Best of 2008 

Change You Can Believe In

In elections across the country, 2008 was a year of change. After a history-making presidential campaign, voters in Pennsylvania and other right-thinking states chose Barack Obama to be president. Republican incumbents were toppled in Congressional races across the land

But the City Paper "Best of 2008" readers' poll was an exception. During troubled times, voters here stuck with the tried and the true -- selecting winners whose names are familiar from previous years' results.

Far be it from us to cast aspersions on the culinary excellence of Mallorca or Le Pommier -- perennially chosen as the city's best Spanish and French restaurants, respectively. And God knows we've got nothing against The Clarks. On the other hand, seeing them named the city's best rock band was as surprising as ... as ... a White House cabinet made up of holdovers from the Clinton administration.

So we City Paper staffers got to thinking. In this year of change, what if we tipped our hats to the "Best Of" winners of tomorrow? What if, while honoring our readers' selections this year, we tried to point them to some of the Pittsburgh institutions they may not yet have heard of?

In that spirit, we offer the "Best Of" issue on the pages that follow. The winners of our readers' poll are honored in the list just below. But for the first time, we're supplementing those choices with some picks of our own. We do so in the hopes that readers and voters alike will see that the city offers more choices than even the most extensive ballot can encompass.

And if some of these end up winning the readers' poll next year, you won't hear us complaining.

Staff picks: nightlife + culture

Staff picks: food + drink

Staff picks: goods + services

Staff picks: people + places + propaganda

2008 Best of Pittsburgh Readers' Poll Results

Best overall club/bar
1st Brillobox / Bloomfield
2nd Club Café / South Side
3rd Zen / Station Square

Best new bar/club
1st Zen / Station Square
2nd Barroom / Station Square
3rd S-Bar / South Side

Best dance club
1st Matrix / Station Square
2nd Diesel / South Side
3rd Zen / Station Square

Best all-ages club
1st Mr. Small's Funhouse & Theater / Millvale
2nd Club Zoo / Strip District
3rd Diesel / South Side

Best hipster bar/club
1st Brillobox / Bloomfield
2nd Matrix / Station Square
3rd Lava Lounge / South Side

Best bar to see strippers
1st Blush / Downtown
2nd Club Erotica / McKees Rocks
3rd Cricket Lounge / Bloomfield

Best happy hour
1st Mad Mex / various locations
2nd McCormick & Schmick's / South Side
3rd Sharp Edge / various locations

Best lounge bar
1st Firehouse Lounge / Strip District
2nd Lava Lounge / South Side
3rd Bossa Nova / Downtown

Best karaoke bar
1st Nico's Recovery Room / Bloomfield
2nd Ryan's Pub / Regent Square
3rd Cappy's / Shadyside

Best sports bar
1st Sports Rock / Strip District
2nd Buffalo Blues / Shadyside
3rd Bettis Grille / North Side

Best place to play darts
1st Shootz Café & Billiards / South Side
2nd Dee's Café / South Side
3rd Jack Rose Bar / South Side

Best place to shoot pool
1st Shootz Café & Billiards / South Side
2nd Dee's Café / South Side
3rd Dave & Buster's / Waterfront

Best bar to play poker
1st Shootz Café & Billiards / South Side
2nd Rhythm House Café / Bridgeville
3rd Ryan's Pub / Regent Square

Best GLBT-friendly bar
1st 5801 Video Lounge / Shadyside
2nd Pegasus Lounge / Downtown
3rd Spin Bartini & Ultralounge / Shadyside

Best club to see live music
1st Club Café / South Side
2nd Diesel / South Side
3rd Mr. Small's Funhouse & Theater / Millvale

Best concert venue
1st Post-Gazette Pavilion / Burgettstown
2nd Mr. Small's Funhouse & Theater / Millvale
3rd The Rex Theatre / South Side

Best solo artist
1st Joy Ike
2nd Bill Deasy
3rd (tie) Cathasaigh / Brad Yoder

Best blues band
1st Jill West & the Blues Attack
2nd The Blues Orphans
3rd Sweaty Betty Blues Band

Best underground band
1st Ishtar
2nd Gramsci Melodic
3rd Triggers

Best pop/rock band
1st The Clarks
2nd The Bill Deasy Band
3rd (tie) Good Night, States / Gramsci Melodic

