In its 11th year now, County Line Magazine’s annual survey keeps uncovering more and more local gems in the Upper East Side of Texas. More than 1500 nominations were received this year and 2014 showed that our region continues to grow as a Texas treasure with delicious food, wonderful attractions and beautiful backdrops, one-of-a-kind shops, exciting entertainment, and many talented individuals.
This year’s winners represent a great selection of the best of 2014 in the Upper East Side of Texas. If your favorites didn’t make the cut this year, please let us know about them and we’ll spread the word.
Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q in Tyler. A previous winner in 2007 and 2013, Stanley’s strikes again as the popular vote for East Texans. Known for their fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs, brisket, sausage, and pulled pork, other fan favorites include the "Mother Clucker" sandwich and breakfast offerings. The restaurant also serves a side of excellent entertainment to the Upper East Side of Texas, with local and state-wide musicians rocking the Stanley’s stage every Monday-Saturday. 525 South Beckham Ave. 903.593.0311. StanleysFamous.com.
Simply Bertie’s in Lindale. This makes the second win for Simply Bertie’s and their breakfast. While offering traditional plates to suit a taste for everything from burgers to Tex-Mex, their breakfast is such a hit that it’s served daily until 1:30 p.m. A favorite among guests are Bertie’s light and fluffy pancakes and breakfast tacos. Bertie’s also serves homemade chorizo, breakfast tacos, huevos rancheros, and other traditional Mexican breakfast items. 16075 FM 849. 903.881.9391.
Cedar Creek Brewery in Seven Points. Established in 2010 and consisting of repurposed dairy equipment, Cedar Creek Brewery has made quite the name for themselves in Northeast Texas for their award winning brew. In 2013, the brewery brought home the gold at The Great American Beer Festival in Denver for their Belgian Style Dubbel in the Belgian-Style Abbey Ale category. Cedar Creek’s brew is available at select distributors state-wide and their tap room is open to the public on weekends. 244 E. Cedar Creek Parkway. 214.502.9795. CedarCreekBrewery.com.
AJ’s Fish House in Alba. Located on Lake Fork, AJ’s Fish House is now a two-time winner in the catfish category with a previous win in 2008. The Fish House features an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet as well as a full menu of entrees. Their menu includes savory seafood items such as fried oysters, stuffed crab, chicken fried steak, fried shrimp, and of course catfish - all of which should be topped off with their homemade cobblers. 5375 N. FM 17. 903.473.4198. AJsFishHouse.com.
Best Chicken Fried Steak
Sidekicks Restaurant in Emory. Offering casual classics and home-style cooking, Sidekicks rocks the vote when it comes to their chicken fried steak. The down-home diner also serves burgers, catfish, salads and sandwiches, Tex-Mex dishes, homemade desserts, and all-day breakfast. 609 N. Texas St. 903.473.3325.
Taste Buds Candy and Coffee Cafe in Mineola. Located inside the Historic Beckham Hotel, Taste Buds brews a fan favorite for the Upper East Side of Texas. The café offers more than 25 different types of coffee made to satisfy any coffee connoisseur with even the most unique taste. Their coffee collection consists of Columbian Dark and Decaf, Espresso, Caramel Mudslide, and Snickerdoodle, just to name a few. The café also offers breakfast and lunch to compliment the coffee. 113 E. Commerce St. 903.569.2888. TasteBudsCCC.com.
Best Dog-Friendly Cafe
Liefie Li Vine in Winnsboro. Liefie Li Vine is a love for locals when it comes to delicious South African dishes and wine, but it’s the back patio where you’ll find a pooch’s paradis. While guests grub outdoors, pups enjoy smoked chicken bits and water to wash it all down. So for East Texans looking to wine and dine with their dog, Liefie Li Vine is definitely the place to party with pups. Open Wednesday through Saturday, the restaurant serves lunch and dinner. 302 N. Main St. 903.347.1111. Liefi.us.
