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

The final three categories are here and with them come the conclusion to Best of Lawrence 2011 –– online at least. We'll have the winners in print from Tuesday to Thursday, if you want a hard copy. This competition could not have happened without the fantastic feedback and support from the Lawrence community and the cooperation of the proprietors of the winning establishments. We learned a few lessons while compiling this, lessons we'll use to make Best of Lawrence 2012 even better. Thanks to the community that helped us shape this project and to everyone who voted. Now, without further ado ...

Best Pizza: Rudy’s Pizzeria

Mounds of cheese, a list of toppings so long it looks like a salad bar, sauce spiked with red wine and crust so dense it begs to be savored rather than inhaled — these ingredients helped make Rudy’s Pizzeria your choice for Best Pizza.

Opened in 1990 by Chad and July Glazer, for more than 20 years the restaurant has been a spot for meals in a hurry or sit-down fellowship with friends and family. Pizza lovers can buy it here by the slice or a full pizza, and weekday specials make it possible to enjoy a few slices on a Kansas University game night without breaking the bank.

That salad bar long list of ingredients? It includes hard-to-find toppings like shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts, roasted garlic and even steak. And for those of you who like to fold over your pizza while you eat it to keep the toppings intact, know that you can get the same pizza done as a Rudy’s famous “Pocket Za” — a pocket pizza that comes in sizes ranging from personal to large.

Address: 704 Mass.

Phone number: 749-0055


Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 10 p.m.

Owners/Proprietors: Chad and July Glazer

Opened: 1990

Honorable mentions: Pies in the sky.

Papa Keno’s Pizzeria, 1035 Mass.

Wheat State Pizza, 711 W. 23rd St.

Pyramid Pizza, 1029 Mass.

Best Place for a Date: Pachamama’s

It’s named for an Incan goddess, and any lady lucky enough to go on a date there will easily feel like one.

The decor is modern yet inviting, and anything but sparse. The lighting is dim and flattering, and when seated at a table, it’s easy to feel like you’re the only couple in the room.

Chef and proprietor Ken Baker’s “new American market”-style menu is seasonal, meaning it is constantly using beautiful presentation to showcase the freshest in produce and high-quality proteins. The restaurant is passionate about supporting local farmers and will often use locally grown produce. And Pachamama’s large selection of wines and menu of mouth-watering desserts make it easy to create a full-bodied special night out.

Address: 800 N.H.

Phone Number: 841-0990


Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Owner/Proprietor: Ken Baker

Opened: 1996

Honorable mentions: Table for two.

Teller’s, 746 Mass.

Liberty Hall, 644 Mass.

715, 715 Mass.

Best Overall Restaurant: Free State Brewery

The back room of Free State Brewery, 636 Mass., is full on a Saturday afternoon in February 2011. The restaurant was honored as the best overall restaurant in the 2011 Best of Lawrence competition.

The back room of Free State Brewery, 636 Mass., is full on a Saturday afternoon in February 2011. The restaurant was honored as the best overall restaurant in the 2011 Best of Lawrence competition. by Richard Gwin

The menu is as expansive as the history trolley station where the restaurant is housed. It’s a got a little bit of something for everyone: A burger for Mr. Meat and Potatoes, its famous Cheddar Ale Soup or a handful of hearty salads for someone looking for a lighter lunch, and curries, fish tacos and pulled pork specials for those looking for even more.

With a new American menu presided over by executive chef Rick Martin, Free State Brewery won Best Overall Restaurant by a landslide — garnering nearly 30 percent of the vote in a packed category.

The atmosphere is on par with the menu, alternately giving diners the feel of a tavern, fancy restaurant and a packed social club. It’s a place where it’s easy to run into friends, get to know your waiters and never get tired of the menu or feel like you’ve stepped into the same old, same old.

Address: 636 Mass.

Phone number: 843-4555


Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, noon to 11 p.m.

Owner/Proprietor: Chuck Magerl

Opened: 1989

Honorable mentions: Would-be kings.

Pachamama’s, 800 N.H.

715, 715 Mass.

Zen Zero, 811 Mass.

Alright, the home stretch has arrived. The Burger Stand at the Casbah ran away with Best Burger, which won't be a surprise to the more than 1,500 people who voted for the establishment.

Free State was challenged by younger establishments such as the Replay Lounge and Red Lyon Tavern, but Lawrence staple emerged victorious with a respectable majority.

But the real race to watch was Best Hair Cut, which found the more traditional Downtown Barbershop running side-by-side with Green Room Salon for most of the poll. Eventually Downtown Barbershop pulled ahead, but only barely –– 33 votes separated first from second. Final three: Pizza, Place for a Date and Overall Restaurant.

Best Burger: Burger Stand at the Casbah

Lawrence quickly became one of the best places in the state — and country, for that matter — to find a burger. The trouble, today, is deciding where to go.

You voted the Burger Stand at the Casbah as the city’s best burger. This summer, the Burger Stand took its talents to the Casbah after tantalizing Lawrence with its smoke burger and truffle fries at Dempsey’s. Dempsey’s still has its name in the discussion of Lawrence’s top burger joints while the Burger Stand’s staples (plus several new items) can be had.

