There’s always – and obviously – something special about "the best," especially when it’s fairly close to home. County Line Magazine readers cast nearly 2,000 total votes this year to help define the best of the Upper East Side of Texas.
Our readers are known to keep this issue throughout the year to check out all the winners. It’s a great way to explore the region and sometimes we get to hear about and write about their experiences and new treasures they find along the way.
If your favorites didn’t make this list be sure to let us know about them and remember to vote every year in November.
Dub’s Texas BBQ in Lindale: Family owned and operated since 1965, Dub’s is known for its Southern-style ribs, chopped pork, chicken, and all the sides. Other offerings include hot links, sausage, chicken-fried steak, catfish, a variety of sandwiches, and more. The dinner menu includes grilled steaks. Customers tout the service almost as much as the fresh meats and the just-right sauces. Seating is first-come, first-served; patience is an asset. Daily lunch and dinner; catering for groups of all sizes. 2610 S. Main, 903.882.5857, http://dubstexasbbq.com. Runners up: Rudy’s in Tyler and Shep’s In Palestine.
Edom Bakery & Grill: There’s a daily special from 7-10 a.m. and an extensive breakfast menu that includes bacon, sausage, ham, traditional down-home egg dishes, lox and bagels with capers; eggs benedict; quiche Lorraine, biscuits and gravy, Belgian waffles; fresh seasonal fruit, and a variety of breads and muffins cooked in-house. Monday-Wednesday 7 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursday-Saturday 7 a.m.-9 p.m., Sunday 7 a.m.-8 p.m. 8834 FM 279, 903.852.5552, www.edombakery.com. Runners up: Art & Espresso in Winnsboro and Kitchen’s in Mineola.
Stacy’s Fish Fry in Miller Grove: catfish and shrimp buffet served with fries, hush puppies, and salad bar, Stacey’s drew the most voter comments, ranging simply from "best catfish in Texas" to "Great place to hang out with family and friends," "My family and I drive two hours to eat at Stacey’s Fish Fry at least one time every two or three months. Worth every minute," and "Great service. Quaint surroundings." Hours are limited: Friday and Saturday evenings from 4-9 p.m. 7565 FM 275, 903.459.3300, www.staceysfishfry.com. Runners up: Vaughn’s Catfish in Cypress Springs and The Red Barn in Wills Point.
Best Chicken Fried Steak
Four Winds Steakhouse in Wills Point: Not just ordinary chicken-fried steak, but chicken-fried tenderloin lightly breaded and pan-fried with cream gravy in the rustic but modern ranch house of former Dallas Cowboy Lee Roy Jordan. Choice of sides includes glazed carrots, mushrooms and onions, baked potato, steamed asparagus, creamed spinach, green beans, potatoes au gratin, and creamed corn. The recipe belongs to former Del Frisco’s chef Frank Rumoré, with 30 years experience, and his team. 21191 FM 47, 903.873.2225, www.fourwindssteakhouse.com. Runners up: The Farmhouse in Van and Cracker Barrel in Greenville.
Mt. Sylvan Coffee House and Mercantile: Small selection of old-fashioned medium roasted blends from Coffee City USA in Tyler plus any kind of lattes – "we’ve got tons of syrups" – and espresso in what was once a Masonic Lodge and has been restored as a gathering place – designed like mom’s kitchen – with checkers, dominoes, cards, and Wi-Fi. Homemade breakfast burritos, snacks, brown bag lunches, sweets, and local artisans’ works. 903.881.9444, 13268 Hwy 110N, www.mtsylvancoffeehouse.com. Runners up: Art & Espresso in Winnsboro and Brewhaha in Mineola.
Butcher Boys Smokehouse and Deli in Nacogdoches: Old-fashioned, fresh, juicy hamburgers and cheeseburgers prepared with the freshest meats plus BBQ plus chicken-fried and hamburger steaks, sliced and chopped beef, sausages, steaks, sides, and more. This family-owned and operated – since 1977 – place starts cooking when you place your order, and cooks it the way you want it. 603 North, 936.560.1137, http://butcherboysnac.com. Runners up: East Texas Burger Company in Mineola and Burgers & Fries in Sulphur Springs.
