Archive for Thursday, March 1, 2001

The Best of Lawrence

March 1, 2001


Ah, Lawrence. Larryville. Law-City. L-Town. We loved it, at times we loathed it, but we all called it home.

It was another year of evolution Darwinian and otherwise for our fair city. As the debate over natural selection raged across Kansas, Lawrence remained one of the best little towns in the state, home to a diverse and eclectic blend of people and ideas.

Best ParkSouth ParkBest MuseumNatural History MuseumBest FestivalArt in the ParkBest Place to Take VisitorsDowntownBest Mexican RestaurantEl MezcalBest Cheap EatsThe Burrito KingBest Ice CreamSylas & Maddy's Home Made Ice CreamBest Sports BarJB Stouts Sports Bar & GrillBest Barber ShopAmyx Barber ShopBest Auto RepairDale & Ron's Auto ServiceBest GreenhouseSunrise Garden Center

As always, restaurants and specialty shops opened and closed downtown, reshaping and redefining one of Lawrence's most beloved locales. Sometimes this was for better, sometimes not, but you can't deny the sheer spirit of our downtown area, ever shining through the corporate glare. New chain stores even opted for funky, organic auras while establishments such as Liberty Hall, The Love Garden, Waxman Candles and The Replay Lounge remained imbued with character and characters!

Expansion around the city continued, for better and worse. It was sad to see several local businesses closing their doors, including The Jupiter Cafe, The Glass Onion and Alley Cat Records. But for every farewell there seemed to be some great new place setting up shop including Abe & Jake's Landing, Prairie Fire and The Bleujacket which carried on Lawrence's distinct flavor.

The music scene continued to give Lawrence a fair share of spice as well, continually threatening to return to the glory days of yesteryear. Bands including The Get Up Kids, Ultimate Fakebook and The Anniversary drew international attention to the area, while the sheer volume of unique local acts was a sonic thrill. Area stalwarts like The Band That Saved The World, Kill Creek and Paw played before packed houses and up and comers like Sturgeon Mill, Jumbo's Killcrane and mi6 built audiences through consistent gigging. Creative local bands sought alternative venues, playing raucous house parties, as The Esoteric and The Secondhands did, and even laid-back laundromats, as was the case for a recent Holstein/Rebound show.

There are a lot of potholes right now and the traffic seems to get worse by the day, but overall Lawrence is still a great place to live, work and play. And it's the people the musicians, artists, chefs, bartenders, students, professors, professionals and slackers who make this place so special. One might say that this city is much like its citizens: fun, slightly eccentric and dedicated to the principles of evolution.

We asked The Mag readers to tell us what they love about Lawrence, and they answered with passion and firmly placed opinions not a single pregnant Chad in the bunch. We present before you the winners, the final results of our Best of Lawrence poll. Of course, there'll be some grumbling about who won and who didn't. But keep in mind the most important adage of any election: You can't complain if you didn't vote!

-Geoff Harkness

Fun & Games

Best Live Music Venue
The Bottleneck

The Bottleneck is ground zero for all that is live music in Lawrence. The medium-size club located at 737 New Hampshire hosts everything from national acts to open mike nights, rarely failing to provide an interesting mix of musical styles and genres during any given month. The Donnas, Henry Rollins Band, 311, The Arsonists, Junior Brown and Elliott Smith have all paid a visit to the 'Neck in the last couple of years, while local bands have inaugurated whole careers upon its tiny stage. Plus, there's no better place to hang out with the who's-who of Lawrence's music scene. Last week's Kill Creek show was part concert, part community event replete with old friends reminiscing, new friends intermingling and a rousing birthday sing-a-long in honor of Red House producer member Ed Rose. GH

Best Movie Theater
Southwind Twelve Theatres

The multiplex theater originated in Kansas City, so it's no wonder that Southwind 12 Theatres, 3433 Iowa, has managed to perfect the formula popularized by the neighboring metropolis. The large complex insures that all the big Hollywood movies from popcorn fare such as "Hannibal" to artsier offerings such as "State and Main" don't pass us by, and delivers comfortable stadium seating and quality sound and projection in the process. If you're going to operate a multiplex, this is the way to do it. JN

