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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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. firstname.lastname@example.org. Runner up: Sulphur Springs Farmers Market
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Best of the Upper East Side of Texas
Synonyms for “the best” include choicest, coolest, finest, foremost, greatest, nonpareil, outstanding, perfect, preeminent, premium, second to none, terrific, tops, transcendent, unparalleled, unrivaled, and unsurpassed. And, oddly, “bad,” if used with the right tone of voice. All of those help describe some of the best of the Upper East Side of Texas for 2012, providing a primo road map for discovering excellence.
Here are the choices for the unequaled places to go and things to see, until more challengers come along to knock them off.
It’s all a matter of opinion, of course, but enough people calling something the best is a good indicator of excellence.
Readers made a lot of suggestions for what’s best in the region; some of those didn’t get enough votes to triumph this year, but may still do so in future years.
Joseph’s Riverport Bar-B-Que in Jefferson. The popular, casual, inexpensive barbecue and burgers place opened in 1993 and offers a full menu of meats and sides. One of the most popular dishes is the combo plate with ribs and sliced brisket with baked beans and fried okra. Hours are Tuesday-Thursday 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.-8 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Riverport also does catering and offers take out; that take out might be a good idea during the often crowded prime serving times. 210 N. Polk. 903.665.2341. www.facebook.com/pages/Josephs-Riverport-Bar-B-Que. Runner up: Stanley’s Famous Pit BBQ in Tyler.
Simply Berties in Lindale. A do-it-all-or-at-least-a-lot kind of place, Berties serves American traditional food, Tex-Mex, burgers and other sandwiches at inexpensive prices. It’s the breakfast and the promise of service with a smile that draws lots of folks. One of the most popular dishes is “trashy eggs,” with cheese, onions, sautéed vegetables, bacon, and sausage all mixed in. Also get pancakes, waffles, hash browns or home fries, biscuits and gravy, and coffee or juices. Berties also serves homemade chorizo, breakfast tacos, huevos rancheros, huevos con papas, and other traditional Mexican breakfast items. Monday-Saturday 5 a.m.-2 p.m., with breakfast served until 1:30 p.m. Plus Thursday night karaoke and burgers. 16073 FM 849. 903.881.9391. www.facebook.com/pages/Simply-Berties. Runner up: The Shed in Edom.
Tie: Moore’s Store in Ben Wheeler and Stacy’s Fish Fry in Miller’s Grove. Nothing fancy at either of these places. Just quality ingredients cooked well. At Moore’s the catfish is “huge and hand cut and trimmed” and served every Friday at lunch. Stacy’s offers a catfish and shrimp buffet with fries, hush puppies, and salad bar in quaint surroundings.” Stacy’s hours are limited: Friday and Saturday evenings 4-9 p.m. Stacy’s is at 7565 FM 275. 903.459.3300. www.stacysfishfry.com. Moore’s is at 1551 FM 279. 903.833.5100. www.benwheelertx.com. Runner up: Vaughns in Cypress Springs.
Best Salsa and Tortilla Chips
Don Juan’s in Jefferson. The definition of a good tortilla chip is that it’s crisp, fresh, tasty, and free with the meal. It’s thin, but strong enough that it won’t break in the bowl or on the way to the mouth loaded with salsa. And the salsa – chunkier than thin – is more about taste than heat. with a reputation for excellent service. Sunday-Thursday 11a.m.-9 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m. 400 S Walcott, 903.665.6407. www.donjuansmex.com. Runner up: Peralta’s in Quitman.
Best Chicken-fried Steak
Moore’s Store in Ben Wheeler. Six-ounce fresh steaks hand seasoned with the secrete stuff and hand battered. Comes with mashed potatoes, green beans, and a roll. 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 10:30-2 p.m. Sunday.1551 FM 279, 903.833.5100. www.benwheelertx.com. Runner up: The Shed in Edom.
Art & Espresso in Winnsboro. Frothy espresso with steamed milk or hot chocolate, cappuccinos, lattes, iced coffees, and more. Personalize by adding favorite flavors to the gourmet, house-blend coffee. Plus freshly brewed loose-leaf teas, light lunches, and desserts including Blue Bell ice cream and homemade pastries from owners Marilyn Arnaud and her husband, Jim Hollowell. Monday-Thursday 7 a.m.-6 p.m., Friday 7 a.m.-10 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-10 p.m. 217 Market, 903.342.3343. www.artandespresso.com. Runner up: Mount Sylvan Coffee House and Mercantile.
