Best of the Upper East Side of Texas



Published:

This year’s Best of the Upper East Side of Texas readers survey set a record with 4,591 nominations for a growing list of gems in the region featuring delicious food, wonderful attractions, beautiful backdrops, one-of-a-kind shops, exciting entertainment, and many talented individuals. We love to hear from our readers and learn about their favorite hidden treasures. See y’all out on the backroads as we explore and experience this fantastic corner of the world.

Best Barbecue
Big Smiths BBQ & Catering. Sulphur Springs. Big Smith’s equals big portions; down=home friendly atmosphere and great service with slow-smoked Texas Bar-B-Q served on plates or sandwiches. Big Smith’s was established in 1989 and opened in an old Dairy Barn 8 miles south of Sulphur Springs. NOW it is located in an old auto body shop 2 miles south of Sulphur Springs. Reviewers say, “Very generous portions and excellent food.” “One of our new favorites.” 4858 TX-154 S. (903) 438-1547. www.facebook.com/BigSmithsBBQ

Honorable Mentions: Texas BBQ Corral, Mount Vernon; Slaughters BBQ Oasis, Sulphur Springs; Outlaws, Mount Pleasant; Judge Hunt’s, Quitman

Hall of Fame: Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q, Tyler

Best Breakfast
Under 50k
CJ’s Coffee Cafe. Sherman. This family-owned location takes a break from traditional breakfast offerings. Their menu includes baked oatmeal (plain, blueberry, raisin, and apple); ham and cheese or egg and cheese croissant; assorted pastries and breakfast cookies and several loaded-up toasts with toppings that include chicken, bacon, and ranch; berries, cream cheese, basil, chia seeds, and honey; house-made hummus, tomatoes, and salsa; avocado, bacon, feta, micro greens and balsamic drizzle; and The Elvis, with peanut butter, banana, bacon and maple drizzle. They roast their own beans and offer many coffee options. 818 N. Travis. (903) 487-2400. www.cjscoffeecafe.com

Honorable Mentions: Cake Lady, Mount Vernon; Country Kitchen, Quitman; Dinner Bell, Van; Herschels, Mount Pleasant; The Forge Bar & Grill, Ben Wheeler

Over 50k
The Grove Kitchen & Gardens. Tyler. The Grove’s chef-crafted menu emphasizes farm to table for quality. With their dishes, including classic breakfast items as well as Crispy Nola Beignets and roasted chicken tamales, they aim to create a connection with the local community. 3500 Old Jacksonville Hwy. (903) 939-0209. www.thegrovetyler.com

Best Craft Beer
Under 50k
Railport Brewing Company. Waxahachie. This family-owned-and-operated brewery is in Historic Downtown Waxahachie. Reviewers talk about friendly staff, “best brew I ever had,” fantastic beer, wonderful atmosphere. They have live music every weekend, food trucks, yard games and are kid and pet friendly. They brew in-house, traditional style hand-crafted American, Belgian, and German ales. 405 W. Madison St., (469) 716-0038. www.railportbrewing.com

Honorable Mentions: Backstory Brewery, Sulphur Springs

Over 50k
Tupps Brewery. McKinney. The brewery is housed in an old cotton mill and offers happy hours, weekend tours, and tastings. Tupps has a healthy menu of beers including IPA, National Standard, Citra Pale Ale, Fruit Beer, and Spiced/Herbed Beer. 721 Anderson St. (214) 856-7996. www.tuppsbrewery.com

Best Catfish
Huck’s Catfish. Denison. Enjoy a variety of delicious catfish and seafood dinners in a family atmosphere. Operated by the original owner for almost 25 years, Huck’s is a neighborhood restaurant with food cooked fresh to order, good old-fashioned service, and good food at a good price. 2811 Trail Dr., (903) 337-0033. www.huckscatfish.com