Best Park
South Park

In a city full of parks, how do you pick one as superior? It's all about where it's at. South Park's well-manicured lawns present a place to daydream, nap, sunbathe, hold picnics, play Frisbee or strum a guitar, while the trees provide a shady escape from the summer heat. Ultimately, though, you can get that in any park. What South Park also offers is a close proximity to downtown Lawrence, which makes it perfect for all the extracurricular activities from art fairs to outdoor band concerts that Lawrence is famous for staging. MN

Best Golf Course
Alvamar Golf & Country Club

Consider yourself lucky if you don't have to drive West on 15th Street to get to work each morning. The worst feeling in the world might just be contemplating what must be accomplished at work that morning and then coming to that one tempting spot on 15th Street, just West of Monterey Way. At that point you look to the South and spy the most beautiful course in Lawrence, Alvamar Golf and Country Club, 1800 Crossgate Drive. It's then that you realize that no matter how good the workday is, even the worst day playing golf at Alvamar is still so much better. JN

Best Museum
KU Natural History Museum

Lawrence offers a number of interesting museums, but the KU Natural History Museum may be the most unusual. Opened in 1903, the facility holds a number of displays, including its signature panorama of animals from the late 1800s. Also noteworthy are the dinosaur exhibits, live snakes and that freaky working bee hive. But most know the museum as the home to the remains of Comanche, the horse that was the lone survivor of Gen. George Custer's ill-fated stand at Little Big Horn. No matter how many times you've been there, you'll always find something new. Plus, it's still one of the cheapest places in town to take the children, presuming you can keep them out of the gift shop. GH

Best Ball Field
Holcom Sports Complex

For those who have game and those who don't, Holcom Park Sports Complex, 2700 W. 27th St., is the place to be. Four ballfields that are designed for more than just wussy softball comprise the centerpiece of the compound. And there's plenty of other sports to be enjoyed also. One basketball court offers rims that are friendly, the other offers competition that's fierce. Want sand volleyball? Foosball? Yeah, they got that too. Or maybe you just want to press some iron. No membership card needed, no stringent rules to follow. Holcom itself won't make your game get any better, but odds are you'll be having so much fun in the laid-back atmosphere that it won't really matter. SJ

Best Dance Venue
The Granada

Tony-Maneros-in-waiting know just where to go when they want to get jiggy on a Lawrence dance floor. The Granada, 1020 Mass., showed films back in the day, but now dancing is the order of the night. When not featuring live music or nationally known record spinners, Granada DJs pump out beats six nights a week for the undulating masses. Though some criticize the venue's somewhat abrasive sound system, Thursday's Retro Dance Party is a generally well-attended and raucous affair and the weekends pack in modern music lovers looking to get dizzy with dance fever. Let the wild rump shaking begin! GH

Best Festival
Art in the Park

Local and regional artists gather in South Park each year to stage one of the largest art fairs in the Midwest. Art in the Park features paintings, photography, sculptures, woodwork, crafts, mixed-media images, tapestries and hand-sewn clothing. Singers and musicians perform. There are concessions and places for the kids to play. And thousands of art lovers pass through to snap up eclectic and cutting-edge work at wonderful prices. Lawrence is an art town, no doubt, and the festival helps to solidify that reputation. MN

Best Free Entertainment
Lawrence City Band Concerts in South Park

Each week, music issues out of South Park on sultry summer evenings. The band is made up of some very talented musicians and plays crowd-pleasers for a packed audience. People bring lawn chairs and seats, and they eat late dinner picnics or other snacks while the children run and the band blasts through the "1812 Overture." The sun sets, a breeze starts to blow and fireworks accompany the orchestra to another rousing finish. It's pure Midwest Americana at its very best. MN

Best Place to Take Visitors

As the recent closing of the Lawrence Riverfront Plaza Factory Outlets confirms, people go downtown to shop "Downtown." Six blocks of primo locally owned stores and big-name favorites are part of the commercial appeal as well as excellent restaurants, pubs, galleries, coffee houses and places you can only find in an arty college town. A scenic setting steeped in history dating back to the Civil War simply heightens the allure. Visitors will discover that downtown Lawrence is not only one of the premier spots in this city, it's one of the finest in the state, also. JN