East Texas Burger Company in Mineola. A previous winner in 2012 this popular downtown restaurant has won the hearts (and bellies) of East Texans with their home-style burgers. Burgers come in quarter pound and half–pound sizes and fresh fries are cut one potato at time. If they have any room left in them, guests can indulge in the restaurant’s homemade baked and fried pies. 126 E. Broad St. 903.569.3140. EastTexasBurger.com.
Andy’s Frozen Custard in Tyler. Accessible by drive-through and walk-up service windows, customers are seen gathered in the parking lot and lining down Broadway awaiting their frozen treats, especially on a hot summer’s day. A big hit: Andy’s malts consist of vanilla frozen custard, which is made fresh every hour, blended with toppings and malt powder of choice. Frozen custard lovers also take part in popular treats like their "Cookie Casanova," "James Brown Funky Jackhammer," and "Ozark turtle." 6106 S. Broadway Ave. 903.509.2639. EatAndys.com.
Ganny’s Pie Shop in Winnsboro. Now a three-time winner, Ganny’s offers pies as a whole and by the slice with usually a choice of 12 different flavors daily. Many customers say that Ganny’s isn’t about anything fancy, it’s all about the pie and it’s just plain good – which fits perfectly with the pie shop’s slogan "It’s all about pie!" While the chocolate meringue pie is a local pleasure, the shop is capable of 65 flavors of pie and they welcome whole pie orders to meet their customers’ cravings. 108 W. Elm. 903.243.0992.
Monk’s Oven in Winnsboro. A new addition to town and located in the cultural arts district, Monk’s Oven has already won the hearts of locals. Monk’s is the people’s pick when it comes to pizza, offering pies by the slice to as big as a whole 20-inch. Pizza toppings range from BBQ chicken to supreme and all the in-betweens. Other offerings on tap include soup, salad, dessert, beer and wine. 204 Market St. 903.347.1282.
Beth’s Little Farm Market in Lindale. Although they grow and prepare produce with sustainable and regenerative techniques, Beth’s Little Farm Market definitely does not have to grow on East Texans. Beth’s offers a plentiful range of produce and products including okra and tomatoes, pickles and peppers, eggplants and green beans, melons and more. Sadly, the market is only open during complimentary seasons and closed during the winter. 104 N. Main St. BethsLittleFarmMarket.com.
Lou Viney’s Restaurant & Pub in Sulphur Springs. With great food complimented by great service, customers rave about the restaurant. Whether guests are in the mood for savory seafood like blackened mahi mahi or wanting to grub on some Greek style gyros, Lou Viney’s serves satisfaction. Homemade bread pudding drizzled in white chocolate sauce is a must for guests. Also on tap, live music and cocktails. 206 Main St. 903.438.8320. LouVineys.com.
Cinco de Mayo in Lindale. When it comes to really just a great bowl of queso, this restaurant and taqueria has won over guests with their creamy white queso accompanied by crispy fresh chips. Aside from serving high-quality queso, Cinco de Mayo is a favorite for locals when it comes to weekly deals on food and drinks like free margaritas on Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m. and bargain breakfast items. 2610 S. Main St. 903.881.8600.
Best Salsa and Chips
Tele’s Mexican Restaurant in Longview. There are many greats in East Texas when it comes to chips and salsa so many may wonder what the deciding factor is when it comes to selecting the best. Apparently, it’s all in the cilantro. Many customers say that Tele’s uses more cilantro than other restaurants and it’s the perfect complement to the "just right" spice of the salsa. Add some warm fresh chips to the mix and we have our winner. 3919 Gilmer Rd. 903.291.1600.
Potpourri House in Tyler. Established in 1982, the Potpourri House boasts that from "Steak to seafood, sandwiches to salads, soups to desserts – you’ll find something for everyone." Our region definitely found that "something" lies in their delectable salads. The House offers a large salad bar with huge selections ranging from citrus pepper grilled salmon salad and southwest chicken salad to "heavenly" chicken salad that rests atop a flaky-crust croissant. Customers can top off their Potpourri House experience by browsing through the in-house boutique and gift shop. 3320 Troup Hwy. Suite 300. 903.592.4171. PotpourriHouse.com.