East Texas Burger Company in Mineola. Home-style burgers come in quarter pound or half pound sizes with all the trimmings at this popular downtown eatery. Go traditional or choose from a number of varieties – all with fresh ingredients. Plus apricot fried pies, sweet potato fries, and peanut butter pie. Monday through Saturday 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Hwy. 80 at Hwy. 69. 903.569.3140, www.easttexasburger.com Runner up: Moore’s Store in Ben Wheeler.
Jefferson General Store in Jefferson. Grab a malt or a shake at the soda fountain in a roomy, old-fashioned 1800s-era mercantile store. They come in 16 flavors – chocolate and vanilla are still the big sellers – and are made with Blue Bell ice cream. Or pick up some pralines and other candies; jams, jellies, salsa, butters, and “everything pickled;” or some books, cards, hats and caps, toys, t-shirts, or other souvenirs. Sunday-Thursday 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Friday-Saturday 9 a.m.-10 p.m. 113 E. Austin. 903.665.8481. www.jeffersongeneralstore.com. Runner up: Charley’s in Wills Point.
Ganny’s in Winnsboro. Choose servings from as many as a dozen or more different kinds of pie – not the same kinds every day – made by owner Georgia Goggans. The shop also serves a daily lunch special. Get a sample pie with six giant slices, or two sample pies to try most of the offerings. Tuesday-Saturday 10 am.-5 p.m. except during First Monday Trade Days when everybody’s at the shop on The Mountain in Canton. 108 W. Elm. 903.243.0992. www.facebook.com/pages/Gannys-Pie-Shop. Runner up: The Farmhouse in Van.
The Forge in Ben Wheeler. Thin-crust pizzas with all the usual toppings: But that’s not all. The menu also includes half a dozen reasonably priced specialty pizzas: The Buffalo with grilled chicken and a spicy wing sauce; The Greek with garlic-infused olive oil, feta cheese, and more; The Caesar with tomatoes, fontina and mozzarella, grilled chicken, and more; The Taco with homemade salsa, spicy taco meat, and more; The Razorback with smoked bacon and jalapeno, a variety of cheeses, and more; and The Great White with white cheddar, mozzarella, and fontina. 1610 FM 279. 903.833.5970. www.benwheelertx.com. Runner up: Angelo’s in Winnsboro.
Brookshire’s FRESH in Tyler. FRESH is the newest addition to the hometown Brookshire’s operations, with an emphasis on being one of the most environmentally friendly structures in East Texas. The store is the first in East Texas to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design designation from the U.S. Green Building Council. The store also partners with numerous local vendors to provide customers with locally produced and grown products, which also minimize energy and fuel usage associated with shipping. It also features selections of natural, organic, chemical-free, lactose-free, sugar-free or gluten-free items in virtually every department. Sunday-Thursday 7 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 7 a.m.-10 p.m. 6991 Old Jacksonville. 903.747.3503. www.freshbybrookshires.com. Runner up: Cycle of Seasons in Lindale.
The Forge in Ben Wheeler. Small, soon-to-expand bistro in a rustic old blacksmith shop has an eclectic menu ranging from smoked salmon wraps to wild hog pork tacos and a variety of sandwiches including three little pigs, The Big Easy, the apple-smoked bacon, the rooster, spicy veggie wrap and veggie tacos, baked Portabella, and more along with frequent specials. Add an appetizer or salad. There’s also a full bar, and there’s live music every Thursday, Friday, Saturday night and on Saturday afternoons. The Forge is a 50-seat bistro that’s expanding to 70 seats with some renovations. It’s also expanding hours to seven days a week: Monday-Tuesday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Thursday-Friday 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-midnight, and Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 903.833.5970. 1610 FM 279. 903.833.5970. www.benwheelertx.com. Runner up: Liefie’s in Winnsboro.
The Forge in Ben Wheeler. Choose from Greek, spinach, southwestern chicken, grilled shrimp, gorgonzola and fruit, or the house salad. Mix and match with Greek, poppy seed, balsamic, ranch, and blue cheese dressings. 1610 FM 279. 903.833.5970. www.benwheelertx.com. Runner up: Liefie’s in Winnsboro.
