Arkansas is all good. You knew that.
But some things are better than others. And some things are best of all.
Who better to make the judgment than the discerning readers of the Arkansas Times. Hundreds and hundreds of them availed themselves of the opportunity to offer guidance by filling in ballots printed in consecutive issues of the paper in May.
As ever, we tossed ballots produced by organized campaigns. As ever, we probably missed a few cheaters (a cheater being someone who enlists someone who is not a Times reader to fill out a ballot).
Enough of the preliminaries. Following are the winners, all in the Little Rock area unless specifically noted:
GOODS AND SERVICES
SHOPPING CENTER PARK PLAZA It still reigns supreme, though the big Wal-Mart/Sam's complex on Bowman had even more fans among our readers than the big mall in North Little Rock. RUNNERS-UP: Wal-Mart Shopping Center on Bowman, McCain Mall, the Heights.
WILD OATS In terms of a single store, the health food haven, owned by a national chain, won a narrow victory. Non-specific votes for the KROGER chain outnumbered all others.
RUNNERS-UP: Terry's, Hestand's, Wal-Mart Super Centers.
MORRIS ANTIQUES The endless jumble of an old favorite in Keo is back on top again.
RUNNERS-UP: Fabulous Finds, David Thomas, David Claibourne Ltd.
HAVERTY'S Always a contender, the chain moves to the front with the demise of long-time winner Brandon's.
RUNNERS-UP: Mertinsdyke, Hank's, Ethan Allen.
TOM CHANDLER He had a clear margin in widely dispersed voting in a new category.
RUNNERS-UP: Kaki Hockersmith, Bear-Hill Interiors, W. Randall Byars.
BARNES & NOBLE A surprise winner after years of dominance by a big box electronics outlet and a heavy challenge from a local independent.
RUNNERS-UP: Arkansas Records-CD Exchange, Best Buy, CD Warehouse.
DILLARD'S The department store has retooled its shoe department with clearly impressive results.
RUNNERS-UP: Shoe Connection, Payless Shoes, Shoe Carnival.
BLOCKBUSTER Same old same old for the big chain. A runaway.
RUNNERS-UP: Premiere Video, Hastings, RAO.
BARNES & NOBLE Just try to find a parking space. The question is how many people are actually buying books, rather than hanging out.
RUNNERS-UP: Wordsworth, Books-a-Million, Hastings.
BARBARA JEAN Heavy voting for a number of independents reflects the struggles by Little Rock's big department store chain to maintain dominance in this important category.
RUNNERS-UP: Dillard's, New Traditions, Feinstein's.
BAUMAN'S Fashion-forward traditional clothing produces a big victory margin for an old name.
RUNNERS-UP: Mr. Wicks, Greenhaw's, Dillard's.
TULIP'S A repeat victory for a Heights favorite.
RUNNERS-UP: Beyond Cotton, Gap, Abercrombie and Fitch.
VINTAGE AND RESALE
SAVERS Shabby is chic, especially among the younger crowd and you can't beat prices at this used clothing chain.
RUNNERS-UP: Funky Monkey, Private Collections.
TOGGERY The Heights favorite displaces a national chain this year.
RUNNERS-UP: Alex, Charlie's, Old Navy.
BEST BUY Undefeated and still champion, it's THE category killer in this sector.
RUNNERS-UP: Circuit City, Radio Shack, Sharper Image.
VICTORIA'S SECRET Undeterred by the burning nightgown trial, our readers voted heavily again for the sexy national marketer.
RUNNERS-UP: Barbara Graves, Understatement.
SPORTS AUTHORITY Another runaway for the comprehensive chain store.
RUNNERS-UP: Academy Sports and Outdoors, Gene Lockwood's Sports Mart, Mack's Prairie Wings of Stuttgart.
TOYS R US The choices are limited, but the first choice of readers is clearly the big chain.
RUNNERS-UP: Heights Toy Center, Wal-Mart.
TIPTON AND HURST Our readers throw bouquets again to the biggest local florist.
RUNNERS-UP: Friday's, Mille Fleur, About Vase.
CROWN SHOP Hallmark's gift shop is the hall of fame of gift shoppers.
RUNNERS-UP: Full Moon, Bed Bath and Beyond, Tuesday Morning.
OFFICE DEPOT Period. Exclamation point!