Miller’s Old Tyme Soda Fountain at Miller’s Pharmacy in Cooper: In its current location on the corner of the town square since sometime in the 1930s and still operated by the Miller family and still largely the same as it was years ago. Mabel Wheat, now 89, still makes the malts, shakes, and what Texas Highways magazine called the "perfect" ice cream soda, mixing it all the old-timey way by hand. The ice cream itself is made right in the store. Thirty-five to 40 gallons at a time in five- and 10-gallon containers. Miller’s Pharmacy, 100 E Dallas, 903.395.2127. Runners up: Soda Jerk in Canton and Charley’s Burgers & Blue Bell in Wills Point.
Ganny’s Pie Shop in Winnsboro: The slogan is, "It’s all about pie!" With the exclamation mark. Forty-eight different kinds, although not all of them are available every day. Owner Georgia Goggans also cooks a pot of something – "whatever I would feed my family" – for lunch every day; some people get lunch and pie, and some just get pie. Georgia says the most popular kind in Winnsboro is probably chocolate meringue, and the most popular worldwide is coconut meringue. She doesn’t ship, but gets that "worldwide" perspective from the pie shop she ran on The Mountain at Canton’s First Monday Trade Days for seven years "and people from all over the world came there." 108 W. Elm, 903.243.0992, www.facebook.com/pages/Gannys-Pie-Shop. Runners up: Loggins in Tyler and Edom Bakery and Grill.
Zazuz in Winnsboro: Open since May, Zazuz offers pizza by the slice or whole pizza cooked to order featuring a thin cracker crust or Sicilian deep dish with choices of traditional pizza sauce, alfredo sauce, BBQ sauce, and more. Specialty pizzas include Sweet Lady margherita pizza, White Bird chicken alfredo pizza, Red Rooster BBQ chicken pizza, In the Garden veggie pizza, You Need Meat meat lovers’ pizza, and No Sink supreme pizza plus daily specials. 821 S. Main, 903-347-0155, www.facebook.com/pages/Zazuz-Pizza-More. Runners up: Bruno’s in Tyler and Jerry’s in Canton.
Winnsboro Farmers Market: Local homegrown and homemade produce and crafts available seasonally including a potpourri of fresh eggs and baby chicks, yogurt, breads, jams and jellies, salsas, honey, herbs, beans, cabbage, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cantaloupe, fudge, carrots, broccoli, potatoes, Texas wines, peppers, meats, seeds, pickles, eggplants, Swiss chard, melons, cut flowers, rabbits, flowering plants, organic fertilizer, blackberries, peaches, peas, gourds, goat milk soup, a variety of peppers, dried fruits and vegetables, teas, syrup, and more. Open Saturday mornings from spring into the fall at City Park under the covered Jack Cross Pavilion, 903.629.7471, www.winnsborofarmersmarket.com. Runners up: Cycle of Seasons in Lindale and Fresh in Tyler.
Wasabi Sushi Bar and Asian Bistro in Tyler: Japanese fusion menu with traditional Japanese ingredients presented in a contemporary style includes sushi, sashimi, salads, entrées, and desserts. The rolls include tuna and spicy tuna; fresh, smoked, and spicy salmon; crab; white fish; yellowtail; shrimp; eel; veggie; and more. The walls are decorated with Anup Bhandari’s art and there’s live music on the patio every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. 5617 Donnybrook, 903.939.0211, www.wasabityler.com. Runners up: Bernard’s in Tyler and Ta Molly’s in Greenville.
Best Salsa & Tortilla Chips
Ta Molly’s Mexican Restaurant: Made from scratch with the freshest ingredients. Crisp, fresh, tasty chips strong enough that they won’t break in the bowl or on the way to the mouth loaded with chunkier than thin salsa that’s more about taste than heat. Greenville and Paris. 6929 I-30 in Greenville, 903.454.6193, and 2835 NE Loop 286 in Paris, 903.784.4706. www.tamollys.com. Runners up: Posado’s in Lindale and Villa Montez in Tyler.
The Butcher Shop Bakery in Longview. Lots of crisp veggies bought locally and cut fresh every morning – including lettuce, tomato, okra, cucumber, chives, and more; bacon bits, cheese, potato salad, sliced apples, etc.’ and French, ranch, fat-free ranch, Italian, fat-free Italian, and dressing choices – as stand-alone meals or to complement other popular menu items such as burgers, chicken-fried steak and various platters. Not to mention hearty breakfasts and the five-cent jukebox. 102 LeHigh, 903.758.6066, www.butchershopbakery.com. Runners up: Olive Garden in Greenville and Tyler.