Best Chicken Fried Steak
Weezy’s. Blossom (between Paris and Detroit). Reviewers say this is the place for true, down-home country food, and that the food is delicious and the staff is friendly. One reviewer said, “everything I’ve ever ordered from Weezy’s has been great, but the chicken fried steak is something that keeps me coming back for more — a true Texas delicacy.” 204 Front Street. (903) 982-7500

Honorable Mentions: The Fatted Calf, Rockwall; The Haystack, Reklaw; Sidekick’s, Emory; Crazy Heifer’s Cafe, Mount Pleasant

Over 50k
Belle Pepper Cafe. Longview. Reviewers speak highly of the Belle Pepper Cafe, saying that the food and service are excellent, that the entrance and patio are welcoming, and that the chicken fried steak is “ginormous” and the best you will find. Open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday. 4196 E. Marshall Ave. (903) 757-9397.

Best Coffee Shop
Under 50k
The Daily Grind. Rusk. The Daily Grind has a large variety of drinks including coffees, lattes, espresso, macchiato, and cappuccino, as well as great cold drinks including Irish cream soda and lavender lemonade. They also serve baked muffins, pies, custom cakes, and more, as well as lunch items including their popular chicken salad and many other sandwiches, soups, and chips. They strive to be a good neighbor and a local gathering place, and reviewers say it is a great place to have meetings or to just sit and relax. 111 W. 5th Street. (903) 683-1500. www.tdgcoffeehouse.com

Over 50k
The Foundry Coffee House. Tyler. The Foundry offers a place to enjoy a bottomless cup of coffee or special-menu latte. They are as intentional about brewing excellent craft coffee as they are with the people who grow it, roast it, and drink it — it’s all about relationships. The Foundry is a non-profit that gives back to local and overseas organizations. They also value the beauty that art and music can bring to any moment and they feature local artists and musicians every month. 202 S. Broadway Ave. (903) 944-7805. www.foundry-coffee.com

Best Burger
Watson’s Drive In. Denison. Watson’s Drive In is a piece of Americana, the oldest restaurant in Grayson County, located in historic downtown Denison. Everything is made to order. They use fresh meat for their hamburgers, hand cut their fries and make homemade onion rings. Reviewers say they love the staff and the food and that they have awesome service. “Best burgers in town and prices are super reasonable.” 631 W Main St. (903) 465-4669. watsons-drive-in.business.site

Hall of Fame: Dairy Palace, Canton

Best Malt/Shake
The Magic Scoop General Store. Sulphur Springs. This is a place to experience nostalgia. Along with 24 flavors of ice cream and many drink offerings, they have great shakes and malts, and a fun place to enjoy them. Throwback games, such as Rock-em-Sock-em Robots, Connect 4, Jenga and others are found on their tables. It’s fun to watch people come together and play in this technological world. Their upstairs window seating is a customer favorite. Main Shop: 210 Connally St.; Drive-Thru: 1401 S. Broadway. (903) 919-5053. www.themagicscoop.com

Best Pie
Oxbow General Store. Palestine. Mile-high meringue and Southern heritage collide for the ultimate dessert here. Located in an old mule barn built in the 1900s turned bakery, the Oxbow has served America’s favorite dessert since 2009 in Old Town Palestine. Owned and operated by a mother/son team, this place attracts pie lovers, including some famous foodies such as Chef Floyd Cardoz and Bravo’s Chef Master, to taste over a dozen delicious flavors. 215 E. Crawford Street, (903) 723 5100. www.oxbowpies.com

Best Pizza    
Under 50K
Switch Brick Oven Pizza & Wine Bar. Palestine. Everything on the menu, from the dough to the mozzarella, is freshly made in their kitchen every day. The Italian menu selections include Neopolitan-style pizza, which includes importing the pizza flour as well as the San Marzano tomatoes from Italy and baking it in a unique high-temp Woodstone oven. Their unique pizzas include Margherita, Mediterranean, the Capra, and The Switch, which has roasted pear, dolce latte, speck, gorgonzola, roasted walnuts, and arugula.  1615 S. Royall St. (903) 729-7700. www.switchbrickovenpizza.com

