Well, its time to finally announce the winners of The Best of the Burg or at least some of them. As of the November deadline, we collected hundreds of voted ballots from our readers (and a lot of non-readers) but during the tally process weve been interrupted and lost count dozens of times. (Were worse than the Florida election folks; we admit it.) Then war broke out and the ballots got buried under our duct tape and plastic sheeting.
We have now uncovered them (we dont know why they were found by looters in a Baghdad museum) and, despite technical difficulties with our automated vote-counting equipment, are ready to announce the winners in many major categories. The categories that arent included are not lost; they either just remain too close to call or the winner may have gone out of business or been charged with 21 felony counts. In any case, well have the rest of the winners next week. Probably.
Here we go.
There are two businesses that are Galesburg institutions which have bon their category every time weve held this competition. This time was no exception.
The Best of the Burg winner in the all-American Best Hot Dog category was again Coney Island. This Galesburg institution rated raves for the ambience of its South Cherry Street location and the greasy guilt-free chili sauce they smother with the mustard and onions on every dog. They have other varieties, such as a Chicago Dog or a "veggie dog" but the original is what wins every time. There are now two locations in town but the original is where its at.
The B-Q Rib Shack is again The Best of the Burg in the Best Barbecue category. Another Galesburg institution, this North Henderson Street Restaurant serves their great sauce in both regular or spicy, on ribs, chicken and beef tips. They recently acquired a liquor license so draft beer is the perfect accompaniment.
Everyone had a choice for Best Pizza but the winner was a pie thats been in Galesburg for nearly half a century. Sperlins Pizza House on East Simmons Street was the favorite for their traditional thin and greasy concoction. This is not Chicago deep dish or California pizza with healthy stuff; this is traditional midwestern pizza and its The Best of the Burg. Pizza Houses new owners have added beer, salads and other menu items but the pizza is their raison dêtre.
Local places battled it out with the chains and the chains won in the next two division. Steak n Shakes steakburger was declared Galesburgs Best Burger by a narrow plurality. SnS, a regional chain based in Indianapolis, has been in Galesburg since the 1930s and has been a local favorite all along.
KFC was determined to cook Galesburgs Best Chicken by more voters than any other establishment. They do more of it than anybody else, by far.
Of the four Chinese restaurants in Galesburg, our voters selected the one that also serves American fare as the Best Chinese The New China Café. This downtown restaurant is known for its good-value meals and American-style Chinese food. They havent joined the buffet bandwagon. Each dish is prepared to order.
Jalisco Mexican Restaurant was again voted Galesburgs Best of the Burg in the Best Mexican category. Since the balloting concluded, they have moved to a larger and more visible location on East Main Street where they continue to serve a wide variety of traditional Mexican dishes. Six establishments received votes in this category and all have distinct culinary styles but Jaliscos is probably the most authentically Mexican.
In the competition for Best of the Burg in the Best Fast Food category, the chains squared off and square burgers beat round ones. Wendys, which initiated the $1 menu, was the clear favorite but dozens of other restaurants were named, including some that have quick service but probably dont think of themselves as a fast food place such as Joy Garden and Hungry Howies.
There was a clear winner for Best Steak and its the place that has named itself after its featured menu item. Its nearly impossible to get a bad piece of beef at The Steak House on North Henderson Street and our readers appreciate its consistent quality except for the one who left the ballot line blank and commented, "who can afford steak?"
The Best Sub Sandwich also comes from a place that named itself after its specialty, Subway. They keep adding new varieties of bread and meats but its all the toppings included at no extra charge that make it unique.
Were pleased that the Best Auto Body Shop was again Daves Auto Body for two reasons. One, theyre an advertiser and we like advertisers and two, they do damn fine work. Daves has a nationwide reputation for quality work and its well-earned.
Hy-Vee was voted Galesburgs Best Supermarket, edging out Eagles. Hy-Vee has the advantage of two Galesburg locations but they won even without adding in the numbers for people who selected one particular Hy-Vee over the other.