Railway Café in Athens: Downtown lunch spot features a chicken salad sandwich with sweet potato fries as part of its menu of cheeseburgers, wraps, salads, and other sandwiches -- roasted turkey BLT, grilled chicken wrap, grilled portobello on sourdough, avocado on wheat, cheeseburger, and more with kettle chips – plus daily specials. 210 N. Palestine, 903.264.7245, www.railwaycafe.org. Runners up: Art & Espresso in Winnsboro and Edom Bakery and Grill.
Johnny Cace’s in Longview. Serving New Orleans-style Creole cuisine at lunch and dinner for 60 years, featuring family recipes. Specialty favorites in the wide-ranging menu include crawfish-shrimp etouffe and shrimp newburg, catfish topped with crawfish etouffe, crawfish tails and petite shrimp, shrimp pasta, and sea scallops plus appetizers and oysters. 1501 E. Marshall, 903.753.7691, www.johnnycaces.com. Runners up: Fish City Grill in Tyler and Four Winds in Wills Point.
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. No. 8 Main, 903.562.1291, www.fivedcattle.com. Runners up: Four Winds in Wills Point and Bernard’s in Tyler.
Edom Bakery & Grill. All pastries and baked goods made fresh daily: pies, cakes, cookies, muffins, breads, and more to complement the "country gourmet" menu: chocolate and sugar-free chocolate, coconut, and other pies; devilishly delicious chocolate blends in the cakes; peanut better, oatmeal raisin, and chocolate chip cookies; blueberry, cranberry nut, and other muffins. Special-occasion cakes and desserts baked to order with 24-hour notice. Monday-Wednesday 7 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursday-Saturday 7 a.m.-9 p.m., Sunday 7 a.m.-8 p.m. 8834 FM 279, 903.852.5552, www.edombakery.com. Runners up: La Waffalata in Mineola and Sweet Gourmet in Tyler.
Ta Molly’s in Greenville: Made-from-scratch favorites include the beef burrito el grande, the taco dinner with spicy beef or chicken, baja fish tacos, the spicy beef or chicken burrito dinner, the shredded pork tamale dinner, chile relleno, white-cheese enchiladas, and beef or chicken flautas – all served with refried beans and rice. There’s also a selection of quesadillas, fajitas, and munchies. Greenville and Paris. 6929 I-30 in Greenville, 903.454.6193, and 2835 NE Loop 286 in Paris, 903.784.4706. www.tamollys.com. Runners up: Peralta’s in Quitman and Mercado in Tyler.
Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards in Pittsburg. Defined by an Old World, unhurried style that may – or may not – belie the fact that the vineyard’s selection of sweet and dry wines are sold in more than 220 retail stores in Texas. The covered tasting deck in the just-rustic-enough winery and the two cottages available for rent have beautiful views of the vineyard that reminds of a European trip to a Tuscany wine center. Open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the menu includes meats, cheeses, pizzas, ribs, paninis, and specials along with the wines. Live Jazz every Friday and Saturday evening. 658 CR 1334, 903.855.1769, www.lospinosranchvineyards.com. Runners up: Keipersol in Tyler and Enoch’s Stomp in Harleton.
Best Annual Event
Edom Festival of the Arts: One of the premiere outdoor art festival in Texas is set in and near a downtown lined with local artists’ shops. Edom continues an almost 40-year history of hosting artists as many of the region’s finest artisans gather in a meadow just a stone’s throw from downtown for this annual event that draws a diverse array of artists and art, live music, a free children’s art workshop, and a wide assortment of food. The festival draws thousands of people to see and buy the works of painters, potters, woodworkers, jewelers, photographers, furniture makers, and others. Downtown at Hwy 279 and FM 314, 903.852.3294 www.edomfestivalofthearts.com. Runners up: Winnsboro Fine Art Market and Hog Fest in Ben Wheeler.
