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Best Of County Line

Best of the Upper East Side of Texas

 

In its tenth year now, County Line Magazine’s annual survey to uncover the best in the Upper East Side of Texas just keeps discovering more and more treasures – a sign of the positive growth in the area and the many talented people that produce and prepare delicious food, open and maintain fun and interesting places in which to live and play, and entertain and inspire those lucky enough to witness the beauty of the region. This year’s winners represent a great selection of the best of 2013 in the Upper East Side of Texas. If your favorites didn’t make the cut this year, please do drop us line to let us know about them and we’ll spread the word.

Best Bakery/Sweets

The Luscious Crumb in Mineola. Winning for the second year in a row, this specialty bakery strives for originality in its creations filled with real butter, real cream, farm fresh eggs, and other ingredients, offering cookies, cakes, brownies, brownie cakes, and more. The past year’s been busy for them as they were featured and won a grand prize in the televised Food Network’s Cupcake Wars and opened a new location at The Market at the Crossing on Old Jacksonville Highway near Fresh by Brookshire’s in Tyler. 903.881.CAKE (2253). www.thelusciouscrumb.com. Runner up: Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Lindale, and Greenville

Best Barbecue

Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q in Tyler. A previous winner in 2007, Stanley’s continues to take the popular vote regionally and state wide for their meaty, baby back ribs and other meat choices including brisket, sausage, pulled pork, hot link, and turkey. They have other choices for kids and also serve breakfast. This past year they added a full bar and bring in some of the best entertainment in the Upper East Side of Texas. 525 South Beckham Ave. 903.593.0311. www.stanleysfamous.com. Runner up: Bodacious BBQ in Tyler

Best Breakfast

The Shed Café in Edom. Known for decades as a great little out-of-the-way café, locals and visitors traveling from miles away enjoy the down-home country-fresh breakfasts that have choices including eggs, omelet, biscuits and gravy, bacon, sausage, chicken-fried steak and gravy, fresh cut rib eye, build-your-own burritos, hotcakes and more. 8337 FM 279. 903.852.7791. www.theshedcafe.com. Runner up: Caffe Tazza in Tyler

Best Catfish 

Lake Athens Marina in Athens. Located on 28 acres of beautiful Athens Texas lake-view property, the restaurant at Lake Athens Marina sports a view with a getaway appeal and some mighty good hand-battered catfish with all the delicious trimmings. They have Homemade desserts such as coconut, chocolate, apple and cherry pies and wonderful Italian cream cake available by the slice or can be ordered whole to go. 5401 Marina Drive. 903.675.8686. www.lakeathensmarina.com. Runner up: Vaughns in Cypress Springs

Best Salsa and Tortilla Chips 

Villa Montez in Tyler. This Latin kitchen is located in the beautiful former Mansion on the Hill with multi-tiered landscaping and rhythmic architecture. Their fresh salsa is made with their own home-grown fresh herbs and tomatoes and is a crowd pleaser along with fresh tortilla chips. Raves on the rest of the menu are outstanding as well. 33424 Old Henderson Highway. 903.592.9696. www.villamontez.com. Runner up: Don Juan’s in Jefferson

Best Chicken-Fried Steak

Cotton Patch Café in Longview. Their big chicken-fried “nation” steak (also available in a smaller portion for a lower price) is a fresh cut of choice beef, breaded by hand, deep-fried, and topped with cream gravy. Side choices include garlic mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, fries, sautéed mushrooms, steamed veggies, fried okra, mac and cheese, black-eyed peas, broccoli, baked squash (in season) and broccoli-rice casserole. 1228 McCann. 903.236.4009. Runner up: The Shed Café in Edom

Best Coffee 

Brady’s Coffee Shop in Tyler. Long a favorite hang out in Tyler, besides great art on the walls, this classic coffee shop offers the warm beverage made from fresh whole 100 percent high grown Arabica coffee beans and also sells them by the bag. Other items such as chocolate-covered espresso beans, teas, and goodies like dark chocolate orange brownies, pineapple muffins, and warm sticky cinnamon rolls are also available for purchase. 309 W. Rusk St. 903.596.0508. www.bradyscoffee.com. Runner up: Jacksonville Joe’s.