Buttermilk’s Café in Canton. Those who say a sandwich is just a sandwich hasn’t been to Buttermilk’s. Down-home cookin’ with a side of southern hospitality is what’s on the menu at this Canton café, even their classic sandwiches have a little extra somethin’ added to the mix. The BLT rests between two slices of buttered Texas toast and topped off with creamy chipotle ranch sauce. The turkey melt is served on jalapeno cornbread toast and topped with blackened mayo. Buttermilk’s even makes bologna better, with their southern fried bologna sandwich. Close your Buttlermilk’s Café experience with one of their signature desserts like the pecan cobbler or buttermilk chess pie. 100 W. Dallas St. 903.567.3287. ButtermilksCanton.com.
Johnny Cace’s Seafood and Steak House in Longview. With previous wins in 2011 and 2010, it’s plain to see that when it comes to seafood the people choose Johnny Cace’s. Serving the region for more than 65 years, Johnny Cace’s is a seafood staple of the Upper East Side of Texas. The restaurant offers an extensive menu styled to New Orleans Cajun with items ranging from hand-battered shrimp and crawfish to marinated crab claws. The restaurant’s relish tray, consisting of cheese, okra, bread, and butter pickles, is highly recommended. For those with a sweet tooth, the New Orleans style bread pudding, which is topped with rum custard sauce, takes the cake. 1501 E. Marshall Ave. 903.753.7691. JohnnyCaces.net.
Five D Cattle Company Steakhouse in Avinger. Although customers have to wait until dinner to dine at Five D Cattle Company, indulging in their savory steaks is well worth the wait. The selections of high-quality seasoned steaks range from a flat iron to rib eye and T-bone. After your steak, save room for their apple, peach, or blackberry cobbler. The perfect combination of friendly staff and mouth-watering steaks is what makes this steakhouse stand out in Northeast Texas. IT’s BYOB if you need a good red wine to go with your steak. #8 Main St. 903.562.1291. FiveDCattle.com.
Zapata Mexican Grill and Cantina in Texarkana. Named after General Emiliano Zapata, who led the Liberation Army of the South during the Mexican Revolution, Zapata Grill offers an excellent dining experience since 2002. The restaurant is known for its mesquite grilled meats with the perfect paring of fresh produce. You can’t go wrong with their beef, chicken, or shrimp fajitas and the mesquite grilled pechuga ranks high on their menu as well. The restaurant serves favorite Mexican desserts including flan and perfectly sugared sopaipillas. 217 Walnut St. 870.774.0272. ZapataGrill.com.
Central Perks Café in Marshall. Drawing a lunchtime line for the healthy items on their menu, Central Perks takes the hassle out of ordering plant-based food. Featuring a complete vegan menu option, the café offers an array of meal options including black bean and veggie burgers, "un-tuna" salad, tofurky sandwiches, and incredible hummus. Central Perks wins not only for their delicious alternatives, but also by providing customers with the confidence of knowing that they are at a restaurant that caters to their dietary needs. 211 N. Washington St. 903.934.9902. CentralPerks.us.
Enoch’s Stomp in Harleton. With a previous County Line Magazine win in 2012 and over 100 awards from various international wine competitions, it is clear to see that Enoch’s has wined and dined the hearts of East Texans. Founded by Altus Koegelenberg (a fifth-generation grape grower from South Africa) and Jon Kral in 2004, the vineyard sits upon 90 acres 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. The property also features a restaurant that is open for dinner on the weekends. 871 Ferguson Rd. (FM 4312). 903.240.1587. EnochsStomp.com.