While the Kobe beef burger is plenty for the most devout carnivores, vegetarian options such as the romesco burger or falafel burger add to the menu’s diversity and, we must say, are as delicious as anything else on the menu.

Grab a beer and take in some karaoke or jazz each week. A late night burger, dog and fry menu is also available after 10 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

Address: 803 Mass.

Phone number: 856-0543


Hours: Monday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Owner/Proprietors: Robert and Molly Krause, Simon and Codi Bates

Opened: 2009 at Dempsey’s, 2010 at current location

Honorable mentions: You can haz these too.

Dempsey’s Burger Pub, 623 Vt.

Five Guys Burgers & Fries, 2040 W. 33rd St.

Local Burger, 714 Vt.

Best Bar: Free State Brewery

The seasonal and regular brews, outdoor seating area and knowledgeable staff all worked in Free State's favor, as it was named the best bar in Lawrence during Best of Lawrence 2011.

The seasonal and regular brews, outdoor seating area and knowledgeable staff all worked in Free State's favor, as it was named the best bar in Lawrence during Best of Lawrence 2011. by Richard Gwin

The tag line is as fitting as it is well known in Lawrence, “Because without beer, things do not seem to go as well.”

And without Free State Brewery’s bar, a lot of things for Lawrence beer lovers would not go so well. With its fabulous selection of made-right-there brews, expansive menu and proximity to big flat-screen TVs, Free State Brewery is the bar to go to in town. A long list of regulars will attest to that.

Fitting too, that the when Free State opened in 1989, it was the first legal brewery in Kansas in more than 100 years. The brewery currently has 10 locally made beers on tap, giving bar patrons a hefty homemade selection.

Address: 636 Mass.

Phone number: 843-4555


Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, noon to 11 p.m.

Owner/Proprietor: Chuck Magerl

Opened: 1989

Honorable mentions: Stuck with the tab.

Replay Lounge, 946 Mass.

Red Lyon Tavern, 944 Mass.

The Sandbar,17 E. Eighth St.

Best Hair Cut: Downtown Barbershop

With its extended hours, fast service and array of sports memorabilia, the Downtown Barbershop beat out a number of bells-and-whistles salons to win Best Hair Cut.

Owner Jon Amyx has been cutting hair for 35 years, following his late grandfather, Cecil, late father, Tom, and older brother, Mike, into the family business. He opened his own shop in 1987.

Address: 824 Mass.

Phone number: 843-8000

Website: N/A

Hours: Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

Owner: Jon Amyx

Opened: 1987

Honorable mentions: [Your choice of haircut pun.]

Green Room Salon, 924 1/2 Mass.

Amyx Barbershop, 842 1/2 Mass.

Z Hair Academy, 2429 Iowa.

If you're reading this and you haven't had lunch yet, you might want to grab a snack before proceeding because the next three winners represent the best Asian, Latin American and Italian food the city has to offer. Next up: Burger, Bar and Haircut.

Best Latin American Food: La Parrilla

La Parrilla, at 814 Massachusetts has been name best Latin Food in downtown Lawrence as Lauren McCoy, manager and server serves up Fish Tacos and chips, a crowd favorite.

La Parrilla, at 814 Massachusetts has been name best Latin Food in downtown Lawrence as Lauren McCoy, manager and server serves up Fish Tacos and chips, a crowd favorite. by Richard Gwin

The first restaurant opened by local culinary whiz kids Alejandro Lule and Subarna Bhattachan (who also own Zen Zero and Genovese), this newly renovated spot is the place to go for Latin American cuisine.

Not for those looking for run-of-the-mill Tex-Mex, patrons can expect baskets of warm tortilla chips served with addictive house salsa, pitchers of Brazilian lemonade, cheap-but-generous rice bowls, favorites like quesadillas and enchiladas, and daily specials. In fact, it’s easy to take a date here and not spend more than $20 while still getting great food and drink both in quality and quantity.

In Spanish, the restaurant’s name means “the grill” but for anyone who dines there, it is so much more.

Address: 814 Mass.

Phone number: 841-1100


Hours: Sunday-Monday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Owners/Proprietors: Alejandro Lule and Subarna Bhattachan

Opened: 1999

Honorable mentions: También deliciosa.

El Mezcal Mexican Restaurant, 1819 W. 23rd St.; 804 Iowa; 1520 Wakarusa Drive

Esquina, 801 Mass.

Cielito Lindo Mexican Restaurant, 815 N.H.

Best Italian Food: Paisano’s Ristorante

Paisano’s has been a Lawrence tradition for more than two decades.

Great for a filling lunch break, dinner dates or even special occasions like weddings, the restaurant carries everything from your basic noodle dishes — hello, pasta primavera! — to less common cuisine like 15-layer lasagna, tortellini and salmon, and steak pizzaiola.

Entrees are served with pasta, salad and breadsticks, and any pasta can be topped off with Sicilian meatballs, garlic rosemary chicken or portobello mushrooms, meaning it’s next to impossible to leave the place hungry.