Best Hamburger

Hamburger Bar in Palestine.  This one-of-a-kind café with a long bar complete with bar stools where diners can talk with the cook and wait staff, takes visitors back to a 1940s atmosphere (not because they were going for that, they just chose not to update). Staff is friendly and reviews boast about good burgers that bring diners back again and again. 502 N Tennessee Ave. 903.729.5353. Runner up: East Texas Burger Company in Mineola

Best Malt/Shake

Sunday Best Sandwich Shoppe in Atlanta. This little shop along a time-worn sidewalk in Atlanta’s original downtown region, has a full-length old-fashioned soda fountain that takes visitors down memory lane as they sip on signature milkshakes. 122 East Hiram. 903.796.7955. www Runner up: Charley’s in Wills Point

Best Pie

Sadler’s in Jacksonville. Known for their homemade chocolate and coconut cream and delicious strawberry pies, this family-owned restaurant promises pie to satisfy everyone’s tastes. They sell by the slice and by the pie. They also have Italian cream cake, pumpkin cheesecake, and more. 101 South Bonner St. 903.589.0866. www.sadlersrestaurant.com. Runner up: Kitt’s Kornbread Sandwich & Pie Bar.

Best Pizza

Val’s Italian Restaurant & Pizza Place in Canton. Homemade deliciousness in every bite, they offer a variety of styles including New York, deep-dish Sicilian, cheese, supreme, a white pizza with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, veggie pizza, meat, and calzones. All the regular toppings are available and then some. Great salads are also available here and guests are welcome to BYOB. 116 S. Capitol St. 903.567.3388.  Runner up: The Forge in Ben Wheeler.

Best Produce

Athens Farmers’ Market. Setting up in downtown Athens every Saturday from 8 a.m. to Noon are some of the best farmers in the region with locally-grown foods and farm products as well as locally handmade items.  Visitors will find chemical-free peaches, gourmet heirloom vegetables and melons, squash, onions, watermelons, cantaloupe, tomatoes, potatoes, fresh breads, sauces, cheeses, desserts, and more. They’re open May-October and off season in conjunction with Canton’s First Monday Trade Days. Corner of Larking and N. Hwy 19, 212 N. Palestine. athenstxfm@gmail.com. Runner up: Sulphur Springs Farmers Market

Best Restaurant

Liefie Li Vine in Winnsboro. Great ambience indoors and outside on a cozy, covered patio, this location fuses the familiar friendly atmosphere of small-town Texas with the taste of South African culture and cuisine. The menu includes exotic salads and tapas, panini and ciabatta sandwiches, a South African beef sausage sandwich, and homemade soups. Entrees include prime rib, smoked chicken in white wine sauce in home baked bread, beef curry, and Alaskan salmon. Delicious desserts and an excellent wine selection complete a one-of-a-kind dining experience. 302 N. Main. 903.347.1111. www.liefie.us. Runner up: Villa Montez in Tyler.

Best Salad

Zanata in Rockwall. In the heart of historic downtown Rockwall, Zanata offers a spacious dining area around a central open kitchen with two wood-burning ovens and a full bar. Their bruschetta salad with avocado, cherry tomato, mozzarella, bacon, and toasted ciabatta is a favorite. Others to choose from include spinach and gorgonzola, Caesar, steak salad, crab salad and caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, basil pesto, and aged balsamic. 202 E. Rusk St. 972.722.2822. www.zanatas.com. Runner up: Pete’s in Mount Pleasant

Best Sandwich 

Kitt’s Kornbread Sandwich & Pie Bar in Jefferson. These amazingly delightful sandwiches are made with cornbread instead of all those other breads most other sandwich shops use. Fillers include ham, turkey, cheese, corned beef, Texas chili, fried bologna, vegetarian, pastrami, and bacon and trimmings including lettuce, tomato, mayo, red onion, and more. Kitt’s also specializes in great homemade pies. 125 N. Polk St. 903.665.0505. www.kittskornbread.com. Runner up: Railway Café in Athens.

Best Seafood 

Johnny Cace’s Seafood & Steakhouse in Longview. A previous winner in 2011, this remains one of the all-time favorite places in the region to consistently get great seafood in a friendly environment. Serving New Orleans-style Creole cuisine at lunch and dinner for more than 60 years, they feature family recipes in the wide-ranging menu that included crawfish-shrimp etouffee and shrimp Newburg, catfish topped with crawfish etouffee, crawfish tails and petite shrimp, shrimp pasta, and sea scallops plus appetizers and oysters. 1501 E. Marshall Ave. 903.753.7691. www.johnnycaces.com. Runner up: Wade’s Place in Chandler

Best Steak 

Five D Cattle Company Steak House and Meat Market in Avinger: A dinner-only place, the menu features top quality aged beef carefully selected, trimmed, cut, and prepared for the customer. Menu items – served with fresh baked bread and choice of two sides or a garden salad and one side – include various sizes of rib-eye, T-bone, porterhouse, filet mignon, and flat iron steaks plus barbecue, grilled fresh salmon, pork chops, chicken, and of course chicken-fried steak. They now sell and serve beer and wine and have a full bar. No. 8 Main. 903.562.1291, www.fivedcattle.com. Runner up: Kiepersol Estates Restaurant in Tyler/Bullard.