HILLCREST ANIMAL HOSPITAL As a whole it's a winner. Its individual vets also score high.
RUNNERS-UP: Allpets Animal Hospital, Dr. Earl Smith, Dr. Hartford Hamilton.
CUFFS A clean win for a repeat victor.
RUNNERS-UP: Oak Forest, Comet, Moose.
FUN WASH Another easy win for the Cantrell washateria.
METROPOLITAN NATIONAL BANK A repeat win, but only by a whisker over the national banking giant and a couple of popular local banks.
RUNNERS-UP: Bank of America, Bank of the Ozarks, Pulaski Bank.
JERRY'S Our personal favorite, an old-fashioned Heights barber shop, wins again.
RUNNERS-UP: Kristi-Kuts, Morrison's, Supercuts.
JOEL'S The hair stylist to Little Rock's stars finishes on top again.
RUNNERS-UP: Little Rock Hair Productions, Legends, Angles.
MARY HEALEY Look for the Rolex sign in the Heights Theater complex for your sparklers.
RUNNERS-UP: Sissy's Log Cabin, Stanley Jewelers, Cecil's.
WALGREEN'S Many locations and convenient hours and a little bit of everything distinguish our winner.
RUNNERS-UP: USA Drugs, Drug Emporium, Kavanaugh Pharmacy.
BEST A winner again, but with surprising competition from a do-it-yourself chain.
RUNNERS-UP: Splash, Mr. Tidy.
DENVER MATTRESS It's a firm first-place again this year.
RUNNERS-UP: Haverty's, Sam's Club.
BALE HONDA In a game where many dealers have multiple lines and voters tend to lump them all together, the loyalists to this particular Bale dealership (many also like Bale Chevy) stood out.
RUNNERS-UP: Landers, Parker, Riverside Motors.
RUSSELL HONDA Once again, voters tend to lump dealers together. But customers of the northside Honda dealer gave its service top marks.
RUNNERS-UP: Bale Honda, Landers, Moore-Robinson.
AUTO STEREO BEST BUY We told you people love their electronics. RUNNERS-UP: Auto Audio, Circuit City.
POE TRAVEL A repeat win for the old-line agency, which does it all but specializes in the unusual.
RUNNERS-UP: Goodwin Travel, Sue Smith, Worldwide Travel.
PEABODY The glitz is undeniable as the reborn Excelsior wins the hotel title again.
RUNNERS-UP: Capital Hotel, Embassy Suites, Holiday Inn Select.
CATHOLIC HIGH New competition pops up nearly every year it seems, but even without Father Tribou (R.I.P.), the old-line school for young men holds its own.
RUNNERS-UP: Mount St. Mary, Cathedral School, Little Rock Christian, Pulaski Academy.
CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL Hail again to the Old Gold, the state's best at producing brainy high achievers from a diverse student body.
RUNNERS-UP: Dunbar Middle School, Forest Park Elementary, Jefferson Elementary.
The voting was just too scattered to declare a winner this year. Top finishers, in alphabetical order: Eagle Nest, Forest Place, Riverwalk, Turtlecreek.
REJUVENATION CLINIC AND DAY SPA As more places compete for the growing interest in finding a place for pampering, last year's winner hangs on to first place.
RUNNERS-UP: Caracalla, Indulge, B Barnett Day Spa.
HOME DEPOT Buyers come in hordes and stock changes fast, but, brother, is there a lot of stock.
RUNNERS-UP: Cantrell Gardens, Hocott's, Green Tree Nursery.
KRAFTCO A heavy readership in the Heights undoubtedly explains how this old timey hardware heaven with the helpful staff beat out the giants of the industry. Service counts.
RUNNERS-UP: Home Depot, Fuller and Son, Lowe's.
COMPUTER COMP USA Shazam! Best Buy is beaten for the first time ever by a niche specialist. RUNNERS-UP: Best Buy, Circuit City, Gateway.
BURROW-MR. FRANK'S It's a return to the top this year for a thriving independent.
RUNNERS-UP: Lenscrafter, Wal-Mart, Lane Eye Care.
RIVER MARKET FARMERS MARKET No, it's not even close. In season, the edible wonders are, well, wondrous. But, out of season, you might look to our honorable mentions.
RUNNERS-UP: Terry's, Wild Oats, K. Hall and Sons.
TAKE A HIKE Informed advice, along with all kinds of trendy gear, keeps the Bowman Curve store on top.
