Best of Lawrence 2011: And the winners are...

The ballots have been counted and the awards have been distributed. Today we can officially reveal the winners of Best of Lawrence 2011. The community response was huge for the inaugural Best of Lawrence of the new decade. We'll be rolling out new winners hourly, today, so check back often.

To start, we have four categories, two highly contested, two not so much.

715 says thanks for being named the best new restaurant

With all the votes counted, 715, 715 Mass., has been named the best new restaurant in Lawrence in the 2011 Best of Lawrence competition.

Best New Restaurant: 715

Massachusetts Street has seen its fair share of new restaurants in the past few years, but this year there’s one newbie that stands out the most to visitors: 715.

Executive chef Michael Beard trained in Italy and has slipped the old-world skills he learned into elevating traditional dishes with special touches such as homemade pork products. What’s more, many of the dishes are prepared with locally sourced and handmade ingredients.


715, with its relaxed, casual environment, friendly wait staff and delicious, locally sourced dishes was named Best New Restaurant.


Address: 715 Mass.

Phone number: 856-7150


Hours: Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Saturday-Sunday, 9 a.m. to midnight

Owners/proprietors: Michael Beard and Matt Hyde

Opened: 2009

Honorable mentions: Defeat never tasted so good.

Esquina, 801 Mass.

Dempsey’s Burger Pub, 623 Vt.

Noodles & Co., 8 W. Eighth St.

Best Gluten-Free Options: The Merc

The Merc wins Best Gluten-Free Option.

Nutritionist Nancy O'Connor accepts the certificate for Best Gluten-Free Option.

For those who can’t tolerate gluten, the protein that appears in grains like wheat, barley and rye, eating can be a minefield.

Making it a little easier is The Merc, which carries gluten-free baked goods, processed items and deli items. The variety of all-things-gluten-free is stunning and includes locally made gluten-free packaged foods and gluten-free books by local authors.

The Merc’s cooking class schedule even regularly includes ones aimed at teaching gluten-free cooking and baking techniques to those who are gluten-sensitive or knows someone who is. And there must be quite the number of folks in Lawrence who have gluten sensitivity because the “Gluten-Free Options” category was added this year after a grass-roots campaign on Twitter.


Madison Vaughn, 12, picks out some kumquats Wednesday, March 2, 2011, at the Community Mercantile while shopping for groceries with her mother.

The Merc

Address: 901 Iowa

Phone Number: 843-8544


Hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

Owner: It has a member-owner co-op format, with shoppers buying shares.

Opened: 1974

Honorable mentions: Goodbye, gluten.

Local Burger, 714 Vt.

Ingredient, 947 Mass.

Zen Zero, 811 Mass.

Best Wi-Fi Hotspot: Mirth Café


After a meal at The Mirth, Heidi LaSage, a KU senior from Minneapolis, Minn., uses the restaurant'sfree Wi-Fi to work on her computer.

We live in a wireless world. That statement is as much a truth as it is a cliché. And when it comes to where to log on and unwind, The Mirth Café got Lawrence’s vote as the town’s Best Wi-Fi Hotspot.

A down-to-earth wait staff, bottomless cups of awesome Venezuelan coffee, a strong menu and relaxing environment contribute to a fine place to get some work done.

Open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Mirth regularly offers a diverse rotation of menu specials while artwork from local artists is usually on display.

The Mirth Cafe wins Best Wi-Fi

When it comes to complimentary Wi-Fi, the real clincher is the environment. After all, the Internet connection is likely the same from one place to another. The Mirth Cafe, with its quiet corners, corner location and plenty of natural light, makes for a great place to sit and surf.

While it might be a little counterproductive if you’ve got a to-do list, patrons 21 and older are welcome to bring their own bottle of wine.

And if that’s Facebook on your browser instead of homework or spreadsheets, we’re sure no one will mind.

Mirth Café

Address: 745 N.H.

Phone number: 841-3282


Hours: Monday-Sunday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Owner/Proprietor: Robert Wilson

Opened: 2006

Honorable mentions: It’s all in the network.

Java Break, 17 E. Seventh St.

Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.

Border’s, 700 N.H.

Best Place to Watch a Game: Johnny’s Tavern

Johnny's Tavern managers and staff say thanks.

Rob Coleman, Jason Hoffman and members of the Johnny's Tavern West staff say thanks for winning Best Place to Watch a Game.

Big TVs, a great list of drinks and famously good burgers make Johnny’s Tavern the place to watch a big Kansas University basketball game in Lawrence.

Johnny’s Tavern opened in 1953 in North Lawrence and has since expanded into the Kansas City market and out west to its second Lawrence location, on Wakarusa. In 1978, friends and Johnny’s lovers Rick Renfro and Doug Hassig bought the business and added a grill, meaning Johnny’s famous burgers were born.


From left friends Larry Waldron, Jeff Gutshall, Sarah Minshull, Amy Lonsway and Michelle Gautheir enjoy drinks during a KU basketball game at Johnny's Tavern in this January 2009 file photo.

Each of the six locations is a bit different, but what is definitely consistent is that the crowds flock to the sports bar anytime the Jayhawks are playing. A visitor can easily tell from the rise and fall of the patrons voices just how the game is going — a peek at the score is unneeded.

These days, bar-goers have more than burgers to enjoy, with Johnny’s adding an expanded menu along with its newer locations. Vistors can cheer on the Jayhawks while dining on fare such as salads, wraps and pizza.

Johnny’s Tavern

Addresses: 401 N. Second St., 721 Wakarusa drive

Phone numbers: 842-0377, 843-0704


Hours: Monday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Owners/Proprietors: Rick Renfro, Doug Hassig and others

Opened: 1953, 2009

Honorable mentions: Game on.

Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar, 1012 Mass.

23rd Street Brewery, 3512 Clinton Parkway

Set ’em Up Jacks, 1800 E. 23rd St.


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