Over 50k
Roast Social Kitchen. Tyler. Their slogan is “Thoughtfully Prepared and Joyfully Shared.” They are proud to say they make all of the ingredients that become their menu items in-house daily “because it’s fun, tasty, and you’re worth it.” They offer unique pizzas such as Bee’s Knees which has roasted garlic, a four-cheese blend, calabrese, Italian sausage, Mike’s Hot Honey, thyme, and orange drizzle, and their Smoke Stack with pecan-smoked TX Akaushi brisket, Stanley’s BBQ sauce, whole milk mozzarella, and diced red onion. They also offer gluten-free dough and vegan cheese. 1125 E 5th Street. (903) 202-0295. www.roastsocialkitchen.com

Best Restaurant
The Ginocchio. Marshall. The Ginocchio presents steaks, seafood, pasta, and appetizers in the historic Ginocchio Hotel across the tracks from the Marshall Depot. They have a full bar with an extensive list of specialty cocktails, wine, and beer. People love this place not only for the food, but the ambience. The building was originally constructed in 1896 by Italian immigrant Charles Ginocchio. It began as a hotel and restaurant for passengers traveling along the Texas and Pacific Railroad and eventually fell into disrepair until new owners began renovating it in 2015. They kept much of the original building materials to maintain its character. The Ginocchio is open for lunch from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and dinner 5-9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The bar is open from 4-11 p.m. 707 N. Washington Ave. (903) 927-1400. www.theginocchio.com

Hall of Fame: Four Winds Steakhouse, Wills Point

Best New Restaurant
Stefano’s Greek Kouzina & Pastry Shop. Emory. This tiny treasure popped up in downtown Emory at the end of 2018 serving homemade Greek salads, gyros, dolmas, spanakopita, pastitsio, baklava, and more. Opa! The Greek music on the patio helps create a destination experience. Guests are raving about the Greek fries and baklava cheesecake. BYOB. They open at 11 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday, open until 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and until 2 p.m. on Sunday. 234 E. Quitman St. (903) 953-0111.

Best Salad
Nardello’s. Mount Pleasant. A neighborhood gem with great atmosphere on the historic downtown square, Nardello’s Pizza Tavern offers some great salads. The classic House and Caesar salads are available plus two well-liked unique salads: a Shredded Kale salad with napa cabbage, carrots, dates, scallions, parmesan, and peanut dressing; and Jimmy’s salad with romaine, iceberg, cherry tomatoes, cheese blend, crispy pancetta, and tangy house dressing. 103 North Madison Avenue. 903-380-6200. www.nardellos.com

Best Sandwich
The Cherry Laurel. Athens. This delicious location serves up a hearty and popular sandwich menu with Grilled Reuben, Chicken Salad, Muffaletta, Mexicali, Southwestern Deluxe, The Club, Swiss Bliss, Several Grilled Cheese specialties, and even Peanut Butter and Jelly. 305 S. Prairieville St. (903) 677-5599. www.thecherrylaurel.com

Best Seafood
KT’s Seafood Grill. Rusk. Locally owned and operated. Reviewers say their food is seasoned perfectly and that the seafood gumbo is great. They also say that the waitstaff is very friendly and attentive without being annoying — just right. 655 N. Main St. (903) 683-5721. www.facebook.com/KTs-Seafood-and-Grill

Best Steak
The Chophouse on Bankhead. Mount Vernon. Known for their friendly and prompt service, the ambience is restored small town Texas. Reviewers say that the food choices rival a big city and the taste of the items ordered is excellent. They serve 28-day aged Japanese Akaushi beef. This is a good place to celebrate an anniversary or other special occasion, and people are made to feel welcome whether they are dressed up or come in casual attire. 102 E Main St. (903) 270-2600. www.chophouseonbankhead.com

