Best of the City 2017
Selected by the readers and editors of Evansville Living, these local businesses, restaurants, people, and events are the best of all our city has to offer.
Donut Bank Bakery
& Coffee Readers’ Pick
Best Bakery, Best Place for a Cup of Coffee
Forget the neon signs and an overload of coffee drinks — when it comes to fresh doughnuts and bakery treats, readers head to locally owned and operated Donut Bank. Last year’s Best Of winners for cup of coffee and breakfast meeting spot, the shops started by Harold Kempf claim a new title of Best Bakery. To showcase the company’s tasty talents, Evansville Living worked with Donut Bank’s bakers and decorators to create a unique cover to celebrate the annual Best Of list. We have to say, it was a tasty way to ring in the New Year!
* Nine locations in Evansville, Newburgh, Princeton, Indiana, and Henderson, Kentucky, donutbank.com
Best Place for a Men’s Haircut Reader's Pick
Step into Old Town Barber Shop at 400 S.E. Second St. and be ready for an experience not many places can replicate. “I try to mostly create a comfortable environment for everyone to be in,” says shop owner Nicholas Goodman. The Victorian home in Downtown may not be a traditional choice to house a barber shop, but it has worked well for Goodman and his crew, who offer hair cuts and colors for men and women, young and old. “There is a homey environment. People feel really comfortable when they come in here,” says Goodman. Want to relax a bit while your hair is trimmed? Goodman says Old Town now offers beer and wine for customers to enjoy.
* 2400 S.E. Second St., 812-449-0706, facebook.com/oldtownladiesandgents
SugarBakers Home Fashions
Best Home Accessories Boutique Reader's Pick
“When a customer visits SugarBakers for a project, selecting beautiful pieces to meet their needs is only a small fraction of what we do,” says Ann Pate, interior designer and owner of SugarBakers. Winner of the 2016 Best Place To Accessorize Your Home, SugarBakers Home Fashions claims another home décor victory from Evansville Living readers. Along with its full retail storefront, the four interior designers on staff can help customers design and furnish their homes exactly how they wish. “We can help you create the space from floor to ceiling,” says Pate.
* 1100 Tutor Lane, 812-475-1344, sugarbakers.us
Mystique Winery & Vineyard
Best Tri-State Winery Reader's Pick
Nestled in the woods near Lynnville, Indiana, just a short 40-minute drive from Evansville, rests Mystique Winery & Vineyard. With a motto of “Where friends meet and the wine is unique” and a Mardi Gras feel, it’s no surprise readers chose the winery as their favorite. Opened in 2008, the vineyard produces six wines and offers a patio which hosts musicians, parties, and events throughout the year. On your way out of the tasting room, don’t forget to grab some Mardi Gras beads as souvenirs.
* 13000 Gore Road, Lynnville, IN. 812-922-5612, mystiquewine.com
YMCA Camp Carson
Best Overnight Summer Camp Write-In Pick
In the second year Evansville Living has offered a write-in category for Best Of, readers made their voices heard by voting YMCA’s Camp Carson as the Best Overnight Summer Camp. Camp Carson is about growth and guidance, not to mention summer fun. Activities are chosen by the campers themselves and include classics such as horseback riding, archery, and woodworking to more nontraditional activities like water zip lines, dirt bike trails, and human foosball. At Camp Carson, kids are “ACE — Accepted, Challenged, and Empowered,” providing them a positive environment that teaches them how to take on challenges and succeed.
* 2034 Outer Lake Road, Princeton, IN, 812-385-3597, campcarson.org
Treats Worth the Dough Editor's Pick
If you have a craving for European food, you don’t have to travel far — just head to Cisse’s Bakery and enjoy any of the freshly made treats. Idrissa Cisse — a classically trained baker originally from West Africa — makes pastries, breads, cinnamon rolls, and muffins at his bakery, which opened in 2015. During the summer, Cisse also sells his baked goods at the Downtown Farmers Market and Franklin Street Bazaar. While each confection is downright delicious, the chocolate- or fruit-filled pastries are especially sweet.