Best Afternoon Stroll
East Texas Arboretum and Botanical Society in Athens. Featuring 100 acres of wooded beauty, luscious trees, flowers, and East Texas wildlife, it’s no wonder why the East Texas Arboretum is a favorite place to take an afternoon stroll. Visitors explore the forest as they trek along two miles of trails and make their way along spring-fed streams connected by a 115-foot suspension bridge. Top the retreat by experiencing the historic Wofford House Museum located at the Arboretum. The home built in 1850 holds period furnishings and memorabilia of the early pioneer days. 1601 Patterson Rd. 903.675.5630. EastTexasArboretum.org.
Best Annual Event
Piney Woods Wine Festival in Mt. Vernon. Comprised of 17 wineries and held on the downtown plaza of the Wine Tasting Capital of East Texas on the third weekend of May, the festival offers something for everybody. Featuring favorites ranging from Enoch’s Stomp and Bella Stella Winery to Miranda Lambert’s Red 55, wine is available by the tasting, glass, and bottle. T he festival also hosts vendors for arts, crafts, food, and live entertainment. 113 Main St. 903.537.4070. MtVernonWine.com.
Best Antique Store
The City of Gladewater. Known as the Antique Capital of East Texas, Gladewater in its entirety was chosen for best antiques. Downtown is home to more than 200 independent antique dealers in 16 malls. Most of the shops are located on N. Main St., E. Commerce Ave., and W. Pacific Ave. The Screen Door Antique Mall, Gone Vintage, St. Clair Antique Emporium, and Yesterday’s Treasures are just a few of the shopping must-stops. Other specialty shops are also sprinkled downtown for Gladewater guests and residents. Dining options like The Fork and B & W’s Hawaiian Grill are within walking distance for visitors to refuel before shopping the streets once again. GladewaterMainStreet.com.
Best Art Gallery
Gallery 211 in Athens. The creation of a group of local artists and located in historic downtown, Gallery 211 was founded on the vision to increase education of the arts through workshops, community outreach, and local artist exhibits. The gallery provides a venue for emerging East Texas artists to display their works and create exposure for themselves throughout the community. Gallery 211 also offers economically-priced studio spaces for local artists to have room to create. 211 N. Palestine St. 903.292.1746. ArtGallery211.net.
Texas State Railroad in Palestine. Established in 1881 and deemed a "Texas treasure," the historic railroad offers excursions through 25 miles of beautiful piney woods and annual events that attract many to East Texas. The Polar Express train ride, Fall Foliage Brunch Train, and Dogwood Special Brunch Train, are just a few of the special events that contribute to the unique and fun offers of the Upper East Side of Texas. The depot also features a campground for those wishing to stay and play, offering a half-mile nature trail, playground, pond, and park. 789 Park Rd. 70. 877.726.7245. TexasStateRR.com.
Best Bed and Breakfast
Lavender Mermaid in Pittsburg. Magical and meticulously detailed with a caring touch, this bed and breakfast is the chosen retreat of East Texans looking to get away from everyday hustle and bustle. The property contains four separate cottages in order for guests to get away with necessary privacy, encompassed by lavender when in season. The cottages have fine Turkish linens and cozy beds. Guests appreciate the Mermaid’s eye for detail. Each bathroom offers organic lavender-infused bath products and lavender truffles rest next to bedsides. Guests rave about the breakfast, delivered in a metal picnic basket and consisting of local eggs, scones, fruit salad in lavender syrup, and more. 975 CR 1332. 903.855.1923. LavenderMermaid.com.
Best Camping Spot
Cooper Lake in Sulphur Springs. With camping grounds offering outlets for activities including fishing, water skiing, picnicking, boating, swimming, hiking, tours, canoeing rentals, and more, it’s clear to see why Cooper Lake is a fan favorite. As if their array of outdoor activities wasn’t enough, the South Sulphur Unit offers horse owners equestrian camping and horseback riding trails that cover nearly 600 acres and over 10 miles. Nature programs are also available to visitors, including birding and orienteering workshops. 1690 FM 3505. 903.945.5256. TPWD.State.TX.Us/State-Parks/Cooper-Lake.
