More than 400 readers participated in this year's "Best of Lawrence" survey. They picked the best in town in five categories. In a five-part series, we'll tell you the winners. Today
Tired of the turkey left over from Thanksgiving? Don't despair. You have choices, lot's of them. The Journal-World's "Best of Lawrence" survey can provide plenty of food for thought, eating options beyond turkey casserole and leftover cranberry sauce.
More than 400 Journal-World readers took part in the second annual Best of Lawrence survey this fall, voting for their top picks on everything from restaurants to movie theaters to local music groups.
In the category of food and drink, readers picked the best the town has to offer in wining and dining, and for the second year, readers have named FiFi's Restaurant at 925 Iowa the best special-occasion restaurant.
Fifi Paden, who owns the restaurant along with her husband and two children, said she thought the quality of food served at FiFi's may have been behind the winning finish.
"We're really particular on the freshest of products to be used, and everything is made from scratch," she said.
Jonathan Paretsky, who took his wife there for her birthday, told why FiFi's was his first pick.
"I think that they have quite a variety of good food, and they have specialized dishes that you can't find anywhere else in Lawrence," Paretsky said. He added that the food is complemented by "a quite pleasant atmosphere."
Voters said that for breakfast, seafood and desserts, the Paradise Cafe was a dining utopia.
"The slogan we use in our advertising is `Good Real Food,' and that's really the key," said Mauro Nobre, head waiter, explaining why he thought the Paradise topped three categories. "It's labor-intensive, we have a good crew and everything's made from scratch."
Herbivores is a first-time winner this year for best place for vegetarians to eat. Hal Sears isn't even a vegetarian but noticed that the restaurant stands out in that category.
"I like their originality," Sears said. "There are so many things I see other people having, and I think, `Gee, I wish I would have had that.' "
Sears said he really goes for the restaurant's beans and cornbread. He likes their fruit smoothies too.
"I'm not a vegetarian, but I like the notion of cutting down on meat, because I eat more meat than I should," Sears, 51, said.
Herbivores is at 9 E. Eighth and inside the Community Mercantile Co-op at 901 Miss.
If it's a sandwich shop or deli you're looking for, most survey participants recommended the Massachusetts Street Deli, 941 Mass. Jim Dallen would recommend the same.
"The meats are very fresh, and you get a wide selection," he said. Dallen said he really likes the "Owner's Special," which he described as a spicy sausage sandwich.
Want a good hamburger, and fast? Thirteen-year-old Erin Case and most others surveyed said McDonald's serves up the best fast-food hamburgers.
"I've always gone there since I was little," Erin said. "I like the Big Mac, and their Extra Value Meals are pretty good deals."
McDonald's also has a choice of three locations: 901 W. 23rd, 1309 W. Sixth and 3300 Iowa, inside Wal-Mart.
If you have a little more time, check out the hamburgers at Molly McGee's, 2429 Iowa, which was voted as having the best non-fast-food hamburgers.
"They're thick enough to cook rare, and they will cook them rare or medium rare if you like it that way, and we do," Geni Wigington said of herself and her husband. "They have a lot of very individualized toppings to go with the hamburgers, and we like that, too."
Following are a sample of voter's comments on establishments that placed first in other categories. All of the following have been voted first in their categories for two years in a row.
@briefhed:Best Sunday Brunch:
@sc: "The Bistro offers a great variety of healthy, elegant and creative food in a lovely atmosphere," said Judy Keller.
@briefhed:Best Oriental Food:
@sc: "The food's always hot, and you get generous portions," said Joe Cunningham. "They also have a drive-through carry-out window."
@briefhed:Best Mexican Food:
@sc: "It's a very nice atmosphere. It's quaint and cozy," said Megan Joyce. "The food there is excellent. I've never been disappointed."
@sc: "My kids really like Pizza Hut," said Cyndy Herod, who has a 10- and a 14-year-old. "Their pizzas are always fresh, and the kids like the choice of toppings. The people are always friendly."
@sc: "It's just the wonderful omelettes," said G.J. Bronicki. "I like the way they put together some really fresh vegetables. It's the only place in town I know that does unconventional omelettes."
Don's Steak House
@sc: "The atmosphere isn't anything special, but it's comfortable," said Evelyn Wingert. "We've always had a good meal out there, and we always see someone we know."
@sc: "I'm in the Army, and I think they have better seafood than I've experienced on the coasts sometime," said U.S. Army Maj. Kent Babcock. "Their salmon is just out of this world."
Buffalo Bob's Smokehouse
@sc: George Catt said even though his daughter now works there, Buffalo Bob's brisket is what's made him a loyal customer.
"I've been eating there for years, ever since it opened up," Catt said.
@briefhed:Best Restaurant to Take Children:
@sc: "They seem to cater to kids with the Happy Meals and the gifts they give," said Judy Heller. "If you ask kids where they want to go, it seems like that's almost always what they say."
@sc: "They've got more variety in terms of their desserts than most of the places in town," said Kenneth Crawford. He said he really likes the cafe's chocolate-rich Douglas County Pie.
@briefhed:Best Cup of Coffee:
La Prima Tazza
@sc: "Their house coffee is wonderful, and I can go in there and get little individual coffee presses," said Rose Marie Hildebrand. "I just find that when I'm downtown shopping and want to give myself a little treat, I run in there and have coffee."
@briefhed:Best Beer Joint:
Free State Brewing Co.
@sc: "Their beer hasn't been bottled, so it's very fresh, and I think it has a finer carbonation," said Marti Brill.