Best Tex-Mex

Carlito’s Mexican Restaurant of Longview. Menu includes chili relleno, flautas, tostados de Leon, chimichangas, fajitas, chili verde con carne, enchiladas (Texas, green, spinach, sour cream, tricolor, shrimp and crawfish), burritos, quesadillas, and more. A full membership bar is available. 903.236.6855. www.carlitosoflongview.com. Runner up: Ochoa’s in Canton

Best Winery

Kiepersol Estates Cellars. Keipersol makes their wines in vineyards south of Tyler. They have three off-site locations where they offer wines and entertainment. KE Cellars in Tyler is located in the French Quarter in Tyler and is a European-style boutique winery housing a tasting room, nightly music, gift shop, and a wine processing area. In downtown Rockwall, KE Cellars partners with restaurants Zanata and El Cayote Rojo to enjoy at the winery with the delicious KE wines. The Lindale location on Highway 69 at Interstate 20 is in the historic Milburn-Gary House near Cracker Barrel restaurant. The wines include moscato, white zinfandel, pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, viognier, mengsel, syrah, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and port. 903.894.8995. www.kiepersol.com. Runner up: Tara Winery in Athens

Best Afternoon Stroll     

Ben Wheeler. A previous winner for this category, the little town that could hosts a variety of food, drinks, shopping, and entertainment within a tiny block of Farm to Market road 279 in southeast Van Zandt County. Two restaurants – Moore’s Store and The Forge –feature quality, selective sandwiches, pizza, salads and specials menus, full bars, and live music. Retail shops carry handcrafted art, embroidered linens, American-made novelty items, and more. 903.833.1070. www.benwheelertx.com. Runner up: Downtown Jefferson

Best Annual Event

Blueberry Hill Farms’ Pick’n Edom. Pick your own blueberries and enjoy the country store with blueberry lemonade, fresh peaches, jams, salsas, a bakery and more. The event lasts from around June 1 through the end of July bringing in more than 5,000 visitors each season from around Texas and nearby states to enjoy this truly unique experience on the farm and in nearby Edom. It’s been featured on Texas Country Reporter and in numerous other TV programs and magazines. 10268 FM 314. 903.852.6175. www.blueberryhillfarms.com. Runner up: Dairy Air Festival in Sulphur Springs

Best Antique Store   

Wagon Wheel Antique Mall in Murchison. This 12,000 square foot facility features one of the largest assortments of antique furniture and collectibles in the Upper East Side of Texas. A variety of items are continuously collected by antique dealers including vintage and retro collectibles, distinctive decorative items, and original art of all genres to name a few. The treasure-filled facility is open year round, seven days a week. 7150 Texas 31. 903.469.4321. www.wagonwheelantiquemall.com. Runner up: Beauweevil’s in Winnsboro

Best Art Gallery

Regional Arts Center in Texarkana. The Texarkana Regional Arts & Humanities Council manages the fabulous 1909 old courthouse building that houses visual art exhibits year round. Amazing talent of local, regional, and national artists are beautifully displayed in multi-level galleries. They host an annual regional juried student show and an adult exhibition as well. The arts center sits among Texarkana’s Arts District where visitors find murals of famous jazz musician Scott Joplin and numerous others on walls and utility closets throughout the neighborhood. 321 W. 4th St. Corner of W. 4th and Texas Blvd. 903.792.8681. www.trahc.org. Runner up: Longview Museum of Fine Arts

Best Attraction

Sulphur Springs’ Glass Restroom. Gaining much national attention this past year, Sulphur Springs has one of the only see-through public restrooms in the world — built with one-way mirrors so people inside can see out, but those outside cannot see in. This functional art was partly inspired by an Italian art piece, Monica Bonivicini’s ‘Don’t Miss A Sec’ from 2004, which was on display outside an art museum in Switzerland. The structure was initially part of the overall exhibit, but when construction workers began using the glass bathroom, the idea of “functional art” evolved. In order for the illusion to work properly, the outside of the structure must be more lit than the inside. This bathroom has no lights on the inside and in order to see at night, LED lights were placed on the outside of the structure, for the illusion to remain. 903.885.5614. www.visitsulphurspingstx.org. Runner up: Texas State Railroad