Best County Courthouse
Franklin County Courthouse in Mt. Vernon. Designed in 1912, the beautiful and newly restored Franklin County Classic Revival-style courthouse is ruled as this year’s best in the Upper East Side of Texas. In 2006, the building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Renovations of the courthouse were made possible through a Texas Historical Commission grant. The 1960’s dressings of the courthouse were stripped and historic beauty accentuated. The courthouse’s clock on the dome of the tower remains with 1875 etched into the window, the year of county organization.
Best Dog Walk
Mineola Nature Preserve. No stranger to our Best of the Upper East Side of Texas list for categories for walking their nature trails, but our canine companions add a win for the preserve in a new category. Dog’s on a leash have the opportunity to explore East Texas’ beautiful woods and wildlife. The preserve encompasses 2,911 acres and contains trails for walking, hiking, biking, birding, wildlife viewing. Fishing ponds and camping areas are available to guests and their fur babies as well. 1860 CR 2724. 903.569.6983. MineolaNaturePreserve.com.
Best Fishing Hole
Lake Jacksonville. Pristine waters and wooded vistas of Lake Jacksonville are much sought after by those throughout the state, the country, and County Line Magazine readers. The lake is a vacation destination for those looking for outstanding fishing and boating opportunities. The clear water lake is known to produce heavy largemouth bass and spotted bass. Fishers get the most fishing success by looking along the face of the dam and around native vegetation. Drop-offs by the island across from the marina are also beneficial when it comes to catching bass. LakeJacksonville.org.
Caddo Lake State Park in Karnack. A previous winner for our best camping category, this year Caddo Lake takes the cake as the best overall getaway as it offers much more than camping grounds. Visitors enjoy hiking, paddling trails, picnicking, nature studies, fishing, boating, canoeing, and educational nature programs. In addition to camp sites there are quaint cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The beautiful area holds excellent fishing and is surrounded by thick bald cypress and aquatic plants. Fishing for largemouth bass, crappie, catfish and sunfish is said to be highly productive. 245 Park Rd 2. 903.679.3351. www.tpwd.state.tx.u/state-parks/caddo-lake.
Best Gift Shop
Edom Crafts Community. Edom is home to an eclectic array of local shops that offer everything from precious pottery to quirky birdhouses, making the city as a whole the winner for the best gift shop category. For artistic handcrafted items, shopping must-stops in Edom include Zeke & Marty for jewelry and "cool guys stuff," Potters Brown where guests can purchase pottery and experience the creating process, visual arts at Old Edom Firehouse, and Arbor Castle’s beautiful wooden birdhouses. The Shed Café gift shop also offers a variety of unique gift items. Get more information for a visit at VisitEdom.com but there’s nothing like seeing it in person.
Best Golf Course
Pine Dunes Resort and Golf Club in Frankston. Consistently winning national and statewide recognition on best golf courses lists, Pine Dunes is a treasure for the Upper East Side of Texas. The 18-hole golf course is encompassed by wooded beauty and rolling mounds. Many pro golfers have deemed the green as a "world-class course." Guests looking for a golf getaway have the opportunity to stay and play by reserving one of the condos alongside the 18th green. The condos sleep up to four and include two baths, a kitchen, fireplace, and satellite TV. 159 Private Rd 7019. 903.876.4336. PineDunes.com.
Best Historic Building
Clara Ida Francis in Winnsboro. A recent winner of the 2014 Texas Presidents Awards for best restoration in a population under 50,000, this shop takes a win again as area’s best historic building. The 113-year-old once-neglected building is brought to life by Janice Schma with her country boutique and gift shop Clara Ida Frances, which is named after her mother. The original tin ceiling, marble tiled entry, and prismatic transom windows remain in the building. The building’s pier and beam foundation is replaced with concrete ad stained with an amber finish. The gorgeous brick façade, which was discovered under previous layers of siding, is complimented by beautiful new windows and exterior cornice. 219 N. Main St. 903.342.6137. ClaraIdaFrances.com.