Liefie Li Vine in Winnsboro. Big selection includes fresh-baked bread of the day toasted with choice of smoked chicken with cream cheese, sharp cheddar; creamy jalapeño chicken with tomato, onion, sharp cheddar and cream cheese; salami with basil pesto, sautéed onions and provolone; tropical tuna with banana, raisins and provolone cheese; vegetarian; smoked brisket, provolone cheese and monkey sauce; chicken ciabatta with baby lettuce, tomato, cranberries, cheddar and onion vinaigrette house dressing; tuna ciabatta with provolone; smoked brisket with baby lettuce, tomato, cranberries, provolone and famous monkey sauce; and more including salads and entrees. Wines and specialty drinks. Wednesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m. 302 N. Main. 903.347.1111. www.liefie.us. Runner up: The Forge in Ben Wheeler.
Fish City Grill in Tyler. Popular menu items include fish tacos, honey chipotle shrimp tacos, shrimp and grits, basic fish and chips, and even slow-roasted pot roast with all the right trimmings. Plus daily specials, salads with homemade dressings, soups, appetizers, and sandwiches. Some gluten-free selections. Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-9 p.m. 4740 S. Broadway. 903.266.9218. www.fishcitygrill.com. Runner up: AJ’s Fish House in Lake Fork.
Four Winds Steakhouse in Wills Point. Rustic cedar tabernacle’s steak entrees include ribeye with brandy peppercorn sauce, filet mignon, and New York strip. Other entrees include Australian cold water lobster tail, sugar-cured pork chops, chicken-fried beef tenderloin, beef tips and noodles, grilled chicken breast, fried jumbo shrimp, pecan-breaded catfish, fresh fish of the day, and more with the full complement of sides, salads, and appetizers. Reservations highly recommended. Tuesday-Saturday 5-10 p.m. 21191 FM 47. 903.873.2225. www.fourwindssteakhouse.com. Runner up: Texas Roadhouse in Tyler.
The Luscious Crumb in Mineola. 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 including “Table Scapes” – stacks of goodies “sugar”-scaped for its catered events. Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 130 E. Broad Street. 903.881.CAKE (2253). www.thelusciouscrumb.com/contact-us. Runner up: Creative Cakes in Winnsboro.
Gloria’s in Rockwall. Born as a tiny Salvadoran restaurant in Dallas, Gloria’s grew first by word of mouth and then added new locations. This location features brunch, lunch, and dinner. The “Salvatex” menu includes grilled pork tenderloin, grilled steak, marinated chicken breasts, chili relleno (shrimp, steak or chicken fajita), fajitas, tilapia tacos, brisket tacos, shrimp, salmon, sampler plats, and more. Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m. 2079 Summer Lee. 972.772.4088. www.gloriasrestaurants.com/locations/glorias-rockwall. Runner up: Juan Pablo’s in Sulphur Springs.
Best Afternoon Stroll
The Harbor in Rockwall. A bit of the country and a bit of the city with garden paths, lake views, waterfront dining and shopping. Just hang out, or explore the shops including En Fuego, Genuine Jake, Hollywood Nails, Juvanew Medspa, and Zeus. Find lunch or dinner at one of nearly a dozen places: Agave Restaurant and Bar, Cold Stone Creamery, Dodies Cajun Diner, Gloria’s Restaurant, Luna de Noche, Potrillo de la Sandia, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Ruby Tuesday, Twisty Treats, Campisi’s, and/or Sushi Saikou. 2074 Summer Lee. 469.402.2850. www.theharboratrockwall.com. Runner up: Mineola Nature Preserve in Mineola.
Best Annual Event
Hog Fest in Ben Wheeler. The Friday night follies where the hog queen is crowned are followed on Saturday with local businesses on parade floats; lots of live music at the Pickin’ Porch, the Hog Pen Beer Garden, Moore’s Store, and The Forge; carnival; vendor booths; a kids’ area; and the annual World Championship Wild Hog Cook-Off draw thousands of folks downtown and to the surrounding park in this small, rejuvenated community. 903.833.1070. www.benwheelertx.com. Runner up: Autumn Trails in Winnsboro.