Best Bed & Breakfast  

Horseshoe Inn B&B in Jacksonville. Nestled in a quiet cove on beautiful Lake Jacksonville, this little piece of heaven offers a laid-back atmosphere for a great getaway. Relax and do nothing or enjoy walking, boating, swimming, fishing, and stargazing. Two guest rooms are available both opening onto a deck overlooking a serene inlet of the lake and feature private bathrooms, mini kitchens, and daily breakfast. 2760 Horseshoe Circle. 903.51.2127. www.horseshoeinnbedandbreakfast.com. Runner up: Holly Hill Homestead near Jefferson

Best Birdwatching

Cedar Creek Lake. The lake boasts three islands managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as wildlife management areas for aquatic birds. The sites are open for day use. From the intersection of CR 2104 and SR 334 in Seven Points, go east on SR 334 for approximately 2.3 miles to Bird Island (south side of bridge), which is located between Seven Points and Gun Barrel City on Cedar Creek Lake. Visitors may view birds from a boat (rentals available nearby), but beaching on the islands is prohibited because of conservation efforts to minimize disturbance to breeding water birds. Hundreds to thousands of cattle egrets, snowy egrets, black-crowned night-herons, great egrets, tricolored herons, and cormorants congregate and nest here. The birds use every available space in the trees to nest. Using binoculars, visitors can observe the wonder of hundreds of nesting water birds. Other species to look for include great blue heron, mallard and turkey vulture, and a variety of ducks during winter months. 903.389.7080. www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wildlife/wildlife-trails/pineywoods/east. Runner up Greenwood near Clarksville

Best Bookstore     

Beauty and the Book in Jefferson.  It’s claim to fame is it’s “The Only Hair Salon and Book Store in the World” and they’ve been featured on the Oprah show, Good Morning America, the Los Angeles Times, Time Magazine, Newsweek, and the Wall Street Journal to name a few. Some off shoots of the store include The Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys book clubs; book signings with the likes of Kinky Friedman, Rue McClanahan, Pat Conroy, Fannie Flagg, and supermodel Paulina Porizkova; Girlfriend Weekend; the Great Big Ball of Hair Ball and the Pulpwood Queen Film Festival. 608 North Polk. 903.665.7520. www.beautyandthebook.com.  Runner up: Winnsboro Emporium

Best Camping Spot

Caddo Lake State Park in Karnack.  Features thick bald cypress trees and a tangle of aquatic plants amidst other lush vegetation. The lake is a maze ofsloughs, bayous and ponds. The park affords excellent access to diverse fishing on the lake. In addition to camp sites there are quaint cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Activities include camping, hiking, paddling trails, picnicking, nature study, fishing, and boating. 245 Park Road 2. 903.679.3351. www.tpwd.state.tx.u/state-parks/caddo-lake. Runner up: Lake Bob Sandlin State Park near Pittsburg

Best County Courthouse

Hopkins County Courthouse in Sulphur Springs. Not surprisingly this is the third time this outstanding structure won this category. Built in 1895 and restored, the Romanesque Revival, pink granite and red sandstone structure is a Texas and national historic landmark occupying the northeast corner of the spacious town square. Massive Roman arches at the entrances are topped by second-story porticos which are crowned by third-story open porches. The courthouse, designed by J. Riley Gordon, received the East Texas Historical Association 2005 Lucille Terry Historical Preservation Award. Downtown. 903.438.4006, www.hopkinscountytx.org.  Runner up: Cherokee County in Rusk

Best Décor     

Two 0 Five in Kilgore. Fine home furnishings are beautifully displayed including furniture, lighting, and art in contemporary, transitional, and traditional styles. A true treasure in the Upper East Side of Texas. 205 North Kilgore St. 903.984.4710. www.shop205.com. Runner up: Paul Michael in Canton

Best Fishing Guide

BigCrappie.com. A full-time fishing guide and instruction service on Cedar Creek Lake specializing in crappie, white bass and hybrid-striper. They provide fishing equipment and top of the line electronics operating in multiple guide boats and run hundreds of trips a year. 903.288.5798. www.bigcrappie.com. Runner up: Lake Fork Fishing Adventures

Best Fishing Hole

Monticello Cove on Lake Bob Sandlin near Pittsburg.  Said to be like its own little lake and one of the better spawning coves protected from the wind, the lake is known for its bass fishing and features Lake Bob Sandlin State Park, a 639.8-acre park located on the heavily-wooded shoreline. 903.572.5531. www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/lake-bob-sandlin. Runner up: Lake Tawakoni

