Best of the Upper East Side of Texas 2017

Rustico, Denison, Best Seafood

In its 14th year now, County Line Magazine’s annual survey keeps uncovering more and more local gems in the Upper East Side of Texas. Nominations more than doubled this year showing 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 in the Upper East Side of Texas. Some categories are divided up by towns under 50,000 population and over 50,000 population.

Best Barbecue


Best of the Upper East Side of Texas 2017

Big Smith’s BBQ, Sulphur Springs. Who needs the frills? This humble restaurant serves straight-on good BBQ and fixings, as well as home-fried potato chips and delicious desserts. 4858 Texas 154 South. 903.438.1547.

Texas Bar-B-Que Corral, Mount Vernon. Customers rave about the smoked brisket, but there’s more! Try the ham, turkey, ribs, sausage, downhome sides and a loaded baked potato. 201 I-30 Frontage Road. 903.537.4848.

Honorable Mention: Cowburners, Mineola

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


Best of the Upper East Side of Texas 2017

The Cake Lady Bakery Cafe, Mount Vernon. Find out what the locals already know. For fluffy pancakes, filling eggs and bacon, biscuits and gravy, or melt-in-your-mouth cinnamon rolls, head to this family-run eatery. 209 Main Street. 972.948.8636. 

Honorable Mention: Spit and Whittle Cafe, Winnsboro

Best Brew

What are the odds that two winning breweries are located at the same address in different towns? Athens Brewery Co. is located at 101 East Tyler Street in Athens and Oil Horse Brewing Co. is at 101 West Tyler Street in Longview! Sounds like an East Meets West brew challenge is in order.

Under 50k

Best of the Upper East Side of Texas 2017

Athens Brewery Co., Athens. Rave reviews for Athens Brewery Co. state good beer and food, friendly staff, and laid-back atmosphere that encompasses a historic building and courtyard in downtown Athens. They also have live music. The ABC Nitro Stout is tasty and not too heavy and others really like their IPAs. Included on the menu is Apricot Ale, The Funk, Wit of Premonition, Red Dog Red IPA, Piney Woods DIPA and homemade root beer.  101 East Tyler Street. 903.952.7493.


Honorable Mention: Pittsburg Feed & Seed/Anvil Brewing, Pittsburg

Over 50k

Best of the Upper East Side of Texas 2017

Oil Horse Brewing Co., Longview. Beer fans love this place. The house brews — including an Irish red, a Texas brown, and a pale ale — are complemented by seasonal favorites. Regulars recommend the milk stout and the "Lavender Ossamus." 101 West Tyler Street. 903.241.4686.


Best Catfish

Vaughan’s Catfish Restaurant, Pittsburg/Lake Bob Sandlin. For those who like the view of a lake with their seafood, this place is the full package. The catfish comes in whole or filet portions, and on Thursdays the "All You Can Eat" option is specially priced for seniors and kids 12 and under. 741 County Road 2920. 903.572.3474.

Honorable Mentions: AJ’s, Lake Fork; Sidekicks, Emory; Seth’s Lake Fork Creek; and The Marina at Lake Cypress Springs

Best Chicken Fried Steak

Best of the Upper East Side of Texas 2017

Lone Republic Steakhouse, Winnsboro. The chef here gets rave reviews for their "gourmet" take on this Texas classic. It’s deep-fried to golden crunchiness and covered in sage gravy. 206 Market Street. 903.347.6526.

Honorable Mention: The Fatted Calf, Rockwall

Best Coffee

Best of the Upper East Side of Texas 2017

Speakeasy, Quitman. Besides the usual "suspects" like Americano and hand-crafted espresso, the latte line-up includes creations named Al Capone, Greta Garbo and others. 103 North Main Street. 903.760.2739.

Honorable Mentions: Book Club Café, Rockwall; Coffee off the Square, Sulphur Springs; Jo’s Downtown, Mount Pleasant; Watermelon Mills, Mount Vernon; and Clean Brew, Van, (a combination laundry mat/coffee bar).

Best Hamburger

Under 50k

While Athens may be the home of the original hamburger, Winnsboro is certainly the place for burger lovers to go for delicious and unusual choices in three restaurants in the downtown arts district, which earned the town a three-way tie this year.