Address: 2112 W. 25th St.

Phone number: 838-3500


Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Owners/Proprietors: Steve and Debbie Butland

Opened: 1990

Honorable mentions: Viva Italia.

Genovese, 941 Mass.

715, 715 Mass.

Teller’s, 746 Mass.

Best Asian Food: Zen Zero

The second restaurant owned by the aforementioned Alejandro Lule and Subarna Bhattachan, Zen Zero melds cultures and flavors in its extensive pan-Asian menu.

Though it’s conceptualized as a “noodle shop,” noodles only make up a portion of the menu, which is chock-full of salads, soups, curries, stir fries and desserts such as green tea ice cream. Those noodle-lovers looking for a great pad thai made to their liking need look no further. The pad thai sauce is a perfect blend of sweet, sour, spicy and tangy and the noodles are plentiful. Takeout is a snap, though in-house diners can enjoy complimentary addictive shrimp puffs with hot sauce while they wait.

Address: 811 Mass.

Phone number: 832-0001


Hours: Sunday-Monday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Owners/Proprietors: Alejandro Lule and Subarna Bhattachan

Opened: 2002

Honorable mentions: No chopsticks required.

Encore Cafe, 1007 Mass.

Yokohama, 811 N.H.; 1730 W. 23rd St.

Jade Garden, 1410 Kasold Drive

This batch features our only multi-award winner, our only blue collar category (more of those next year, promise) and a place to dance that is literally underground.

Freestate proprietor Chuck Magerl thanked the community for voting his business the Best Vegetarian or Vegan Dining Option in town, a win that is a little surprising considering some of the businesses traditionally associated with veggie options. That's the democratic process for you.

Full service gas station and auto repair shop Westside 66 & Carwash edged out Lawrence Automotive Diagnostics by less than 50 votes. Winning awards like these is nothing new to the business. Their shop's interior has plenty of past Best-of certificates hung on the wall.

Finally, we have the best place to dance. You voted the Eighth Street Taproom the best place to get down. While the Taproom may look unassuming during the daytime, on band nights and weekends, it's a different story. Next up: Latin American, Italian and Asian.

Best Vegetarian or Vegan Dining Options: Free State Brewery

A brewery may not seem like the best place in the world to take a vegetarian, but somehow executive chef Rick Martin manages to make vegetarians at ease at Free State.

There are more options than just the restaurant’s well-regarded black bean burger for vegheads. Seven of nine of the restaurant’s appetizers are vegetarian, as are three of four salads, four of 11 sandwiches and three of nine regular entrees. For vegans, things are a bit more difficult, but the kitchen is open to removing nonvegan products, like eggs and cheese, from dishes.

Address: 636 Mass.

Phone number: 843-4555


Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, noon to 11 p.m.

Owner/Proprietor: Chuck Magerl

Opened: 1989

Honorable mentions: No dilemma here.

India Palace, 129 E. 10th St.

The Burger Stand, 803 Mass.

The Merc, 901 Iowa.

Best Place for Auto Repairs: Westside 66 & Carwash

Owner Richard Haig bought the Westside 66 & Carwash in 1985 and says that customer loyalty is high for the shop, which is located at Schwarz Road and Sixth Street.

Address: 2815 W. Sixth St.

Phone Number: 843-1878


Hours: Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Owner: Richard Haig

Opened: 1957

Honorable mentions: Yeah, we can fix that.

Lawrence Automotive Diagnostics, 2858 Four Wheel Drive

Slimmer Automotive Service, 2030 E. 23rd st.

Best Place to Dance: Eighth Street Taproom

Over the last few years the Eighth Street Taproom, 801 N.H., has become one of the best dance spots in Lawrence, due in no small part to the bar’s affinity for booking unique local acts. In a single week, a postpunk DJ, snuff jazz, funk and soul records, and good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll can all be consumed in the Taproom’s basement. If you need a breather, head upstairs for a game of pool or grab a drink at one of its two bars.

Variety is indeed the spice of life and in this case, it helped the Taproom stand apart. Lawrence likes to party, this much we knew going into this contest.

Billed as the home of the ginger smash, the Taproom also boasts a reputable selection of mixed drinks and has both cheap and high-end beers on hand.

Be sure to stake out a spot as the dance floor can get packed early.

Address: 801 N.H.

Phone number: 841-6918


Hours: 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. every day

Owner/Proprietor: Jeremy Sidener

Opened: 1993

Honorable mentions: Looks like we’re at capacity.

Jazzhaus, 926 1/2 Mass.

The Cave, 1200 Oread Ave.

Abe & Jake’s Landing, 8 E. Sixth st.

Of all the categories in this year's Best-of, few were as contentious, as heated as the race for store cat. The top three finishers were all within 305 votes of each other and the quest to get the favorite cat elected went social, spreading to Facebook and Twitter.

But in the end, it was Sunflower Bike and Outdoor's Stanley who walked away with the prestigious title.

In non-cat categories Chipotle won Best Meal in a Hurry by a commanding margin. The employees were so excited when they heard the announcement that giving them directions proved ineffective, resulting in the heartfelt, four second thank you video seen here.

