Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of Birmingham 2012

Arts & Entertainment

Best Annual Event

6040 Barber Motorsports Parkway | (877) 332-7804 |
After three great years, this event has already become the favorite with voters. In terms of pure speed and adrenaline, there's been nothing else like it in town.

FINALISTS | Earth Month at Richard Joseph SalonSpa, Multiple locations, | SEC Baseball Tournament, Regions Park, 100 Ben Chapman Drive, Hoover, (205) 988-3200,

Best Art Festival
Three decades old, this fantastic downtown arts festival has launched the careers of many artists and has made a name for Birmingham as a cultural destination. 

FINALISTS | Art Walk, Sept. 7-8, | Moss Rock Festival,

Best Art Gallery

3831 Clairmont Ave., Forest Park | (205) 595-3553 | 

Funky and fun, this Forest Park gallery, owned by Veronique Vanblaere, is a hit with locals and visitors for its fresh take on art that is meaningful but not intimidating. 

FINALISTS | Matt Jones Art Gallery, 2830 6th Avenue South, Birmingham, (205) 521-6656, | Monty Stabler Galleries, 1811 29th Avenue South, Homewood, (205) 879-9888,

Best Charity Event
This fundraiser is part of Aveda's "Every Drop Matters" Campaign. Locally, the event donates 100 percent of proceeds to the Cahaba River Society. It's a great party with a real purpose. 

FINALISTS | Alys Robinson Stephens Center VIVA Health Starlight Gala, 1200 10th Avenue South, Birmingham, (205) 975-2787, | CCA Crawfest at Birmingham Zoo, 2630 Cahaba Road, Birmingham, (205) 879-0409,

Best Cultural Institution
2000 8th Avenue South, Birmingham | (205) 254-2565 |
With its impressive permanent collection and notable temporary exhibits, not to mention the new Bartís Art Adventure for kids and summertime Art on the Rocks events, the Birmingham Museum of Art continues to justify its role as the city's number-one cultural institution. 

FINALISTS | Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, 520 16th Street North, Birmingham, (205) 328-9696, | McWane Science Center, 205 19th Street North, Birmingham, (205) 714-8300,

Best Kids' Dance Classes 
1715 27th Court South, Homewood | (205) 870-0073 |
Over the past 37 years, the dance studio in downtown Homewood has become something of an institution. Offering far more than just kids' classes, CDF is the top choice for locals looking for some of the best dance instruction anywhere.

FINALISTS | ArtPlay, 1530 3rd Avenue South, Birmingham, (205) 975-4769, | Dale Serrano Dance Studio, 2121 Arbor Hill Parkway, Birmingham, (205) 682-0800,

Best Kids' Music Lessons

3187 Cahaba Heights Road, Vestavia Hills | (205) 908-7059 |
This Cahaba Heights studio is the natural next step for owners Will and Sarah Mason, musicians who once traveled to homes around town teaching classes. They offer lessons in guitar, drums, voice, piano and group performance.

FINALISTS | ArtPlay 1530 3rd Avenue South, Birmingham, (205) 975-4769, | Birmingham School of Music, 800 Olde Towne Road, Vestavia Hills, (205) 969-8763,

Best Live Music Venue
3719 3rd Avenue South, Birmingham | (205) 533-6288 |
Although it's not huge, Bottletree has developed such an impressive reputation with both performers and show attendees that many significant acts put the Avondale location on their tour map. The Airstream accommodations and delicious vegetarian food are also big hits. 

FINALISTS | Workplay, 500 23rd Street South, Birmingham, (205) 879-4773, | Alys Robinson Stephens Performing Arts Center, 1200 10th Avenue South, Birmingham, (205) 975-2787,

Best Local Actor or Actress
Hal Word has proven himself to be one of Birmingham's most versatile actors, whether in musicals "The Wild Party" at the Virginia Samford Theatre; "The Sound of Music" at Red Mountain Theatre Company), comedy ("China: The Whole Enchilada" at Terrific New Theatre) or in more dramatic roles ("Becky Shaw" at Birmingham Festival Theatre).

FINALISTS | Ben Taylor | Jan Hunter

Best Local Artist
Painter, printmaker and photographer Michael Swann creates works that celebrate the human form. 

FINALISTS | Gary Chapman, | Sherri Van Pelt,

Best Local Band (original music)
As soon as this handful of area musicians joined forces to form The Great Book of John, the crowd followed. Richly produced and dense with sound, this band is also known for its impressive songwriting. 

FINALISTS | Matthew Mayfield, | Within Reason,

Best Local Cover Band
205-908-3829 |
This dynamic band features members from diverse backgrounds, a key reason why their sound is so flexible and so exciting. Find them at Café Firenze, Courtyard on 280 and other area bars. 

FINALISTS | The Raygun Administration, | Black Jacket Symphony,

Best Local Music Festival
It just keeps going-and growing. The Schaeffer Eye Center Crawfish Boil has become the dominant music festival in the metro area with more impressive acts every year. 

FINALISTS | Secret Stages, | The Preserve Jazz Festival,

Best Marching Band
Music instruction is a key element of education in the Homewood City School System, and the marching band is the most visible example of the system's success. Marching in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Rose Bowl Parade in recent years, this band has a following far beyond its immediate community. 

FINALISTS | Hoover High School | UAB

Best Night Club

416 24th Street South, Birmingham | (205) 251-4313 |
Great music, an accepting vibe (everyone is welcome, any night of the week), and everything from karaoke, drag shows and more. Oh, and it's open 24/7.