The Barrel House Bar & Grill. When a standard burger won’t do, try this restaurant’s creation with smoked Gouda cheese, bacon, fried egg, lettuce, onion and avocado. 204 Market Street. 903.347.1282. 

Best of the Upper East Side of Texas 2017

Rooster Café. Look no further than the newly famous Winnsburger to satisfy that hunger. It’s made with brisket, short rib, and chuck combined. 111 East Broadway Street. 214.762.8901. 

Best of the Upper East Side of Texas 2017

Lone Republic Steakhouse & Bar. True Texans love the mouth-watering flame-grilled burger choices like the Alamo, Santa Anna, and the Republic burger. 206 Market Street. 903.347.6526.

Honorable Mentions: The Liberty Bell, Nacogdoches; Boots Burger, Rockwall; The Dairy Bar, Mount Vernon; The Forge, Ben Wheeler; and East Texas Burger Company, Mineola

Hall of Fame: Dairy Palace, Canton

Over 50K

Jucy’s, Tyler. A traditional tasty burger at a good price sets this restaurant apart. There are plenty of other options on the menu, but people keep coming back for the burgers. 2330  East 5th Street and 6421 Old Jacksonville Highway. 903.939.2395.

Best Malt Shop

Best of the Upper East Side of Texas 2017

Spurlock’s Malt Shop, Anna. It’s not uncommon to hear a friend say "Get your own" when considering sharing at this ‘50s-style shop. The 15 flavors include marshmallow, pumpkin spice, banana, coffee, and peppermint. 504 North Powell Parkway. 972.924.7217.

Best Pie

Best of the Upper East Side of Texas 2017

​Bonafide Bettie’s Pie Company, Rockwall. The mathematical formula "pi r squared" simply won’t be heard here. There’s nothing "square" about such creations as Merry Cranberry, Boozy Betty, or Hott Mess, a buttermilk pie with coconut pecan praline topping. 103 S. San Jacinto. 970.692.1457.

Honorable Mentions: Ain’t Just Pie, Greenville; Ganny’s, Winnsboro; Odie Fae’s, Omaha; and Oxbow Bakery, Palestine

Best Pizza

Under 50k

Best of the Upper East Side of Texas 2017

Steve O’s, Mount Vernon. Located on the downtown square, Steve-O’s Pizza and Pub gets great reviews for its pizza, friendly staff and live music. And don’t forget to order the fried pickles. 114 East Main Street. 903.270.2515

Honorable Mentions: Arturos, Sulphur Springs; Nardello’s, Mount Pleasant

Over 50K

Best of the Upper East Side of Texas 2017

Roast Social Kitchen, Tyler. Eclectic brick-oven pizzas, small plates and a full bar in a convivial, industrial-chic atmosphere, Roast Social features great pizza, freshly prepared with handmade dough and loaded with unique toppings roasted fresh onsite daily. 1125 E 5th Street. 903.202.0295.


Best Produce

Best of the Upper East Side of Texas 2017

Efurd’s, Pittsburg. What started out as a simple family business in a little dirt-floor shed has quickly grown to a national operation with customers all over the country. Owners Greg and Amy Efurd provide the freshest fruits and vegetables at great prices. Call ahead to check produce availability. 4004 US-271. 903.856.2253.


Best Restaurant

Under 50k

Love and War in Texas, Lindale. Serving up Texas food, heritage, and music, diners won’t find "sushi" or "Alaskan snow crab" on the menu. They stick with tried and true Texas Gulf seafood, and Texas grown produce and meats. They have an all-Texas wine list and a collection of Texas beers. Texas singer-songwriters are featured every week. The space is large with several choices for seating on a patio, at indoor picnic tables, in a dining room or the bar. It’s also attached to Miranda Lambert’s store, The Pink Pistol, so diners can easily shop a bit before or after their meal. 114 East North Street, Suite 4. 430.235.2100.