Hall of Fame: Four Winds Steakhouse, Wills Point; Five D Cattle Company, Avenger

Best Mexican Cuisine
Gloria’s. Rockwall. The food at Gloria’s was conceived by Gloria and Jose Fuentes and born out of the traditions of El Salvador. Inspired Tex-Mex additions provide a diversity, skirting the line between tradition and innovation. Located on Lake Ray Hubbard, guests can take in a beautiful view while enjoying their great food. 2079 Summer Lee Drive.  (972) 772-4088. gloriascuisine.com/locations/rockwall

Best Vegetarian
Logan’s Place. Mineola. This friendly spot is located in the old Beckham Hotel in historic downtown Mineola across from the train depot. Their vegetarian menu includes Avocado Wrap, Veggie Sandwich, Mushroom Grilled Cheese, and Egg & Cheese Sandwich. They also have sweet potato fries, veggie sides, and loaded baked potatoes. 113 E Commerce St. (903) 638-8320.

Best Winery
Enoch’s Stomp Winery and Vineyard. Harleton. Founded by Altus Koegelenberg and Jon Kral in 2004, Enoch’s Stomp sits upon 90 acres of beautiful rolling hills. Their wines are winning awards in competitions all over the world. The property sports 12 acres of grape vines including six varieties that are well suited for the East Texas territory. Fine dining is available on Friday and Saturday evenings. The tasting room is open for casual dining Wednesday through Sunday during regular business hours. The tasting room menu features light fare including pizzas, tapas, salads and dessert. Live music is performed by local artists Friday and Saturday evenings from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. in the tasting room. 871 Ferguson Rd.  (903) 240-1587. www.enochsstomp.com

Best Animal Rescue
The Pegasus Project. Murchison. Horse-rescue team extraordinaire cares and finds homes for neglected, abandoned, or abused horses in Texas. (903) 469-3578, www.mypegasusproject.org

Best Annual Event
Under 50k
Wonderland of Lights. Marshall. Conceived in 1987, Wonderland of Lights rivals the best Christmas lighting events in the country bringing close to 20,000 visitors each year. Millions of white lights illuminate the historic Harrison County Courthouse as downtown Marshall is transformed into a Winter Wonderland. Enjoy an outdoor ice skating rink, catch a ride on the Holly Trolley, Wonderland Express, or the beautifully restored vintage 1948 Herschel carousel. Make memories in Santa’s Village, a collection of tiny homes each featuring a fun, free activity. Bundle up and enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride on one of three carriages through Historic Downtown Marshall, then grab your dancing partner and listen to live music at Telegraph Park downtown performed by local musicians, area churches and school choirs. 211 N. Washington Avenue, (903) 702-7777. www.wonderlandoflights.com

Over 50k
Tyler Rose Festival. Tyler. The first Tyler Rose Festival was organized by Tyler Garden Club members, local rose growers and the Chamber of Commerce in October, 1933 to showcase the importance of the rose industry to Tyler. Held annually in October, the Rose Festival brings thousands of visitors to Tyler. Events include a rose show, arts & crafts, the Queen’s coronation ceremonies, and most importantly, the Rose Parade, held on Saturday morning of the festival. 420 Rose Park Dr., (903) 592-1661. texasrosefestival.com

Honorable Mentions: Harvest On Main, Mount Vernon; Wings Over Pegasus, Murchison; Winnsboro Art & Wine Festival; Heritage Syrup Festival, Henderson; Eagle Fest, Emory; Mardi Gras Upriver, Jefferson; Edom Art Festival

Best Antique Store
Main Street Mall. Denison. Located in Downtown Denison, Main Street Mall offers the best shopping experience around. With over 22,000 square feet and lots of vendors, it has a wide variety of antiques, vintage furniture, rustic decor, and just about everything else retro one can imagine. This is the shopping destination for pickers, glass collectors, sports card collectors, or any other vintage seekers. 500  W. Main. (903) 463-1230. www.mainstreetmalldenison.com

Best Art Gallery
Under 50k
Culture Club. Winnsboro. The Culture Club in downtown Winnsboro finds a diverse collection of metal works, paintings of various styles, wood carvings, bronzes, pastels, jewelry, and photography. Artists enjoy gathering there and visitors can often see them working on a new piece. They are open Monday/Tuesday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Wednesday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. 107 E. Elm Street. (903) 347-6036. www.cultureclubgallery.com

