Best of the City

Romantic dining spots and the best coffee in town. Educators who inspire us and the local organizations that strive to give back. Where to break a sweat and the places to find a perfect gift. When it comes to what Evansville offers, who knows the best better than our readers? We asked and you delivered — the 2019 Best Of Evansville includes 34 winners encompassing the city’s favorites in food, service, shopping, people, and entertainment.



Best Romantic Dinner Spot

The atmosphere at Sauced is romantic enough you might be tempted to eat your spaghetti a la “Lady and the Tramp.” From the roses on the tables to the dim lighting, the Italian restaurant makes even an ordinary weeknight date feel special.

“At Sauced, we create a great atmosphere for any number of special occasions by offering fantastic service to our guests. That is our first priority,” says owner Scott Schymik. “Lighting, music, creative dinner specials, and imaginative cocktails also add to a wonderful dining experience.”

1113 Parrett St.



Best Jewelry Shop

In 1972, after working as a jewelry and watch repairman for 11 years, Roland Brinker cashed in a life insurance policy, sold the diamond from his wife’s engagement ring, and quit his job. Using parts from his son Dean’s high chair, he fabricated a wooden work bench where he began crafting and repairing jewelry in a 500-square-foot store with two glass cases he purchased with the money. For three generations, the Brinker family has been a staple in the Tri-State jewelry business, notching their ninth Best Of Evansville win. When it comes to shopping for a special or unique piece of jewelry, our readers love receiving the little green box from Brinker’s Jewelers.

111 S. Green River Road

Jagoe Homes

Best Builder of New Homes

With more than 7,000 families living in Jagoe homes and more than 80 years of building in the area, it’s not surprising Evansville Living readers feel at home with Jagoe Homes. Brothers Scott and Bill Jagoe are third-generation owners, following in the footsteps of their father William Jagoe and their grandfather Carlos Jagoe Sr., who founded Jagoe Homes in Owensboro, Kentucky.

624 Wathens Crossing, Owensboro, KY

Donut Bank

Best Coffee Shop

There’s nothing like a cup of Joe from a local spot — and this year, Donut Bank takes the cake. Started by Evansville native Harold Kempf in 1967, the local shop gets its signature blend thanks to a formula crafted by Harold’s wife Shirley. But you don’t have to settle for just the signature brew — Donut Bank offers a Blue Nile, French vanilla, and decaf blends, as well as seasonal blends including one of our favorites, Highland Grog.

Nine locations


Mickey’s Kingdom

Best Community Effort

Almost one year ago, Mickey’s Kingdom opened to kids and their families after community members came together to build the playground along Evansville’s riverfront.

“Mickey’s Kingdom has been the perfect culmination and representation of heart, spirit, and philanthropy from our city,” says Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke.

More than 800 businesses, organizations, and families, totaling more than 4,500 community volunteers, came together to build the park, which is almost entirely wheelchair accessible.

“Because of the dedication and resources put forth by local volunteers and businesses, future generations will be able to enjoy a Downtown playground located near the Ohio River,” says Winnecke.

Downtown Evansville riverfront

Claire Ballard

Best Media Personality

While there are many platforms to stream and download music these days, numerous studies show radio listenership is up across the country. Claire Ballard, host of the Claire and the HOT 96 Morning Show, believes that is largely due to local on-air personalities who can connect listeners to their city. As a long-time host at Hot 96 FM, Ballard knows her listeners and her city.“I really enjoy being a voice for local businesses and causes,” says Ballard. “I also love interacting with listeners and being a part of their daily routine.”

1162 Mount Auburn Road

Colton Blanchard

Best Galaga Gamer

As a kid, Colton Blanchard was familiar with classic arcade games, but it wasn’t until the Main Street arcade, High Score Saloon, opened in December 2017 that he discovered his hidden talent for the arcade game Galaga.

“My dad was from California when arcades were big, and he would take us to play when I was growing up,” says Blanchard, who is a full-time firefighter in Evansville for Engine 1 and also places arcade games in area restaurants and businesses along with helping repair games at High Score Saloon. “We would go to Two Bit Bandit and play.”

Today, the Evansville native is ranked 11th in the world in the hardest game setting, rank D, with five ships (or five lives) and first in the world in rank D point pressing, where players maximize the points collected through the first 31 stages instead of progressing as quickly as possible. Blanchard plans to put his skills to the test by competing in the next Galaga World Championships.

Red Lobster

Best Seafood

When looking for a place to grab wild-caught and farm-raised seafood, readers choose Red Lobster for the catch of the day. The restaurant offers a variety of seafood, such as lobster, crab, shrimp, and fish to please both seasoned shellfish lovers and selective eaters. A few orders of the cheddar biscuits will start your meal off right, and favorites, like the five types of crab on the famous Crabfest menu, will satisfy all cravings.