Honorable Mentions: 107 Paris Texas; Roosters, Winnsboro; KenSal’s Cuckoo Nest, Mount Vernon; Odie Fae’s, Omaha

Over 50k

Best of the Upper East Side of Texas 2017

The Grove Kitchen and Gardens, Tyler. The ambience at The Grove makes diners feel like any day is a special event. They feature chef-crafted menus with made-from-scratch meals that promise to take the best of healthy and mix it with updated Southern comfort. On the grounds is a place for playing games like corn hole and shuffleboard, an amphitheater for live music and performances, and outdoor seating. Inside facilities include the main dining area with wall-to-wall glass to view the beautiful outdoor area, the Smoke Shack with Texas barbecue, and an impressive bar lounge with a cozy fire. 3500 Old Jackson Highway. 903.939.0209.


Best Salad

Zanata, Rockwall. This is not the first time Zanata in historic downtown has claimed the Best Salad prize – they beat out the competition in 2013 as well. They continue to listen to what customers want and today offer delicious flavor combinations including Spinach & Gorgonzola Salad (pecans, dates, pears, grapes), "Z" House Salad (figs, candied pistachios, red onions, feta cheese, cabernet vinaigrette), Brushetta Salad (avocado, tomato, mozzarella, bacon, toasted ciabatta), Steak Salad (roasted jalapenos, crumbled blue cheese, avocado, tomatoes, buttermilk chive dressing), Crab Salad (field greens, toasted pine nuts, strawberries, mozzarella, red onion) and not your average Chopped Chicken Salad (roasted butternut squash, cranberries, walnuts, goat cheese, balsamic vinaigrette). 202 East Rusk Street. 972.722.2822.

Best Sandwich

Pint and Barrel Drafthouse, Palestine. The Pint and Barrel offers a diverse sandwich menu. Pulled pork choices include one, two, or three little piggies, two of which come with fried SPAM. Also on the menu is Grilled Cheese and Soup (tomato soup, fried green tomatoes), Green Grilled Cheese and Soup (spinach artichoke dip, cheese, tomatoes, onions, grilled on sour dough), BLT (served with poblano soup), Meatloaf Sandwich, Cuban Sandwich, Buffalo Chicken and Bacon, Philly Cheese (steak or chicken), and Reuben. 302 E. Crawford Street. 903.727.2711.

Honorable Mention: Book Club Café, Rockwall

Best Seafood

Under 50k

Best of the Upper East Side of Texas 2017

Pier 101 Seafood Bar & Grill, Rockwall. Established in 2016, Pier 101 is the spot for the best in Cajun/Creole and seafood, featuring a full bar with specialty cocktails, the finest quality seafood and friendly service. 101 S Fanin St., Suite 100. 469.769.1108.


Over 50k

Clear Springs Restaurant, Tyler. An offshoot of a restaurant founded in New Braunfels 30 years ago, Clear Springs Restaurant serves a variety of western specialties, including fried catfish, hand-breaded onion rings and juicy thick-cut steaks and burgers. 6519 South Broadway. 903.561.0700.

Best Steak

Under 50k

The Rooster Cafe, Winnsboro. A cute café with small outdoor seating area, The Rooster Café opened in 2017 by owner Steve Barnhart, who ran Del Frisco’s in New York for eight years. They serve filet au oivre served with pommes frites, and ribeye. The Ollie is an open faced shaved prime rib with mashed potatoes, brown gravy, and frizzled onions. 111 E. Broadway Street. 903.347.6541

Honorable Mentions: Lone Republic Steakhouse, Winnsboro; Redneck Grill and Bar, Sulphur Springs

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

Over 50k

Dakotas, Tyler. Serving Tyler since 2002, Dakotas is known for its mouth-watering steaks, aged to perfection, and fresh seafood. Enjoy a cocktail in the restaurant’s warm, sophisticated setting or outside on the heated patio. 4803 Old Bullard Rd #1. 903.581.6700.

Best Mexican Cuisine

Best of the Upper East Side of Texas 2017

​Rustico Fine Mexican Cuisine, Denison. "Holy guacamole, this place is awesome," says one five-star Yelp reviewer about Rustico, which features authentic Mexican cuisine in a fine dining atmosphere. Award-winning chef Felipe Gaytan began his culinary career at age 19 and worked in many great kitchens, including the Hilton Palacio Del Rio in San Antonio and the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, before opening Rustico. 506 W Chestnut Street. 903.337.1447.