Best Afternoon Stroll
Downtown Ben Wheeler: Redeveloped by Brooks and Rese Gremmels and crew, the once-thriving community now hosts two restaurants – Moore’s Store and The Forge – that feature quality, selective sandwich –and-specials menus, wine and beer, and live music. Then there are the retail shops: Flying Fish Gallery, Rave Art Gallery, Whimzee clothing boutique, Antiques & Texas Heritage, Scoots N Scoops ice cream shop and motorcycle museum, Secret Garden Embroidered Art & Gifts, Blue Goose woodcarvings and coffee shop, the world famous Harrison & Son Knifesmith, and more. The community also includes a restored schoolhouse that houses a children’s library and special events and a restored chapel available for special events. The 279 Art Jam every second Saturday draws crowds to both Ben Wheeler and nearby Edom. http://benwheelertx.com. Runners up: Downtown Winnsboro and Faulkner Park in Tyler.
Tyler Rose Museum and Tyler Municipal Rose Garden Center: Thousands of visitors a year see exhibits developed to preserve and display the history of the area’s long-lived and heralded involvement with field-grown roses and the Texas Rose Festival. The 7,500-square-foot museum includes displays of memorabilia and hand-sewn, jeweled costumes dating as far back as 1935, rose-growing and historical presentations, and the 14-acre rose garden touted as the nation’s largest. There are over 38,000 rose bushes of at least 500 different varieties, from tall grafted rose trees to miniature roses no larger than a dime. 420 Rose Park, garden center 903.531.1212, museum 903.597.3130, www.texasrosefestival.com/museum/index.htm and www.cityoftyler.org/Visitors/RoseGardenCenter. Runners up: Tiger Creek and Caldwell Zoo, both in Tyler.
Best Bed &Breakfast
The Oaks in Mineola. Three elegantly and fully furnished and finished suites and the Sunshine Room are just the beginning. There’s a pool and spa where massages are available plus cozy sitting areas; a huge great room with a fully functioning stone fireplace large enough for meetings, seasonal parties, weddings, receptions, and other special events; indoor areas for scrapbooking, cropping/stitching, quilting, yoga classes, and small and large clubs as well as corporate retreats. The grounds are landscaped for weddings, family reunions, picnics, and other events. 1708 S Hwy 69, 903.569.1719, http://theoaksbnb.com. Runner up: Thee Hubble House in Winnsboro.
Beauty & the Book in Jefferson: Billed as he only hair salon/bookstore in the country, it’s a magnet of sorts for visiting authors – more than 500 authors and other celebrities have visited the store. It’s also the home base for the more than 300 Pulpwood Queen Book Clubs. The bookstore features local and regional books, children’s books, beauty and girlfriend books, official Pulpwood Queen and Timber Guy Book Club selections, and owner Kathy Patrick’s own book, The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara Wearing, Book Sharing Guide to Life. 608 N Polk, 903.665.7520, www.beautyandthebook.com. Runners up: Winnsboro Emporium and Barnes & Noble in Tyler.
Best Camping Spot
Tyler State Park. Activities on the 985.5 acres – including a 64-acre lake – include picnicking, camping, boating, fishing, birding, hiking, mountain biking, and swimming. Situated in the piney woods, the steep dissected hillsides and the lake provide considerable habitat variety including deer, squirrels, raccoons, opossums, and numerous bird species. Popular fish include crappie, perch, catfish, and bass. 789 Park Road 16, 903.597.5338, www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/tyler. Runners up: Caddo Lake Park and Mill Creek Ranch Resort in Canton.
Best County Courthouse
Rains County in Emory: The current, recently renovated courthouse is the county’s fourth since its creation in 1870. It was built of ginger-colored bricks around the old records vault from the 1884 building and is a two-story Maltese cross-shaped, Classical Revival style building designed by St. Louis architect Andrew J. Bryan. The foundation was built with the crushed brick and clay from the previous building. The stucco on the interior walls has been returned to the original pale-yellow color and the wood trim, wood frame doors and windows, wood floors in the courtroom and wood staircases look brand new. 167 E. Quitman, 903.473.5000, www.co.rains.tx.us. Runners up: Wood County in Quitman and Hopkins County in Sulphur Springs.
Best Fishing Hole
Cedar Creek Lake: Near Malakoff, Kemp, Mabank, Gun Barrel City, and several other communities, the predominant fish species are blue catfish, channel catfish, flathead catfish, largemouth bass, white bass, hybrid striped bass, and crappie. The best fishing areas for largemouth bass are in the southern portion of the lake, especially the southern third of the lake in the large coves and inlets where the water is clearer, The lake’s record largemouth bass weighed 14.65 pounds. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department maintains three islands, totaling 160 acres as a wildlife management area for aquatic birds. Runner up: Lake Winnsboro.