Best Getaway Retreat

The Inn at Tara Winery in Athens. Offering a unique vineyard and winery resort-style experience, the turn-of-the-century mini-mansion was once owned by Clint Murchison, the founder of the Dallas Cowboys.  The majestic house has the original wood moldings, floors and grand wood interior doors, and very high ceilings. The grand staircase in front of the structure is made from the original brick from the fireplaces.  The Inn is located on the first hilltop of the Tara estate and set high among the sprawling Blanc Du Bois grapevines, a view from every spacious balcony and window.  It has four lovely private rooms and two bathrooms have jacuzzi tubs.  There are no phones.  There is one TV and one pool table. Guests enjoy a complimentary winery tour and tasting and pampering by the Tara team.  Enjoy fine dining experience at the Cellar Door. The Cellar Door is just a short stroll through the vineyard and is located at the winery. 8603 County Road 3914. 903 675-7023. www.tarawinery.com

Best Gift Shop     

Pink Pistol Texas Wine Bar & Gift Shop in Lindale. Opened by country singer Miranda Lambert just a few months ago “for the wild at heart,” the shop offers Lambert’s wines and her signature Pink Pistol gear along with other hand-selected gift items including fairy dust, t-shirts, pink cowboy boots and more. 100 E. Hubbard. 903.882.9305. Runner up: Sweethearts in Wills Point

Best Golf Course

Twin Lakes in Canton. One of the top golf facilities in Texas this challenging layout is surrounded by a thousand-acre tree farm and picturesque scenery with two lakes, a friendly staff, well-equipped pro shop, practice facilities and a great bar and grill. 300 VZ County Road 4205. 903.567.1112. www.twinlakesgolfcourse.com. Runner up: Sulphur Springs Country Club

Best Historic Building   

Mineola Depot and Railroad Museum. Through a remodel in 1951 and restoration in 2006, Mineola’s historic train station today captures the look of the original 1906 building. The restored brick depot is painted beige and is trimmed in green. Large metal brackets support an overhanging roof. Other improvements to the site include new signage, parking, fencing, landscaping, and bicycle racks. The depot now features a Museum of Railroad Memorabilia as well as a restored caboose on the grounds. The building is part of the Mineola Transportation Plaza. It won the “Best Building Restoration” award from the Texas Downtown Association in 2006. It is a designated daily stop for the passenger Amtrak Texas Eagle train. 115 East Front Street. 800.669.8509. www.mineola.com. Runner up: Gregg County Historical Museum in Longview

Best Hotel

Hilton Inn in Rockwall. The Hilton hotel overlooks beautiful Lake Ray Hubbard and The Harbors shopping and dining complex and offers fine dining along with exquisite rooms, conference centers, and a user-friendly lobby area and store. 2055 Summer Lee Drive. 214.771.3700. www.hilton.com. Runner up: Hotel Fredonia in Nacogdoches.

Most Improved Small Town   

Mineola. This last year Mineola added Big Foot to their annual Nature Fest and big improvements to other festivals and all over town. Their farmers’ market is growing and they began holding music on the streets every Saturday, rain or shine, and the Mineola Nature Center continues to grow and inspire locals and visitors alike. Beer and wine is now available at select events, restaurants and local stores. The biggest news perhaps is that that the Mineola Downtown Historic District is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places, which fits well with their heritage tourism efforts. Mineola is preserving and creating new history in the Upper East Side of Texas every day. Visit the Mineola Historical Museum at 114 Pacific/Hwy. 69  to learn more.  800.MINEOLA. www.mineola.com. Runner up: Linden

Best Lakeside Living 

The Peninsulas on Lake Bob Sandlin. This private waterfront community wrapped up in the beauty of the Upper East Side of Texas offers expansive, tree-lined home sites with convenient lake access. Boathouses and private docks are welcome for storing boats in all seasons. Residents have access to an assortment of luxurious waterfront amenities including the private lake, beautiful pavilions, beach club, and pool. 877.9.LAKESIDE. www.thepeninsulas.com. Runner up: Long Cove on Cedar Creek Lake

Best Live Music Venue

Music City Texas Theatre in Linden. The converted 1950s-era American Legion Hall now hosts great live music performances in the tiny town of Linden, a town that’s given birth or helped to raise such music legends as Scott Joplin, T-Bone Walker, Richard Bowden, and Don Henley. Some of their past performers include Jackson Browne, Bugs Henderson, T. Graham Brown, Hickory Hill, Tommy Alverson, John Anderson, Charlie Robison, Billy Joe Shaver, J.D. Souther, Jo-El Sonnier, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and many more. 108 Legion Street. 903.756.9934. www.musiccitytexas.org. Runner up: Southern Junction in Rockwall