Best Vegetarian

KenSal’s Cuckoo Nest, Mount Vernon. This restaurant just off Main Street proves that vegetarians are not hard to please as long as the ingredients are fresh and the cook is gifted. While only one item on its Asian Fusion menu fits the bill — the Veggie Summer Rolls — diners say the wait staff and kitchen can expertly turn other entries into a vegan’s dream meal. 106 North Houston Street. 903.270.2512.

Best Winery

Best of the Upper East Side of Texas 2017

Landon Winery, Greenville. Landon Winery has three locations in historic downtown districts including Greenville, McKinney, and Wylie. The Greenville location gets the award this year for serving up Landon’s delicious wines in their spacious, inviting dining rooms and adjoining outdoor patio. They source their Texas grapes from vineyards in the Texas high plains south of Lubbock, as well as from California. Landon Winery’s Greenville bistro serves high-end brunch, lunch, or dinner. 2508 Lee Street. 903.454. 7878.


Honorable Mentions: Enoch’s Stomp, Harleton; Kiepersol Estates, Tyler; Los Pinos, Pittsburg

Best Annual Event

Harvest on Main Street, Mount Vernon. Organizers set out to bring fine dining to the downtown Plaza District featuring local food and wine from local farmers, ranchers, and wineries. It receives rave reviews and people get it on their calendars a year in advance. The dinner on Friday night is followed the next day by Market on Main, a day-long shopping experience featuring local businesses. 903.537.4070.

Best Antique Store

Mr. B’s Antiques, Ben Wheeler. Visitors to this downtown Ben Wheeler store find scores of hidden treasures here from antique furnishings, to collectibles, to artwork in a concept that feels like a 140-year-old general store. It’s operated by the owners of Wagon Wheel Antique Mall in Murchison. 903.833.1070.

Honorable Mentions: Beauweavils and Finders Keepers, Winnsboro; Margaret & Ophelia’s Antiques & Uniques, Henderson; Pandora’s Box, Frankston; and Town Square Antiques, Sulphur Springs

Best Art Gallery 

Best of the Upper East Side of Texas 2017

Sparrow’s Gallery, Denison. "Real art for real people" is how Sparrow’s Gallery describes itself. The gallery’s trifold mission is to connect fine art from emerging and established artists with emerging and established collectors, while sharing part of the proceeds with the local charitable community. The gallery features a wide variety of artists from North Texas and Southern Oklahoma. 124 W Main Street. 903.337.0708.


Best Attraction

Best of the Upper East Side of Texas 2017

Texas State Railroad, Palestine. All aboard the official railroad of Texas. From the moment your party steps onboard one of the refurbished train cars, they’ll feel transported to a simpler, more leisurely time. Vintage steam and diesel locomotives take passengers across the celebrated rails of the Piney Woods route on a 50-mile round-trip adventure between the quaint East Texas towns of Palestine and Rusk. The Polar Express Train Ride is a favorite during the holiday season as well. 789 Park Road. 855.632.7729.


Best B&B

Best of the Upper East Side of Texas 2017

Clark House, Winnsboro. Filled with rich character and true Old World Charm, the Clark House Bed & Breakfast was built in 2001 in similar style and décor as the Oaklea Mansion, a historic home next door built in 1903 and now a Texas Historical Landmark. Its rooms are filled with antiques, heirlooms, and rare collections. The Winnsboro Cultural Arts District is conveniently located within a few easy drivable blocks. 100 E Cedar Street. 903.588.0465.


Hall of Fame: Thee Hubbell House, Winnsboro

Best Bookstore/Book Club

Under 50k

The Bosslight Bookstore, Nacogdoches. Located in the heart of downtown Nacogdoches, this unique store is filled with Texas authors and publishers, colorfully-worded t-shirts, and novelties like fairy furniture. 123 E. Main Street. 936.645.9800.

Hall of Fame: Beauty and the Book, Hawkins

Over 50k

Pea Picker Bookstore, Tyler. With 6,000 square feet filled with books, books, and more used books, this gem is a great deal for the whole family. 2803 University Blvd. 903.565.4345.

