Best of the Upper East Side of Texas 2015

In its 12th 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 2015 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 2015 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.

Best Barbecue

Big Smith’s Bar-B-Q. Sulphur Springs.  Serving the region for almost 25 years, they specialize in beef ribs, barbecue dinners and sandwiches. 9601 Texas Hwy 154 South. 903.383.2706.

Best Breakfast

Kitchens Hardware & Deli. Mineola. Not their first win, dining at Kitchens is just fun in a comfortable historic building with lots of menu items to choose from including their hearty breakfasts. 119 E. Broad St. 903.569.2664.

Best Brew

Stanley’s Famous Bar-B-Q. Tyler. Stanleys makes sure they have lots of tasty beers to go along with their award-winning barbecue including seven different craft beers on tap. They also serve more than 70 American whiskeys, bourbons, and ryes.  525 South Beckham Ave. 903.593.0311.

Best Catfish

Happy’s Fish House. They consistently get rave reviews for their fried catfish and other seafood as well as alligator bites! 2202 E. 5th St. 903.944.7921. 

Best Chicken Fried Steak 

Buttermilk’s.  Canton. It’s hard to get anything at Buttermilk’s that’s not completely delicious but their chicken fried steak is absolutely at the top of the list with its exceptional hand-breaded black angus steak served with cream gravy. 100 W. Dallas St. 903.567.3287

Best Coffee

Reka’s Rise & Shine Coffee Co. Emory. This quaint coffee house is just a block away from downtown Emory in the historic Cities Service Station. From basic freshly ground black coffee to flavors like White Mocha Pumpkin Frappuccino they fit the tastebuds of locals and visitors alike. 234 E. Quitman St. 903.473.2015.

Best Dog-Friendly Cafe

The Forge Bar & Grill. Ben Wheeler. Big overhead doors on two sides of the building extend this little gem nestled in a corner of downtown out onto a patio with a view where pets are welcome. They also have a big backyard where pet owners enjoy walking around and eating at picnic tables. 1610 FM 279. 903.833.5970.

Best Hamburger

CB’s Sandwich Shop. Greenville. Open since 1941 the locals still flock to this landmark eatery for the great burgers as well as their famous hand-made onion rings. 3304 Wesley St. 903.455.7661. 

Best Malt/Shake

Steak ‘n Shake. Tyler. With an extensive menu of flavors like Vanocolate, Strawnana, Egg Nog Milkshake, White Chocolate, Peppermint, and Cookie Butter, just to name a few, this place satisfies the whole family. 3915 University Blvd. 903.944.7926.

Best Pie

Ain’t Just Pie. Greenville. Homemade pie flavors include traditionals like Blue Ribbon Buttermilk and Pap’s Texas Pecan; cream pies like Luscious Lemon, Cuckoo for Coconut, Gone Bananas; and fruit pies including Old Fashioned Apple, Very Cherry, and Blueberry Bliss. Speciality pies include Caramel Apple, Chocolate Turtle, and Chocolate Pecan Drunk Honey. 2205 Lee Street. 903.455.4314.

Best Pizza

Monk’s Oven. Winnsboro. Second win in a row this fairly new place continues to wow their customers. Located in the cultural arts district, 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. 

Best Produce

Rockwall Farmers’ Market. Every Saturday in season finds downtown Rockwall hopping with live music, pet walking, and lots of deliciousness from local and surrounding farmers. Visitors find plenty of tomatoes, squash, peas, onions, okra, melons and more including fresh baked croissants, chocolate, jams and jellies, and hand-made soaps. Downtown Rockwall, 101 Rusk Street. 214.543.4066.

Best Restaurant

Landon Winery & Bistro. Greenville. Winner of several national awards this past year for their crafted wines, the restaurant is a favorite dining location as well as wine tastings, local happy hours, and other special events. The menu includes soups and salads, pastas, and chef specialties like pecan crusted tilapia, panko encrusted chicken, grilled salmon, and certified Angus beef. Located in a historic downtown building with outdoor patio seating as well, its atmosphere is enjoyable anytime of the day. 2508 Lee St. 903.454.7878.