Hilton Garden Inn in Texarkana. When choosing a Hilton, guests know they can hardly ever go wrong and the Garden Inn in Texarkana exemplifies class, high-quality customer service, and top-notch accommodations. The hotel features an on-site restaurant and lounge with cooked-to-order breakfast. Amenities include microwaves, refrigerators, and work desks in all rooms, a 24-hour business center, complimentary Wi-Fi, and an outdoor pool and fitness center. Location also plays a factor when it comes to being the best, the Garden Inn is conveniently located just off I-30. 2910 S. Cowhorn Creek Loop. 903.792.1065. HiltonGardenInn3.Hilton.com.
Best Improved Small Town
Rockwall. After years of thoughtful planning and focused energy, new life has taken hold of Rockwall. The Rockwall Main Street Program works to create a historic downtown district that serves as a center for recreational and cultural activity in Northeast Texas. The city has a concentration of revitalizing Rockwall, with a focus on improving and supporting local business. This type passion is seen through events such as the downtown Night Owls – Late ‘Till 8 shopping every 2nd Thursday of the month. 972.771.7700. Rockwall.com/MainStreet.
Best Lakeside Town
Rockwall. Lake Ray Hubbard provides a serene and beautiful backdrop for Rockwall guests. The lake is an excellent spot for boating and fishing. Access Rockwall’s beautiful harbor from the lake and enter the city’s destination district for music, entertainment, shopping, and more. There are several annual events that are hosted at The Harbor including the Concert by the Lake series that begins in May, Halloween Extravaganza and Rockin’ the Docks in October, and the Art League Walk in September. The Harbor also makes a great place for a date; the amphitheater is the perfect place to picnic with a glass of wine. 972.771.7700. Rockwall.com.
Best live Music Venue
Leon’s Steakhouse Saloon in Longview. Established in 1980, Leon’s Steakhouse Saloon is the people’s pick as a place for food and tunes in the Upper East Side of Texas. The steakhouse provides a venue for local and touring musicians from the likes of Tommy Joe Wilson, Anchor Down, The Haggertys, Last Call Outlaws, and more. Aside from hosting one-night acts, every Wednesday night brings a full-blown blues jam session with Johnny Simmons & the Nightcrawlers. Musicians are encouraged to bring instruments and rock out with other performers. 2112 S. Eastman Rd. 903.753.9415. LeonsSteakHouse.com.
Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in Carthage. The Upper East Side of Texas is celebrating this museum for their initiative to highlight the contributions of Texans in the country music profession. The 13,000 square foot museum recognizes musicians, living or deceased, recognized nationally as outstanding in their field. The notable musicians highlighted in the museum include Mickey Gilley, George Jones, Al Dexter, Ray Price, Linda Davis, and others plus a special section on Carthage native Tex Ritter. The facility is also open to hosts events with a groups of more than 200 with catered dinners. 310 W. Panola. 903.694.9561. CarthageTexas.us.
Best Nature Walk
Trail de Paris. A previous winner in this category in 2013, the trail is a gently curved route from 12th SE St., winding east under a canopy of trees over Loop 286 to the Paris city limits. The trail is optimal for walking, running, cycling, and is handicapped accessible. 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. TraildeParis.org.
Lear Park in Longview. This park is a suitable for an all-day getaway, featuring a nature trail, baseball and softball fields, children’s playground, and a splash pad. Many East Texans recommend the park as a must-visit for guests of the city, citing its one of a kind uniqueness and beauty. The playground is especially appealing, featuring BBQ pits, picnic areas, and a play area that looks like a fortress of wonders even to adults. The park area also wins for its lighted grounds for safety. 100 H.G. Mosley Pkwy. 903.237.1270. Parks.LongviewTexas.gov/LearParkAthleticComplex.