Best Camping Spot

Walleye Park, Franklin County, Lake Cypress Springs. Located in Franklin County, Walleye Park features premium RV sites with full water and electrical hookups. Park amenities include restrooms and showers, a pavilion, picnic tables and boat ramp, playground, volleyball areas and a tent camping area. County Rd. SE 3122. 903.537.4536.

Best County Courthouse

Rockwall County, Rockwall. Located in the smallest county in Texas (covering only 147 square miles), the courthouse has undergone several transformations, from a frame courthouse in 1878, to a sandstone structure in 1892, to an art-deco design in 1941. Today’s majestic courthouse, completed in 2011, features a brick exterior with stone details, with an interior featuring terrazzo floors, granite wall paneling and mahogany ceiling paneling. 1111 W Yellow Jacket Lane. 972.204.7000.

Best Getaway

Deer Lake Cabins, Mount Vernon. Fifteen fully furnished, intricately decorate, private cabins, lake houses, and cottages are available for peaceful and relaxing getaways next to Deer Lake. Some are located in more secluded areas for solitude while others are next to the lake for easy access to water activities. The cabins are pet friendly and come with access to recreational activities like UTV rentals, fishing, hiking, paddle board yoga, and kids’ classes. Dude Ranch activities include roping lessons, horseback riding lessons, trail rides, and pony rides. 1692 Panther Creek Pass. 903.860.3898.

Honorable Mentions: Greer Farm, Daingerfield; The town of Jefferson; Mill Creek Ranch Resort, Canton

Best Gift Shop

Clara Ida Frances, Winnsboro. This country boutique and gift shop is a joy to spend time searching for treasures starting with the ambience of the restored historic building. The store is filled with select clothing, bath and body products, jewelry, a men’s shop, gifts, scents, and unique items for home, kitchen, and garden. 219 N. Main St. 903.342.6137.

Honorable Mentions: Fox & Fig, Sulphur Springs; M.L. Edwards & Co., Mount Vernon

Best Golf Course

Garden Valley Golf Resort, Lindale. Golfers enjoy the feeling they are getting out of the city and into the country at this hidden gem. The course is around two large lakes and several groves of East Texas pines. A beautiful clubhouse overlooks the course with dining, a Pro Shop, and private event meeting rooms. And there’s lodging including cottages and cabins. And homesites with golf or lake views are also available. Garden Valley is conveniently located just off Interstate 20 between Dallas and Shreveport near Lindale, about 20 minutes from Tyler. 22049 FM Road 1995. 800.443.8577.

Hall of Fame: Links at Land’s End, Lake Fork

Best Historic Building/Restoration

M.L. Edwards & Co., Mount Vernon. The M.L. Edwards & Co. building was constructed in 1916 and is located in historic downtown Mount Vernon on the Plaza Square. It served the agricultural community providing general store goods for many decades. The Ostertag family bought the building and did a major remodel in 2017. The original hardwood floors and tin ceiling were brought back to life and brick-sealed windows were uncovered. The 11,000-square-feet old general store is now home to retail goods, a café, and event space. 103 Kaufman Street. 903.270.2516.

Best Home Décor

Pandora’s Box, Frankston. Featuring vintage to the newest trends in décor, Pandora’s Box offers "a carnival of cool curiosities." Located in the little town of Frankston on Texas 155, the shop offers a treasure trove of antiques, furnishings, primitives, stained glass, ironwork, imports, architectural salvage and an outdoor area featuring perennials, garden statuary, arbors, gazebos, and other outdoor furniture. 302 N. Hwy 155. 903.876.5056.

Best Hotel

The Fredonia Hotel, Nacogdoches. Newly remodeled and reopened, this historic gem sits just a block off downtown Nacogdoches. On site are two restaurants/bars, an outdoor pool, a luxury boutique, and workout room. The merging of classic, mid-century style with fully modernized amenities makes this an excellent choice for one night or more. 200 North Fredonia. 936.564.1234.

Best Improved Town

Pittsburg. With the addition of the new Pilgrim Plaza a few months ago, Pittsburg is creating excellent community space for people to gather. The plaza is a tranquil garden and gathering area built to compliment the magnificent prayer tower for citizens and visitors alike to enjoy. Since the plaza’s completion the town has held several events there and others gather in smaller groups for yoga, live music, movies, and more.  903.856.3621.