Over 50
Gallery Main Street. Tyler. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, this gallery is located in downtown Tyler. They have ongoing exhibitions featuring local artists. 110 W. Erwin. (903) 593-6905 www.downtowntylerarts.com

Best Cultural Destination    
Edom. Local artists began settling in Edom more than 45 years ago and created an authentic tiny arts community that entices visitors throughout the year and thousands during their annual Edom Art Festival each fall. This year the founding artists were joined by several new businesses that represent more than 40 area artists and have weekly events that keep the town hopping on a regular basis. The Palate Dining Room offers gourmet cuisine and The Shed Cafe is good for those who enjoy country cooking and a good piece of pie. The Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriot is about 10 minutes away on Interstate 20 and several cabins, B&Bs, and Airbnbs are nearby. Get more information on www.visitedom.com and contact individual businesses by phone before going. Some shops are open seven days a week, while others are open Thursday through Sunday.

Best Attraction
Under 50k
Cherokee Trace Drive-Thru Safari. Jacksonville. Cherokee Trace is a wildlife park that is home to an amazing variety of wildlife. See over two dozen exotic and endangered species that thrive in an open habitat similar to their native territory. Enjoy a self-guided drive through the hills and open savannahs of this 300-acre preserve. From the comfort of one’s own vehicle, people can observe, feed, and photograph these beautiful creatures in a natural environment with miles of roads that seem like a whole different world. 1200 County Road 4405. (903) 683-3322. www.cherokeetrace.com

Honorable Mentions: Hopkins County Veterans Memorial, Sulphur Springs; Mineola Mini Train; Scarbrough Haven, Emory; First Monday Trade Days, Canton

Over 50
Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary. McKinney. Founded in 1967, the Heard consists of a 289-acre wildlife sanctuary and a natural science museum for the primary purpose of educating children about nature. It exists to bring nature and people together to discover, enjoy, experience, restore, and preserve the priceless environment. The emphasis of the Heard’s education programs is children; however, it also offers programs that will interest visitors of any age.  Different events are available throughout the year as well as a photo contest. 1 Nature Place. (972) 562-5566. www.heardmuseum.org

Best B&B
The Holbrook Bed & Breakfast. Mount Vernon. In 2017, the host of this bed and breakfast retired from the corporate world to follow his dream of owning and operating a Bed and Breakfast.  He had always believed that service is the most important element in running a B&B and which includes small details. The B&B is a beautiful, peaceful, relaxing, lovingly restored and appointed historic home close to the heart of Mount Vernon. Reviewers rave about their stays here. Some say, “The home has been beautifully restored and the king-size bed was very comfortable. Our breakfasts were delicious!” “We’ve stayed at many B&B’s over the years and this one has the most amazing host we’ve ever encountered.” “Paul goes out of his way to make you feel comfortable and well cared for.” 601 Holbrook St, (817) 917-6073. theholbrookbedandbreakfastmtvernontx.com

Hall of Fame: Thee Hubbell House, Winnsboro

Best County Courthouse
Wood County. Quitman. The current Wood County Courthouse was designed and built in 1924 and 1925, after the previous one burned. The county added an annex in 1950, but the courthouse retains its Classical Revival style, with features including a grand stair with raised entry, a four-column temple front, and a full entablature with dentil molding and pediment. 100 S Main St. (903) 763-2716. www.mywoodcounty.com