FINALISTS | Aqua, 2824 5th Avenue South, Birmingham (205) 396-7238, | Workplay, 500 23rd Street South, Birmingham, (205) 879-4773,

Best Place to Take an Out-of-Towner
1701 Valley View Drive, Birmingham | (205) 933-1409 |
What's not to like? It's got history, it's got a great view of both Jones Valley and Shades Mountain, it's close to everything-and it has a giant cast iron statue of a Roman god with a bare derriere.

FINALISTS | Barber Motorsports Park, 6040 Barber Motorsports Parkway, (877) 332-7804, | Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, 520 16th Street North, Birmingham (205) 328-9696,

Best Place to Watch a Movie
When the latest blockbuster is out, you gotta go big. Big seats, big screen, big popcorn, big drink. Rave is the city's favorite movie location hands down.

FINALISTS | Free Friday Flicks, | The Edge,

Best Radio Station

Only a few years old, this Internet radio station scored some major local talent from the get-go and built some top-notch programs that have secured a solid listener base. Best of all: You can enjoy it on your computer at work.

FINALISTS | 90.3 WBHM, | 94.5 WJOX,

Best Theater Company
2821 2nd Avenue South, Birmingham | (205) 328-0868 | 
This 26-year-old theater group performs all manner of things from their intimate stage at Pepper Place. No matter what the show, you can bet it's always going to be something memorable at TNT.

FINALISTS | ArtPlay, 1530 3rd Avenue South, Birmingham, (205) 975-4769, | Red Mountain Theatre Company, 301 19th Street North, Birmingham, (205) 324-2424,

Best TV Station
FOX 6 
With a stable of highly experienced on-air, production and reporting talent, and a deeply entrenched brand in the community, Fox 6 wins this category handily. 

FINALISTS | ABC 33/40  |  CBS 42


Best Bar
2929 7th Avenue South, Birmingham | (205) 328-1748 |
Now something of a local institution, this Lakeview Bar has enough space to pack in a party. Live music and regular drink specials keep the people coming year round.

FINALISTS | Good People Brewing Company, 114 14th Street South, Birmingham, (205) 286-2337, | Old Car Heaven, 115 35th Street South, Birmingham, (205) 326-8902,

Best Barbecue
1008 Oxmoor Road, Homewood | (205) 879-1937 |  
Like a barbecue siren song, Mike Wilson's Edgewood joint beckons customers from far and wide with its ubiquitous wood smoke. Inside, fans are rewarded with fork-tender smoked chicken and pork, massive ribs, and an assortment of homemade sides and desserts that change seasonally.

FINALISTS | Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q, multiple locations, | Dreamland BBQ, 1427 14th Avenue South, Birmingham, (205) 933-2133,

Best Brunch 


358 Hollywood Boulevard, Homewood | (205) 639-1910 |
The relatively new restaurant at Hollywood Boulevard and Highway 280 intersection is packed on weekend mornings, and with good reason. Fresh and healthy menu items, many sourced locally, have made believers out of Birmingham. Make sure to try the blue grits.

FINALISTS | Trattoria Centrale, 207 20th Street South, Birmingham, (205) 202-5612, | The Bottletree Café, 3719 3rd Avenue South, Birmingham, (205) 533-6288,

Best Burger 
Although it's a chain, the high-quality ingredients, nearly countless combinations of toppings and to-die-for fries at Five Guys has convinced locals that they deserve the top spot. Anyplace that serves malt vinegar has got to be a winner.

FINALISTS |  Chez Fonfon, 2007 11th Avenue South, Birmingham, (205) 939-3221, | The J. Clyde, 1312 Cobb Lane, Birmingham, (205) 939-1312,

Best Chinese 
4500 Montevallo Road, Birmingham | (205) 951-3168 |
The elegant interior of this Eastwood restaurant is instantly calming; the comprehensive menu and full bar is utterly rewarding.

FINALISTS | Mr. Chen’s, 1917 Hoover Court, Birmingham, (205) 824-8283, | PF Chang’s, Summit Boulevard, Birmingham, (205) 967-0040,

Best Coffee Shop
2007 University Boulevard, Birmingham | (205) 328-2007 |
This Southside coffee shop is more than just a place to get a cup of joe. It's a community. If you're in need of a pick-me-up, in the form or caffeine or just a cheerful hello and a fresh sandwich on a bright yellow plate, this is the place for you.

FINALISTS | O’Henry’s, Multiple locations, | Primavera Coffee Roasters, 4133 White Oak Drive, Birmingham, (205) 969-1177,

Best Cupcake
960 Oxmoor Road, Homewood | (205) 871-9377 |
If you haven't had one of Jan Moon's cupcakes by now, you are in a shrinking minority. The little Cahaba Heights shop relocated to Edgewood, bought a food truck, and watched its business explode. These delectable delights are not to be missed.

FINALISTS | Edgar’s Bakery, Multiple locations, | Gigi’s Cupcakes, 4745 Chace Circle #121, Hoover, (205) 444-4170,

Best Deli
3431 Colonnade Parkway, Birmingham | (205) 968-7600 |
Piled high with meat and cheese and supplemented with delicious salads, chips and pickles, the sandwiches at Max's Deli are the closest thing to the real New York deal anywhere here in Birmingham. The pastrami is amazing.

FINALISTS | Mr. P’s Deli, 813 Shades Crest Road, Hoover, (205) 823-6136, | Diplomat Deli, 1425 Montgomery Highway, Vestavia Hills, (205) 979-1515, 

Best Dessert 
Multiple locations,
So many choices, so little time. Cookies? Brownies? Cake? Pie? Cupcakes? Muffins? Pastries? Edgar's has it all, beautifully displayed and lovingly made.