Best Improved Community Space

The Alley on Third, Mount Pleasant. Businesses in downtown Mount Pleasant saw an opportunity in an empty alley way. They turned it into a meeting place with live music. Food can be ordered from restaurants that back up to the alley. 903.575.4000.

Best Live Music Venue

The Back Porch, Kilgore. This venue with a charming outdoor stage does a great job of providing live music several times a week featuring local and touring bands and singer-songwriters. And they mix it up every now and then with something new like the Dueling Pianos coming up March 9. The adjoining restaurant serves soups, salads, loaded baked potatoes, burgers, and southern fried dinners. 904 Broadway. 903.984.8141.

Honorable Mentions: The Bowery Stage, Winnsboro; The Forge, Ben Wheeler; The Liberty Bell, Nacogdoches

Hall of Fame: Moore’s Store, Ben Wheeler

Best Museum

Longview Museum of Art. The museum hosts exhibits about six times a year and displays a permanent collection as well with more than 700 paintings, etchings, woodcuts, photographs, works on paper, lithographs, and pieces of sculpture. Works from contemporary regional artists (Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana) are the primary sources for the collection. Their long-standing mission to create interest in and promote knowledge of the visual arts is commendable. 215 East Tyler Street. 903.753.8103.

Honorable Mentions: Texas Museum of Broadcasting & Communication, Kilgore; Northeast Texas Children’s Museum, Commerce

Best Nature Walk

Northeast Texas Trail, Farmersville to New Boston. An ideal choice for hikers, this 70-mile-long stretch of abandoned railroad routes cuts across seven counties with numerous entry points along Texas state highways 82 and 34.  

Honorable Mention: Dogwood Trails, Palestine

Best Park

Coleman Park, Sulphur Springs. Coleman Park features a 2.5-mile walking trail which circles a lake, taking visitors past two breathtaking waterfalls, over three bridges, and through a tunnel, connecting to soccer and baseball fields. The park also offers two tennis courts, a fishing pier, several picnic areas with charcoal grills and tables and a playground area. 125 Davis St. South. 903.474.7478.

Best RV Park 

Mill Creek Ranch Resort, Canton. Striving to be a different kind of cabin resort, Mill Creek Ranch Resort features fully equipped cottages with a modern feel and rustic charm, including Tiny Homes available to rent or purchase. Its RV resort has won several awards, including the Good Sam Top RV Park Award and County Line Magazine’s Hall of Fame. 1880 North Trade Days Blvd. 877.927.3439.

Best Shopping Experience

First Monday Trade Days, Canton. This unique shopping experience started in the 1850s when the circuit judge stopped in Canton on the First Monday of each month and people came to town to conduct business and sell or trade their own goods, produce, and livestock. Today, people from all over Texas come to browse the mix of antiques, collectibles, home furnishings and crafts at the massive shopping center, featuring indoor and outdoor vendors. While today the event runs from Thursday through Sunday on the weekend of the first Monday of the month, it will forever be known as First Monday Trade Days. 800 Flea Market Road. 903.567.6556.

Honorable Mentions: M.L. Edwards, Mount Vernon; Paul Michael Company, Canton; Downtown Sulphur Springs; The Pink Pistol, Lindale; Downtown Rockwall

Best Sign

Best of the Upper East Side of Texas 2017

SMILE!, Paris. The folks in Paris erected a billboard on top of a downtown building last year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the "Great Fire of 1916" that wiped out much of the town. Through tremendous courage and determination, the town came back even better. "Smile! The slogan that rebuilt the City of Paris in 12 months" reminds all that pass by what people can accomplish when they put their minds to it.

Best Slogan

Moving Forward. Kicking Back, Denison.

Honorable Mention: Life Is Sweeter Here, Mount Pleasant

Best Downtown

Under 50k

Rockwall. The downtown area of Rockwall has a nice variety of options available for shoppers (some late-night opportunities) and delicious dining choice like Bin 303, Book Club Café, Charlie’s Burgers & Street Tacos, Pier 101, Zanata, and The Fatted Calf. There’s plenty of activities in this inviting historic downtown district going on from live music, to special events, and its farmers market is open May through October. Uptown Downtown Art Gallery & Studio holds classes and exhibits throughout the year. A self-guided historical walking tour tells about the history and architecture so carefully maintained since the late 1800s. With history as its foundation, the town has revitalized with specialty shops and boutiques and offerings to rival any town of its size.