Another chain was voted a Best of the Burg and they, too, will have two Galesburg locations. The drug store founded by Galesburgs own Charlie Walgreen was voted Best Drug Store. Walgreens East Main Street store will open in about a week giving them a real advantage in future balloting.
Ive finally done it. Ive tallied all the ballots and were ready to present The Zephyrs coveted "Best of the Burg" award to these fine Galesburgers. Every winner will receive a certificate suitable for framing in the mail soon. Be sure to patronize those establishments displaying it.
I think our readers are slipping a bit. There werent nearly as many sarcastic comments as in the past but I will bring you some of the ones that are printable. Even we have standards.
Some of the winners have been reported previously. Dont forget them.
There were lots of votes for the best cheap meal, indicating that peoples definitions of "cheap" really vary. In the end, there was a tie for the Best of the Burg between the New Friendly Café on Lincoln Street and McDonalds.
Chez Willys was voted Best of the Burg on the opposite end of the spectrum the Best Gourmet Meal. Some peoples definition varied there, too, with Coney Island also receiving a vote.
The New Friendly Café won a second honor by being voted Galesburgs Best Fam,ily Restaurant. Applebees and Sirloin Stockade also rolled up some serious votes.
The Best of the Burg in the Tavern category was won by a bar without a lot of frills, The Seminary Street Pub. There are a lot of taverns in the Burg and just about each of them was somebodys favorite.
Steves Smith and Allen was a repeat winner from past years in the Best Auto Repair category. Steve Browns downtown locations has been a repair garage longer than most of our readers have been alive.
The Knox County Day Nursery was voted Best Day Care in a category that received relatively few votes. The balloting was done before Carl Sandburg installed $180,000 of cool new playground equipment. The new Knox Count jail did get a vote from one reader.
Target is Galesburgs Best Discount Store outpolling Wal-Mart and Kmart by more than two to one. One reader said "theyre all evil."
Herrs various Mobil stations were Best of the Burg in the C-Store category. We couldnt tell which one they were voting for so we just lumped them all together. Many readers didnt know that the C" stood for "convenience" and asked, "whats a C-Store" or voted for places like Bergners.
Leaths was named Best of the Burg in the Best Furniture Store category. Just about all the others received votes, including the heavily-advertised Goods in Kewanee.
He sells primarily Maytag, a brand thats shunned by many locals, but Allens Appliances was voted Best of the Burg in the Appliance Store category, edging out Lindstroms and Goffs in Knoxville.
A local establishment and a national chain tied in the Best Tech Store category. Radio Shack and Tri-Lutions edged our Office Specialists and Staples.
Eichhorns didnt have any problem outpolling the chains in the Best Jewelry Store voting. The local store on East Main Street has been a readers favorite since our contest started.
People think we stuff the ballot box but we dont.It is our contest and The Zephyr was voted Best of the Burg in the Newspaper category. We appreciate the support.
Our first-ever four-way tie resulted in Swansons, Dredges, Brocks and Richs being named Best of the Burg in the Barber Shop category. There were more barber shops than we thought and it seems they all received votes.
There were even more Beauty Salons than barber shops which received votes. The Best of the Burg was a tie between Roger and Rose Stockmans Prim-Rose and the salon at J.C. Penneys.
WAAG, FM-95 was voted Best of the Burg as Galesburgs best radio Station. Interestingly, WAIK and WGIL tied for second, but close doesnt count.
Terry Cavanaugh of WGIL was voted Galesburgs Best Radio Personality. Her morning show on WGIL attrcats a huge listening audience and it showed.
Neil Kastor of WQAD is Galesburgs favorite TV Weatherman. One reader questioned, "Is this the Best of the Burg?" but its my contest and if I want to ask, I will.
Galesburg Lincoln-Mercury-Nissan outpolled all the others as Galesburgs Best New Car Dealer.