* 4711 Bayard Park Drive, 812-589-2768, facebook.com/Cisses-Bread-Bakery-556784534460021
Best Pizza Reader's Pick
Even with all the new competitors on the scene, Evansville Living readers still choose Turoni’s as their favorite pizza pie. Year after year, Turoni’s pizza and its cracker crust, secret sauce, mozzarella cheese, and vast selection of toppings keep the Tri-State coming back for more. Many also choose to sample one of Turoni’s many on-tap beers, including its local favorite Honey Blond Ale.
* Three locations in Evansville and Newburgh, Indiana, turonis.com
Best Antique/Vintage Store Tie!
All it takes is vision and some paint for co-owners and mother/daughter duo Deb Rhodes and A.J. White to turn vintage furniture into modern masterpieces. Rhodes and White opened Re:Creation Designs Studio in 2014, but changed the name once they made the historic Newburgh Country Store the business’s new home in 2015. “It was such a refining process for us,” says Rhodes. “Once we saw the building, we realized how this was going to complete the vision we had — with the ability to bring in a coffee shop and a space where people could gather upstairs while shopping for different and unusual things. It just encompassed everything that’s been important to us.”
* 224 W. Jennings St., Newburgh, IN, 812-629-2250, therefinerynewburgh.com
Riverside Antique Mall
Best Antique/Vintage Store Tie!
Open seven days a week, the Riverside Antique Mall features more than 50 independent dealers who buy and sell items such as antiques, collectibles, and handmade décor. Inventory changes often, so visit regularly to find the item you didn’t know you needed.
* 1205 E. Riverside Drive, 812-469-2255, facebook.com/Riverside-Antique-Mall-360319270739855
Best Local Community Advocate Readers' Pick
Amy Word-Smith may be stepping down as president of the Franklin Street Events Association (FSEA), but don’t expect her to stop advocating for her hometown anytime soon. Five years ago, Word-Smith — who owns Lamasco Bar & Grill and The Dapper Pig — founded FSEA, which now hosts about 45 events from parades and summer bazaars to Dickens Christmas and movie nights. “It’s not that I’m going anywhere, I’m just refocusing my energy into what would be best for our community,” says Word-Smith, who will turn her attention to long-term planning for FSEA. “You’re not going to get rid of me that easily.”
* 1331 W. Franklin St. 812-480-0323, fallinlovewithfranklin.org
Lamasco Bar & Grill
Best Live Music Venue, Best Bar Readers' Pick
After a renovation in 2015, Lamasco Bar & Grill quickly became a hotspot for both musicians and music-lovers. Attendance at Lamasco’s shows — 250 a year, featuring local favorites such as Factor Primo, The Henhouse Prowlers, and Calabash — skyrocketed. Owner Amy Word-Smith says sometimes she still can’t believe how quickly Lamasco has become a city favorite. “When the room is full, the masses are dancing, and there is nothing but smiling faces, it is the most profound moment for me,” says Word-Smith. “It’s all I have ever dreamed and wanted for it — to share music, laughter, and love.”
* 1331 W. Franklin St., 812-437-0171, lamascobarandgrill.com
Haynie Travel Service
Best Local Travel Agency Readers' Pick
When it comes to travel, Bob Haynie and his agents of Haynie Travel Service know collaboration is key to the perfect vacation. “The bottom line is we’re here for our clients before, during, and even after the trip,” says Haynie, owner of the agency at 641 S. Hebron Ave. The business got its start in 1938 when Bob’s grandmother Mildred Smith Haynie began booking trips for customers from her home on Sunset Avenue. Today, Haynie Travel is a member of the Signature Travel Network and an affiliate with Frosch International, a $1.5-billion, privately owned agency. “It really gives us enormous clout with various travel suppliers,” says Haynie. “It’s one thing that really sets us apart.”
* 641 S. Hebron Ave., 812-477-8833, haynietravel.com
Best Local Beer Readers' Pick
With four years under its belt, Tin Man — which takes its name from helping re-revolutionize the beer industry trend of packaging brew in aluminum cans — again is voted Best Local Beer; the company first took the honor in 2014. Owners Nick and Sara Davidson have taken their beer north with the December 2016 opening of a Tin Man tap room in Kokomo, Indiana’s historic train depot.