Best RV Park
Shallow Creek RV Park in Gladewater. Known for their clean, spacious, and convenient grounds, Shallow Creek is the place to be when it comes to exploring the outdoors. The park consists of 100-percent concrete roads and sites, a 5,000 square foot clubhouse, clean showers, a full kitchen, hot tub, swimming pool, and a water park and stock pond. Their rates are affordable and guests are greeted by hospital staff. With the combination of southern hospitality and beautiful space, it’s clear to see why this RV park is ranked as one of the best of Northeast Texas and throughout the state. 5261 Hwy 135 N. 888.984.4513. ShallowCreek.com.
Best Scenic Drive
Scenic Fall Foliage Trail in Athens. The self-guided driving trail allows visitors to view the picturesque foliage of the season and witness one of the natural features that makes East Texas so beautiful. The 55-mile trail begins and ends at the Athens Partnership Center. The drive showcases multiple points of interest in the area – all while being surrounded by vibrant deciduous trees including oaks, maples, sweet gums, and sumacs. 201. W. Corsicana St. 888.294.2847. AthensTX.org.
Best Shopping Experience
Paul Michael Company in Canton. Filled with antiques, furniture, and hand-made recycled home décor, Paul Michael Company offers that little "something" extra to its guests in the form of friendly faces and a willingness to help. Many customers rave about the staff’s extraordinary professionalism and high-level hospitality. The store also recently expanded their facilities to meet the region’s demand for décor, opening the doors to a two-story, 60,000 square foot building next door to their existing store to welcome their neighbors of the Upper East Side of Texas with even wider arms. 2100 N. Trade Days Blvd. 903.567.0363. PaulMichaelCompany.com.
Peace through Discovery Mural in Tyler. A product of the Annual Art of Peace Festival, the 12-by-18-foot mural designed by artist Kerian Massey rests alongside the Discovery Science Place building and highlights elements of knowledge, growth, and discovery. The focus of the mural is a snapshot of the world, surrounded by binoculars, a magnifying glass, and space – invoking thoughts of culture, ecology, and history. The overall message of the painting is that with knowledge of the world around you comes a sense of peace. 308 N. Broadway Ave.
"Just Play, Have Fun, Celebrate." This slogan is the tagline to accompany the "Celebration City" that is Sulphur Springs. Centered on downtown’s Celebration Plaza, more than 300 fun events and public activities are hosted each year. The playfulness of the city can also be seen, or not seen, through their famous see-through public restrooms. With a downtown square that features a splash pad, game tables, bistro areas, and more, it is clear to see that the city has a reason to celebrate. SulphurSpringsTX.org.
Best Small Town
Ben Wheeler. Before his death this past year, entrepreneur and founder of the Ben Wheeler Arts & Historical District, Brooks Gremmels, was able to see his vision of a thriving community come to fruition. Unwilling to let his accomplishments subside, the artists, restaurant owners, shopkeepers, and other local businesses and organizations maintain a fierce determination to keep their town alive with energy that makes it a proud treasure in the Upper East Side of Texas. The small town is a treat for many, oftentimes with live music filling the air of the streets and art all around. Ben Wheeler is home to the now famous Fall Feral Hog Festival, complete with food, live music, and a parade and hog queen. If guests and residents are in the mood for brew and musical beats, Moore’s Store and The Forge make for an excellent evening in this small town. BenWheelerTX.com.
Four Winds’ Frank Rumore in Wills Point. A three-time and well-deserved winner, it’s clear to see that Frank Rumore is a favorite throughout the state of Texas and beyond. Chef Rumore 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. Four Winds recently made the list of top OpenTable’s 100 Steakhouses throughout the nation. Rumore’s 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. 21191 FM 47. 903.873.2225. FourWindsSteakhouse.com.
Maureen Killaby. A Lindale resident and art teacher at Tyler Junior College School of Continuing Studies, Killaby is a master artist of the Upper East Side of Texas. Killaby specializes in mediums including oil paints and drawing with graphite and colored pencils. True works of beautiful art, Killaby captures human essence and emotion with every sketch and stroke of her trusted tools. Striving to spread education of the arts throughout the community, she hosts drawing and painting adult workshops and Saturday workshops for children at her art studio in Lindale. MaureenKillaby.SquareSpace.com.