Best Queso

TaMolly’s. Greenville. Also locations in Paris and Texarkana, TaMolly’s offers a variety of quesos including the classic yellow and another with melted cheese and fresh jalapenos. But perhaps it is Bob’s Dip that wins the queso prize with melted cheese, spicy beef and sour cream. 6929 I-30. 903.454.6193.

Best Salsa and Chips

Villa Montez. Tyler. With their fresh herbs and vegetables grown onsite, their sauces are fresh and delicious. Coupled with crispy chips and the ambience offered in this mansion on the hill it’s a good experience. And it doesn’t hurt that they make a delicious freshly-squeezed lime margarita to go along. 3324 Old Henderson Hwy. 903.592.9696.

Best Salad

Potpourri House. Tyler. Second win in a row it’s hard to beat this salad bar with huge selections including cornbread salad, chicken salad, pasta salad, soups, baked potatoes, and more. 3320 Troup Hwy. Suite 300. 903.592.4171.

Best Sandwich

Moore’s Store. Ben Wheeler. It’s a meat lovers paradise at Moore’s with delicious burgers made from 100 percent Angus beef, and sandwiches include the Dancing Pig pulled pork, club, blt, grilled chicken breast, several turkey choices. Vegetarians enjoy the double-decker grilled cheese and Secret Garden veggie wraps. 1535 FM 279. 903.833.5100.

Best Seafood

Fisherman’s Market. Longview. Extensive seafood menu with fish and shrimp tacos, fried shrimp, catfish, oysters, and crawfish tail, po-boy sandwiches, and much more including buckets of frog legs. House specials include crawfish etouffee and shrimp creole. 116 F Johnson St. 903.753.6722.

Best Steak

Culpepper Steakhouse. Rockwall. Intriguing rustic atmosphere with prime, dry aged, and premium gold Angus cuts of corn fed beef. Steaks include prime strip, Angus NY strip, rib eye, t-bone, and filet mignon. 309 I-30 Frontage Rd. 972.771.1001. 

Best Tex-Mex

3 Brothers Mexican Grill. Mount Vernon. It didn’t take long for this new restaurant in downtown Mount Vernon to gain local favor for good Mexican fare. Good reviews for service, food, and prices and ambience in historical downtown location. 102 E. Main St. 903.270.6216. 

Best Vegetarian

The Blue Frog Grill. Marshall. The city of Marshall has an ongoing program encouraging folks to eat vegetarian and several restaurants have stepped up to the plate including this long-standing breath of fresh air in the downtown area. Their plant-strong offerings include a "meat" loaf wrap, black bean veggie wrap, grilled avocado lettuce wrap, black bean burger, and Chef’s salad. 303 N. Columbus. 903.923.9500.

Best Winery

Kiepersol. Tyler. Sixty-three acres of vineyards produce delicious award-winning wines. There’s a wine tasting room, restaurant, and nearby RV park and bed and breakfast for those making this an overnight destination. 3933 FM 344 E. 903.894.8995.

Best Afternoon Stroll

Mineola Nature Preserve. Mineola. Beautiful tree-lined pathways provide views of lakes and rivers, birds, plants, wildflowers, and other wildlife. 1860 County Road 2724. 903.569.6183.

Best Annual Event

Edom Festival of the Arts. Edom. Going on now for more than 40 years, the craft community of Edom knows how to show art lovers a good time. The downtown area is lined with local artists throughout the year and during this event the third weekend each year in October they are joined by hundreds of 60-70 juried artists featuring pottery, paintings, jewelry and more. Several stages of music showcase local and visiting talent and a children’s area gives birth each year to up and coming young artists. Downtown Edom. 844.633.6689.

Best Antique Store

Uniques & Antiques. Mineola. Antique mall with more than 60 vendors with items ranging from music memorabilia to glassware to books and furniture. 124 S. Line St. 903.569.1133. 

Best Art Gallery

Gingko Leaf Gallery. Marshall. Promising "art for the imagination" this location houses artwork from numerous artists in a historic old Elks Lodge building that received a Texas Preservation Award in 2015. Mediums include fiber arts, metal sculpture, paintings, pottery, jewelry and more. Classes, workshops, and demonstrations are also offered in the gallery. 212 N. Washington. 903.471.5225.

Best Attraction

Caldwell Zoo. Tyler. Beautiful award-winning zoo with elephant facility, giraffe barn and other natural animal environments. 2203 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. 903.593.0121.