4605 Bellemeade Ave.

Ashley HomeStore

Best Home Furnishings

With a wide assortment of décor from beds, couches, and tables to final touches like pillows and rugs, readers believe Ashley HomeStore is the place to find stylish, affordable home furnishings. Though family owned, the business serves a large international market and makes designing a dream home simple. Ashley HomeStore doesn’t stop at just indoor décor — stores also carry a unique array of outdoor furniture and accent pieces to match all design aesthetics and has options for everyone’s individual style.

1441 N. Green River Road


Best Business to Work For

With a history spanning more than 125 years, Deaconess Health System continues its reputation of being a best workplace with this year’s Best Of win. This marks the second win for Deaconess in the category (their first was in 2016), and it’s not surprising as the hospital also is regularly named a Best Hospital in the state by U.S. News & World Report.

Various locations in Indiana, Kentucky, and Illinois


Mesker Park Zoo

Best Place for a Family Outing

Indiana’s oldest zoo, Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden, is growing, and its newest additions captivate the attention of everyone both young and old.

“Working at the zoo is every kid’s dream,” says Marketing Director Danny Schembre. “Seeing our amazing animals every day, learning their personalities, and sharing the great things we do here is what keeps me coming back day after day.”

Mesker’s latest addition includes the Budgie Walkabout — a walk-through aviary filled with more than 300 exotic birds. For a few tokens, visitors can even feed the birds inside the enclosure.

“This unique animal experience gives our guests the opportunity to interact first hand with our animals,” says Schembre.

If you’re looking for a fun event, check out the Fur & Feathers Fitness Day on Sept. 21 with fun activities for all ages or the annual Boo at the Zoo in October.

1545 Mesker Park Drive

Bret Nicholson

Best Spiritual Leader

Bret Nicholson, who has served as a pastor in the Evansville area for 25 years and currently is the lead pastor at One Life Church, feels like being called the “Best Spiritual Leader” is a bit of an oxymoron.

“What I wish the people of Evansville knew about spiritual leadership is there’s a growing and unified group of pastors and Christian leaders in Evansville who love the city and are praying passionately and working diligently to see it flourish and reach its full potential,” he says.

Nicholson says he has noticed a tangible shift in the community’s attitude and hopes to see that continue.

“I hope to see what I can only label as a genuine renaissance, meaning flourishing in the arts, commerce, education, and innovation, which leads to a greater sense of city unity, purpose, and relational connection we can pass on to our children,” he says.

“And, speaking from my Christian worldview, I believe it’s entirely possible.”

333 Plaza East Blvd. and two other area locations

Bob’s Gym

Best Place to Break a Sweat

Personal trainer Diana Holland says, with access to four locations, a CrossFit gym, multiple pools, HydroMassage, and 200 classes a month, the price of a Bob’s Gym membership is a ridiculously good value.

“Everyone who works here is super nice and fun,” says Holland. “We keep pulling in great people because it fits. We have a really great team.”

Holland, who has worked in fitness for 40 years, is one of many trainers at Bob’s Gym who works with clients, like long-time member Emily Manzo.

“I’ve gotten to know a lot of people who work out here, so community is good and accountability is good,” says Manzo.

Multiple locations


River City Coffee+Goods

Best Place for a Unique Gift

Sometimes it’s more than the thought that counts when it comes to finding the perfect gift. It’s hard to go wrong at River City Coffee + Goods as the only gift shop in the area where everything is handmade in the U.S.

“Everyone spends so much time on all of their goods,” says owner Heather Vaught. “I just love being able to showcase all the talented makers in our city.”

Most of River City’s items are made locally in the region, she says, and buying a gift that is made by one of their neighbors makes it even more special.

223 Main St.


West Side Nut Club Fall Festival

Best Free Festival with the Most Fun
Best Evansville Event

The West Side Nut Club Fall Festival is no stranger to Evansville Living’s Best Of readers’ poll. As a winner in 2001, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2015, and 2017, it is clear the community is crazy for Fall Fest. This year is no exception, as the annual event snagged not one but two awards in this year’s Best Of.

Back in 2001, the Fall Fest also won two categories as the “Best Festival” and the editors’ pick of “Best Place to People Watch.” With close to 150 food booths and more than 200,000 visitors each year, Fall Fest is considered one of the largest street festivals in the country. Even better, the event serves as a fundraiser for hundreds of local organizations and nonprofits. 

Pronto Pup

Best Fall Food Festival Item

Nothing tops the variety of deep-fried, golden goodness you can find each year at the annual West Side Nut Club’s Fall Festival on Franklin Street. And king of the fest (according to our readers) is the Pronto Pup! These pancake-dipped treats have been a long-time favorite of festival attendees — it is offered by so many vendors, it has its own category on the annual Munchie Map!