FINALISTS | Cheesecake Factory, 236 Summit Boulevard, Birmingham, (205) 262-1800, | Red Mango Frozen Yogurt and Smoothies, two locations,

Best Food and/or Drink Festival
Now sprawling across Railroad Park and featuring a growing number of participating restaurants, this festival benefits the Birmingham Originals, a collective of local chefs.

FINALISTS | Greek Food Festival, | Magic City Brewfest,

Best Food Truck
Cantina has been at it's brick-and-mortar location in Pepper Place for a decade, so it's no surprise that when the late, great Guillermo Castro took his Mexican street food to, wellÖthe street, that people would respond. Nothing is happier than the sight of hot fish tacos being served just down the block.

FINALISTS | Shindigs Catering,  | Dreamcakes Bakery,

Best Girls' Night Out 
2240 Highland Avenue South, Birmingham | (205) 939-1000 |
Yes, it has some of the best food in the nation. But Bottega is also a hip, happening hot spot and wins big in the Girls' Night Out category. If you want to see and be seen, you can't do any better than Bottega.

FINALISTS | Chez Fonfon, 2007 11th Avenue South, Birmingham, (205) 939-3221, | Sips ‘n Strokes, Multiple locations,

Best Italian Food
2240 Highland Avenue South, Birmingham | (205) 939-1000 |
Frank Stitt's brilliant two-sided restaurant on Highland Avenue has completely transformed the way we think about food in Birmingham. The café side specializes in seasonal, casual Italian food featuring local ingredients. 

FINALISTS | Gianmarco’s, 721 Broadway Street, Homewood, (205) 871-9622 | Joe’s Italian, 21 Weatherly Club Drive, Alabaster, (205) 663-4111,

Best Local Chef 
2180 11th Court South, Birmingham | (205) 933-5474 |
Birmingham's first Iron Chef winner has earned his title through hard work both at home and on the Food Network sound stage. Inside his restaurant, Hot and Hot Fish Club, and through his cookbooks and other regional menus, Hastings has built a mighty reputation all his own.

FINALISTS | Frank Stitt, Highlands Bar and Grill, 2011 11th Avenue South, Birmingham, (205) 939-1400, | Becky Satterfield, Satterfield’s Restaurant, 3161 Cahaba Heights Road, Vestavia Hills, (205) 969-9690,

Best Mediterranean Food
21629 10th Avenue South, Birmingham | (205) 939-4278 |
A UAB favorite, Al's Deli and Grill says it all on their website: "Where the service is fast and the portions are large!" 

FINALISTS | DoDiYos, 1831 28th Avenue South, Homewood, (205) 453-9300, | Nabeel’s Café, 1706 Oxmoor Road, Homewood, (205) 879-9292,

Best Mexican Food


2811 7th Avenue South, Birmingham | (205) 322-1186 |
Guillermo Castro opened his Mexican tapas restaurant more than a decade ago and saw an immediate success. Years later, this local gem still features fresh Gulf seafood, a large selection of high-end tequilas and a gorgeous second-floor patio. We miss you, Guillermo, but your vision lives on.

FINALISTS | El Barrio, 2211 2nd Avenue North, Birmingham, (205) 868-3737, | Sol Azteca, 1360 Montgomery Highway, Vestavia Hills, (205) 979-4902

Best New Restaurant 
2821 Central Avenue, Homewood  | (205) 703-7000 |
Opened by Jim 'N Nicks owners Fresh Hospitality, this authentic taqueria found a home in an underused brick building in Homewood and almost immediately transformed the entire block into a hip food zone. A variety of tacos, served in fresh corn tortillas made on site daily, share menu space with fascinating soups, sides and a cocktail menu you'll be dreaming about for days after.

FINALISTS | O Sushi, 5519 Grove Boulevard, Hoover, (205) 733-3736 | FIVE, 744 29th Street South, Birmingham (205) 868-3841,

Best Pizza


725 29th Street South, Birmingham | (205) 715-9300 |
The Bajalieh brothers have taken a classic pairing: pizza and beer, and have elevated both to a new level. An impressive menu of hand-crafted pizzas and an amazing array of local and national craft beers mean that this is not just your ordinary pitcher-and-pepperoni dinner. This is an experience.

FINALISTS |  Mafiaoza’s, 2 Dexter Avenue, Birmingham, (205) 414-7878, | California Pizza Kitchen, two locations,

Best Place for a Frozen Treat
1801 5th Avenue South, Birmingham  | (205) 701-1161 |
Zen Yogurt stormed onto the frozen yogurt scene and quickly built a passionate following. Their sweet/tangy treats, bursting with healthy goodness, are the reason why.

FINALISTS | Steel City Pops, 2821 Central Avenue, Suite 109, Homewood, (205) 969-8770, | Red Mango Frozen Yogurt and Smoothies, 

Best Romantic Dinner
1218 20th Street South, Birmingham | (205) 933-0999 |
Maybe it's the groovy, cool-blue interior. Or maybe it's the great service. Or perhaps it's the amazing seafood. Heck, maybe it really is the oysters. No matter what the reason is, it works for couples at Ocean.

FINALISTS | Café Dupont, 113 20th Street North, Birmingham, (205) 322-1282, | Highlands Bar and Grill, 2011 11th Avenue South, Birmingham, (205) 939-1400,

Best Service 
2011 11th Avenue South, Birmingham | (205) 939-1400 |
It's like a ballet, really. The coordination between hostess, servers, kitchen staff and chef is so beautifully choreographed at Highlands that you take it for granted. And that's just the way they want it. Your every need is met before you realize you even have a need-all so you can focus on the food.

FINALISTS | The TakeOut Birmingham, (205) 823-7424, | Vino, 1930 Cahaba Road, Birmingham (205) 870-8404,

Best Steak
The editors were surprised but the people have spoken: the steaks at Outback win the category.