Best Art Gallery
Flying Fish Gallery in Ben Wheeler. Eclectic collection of arts and crafts including works by gallery owners Randy and Sherri Martin. Finds include unique and colorful items from kinetic metal art to collage to jewelry to pottery to paintings and more. Wednesday-Thursday 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-3 p.m. 1553 FM 279. 903.833.5743. www.facebook.com/pages/Flying-Fish-Gallery-art-with-an-edge. Runner up: Main Street Gallery in Tyler.
First Monday Trade Days in Canton. First Monday is the oldest, largest continually operating outdoor flea market in the United States, operating on hundreds of acres with space for 7,000 or so vendors and a whole lot – into the hundred thousands – of visitors on the weekend preceding the first Monday of each month. Shopping days are on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Merchandise ranges from new home furnishings and furniture, clothing, jewelry, candles, handbags and shoes, electronics, iron works and outdoor decor, plants, tools, antiques, collectables, quilts, intricate crafts, folk and fine art, woodworking, and live animals and pets of many types and sizes. www.visitcantontx.com. Runner up: Texas State Railroad in Palestine.
Best Bed & Breakfast
Thee Hubbell House Bed and Breakfast Resort in Winnsboro. A Southern plantation estate near the heart of Winnsboro, Thee Hubbell House nestles among 400-year-old oak trees and landscaped gardens. Period antiques furnish the rooms and common areas. Each room in the Mansion and the Carriage House is en-suite and has its own sense of inviting warmth (plus high speed wireless Internet). Get a full country breakfast – bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, pancakes, coffee, and orange juice – between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. or make arrangements for a more convenient time. Catering is also available. 307 W. Elm. 800.227.0639. www.theehubbellhouse.com. Runner up: 15 Acres in Quitman.
Barnes & Noble in Tyler. One of more than 700 stores in the national company that dates back to 1873, the Barnes & Noble Tyler location sells a bunch of books including discounted bestsellers as well as magazines, newspapers, DVDs, graphic novels, gifts, games, and more. There’s also an in-store coffee shop. Barnes & Noble hires community relations managers to engage in community outreach including author appearances, children’s story times, and book groups and they work closely with local schools and groups to promote literacy and the arts. Monday-Thursday 9 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 9 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-8 p.m. 4916 S. Broadway. 903.534.3996. www.barnesandnoble.com. Runner up: Beauty and the Book in Jefferson.
Best Camping Spot
Lake Bob Sandlin State Park near Pittsburg. Features 75 campsites with water and electricity for $18 a night plus daily entrance fee. Activities include picnicking, hiking, swimming, mountain biking, in-line skating and fishing for largemouth bass, catfish and crappie. Eagles can be spotted during winter months. A variety of birds and wildlife can be viewed year-round. The park also offers a variety of educational opportunities including interpretive tours and nature walks on some weekends and by request. Open seven days a week year-round. 341 Park Road 2117. 512.389.8900. www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/lake-bob-sandlin. Runner up: Caddo Lake State Park.
Best County Courthouse
Old Harrison County Courthouse in Marshall. Replaced by a modern courthouse in 1964, local residents turned the old Renaissance Revival courthouse into the County Historical Museum. The National Register of Historic Places property in the center of Whetstone Square was built in 1900 from a design by architect James Riely Gordon. The building’s dome is its most distinctive feature and stands above a four-level rotunda. www.visitmarshalltexas.org. Runner up: Hopkins County Courthouse in Sulphur Springs.
Best Fishing Hole
Lost Prairie Lake in Palestine. Find somebody who’s a member, because this is a private fishing lake in Anderson County. Consult with local guides and resources before heading out to fish. www.fishingworks.com/lakes/texas/anderson/northeast-palestine/lost-prairie-lake.
Best Golf Course
Cascades Country Club in Tyler. Nestled in 300 acres on the shore of Lake Bellwood, surrounded by oak and pine, Cascades has hosted the Texas Open for six consecutive years. Members and guests enjoy an array of dining options with both fine and casual dining options along with a lakeside pool, two indoor air conditioned plexi-pave tennis courts, and access to the adjacent Rose Fitness Club and Spa. The grounds include a par 71, 7,142-yard championship layout plus three other courses. 4511 Briarwood. 903.525.0005, www.cascadesoftexas.com. Runner up: Garden Valley in Lindale.