Best Museum

East Texas Oil Museum in Kilgore. A tribute to the independent oil producers and wildcatters, the East Texas Oil Museum is a fabulous display and authentic re-creation of oil discovery and production in the early 1930s from the largest oil field inside U.S. boundaries. Relive the East Texas oil boom days in the life-size Boom Town USA exhibit.  Hwy. 259 at Ross St. 903.983.8295. www.easttexasoilmuseum.com. Runner up: Longview Museum of Art

Best Nature Walk

Trail de Paris. In the heart of Paris, serenity is found on the Trail de Paris, a gently curved route from 12th SE Street, winding east under a beautiful living canopy of trees over Loop 286 to the Paris city limits. The trail promotes recreational, educational, and civic opportunities providing a safe place to walk, run, or ride bicycles, and is handicapped accessible. Established near the center of the corridor is the butterfly/hummingbird garden that thrills patrons with its floral display in blooming seasons. A nursery of Monarch chrysalises has adorned the monuments located there in the past. This is one of many places on the trail offering photographic scenery. The trail goes through a 90-acre heavily wooded area and beyond with sites of unique bridges, creeks, rippling water, huge sugarberry trees, crape myrtles, more trees and more trees, honeysuckle, fireflies, under bridge art, wildflowers, pastoral scenes, and much more, some labeled for educational enjoyment. 903.784.2501. www.paristexas.com. Runner up: East Texas Arboretum in Athens

Best Park

Governor Jim Hogg City Park in Quitman. Encompassing 26.7 acres, the park honors Texas’ first native-born governor and has three museums. There’s the Stinson House build in 1869 that belonged to Governor Jim’s wife Sallie’s parents which is now also part of the Quitman Arboretum & Botanical Gardens with walking trails, rose and flower gardens, a gazebo, and a turn-of-the century bridge. The Honeymoon Cottage is the early home of the couple and features original furnishings, while the Ima Hogg (that is correct) Museum, named for the Hoggs’ only daughter, houses Northeast Texas and family memorabilia. Facilities include picnic sites, pavilions, restrooms, and playground. The park has RV sites with water, electricity, and sewer, and cable TV. 518 S. Main. 903.763.4411. www.quitmantx.org/park.htm. Runner up: Bergfeld Park in Tyler

Best Performing Arts Center   

Perot Theatre in Texarkana. The stunning Perot Theatre in downtown Texarkana is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Much of the restoration costs were contributed by native son H. Ross Perot in memory of his parents, Lula May and Gabriel Ross Perot. The theatre annually hosts the Perot Theatre Series as well as numerous performances through the year managed by the Texarkana Regional Arts & Humanities Council. Upcoming performances include the Broadway musical Beauty and the Beast, Moscow Festival Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty, and performances of The Miracle Worker and The Addams Family. Past shows include Don Williams, Sinbad, The Midtown Men, B.B. King, Clint Black, and many more. 3rd & Main. 903.792.4992. www.trahc.org. Runner up: Cowan Center in Tyler

Best Retirement Community   

Winnsboro. This community offers small-town appeal and plenty to do downtown and in the beautiful surrounding area that includes seven lakes in the forests of Northeast Texas. Winnsboro is a thriving Main Street community with shopping and dining, festivals and other annual events and frequent live music, an arts center, day spa, and active community organizations. 903.342.3666. www.winnsboro.com. Runner up: Paris

Best RV Park

Barefoot Bay Marina & RV Park on Lake Bob Sandlin near Pittsburg. A family-friendly waterfront resort, the marina has a full service convenience store and sports bar, 40 covered wet slips, 80 RV spaces with men’s and women’s restrooms, 6 cabins and a boat ramp. They have RV supplies and offer free air and water. They have a beach and swimming area, fishing areas and pier, sand volleyball and horseshoe pits. The store has hot food, beer, wine, ice, drive up and dock side gas and all major convenience items as well as fishing tackle. 5244 FM 1520. 903.238.6194. www.barefootbaymarina. Runner up: Fernbrook RV Park in Longview

Best Scenic Drive

Davey Dogwood Park and surrounding area in Palestine. Enjoy the delicate beauty of the dogwood trees in Davey Dogwood Park and the surrounding area during season and 700 acres of pine and hardwood trees offering scenic drives leading to lakes with fishing, boating, and picnicking. Sumac, yaupon, and sweet gum trees add accents of brilliant color during autumn. 903.723.3014. www.visitpalestine.com. Runner up: Caddo Lake State Park

Best Sign 

Music City Texas Fiddle Mural in Linden. Painted by Brad Attaway in downtown Linden, the mural depicts a 90-foot violin adorned with a yellow rose and “Welcome, Music City Texas.” Runner up: The Peninsulas at Lake Bob Sandlin.