FINALISTS | Ruth’s Chris Steak House, 2300 Woodcrest Place, Homewood, (205) 879-9995, | MetroPrime Steakhouse, 1035 20th Street South, Birmingham, (205) 623-5288,

Best Sushi


Even with four locations around the city, Surin's sushi menu has stayed delicious and popular.

FINALISTS | O Sushi, 5519 Grove Boulevard, Hoover, (205) 733-3736 | Sekisui, 700 Montgomery Hwy, Suite 178, (205) 978-7775, 

Best Thai

In addition to their extensive sushi menu, Surin also specializes in its native Thai cuisine. After 17 years in Birmingham, the restaurant has built a large and dedicated following.

FINALISTS | Taste of Thailand, 3321 Lorna Road, #3, Birmingham, (205) 978-6863 | Taipei 101, 471 Green Springs Highway, Homewood, (205) 912-7037,

Best Vegetarian Food
3719 3rd Avenue South, Birmingham | (205) 533-6288 |  

Although they closed for lunch several months ago, this popular music venue and vegetarian restaurant is back open, and folks are thrilled. For a healthy meal that won't weigh you down during the day, check out Bottletreeís fresh and fantastic midday fare.

FINALISTS | Zoe’s Kitchen, Mutiple locations, | Golden Temple, two locations,

People, Places & Things

Best Beach Getaway


A paradise vacation without the cost of an airline ticket is one of the many reasons Orange Beach should be your next road trip destination. With entertainment like golf courses, amusement parks, and of course the white sand and blue water, this small town has something for everyone.

FINALISTS | Destin area, | Gulf Shores,

Most Colorful Politician
Despite (or because of?) imprisonment, the former mayor takes this in a landslide. 

FINALISTS | Mary Buckelew | William Bell

Best Columnist
A columnist's job isn't an easy one. They have to make sure their readers are constantly engaged with new material. It's clear that this Birmingham News writer knows how to keep the public interested because he's continued his winning streak from last year.

FINALISTS | Micah House-Cargo, B-Metro | Michael Huebner, The Birmingham News

Best Day-Trip Destination
When you feel the need to something a bit bigger than Birmingham, take the short drive to ATL. With easy access to new museums, concert halls, sporting arenas, historical centers, the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca-Cola, CNN Studio and Underground Atlanta's shops and restaurants, you can get a big-cty cultural experience without jet lag.

FINALISTS | Chattanooga, |  Pensacola,

Best Hotel
1903 29th Avenue South, Homewood | (205) 874-8055 |
With the ability to step outside the front entrance and walk to any of the shops in Homewood and SOHO square, Aloft Hotel is the perfect spot for visitors. With a pool, entertainment for kids and plenty of delicious eatery options, this hotel will please even the pickiest of travelers.

FINALISTS | The Historic Tutwiler Hotel, 2021 Park Place, (205) 322-2100,  |  Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa, 4000 Grand Ave., Hoover, (205) 916-7677,

Best Lake Getaway
We all know that the best way to cool down is a trip to the lake. Smith Lake offers cabins, fishing piers, boating and the cleanest lake water in the state. 

FINALISTS | Lake Martin | Lake Guntersville

Best Library
200 Municipal Drive, Hoover | (205) 444-7800 |
Libraries are no longer places just for books. While Hoover Public Library offers thousands of printed tomes, there are also video games, movies, classes for adults and children as well as other special events. 

FINALISTS | Birmingham Public Library-Central Branch, 2100 Park Place, Birmingham, (205) 226-2604, | Homewood Public Library, 1721 Oxmoor Road, Homewood, (205) 332-6600,

Best Local Blog

Information abounds on this local blog. With tips on what to do, how to live, what to buy, prizes to win and more, no local mom need ever worry again. And it's all done with a heavy dose of humor and empathy.

FINALISTS | Jen West Quest, | Same Chic Different Day,

Best Local who has Appeared on Reality Television
Martie Duncan has been cooking and entertaining in Birmingham for some time. However, just this year she made it onto "Food Network Star" where she appeared in the finals. Even though she may not have won, she still shines brightly in Birmingham's culinary constellation.

FINALISTS | Taylor Hicks | Tribble Reese

Best Park
Between 14th and 18th Streets and First Avenue South |
This 19-acre greenspace has shown up in multiple categories. It has been a crowd favorite since it opened in September 2010, and seems to be just the right amount of outdoors in the midst of our urban cityscape.

FINALISTS | Moss Rock Preserve, Preserve Parkway, Hoover, | Homewood Central Park, 1632 Oxmoor Road, Homewood,

Best Place to People Watch
3000 Riverchase Galleria, Hoover, (205) 985-3020 |
The food court at Riverchase Galleria is prime seating for people watching. With hundreds of tables and plenty of restaurant choices, shoppers can enjoy the view for hours.

FINALISTS | Railroad Park, Between 14th and 18th Streets and First Avenue South, | Five Points

Best Place to Take a Date
113 20th Street N., (205)-322-1282 |
Drinks and dinner in this historic building feels like a step back to the romantic Roaring '20s. The French/Southern menu changes constantly, so it's worth making this a regular date spot.

FINALISTS | Highlands Bar and Grill, 2011 11th Ave. S., Five Points South, (205) 939-1400, | Comedy Club Stardome, 1818 Data Drive, Hoover, (205) 444-0008,

Best Radio Personality


Reg's Coffeehouse was Scott Register's brainchild 15 years ago, and he's still reaching the Birmingham community, as well as a large syndicated audience, almost daily. Birmingham Mountain Radio hosts him on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m. on The Morning Blend.