Best Golf Course
Legacy Ridge Country Club in Bonham. The par-72 course is 6,800 yards from the championship tees, combines several unique landscapes with classic designs that include large bent grass greens, numerous sand bunkers, groves of hardwood trees, and rock waterfalls. The front nine winds down into the enhanced wetlands of Bois d’ Arc Creek, while the back nine plays across waterfalls, white sand bunkers and numerous hardwood trees. Clubhouse amenities include a formal banquet room/mixed grill dining room and dressing rooms with showers, wash area, changing area, and lockers. 2201 Country Club, 903.640.4800, http://legacyridge.com. Runners up: Twin Lakes Golf Course in Canton and Garden Valley Golf Club in Lindale.
Holiday Inn Express in Palestine. Winner of the 2010 IHG Renovation and TripAdvisor award, the motel offers free high-speed Internet access and a 24-hour business center plus a 670-square-foot meeting room. Other amenities include an outdoor pool, a fitness center, and a free hot breakfast. Each of the 62 rooms offers a dual-line phone and free local calls, a microwave and fridge, premium quality mattresses, and a 32-inch flat screen TV with HBO. 1030 E. Palestine, 877.863.4780, www.hiexpress.com/hotels/us/en/Palestine. Runner up: Hilton Dallas Lakefront Rockwall.
Sulphur Springs: Courthouse renovation and lots of streetscape ambiance – new brick street surface, sidewalks, period lighting, benches, a water feature, and magnolia and red oak trees – are attracting shoppers and prospective business owners downtown these days. Some of the extras included synchronized lighting set to music that plays 24/7 from state-of-the-art speakers, automated underground irrigation and spray misters for the trees, shrubs and flowers, flagpole holders at the edge of the street, and even milk can trash disposals, an appropriate touch for the Dairy Capital of the World. Fifty/fifty grants are also available that will match up to $20,000 for the renovation of store fronts in the tax increment financial district. Plans already include a Main Street farmer’s market, two new restaurants, a sports bar, boutiques, and more. The latest addition will be a lighted, interactive fountain planned for downtown in 2012 in the shape of the Texas star and illuminated with ultra violet light. Among the many festivals is the annual Fly-In at the updated municipal airport. 903.885.6515, www.sulphurspringstx.org. Runners up: Mineola and Ben Wheeler.
Best Lakeside Town
Rockwall: Neighboring Lake Ray Hubbard, the Mediterranean-inspired boardwalk development Harbor Rockwall features shopping, dining, and entertainment for the whole family: waterfront restaurants, a major movie theater, retail stores, open air festivals, and more every day. Events at The Harbor include Rockwall Chamber’s "Rocking on the Docks," Holidays at The Harbor, gospel Sunday brunches, The Freedom Festival & Boat Show, The Harbor Wine & Art Fest, the Toyota Triathlon and an annual auto show. The Concert on the Lake series is held every Thursday evening from mid May to Mid August. Downtown may be the smallest square in the smallest county in Texas, but it’s often busy with visitors attending season events and shopping at a variety of places with specialty merchandise that includes everything from designer jeans to furniture, antiques to year-round Christmas decorations and gifts. 972.771.7761, www.rockwall.com. Runner up: Hideaway.
Best Live Music Venue
Crossroads Music Co. in Winnsboro. Founded by singer-songwriters Lindy Hearne and Lynn Adler, Crossroads wins the nod as "the best" because it is a premiere listening room – where music is the focus – for both national touring acts and regional musicians, Crossroads is now under the broad wings of the Winnsboro Center for the Arts. Each concert is all about the music – whether it’s a solo performing songwriter, a blues band, or a rock-n-roll night. Past performers include Ray Wylie Hubbard, Ralph Stanley, Ann Armstrong & Steve Hughes, Druha Trava, Brian Burns, Rhett Butler, Jimmy LaFave, and of course Adler & Hearne and many others. 204 Market, 903.434.2888, www.crossroadsmusiccompany.com. Runners up: Rick’s on the Square in Tyler and Moore’s Store in Ben Wheeler.