Best Slogan

A Straight Shot to Cedar Creek Lake for Gun Barrel City. A clever take off from the town’s name and its logo with two Texas and star-stamped pistols, Gun Barrel City got its name during the 1920s and 30s when outlaws frequented the area. It was considered a safe backwoods place during Prohibition when the likes of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker hung out in the area.  Gun Barrel City today is a thriving community where many retirees from the Dallas region choose to take advantage of their access to Cedar Creek Lake. It is a Texas Certified Retirement Community and has received the Governor’s Community Achievement Awards. 903.887.1087. www.gunbarrelcity.net. Runners up: Edom – What a Trip and Mineola — Get Sidetracked Here.

Best Small Downtown

Sulphur Springs. Sulphur Springs is a thriving community in Northeast Texas where residents and visitors alike gather on the downtown square for special events or simply to stroll around the plaza or play a giant chess or checkers game. In season there’s a thriving farmers’ market on Saturday nights. A lighted, interactive fountain in the shape of the Texas star, illuminated with ultra violet light is a favorite with kids. The plaza includes the award-winning Hopkins County vintage courthouse and a stunning veterans memorial with granite walls, waterfalls, statue, benches, and even a kiosk where visitors can learn more about the veterans. Sulphur Springs also has an attraction that’s both whimsical and practical: one of the only see-through public restrooms in the world – built with one-way mirrors so people inside can see out, but those outside cannot see in. Several restaurants and shopping opportunities make this a great day trip or overnight getaway and a great place to live. There are nine hotels nearby, major lakes and recreational attractions, 3,000 acres of parks, museums, and an award-winning airport. Festivals, concerts, and other events are held regularly on the downtown square and at the Hopkins County Civic Center.   903.885.5614. www.visitsulphurspringstx.org. Runner up: Rockwall

Best Vacation Resort   

Holly Lake Ranch in Hawkins. A recreational resort community on 3,500 acres set against a lush backdrop of pines, the resort hosts more than 20,000 vacationing guests each year. Amenities include an activity center, arcade, picnic areas, movie theater, playground, snack bar, canoeing, fishing, golf, hiking, mini golf, pedal boats, badminton, basketball, horseshoes, shuffleboard, tennis, volleyball, a hot tub and outdoor pool. 210 Golf Drive. 903.769.2138. www.silverleafresorts.com/resorts/holly-lake-ranch. Runner up: The Villages on Lake Palestine

Best Artist

Potters Brown in Edom. This year’s Best Artist is actually a team of artists that make up Potters Brown in Edom. In 1971, Doug Brown found three old buildings and two acres of land which thus began the Edom Craft Community. Soon, pots were made and fired. Doug’s wife Beth came to the Edom Art Fair in 1992 to sell the handbags and women’s accessories she designed and made. After falling in love with Edom and Doug, she moved there in 1993 and decided it was more fun to make pots and learn from a master potter.  Downey Stephens is also found in the studio, working for Doug since 1982. All the pottery is handmade by this team. Doug’s years of experience, trial, error, sweat and tears created the jewel tones that are the trademark of the studio. Their pottery is made for people to use daily, to grace their table, homes and lives. 8287 FM 279. www.pottersbrown.com. Runner up: Cindy Fuqua.

Best Chef  

Frank Rumore at Four Winds Steakhouse in Wills Point. A second and well-deserved win in this region for Chef Rumore, he spent 25 years with Del Frisco, 15 of those as executive chef at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House in Dallas before moving to the former ranch house of Dallas Cowboy’s legend Lee Roy Jordan, now the rustic chic Four Winds Steakhouse located amongst 1100 acres of old oaks and a small pond. His specialties range from 26-ounce rib eyes with a brandy peppercorn sauce, pecan-breaded catfish, fried shrimp, and marinated grilled chicken breast served with fresh vegetables. There’s also the tomato mozzarella salad and New York-style cheesecake (with sour cream topping). 21191 FM 47. 903.873.2225. www.fourwindssteakhosue.com. Runner-up: Chef Phillip Strydom at Liefie li Vine in Winnsboro.