FINALISTS | Rick and Bubba, WZZK 104.7 | Paul Finebaum, WJOX-FM 94.5

Best Sports Commentator 
Sheldon Haygood of Fox 6 News is the city's favorite weekend sports anchor. He is on the move during the week covering sporting events in the Birmingham area as well as the Southeast. You can find him on Twitter @SheldonFox6.

FINALISTS | Paul Finebaum, WJOX-FM 94.5 | Rick Karle, FOX 6 News

Best TV Personality


ABC 33/40 viewers know and love Brenda Ladun. The past two years she's won Best News Anchor, and continues her winning streak this year. Ladun delivers the city's news during the stations 6 and 10 p.m. broadcasts and Sunday's "Matters of Faith" reports, but she's also won the community over with her annual Brenda Ladun Conquer Cancer Run.

FINALISTS | James Spann, ABC 33/40 | Mickey Ferguson, FOX 6 News.

Best Tweeter

Birmingham's meteorologist has over 50,000 followers on Twitter, and who can blame them? With his detailed, clear accounts of weather, Twitter's 140 characters is the perfect medium to get the weather report out quickly and effectively.

FINALISTS | Jeff Green, @ICONPerformance | Rick Muscles, @RickMuscles

Best View of the City
1701 Valley View Drive | (205) 933-1409 |
Standing tall on top of Red Mountain is Birmingham's favorite metal god of the forge. Feel free to go up and visit him and share in the iron giant's panoramic overlook of the city. It's just an elevator ride or a few stairs up for Birmingham's most spectacular view.

FINALISTS | The Club, 1 Robert S. Smith Drive, Birmingham, (205) 323-5821, | Red Mountain Overlook, 1500 22nd Street South

Shopping & Services

Best Antique Store
5514 Crestwood Boulevard, Birmingham | (205) 592-0777 |
You'll get more than good stuff at this popular shop in the Crestwood Shopping Center. You'll get design inspiration.

FINALISTS | Hanna’s Antiques, 2424 7th Avenue South, Birmingham, (205) 323-6036, | What’s on Second?, 2706 2nd Avenue North, Birmingham, (205) 322-2688

Best Auto Mechanic
2706 2nd Avenue North, Birmingham | (205) 322-2688 |
Tired of the dealership? See the folks at Duffy's Garage. From repairs on European Imports to handling small fender benders on all models, they are truly a service alternative. 

FINALISTS | Kelly Shebs of Technique Automotive, 258 Yeager Parkway, Pelham, (205) 685-0711, | B.Y.O.P Automotive, two locations,

Best Bookstore
2717 18th Street South, Homewood | (205) 870-7461 |
This reader's paradise is tucked right in the heart of Homewood and is full of everything from best sellers to used bargains. 

FINALISTS | Barnes and Noble, Multiple locations, | Alabama Booksmith, 2626 19th Place South, Homewood, (205) 870-4242,

Best Boutique

1425 Montgomery Highway, Vestavia Hills | (205) 824-9441
A less-than-two-mile move down Highway 31 meant a huge increase in business for this chic boutique.

FINALISTS | Soca Clothing, 2820 18th Street South, Homewood, (205) 879-6788, |  Shaia’s, 2818 18th Street South, Homewood, (205) 871-1312,

Best Caterer

11 West Park Circle, Birmingham | (205) 942-4210 |
Kathy Mezrano has become something of a local catering legend. After countless events big and small, Kathy G has earned the following that secured her win.

FINALISTS | Iz Café, 2514 Rocky Ridge Road, Vestavia Hills, (205) 979-7570, | Happy Catering, 225 Oxmoor Circle, Suite 802, Homewood, (205) 251-8925,

Best Consignment Store
3900 Clairmont Avenue South, Birmingham | (205) 595-9049 |
This Forest Park landmark is a mecca for those looking for an original piece for their wardrobe.

FINALISTS | Renaissance Consignment Boutique, 6801 Cahaba Valley Road, Birmingham, (205) 980-4471, | Collage Designer Consignment, Multiple locations,

Best Drycleaners
2816 Cahaba Road, Mountain Brook | (205) 870-4412
These people are really nice. And they do a great job making your clothes look really nice, too.

FINALISTS | Deluxe Cleaners, Multiple locations, | Hunter’s Cleaners, 915 Oxmoor Road, Homewood, (205) 871-6131

Best Farmer's Market


2829 2nd Avenue South, Birmingham | (205) 802-2100 |
Pepper Place has probably done more to promote locally grown food and the chefs who cook with it than any other organization in town.

FINALISTS | Alabama Farmers Market, | Freshfully, 200 41st Street South, Avondale,

Best Florist
Birmingham's largest florist can do everything from the smallest bouquet to the largest wedding or corporate installation. Locally owned and full of flower happiness. 

FINALISTS | Flowerbuds Inc., 3114 Cahaba Heights Village, Birmingham, (205) 970-3223, | Dorothy McDaniel’s Flower Market, 2560 18th Street South, Homewood, (205) 871-0092,

Best Garden Shop
Beautiful, unique gifts, gorgeous plants and more are inside all three locations of this great garden shop.

FINALISTS | Collier’s Nursery, 2904 Old Rocky Ridge Road, Birmingham, (205) 822-3133,  |  Andy’s Creekside Nursery, 3351 Morgan Drive, Vestavia Hills, (205) 824-0233,

Best Grocery Store
Still a relative newcomer in a city known for its local grocery chains, Publix has built a committed customer base that couldn't imagine shopping anywhere else. People love the great service, clean stores and great-tasting store brands.

FINALISTS | V. Richards, 3916 Clairmont Avenue South, Birmingham, (205) 591-7000, | Freshfully, 200 41st Street South, Avondale,

Best Hardware Store

597 Shades Crest Road, Birmingham | (205) 823-1953
In a time of constant change, it's nice to know that some things haven't changed much at all. Step into Bluff Park Hardware and be comforted by tradition and DIY knowledge.