Best Reason to Live Here
Kansas University

Some say the degree factory on the hill is the ONLY reason to live here, but that's probably shortchanging Lawrence's off-campus offerings a bit. Still, one can't deny the sheer beauty of Kansas University's older buildings or that the students continue to give Larryville a great deal of its character. The tuition is cheap, the basketball team is top-notch and you can earn an hour of college credit for fishing. For townies who are too cool for school (or just have five or six degrees already), KU still has something to offer: a Sunday afternoon perusing great works at Spencer Museum of Art, an evening of 10-pin at the Jaybowl or a romantic romp in the stacks of Watson Library. Now that's an education! GH

Food & Drink

Best Overall Restaurant
Free State Brewing Co.

While diverse menu options and home-brewed beer are plentiful, one thing you'll never find at Free State Brewing Co., 636 Mass., is a clock. It's unnecessary, manager Slade Acker says of Lawrence's signature restaurant, because people go to Free State for the food, the company and the relaxed atmosphere no deadlines necessary. "For the price and the atmosphere, this is the best place," Acker says. "There's no other place like it where you can go and just chill out." The crowd consists of the "Free State family" of regulars who enjoy up to nine brewed beers, reasonably priced appetizers and a menu ranging from black bean quesadillas to steaks to Thai food. Lawrence's best restaurant is also one of downtown's oldest. The restaurant celebrated its 12th anniversary last week, though at Free State, no one's keeping time. AS

Best Breakfast
First Watch Restaurant

Like many regional businesses, First Watch Restaurant, 2540 Iowa, originally established a reputation with outlets in Kansas City before setting up shop in Lawrence. (The restaurant began in Northern California in 1983 and currently counts 40-plus locations.) Now the breakfast-themed enterprise is a mainstay among the local community and a favorite spot for "when the parents come to town." From fresh fruit crepes to homemade biscuits and gravy, First Watch offers a wide-ranging array of goodies for your earliest meal of the day. And it's a nice change of pace to enjoy breakfast at a place that doesn't have an all-you-can eat buffet. JN

Best Asian Restaurant
The Jade Garden

"Good things are to come" reads the fortune cookie that Lawrence residents cracked open for The Jade Garden, 1410 Kasold Drive. The restaurant provides large quantities of tasty dishes at low prices. Not only does it serve traditional Chinese appetizers, soups and entre but it offers Vietnamese foods such as banh canh, pho and chao. With so many items to pick from, I suggest getting a "combination" so you can taste two dishes along with rice and crab rangoon. The menu is conveniently placed on the second page of the Lawrence phone book. If you don't know how to pronounce Yu-Hsiang Shrimp when ordering for delivery or take out, it's no problem. You order 707 instead. So far, the Golden Snake Year has been a good one for The Jade Garden. KB

Best Mexican Restaurant
El Mezcal

The hombres who own El Mezcal, 1819 W. 23rd. St. and 804 Iowa, are serious about the cooking business. The restaurant has it all, including a colorful atmosphere, festive music, friendly wait staff, fast service and ice-cold beers and margaritas. Delicious, piping-hot Mexican cuisine is brought to your table by waiters carrying the dishes stacked on their arms like some South-of-the-border circus trick, and when they call you "amigo" they act like they really mean it. You still have to get there pretty early to avoid a dinner rush, but if you get caught in line, the wait is worth it. Be sure to check out the lunch specials, like the $5 single fajitas that actually serves two people. MN

Best Italian Restaurant
Paisano's Ristorante

It's not so upscale that the waiters are snobs, but Paisano's Ristorante, 2112 W. 25th St., is a bit more stylish than most restaurants in college towns. It features intimate dining in darkened corners, with pictures of Al Pacino on the walls and Old Blue Eyes himself crooning over the stereo speakers. You half expect somebody's mama to come out of the kitchen and pinch your cheeks while you eat. They offer unlimited bread and salad, a pasta bar for lunch, and wonderfully tasty Italian entrfavorites, like deep-dish lasagna, spaghetti and fettuccini, with their specialty dish being the "Marco Polo," a creamy noodle dish with almonds. They don't aim for cutting-edge cuisine, just comfortable dishes with a surprise or two. MN