Finally, Live Music Venue, a perennially tough category, was won by Liberty Hall, which saw a great mix of genres and musicians make their way through Lawrence. Up next: Vegetarian/Vegan Options, Auto Repairs and Place to Dance.

Best Meal in a Hurry: Chipotle Mexican Grill

It’s fast, satisfying, comes in its own convenient foil wrapper, and can meet your daily calorie allotment, if you go for broke during the ordering process — yes, the giant Chipotle burrito is the epitome of today’s grab-and-go.

The burrito is the king of the national chain’s make-it-in-front-of-you menu, but myriad ingredient choices ensure no two burritos are the same. Patrons can choose from vegetable and meat options, and add or skip several salsas and extras like guacamole, sour cream and fajita-style veggies.

For those who aren’t feeling like a burrito, there are also tacos, bowls (a tortilla-less burrito) and salad options that are just as quick.

Addresses: 911 Mass., 4000 W. Sixth St.

Phone numbers: 843-8800, 843-1510


Hours: Monday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Owner/Proprietor: Chipotle

Opened: 1999, 2004

Honorable mentions: Speed eaters.

Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, 922 Mass.; 1447 W. 23rd St.; 601 Kasold drive, 1201 Oread Ave.

Esquina, 801 Mass.

The Pita Pit, 1011 Mass.

Best Store Cat: Sunflower Outdoor & Bike

Stanley is a lion among men.

The tan longhair male cat, who is shaved in a fashion that makes him look more like a miniature Simba than house cat, beat out other beloved felines, including Alice of The Dusty Bookshelf and Love Garden Sounds’ three cats, for our top store cat prize.

Stanley has been roaming the sporting goods store for nearly a decade after being adopted from the Lawrence Humane Society. His favorite spots are on the counter or in a tent he has set up in the display window.

His calm demeanor and formerly rough life — he has missing teeth and BBs in his body from his time before Sunflower — have earned him a devoted following. He’s got his own Facebook page and customers can purchase goods covered with his likeness.

Address: 804 Mass.

Phone number: 843-5000


Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday noon to 5 p.m.

Owners/Proprietors: Dan and Karla Hughes

Opened: 1972

Honorable mentions: Highly contested.

Dusty Bookshelf, 708 Mass.

Love Garden Sounds, 822 Mass.

The Toy Store, 936 Mass.

Best Live Music Venue: Liberty Hall

The live music scene in Lawrence is an active one with a wide array of options for places to catch a show. You chose the historic Liberty Hall as your favorite place for live music in Lawrence.

With a history dating back to the 19th century, Liberty Hall has seen about every genre of music take its stage. Local, national and global acts have made a point to visit Liberty. The stage is spacious and the seating areas provides the perfect opportunity to take in the unique atmosphere. And when no live acts are performing, the place doubles as a movie theater.

The venue managers are quick to point out that promoters played a big part in the venue’s success. In the last year alone, Liberty Hall has seen performances from Ray Davies, Jonsi, moe., Quixotic, LunaFest, Sara Bareilles and Joshua Radin, to name a few.

Address: 644 Mass.

Phone number: 749-1972


Hours: Varies

Owner/Proprietors: Dave and Susan Millstein

Opened: 1986 in its present capacity

Honorable mentions: These go to 11.

Bottleneck, 737 N.H.

Jazzhaus, 926 1/2 Mass.

Granada, 1020 Mass.

It's a hard time for bookstores as evidenced by the recent Borders bankruptcy. No matter how you feel about chain stores, the loss of a business leaves a significant mark on the community in the form of jobs lost. With that in mind, its refreshing to see Lawrencians vote for The Dusty Bookshelf.

Likewise, Sylas & Maddy's won for best dessert, something anyone who's gotten to the bottom of a waffle cone can attest to. Also, Aladdin's Cafe won for best Middle Eastern Food, which should come as no surprise to someone who has sampled the food, atmosphere and the exotic groceries. Up next: Meal in a Hurry, Store Cat and Live Music Venue.

Best Bookstore: Dusty Bookshelf

The green loveseat. Alice the cat. Shelf upon shelf of books. You gave The Dusty Bookshelf the nod for best bookstore in Lawrence. The Dusty Bookshelf might just be the coolest thing Lawrence and Manhattan have in common.

The Dusty Bookshelf opened in Manhattan in 1985. The Lawrence location opened in 1996.

The store’s often so stocked — it claims to offer more than 70,000 titles of books exclusively from the community — that rows of books are continued from shelves to lines on the floor.

The staff will even stay in touch if what you’re looking for isn’t on hand when you’re there. Mass market paperbacks are half-off and visitors are welcome to bring books to sell.

For the serious bibliophile, The Dusty Bookshelf also buys scholarly libraries and sells rare, collectible texts online and in the store.

And, yes, postcards and T-shirts with Alice on them can be had, too.

Address: 708 Mass.

Phone number: 749-4643


Hours: Monday-Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday & Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday noon to 6 p.m.

Owner/Proprietors: Diane Meredith

Opened: 1996

Honorable mentions: Read state.