Hall of Fame: Hopkins County, Sulphur Springs

Best Downtown
Old Town Palestine. Proof that a “downtown community” doesn’t have to center around a courthouse or otherwise be centrally located, Old Town Palestine is a lively neighborhood of revitalized historic structures that has everything one needs within walking distance for a fun time. About two blocks west of the Anderson County Courthouse, this is where you’ll find many of the locals congregating for concerts or just sharing a beer or cup of coffee. Hambone’s Cajun Grill serves up beer and boiled shrimp, crawfish, and all the fixins for those that enjoy Cajun cooking. Shelton Gin often has live music and other special events. Wells Creek Crossing is a superb gift and home decor shop and adjacent to  Cream & Coffee. A must experience is dining at Pint & Barrel Drafthouse, a pub-type  environment with craft beer and delicious food — try the cup of Cheddar Poblano soup with a Green Grilled Cheese sandwich with a couple of Fried Green Tomatoes on the side. Be sure to leave room for amazing pie from Oxbow Bakery with so many homemade pies to choose from you may have to try a few. Nestled in the heart of Old Town is Fig Tree Manor Bed & Breakfast, or visitors can stay at Redlands Hotel just a few blocks away, and multiple hotel chains are available. (903) 723-3014, www.visitpalestine.com

Hall of Fame: Winnsboro

Best Getaway
Relax & Wine Down/Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards. Pittsburg. Relax & Wine Down was founded in 2017 by Carolyn DeWoody and Amber Green, a mother-daughter duo who sought to provide  visitors with more than just a place to sleep, rather, a destination in which they could escape from the routines of everyday life, spend time together and enjoy all that East Texas has to offer.  Their unique, concierge-style business model, luxury homes, and integrated partners program create a customized experience, making travel and vacation planning a breeze. Visitors can take a stroll next door to Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards on the weekends to enjoy live music and delicious wines and a menu that includes a chef’s special each week, tapas platters, salads, pizzas, burgers, pasta, and desserts. 514 County Road 1334. (903) 598-4667.  www.relaxandwinedown.com

Best Gift Shop
Kasseigh’s. Mount Pleasant. In business since 1993, Kasseigh’s has recently undergone a change of ownership and has expanded their product offerings to include a wide variety of gifts, boutique apparel and accessories, home accessories, and custom home decor. Their brand line up includes Archipelago, Arthur Court, Band of Gypsies, Ben’s Garden, Brouk & Co., Brighton, Canoe, Cooper Pearl, Elan, Focus, GG, HOBO, Jag, Jack Black, Jodiful, Lennox, Melinda Maria, Milk Barn, Miss Me, Mudpie, Musee, Niven Morgan, Nora Fleming, Paddywax, Peepers, Splendid Iris, Thymes, Twelve Little, Vera Bradley, Violet and Brooks, Vin Glace, Waterford, Willow Tree, and Winton and Waits. 118 West Second Street. (903) 572-2239. www.kasseighs.com

Honorable Mention: Shops at 107, Quitman

Best Golf Course    
Tempest Golf Club. Gladewater. This scenic and challenging renovated golf course takes advantage of dramatic Piney Woods topography, with its rise and fall of almost 200 feet, incredible core golf vistas across as many as five holes in the routing’s lower confines, and a pair of holes that play across a four-acre freshwater lake. Public and member tee times and fees are available. 568 E. Wilkins Rd., (903) 984-5335. www.tempestgolfclub.com

Best Historic Building
Moore’s Store. Ben Wheeler. J.J. (Fat Daddy) Moore opened his 6,500-square-feet mercantile store in downtown Ben Wheeler in 1933. Until the store closed in 1992, Moore’s sold everything needed for day-to-day life in the country. Shoes lined the north wall, along with a row of theater seats customers sat in to try on merchandise.  Horse collars hung on the back wall, along with BB guns. Coal oil (kerosene) was pumped from a metal drum out back where a water well and trough supplied the teams of horses that some farmers continued to use right up to WWII.  Moore’s Store stayed open longer than most, but downtown Ben Wheeler dwindled to what some would call a ghost town for a couple of decades. In 2008, the late entrepreneur Brooks Gremmels began buying property and buildings and spruced up the town starting with Moore’s Store. After lots of hard work and heartfelt conviction for the historical building, Moore’s Store was brought back to life, opening its doors in September 2009 as a restaurant and live music venue. In an attempt to remain true to the building’s historical architecture, many of the original aesthetics of Moore’s was painstakingly retained and restored. A few new amenities were added including a sound system and performance stage for patrons to enjoy live music while they dine. 1535 FM 279. (903) 833-5100. www.mooresstore.com