West Franklin Street

Dr. David Smith

Best Inspiring Educator

Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation has been a part of Superintendent Dr. David Smith’s life for the past 50 years. Having worked with EVSC for 28 years and having been a student for 12, his commitment to the continual improvement of the city’s education has been recognized nationally as well as locally.

Beginning as a classroom teacher and working his way to the top of the EVSC, Smith’s leadership has directly impacted students and helped change the paradigm of education in Evansville.

“Hope, engagement, motivation, and encouragement are critical factors in education,” says Smith. “We have to think about solving the problems of tomorrow without using yesterday’s methods.”

Nick Nackery

Best Place to Become Someone Else

When Nick Nackery opened in 1985, costumes weren’t part of its inventory — a surprise for shoppers who have come to love the store for its unique collection of costumes, wigs, masks, and party accessories.

Over the business’s 34 years, owner Suzy Blesch says popular costumes can be predicted with one question: What is the biggest movie of the year? Recently, that means superheroes keep the shop’s plate full. As a year-round store, however, Nick Nackery is prepared for much more than Halloween.

“It’s important to know Nick Nackery is part of the community,” says Blesch. “That’s something you will never have with your websites or temporary stores. Those people will never be there when you need a costume for your child for the wax museum in grade school or whatever it may be in your life.”

201 E. Virginia St.

Downtown Game Room Alley

Best Spot for Game Night

Everyone loves a good game — and now, visitors to Downtown can get in on the fun with the Downtown Game Room Alley.

Downtown Evansville-Economic District president Josh Armstrong and his team — Adam Trinkel, Candace Chapman, and Alli Turpin — felt a game space would appeal not just to adults out on the town, but families visiting as well.

“People love it,” says Armstrong. “We see people using it at all times of the day and evening.”

The project also called on local businesses to complete the Game Room Alley — Hafer Design developed the concept look, Pinnacle Contractors furnished lighting, Wilde Horticulture made the landscape plan, the rugs were added by Barb Woodruff of Just Faux It, and the outdoor furniture was furnished from a firm that also supplies Bryant Park in New York City.

“I enjoyed the creative process, sketching out the rugs and putting the colors together,” says Woodruff.

Main Street, next to Enjolé Interiors


Best Car Dealership

Local history buffs know D-Patrick for its namesake founder, D. Patrick O’Daniel. Today’s buyers recognize the dealership for its broad range of automobile makes: Ford, Lincoln, Nissan, Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Honda, and Audi. Making its third appearance on the Best Of Evansville list, D-Patrick also is recognized for its role in the naming rights of the city’s premier event stadium, the Ford Center.

Various locations

Mike Whicker

Best Local Author

Author Mike Whicker is no stranger to the Best of the City lists. In 2014, he also was voted best local author by our readers. A graduate of the University of Southern Indiana and a former English teacher and football coach at F.J. Reitz High School, Whicker’s well-known World War II spy trilogy (“Invitation to Valhalla,” “Blood of the Reich,” and “Return to Valhalla”) follows the German spy Erika Lehmann. This month, Whicker continues Lehmann’s story in “Cliffs of Valhalla.”


Best Veggie-Friendly Restaurant

Whatever you may be craving, Pangea Kitchen has a collection of unique flavors to entice your taste buds. Especially those craving vegetarian plates!

Chef Wanphen McDonald and pizzaiolo Eric Luna create dishes full of tasty veggies, made to perfection, and offer a combination of flavors everyone can love. Pastry chef Sarah Bruggeman’s beautiful desserts offer a sweet conclusion not many can resist.

111 S. Green River Road

Turoni’s Pizzery and Brewery

Best Place to Grab a Local Brew

Turoni’s first alcohol license was purchased in 1970, and the pizza joint has been brewing its own beer since 1996. Being the first restaurant to brew in the city is just one of the reasons Evansville Living readers love grabbing a cold one at Turoni’s. The restaurant has five of its beers on tap at a time and brews 20 different beers every year.

Three locations in Evansville and Newburgh, Indiana

Willard Library

Best Place to Uncover Your Past

Move aside In Evansville, when residents want to dive into their pasts, they take a trip to historic Willard Library and its genealogy department. Up on the second floor, guests can dive into the diverse information the library has on genealogy as well as the local history special collections.

Records are available through the year; however, in June the library holds the Midnight Madness Genealogical Conference. For an entire week, lovers of genealogical research can hear national speakers and research to their heart’s delight until midnight the entire week.

21 First Ave.

Panera Bread

Best Working Lunch Spot

With the opening of Panera Bread’s West Side location at 5201 Pearl Drive in March, the restaurant clearly is in demand. Our readers share this sentiment, selecting the bakery and café as the Best Working Lunch Spot in the city. Providing a menu full of responsibly sourced, fresh, and wholesome food, Panera is an excellent place to grab a midday meal. Free Wi-Fi allows customers to enjoy good food while working on the go.