Border’s, 700 N.H.

Half Price Books, 1519 W. 23rd St.

The Raven, 8 E. Seventh St.

Best Dessert Or Pastry: Sylas & Maddy’s Homemade Ice Cream

A locally owned favorite, this ice cream shop is way more than just plain vanilla.

Here, diners are faced with a plethora of fun and creative choices, including Gold Dust, Da Bomb, Oatmeal Raisin Cookie and Blue Moon. Descriptions on each refrigerator display case let you know what exactly is in some of the more creative flavors and big, house-made waffle cones can hold more than one flavor if you can’t decide.

Not your typical ice cream parlor, this one has a roving band of flavors that are as wild as anything a kid might dream up on a sugar high — and it takes a chalkboard to keep all the day’s offerings straight. About half of the regular flavors just aren’t something you’d find in the store. The aforementioned Blue Moon flavor — a blue ice cream dotted with mini-sized rainbow chocolate chips. Unusual, yes? Worth every bite ... er, lick? We’ll put it this way: ordering it or any of the other treats here won’t leave you blue in the slightest.

Address: 1014 Mass.

Phone number: 832-8323

Website: N/A

Hours: Monday-Thursday, noon to 10:30 p.m.; Friday, noon to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 12:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Owner/Proprietor: Jim and Cindy England

Opened: 1997

Honorable mentions: Just. Dessert.

Wheatfields Bakery, 904 Vt.

Muncher’s Bakery, 925 Iowa.

3 Spoons Yogurt, 732 Mass.

Best Middle Eastern Food: Aladdin’s Cafe

Two words: Rose Lemonade.

The mixture of lemon, saffron and rose water has a following, but anyone who’s been to Aladdin’s Cafe knows the food — a mixture of dishes from all parts of the Mediterranean — is to die for as well. There are fantastic hummus and baba ghanoush, numerous falafel combinations, gyros and kabobs. For dessert, there’s everything from a rose water-spiked rice pudding to cheesecake to tiramisu.

Beyond the tiramisu, Aladdin’s Cafe offers extras including a small Mediterranean grocery and a full-scale hookah lounge. These perks were enough to set it apart from the competition, making it your choice for Best Middle Eastern Food.

Aladdin’s Cafe in Lawrence is a family buiness, owned and managed by Mohamed Iskandrani. Iskandrani’s brother Mazen runs the cafe’s second location in Kansas City’s Westport area.

Address: 1021 Mass.

Phone number: 832-1100


Hours: Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Owner/Proprietor: Mohamed Iskandrani

Opened: 2000

Honorable mentions: Close, but not quite.

Mediterranean Market & Cafe, 3300 W. Bob Billings Parkway

The Lebanese Flower

Two of the next three winners are integral in how people start their day: coffee and breakfast. Both categories were highly contested and both stayed local. The third one, on the other hand is a national chain that set itself apart from the pack through its affordable goods and wide range of brands. Up next: Bookstore, dessert and Middle Eastern food.

Best Coffee: La Prima Tazza

Barista Adam Lottt, 28 sips one his his brews at LA Prima Tazza, 638 Mass. was chosen as the best place to get a cup of coffee in Lawrence.

Barista Adam Lottt, 28 sips one his his brews at LA Prima Tazza, 638 Mass. was chosen as the best place to get a cup of coffee in Lawrence. by Richard Gwin

Situated on a hallowed strip of Mass. Street, between Liberty Hall and Free State Brewery, La Prima Tazza now owns the distinction of Best Coffee in Lawrence — not that it didn’t already claim to be the town’s best. Colombian, Costa Rican, Ethiopian and Nicaraguan beans are among a half-dozen estate coffees available for bulk purchase. The shop also offers just as many house blends.

For those just looking for a quick cup, the options are vast. French-pressed brews share residence on the menu with concoctions such as the exclusive Mole Mocha, a spicy take on the traditional chocolatey blend.

When the temperature finally rises, iced drinks such as the Grasshopper (mint and chocolate) and Moroccan (exotic spices and chocolate) make for a fine summer option. And who can beat the location? Whether you’re looking for a nightcap after a show or needing to shake a Wheat State Golden-induced buzz, La Prima Tazza’s a few steps — or shuffles — away.

Address: 638 Mass.

Phone number: 832-2233


Hours: Sunday 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday-Thursday, 6:30 a.m. to 11p.m.; Friday & Saturday 6:30 a.m. to 12 a.m.

Owner/Proprietors: Dave and Susan Millstein, Sarah Richardson

Opened: 1990

Honorable mentions: Roast ’em if you got ’em.

Z’s Divine Espresso, 1800 E. 23rd St. and 10 E. Ninth St.

Milton’s Coffee, 920 Mass.

Starbucks, 647 Mass.

Best Breakfast or Brunch: Milton’s Coffee

Want something truly special for breakfast? Try out Milton’s French toast — thick slices dipped in a brandy-spiked mixture and cooked until perfectly golden on the outside and moist on the inside.