Best Hotel
The Redlands Hotel. Palestine. This beautifully restored historic building is a destination all its own with comfortable guest suites, an art gallery, bar, fine dining at the Queen St. Grille, and a gift shop. It’s also centrally located to downtown shops and just a few blocks from Old Town Palestine. 400 N. Queen St. (903) 729-2345. www.theredlandshotel.com

Best Improved Town
Ennis. Ennis is working through a master plan that has the city doing many projects that have a positive impact on its downtown. This year, they did a complete infrastructure update and beautification of Dallas Street. They hosted Ennis Autumn Daze as their first festival on the newly opened street to the delight of the community and visitors alike. They have a new Welcome Center downtown and several new businesses. Other plans include beautification of Knox Street, installation of outdoor speakers, and renovation of the Ennis Avenue underpass. (972) 878.4748, www.visitennis.org

Best Live Music Venue
The Forge Bar & Grille. Ben Wheeler. Local and touring singer-songwriters perform at The Forge four nights a week and an outdoor backyard garden is often home to special events featuring live music including the Annual Tribute to Townes Van Zandt, Barstool Races, Junebug Summer Fair, Dia De Los Puercos, and more. Visitors often comment on the “Austin-quality” vibe at The Forge. 1610 FM 279. (903) 833-5970. theforgebenwheeler.com

Hall of Fame: Moore’s Store, Ben Wheeler

Best Museum
Under 50k
Mineola Historical Museum. This museum is packed with more than 4,200  square feet of exhibits that show the history of the area. Once the town’s post office, the building continues to honor that part of history with original post office boxes and other memorabilia and a mural that shows how mail was transported at the intersection of the horse and buggy, train, and air travel. From the local theater to recording artists and politicians, museum curators pay homage to their native sons and daughters. 114 N. Pacific St. (903) 569-2631. www.mineola.com/community/page/historical-museum

Over 50k
Tyler Museum of Art. Encouraging arts education is one of the primary missions of the Tyler Museum of Art along with providing a cultural center that enriches the lives of residents and visitors alike. They do this through the collection, preservation, study, exhibition, interpretation, and celebration of the visual arts. Numerous exhibitions throughout the year introduce guests to visual artwork from the region and all over the world. 1300 S Mahon Ave. (903) 595-1001. https://tylermuseum.org

Best Nature Walk
East Texas Arboretum. Athens. Guests enjoy wooded beauty, trees, flowers, and wildlife along two miles of woodland trails that include winding, spring-fed streams and a 115-foot suspension bridge. On the 100-acre arboretum is the historic Wofford House Museum, a reminder of early pioneer days complete with period furnishings, memorabilia, and a seasonal garden. 1601 Patterson Rd. (903) 675-5630. www.easttexasarboretum.org

Best RV Park
Silver Spur Resort. Canton. Opened in 2016, this location promises “ranch life with luxury flair.” They currently have 61 RV sites and 10 cabins with more scheduled for completion this spring along with climate-controlled covered wagons for overnight stays. They are a designated KOA (Kampgrounds of America) and offer a variety of ongoing activities including day camps, murder-mystery nights, two escape rooms, and live music and other special events. Their on-site restaurant, Q and Brew, offers authentic smokehouse-style barbecue, local craft beers, and assorted Texas wines. It is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 4 p.m. on Sunday. 13785 TX-19. (903) 420-1400. www.thesilverspurresort.com

Hall of Fame: Mill Creek Ranch RV & Cottage Resort, Canton

Best Sign
Dr Pepper Mural. Mount Pleasant. Mount Pleasant has had a long history with Dr Pepper since it once was bottled downtown. Over the past 20 years Dr Pepper has restored their mural on the side of the oldest building on the downtown square twice. The latest restoration makes the mural one of the largest in the United States. (903) 572-0613. www.mtpleasanttx.com