Best tribute band
1st Bon Journey
2nd Velveeta
3rd Lez Zeppelin

Best jazz band
1st Boilermaker Jazz Band
2nd (tie) Neon Swing Experience / Opek
3rd Jazzam

Best club DJ
1st DJ Digital Dave
2nd DJ Bonics
3rd DJ Humanaut

Best hip-hop performer
1st Wiz Khalifa
2nd Formula 412
3rd Kellee Maize

Best artist
1st Joy Ike
2nd Bill Deasy
3rd Cathasaigh

Best art gallery
1st ModernFormations / Garfield
2nd Space Gallery / Downtown
3rd Wood Street Galleries / Downtown

Best local stage production
1st City Theatre -- Without You
2nd Pittsburgh Public Theater -- The Chief
3rd Quantum Theatre -- Cymbeline

Best local dance company
1st Attack Theatre
2nd Pittsburgh Ballet Theater
3rd Dance Alloy

Best theater for film-lovers
1st Regent Square Theater / Regent Square
2nd Harris Theater / Downtown
3rd AMC Loews / Waterfront

Best place to take the kids for the afternoon
1st Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium / Highland Park
2nd Children's Museum / North Side
3rd Carnegie Science Center / North Side

Best outdoor cultural event
1st Three Rivers Arts Festival / Downtown
2nd Hartwood Acres concerts / Hartwood Acres
3rd Free movies at Flagstaff Hill / Schenley Park

Best new restaurant
1st Legume Bistro / Regent Square
2nd Richard Chen / East Liberty
3rd Pangea / Shadyside

Best kids' menu
1st Eat'n Park / various locations
2nd Moe's Southwest Grill / various locations
3rd Max & Erma's / various locations

Best fine dining
1st Eleven / Strip District
2nd Le Mont / Mount Washington
3rd Monterey Bay / Mount Washington and Monroeville

Best BYOB dining
1st Piccolo Forno / Lawrenceville
2nd La Filipiniana & Sweet Basil / Lawrenceville
3rd Abay Ethiopian Cuisine / East Liberty

Best outdoor dining
1st Harris Grill / Shadyside
2nd Doublewide Grill / South Side
3rd Mallorca / South Side

Best American restaurant
1st Fat Heads / South Side
2nd Six Penn Kitchen / Downtown
3rd Harris Grill / Shadyside

Best Caribbean restaurant
1st Kaya / Strip District
2nd Royal Caribbean / East Liberty
3rd Bahama Breeze / North Fayette

Best Chinese restaurant
1st Sesame Inn / various locations
2nd China Palace / various locations
3rd PF Chang's / Waterfront

Best French restaurant
1st Le Pommier / South Side
2nd (tie) Ma Provence / Squirrel Hill & Palate / Downtown
3rd Café du Jour / South Side

Best German restaurant
1st Penn Brewery / North Side
2nd Max's Allegheny Tavern / North Side
3rd Kleiner Deutschmann / Springdale

Best Greek restaurant
1st Mike & Tony's / Downtown
2nd Christos' / Downtown
3rd Salonika Gyros / Downtown

Best Indian restaurant
1st India Garden / Monroeville and Oakland
2nd People's Indian Restaurant / Garfield
3rd Taj Mahal / North Hills

Best Italian restaurant
1st (tie) Bravo / various locations & Del's / Bloomfield
2nd Piccolo Forno / Lawrenceville
3rd Girasole / Shadyside

Best Japanese restaurant
1st Nakama Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar / South Side
2nd Umi / Shadyside
3rd Chaya Japanese Cuisine / Squirrel Hill

Best Mexican restaurant
1st Mad Mex / various locations
2nd El Campesino / various locations
3rd Taqueria Taco Loco / South Side

Best Middle-Eastern restaurant
1st Ali Baba Middle Eastern Restaurant / Oakland
2nd Aladdin's Eatery / various locations
3rd Kassab's Lebanese Cuisine / South Side

Best Mediterranean restaurant
1st Aladdin's Eatery / various locations
2nd The Mediterranean Grill / Squirrel Hill
3rd Casbah / Shadyside

Best pub-style restaurant
1st Piper's Pub / South Side
2nd Sharp Edge / various locations
3rd Mullaney's Harp & Fiddle / Strip District