RUNNERS-UP: Ozark Outdoor Supply, Sports Authority, Mack's Prairie Wings of Stuttgart.
SIGLER MUSIC CENTER Another one of those retailers that simply spread-eagles the competition.
RUNNERS-UP: Guitar Center, Saied Music Company.
CHAINWHEEL Another victory lap for the cyclist's friend.
RUNNERS-UP: Bikeseller.com, Arkansas Cycling and Fitness.
DON'S WEAPONRY Test them on the range then buy them at this North Little Rock armorer.
RUNNERS-UP: Fort Thompson, Mack's Prairie Wings of Stuttgart.
COMMERCIAL ART GALLERY
HEIGHTS GALLERY A pioneer of the Little Rock gallery world, always a splash of color on Kavanaugh, is on top again.
RUNNERS-UP: Olivia Cornwell, River Market Art Space, Cantrell Gallery.
ALLTEL Nearby and neighborly may count for something in the phone business, too, for this Little Rock-based company.
RUNNERS-UP: Cingular, Sprint, AT&T Wireless.
AOL The big name still leads, but the margin narrows thanks to new broadband services.
RUNNERS-UP: SBC, Comcast, Aristotle.
JANET JONES Follow the rainbow, particularly in the high-dollar neighborhoods.
RUNNERS-UP: Charlotte John, Rector-Phillips-Morse, McKay and Co.
SOUTHERN TRADING AND LOAN One of the biggest is also the best among our cash-strapped (or is it bargain-hunting?) readers.
RUNNERS-UP: Pawnderosa, USA Loans.
BURNS PARK One of the biggest city parks anywhere, North Little Rock's treasure offers ball fields, rides of kiddies, fishing and a hiking trail featuring close encounters of the deer kind.
RUNNERS-UP: Pinnacle State Park, Allsopp Park, Mount Nebo State Park.
WAR MEMORIAL The egalitarian splashing of this city plunge wins again.
RUNNERS-UP: Little Rock Athletic Club, Wild River Country, Willow Springs Water Park.
EUREKA SPRINGS A cozy room in corny-quaint Eureka seems to strike the romantic chord in most readers.
RUNNERS-UP: Hot Springs, Tunica, Greers Ferry Lake.
RED APPLE INN It's beautiful at Eden Isle, the food is good and recreational choices are many.
RUNNERS-UP: Gaston's on the White River, Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Tanyard Springs at Petit Jean.
MOUNTAIN HARBOR The queen of Lake Ouachita notches another win.
RUNNERS-UP: Lake DeGray State Park, Heber Springs Marina, Crystal Springs in Royal.
For public course players it's REBSAMEN GOLF COURSE and for the private course swells, it's the refined vistas of the COUNTRY CLUB OF LITTLE ROCK.
RUNNERS-UP: Chenal Country Club, Greystone at Cabot, First Tee.
LITTLE ROCK ATHLETIC CLUB Famous and infamous are among those who build equity in their bodies with various sweaty endeavors here.
RUNNERS-UP: Power House, Little Rock Racquet Club, War Memorial Fitness Center.
LITTLE ROCK ATHLETIC CLUB Part of the comprehensive charm of our winner immediately above.
RUNNERS-UP: Rebsamen Tennis Center, Little Rock Racquet Club, Burns Park.
ROCKETS They have a cult following, as evidenced by the annual enthusiastic vote.
RUNNERS-UP: Free Verse, Big Johnson, Groanups.
PLACE TO DANCE
DISCOVERY Hasn't it always been the place?
RUNNERS-UP: Electric Cowboy, Cajun's Wharf, Sticky Fingerz.
JUANITA'S Home to our band showcase and years of pulling good touring acts.
RUNNERS-UP: Sticky Fingerz, Cajun's Wharf, Afterthought.
CIAO BACI The Hillcrest bunglow is HOT! Also very cool. Drop by at happy hour, see what we mean.
RUNNERS-UP: Cajun's Wharf, Bobbisox, La Changes.
DISCOVERY The granddaddy, though it now has competition, has no peer.
RUNNERS-UP: Back Street, Factory.
WEST END SMOKEHOUSE AND TAVERN The west side's premier joint to cheer your team in the company of friends and friendly strangers is on top again.
RUNNERS-UP: Legends, Embassy Suites' Athletic Club, Zack's.