They also received the most votes as Best of the Burg in the Used Car Dealer category. Among the used cars only establishments, Bennys received the most votes. A certificate will go to both.
There were even more realtors than Beauty Salons but Greta Woolsey was voted Best of the Burg.
For the first time since we started doing this, none of the local banks changed names as the voting was progressing. F&M Bank edged past First Midwest Bank to be named Best Bank of the Burg. One reader nominated the Red Cross Blood.
Galesburgs two local mega-insurance agencies, Miller-Dredge and Grant Bullis, both received an equal number of votes as Best Insurance Agency. Interestingly, the combined votes for all the State Farm agents would have made them the winner but some chose particular agents and others just voted for the company.
The Knox County Nursing Home edged out Rosewood and Seminary Manor to be named Galesburgs Best nursing Home, even though its in Knoxville.
Mayor Bob Sheehan was voted Best of the Burg in the City government person category. I think hes won it every time as long as hes been Mayor.
The votes were much more varied in the County Government Person category but former Knox County Clerk Steve Buck was the high vote-getter. He wasnt so lucky on the real election night but hell still get his certificate. Steve wasnt the only former County employee to tally some votes. The late Sally Blodgett and the retired Fay Yarde also had some fans.
State Representative Don Moffitt edged out Carl Hawkinson to be voted Best of the Burg in the State Government Person category. Governor Rod Blagojevich came in third.
Only one person has ever won our Best National Government Person voting and Congressman Lane Evans did not disappoint. Nobody was close.
Earlier this month I promised the rest of the Best of the Burg winners. Well, as they say, "Better late than never" or "Were saving the best for last." Whatever, here they are.
In no particular order
Police Chief John Schlaf tied with Sgt. Mike Carroll for Best Cop. Joe Friday also got some votes but it looks like his show has been cancelled.
The OSF Medical Group has done a great job keeping the Best Doctor honors. Succeeding her dad, a prior winner, Dr. Valerie Flacco-Nesselroad bested over 30 different physicians receiving ballots.
There werent quite as many dentists named, but Dr. Donald E. Bortz takes the Best Dentist honors.
It was neck-and-neck, or rather eyeball-to-eyeball, in the Best Eye Doctor voting but Dr. Peter Kehoe sneaked by Dr. Dan Sherwood by an eyelash.
It wasnt quite as close in the Best Chiropractor category. Dr. Brian Buelt came in a clear first but Dr. W. A. Crisman almost cracked into the lead.
Were giving out no award for Best Secretary or Best Nurse this year. There were lots of votes in both but no clear winners. (This is a great future opportunity for ballot-stuffing.)
There was a five-way tie for first place in the Best Clergyperson voting. From the diversity of the group, it looks like a lot of people are keeping their options open. Leading the way are Linda Peyla (sp?) (Galva UMC), Tom Larsen, Scott Grulke, Lee Johnson and Jim Eklund.
Surprisingly or not not too many people filled in a name for Best Lawyer. There was a winner, however, and its John Blake. Im a little disappointed at the lack of lawyer jokes on the entries this year. Come on readers; you can do better.
Many teachers received votes as best but one stood out: Jim Jacobs was voted Best Teacher; its too bad hes retiring.
In the best ballot-stuffing of all time, Second Mortgage clearly was named Best Local Band. If the musicians didnt include a judge, wed complain to somebody.
There were lots of votes for Best Local Writer but its clear our readers like the muckraking style of Mike Kroll the best. Novelist Robert Hellenga came in a strong second.
In a year without any superstars, the Best Local Athlete honors go to multi-sport talent Derrek Blackwell.
There was no competition for Best Local Coach. For the umpteenth time, Silver Streak girls basketball coach Evan Massey claimed the prize.
His team is also the favorite of our readers. The Galesburg Silver Streak Girls Basketball Team was named Best Local Athletic Team and deservedly so.