* 1430 W. Franklin St., 812-618-3227, tinmanbrewing.com
West Side Nut Club Fall Festival
Best Outdoor Festival Readers' Pick
Fall is not official in Evansville until the Nut Clubbers set up on West Franklin Street for their annual week-long West Side Nut Club Fall Festival. Like a well-oiled machine, members close off the street and set up space for more than 126 food booths, entertainment stages, rides, and more. Munchie maps in hand, folks here become food connoisseurs and peruse treats from deep-fried elephant ears and bread puddings to pronto pups and walking tacos. Rumor has it the Fall Fest is one of the largest street festivals in the U.S. Judging by the crowds each year, it is easy to see why this Evansville tradition is one many visitors flock to as well.
Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure
Best Running/Walking Event Readers' Pick
Be more than pink, and you will do more than you think! The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure held annually in October in Evansville brings more than awareness to breast cancer, a disease that touches so many lives. It also helps raise funds so people can receive life-saving detection, treatment, education, and other services. The 2016 race drew more than 7,700 people and raised about $410,000 to make an impact locally.
Best Local Comedian Editor's Pick
On the stage of Bokeh Lounge at Haynie’s Corner, Rachael Goldman takes hold of a wireless microphone, moves to the edge of the stage, and strikes a pose. “It’s easy to be a female comedian. I know this for a fact because so many men have told me so,” she jokes. A fifth-generation pawnbroker at her family’s business Goldman’s Pawnshop, 107 S.E. Fourth St., Rachael has moonlighted as a comedian in Evansville and around the Midwest for three years. “The first time I got on stage at Bokeh Lounge, it was okay. I didn’t tell anyone I was going to do it, but it was great,” she says. “So I kept doing it, and it turned out I loved it.” Rachael draws her comedy from things she does every day, from work and family to her hometown of Evansville. She describes her favorite jokes as “sassy” and isn’t afraid to poke fun at herself. “It just keeps going along,” she says. “You just keep working, keep hustling, keep being funny hopefully.”
* Twitter: @rachaelgoldman
Best Hotel Readers' Pick
Whether for a vacation or a staycation, Le Merigot is the people’s choice for lodging in the River City. As Evansville’s first and finest boutique hotel, Le Merigot’s rooms and suites offer amenities such as glass-enclosed showers with multi-unit body sprays and overhead rainmakers, Italian bed linens, goose-down duvets, and plush micro-fleece robes that are sure to please even the most discriminating traveler.
* 615 N.W. Riverside Drive, 888-633-1770, tropevansville.com/hotels/le-merigot-hotel
Harmonie State Park
Best Place to Camp Readers' Pick
Those who live in scenic Southern Indiana know there are numerous places to pitch a tent for a few days and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. But if you’re looking for a spot close to home with walking, biking, and hiking trails to keep you busy, then Evansville Living readers recommend Harmonie State Park, 3451 Harmonie State Park Road, New Harmony, IN. The camp grounds reside on the banks of the Wabash River and feature cabins for rent, 200 camping sites, a nature center, picnic areas, a swimming pool, and more.
* 3451 Harmonie State Park Road, New Harmony, IN, 812-682-4821 or in.gov/dnr/parklake/2981.htm
Fusion Spa & Boutique
Best Place for Spa Services Readers' Pick
Owner Theresa Baggett says Fusion Spa & Boutique’s combination of services from massage and skincare to hair and makeup — everything but injectibles — combined with personal care is what makes the spa and boutique stand out. “We have a lot of personal services to offer. We’re in a unique position,” says Baggett, who encourages her staff to build a relationship with each client. “We want to give them a very personal experience when they come in here. Everybody on staff takes it very personally. We try to over-exceed expectations.”
* 7144 E. Virginia St., 812-402-6004, fusionspaevansville.com
Mayor Lloyd Winnecke
Best Community Leader Readers' Pick
At the beginning of 2016, after winning his second mayoral term, Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke told our City View staff, “I believe the best thing about Evansville is its citizens.” And Evansville residents feel one of the best things about the city is their mayor. Born and raised in the River City, Winnecke and his administration have been on the front line helping implement new development projects, particularly new work Downtown. “The thing I enjoy most about being mayor is knowing I have a role in solving problems,” says Winnecke. With Evansville moving forward and Winnecke at the helm, the future is looking bright for the city.