Best Barbecue Restaurant
Buffalo Bob's Smokehouse

A business that has owned this category for many years, Buffalo Bob's Smokehouse, 719 Mass., has seen a steady rise in quality competition recently from upstarts such as Gran-daddy's and Pat's Blue Rib'n. But the Smokehouse proves the old adage: location, location, location. As the only downtown joint where you can find barbecued ribs and chicken, the 24-year-old eatery has once again smoked the competition. And those massive amounts of curly fries and tasty fritters haven't hurt, either. JN

Best Sandwich Shop/Deli
Yello Sub

Lawrence residents can't get enough of Yello Sub's hefty sandwiches served on fresh, whole wheat bread. With about 45 concoctions to pick from and two locations 1814 W. 23rd St. and 624 W. 12th St. what's not to like? For the meat lover, there are the Mega Roast Beef, Beefeater and Meatball Grinder. For the veggie lover, choices include the Meatless Masterpiece, 4 Cheese and Californian. The more adventurous might like the Green Turkey, Planet Combo or Tofu Veggie. With reasonable prices and a delivery service available, Yello Sub torpedoed its rivals in the sandwich biz. KB

Best Pizza
Papa Keno's Pizzeria

In Lawrence, nothing tops Papa's pie. Nothing, that is, except fresh vegetables, meats and cheeses on a giant New York-style pizza. Papa Keno's Pizzeria, 1035 Mass., gives Lawrence a slice of the East Coast, with a kitchen that is in open view so customers can see the pies being cooked. The Lawrence location also will be adding an outdoor dining area within the next couple of weeks for a German beer garden feel. Attention to customer satisfaction has made Papa Keno's one of Lawrence's longest-running downtown restaurants and has expanded business to Overland Park, Los Angeles and Denver. "We take pride in our product," owner Greg Keenan says. "We have a philosophy on focusing on our pizza and that's why it's so good." AS

Best Steak
Hereford House

For its fourth restaurant, Kansas City's venerable Hereford House chose to launch a branch in Lawrence at 4931 W. Sixth St. The upscale-but-earthy spin on the classic steakhouse has jibed well with Lawrence clientele. And now residents on the west side have a way to curb their beef cravings without driving all the way across town. Not surprisingly, the juicy, cooked-to-order steaks are the real deal at Hereford House, which is probably why the establishment is regularly voted among the top 10 steakhouses in the United States. JN

Best Vegetarian Restaurant
Community Mercantile Co-op

Meat eaters won't find much at Community Mercantile Co-op, 901 Miss., where tofu-laced items and fruit-vegetable concoctions rule the menu. Among the recommended items: tofu bacon, veggie burgers, lasagna, quiche and scones. "We sell a lot of scones, says Stacey Becker who has worked at the restaurant for three years. "They are fatty and good." While sipping a vegetable drink, one frequent customer says he liked the place because of its low prices, fresh foods and healthfulness. Veggie lovers are looking forward to the time when their favorite restaurant in Lawrence expands by moving into the former Alvin's IGA at Ninth and Iowa streets. KB

Best Salad Bar/Salad

The four Lawrence Dillons locations offer a variety of fresh, nicely chopped items on their bars. They have the usual fare such as lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, cheese and croutons. What makes it outstanding is the offerings such as sprouts, water chestnuts, giant olives, eggs, artichoke hearts, chopped meats, peas, cheese crackers and raisins. It has fat free dressings and fat-full dressings like Peppercorn, Caesar and Blue Cheese. Fresh fruit and hearty soups are plentiful year-round. The more adventurous might try one of their creamy salad surprises that are made with broccoli, pasta, peas or beans. For dessert, there's puddings and Jell-O salads to pick from. For $2.99 per pound, the convenience of "a more nutrient-based entr" is worth the stop. KB

Best Bakery/Bread
Wheatfields Bakery

Breadmaking seems to be a lost art in this era of hamburger buns and pita wraps. But Wheatfields Bakery, 904 Vt., has resurrected the skill with a truly fabulous array of baked goods. When not just stopping by to pick up a couple Kalamata olive or walnut raisin loaves, you're probably wise to explore the outstanding restaurant that finds such tasty ways of complimenting the bread with a wonderful rotating selection of soups, quiches, empanadas and desserts. It may be a tad pricey, but it's so worth it. JN