Over 50k

Tyler. The non-profit group Heart of Tyler has spearheaded projects now totaling more than $100 million in reinvestment in downtown Tyler. There are active art projects at Gallery Main Street with exhibits and public art on buildings and downtowns streets and numerous events throughout the year. Some of the downtown attractions include Discovery Science Place, Innovation Pipeline, and Liberty Hall. Downtown food and drink places include Jack Ryan’s Steak & Chophouse, Rick’s on the Square, Don Juan’s, Strada Café, Janie’s Cakes, ETX Brewing Company, and The Foundry Coffeehouse.

Best Chef

Enam Chowdhury, Chophouse on Bank-head, Mount Vernon. Formerly at Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards in Pittsburg and Lombardi Family Concepts Restaurants in Dallas before that, Chef Enam Chowdhury is now at the brand new Chophouse on Bankhead in Mount Vernon. Located in a renovated historic 1890s building the restaurant includes a menu of steaks, fresh fish, poultry, wild game, salads, pasta, and there’s a full bar. 102 E. Main Street. 903.270.2600.

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

Best Artist

David Tripp. Former Arlington ISD teacher David Tripp now enjoys spending time painting nostalgic watercolor scenes from small Texas towns and countryside. His latest endeavor had him spending most weekends working at The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine on "The American Railroad Odyssey" train exhibit during the holidays. See some of his amazing work on his website

Honorable Mention: Valery Guignon, Winnsboro

Best Local Band

Blindpursuit. Michael Paul,  Katie Reed, John Reed, Craig Jones, and Marc Mitchell make up the Palestine, Texas, based Blindpursuit, an independent southern rock band with music that’s "one part soul, two parts rock and roll, a little splash of country, and a whole lot of good times." They recently released their debut album, Offramp.

Honorable Mentions: Dubb & The Luv Machines, Jason Waldon Band, The Kid Icarus Project, Miss Demeanor and the Groove Felons, Chris Colston

Best Local Singer/Songwriter

Matt Dunn. He lists his hometown as Sulphur Springs but he’s called the road home for several years opening for the likes of Cody Jinks, Jack Ingram, Bart Crow, Raney Foster, Brandon Jenkins, Max Stalling, and The Damn Quails. He and his band, The Runaways, have a new debut album, Desire. Upcoming shows include January 27, Lone Republic Steakhouse, Winnsboro; February 3, Sundown at The Granada, Dallas; March 10, The Texan, Greenville; and April 6, Love and War, Lindale.

Best Play

One Toe in the Grave, Winnsboro Center for the Arts. Directed by Bob and Becky Hibbard of the former Quitman Community Theatre (they closed the curtains in 2015), this tale of a rising young bachelor executive and his antics won big accolades from all that saw it on The Bowery Stage in Winnsboro at the end of 2017.

Honorable Mention: Dixie Swim Club, Lindale Community Theater

Best Theatre Company

Henderson County Performing Arts Center. The group performs about eight plays each year and always gets heavy applause. As well they should since they’ve been around for more than 50 years, always with a mission to bring quality entertainment and education to East Texas. 400 Gibson Road. 903.675.3908.

Best Actor/Actress

Noel Weems, Lindale Community Theater. Noel Weems was a crowd favorite in a couple of plays in 2017 including The Boys Next Door, as the innocent Sheila and in The Dixie Swim Club where she played Lexie, at first a flamboyant man chaser whose character gets a bit more serious when she discovers she has cancer. LCT Executive Director Tim Mitchiner says, "In The Dixie Swim Club, she played the beautiful Lexie— the quintessential narcissist — and as that character, she had the audience in the palm of her hand, usually laughing out loud at her antics, her never-ending string of men and her interaction with the lifelong friends that join her.

"The Boys Next Door was a 180-degree turn as she portrayed Sheila, a mentally handicapped woman with a fascination for keys and not missing the bus. Poorly dressed and unkempt, the audience never once doubted Noel was Sheila and was entranced by the simple filter she applied to everything in her very different reality."

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