Best Bed and Breakfast

Munzesheimer Manor. Mineola. Visitors rave about their stay at this manor built in 1898. Some of the highlights of a stay here include morning coffee deliveries, claw-foot bathtubs, formal dining room and parlor to visit with others. 202 N. Newsom St. 903.569.6634.

Best Camping

Walleye Park. Lake Cypress Springs/Mount Vernon. Operated by the Franklin County Water District, the park offers premium RV pads, picnic tables, grills, boat ramp, playground, tennis court, baseball field, volleyball areas, and more. SE 4220. 903.537.4536.

Best County Courthouse

Cass County Courthouse. Linden. The recently restored brick antebellum courthouse is the oldest one in Texas still used as the seat of county government. Former children of the county Don Henley and William Hines donated funds to match those received from the Texas Historical Commission to complete its renewal. 100 Houston. 903.756.5732.

Best Dog Walk

East Texas Arboretum. Athens. Enjoy 100 acres of wooded beauty, trees, flowers, and wildlife with your furry companion on a leash of course. 903.675.5630.

Best Fishing

Lake Tawakoni. Fish species included striped and hybrid striped bass, white bass, catfish, crappie, and largemouth bass. 10822 FM 2475. 903.560.7123. 

Best Getaway

Sabor a Pasion. Palestine. This East Texas culinary destination offers osteria-style dining at Restaurant Abergine with locally-grown ingredients used in their menu items including salads, pastas, ribeye steaks, fish, New Zealand pavlova and other specialty desserts. Guests can dine at Tuscan tables with views of a vineyard. Monthly and private cooking classes demonstrate a variety of topics from handmade pasta to preserving the harvest. The onsite bed and breakfast is an escape for relaxing and unwinding with breakfast provided as a delicious start to the day. Culinary and spa packages are available. 110 CR 406. 903.729.9500.

Best Gift Shop

Calico Cat. Greenville. One of the Uptown Forum Shops in historic downtown Greenville, Calico Cat Contemporary Clothing & Gifts is a favorite shop for many in the region. They have shoes, jeans, wearable art, accessories, Brighton handbags and jewelry, books and toys for children, home fragrances, and distinctive gift items. 2610 Lee Street. 903.454.3311.

Best Golf Course

Webb Hill Country Club. Wolfe City. Located on 230 beautiful wooded, rolling acres it features an 18-hole regulation length course. 438 FM 2358. 903.496.2221.  

Best Historic Building

107. Paris. Maybe the best use of a historic downtown building, especially one where the roof caved in and sat empty for many years. Now it’s an eclectic outdoor beer and wine garden with a delicious menu that includes ribeyes, glazed pork chops, sweet potato fries, and Szechuan pork tacos, enjoyed with craft beers and wines under the stars. It closes down December-February and regulars eagerly await their reopening each spring. 107 Grand Ave. 903.609.8806. 

Best Hotel/Motel

Best Western Plus. Emory. A little off the beaten path but a perfect location for those that need to stay near Lake Fork. Its restaurant, Pier 515, has a good menu and a bar open Wednesday to Sunday. 1026 E. Lennon Drive. 855.996.9651.   

Best Improved Small Town

Mount Vernon. One of just three cities in Texas selected to lead the Bankhead Highway tourism initiative, Mount Vernon jumped on board with six large history/mystery historical panels and videos on the effort. They produced a Drive Film Festival with the Franklin County Arts Alliance and also had a Tallulah Dahling Dash and vintage car show. Their courthouse was renovated in 2014 and the downtown plaza is home to numerous events like the Piney Woods Wine Trail Festival, Wine in the Pines, and a music concert series. 903.537.4070.

Best Lakeside Community

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

Best Live Music Venue

Stanley’s. Tyler. During most of the year, Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q brings talented musicians from all over the world to East Texas almost every night of the week. From Americana to R&B to Country, there’s always something different to hear while enjoying great barbecue, craft beers, and good company. 525 S. Beckham Ave. 903.593.0311. 