Best Doughnuts
Joe's Bakery

Like every other schmo in town, I discovered Joe's Bakery, 616 W. Ninth St., while taking a "study break" one night when still a KU student. The lines at 2 a.m. into that place were a sight to behold, and the wait afforded you the opportunity to sober up, so you could better appreciate the melt-in-your mouth treats from their gooey doughnuts to oversized cookies to calorie-busting cream filled chocolate goodies. Joe's has always offered something for everyone. And don't forget the sandwiches. It's still the only place where I'd pay money for an egg salad on white bread, though it's still a bummer that they discontinued the awesome "torpedo" sandwich, along with their late-night hours. Even though I now have to wait for respectable daytime hours, I still go to Joe's all the time. MN

Best Cup of Coffee
Milton's Coffee & Wine

You can't throw a rock down Massachusetts Street without hitting either a Johnson County college student in his mom's SUV or a coffee shop. With so many places in such a small area all offering steaming cups of joe, it's a coup for Milton's Coffee and Wine, 920 Mass., to take the title this year. And it's a cool place to enjoy a variety of coffees, cappuccinos, cocoas, chais and other concoctions. It's stylishly comfortable, with ample seating, and furnishes everything from live music to poetry readings for your entertainment. Or you can order off their affordable and appealing breakfast and brunch menu. MN

Best Ice Cream
Sylas & Maddy's Home Made Ice Cream

Call it gourmet goodies for those on a budget. Sylas and Maddy's Home Made Ice Cream, 1014 Mass., offers pleasurable treats that are painfully sinful. The little ice cream shop is a must-visit for anyone shopping along Mass. Street. They offer sundaes, floats and splits, but also feature yummy, large crunchy cones topped one-two-three scoops high with eclectic ice cream flavors. It's likely that many waistlines have grown since Sylas and Maddy's opened, but if given the choice between giving up these ice cream parlor visits or losing weight, most will take S&M;'s. It's much more fun, and you can always buy bigger pants. MN

Best Cheap Eats
The Burrito King

It's 2:30 a.m. and you just spent all your money at a local watering hole. You dig into the innermost regions of your car seat and find a few stray quarters. You aim your auto in the direction of 900 Illinois time for a Burrito King run. With gargantuan burritos starting at a mere $1.99, it's hard to leave the King's twin drive-thrus hungry (hint: the chicken nachos are the best in the city). Late night snackers and early risers relish the fact the joint stays open from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m., seven days a week, and budget-impaired students keep the place hopping most of the time. Though you may regret it in the morning, it's hard to beat the King's combo of tasty treats and bargain prices. GH

Best Late-Night Meal
Perkins Restaurant

It's a 24-hour restaurant that is clean, well lit, and for the late night revelers or book-totting college students, affordable. The unofficial motto for Perkins Restaurant, 1711 W. 23rd St., should be "It's late, you've been drinking and we're open." And for the clubgoers or the few studious KU students pulling an all-nighter, it offers lots of coffee and comfy booths. It's also a place that will provide you with steak, burgers, seafood, sandwiches and a few homey-type meals, like pot roast, without busting your wallets. And the people-watching opportunities are priceless. You never know when some naked college students are going to show up and offer you some candy treats to go along with your meatloaf. MN

Best New Restaurant
Hereford House

Lawrence's best new restaurant has earned a resounding "Yee-haw" from local diners. The Hereford House, an upscale steakhouse John Wayne would have been proud to frequent, opened at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive in November. Since then, their choice steaks and casual-but-upscale Western atmosphere has earned the Hereford House a loyal base of patrons. Manager Bruce Gentry says Lawrence's open market for a quality steakhouse attracted the Hereford House to the city. Many of their customers had tried the venue at one of its previous locations in Kansas City and have since migrated to the newest location. "The Hereford House name is known in the area," Gentry says. "A lot of clientele have been to our other restaurants we just brought it closer to them." AS

Best Sports Bar
JB Stouts Sports Bar & Grill

A good sports bar needs one thing above all: TVs everywhere. JB Stouts Sports Bar and Grill, 721 Wakarusa Drive, has just that, with 27 large televisions and two big screens. A customer can't take a step in the door without instantly catching up with all televised sports, from college basketball to the World's Strongest Man competitions. Every NFL game is available, as well as out-of-market college basketball games. And if your team is losing, forget about the game and move over to the nicest pool tables (with real old-school pockets) in Lawrence. And if your team loses in overtime, they have a large selection of draft beers available, along with an excellent, diverse menu. SJ

Best Beer Selection
Free State Brewing Co.