Best Local Band
JB and the Moonshine Band of Tyler. The four-piece band is a fan favorite when it comes to Texas country music. Producing "drinking tunes" with East Texas roots, two acclaimed albums, and a couple of tunes on the Billboard Texas music charts, JB Patterson, Hayden McMullen, Gabriel Guevara, and Chris Flores have a long road of success ahead of them. The band tours across the country, but have said that there is nothing quite like their fan base back at home. JBandTheMoonshineBand.com.
Best Local Singer/
Kasey Lansdale of Nacogdoches. With a full-length album and musical contributions to a highly-rated movie under her belt, this country blues musician is one of Texas’ rising stars. "Cold in July," starring Michael C. Hall, features Lansdale’s track "Back of My Smile" which has received rave reviews for her vocals. Lansdale is backed by Grammy award-winning producer John Carter Cash, who has produced legends such as Loretta Lynn and Willie Nelson. KaseyLansdale.com
"Lord of the Flies." A production of Tyler Civic Theatre, "Lord of the Flies" received rave reviews from East Texas theatre buffs. An adaptation of William Golding’s classic, the provocative play captivated audiences and pushed them to the edges of their seats as they witnessed human nature at its worst. Director Justin Purser made a point not to tone down the grimness, shock, and violence, in order to remain true to the text – something their audience seemed to truly appreciate. TylerCivicTheatre.com.
Best Small Theatre Co.
Palestine Community Theatre. Located in the Historic Texas Theatre, this theatre company performs top-notch theatrical performances and family-friendly entertainment. The Theatre’s goal is to unite the community, support the arts, increase tourism – all while preserving the history at the Texas Theatre. Locals love to attend the shows for the wonderful experience of a great production in a historical and beautiful setting. 213 W. Crawford St. 903.723.9595.
Michael Phifer. The Upper East Side of Texas gave a huge round of applause to Michael Phifer for his performance as Memphis Aaron in "Ghosts: The Musical." The production took place at the Lake Country Playhouse in Mineola. Theatre-goers reviewed his performance as "loving every minute of it" and "hilarious and just a delight to watch." Phifer is no stranger to the stage, performing with the theatre for several years now.
Nacogdoches’ The Liberty Bell. Already a favorite for a good brew and awesome tunes, The Liberty Bell brings out the best of themselves with their social media presence. Administrators of the page often interact with customers and welcome public feedback and reviews. Offering social media giveaways to their Facebook fan base, informing customers about specials and upcoming events, this social media page gets the region’s praise as the best. Facebook.com/LibertyBellBar.
Tyler’s Cork Food & Drink. Most of the time you can’t judge a book by its cover, but when it comes to Cork Food and Drink’s Instagram you certainly can. Regularly posting photos of beautiful dishes that taste as good as they look, makes for a win for this local hot spot. The restaurant also posts awesome videos of their in-house performers and quirky quotes to cure a case of the Monday blues. Promoting their love for local businesses, not only does Cork utilize local offering but they also promote the small business to their large audience as well. Instagram.com/CorkscrewTyler.
Nacogdoches’ Brick Street Antiques. Pictures make a Pinterest, and boy Brick Street has ‘em! Not only do they showcase their in-store offerings, they also pin topics of interest that their audience might appreciate. Pinning is consistent, allowing their followers to be able to rely on their board for fresh and exciting content. Their Pinterest is aesthetically pleasing and interesting, so much so that the viewer could get lost exploring for hours. Pinterest.com/TaniaWatson/BrickStreetAntiques.
City of Greenville. Not only should a city’s public social media page be engaging, but it should also recognizing their responsibility to the public. @GreenvilleTX, the official account for the City of Greenville does just that. Their Twitter account tweets regularly and consistently, providing information on upcoming events as well as city news such as street repairs and water distribution news. The account also interacts with their followers, often addressing any comments as well as retweeting interesting location events. Twitter.com/GreenvilleTX.