Two Evansville locations

Comfort By The Cross-Eyed Cricket

Best New Restaurant

Since opening in September 2017, Comfort By The Cross-Eyed Cricket has brought home-style cooking to Main Street with a twist, and Evansville Living readers have taken note. While the main floor features comfort food in a family-style atmosphere, the lower level features a Brazilian-style steakhouse space and the second floor houses Comfort’s coffee and wine bar — all in the renovated and historic former home of the Farmer’s Daughter.

230 Main St.

Sunshine Juice Company

Best Way to Taste the Rainbow

Need a colorful treat? Don’t reach for a bag of candy — instead, we suggest hitting up Sunshine Juice Co. for a refreshing cold-pressed drink.

“We are doing something different every day, and we always are trying new things to offer our customers,” says Erin Collier, owner and operator of Sunshine Juice.

Drawing inspiration from things that are good for you, Collier and her staff strive to bring in different options with new recipes to promote being healthy inside and out.

“This is not the same juice you buy from your typical grocery store,” says Collier. “At Sunshine Juice Co., cold-pressed is best!”

6225 E. Virginia St., Ste. C
2017 W. Franklin St.

Jordan Frederick (Shannon Aleksandr’s Salon)

Best Barber

So much can change in a year — just ask Shannon Aleksandr’s barber Jordan Frederick. Before graduating from barber school a year ago, he worked in a number of different jobs, including underground coal mining and railroad work.

“I’ve always been pretty decent at cutting hair … so I decided to go back to school,” says Frederick.

For him, his new job is all about making people smile.

“I like when people look in the mirror and they are amazed. It makes me feel very appreciated and valued in making someone’s day,” he says.

5600 E. Virginia St., Ste. H.

Duckworth Marketing

Write-In Vote

Haley Duckworth knew she was ready to take a leap. So two and half years ago, she quit her job and started her own business doing what she had a passion for — digital marketing.

“It’s been such an honor to work with professionals all over the Tri-State who are just starting out or working to build up their businesses,” says Duckworth, whose company Duckworth Marketing is the winner of our Best Of Write-In category this year. “It’s an honor to have been voted a winner!”


F.J. Reitz High School

Best School Spirit

For more than a century, West Siders have shown they have school spirit with their constant support of F.J. Reitz High School. Whether it is volunteering, donating to the Big Blue Boosters, or attending plays, competitions, and athletic events, the Reitz community shows up to show their pride.

350 Dreier Blvd.

Village East Animal Hospital

Best Veterinary Clinic

When in need of a veterinary clinic, readers agree Village East Animal Hospital provides the best surgical, medical, and dental care for the area’s beloved cats and dogs. Comfortable boarding options, an onsite pharmacy, and the 160 years of combined experience of Village East veterinarians ensure your pet is well attended.

“Our relationships with our clients and their pets are very important to all of us,” says Hospital Manager Tracy Dant.

The clinic will care for your furry friend, be it a routine vaccine or exam, a specialized cancer or therapy treatment, or preventative testing and laboratory diagnostics. Village East Animal Hospital treats your pets like their own to keep those tails wagging.

1305 S. Green River Road.

Mulberry Jeans

Best Place for a Tea Party

Though it may not be 1800s Britain, you still can enjoy an afternoon tea at Mulberry Jeans Accents in Newburgh, Indiana. For 16 years, owner Gina McCallister has not only offered a unique gift shop for visitors, but a tea room serving 70 types of loose-leaf teas.

We suggest the shop’s High Tea party, where culinary creator Heather Nance serves guests a soup, selection of sandwiches, and desserts with iced and hot teas.

“We want everyone to feel comfortable and have a good time,” says McCallister. “People call my shop their happy place,
and I absolutely love to hear that.”

600 State St., Newburgh, IN


The Diamond Galleria

Best Local Organization that Gives Back

Evansville residents know a heart of gold when they see one, and the hearts of The Diamond Galleria shine like no other. The shop gives back by supporting 32 local organizations through event sponsorship, donations, and fundraising.

“Through the store, we want to do everything we can to make Evansville a better place,” says storeowner Bert Wheat.

The Diamond Galleria holds an annual charity summit to brainstorm ideas and has hosted in-store events for many of these groups, including the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Ohio Valley and Susan G. Komen Evansville Tri-State.

6245 Vogel Road

Join us at the Best of Evansville Party! »

Sample the city’s best food and drinks and browse the best products Evansville has to offer!

Thursday, October 17, 2019 — 5 p.m.-8 p.m.
Get your tickets today!

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