Best romantic restaurant
1st LeMont / Mount Washington
2nd Monterey Bay / Mount Washington amd Monroeville
3rd The Melting Pot / Station Square

Best Spanish restaurant
1st Mallorca Restaurant / South Side
2nd Ibiza Tapas & Wine Bar / South Side
3rd La Casa Tapas & Wine Bar / Shadyside

Best Thai restaurant
1st Thai Cuisine / Bloomfield
2nd Thai Place Restaurant / Shadyside
3rd Bangkok Balcony / Squirrel Hill

Best Vietnamese restaurant
1st Tram's Kitchen / Bloomfield
2nd Pho Minh / Garfield
3rd Pho Kim 88 / Castle Shannon

Best fusion restaurant
1st Soba Lounge / Shadyside
2nd Kaya / Strip District
3rd Spice Island Tea House / Oakland

Best local pizza shop
1st Fiori's / Dormont
2nd Mineo's / Squirrel Hill
3rd Pizza Sola (formerly Vesuvio) / South Side and East Liberty

Best pizza (chain)
1st Vocelli's Pizza / various locations
2nd Pizza Hut / various locations
3rd Papa John's / various locations

Best seafood restaurant
1st Monterey Bay / Mount Washington and Monroeville
2nd Mitchell's Fish Market / Waterfront and Mount Lebanon
3rd Original Fish Market / Downtown

Best sushi
1st Nakama Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar / South Side
2nd Umi / Shadyside
3rd Little Tokyo Bistro / South Side

Best steakhouse
1st Ruth's Chris Steakhouse / Downtown
2nd Morton's / Downtown
3rd Pittsburgh Steak Company / South Side

Best tapas selection
1st Ibiza Tapas & Wine Bar / South Side
2nd Tusca Global Tapas / South Side
3rd Seviche / Downtown

Best Sunday brunch
1st Grand Concourse / Station Square
2nd Zenith Tea Room / South Side
3rd Coco's Café / Lawrenceville

Best buffet
1st Eat'n Park / various locations
2nd Grand Concourse / Station Square
3rd The Golden Corral / various locations

Best vegan/vegetarian restaurant
1st The Quiet Storm Coffeehouse & Restaurant / Friendship
2nd Zenith Tea Room / South Side
3rd Maggie's Mercantile / Oakland

Best appetizers
1st Fat Heads / South Side
2nd Kaya / Strip District
3rd TGI Fridays / various locations

Best breakfast
1st Pamela's / various locations
2nd Eat'n Park / various locations
3rd Deluca's / Strip District

Best coffeehouse
1st Your Inner Vagabond Coffeehouse & World Lounge / Lawrenceville
2nd The Beehive / South Side
3rd Crazy Mocha / various locations

Best bagel
1st Bruegger's / various locations
2nd Panera Bread Co. / various locations
3rd Einstein Bros. Bagels / various locations

Best sandwich
1st Primanti Brothers Restaurant / various locations
2nd Fat Heads / South Side
3rd Carson Street Deli / South Side

Best deli
1st Smallman Street Deli / Strip District
2nd Carson Street Deli / South Side
3rd Kazansky's Delicatessen / Squirrel Hill

Best hamburger
1st Tessaro's / Bloomfield
2nd Fat Heads / South Side
3rd Red Robin / various locations

Best hot dog
1st D's Six Pax & Dogz / Regent Square
2nd The Original Hot Dog Shop / Oakland
3rd Franktuary / Downtown

Best wings
1st Quaker Steak & Lube / various locations
2nd Fat Heads / South Side
3rd Buffalo Blues / Shadyside

Best burrito
1st Mad Mex / various locations
2nd Qdoba Mexican Grill / various locations
3rd Chipotle / various locations

Best chocolates
1st Sarris Candy / various locations
2nd Mon Ami / Strip District
3rd The Chocolate Moose / Squirrel Hill

Best desserts
1st Gullifty's / Squirrel Hill
2nd The Cheesecake Factory / South Side
3rd Dozen Cupcakes/Bakeshop / Squirrel Hill and

Best ice cream
1st Dave & Andy's / Oakland
2nd Bruster's / various locations
3rd Cold Stone Creamery / various locations

Best bakery
1st Prantl's / Shadyside
2nd Dozen Cupcakes/Bakeshop / Squirrel Hill and
3rd Oakmont Bakery / Oakmont