Best Slogan
We Have a Nac for That. Nacogdoches. The oldest town in Texas uses this clever slogan in their invitations for visitors. (936) 564-7351. www.visitnacogdoches.org

Best Stage
Texan Theater. Greenville. The intimate feel of the Texan Theater brings guests up close to entertainers ranging from Americana music stars to traveling shows from all over the world. Enjoying full four-course dinner as they watch, patrons can relax with spacious seating and friendly waitstaff. 2712 Lee St. (903) 259-6360. texantheatergreenville.com

Best Thrift Store
Emporium on Lower Main. Mount Vernon. Thrift stores used to be frequented more by antique lovers and nostalgia seekers but there’s a growing group of consumers that feel comfortable adding second-hand items to their shopping lists for themselves and for gifts. The pre-owned market is  a savvy way for shoppers to save money, discover hard-to-find items, and reuse, repurpose, and otherwise contribute to efforts to reduce landfill disposals. The Emporium on Lower Main buys and sells carefully curated mid-century, vintage, industrial, boho, eclectic products as well as used and rare furniture, books, and music. 204 Main St. (903) 563-2987. www.facebook.com/emporiumonlowermain

Best Actor
Nelson Bond. Shrek: The Musical, Lake Country Playhouse, Mineola. Taking on the lead role of Shrek in Lake Country Playhouse’s summer musical, Nelson Bond leads a full cast of fairytale friends to the delight of audience members who nominated him for this award.

Best Artist
Randy Martin. Metal sculpture artist Randy Martin creates one-of-a-kind kinetic pieces that grace the yards and living rooms of his fans all over Texas and beyond. Some of his work includes his original creations of fish, mermaids, spinning bats, dragonflies, and shaman figures. He makes metal flower bird feeders and lotus flower water fountains. He creates from his home in Van and his work is featured at the Edom Art Emporium and at art shows all over the country. He teaches metal sculpture to adults and kids alike. He serves on local arts committees and helps produce local art shows. He has a strong conviction for the arts improving quality of life for all. (903) 570-6955, www.facebook.com/ArtByRandyMartin

Best Chef
Reynaldo Jandres
. Marshall. Reynaldo Jandres is executive chef at the Ginocchio restaurant in downtown Marshall. He moved to the United States from El Salvado in 1978 and quickly found his place in  the food industry. He trained under French, Italian, and Mexican chefs, learning techniques from each of them. He worked at the Village Grill in Shreveport for 28 years before coming to the Ginocchio. He takes a great deal of pride in ensuring his customers receive consistently great meals. 707 N. Washington Ave., (903) 927-1400, www.theginocchio.com

Hall of Fame: Frank Rumore, Four Winds Steakhouse; Jackson York, various locations.

Best Play
Suite Surrender
. Winnsboro. Directed by Bob Hibbard at the Winnsboro Center for the Arts, ”Suite Surrender” was a big hit in April. The story takes place in 1942, and two of Hollywood’s biggest divas have descended upon the luxurious Palm Beach Royale Hotel — assistants, luggage, and legendary feud with one another in tow. Everything seems to be in order for their wartime performance. That is, until they are somehow assigned to the same suite. Mistaken identities, overblown egos, double entendres, and a lap dog named Mr. Boodles round out this riot of a love note to the classic farces of the 30’s and 40’s. Stars of the play included Jim Hollowell, Claire Mounce, Kay McEntire, Val Vetter, Darla Pierce, Gale Gilbert, Roy Shockey, Becky Hibbard and Michael Phifer. (903)342-0686, winnsborocenterforthearts.com

Best Community Theatre
Cherokee Civic Theatre
. Rusk. This theatre company is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization dedicated to the dramatic arts. They present live concerts as well as four shows during September through April each year. They also offer a youth summer camp and look for other ways to perform, to entertain, and to introduce to as many as possible the delights of live theatre. 157 W 5th St. (903) 683-2131. www.cherokeetheatre.net

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