FINALISTS | Little Hardware, 2703 Culver Road, Mountain Brook, (205) 871-4616 | Rocky Ridge Hardware, 3354 Morgan Drive, Birmingham, (205) 979-5444,

Best Home Contractor
2907 Central Avenue, Suite 105, Homewood | (205) 802-3920 |
Even in a downturn when no one seems to be building much of anything, Twin is going strong. Customers love the company's high-quality work and their honest business practices.

FINALISTS | Michael Eubanks, 5821 7th Ave South, Birmingham | The Townley Corporation, 3312 Sandhurst Road, Birmingham

Best Home Décor 
610 Colonial Brookwood Village, Birmingham | (205) 879-1722, |
Affordable, stylish and more than a little glam, Z Gallerie's distinctive furnishings and accessories are a hit with readers.

FINALISTS | AtHome Furnishings, 2921 18th Street, Birmingham, (205) 879-3510, | I.O. Metro Furniture, Art & Accessories, 4431 Creekside Avenue, Birmingham, (205) 444-0641,

Best Jeweler
Tradition counts for something, and Bromberg's has it in spades. For 176 years, Bromberg's has been right here in town serving their neighbors with sophistication and experience.

FINALISTS | Levy’s Fine Jewelry, 2116 2nd Avenue North, Birmingham, (205) 251-3381, | Steed’s Jewelers Inc., 1425 Montgomery Highway, Vestavia Hills, (205) 822-9173,

Best Kitchen Supplies Store 
Summit Boulevard, Birmingham, | (205) 970-4101 |
Williams-Sonoma was known to locals only via catalog until it opened its storefront at the Summit. Now it is the go-to location for everything kitchen and wedding registry.

FINALISTS | The Cook Store, 2841 Cahaba Road, Mountain Brook, (205) 879-5277, | Birmingham Bake and Cook Co., 5291 Valleydale Road # 125, Birmingham, (205) 980-3661,

Best Landscaping Company
4965 Horst Hill Road, Irondale | (205) 215-1021 |
This Irondale company is focused on quality, whether it be in design, installation or maintenance. 

FINALISTS | NatureScape, Inc., 159 Greenwich Drive, Pelham, (205) 664-7774, | Falkner Gardens Inc., 2337 20th Avenue South, Birmingham, (205) 871-5999,

Best Makeup Artist
It's a tricky thing, makeup. Some folks do too much, some do too little. No matter the occasion, Lindsay Garrett does it just right.

FINALISTS | Annette Hyche at Studio A, 2337 20th Avenue South, Birmingham, (205) 871-5999, | Flannery Miles-Hooks,

Best Moving Company
3114 Belwood Drive, Birmingham | (205) 267-4761 |
Moving day is no fun for anyone, but the folks at Two Men and a Truck (there are more than two now) help ease the stress. 

FINALISTS | New Latitudes, 288 Snow Drive, Birmingham, (205) 988-9000, | McCorquodale Transfer, 381 Summit Boulevard, Birmingham, (205) 870-7474,

Best Neighborhood Toy Store 
2830 18th Street South, Birmingham | (205) 879-3986 |
Maybe it's the fun circus-tent-awning out front, or the play tables for the toddlers, or the great selection of toys and gifts. Whatever it is, it's worked for Homewood Toy & Hobby for decades.

FINALISTS | Smith’s Variety Store, 2715 Culver Road, Mountain Brook, (205) 871-0841 | A Tiny Kingdom, 2834 Culver Road, Mountain Brook, (205) 802-8469,

Best Salon
For more than two decades, this Aveda salon has helped countless locals find their Zen moment.

FINALISTS | Sanctuary, 1931 29th Avenue South, Homewood, (205) 879-4757, | Studio A, 2337 20th Avenue South, Birmingham, (205) 871-5999, 

Best Spa


Get pampered at the English Village or Inverness location-either way, you'll leave refreshed and relaxed.

FINALISTS | Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa, 4000 Grand Avenue, Birmingham, (205) 916-7677, | Smart Skin Med Spa, 32 Church Street, Birmingham, (205) 871-8707,

Best Veterinarian 
501 Scott Street, Homewood | (205) 943-0008
It takes a special person to be a vet, and Dr. Mike is one of those people. His vote tally is proof of how much his patients love him.

FINALISTS | Standifer Animal Clinic, 2810 19th Place SouthHomewood, (205) 871-8186, | Galleria Animal Clinic, 2953 John Hawkins Parkway, Hoover, (205) 987-7297 

Sports & Leisure

Best Bike Shop


1944 28th Avenue South, Homewood | (205) 879-2258,
Bob's Bikes is a  licensed dealer in Specialized, Giant and other brands. Visit their online ride calendar to see when groups depart from the store for rides through the region.

FINALISTS | Cahaba Cycles, multiple locations, for details | Bike Link, 2766 John Hawkins Parkway, Hoover, (205) 991-3335,

Best Bike Trail 
(205) 620-2520 |
Watch out if you happen to be running or walking on the infamous Red Trail at Oak Mountain. Chances are there is a biker headed toward you, and fast!

FINALISTS | Red Mountain Park Trails, 277 Lyon Lane, Birmingham, (205) 202-6043, | Homewood Shades Creek Greenway Trail,

Best Bowling Alley


1429 Montgomery Highway, Vestavia Hills | (205) 979-4420 |
Bowling has retained its retro charm, and when the weather is too hot (or cold) and the kids are restless, it's always a good call. Still good for date nights, too.