Best Local Band
BlacktopGYPSY: Both Andie Kay Joyner and Heather Stalling – from Edgewood and Bullard, respectively – grew up in musical families that exposed them to bluegrass, folk, and traditional country music; Stalling was an award-winning fiddler and Joyner had sung in front of thousands of people at countless performances. Together, they created the band with the funky spelling (blacktop for the back roads they played, gypsy for the amount of travel involved). They are joined by Steven Cooper on lead guitar, Phillip Cardon on percussion, Jay New on bass, and Darcy Starcher on background vocals. Their albums are a montage of styles representing the songwriters’ varied influences and phases of musical interest. Runners up: Slightly Tilted and Diddley Squat.
Adler & Hearne: From their Spring Hollow Organic Song Farm in the piney woods outside Winnsboro, performing songwriters Lynn Adler and Lindy Hearne serve up their own blend of folk, jazz, blues, and bluegrass. They first met in Nashville; years later, their paths merged in Texas. Adler & Hearne’s songs reflect glimmers of their life stories, and their home. The couple founded the popular Crossroads Music Co., but surrendered it to others so they could go on the road sharing their music. www.adlerandhearne.com. Runners up: Matt Bradshaw and Heather Little.
Southwest Dairy Center and Museum in Sulphur Springs: In 1982, several key figures in The Southwest Dairy Farmers alliance got together to create a dairy museum in the Dairy Capitol of Texas to preserve artifacts and historical documents to share the history of the Southwestern dairy industry. Outside, there are two 15-feet-tall statues of dairy cows -- one a Holstein named Buttercup and a Jersey named Creampuff. In addition to onsite exhibits, the museum operates 12 mobile dairy classrooms that haul cows and calves and a milking machine to school districts in several states. 903.439.6455, 1210 Houston, www.southwestdairyfarmers.com. Runners up: McMillian African American Museum in Emory and Mineola Historical Museum.
Best Nature Walk
Cooper Lake State Park. The rolling hills offer spectacular views of the 19,000-acre Cooper Lake which opened in 1996 on land inhabited by the Caddo people thousands of years ago. It has evolved into one of the best all around fishing lakes in the region for blue and channel catfish, blue gill, Florida largemouth bass, crappie and hybrid striped bass. Activities also include camping, water skiing, picnicking, boating, unsupervised swimming, bird watching, nature study, and more. The South Sulphur Unit offers equestrian camping and horseback riding trails. A variety of mammals may be seen the parks including, grey fox, bobcat, opossum, beaver, raccoon, white-tail deer, nine-banded armadillo, and eastern cottontail. 1664 FR 1529S in Cooper, 903.395.3100 and 1690 FM 3505 in Sulphur Springs, 903.945.5256, www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/cooper_lake. Runner up: The Governor Hogg Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens in Quitman.
Aunt Char’s Kid Zone at Greenville Sports Park. Dozens of local volunteers built this playground for the city’s children in 2002 and named it for the donor who contributed $80,000 toward the costs of construction. In addition to first-rate playground structures such as a dinosaur slide, it includes a Wall of Fame and bathrooms. The greater sports park also includes basketball, an exercise trail, fishing, grills, inline hockey, a jogging trail, a lighted ball field, a lighted pavilion with electrical outlets, picnic tables, playgrounds, restrooms, soccer, and a water fountain/faucet. 3601 Kari, (903) 457-2994, www.ci.greenville.tx.us. Runners up Governor Jim Hogg Park in Quitman and Cooper Lake State Park.
Best RV Park
Whispering Pines RV and Cabin Resort in Red Springs. Located on 47 acres of pine, oak, dogwood, and sweet gum trees, Whispering Pines has 133 RV sites – 130 of those with full hook-up including both 30 & 50 amp service. Also hosts RV rallies, company picnics, family reunions, weddings, and other gatherings. Five meeting rooms each with complete kitchens. 5583 FM 16E, 903.858.2405, www.whisperingpinesrvresort.com. Runner up: Lake Tawakoni RV Center.
RC mural in Ben Wheeler: Covering most of one side of the downtown Scoots N Scoops ice cream shop and motorcycle museum, the smiling country boy with his Moon Pie and big ol’ RC conjures the seemingly simpler times of yesteryear. Painted by Brent Hale. 903.833.1070, www.benwheelertx.com.