LATE NIGHT HANGOUT
MIDTOWN BILLIARDS Music and beer and pool and greasy burgers until the very wee hours.
RUNNERS-UP: Discovery, Waffle House, Legends.
WEST END SMOKEHOUSE AND TAVERN What's a good sports bar without the tools for a rousing game of eight-ball?
RUNNERS-UP: Midtown Billiards, Crazee's Cool Cafe.
RAVE COL. GLENN 18 In no time, the humongo assembly of stadium-style theaters has run away with the Little Rock market. Best like long walks in a huge parking lot.
RUNNERS-UP: Market Street Cinema, Regal Breckenridge Village, IMAX.
ARKANSAS ARTS CENTER No contest for the home of cool galleries full of cool art, from Impressionist masterpieces to cutting edge work.
RUNNERS-UP: Museum of Discovery, Old State House.
PERFORMING ARTS GROUP
ARKANSAS REPERTORY THEATRE There's really no other of any significant stature. But this one is so good so often.
PLACE TO GAMBLE
OAKLAWN PARK Live horses, televised horses and slot machine horses make this our readers' favorite, though, cumulatively, there's a lot of traffic to different spots in Mississippi.
RUNNERS-UP: Sam's Town, Grand, Hollywood.
GAMBLING ESTABLISHMENT ENTERTAINMENT
GRAND Light competition in this category underscores the reality that gambling is the main entertainment at wagering venues.
RUNNERS-UP: Sam's Town, Hollywood.
PEOPLE, PLACES, THINGS
LES WAITE "Hard-edged, cartoonish figurative paintings," is how one critic describes his work. Painted mosaics, always interesting, is how we see this local favorite's work.
RUNNERS-UP: Jane Hankins, Jim Johnson, Barry Thomas, Ashley Saer.
DIXIE KNIGHT A repeat win for one of the hardest working photogs around. We may have said it before, but we say it again - we admire not only her pix but the incredible climbing roses on the fence outside her studio.
RUNNERS-UP: Andrew Kilgore, Benjamin Krain, Bernie Jungkind.
U.S. REP. VIC SNYDER. Remember, readers of the Arkansas Times are the voters. They like the progressive doctor/lawyer/Marine from Little Rock.
RUNNERS-UP: Gov. Miike Huckabee, Sen. Jim Argue, Bill Clinton, Sen. Blanche Lincoln.
SHAWN ANDREWS Now we're talking. A 340-pounder is a matinee idol. And the former Hog lineman is a rich one, too, thanks to a big pro contract.
RUNNERS-UP: Matt Jones, Jermaine Taylor, Derek Fisher.
HEIGHTS As with its per-square-foot home prices, this neighborhood is the tops
RUNNERS-UP: Hillcrest, Chenal Valley, Park Hill.
U.S. REP. VIC SNYDER. By a mile, though it's not a word you're likely to hear him use about himself.
RUNNERS-UP: John Brummett, Rita Sklar, Jean Gordon.
There were a scattering of votes, and we guess you'd have to declare GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE the winner, but many voters said there simply wasn't such a thing. Lt. Gov. Winston Rockefeller had some modest support.
The SUSAN KOMEN RACE FOR THE CURE is, once again, an overwhelmingly popular choice.
RUNNERS-UP: Pulaski County Humane Society, Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund, P.A.R.K.
KUAR Little Rock's NPR station has a growing roster of must-listen shows, even if the national net did screw up our mornings by dumping Bob Edwards.
RUNNERS-UP: KSSN, The Point (KKPT, 94.1), Alice 107.7 (KLAL).
HEATHER AND DC This fun-loving pair do the morning honors on hit rock format Alice 107.7.
RUNNERS-UP: Bob Robbins, Tommy Smith, Broadway Joe.
KTHV, CHANNEL 11 The CBS affiliate benefits from a stronger network link.
RUNNERS-UP: KATV, KARK, Fox 16.
DENISE WHITAKER Surprise! Karen Fuller's departure created a big gap, filled by Channel 4's veteran anchor.
RUNNERS-UP: Anne Jansen, Scott Inman, Andy Pearson.
ED BUCKNER KTHV's main man widens the gap over competitors.
RUNNERS-UP: Ned Perme, Barry Brandt.
CRAIG O'NEILL A runaway vote for KTHV's funny man.