Best Fitness Instructor/Personal Trainer Readers' Pick
Tony Maslan knows if he doesn’t show up, neither will his clients. While helping clients achieve results, Maslan also finds ways to make working out fun. “I really focus on being present when I’m with them. The real key is the personal connection with the client,” says Maslan, director of personal training at Bob’s Gym. “If they enjoy their workouts, they’re going to keep coming back.”
Best Massage Therapist Readers' Pick
After Tony Maslan brings the pain, let Troy Peachee massage it away. As a massage therapist with 25 years experience and manager of The Spa at Bob’s Gym East, Peachee creates experiences as unique as his clients and their needs. Peachee helps his patrons achieve total health with his therapeutic sessions. “I’m passionate about what I do, so I give as much mental and physical focus as I can for each individual,” says Peachee.
* Three Bob’s Gym locations in Evansville and Newburgh, Indiana, 812-402-2627, bobsgym.com
Best Burger Readers' Pick
G.D. Ritzy’s just keeps on sizzling. Voters have chosen the restaurant’s burger as the city’s best four other times, making this year’s honors the fifth in Evansville Living’s Best Of history. Top it the way you want — lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, bacon, or plain — and order it with a side of Ritzy’s shoestring fries or a hand-dipped ice cream. Delicious!
* Three locations in Evansville. For more information find each location on Facebook.
Best TV Personality Readers' Pick
“If you don’t like the weather in Southern Indiana, just wait a day!” It’s a phrase most Tri-Staters are familiar with. To get a jump on the weather, our readers turn to Jeff Lyons, chief meteorologist at 14 News. Tracking storms, snow, and fair weather in Evansville and Southern Indiana since 1988, Jeff has a knack for nabbing Best Of wins — a six-year consecutive winner of best weather anchor and three-time winner of Best TV Personality. When not on screen, Jeff travels to area schools and visits civic groups to tell tales of weather forecasting. He also serves as an adjunct instructor at the University of Southern Indiana.
Best Place for a Child's Birthday Readers' Pick
One trampoline can provide hours of entertainment for children. Now imagine a room full of bouncing surfaces where your children and their friends can be unleashed, and you have Sky Zone Trampoline Park. With private party rooms or the options to rent the entire park, Sky Zone is the best place to celebrate your child’s special day, according to our readers. The Evansville location, which opened its doors in 2014, also offers fitness classes, a SkySlam court, the chance to flip into a pit of foam cubes, glow parties, and more.
* 49 N. Green River Road, 812-730-4759, skyzone.com/evansville
Best Place to Take a Visitor Readers' Pick
Picturesque sunsets; the Four Freedoms Monument; the Pagoda; the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science; and more greet visitors of the riverfront in Downtown. When spring and summer come to the Tri-State, the paved path bustles with the traffic of walkers, runners, and cyclists. Crowds find their way to the lower plaza in the summer for Shriners Fest shows and other events. Along with a new Upgrade Bikeshare station at the Pagoda, the River City’s namesake waterfront is the best place to introduce our city to guests.
Best BBQ Readers' Pick
Evansville’s Mission BBQ opened in March 2016. The eatery is founded on giving back to the men and women who serve our communities — soldiers, firefighters, police officers, and first responders. Like other locations nationwide, Evansville’s restaurant — located in Eastland Shoppes — offers six sauces to complement its chicken, brisket, ribs, turkey, pork, sausage, and salmon.
* 1530 N. Green River Road, 812-213-0200, mission-bbq.com/node/801
Best Caterer Readers' Pick
Executive Chef Doug Rennie says the recipe for his catering company’s success involves choosing both quality ingredients and employees. Whether he’s serving up his most-requested pecan-encrusted tenderloin or training employees, the key is consistency and quality. “We only buy the best food,” says Rennie, who co-owns Just Rennie’s with his wife Marla. “You also have to hire the right people to be successful. You are only as good as the people you hire.”
