Monkey Trial. Comfortable and inviting, the auditorium features fine acoustics, unobstructed views and performances that will wow you. Jesse Hall, University of Missouri campus, 573-882-3781. Silver: Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts, 203 S. Ninth St., 573-875-0600; Bronze: Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre, 114 High St., Arrow Rock, 660-837-3311