FINALISTS | Brunswick Riverview Lanes, 2908 Riverview Road, Birmingham, (205) 991-3900, | Lightning Strikes Bowling, 3600 Roosevelt Boulevard, Trussville, (205) 655-4500, 

Best Fitness Program


3156 Sunview Drive, Birmingham, 35243 | (205) 381-3100 |
Matt Crane was a banker who left a career in finance to open his fitness training business in Cahaba Heights, and he's never looked back. The "Engaged in Fitness" workout is designed for couples to tone up for their wedding day.

FINALISTS | Firm Body Boot Camp with Roman McDonald, | SuperBodies Personal Training with Jeffrey Smith

Best Free Family Outing 
1600 1st Avenue South, Birmingham | (205) 521-9933 |
Some folks still consider the remarkable Railroad Park an experiment in urban planning. Thousands of area families, who flock to the park every day of the week, do not. This park is not just for UAB students and downtown workers. It has been fully and lovingly embraced by parents and kids from every part of town.

FINALISTS | Friday Night Flicks in Homewood, (205) 332-6700, | Birmingham Botanical Gardens, 2612 Lane Park Road, Birmingham, (205) 414-3950,

Best Golf Experience


100 SunBelt Parkway, Birmingham | (205) 942-1177,
This remarkable golf course has found itself neighbors with two stunning projects: Ross Bridge and Red Mountain Park. All the more reason to play a round at this fantastic course. 

FINALISTS | Highland Park Golf Course, 3300 Highland Avenue South, Birmingham, (205) 322-1902, | Shoal Creek Golf and Country Club, 100 New Williamsburg Drive, Shoal Creek, (205) 991-9000, 

Best Rock Climbing Spot, indoor or outdoor


617 Preserve Parkway, Hoover |
250 acres within the Greater Birmingham area is a big draw for climbing enthusiasts. Extensive trails also satisfy hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

FINALISTS | First Avenue Rocks, 2417 First Avenue South, Birmingham, (205) 320-2277, | Oak Mountain State Park, (205) 620-2520,

Best Sporting Event 
6030 Barber Motorsports Parkway, Birmingham  | (205) 699-7275 |
For the three years the IndyCars raced around the dramatic twists and turns of the Barber Motorsports Park, the crowds showed up to watch. And what an experience. Here's hoping for more great races at Barber.

FINALISTS | NCAA College Cup, | Birmingham Barons Baseball, 100 Ben Chapman Drive, Birmingham, (205) 988-3200,

Best Spot for A Picnic


1600 1st Avenue South, Birmingham | (205) 521-9933 |
Pack a basket at home or better, yet, order lunch from Georgeís Boxcar CafÈ under the big pavilion. Then sit back and watch the world go by.

FINALISTS | Oak Mountain State Park, (205) 620-2520, |  Vulcan Park and Museum, 1701 Valley View Drive, Birmingham, (205) 933-1409, 

Best Gym

FITNESS 4 U 24/7  

2539 John Hawkins Parkway, Suite 113, Hoover | (205) 403-3305 |
Truly a flexible workout space, members have access to the facility any time, day or night, all week long, with no long-term contracts. Visit during their staffed hours to learn more about the concept.

FINALISTS | Iron Tribe Fitness, 5029 Highway 280, Suite 102, Birmingham, (205) 873-2135, | Shaping U, 96 Hinds Street, Pelham, (205) 586-0662,

Best Personal Trainer 
3156 Sunview Drive, Birmingham, 35243 | (205) 381-3100 |
Matt Crane's personal and professional work ethic has inspired many devotees to vote him into the winner's spot. L.I.F.E. stands for Living in Fitness Everyday.

FINALISTS | Jeffrey Smith with SuperBodies Personal Training | William Blake with Fitness 4 U 24/7, 2539 John Hawkins Parkway, Suite 113, Hoover, (205) 403-3305,

Best Place to Buy Outdoor Gear


Now with four locations in Birmingham and more outside of the area, Mountain High's approach to selling outdoor gear and clothing has clearly proven to be successful.

FINALISTS | Alabama Outdoors, 3054 Independence Drive, Homewood, (205) 870-1919, |  Mark’s Outdoor Sports, 1400 Montgomery Highway, Vestavia Hills, (205) 822-2010, 

Best Swimming Pool


4000 Grand Ave., Hoover, (205) 916-7677 |
Choose from the serene indoor pool or the expansive outdoor pool (with waterfall and children's play area). Both are adjacent to the spa so you can break up your sunning and swimming with a facial or mani-pedi.

FINALISTS | Homewood Central Pool, (205) 332-6700, | Levite Jewish Community Center Pool, 3960 Montclair Road, Birmingham, (205) 879-0411,

Best Walking Trail 
277 Lyon Lane, Birmingham | (205) 202-6043 |
If you haven't been yet, you have to go. Just down Lakeshore, toward Bessemer, is an amazing new network of trails and Birmingham mining history, all rolled up into one gorgeous landscape.

FINALISTS | Vulcan Trail,  | Homewood Shades Creek Greenway Trail,

Best Yoga Instructor


1805 11th Avenue South | (205) 401-5010 |
April is a yoga instructor, massage therapist and birthing coach and has lots of fans.

