Voters in the Best of Lawrence 1999 contest cast 940 ballots, choosing their favorites in 48 categories.
The Free State Brewing Co., 636 Mass., came out a big winner in the Lawrence Journal-World's Best of Lawrence 1999 contest.
Voters chose Free State as the city's best all-around restaurant, and three of Free State's microbrewed beers swept the rankings in the category of best beer flavors.
The brewery's Oatmeal Stout, Wheat State Golden and Copperhead beers came in first, second and third in the category.
Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar, 2520 Iowa, and Paisano's Ristorante, 2112 W. 25th, followed Free State in the all-around restaurant category.
The results are part of the sixth annual Best of Lawrence contest, in which Journal-World readers voted to select what's best in the city in 48 categories. The comprehensive list of winners will be published in a special section in next Sunday's Journal-World.
The Journal-World received 940 ballots during the two-week voting period that led up to the final tally.
Thirty percent more ballots were cast than in last year's contest. That makes the Best of Lawrence 1999 the most successful of the contests yet.
"I'm very honored by this. It's a wonderful note of appreciation for our staff here," said Chuck Magerl, proprietor of the 11-year-old Free State Brewery.
Voters had the opportunity to choose their favorites across a wide range of categories.
For instance, they chose Molly McGee's Grill & Bar, 2429 Iowa, as the restaurant to order the best non fast-food burger in town.
Dale Willey Automotive, 2840 Iowa, is the best place to take a car when it needs repair.
RC's Stadium Barbery, 1033 Mass., took top honors in the barber shop category.
And voters said the best festival in town is the Lawrence Art Guild's annual Art in the Park.
Magerl, 43, singled out several Free State veteran employees for special praise: Rick Martin, kitchen manager; John Thompson, chef; head brewer Steve Bradt; and front-of-the-house managers Al Hamilton and Debbie Fey.
One of Free State's strengths is its consistency and devotion to high standards, he said.
"It's a commitment to quality, but a quality that has everyday accessibility. We're trying to provide the best we can for people on a day-to-day enjoyment level," Magerl said.
He accepted the good news of Free State's showing in the Best of Lawrence 1999 contest with humility.
"The restaurant business is a really rugged business to be in. Any restaurant that has survived five or six years in this town is obviously one of people's favorites," he said.
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