As a monk attests on Free State Brewing Co. T-shirts, "Without beer, things do not seem to go as well." However, with Lawrence's best beer, things are going quite well at Free State Brewery, 636 Mass. The business has crafted more than 50 brews since its opening. Nine beers, including the Wheat State Golden, the Ad Astra Ale and the John Brown Ale are offered consistently while about 15 rotating beers grace the menu seasonally. Owner Chuck Magerl says the difference in Free State's beer is found in its preparation. "Attention to detail for our business is just extraordinary," Magerl claims. The Free State staff only adds to the brewery experience, Magerl adds, describing his employees as a goofy, slightly dysfunctional, extended Bohemian family. "Good food, good beer, good service that's what makes it fun." AS

Best Mixed Drinks

The atmosphere at Teller's, 746 Mass., is hard to beat: a bank building converted into an upscale eatery, with three tiers of dining, remarkable ornamental lighting and an expansive bar. And that aura makes it the place to go for a nightcap. Martinis, Manhattans and Margaritas are all expertly prepared at Teller's providing an apropos mood setter for before or after a chic meal. JN

Goods & Services

Best Health Club
Lawrence Athletic Club

Lawrence Athletic Club is flexing its muscles again this year. Every season since its opening in 1994, LAC has had the strongest weight rooms, sleekest cardio theaters and most flexible workout options in Lawrence, naming it Lawrence's best athletic club for the seventh straight year. The North club at 3201 Mesa Way, which holds two cardio theaters, two weight rooms, a swimming pool, boxing, aerobics studio and more, was renovated after a 1999 fire closed it down for about six months. The South club, with cardio, weight and aerobics rooms at 2108 W. 27th St., was bought and also renovated in 1999. Owner Rick Sells says the new equipment, cleanliness, workout options and reasonable price are factors club members appreciate. "They like to see new and nice and changing things, and it's really made a difference," Sells claims. "We just offer more." AS

Best Hairstyling Salon
Becky's Salon & Day Spa

Residents are turning to Becky's Salon & Day Spa, 2108 W. 27th St., to pamper themselves, and they have plenty of choices to do so. The salon offers services from haircuts and coloring to facials and massages. Owner Becky Isaac enjoys her work, which carries over to her staff and customers. Isaac believes today's women are more into pampering themselves, and she must be right evidence of the approximately 1,100 "Days of Beauty" she has sold during the past year. Women love them. But who wouldn't enjoy services such as a full body massage, therapeutic facial, whirlpool manicure, hot oil manicure, scalp treatment, hairstyle and lunch? Barb Karr enjoyed her "Deluxe Day of Beauty" so much for her birthday last year that her husband took it up a notch and bought her the "Ultimate Day of Beauty" for Valentine's Day. "It's a great way to relieve stress," Karr says. "It's fabulous. I'll be back." KB

Best Barber Shop
Amyx Barber Shop

The reason the line is always so long at Amyx Barber Shop, 842 1/2 Mass. is because it's worth the wait. This small-town establishment, owned by third generation family member Mike Amyx, hasn't changed much in the seven decades since it first opened. It still thrives on first-name customer service and reasonable prices and the staff still uses those little brush thingies to wipe off the back of your neck. In addition, you can always watch whatever sport is on TV from the comfort of your chair in this unabashedly pro-KU hangout. JN

Best Record Store
Hastings Books Music & Video

Though, of course, you won't find a single piece of vinyl anywhere in Hastings Books Music & Video, you will find a jumbo-sized collection of CDs and tapes. The mammoth chain store, located at 1900 W. 23rd, houses an impressive if pricey assortment of top hits and catalog favorites. Better is the massive spectrum of used CDs, with row upon row of priced-to-move discs of every imaginable taste. The mega-store also deserves kudos for its extensive local music section, where one can find the recorded works of just about any regional act around, from Coyote Project to Paw to DVS Mindz. GH