Best Western in Mineola. Affordable guest rooms feature cable satellite television with HBO, microwave, refrigerator, and free high-speed Internet access. Outdoor swimming pool, hot tub, and fully equipped exercise facility and business center. Plus free complimentary breakfast with choice of breads, cereal, fruit, eggs, yogurt, and juice. Convenient access to Lake Fork, Mineola Nature Preserve on the Sabine River, and downtown antique shopping. 100 Debby Lane. 903.569.5331. http://bestwesterntexas.com/hotels/best-western-mineola-inn. Runner up: Comfort Suites in Lindale.
Most Improved Small Town
Sulphur Springs. Sulphur Springs is in the final stages – if it’s ever final – of a complete revitalization effort downtown. Free movies are displayed on the square every Friday night at dusk through Christmas and there’s a thriving farmers’ market in season. A lighted, interactive fountain in the shape of the Texas star, illuminated with ultra violet light is a favorite with kids. Sulphur Springs also now has a new 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. 903.243.0252. www.sulphurspringstx.org. Runner up: Ben Wheeler.
Best Lakeside Community
Hideaway Lake. A gated private community of more than 1,600 homes on nearly 10 square miles just off Interstate 20 west of Lindale and Tyler, Hideaway lake is surrounded by oaks, pines, azaleas, and three lakes including boat ramps, dock facilities, fishing piers, a beach, and an active lake and fisheries management program. There are also 27 holes of golf, dining facilities, and other amenities for couples, families, and retirees. 903.882.6151. www.hideawaytexas.net. Runner up: Callender Lake.
Best Live Music Venue
Moore’s Store in Ben Wheeler. Live music Friday and Saturday nights ranging from country dance to blues-rock to the East Texas Jazz Orchestra often draws more than 200 people who also enjoy burgers, drinks, and more from the menu. Big stage backed by a big mural depicting an earlier era of Ben Wheeler’s history. Small dance floor. Music 8-11 p.m. 1551 FM 279. 903.833.5100. wwwbenwheelertx.com. Runner up: Music City Texas in Linden.
Longview Museum of Fine Arts in Longview. Established in 1958, the Longview Museum of Fine Arts draws some of the more interesting and eclectic exhibits as it works to create interest in, and promote knowledge of, the visual arts by exhibiting, interpreting and preserving works of art and providing educational opportunities to a diverse audience. The museum displays its permanent collection in rotation in the Wrather Gallery, the main gallery inside the front doors. The Martin-Stoudt (Premier I) and Barrow-Cave (Premier II) galleries adjoining the Wrather Gallery host traveling or temporary exhibits six times per year. The Judge J.T. Smith Sculpture Garden rotates exhibits annually. In 2012, the museum opened the ArtWorks: Creative Learning Center as a space for creating and teaching. Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday noon-4 p.m. 215 E. Tyler. 903.753.8103. www.lmfa.org. Runner up: East Texas Culture Museum in Palestine.
Best Nature Walk
Davey Dogwood Park in Palestine. Meandering trails wind through this popular park features more than 200 acres of rolling hills, forests, meadows, and flowing streams. There also are picnic areas, scenic overlooks, and a pavilion. The park is featured during the annual Texas Dogwood Trails Festival from late March to early April, and admission is free. 210 N. Link near the Museum for East Texas Culture. 903.723.3014. www.visitpalestine.com. Runner up: Faulkner Park in Lindale.
Coleman Park in Sulphur Springs. After several years as a favored project, the 186-acre Coleman Park is now open to the community and visitors, offering numerous facilities and activity areas. A 2.5-mile walking trail circles the lake, passing a waterfall, crossing over three bridges and through a tunnel that connects to the soccer and baseball fields. The park’s facilities include seven soccer fields, three baseball fields, three softball fields, two tennis courts, a fishing pier, several picnic areas equipped with charcoal grills and tables, a playground area, a one-third-mile nature trail, and two concession stands. located in the soccer and baseball areas. Just off Interstate 30 in the city limits. 903.885.7541. www.facebook.com/pages/Coleman-Park. Runner up: Graham Park in Greenville.