Best late-night menu
1st Eat'n Park / various locations
2nd Tom's Diner / South Side and Dormont
3rd Fuel & Fuddle / Oakland

Best cheap eats
1st Eat'n Park / various locations
2nd Moe's Southwest Grill / various locations
3rd Tom's Diner / South Side and Dormont

Best beer selection
1st Sharp Edge / various locations
2nd D's Six Pax & Dogz / Regent Square
3rd Fat Heads / South Side

Best local microbrew
1st Church Brew Works / Lawrenceville
2nd East End Brewing / Homewood
3rd Penn Brewery / North Side

Best wine list
1st Sonoma Grille / Downtown
2nd Eleven / Strip District
3rd Ibiza Tapas & Wine Bar / South Side

Best martini list
1st Olive or Twist / Downtown
2nd Soba Lounge / Shadyside
3rd Bossa Nova / Downtown

Best bookstore
1st (tie) Borders Books & Music & Barnes & Noble / various locations
2nd Joseph-Beth Booksellers / South Side
3rd Half Price Books / various locations

Best used bookstore
1st Half Price Books / various locations
2nd Caliban Bookstore / Oakland
3rd Eljay's Used Books / South Side

Best comic bookstore
1st Phantom of the Attic / Oakland & Monroeville
2nd Eide's Entertainment / Strip District
3rd Copacetic Comics / Squirrel Hill

Best place to buy used CDs
1st Paul's Compact Discs / Bloomfield
2nd The Exchange / various locations
3rd Dave's Music Mine / South Side

Best place to still buy vinyl
1st Jerry's Records / Squirrel Hill
2nd Paul's Compact Discs / Bloomfield
3rd Dave's Music Mine / South Side

Best art-supply store
1st Utrecht / South Side
2nd Artist & Craftsman Supply / Squirrel Hill
3rd Michael's / various locations

Best place to buy outdoor gear
1st REI / South Side
2nd Dick's Sporting Goods / various locations
3rd Gander Mountain / various locations

Best place to buy furniture
1st IKEA / North Fayette
2nd Perlora / South Side
3rd Levin Furniture / various locations

Best place to buy antiques
1st Zenith Antiques / South Side
2nd Elements / Lawrenceville
3rd Who Knew? / Lawrenceville

Best place to buy vintage clothing
1st Avalon Exchange / Squirrel Hill
2nd Goodwill / various locations
3rd Eons / Shadyside

Best place to buy women's clothing
1st Macy's / various locations
2nd H&M / South Side and Tarentum
3rd Avalon Exchange / Squirrel Hill

Best place to buy men's clothing
1st Macy's / various locations
2nd Moda / Shadyside
3rd (tie) Kohl's & Goodwill / various locations

Best shoe store
1st Littles' Shoes / Squirrel Hill
2nd DSW / various locations
3rd Pavement / Lawrenceville

Best boutique
1st Sugar Boutique / Lawrenceville
2nd Jupe Boutique / South Side
3rd Hip'tique / Shadyside

Best local jewelry store
1st Orr's / Squirrel Hill
2nd Henne Jewelers / Shadyside
3rd (tie) Julep / Lawrenceville & King's / various locations

Best florist
1st Johnston the Florist / various locations
2nd Hepatica / Regent Square
3rd Gidas Flowers / Squirrel Hill

Best tattoo studio
1st South Side Tattoo / South Side
2nd Angry Moon Tattoo & Piercing / South Side
3rd Inka Dinka Doo / Lawrenceville

Best piercing parlor
1st Hot Rod Piercing / South Side
2nd South Side Tattoo / South Side
3rd Angry Moon Tattoo & Piercing / South Side

Best bike shop
1st Gatto / Wexford and Tarentum
2nd Kraynick's Bike Shop / Garfield
3rd Trek Bikes / various locations

Best pet store
1st (tie) PetSmart & PetCo / various locations
2nd Smiley's Pet Pad / Shadyside
3rd Burton's Total Pet / various locations

Best hair salon
1st Evolve Modern Hairstyling / Lawrenceville
2nd Philip Pelusi / various locations
3rd Izzazu / Downtown

Best day spa
1st Sewickley Spa / Sewickley
2nd La Pomponnee / Mount Lebanon
3rd Esspa Kozmetika / Aspinwall