FINALISTS | Brent Scrivner with Birmingham Yoga, 605 37th St South Birmingham, (205) 637-4228 | Kate Jenkins with Bikram Yoga Birmingham, 300 Olde Towne Road, Vestavia Hills, (205) 824-2626,  

Al Qaeda Disbands; Destroying U.S. Economy Now in Congress’s Hands

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—The international terror group known as Al Qaeda announced its dissolution today, saying that “our mission of destroying the American economy is now in the capable hands of the U.S. Congress.”
In an official statement published on the group’s website, the current leader of Al Qaeda said that Congress’s conduct during the so-called “fiscal-cliff” showdown convinced the terrorists that they had been outdone.
“We’ve been working overtime trying to come up with ways to terrorize the American people and wreck their economy,” said the statement from Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. “But even we couldn’t come up with something like this.”
Mr. al-Zawhiri said that the idea of holding the entire nation hostage with a clock ticking down to the end of the year “is completely insane and worthy of a Bond villain.”
“As terrorists, every now and then you have to step back and admire when someone else has beaten you at your own game,” he said. “This is one of those times.”
The Al Qaeda leader was fulsome in his praise for congressional leaders, saying, “We have made many scary videos in our time but none of them were as terrifying as Mitch McConnell.”
As for the future of Al Qaeda, the statement said that it would no longer be a terror network but would become “more of a social network,” offering reviews of new music, movies and video games.

Read more:



Alabama businesses in 2013

Businesses across Alabama are closing their books for 2012 and looking ahead to the new year with a mix of concern and optimism.

We asked Keivan Deravi, an economist at Auburn University Montgomery, and John Norris, managing director at Birmingham's Oakworth Capital Bank, to talk about the key factors that will shape the direction of commerce in the state during 2013.
1) Fiscal cliff/debt ceiling negotiations:
2) Affordable Care Act: 
3) Growth in big industry: 
4) The global economy:
5) Recovery in housing:

Get Along, Little Dogies

Out of Work? North Dakota Oil Jobs Pay Up to $90k

Velasquez Victorious

Published on Dec 31, 2012
MMA Live Extra wraps up all the action from UFC 155 and looks ahead to the next potential opponent for Cain Velasquez

Wise Eating

What You Think You Know (but Don’t) About Wise Eating

Let’s start the new year on scientifically sound footing by addressing some nutritional falsehoods that circulate widely in cyberspace, locker rooms, supermarkets and health food stores. As a result, millions of people are squandering hard-earned dollars on questionable, even hazardous foods and supplements.

The Strangest Non-Stories of 2012

Total Hooey: The Strangest Non-Stories of 2012

A lot of things happened in 2012, including scientific breakthroughs, a presidential re-election, and a tragic school shooting. But a lot of things didn't happen this past year.
We realize it's a little strange to discuss things that never occurred — after all, countless things didn't happen in 2012, from an asteroid hitting Earth, to Justin Bieber marrying a supermodel, to Abraham Lincoln climbing out of his grave to praise Steven Spielberg's  "Lincoln" as being more historically accurate than "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter."
But there were a handful of stories that made the news, often with a splash, promising big news, and turned out to be non-stories, non-events. Here are a few.

RC - Superman!



A TED speaker’s worst nightmare


Chemistry of Snowflakes


Moral Clarity

Despite all the sanctimony, liberalism has zero moral validity. The esteemed Dinesh D’Souza uses ObamaCare to illustrate.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Money-Saving Uses for Eggshells

Scammers Lurk Behind Area Code 876

How Area Code Scam Works
Seniors receive a call from an 876 area code, which is often mistaken for a toll-free number.
Victims are congratulated for winning the Jamaican lottery or a new car and then are directed to send a fee of up to $4,000 to process the lottery winnings.

Victims are told that once the fee is received, money will be wired to their bank account and the car will be delivered to their home.

Many times the caller will tell the victim that a representative of the lottery is in the area and as soon as the process fee is received, someone will deliver a check to their home. Scammers often use Google Earth to identify local landmarks and make the scam more believable.

Jesus Loves Me (for Seniors)...

Jesus Loves Me (For Seniors)

While watching a little TV on Sunday instead of going to church, I watched a Church in Atlanta honoring one of its senior pastors who had been retired many years. He was 92 at that time and I wondered why the Church even bothered to ask the
old gentleman to preach at that age. After a warm welcome, introduction of this speaker, and as the applause quieted down
he rose from his high back chair and walked slowly, with great effort and a sliding gait to the podium. Without a note or
written paper of any kind he placed both hands on the pulpit to steady himself and then quietly and slowly he began to speak.

"When I was asked to come here today and talk to you, your pastor asked me to tell you what was the greatest lesson ever
learned in my 50 odd years of preaching. I thought about it for a few days and boiled it down to just one thing that made the most difference in my life and sustained me through all my trials. The one thing that I could always rely on when tears and heart break and pain and fear and sorrow paralyzed me... The only thing that would comfort was this verse...
"Jesus loves me this I know.
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong,
We are weak but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me...
The Bible tells me so."
When he finished, the church was quiet.
You actually could hear his footsteps as he shuffled back to his chair.
I don't believe I will ever forget it.
A pastor once stated, "I always noticed that it was the adults who chose the children's hymn
'Jesus Loves Me' (for the children of course) during a hymn sing, and it was the adults who sang
the loudest because I could see they knew it the best."

"Senior version of Jesus Loves Me"
Here is a new version just for us who have white hair or no hair at all.
For us over middle age (or even those almost there) and all you others,
check out this newest version of Jesus Loves Me.

Jesus loves me, this I know,
Though my hair is white as snow
Though my sight is growing dim,
Still He bids me trust in Him.


Though my steps are oh, so slow,
With my hand in His I'll go
On through life, let come what may,
He'll be there to lead the way.

When the nights are dark and long,
In my heart He puts a song.
Telling me in words so clear,
"Have no fear, for I am near."

When my work on earth is done,
And life's victories have been won.
He will take me home above,
Then I'll understand his love.

I love Jesus, does He know?
Have I ever told Him so?
Jesus loves to hear me say,
That I love Him every day.

God Bless Us All!!!
Every day is a gift... That's why it's called the Present !!!