Best Museum

East Texas Oil Museum. Kilgore. Winning also in 2013 this East Texas treasure is a tribute to the independent oil producers and wildcatters. It’s a fabulous display and authentic re-creation of oil discovery and production in the early 1930s from the largest oil field inside U.S. boundaries. Relive the East Texas oil boom days in the life-size Boom Town USA exhibit. Hwy. 259 at Ross St. 903.983.8295.

Best Nature Walk

Dupree Park Nature Center. Mount Vernon. A 57-acre nature preserve featuring primitive, winding walking trails. It sits next to the Bankhead Highway Visitors Center and is marked by 65 signposts and printed guide to flora and fauna. NW 1017 County Road. 903.537.4365.

Best Park

Spring Hill Park/Neal McCoy Playground. Longview. Picnic area, hiking/biking trail, multi-use courts, practice backstops, a 5,605-square foot universally accessible playground, and a splash pad. 3100 Mona Dr. 903.237.1270.

Best RV Park

Jellystone Park at Whispering Pines. Tyler. "Yogi Bear" themed park set on 47 acres north of Tyler. 5583 FM 16 East. 903.858.2405. 

Best Scenic Drive

Dogwood Trails. Palestine. Enjoy the delicate beauty of the dogwood trees in Davey Dogwood Park and the surrounding area each spring. 903.723.3014.

Best Shopping Experience

Downtown Mineola. Park the car and stroll the downtown shops to find antiques, apparel, gifts, coffee, fudge, fried pies, furniture, garden art, home decor, jewelry, and more. More than 35 retail stores and several dining choices to round out the day. 800.MINEOLA.

Best Sign

The Bowery. The metal sign stretches across the sky above Market Street noting the historical name of the street around 1900 because of its saloons, brothels, and gambling halls.

Best Slogan

"Get Your Yum at the Luscious Crumb." The yummy cupcakes at the Luscious Crumb inspired the slogan. 120 S. Pacific. 903.569.6367.

Best Small Town

Winnsboro. This town has won this accolade a number of times and has even been inducted into the County Line Magazine Hall of Fame. It continues to stand out as one of our bests in the region as it redefines itself year after year through a team of dedicated business men and women that work tirelessly to bring great dining, hospitality, shopping, art, festivals, music, and other entertainment through its charming, ever-evolving doors.

Best Chef

Christian Mailloux. Palestine. Executive Chef Christian Mailloux is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He is the chef-owner of Red Fire Grille in downtown Palestine. He has extensive knowledge of wine and food pairing and is committed to using the finest ingredients in his menu that includes chicken liver mousse, fried frog legs, mushroom Napoleon, grilled filet mignon, lamb gnocchi, and fresh butternut squash ravioli to name a few. 400 N. Queen Street. 903.723.2404.

Best Artist

Karen Musgraves. Mineola. Talent runs in the family and this mother of singer-songwriter Kacey and professional photographer Kelly knows how to use paints and brushes very well. She enjoys painting wildlife and western-inspired subjects like cowboy boots.

Best Local Band

King Richard and the Bayou Boys. The Tyler-based group was named East Texas Music awards Best R&B band of 2015. They blend boogie, blues, rock and roll and southern soul music to make it their own.

Best Local Singer-Songwriter

Connie Mims Pinkerton. Connie enjoys writing and co-writing for a variety of projects and leads the Nashville Songwriters Association International/East Texas in Tyler.

Best Play

Dixie Swim Club. This production was presented by the Palestine Community Theatre. It’s a funny and touching story of five unforgettable women and friendships that last a lifetime. The show was written by Jesse Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, and was directed by Carol Moore. The friends are played by Kathy Lamb, Kathrine Newton, Dr. Jan Sikes, Shelley Jenkins, and Dixie Dorsett. 903.922.1327.

Best Small Theatre Company

Lake Country Playhouse. Mineola. The group produces four live plays each year at the Historic Select Theater. 903.569.2300.

Best Actor/Actress

Hailey Kratzmeyer. Sixteen-year-old Hailey Kratzmeyer from Mineola played the lead in Lake Country Playhouse’s summer musical, "The Fantasticks" directed by Bob Hibbard. Her lilting high soprano voice and refreshing acting was a big hit with the audience.

Best Animal Rescue

The Pegasus Project. Rescuing 100s of neglected and abused horses, this non-profit group provides a sanctuary and place for healing and training and finds forever homes for each horse. 903.469.3578.

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