This breakfast spot might not be very big, but if you can get a table, it’s easy to relax with one of the coffee bar’s fine drinks and a big stack of honey buttermilk pancakes or the aforementioned French toast. Not one for carbs? The traditional eggs menu includes eggs Benedict, smoked salmon and eggs, and huevos rancheros.

Address: 920 Mass.

Phone number: 832-2330

Website: N/A

(Breakfast) Hours: Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Owner/Proprietor: David Lewis

Opened: 1997

Honorable mentions: Give me all of your bacon and eggs.

First Watch Restaurant, 2540 Iowa.

Wheatfields Bakery, 904 Vt.

Mirth, 745 N.H.

Best Apparel Store: Kohl’s

Kohl's wide selection and affordable brands made it a shoe-in for Best Apparel Store.

Kohl's wide selection and affordable brands made it a shoe-in for Best Apparel Store. by Mike Yoder

It’s got everything from cookwares to luggage to toys, but Kohl’s is the place to go for apparel in Lawrence. With deep discounts and nationally recognized brands, deal-seekers stretch their bucks at the department chain, which came to Lawrence 13 years ago.

Address: 3240 Iowa

Phone number: 842-6133


Hours: Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Owner: Kohl’s

Opened: 1998

Honorable mentions: Still look sharp.

Weaver’s, 901 Mass.

Urban Outfitters, 1013 Mass.

Wild Man Vintage, 939 Mass.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.


missmagoo 12 years, 2 months ago

Wow, really people... Kohl's?? In a "small business friendly" town such as Lawrence? Truly disappointing.

ralphralph 12 years, 2 months ago

Are you disappointed in the people, or in the local stores? Maybe both?

md_pinks 12 years, 2 months ago

I didn't vote for them (White Chocolate!!!), but I can understand why most people would. If I shop at any downtown local business or chain store it is almost impossible to find anything that fits. I'll spare the hipster/fratboy/skinny jeans comments and go on to say that my body style does not fit into what is available downtown. And in terms of budget, some of the prices are outrageous.

LeBo 12 years, 2 months ago

Buffalo Wild Wings is the best place to watch the game any mlb, nba, or hockey game you might like is probably on there. Bartenders are like brothers. Great chicken and beer also.

LeBo 12 years, 2 months ago

Buffalo Wild Wings is the best place to watch the game any mlb, nba, or hockey game you might like is probably on there. Bartenders are like brothers. Great chicken and beer also.

Megan Green Stuke 12 years, 2 months ago

Seriously! Kohls!? Sheesh.

However, big congrats to 715 and Johnny's Tavern!! I agree!

squarepusher 12 years, 2 months ago

I would assume, based on sales likelihood and selection, Kohl's was picked among the locals. That would seem to be an outcry for better local prices and availability for anti-naked items. Local shops, perk an ear.

ObiWan 12 years, 2 months ago

Haha, agreed, Missmagoo. Not even a stylish chain, either. At least all the other selections so far are local businesses. I think I would have thrown up if Noodles won best new restaurant.

squarepusher 12 years, 2 months ago

You're going to find most of your styles at the bottom of the dumpster in Lawrence. Good thing? Probably. We seem to be recycle-conscious community. A little too conscious sometimes....perhaps the reason why local shops suffer.

Kelly Cline 12 years, 2 months ago

I agree, sad that Kohl's is the favorite.

kernal 12 years, 2 months ago

Kohl's? Cheap prices = poor quality.

If you buy classics of good quality, they last longer than the trendy cheap stuff thus saving you money in the long run.

slowplay 12 years, 2 months ago

Apparently you don't shop there. I wouldn't call Dockers, Levi, Nike, Elle, etc. etc trendy "cheap stuff". Their Sonoma brand is excellent. I've always liked to shop there, especially with a 30% off coupon.

Mari Aubuchon 12 years, 2 months ago

I agree with you. Kohl's is the one place that I can find clothes and aceessories for everyone on my shopping and gift lists, from newborns to eighty somethings, petite and plump, male and female.

I especially like their Vera Wang collection and their selection of comfy, yet not frumpy modal sleepwear.

parrothead8 12 years, 2 months ago

If I buy classics of good quality, I can afford to buy one shirt, which I will then need to wear to work every day and wash every day. The extra wear and tear from washing it every day will cause the shirt to wear out sooner, and the extra cost of running my washing machine every day adds up. No thanks. I'd rather buy five $20 shirts from Kohls and wash them once a week. That's what I did, and they've lasted me three years so far. I think I got my money's worth.

squarepusher 12 years, 2 months ago

Looks like most of the 30+ crowd voted for Kohl's while the 29 and below went drinking at Free-State Brew. That's good, because Free-State Brewery won best bar and overall restaurant because of that. It's a win-win, you see.

blueberries 12 years, 2 months ago

The cutline with this story on has a run-on sentence and misspells "it's" and "dessert"...

Jonathan Kealing 12 years, 2 months ago

We got it chopped down. Lots of moving parts today!

DeltaWhiskey 12 years, 2 months ago

Mariscos is the place to eat Gluten-Free, sad they didn't even get an honorable mention.

squarepusher 12 years, 2 months ago

It's funny how "gluten-free" gets tossed around as if it's in the same category as "carbs" or "trans-fat". People die from this protein allergen. It's not a fashion buzz word.