Best Local Band 

Tyler Lenius Band. ETX Music Awards named him 2013’s Entertainer of the Year and Best Live Act and 2012’s Male Vocalist of the Year and he placed in 2013 Dallas International Guitar Festival’s under 20 category. Tyler, now 18, began playing guitar and writing songs at the age of 11 and is an accomplished singer/songwriter/guitarist whose hometown is Winnsboro. Among his influences are Angus Young, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Rick Derringer, Hendrix and John Mayer. Joining forces with drummer Mark LeBlanc and bass player Mike Provencher the band plays all over Texas and beyond. 936.465.4460. www.tylerleniusband.com. Runner up: Diddley Squat

Best Local Singer/Songwriter

Rafael Espinoza. This recent Berklee College of music graduate is an award-winning singer/songwriter/guitarist from Golden who performs with his band around the regiona and beyond to the delight of audiences everywhere. He performs original music deeply rooted in Blues and making a name for himself with his own sound. He recently won The Heart of Texas Blues Challenge at Antone’s in Austin competing against the state’s top Blues bands. He has a new album “Brighter Day,” his second, but first official full lenth LP with high energy, positive original music. www.rafaelespinozamusic.com. Runners up: Lauren Alexander

Best Play

Smoke on the Mountain Homecoming by Quitman Community Theatre. This theatre group consistently wins favor from fans all over the region, Dallas and Fort Worth and beyond which got them entered into the County Line Magazine Hall of Fame. This play is the third in a musical comedy trilogy about the gospel-singing Sanders Family. Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina in 1945, the production was chock-full of toe-tapping, uplifting traditional hymns and original songs and featured a cast of 20 performers, area actors, singers, and musicians. 903.967.2164. www.qctheatre.org. Runner up: Christmas Belles by Edom Civic Theatre

Best Small Theater Group

Edom Civic Theatre.  Organized in 1996, this is an enthusiastic group that’s produced many entertaining plays over the years and created the Edey Award to recognize acting skills in various categories as well as directing, newcomers, and special awards. They also award scholarships to local graduating seniors. Producing three plays each year and hosting other performances, recent plays include Christmas Belles, Southern Hospitality, and Welcome to Mitford. Located in the artists’ village of Edom, there are numerous shopping, dining, and lodging opportunities to round out an entertaining weekend in the country.  Runner up: Jefferson Opera House Theatre Players

Best Theater Actor/Actress

Vicki Shaw. An accomplished singer, Shaw appeared in Quitman Community Theatre’s Sentimental Journey, Back To Broadway, and Return to Rock ‘N Roll. In addition to the lead role of Vera Sanders in Smoke on the Mountain Homecoming, she also performed as Lydia in Out of Sight...Out of Murder, and Princess in the County Line Magazine Best Play for 2012, Hats the Musical. Vicki has also written, directed, and performed in a Veteran’s Day USO Show, which she produces every year. Runner up: Keith Halsten for Smoke on the Mountain Homecoming with Quitman Community Theatre.

Two New Places Inducted into Hall of Fame

“The best” is often debatable, but excellence speaks for itself. County Line Magazine established a hall of fame in 2011 for the places and people in the Upper East Side of Texas that consistently get the most votes in the annual “best-of” balloting.

The criteria are simple: win the same category three times, and make the hall of fame (which also makes room to recognize other places and people for excellence, too, in the annual voting).

The two 2012 additions are Tyler State Park, which was named best camping spot in 2011, 2010, and 2008, and Crossroads Music Company in Winnsboro, which was named best live music venue in 2011, 2008, and 2007.

Activities at the 985.5-acre Tyler State Park – with a 64-acre lake – include picnicking, camping, boating, fishing, birding, hiking, mountain biking, and swimming. Situated in the piney woods, the steep dissected hillsides and the lake provide considerable habitat variety including deer, squirrels, raccoons, opossums, and numerous bird species. Popular fish include crappie, perch, catfish, and bass. It’s at 789 Park Road 16. For more information, call 903.597.5338 or go to www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/tyler.

Crossroads, founded by singer-songwriters Lindy Hearne and Lynn Adler, is a premiere listening room – where music is the focus – for both national touring acts and regional musicians, Crossroads is now under the broad wings of the Winnsboro Center for the Arts. Each concert is all about the music – whether it’s a solo performing songwriter, a blues band, or a rock-n-roll night. Past performers include Ray Wylie Hubbard, Ralph Stanley, Ann Armstrong & Steve Hughes, Druha Trava, Brian Burns, Rhett Butler, Jimmy LaFave, and of course Adler & Hearne and many others. It’s at 204 Market. For more information, call 903.434.2888 or go to www.crossroadsmusiccompany.com.

These two join the first class of 2011 inductees that show off some of the best of the Upper East Side of Texas.




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