The Upper East Side of Texas: For the first time, County Line Magazine is letting itself be recognized in the "best-of" voting. More voters chose the magazine’s unofficial slogan because it’s descriptive of the coverage area, it’s catchy, and it creates a bit of a twinkle in people’s eyes. Another sign of its success: some people also are beginning to use it on Facebook and in conversation. Runners up: "Let us Lure you to Emory" and Ben Wheeler’s "It’s Ben Fun."
Best Small Town Downtown
Mineola. Concentrated shopping for antiques – at least 20 antique shops – and more, restaurants, the new Mineola Historical Museum, and an Amtrak train station/museum that can take you almost anywhere in the country – and bring people from anywhere in the country right to Mineola’s front door to listen to music on the streets, catch a concert or a movie at the historic Select Theater, or visit one of the landmark homes. The Mineola League of the Arts has converted an old schoolhouse into a busy art center and the 39-acre civic center complex has room for 224 RVs. 903.569.2086, www.mineolachamber.org. Runners up: Sulphur Springs and Ben Wheeler.
Best Art Gallery
Creative Arts Center in Bonham: Managed by the Fannin Community Foundation, the center provides a local venue – with local support from individuals, churches, civic organizations, and other community groups– where artists and performers display, explore, create, and teach their crafts, and where people of all ages learn and experience art. The center also hosts live music and other events. Dedicated to meeting community needs through exposure to the arts as well as educational and social programs, the center is as much about teaching as it is about displaying through a regular series of exhibits – which have featured more than 75 different artists. It 200 W. 5th, 903.640.2196, www.creativeartscenter.us. Runners up: Keyring Gallery in Winnsboro and Arbor Castle Birdhouses in Edom.
Bobbye Koncak from Mineola. The self-taught artist paints in impressionist, abstract, and non-objective styles – often in watercolor but sometimes using acrylics and mixed medium. She shows at galleries, art walks, and art festivals in the region. She has been a member of Kerrville Arts & Cultural Center, Guadalupe Watercolor Group, Coppini Academy of Fine Arts, Hill Country Art Foundation, Southwest Watercolor Society, Hoover Art Society, Mineola League of the Arts, Texas Watercolor Society, San Antonio Watercolor Group and Splash Group of Tyler. Runners up: Margit Iguchi from Winnsboro and Daphne Roehr at Hatcher Pine Mills Pottery.
Chef Justin Boswell at Railway Cafe in Athens: The Athens native moved to Austin for college and worked at Kirby Lane Café there, where he began cooking. He then attended the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco before working at Q’s in Boulder, Colorado, and Wink in Austin. He returned to Austin and did private catering before finding the right spot for his Railway Café just off the square. His philosophy: use the freshest ingredients you can and make them from scratch as simply as possible because if you have good ingredients you don’t have to do a lot to them. 210 N. Palestine, 903.264.7245, www.railwaycafe.net. Runner up: Rick Murray in Winnsboro.
The Rainmaker at Quitman Community Theatre: Classic play translated into more than 40 languages and was made into the movie starring Burt Lancaster and Katharine Hepburn. Set in a drought-ridden rural town in the West in Depression-era America, the play tells the story of a pivotal hot summer day in the life of spinsterish Lizzie Curry and a charming confidence trickster named Starbuck. QTC is the brainchild of Bob and Becky Hibbard. Carroll Green Civic Center, 602 McAlister. 903.967.2164, www.qctheatre.org. Runner up: Everybody Loves Opal.
Best Small Theatre Company
Lindale Community Theatre: This relatively new group’s mission is to provide a creative outlet to enrich, educate, and entertain the community while providing a superior theatrical experience. The group presents four productions a year – in 2012, "The Champagne Charlie Stakes," "Leading Ladies," "Steel Magnolias," and "Wait Until Dark" – and, beginning in January, its children’s theater will be year ’round. 111 W. Van, 903.638.0402, www.lindalecommunitytheater.org. Runners up: Lake Country Theatre in Mineola and Red River Theater Company in Windom.
Best Theatre Actor/Actress
Elizabeth Stricklin: Described as "the whole package" and "royalty" in this region’s community theater scene, Elizabeth has worked with Lindale Community Theatre, Quitman Community Theatre, and Lake Country Playhouse. Most recently, she starred in "Moon Over Buffalo" in Lindale. The former Miss Texas finalist received an Irene Ryan award for best supporting actress at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., but doesn’t perform professionally any more after coming back to East Texas to raise her family. Runners up: Michael Phifer and Mary Wright Jackson.