(not directing this at you, Delta. Just wanted to tag it on your post.)

Danielle Brunin 12 years, 2 months ago

Three Spoons? Yuck. Orange Leaf is a jillion times better. I can't believe Mad Greek didn't get a mention for best desserts either.

squarepusher 12 years, 2 months ago

Love their baklava! (Mad Greek) Delicious.

Gag me with 3 Spoons.

Megan Green Stuke 12 years, 2 months ago

I am Stanley's biggest fan! What a great photo of him.

irvan moore 12 years, 2 months ago

remember, it's kind of like a popularity contest, all the regulars and friends vote for the place they hang out or prefer. that doesn't mean it is the best, just means the most people voted for it. i do think most of the winners do a really good job and deserve our praise and patronage.

April Fleming 12 years, 2 months ago

Part of the problem with these things, too, is that if people vote on these same categories again next year it's likely that it will look exactly the same.

blueberries 12 years, 2 months ago

I wish La Parrilla hadn't switched to table service.

foppa 12 years, 2 months ago

I am going to second this. Also, people think la Esquina is good? Eww

squarepusher 12 years, 2 months ago

I wish they switched pest control instead. Won't go back again after finding a baby roach crawling in my salad. I loved that place, too. It's like losing a family member.

Mari Aubuchon 12 years, 2 months ago

Congrats Free State! Y'all deserve the kudos. It's all good: the people, the food, and, of course, the beer.

Eugehne Normandin 12 years, 2 months ago

I thought 2011 was not over yet?When are the 2012 awards next week?

squarepusher 12 years, 2 months ago

I suppose it's a late 2010 poll. But yeah, it seems a bit early since we're IN 2011 now. I'll be waiting for the 2012 "Best Of" next week, too.

justoneperson 12 years, 2 months ago

How did Muncher's only get an Honorable Mention...

squarepusher 12 years, 2 months ago

knee-slapping laugh from back of audience

whitecho 12 years, 2 months ago

i've actually never been to kohl's. so no comment on that place.

i know one place that has all these brands, and more:

volcom, element, matix, dc shoe co, vans, elwood, altamont, krew, brixton.

and they have a pretty awesome Buy1, Get1 on pants, jeans & shorts right now.

find it at 933 mass.

o yeah, we got plenty o' best of buttons left ... pick up one of those too!

squarepusher 12 years, 2 months ago

I shop there. You guys need BETTER STICKERS! NOW! Great little shop, that White Chocolate. Nice plug, as well. See you this weekend!

booyalab 12 years, 2 months ago

I can't believe Tortas Jalisco wasn't even in the honorable mentions.

Last time I went to La Parilla the cushion on the booth I was sitting at was falling apart. I was embarrassed for the place.

overthemoon 12 years, 2 months ago

Not many people know about Tortas...its kind of out of the way. But I've never been disappointed there. Except with I ordered something with Diablo in the name. So dang hot I couldn't eat it. And I like hot! I take the blame for not thinking through the name!

Fish Tacos at La Parilla are the stuff of late night cravings. Fabulous.

squarepusher 12 years, 2 months ago

Consider your visit lucky, at La Parilla....say hello to the salad roach for me next time you go. Tortas was alright, but a little overpriced for the quality and quantity.

There are no real good Mexican restaurants in Lawrence. Don't let anyone tell you different. .99 margaritas don't signify a good Mexican restaurant. Good one's will charge full price everyday, all day and have a spit full of carnitas.

thepianoman 12 years, 2 months ago

The Merc? Sorry, I am not impressed with the Merc. The people are not friendly and it has a dirty feel to it. No thanks.

overthemoon 12 years, 2 months ago

Dirty? No way. The floors aren't white and the wattage on the lighting isn't retina scalding, but its not dirty at all. And I NEVER go there (which is at least weekly) without having a pleasant interchange with one of the friendly and dedicated staff.

squarepusher 12 years, 2 months ago

You too? I thought I was the only one who felt this way. Many times I felt I should throw some dirt on me so I smell earthy, just so the floor staff doesn't scoff at me for asking where the regular milk is.

Robert Sailler 12 years, 2 months ago

Zac Hamlin is very friendly. That's the Truth.

number1jayhawker 12 years, 2 months ago

What, no best BBQ in Lawrence? Or did I miss it on the list?

squarepusher 12 years, 2 months ago

I think back-yard Q'ers are disqualified for this poll.

nicole 12 years, 2 months ago

there are some real nice bbq places, this is a glaring omission.

Trevan 12 years, 2 months ago

We actually had barbecue joint in our initial categories, but we eventually cut it because there wasn't much community interest. When we do this again next year there will be a few more barbecue places open, which should make for a more diverse category. That's a fancy way of me saying it'll be on next year's.

squarepusher 12 years, 2 months ago

Don't worry Nicole, I will find your taste-buds for you. They're around here somewhere. Oh, and you can borrow my sunglasses.

bretherite 12 years, 2 months ago

I can't believe J&S Coffee shop didn't win let alone get an honorable mention. I DEMAND A RECOUNT!!!!!!

bretherite 12 years, 2 months ago

6th and Wakarusa. Once you go there you will never want to go anywhere else. Joe and Sarah run a great shop.

kugrad 12 years, 2 months ago

I like La Prima Tazza except for 2 things:1) They are slow as molasses getting drinks made and 2) my big gripe, they still use styrofoam cups. I mean really, styrofoam? Gross.