The Stearman Fly-In was voted Best Local Event, outpolling even Railroad Days and dozens of other events some of which I hadnt even heard of.
Theyve done some work on a few but "None" was the clear winner in a new category, Best Railroad Crossing. Some readers must have thought we werent serious (which we may not have been) and they responded with answers like "You have to be kidding" or "get a clue."
Family Video was voted Galesburgs Best Video Rental establishment. Rumors are that there will be a new place on E. Main St. soon to give additional choices and competition.
There were a group of categories at the end of the ballots which were not actually local or best "of the Burg." They were there because I was just curious about a few things and I was not disappointed. Well send the valuable certificates out anyway.
My more than ten to one, WQAD, Channel 8 was voted as the Best Local TV News in the area. That may be because they are the only ones with a live broadcast facility in Galesburg and a stringer who lives here.
It may be because Galesburgers like ABC better than the other networks. Peter Jennings was the clear favorite over Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather, in that order, as Best National News Anchor. One reader wrote in Michael Moore in that category.
CNN edged out Fox News as Best 24-hour Cable News Network but that the balloting was done before the war with Iraq and Fox surpassed CNN in the national ratings. I like to think CNN did better here because our readers dont enjoy Foxs embarrassingly biased coverage but thats probably expecting too much.
There werent enough votes in some write-in categories to announce a winner but I will mention them for the glory.
Dave Darrah received a few votes as Best Bartender; Amanda Hutton as Best Waitress. Dan Burnett of Galesburg Lincoln-Mercury did receive enough write-ins to be honored as Best Mechanic.
The same can be said for Ben DeRose who was in the double-digits with enough votes to be named Best Remodeling Contractor.
With just about as much ballot-stuffing from most of the same folks, Second Mortgages new CD, "Not As Bas As It Sounds," was named Best Album.
There were a few categories that only received one vote and are only worth mentioning because they are cute or maybe worth a try if youre not familiar with them.
Jay Matson was named Best Entrepreneur on one ballot. The View off the Fourth Street bridge was identified as Galesburgs Best View on another. The Make a Wish Foundation was named Best Charity by one reader. The same person also thought Henry Hill was the Best Prison, Folgers the Best Auctioneer, and Dons Family Restaurant has the Best Coffee.
Another said Prairie State Legal Services has the Best Legal Aid (and the only legal aid) and the Friendly Café has the Best Breakfast (a category we inadvertently left out this year.)
A real fan of the Foley-Markwarts voted for Tom Foley as the Best Local Photographer, Carla Markwart as the Best Local Fine Artist and Foley Photo Studio as the Best Photo Studio. They also selected Discovery Depot as Best Local Museum a selection with which we concur.
A fan of the coffee boys voted for The Fahnestock house as Best Local B & B, and Innkeepers as the Best Coffee.
One reader put in a plug for Grays Sandwich Shop as having the Best Tenderloin but another voted for Macs Place. Applebees received a vote for Best Margarita and MSI as best HVAC contractor plus a half dozen write-ins, one each for each of the other services they perform.
While they didnt give them a vote for Best Mexican Restaurant, one reader nonetheless singled out Johns Taco Hideout as having the Best Tacos. Another said Hungry Hobo has the Best Baked Potatoes.
Mike Hall was named Best Electrician by one reader. Another wanted a "Worst of the Burg" contest. (We might comply.) She started it off by saying that a drunk redneck she saw singing a Britney Spears tune at a Grand Ave. bar gets her vote.
The now-discontinued On-Demand large Brush Pickup was named Best City Service by a reader who also thought Lims Ashby-Sterling had the Best Ice Cream.
The Galesburg Antiques Mall Co. was identified as the Best Antique Shop by one reader.
One reader objected to balloting for politicians, lawyers and clergy: "How can we divorce church from state? Theyre both sitting on the same pile of shit."
Despite that negative commentary, we will be sending out certificates suitable for framing to all the winners.
A hearty congratulations to all of you!