* 100 S.E. Fourth St., 812-401-8098, justrennies.com
Best Person to Watch Shark Week With Editor's Pick
Diving into shark-infested waters with just a cage between you and 16-foot Great Whites may seem like a nightmare to some, but to Doug Duell, it was a great adventure. “I love sharks, I’m not afraid of them,” says the owner of Evansville Mazda, Kia, Volvo and Evansville Hyundai. “They’re just beautiful.” In October 2016, Duell along with a group of divers from Evansville traveled to Guadalupe Island in the Pacific Ocean to dive with the crew of the Solmar V, a live-aboard dive vessel based out of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The trip provided Duell three days to be submerged in a cage with sharks ranging from 12 feet to 16 feet long. There are few places that offer the chance to dive with sharks, according to Duell, and trips on the Solmar V often fill up quickly. “People are afraid of them, thinking they are going to attack, but the sharks don’t,” says Duell. “They’re just amazing animals.”
Best Public Park Readers' Pick
There’s something for everyone at Wesselman Park, which offers a playground, golf course, softball fields, and a nature preserve. Owned by the city and operated by the Wesselman Nature Society, the Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve features some of the state’s oldest trees and unspoiled land for walking, hiking, canoeing, and learning. Support conservation with a membership to Wesselman Nature Society and receive free admission to the Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve and its new Welborn Baptist Foundation Nature Playscape, set to open in the spring.
* 551 N. Boeke Road
Best Local Artisan or Craftsman Readers' Pick
A decade after a chemistry experiment with her daughter, Mary Allen has turned soap making into an art. Sixth Street Soapery, which celebrated its one-year anniversary Dec. 1, 2016, is Allen’s endeavor into the business of natural soap, face and body care, bath products, and more. “I love making soap,” says Allen, a certified soap maker, “but probably the most enjoyable part about my business is the customers.” For those new to the natural soap game, Allen cheerfully offers this advice: “Think about replacing one item in your home. Going toward a more natural living is a journey, so don’t get overwhelmed.”
* 44 Washington Ave., 812-431-3835, sixthstreetsoapery.com
Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library
Best Resource to Rediscover Editor's Pick
Did you know we have eight public library branches in Evansville? The patrons who visit annually do. Of course, we love to visit the “new” Central Library, now open more than two years — its sheer size and programs continue to impress us. But so do the two Carnegie libraries — East and West branches — and our newer branches, like the Oaklyn Branch with its rooftop garden. While we encourage visits, e-books can be checked out via the system’s slick app. Our resolution is to set reading goals for the New Year!
* Eight locations, 812-428-8200, evpl.org
The Lollipop Tree
Best Boutique Store for Kids Readers' Pick
When Amy Bagby purchased The Lollipop Tree in August, it was because she wanted to share her love of fashion with others. “I have three daughters and they’re little divas as well,” she says. “I love being able to dress other people up and help them feel good about themselves.” The store carries upscale casual clothing in women’s, girls’ (newborn to 14), and boys’ (newborn to 6) sizes. Bagby also purchased LaPetite Demoiselle in October 2016. “My hope is to eventually merge the two stores and have it be more of a family store,” says Bagby.
* 5625 E. Virginia St., Ste. D, 812-401-8733, facebook.com/lollipoptreeboutique
Best Food Truck Readers' Pick
For two years running, Pizza Revolution has captured the taste buds of Evansville Living readers with its larger-than-life food truck. It’s hard not to be curious about a double-decker red bus offering Aaron and Stephanie Peckenpaugh’s signature wood-fired pizzas. The thin-crust pies are cooked in the bus’s first level oven; customers can take their pizza upstairs and enjoy the views.
* Various locations in the Tri-State, 812-430-5945, facebook.com/The-Pizza-Revolution-166603110134924
Best Landscaper Readers' Pick
Trees, shrubs, perennials, groundcovers, gifts, garden staples, and unique plants — green-thumbed readers of Evansville Living make their way to Combs Landscaping when they’re looking to spruce up their gardens in the spring. Located at 3801 N. Burkhardt Road, family-owned Combs has offered a multitude of plant and gardening options to the Tri-State for more than 30 years. If you lack that special talent with greenery, Combs has a comprehensive landscape design and installation service to tackle your landscape for you.