RUNNERS-UP: Paul Eells, Steve Sullivan, Justin Acri.
JOHN BRUMMETT His streak is unbroken, though the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's sports editor mounted his strongest challenge yet to unseat the irascible political columnist (who, by the way, still has a sure hand at the sports writiing, too).
RUNNERS-UP: Wally Hall, Gene Lyons, Kane Webb.
MCDONALD'S To hell with fitness, super-size us some of those crispy, slender fries with plenty of salt.
RUNNERS-UP: Buffalo Grill, Burger King, Beechwood Grill.
SONIC They are a touch sweet for us, but the readers disagree.
RUNNERS-UP: Cotham's in the City, Fisher's of North Little Rock, Shorty Small's.
EL PORTON Families have feuded over this issue. We suspect plenty will feud with the winner, of the white cheese school.
RUNNERS-UP: Juanita's, On the Border, Senor Tequila's.
CORKY'S Memphis-style ribs, tender and smoky we'll admit, rule the meat category this year.
RUNNERS-UP: Whole Hog Cafe, Shorty Small's, McClard's of Hot Springs.
FLYING SAUCER The friendly forest of beer taps in the River Market once again heads the field.
RUNNERS-UP: U.S. Pizza, Vino's, Boscos.
ASHLEY'S The Capital Hotel's fancy dining rooms has wines to match the unmatched setting.
RUNNERS-UP: Ristorante Capeo, Vermillion Bistro, Ciao Baci.
COLONIAL BOTTLE SHOP The store's wine selection seems to grow every time we visit and the service is friendly.
RUNNERS-UP: Popatop, Heights Fine Wine and Spirits, Service Liquor of Hot Springs.
CIAO BACI Hmmmm. Maybe this is why this Hillcrest bar/restaurant is viewed as a good pickup spot. The classic martini is cold and generous.
RUNNERS-UP: Vermillion Water Grille, Loca Luna, Mallard Bar in the Peabody.
VERMILLION WATER GRILLE The sleek downtown destination is popular with beautiful people who stay that way by eating fish for lunch. (And other good stuff, too.)
RUNNERS-UP: Cotham's in the City, Boscos, Trio's.
PURPLE COW Forever and ever, this has been the place to get a metal can full of cold and creamy delight.
RUNNERS-UP: The Hop, Sonic, Shakey's Frozen Custard.
WILD OATS The health west Little Rock market has more than beans and grains and organic produce. The deli is crammed with a garden of earthly delights.
RUNNERS-UP: Star of India, Dixie Cafe, Delicious Temptations.
BOULEVARD BREAD COMPANY We know folks who live in cities 10 times the size of Little Rock who say they have nothing to match Boulevard's ciabatta. Or baguette. Or pagnotta. Or a host of other crunchy wonders.
RUNNERS-UP: Old Mill, cheese biscuits at Red Lobster, Community Bakery.
CATERING TO YOU They entice because they not only cater, but also offer their wares for take-home.
RUNNERS-UP: Simply the Best, Dianne's, Trio's.
CHEERS IN THE HEIGHTS It's just a covered patio, but it's convivial, it's in the city's chicest neighborhood and the food is great, but not fussy.
RUNNERS-UP: Brave New Restaurant, Capers, Pizza Café.
GOURMET TO GO
DIANNE'S Will it be a casserole? A homemade pie or rolls? A fresh-as-the-garden salad? This veteran shop has it all and lots more.
RUNNERS-UP: Catering to You, Cafe 1217 of Hot Springs, Boulevard Bread Company.
SATELLITE COFFEE CO. It's THE place on Saturday and Sunday mornings. You'll fight for a seat for eggs and other comforting standards.
RUNNERS-UP: Peabody Hotel, Loca Luna, Ashley's.
U.S. PIZZA Mound up the lettuce and pile the ranch dressing on thick. It ain't light, but it IS popular.
RUNNERS-UP: Trio's, Faded Rose, Cheers in the Heights.
SHIPLEY'S A new kid on the block can't dislodge the home of melt-in-your-mouth circles of flour, fat and sugar.
RUNNERS-UP: Krispy Kreme, Community Bakery.
SEKISUI The Shackleford Road eatery offers a bit of just about everything Japanese, but sparkling fish morsels lead the way.
RUNNERS-UP: Igibon, Kobe, Mount Fuji.