Best RV Park
Walleye Park at Lake Cypress Springs. Waterfront RV sites with boat docks. Sixty-six sites with 50-amp and 30-amp power. Children and pets allowed. Showers available, and dumping allowed. SE 4220, Mount Vernon. 903.537.4536, www.fcwd.com. Runner up: Whispering Pines in Tyler.
Best Scenic Drive
Wildflower Trails of Texas at Linden, Avinger, and Hughes Springs. Each spring, Avinger, Hughes Springs, and Linden join to celebrate spring and the wildflowers – yellow coreopsis, Indian paintbrush, red clover, wisteria, jasmine and other colorful blooms – with a festival that includes Texas 11 between Linden and Hughes Springs, Texas 155 between Linden and Avinger, and Texas 49 between Avinger and Hughes Springs. Thousands of varieties of wildflowers occur naturally in the area. 903.756.7774. www.lindenwildflowertrails.net.
RC/Moon Pie mural in Ben Wheeler. Painted by Brent Hale in red, yellow, and other colors on the side of a restored 1940s grocery store turned ice cream shop and motorcycle museum in the heart of downtown, a smiling, freckle-faced country boy with his Moon Pie and big ol’ RC conjure seemingly simpler times of yesteryear. Painted by Brent Hale. 903.833.1070. www.benwheelertx.com. Runner up: Auntie Skinner’s Riverboat Club in Jefferson.
Home of the World’s Largest Bowl of Salsa in Jacksonville. It’s not a brag; it’s a fact. During the 25th Annual Jacksonville Tomato Fest, 20 volunteer choppers and Bob Blumer, host of Food Network Canada’s “Glutton for Punishment”, made a 2,672-pound bowl of salsa to set the new world record. The previous Guinness world record was set by Pollo Tropical cooks at a “meager” 1,170 pounds. Blumer chose Jacksonville because of the tomato festival which is, in turn, based on the region’s popular crop. The salsa include tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, cerranos, garlic, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, sugar, cilantro, mint, lime juice and pureed jabaneros. And, yes, the taste was important. A health inspector was on-site for the duration of the record-breaking attempt. 903.586.2217. http://jacksonvilletexas.com. Runner up: Where Texas Began, Crockett.
Best Small Downtown
Ben Wheeler. After World War II, Ben Wheeler, like so many other small communities across the country, began to fade away as more people moved to big cities. Today, thanks to the efforts of Brooks and Rese Gremmels and lots of other people, Ben Wheeler is back. With two restaurants and a number of shops, the community has become a destination as a music community and an arts community in just a handful of years. Moore’s Store and The Forge provide the eclectic menus and, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, the live music. Other late-week and weekend attractions include the Flying Fish and Rave art galleries, Made in America, Secret Garden Embroidered Art & Gifts, Scoots ‘n Scoops ice cream store and motorcycle museum, and renowned wood carver R.D. Wilson at Blue Moose and renowned knifesmith Dan Harrison. There’s also the Harmony Park Chapel, and the unique Ben Wheeler Children’s Library, which gives – not loans – books to local children. 903.833.1070. www.benwheelertx.com. Runner up: Mineola.
Best Small Theater Group
Lindale Community Theater in Lindale. The group’s mission is to provide a creative outlet to enrich, educate, and entertain the community while providing a superior theatrical experience. As usual in community theater, the actors, directors, and technical staff work for free because theater is something they love. The 2013 season includes “The Foreigner,” “On Golden Pond,” “Quilters,” and “The Hallelujah Girls.” Certain roles may be cast in advance, but audition dates and times for upcoming productions will be posted on the website. 111 W. Van. 903.638.0402. www.lindalecommunitytheater.org. Runner up: Texas Theatre in Palestine.
Enoch’s Stomp Vineyard and Winery in Harleton. Won third place at the prestigious Grapefest in Grapevine for its red varietal Norton 2009 wine, and has accumulated more than 90 medals since it opened in 2004. Founded by Altus Koegelenberg (a fifth-general grape grower from South Africa) and Jon Kral in, the vineyard sits on 90 acres of rolling hills and grows 12 acres of grape vines including Black Spanish (a.k.a. Lenoir), Blanc DuBois, Norton (a.k.a. Cynthiana), Villard Blanc, Champanel, and Chambourcin. Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday noon-6 p.m., Friday-Saturday noon-10 p.m., Sunday noon-6 p.m. 871 Ferguson (CR 4312). 903.240.1587. www.enochsstomp.com. Runner up: Los Pinos in Pittsburg.