Best tanning salon
1st Hollywood Tan / various locations
2nd The Tanning Room / South Side
3rd Anytime Tan / various locations

Best health club
1st (tie) YMCA & Club One / various locations
2nd X Shadyside / Shadyside
3rd Gold's Gym / Downtown

Best real-estate agency
1st Howard Hanna
2nd Coldwell Banker
3rd Prudential

Best dating service
1st match.com
2nd eHarmony
3rd Craigslist

Best movie theater
1st AMC Loews / Waterfront
2nd SouthSideWorks Theater / South Side
3rd The Oaks Theater / Oakmont

Best hotel
1st Omni William Penn / Downtown
2nd The Renaissance Hotel / Downtown
3rd Westin / Downtown

Best yoga studio
1st Amazing Yoga / Shadyside
2nd Schoolhouse Yoga / Lawrenceville
3rd Breathe Yoga / South Side

Best martial arts studio
1st CS Kim Karate / various locations
2nd Rothrock's Kung Fu & Tai Chi / South Side
3rd USA Karate / Squirrel Hill

Best golf course
1st Oakmont Country Club / Oakmont
2nd Bob O'Connor Golf Course / Schenley Park
3rd Cranberry Highlands / Cranberry

Best bowling alley
1st Arsenal Lanes / Lawrenceville
2nd Forward Lanes / Squirrel Hill
3rd Princess Lanes / Whitehall

Best ski resort
1st Seven Springs Mountain Resort / Champion, Pa.
2nd Hidden Valley / Donegal, Pa.
3rd Peek'n Peak / Clymer, N.Y.

Best Pittsburgh politician
1st Luke Ravenstahl
2nd Bill Peduto
3rd Dan Onorato

Best Pittsburgh writer
1st Michael Chabon
2nd Gene Collier
3rd Tony Norman

Best Pittsburgh radio personality
1st Jim Krenn -- WDVE
2nd Bubba -- B94
3rd Lynn Cullen

Best morning radio show
1st Jim & Randy -- WDVE
2nd Mikey & Big Bob -- The Freak Show, Kiss FM
3rd Cindy Howes -- WYEP

Best local athlete
1st Sidney Crosby
2nd Hines Ward
3rd Ben Roethlisberger

Best chef
1st Kevin Sousa
2nd Bill Fuller
3rd James Grey

Best bartender
1st Billy, Squirrel Hill Café / Squirrel Hill
2nd Nigel, Rock Room / Polish Hill
3rd Brian, Brillobox / Bloomfield

Best-looking male Pittsburgh personality
1st Sidney Crosby
2nd Hines Ward
3rd Troy Polamalu

Best-looking female Pittsburgh personality
1st Sonni Abatta -- KDKA
2nd (tie) Darieth Chisolm -- WPXI / Christina Aguilera
3rd Allison Morris -- KDKA

Best day trip
1st Ohiopyle
2nd Fallingwater
3rd Seven Springs

Best weekend trip
1st Lake Erie
2nd Washington, D.C.
3rd Seven Springs

Best wi-fi hotspot
1st Panera Bread / various locations
2nd Crazy Mocha / various locations
3rd Your Inner Vagabond Coffeehouse & World Lounge / Lawrenceville

Best place to take an out-of-towner
1st Mount Washington
2nd The inclines
3rd Primanti Brothers / various locations

Best local green space
1st Schenley Park
2nd Frick Park
3rd Point State Park

Best trail
1st Frick Park trails
2nd Montour Trail
3rd Riverfront Trail / North Side

Best place to swim
1st Sandcastle
2nd Dormont Pool
3rd Settler's Cabin Park Wave Pool

Best Kennywood ride
1st The Thunderbolt
2nd Phantom's Revenge
3rd The Jackrabbit

Best Pittsburgh newscast
1st KDKA
2nd WPXI
3rd WTAE

Best local ad campaign
1st KDKA -- Your Home
2nd wallsarebad.com
3rd N/A

Best local sports moment
1st Penguins' run for the Stanley Cup
2nd University of Pittsburgh football
3rd Pittsburgh Steelers

Best loft-style living
1st The Cork Factory / Strip District
2nd Heinz Factory Lofts / North Side
3rd SouthSideWorks Lofts / South Side

Best place to work
1st At home
2nd UPMC
3rd Downtown

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