* 3801 N. Burkhardt Road, 812-477-2869, combslandscape.com
Best Radio Personality Readers' Pick
In December 2015, the University of Southern Indiana graduate returned to her hometown station Hot96 after working in radio in Las Vegas. She soon took over the morning show. “It was kind of a dream-come-true scenario, one I thought could happen years down the road,” says Ballard. “When the opportunity came up, I just went for it.” Tune in weekdays to hear Claire make morning-show magic with cohorts Shelby and Cooper.
Best Place to Buy Jewelry Readers' Pick
While they strive to have the best selection, the experts at Brinker’s Jewelers also think outside their iconic Little Green Box to keep customers coming back. What keeps them golden with customers? “We have two family mottos that we run our business by — treat each customer’s piece like it’s your own, and treat others how you want to be treated,” says Chief Financial Officer and Chief Marketing Officer Kyle Brinker. For the fifth year in a row, Brinker’s is the gem of the city.
* 111 S. Green River Road, 812-476-0651, brinkersjewelers.com
Best Workday Lunch Spot Readers' Pick
The lunch hour trifecta – jewelry, gifts, and delicious soup and salad (and more) – that’s what readers profess to like for a second year, naming Café 111 as the best workday lunch spot. While the menu is very nice, surely some of the appeal comes from the ease of shopping at Brinker’s and Brinker’s Etc. before or after lunch.
* 111 S. Green River Road, St. D, 812-401-8111, cafe-111.com
Kid Who Stays on Pointe Editor's Pick
While many high school sophomores were studying for driving examines, Tanner Logan of Evansville was poring over college application forms. The deal from her parents was for Tanner to apply to colleges of her choice before leaving Memorial High School to train year round at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “She realized at the end of her sophomore year while at a summer intensive (a summer ballet program) in Miami that if she was going to go to the next level of dance, she needed to stop going to traditional school,” says Tanner’s mother Donna. And that’s exactly what Tanner did. After enrolling in the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation’s virtual school to continue her high school classes, Tanner auditioned and was accepted to train at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School. While traditional students spend their days in math, science, English, and other classes, Tanner and other dancers take dance education courses. “Tanner likes to perform, but she enjoys the daily classes the most,” says Donna. “It’s the challenge of doing something better the next day than she did the day before.” Tanner also performs in productions put on by the PBT School — The Nutcracker was the chosen performance for December with another show planned for the end of spring. “I think she’s a brave girl,” says Donna. “We’re proud of her. She’s very talented and beautiful on stage.”
Best Local Band Readers' Pick
Although the band had its beginnings in Nashville, Tennessee, Evansville’s burgeoning music scene drew Paul Wiemeier, Jarod Heim, Greg Smitha, Ryan Hadley, and Zach Slingerland back to the Tri-State in 2009. Heim says it’s the band’s timeless, diverse style that keeps crowds coming to see them play. “There’s nothing like playing live music. It’s a good feeling,” says Heim, lead singer and rhythm guitarist. “Not one show is ever the same.”
* 812-618-7698, facebook.com/calabashband
Best Golf Course Readers' Pick
The 120 acres of rolling hills at Helfrich Hills Golf Course offer more than a picturesque view — they also present a challenge. The course featuring lakes, Bermuda grass fairways, and bent grass greens has been testing golfers’ skills for years. “We’ve been an integral part of growing the game here in Evansville,” says Dave McAtee, Helfrich’s head golf professional. The course is open to the public every day of the year, weather permitting.
* 1550 Mesker Park Drive, 812-435-6075, vanderburghgov.org/index.aspx?page=571
Best New Restaurant Readers' Pick
Owner Randy Hobson took a huge risk when he opened Pangea Kitchen in March 2016 — not just because he left a job in the corporate world, but also because nothing like the restaurant’s eclectic menu had been tried in Evansville. “This is my way of giving back and trying to create a better food culture here,” says Hobson. “People in Evansville were ready for this. I think our timing was good.” Pangea’s fare includes Neapolitan pizza, Thai noodle bowls, gelato, and French macarons.
* 111 S. Green River Road, 812-401-2404, tastepangea.com