Bruce Peil. Peil is a signature member of Oil Painters of America and is co-founder and signature member of the Outdoor Painters Society. His paintings – including widely recognized American West landscapes – are in many corporate and private collections. He teaches monthly workshops at his studio in Athens where he and his wife, Stacey, own and operate Meadowlark Fields Country House, a bed and breakfast and artist retreat. His work is frequently seen in Southwest Art Magazine and other publications and his one-man shows have included Grapevine Gallery in Oklahoma City; Mockingbird Gallery in Bend, Oregon; Mountain Trails Gallery in Jackson, Wyoming; and Ann Hughes Gallery in Dallas. 903.677.1117. www.MeadowlarkFields.com. Runner up: Anup Bhandari in Longview.
Chef Debbie, the Traveling Chef. The traveling part of Chef Debbie’s title comes from the fact that, as a person chef and caterer, she travels to the clients home to customize private meals. From her base in Gilmer, the 30-plus-year food industry veteran does catering, cooking classes, and personal cooking for couples and larger groups for occasions such as birthdays, pool parties, anniversaries. She’s also a frequent speaker on cooking topics. 903.424.8392. www.thetravelingchef-chefdebbie.com. Runner up: Chef Phillip at Liefie’s in Winnsboro.
Best Local Band
Wesley Pruitt Band. Eclectic mix of blues, soul, and Americana from Pruitt (guitar and vocals), Calvin Sheffield (bass and backing vocals), and Chris Oliver (drums and backing vocals) influenced by Buddy Guy, Jaco Pastorius, Dennis Chambers, Stoney LaRue, and many others that make the band a popular draw at clubs all over the Upper East Side of Texas. The band’s new CD is Line ’Em Up, with eight originals and two covers, one from old-time bluesman Willie Dixon and one from recent Americana semi-icon Pat Green. Most of the songs on the CD deal with hard-hearted men, cheating women, and, whether self-imposed or not, hard times. www.wesleypruittband.com. Runner up: Miss Demeanor and the Groove Felons.
Best Local Singer-Songwriter
Heather Little. An exquisite songwriter and quiet performer with a bit of Appalachia in her, Lindale-based Heather Little is another in a long line of East Texas talents. She co-wrote, among other songs, two of Miranda Lambert’s hit songs – “Me and Charlie Talking” and “Gunpowder and Lead.” She’s working on her first, long-overdue CD. Little has written maybe 200 songs, and is also working on new material for the CD. Influences include Joni Mitchell and Rickie Lee Jones as writers, and Bonnie Raitt, Janis Joplin, and Trisha Yearwood as singers, although she doesn’t sound like any of them. https://www.facebook.com/heather.littlestandifird. Runner up: Adler & Hearne from Winnsboro.
Hats! The Musical by Quitman Community Theatre. “Hats! The Musical” tells the story of a 49-year-old woman who reluctantly faces the inevitable big 5-0 until she meets several remarkable women who show her about fun, friendship and forgetting about things that simply don’t matter anymore. The musical comedy is inspired by the experiences, philosophies, and mission of the Red Hat Society, and it turned out to be still another wise selection by the folks at Quitman Community Theatre, a group dedicated to providing quality theatrical productions to local play lovers, introducing new theatre-goers to live theatre, providing an outlet for local actors and aspiring actors, and providing scholarships for deserving Quitman High School drama students. Performances are at the Carroll Green Civic Center. www.qct.org. Runner up: Steel Magnolias by Lindale Community Theatre.
Best Theater Actor/Actress
Thomas Hulme. Thomas is a veteran of “Comedy Night” and of three parts in the “War of the Worlds” reenactment in 2012 at Winnsboro Center for the Arts, the “Kids on Stage” summer drama camp, and some plays at Winnsboro Elementary School. Which wasn’t that long ago. Thomas is 12 years old and is now a student at Memorial Middle School. He says he just showed up for the auditions because he thought it would be fun, and took part in some skits to win the roles. http://winnsborocenterforthearts.com. Runner up: Jean Pines, who performed in several local productions.