Zen Zero, Gross. I've never gotten a decent meal there and I've tried it several times. Order a side of chicken there sometime to feed your child. You'll see what I'm talking about. The guy who served us last time sure was doing us a favor by actually speaking with us, or at least that was his definite vibe. You can go down the street to Encore Cafe and get a much better meal at a much better price with much better service (and, no, I don't work there).

overthemoon 12 years, 2 months ago

Agree on Prima Tazza and the styrofoam. Lot of other places for coffee, so I won't go there.

fan4kufootball 12 years, 2 months ago

Yep - same here. Not only is styrofoam bad for the landfills but hot liquids causes styrofoam to leach into whatever is in the cup.

awaybutstillcares 12 years, 2 months ago

They are incredibly slow and do so on purpose i think -- we get it -- you are great at making coffee -- that is why milton's in its hey-day was so great -- great coffee at high demand at great speed.

The merc is the best place fore coffee hands down. They are not the speediest but way more worth it in the end. Its all i would drink if people wouldnt judge me.

blueberries 12 years, 2 months ago

I agree. I love La Prima Tazza but sometimes there will be a line of 10 people with only 1 barista working. And R.I.P. their 2-for-1 Tuesday deal after noon, and half off at Liberty Hall with a full Tazza card.

teresak85 12 years, 2 months ago

Actually, the kind of styrofoam Prima Taza uses isn't regular styrofoam. They have a sign on the counter explaining the brand they use and how it's more eco-friendly.

also there's this:

overthemoon 12 years, 2 months ago

Maybe they changed it since my last visit. I hope that it doesn't flavor the coffee like the ones they used to use.

md_pinks 12 years, 2 months ago

First of all, no one uses styrofoam for coffee cups. Styrofoam is trademarked to Dow Chemical and is mainly used for insulation purposes. Regardless, the cups are made of polystyrene foam.

Polystyrene takes WAY longer to biodegrade than paper and is one of the hardest materials to recycle because it takes a lot of polystyrene foam (cups, in this case) to process back into workable product. This is why most recycling centers do not take #6 plastics because it requires more money and labor to return a sizable amount of recycled product.

Also, polystyrene is highly flammable and is in fact discouraged for use at hot temperatures. Take a flame across a paper cup vs a polystyrene cup. You might notice that the paper cup is still intact while the polystyrene cup burns and shrinks. When you pour hot liquid in those cups, you are burning polystyrene and ingesting it in small amounts. Obviously it would take a lot of cups to cause major problems, but the point it you're digesting plastic at a cellular level.

With that in mind, there are zero bonuses to using them other than cost. Period.

However, their coffee is great. My advise, take your own mug until they use a different style of cup.

Disclaimer: I researched this heavily at my previous job when we switched briefly to polystyrene cups to cut costs. A customer brought a copy of the same sign at La Prima Taza and we decided to do our own research. Thankfully when we found out all this information the owner decided to switch back to paper anyway.

md_pinks 12 years, 2 months ago

I meant to say "similar sign to La Prima Tazza.".

And I forgot to ask, but are they using mycobond cups? Because what would be a different (and extremely awesome) situation.

Melissa Padgett 12 years, 2 months ago

How about a category for best haircut/beauty salon. Does anyone have a recommendation for a hair cut and blow dry?

Melissa Padgett 12 years, 2 months ago

Speaking of clean floors - would the people at zen zero please power wash their floor. IT needs a scrubbing.

awaybutstillcares 12 years, 2 months ago

the merc free state rudy's sylas & maddy’s pIzza shuttle

top five places in lawrence

greenroomsalon 12 years, 2 months ago

Green Room Salon has been voted honorable mention(thank you)(congrats to Downtown Barbershop) and does some pretty amazing haircut/blowdries! As well as color/hilites, waxing, Keratin Smoothing treatments, hair extensions, and feather extensions! 785.749.1460

Savitar 12 years, 2 months ago

I guess you guys have never seen the cat @ the herb shop on 11th.

irvan moore 12 years, 2 months ago

it's not really the "best" of anything, it's a bunch of opinions from people (myself included) who really aren't qualified to judge these things anyway. we just vote for our friends or what we like.

7texdude 12 years, 2 months ago

No China House? That place is great. My favorite restaraunt: food is good and prices are even better. Best Hunan Beef in town.

artwhore 12 years, 1 month ago

one thing i will never miss about lawrence: Rudy's aweful aweful aweful pizza. nasty stuff. papa keno's is WAY better.

lunacydetector 11 years, 3 months ago

let me guess.....only one person turned in their answers for favorites. notice almost everything is freestate REALLY that great? no way.

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