Best Video Store
Hastings Books Music & Video

Here's a backhanded compliment for Hastings Books Music and Video, 1900 W. 23rd St.: It's like Wal-Mart. It offers some of everything, a lot of some things, and most everything usually at affordable prices. Want 800 copies of "The Perfect Storm?" Or Pat Boone's and Eminem's new collaboration CD? Or a KU Coed calendar? Or a monster truck magazine? Or popcorn, candy and soda with your DVD or video rental? Then Hastings will probably have it. They do offer all types of films, though, from comedy, drama and action to foreign and classic movies. But sometimes you wish that those non-blockbuster videos didn't get moved out so quickly to make way for that new wall of "Blair Witch 2" tapes. But that is the nature of mass consumer consumption: Viewers want whatever is new, right now and you better have it. And Hastings can consistently pull that off. You want some Goobers to go along with that "Whipped" DVD? MN

Best Auto Repair
Dale & Ron's Auto Service

Trying to find reliable auto repair has been one of America's most taxing pursuits. In these days of dealership service departments, it's refreshing to see some local garages still thriving. Dale & Ron's Auto Service, 630 Conn., continues to fix the problems that plague most Lawrence motorists most of which are caused by gaping potholes, no doubt. Owners Rick Bellinger and Ron Coffman provide old-school service with new-school technology, and a convenient location next to historic downtown. Best of all, you won't get some inexperienced kid whose primary knowledge of cars comes from his extensive collection of Matchboxes. JN

Best Sporting Goods Store
Francis Sporting Goods

We were always told that it's not bragging when it's a fact. So you can't consider Francis Sporting Goods, 731 Mass., as being a store full of braggarts. Their slogan, "Over 50 years of kickin' Mass.," does pretty much sum it up. With a wide selection of running shoes, baseball, tennis equipment and high school letter jackets, Francis is the franchise player of sporting good stores in Lawrence. You could give the ball to someone else, but if you want a definite game-winner, might as well clear out for Francis. SJ

Best Bookstore
Borders Books Music & Cafe

All grumbling aside, it looks like national bookstore chain Borders Books Music and Cafe, 700 N.H., is doing booming business without running the local bookshops out of town. The store offers heaps of books and magazines, from computer self-help books to investment strategy guides to the new Liz Smith bio to Christopher Lowell's new design book to true crime and poetry. They have a coffee shop with its own art gallery featuring local artists. (This month's artist, Mike Snook, has some pretty hip black and white works on display.) They host readings and have live music. What they don't have, because they don't have room, are all those older, hard-to-find tomes, like what The Dusty Bookshelf, 708 Mass., offers, or the quantity of mysteries that The Raven Bookstore, 8 E. Seventh St., supplies. With so many book vendors so close together, you'd think there would be some fistfights breaking out, but like feuding relatives all sharing the same house, the peaceful coexistence between Borders and the other guys remains intact. MN

Best Grocery Store
Hy-Vee Food Stores

"It has it all" says the ads for Hy-Vee. The store offers a lot more than good products, fresh foods and reasonable prices. The Lawrence locations at 4000 W. Sixth St. and 3504 Clinton Parkway have kitchens that serve up dinners such as roasted chicken, country fried steak and Chinese food that customers Dale and Floyd Olson say is tasty and reasonably priced like other Hy-Vee products. Dale claims she likes the health food sections, especially at the Sixth street location, where shelves are filled with low-fat foods and veggie favorites. The stores also provide samples of their products this is a plus for hungry college students or moms with children who are about to throw a tantrum. Shoppers also can pick up items like plants, TicketMaster tickets, a Mexican Falsa blanket or a giddy-up pony. KB

Best Hardware Store
Westlake Ace Hardware

What do you want? A shovel, ice melt, lawnmower, oil, chains, rope, bookshelves, duct tape, hammers, chain saws, toilet seats, furniture polish, paint, ice cream, plants, lawn chai

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