Best of the Best

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After nearly a quarter century of covering this town from top to bottom, we’ve learned a thing or two about the best Sarasota has to offer. We know we have Sarasota’s best readers, and you’re eager to help us tell the rest of the world what’s best about our city, from dining and shopping to […]


After nearly a quarter century of covering this town from top to bottom, we’ve learned a thing or two about the best Sarasota has to offer. We know we have Sarasota’s best readers, and you’re eager to help us tell the rest of the world what’s best about our city, from dining and shopping to heroes and highlights.

And this year’s "Best of the Best" competition was-well, the best ever, as paper ballots poured into our office in record numbers and hundreds of you took advantage of our online voting system, logging in thousands of choices.

Tabulating all those votes is no simple task, especially when the answers of some mischievous spellers required extensive analysis-sometimes by more than two people. But we persevered, determined to give every qualified ballot its due and ensure that every citizen’s voice be heard.

So here they are, your picks for the best of everything that Sarasota has to offer. The top vote-getters are listed first; finalists are shown below in alphabetical order. Because of several ties, some categories have more than two finalists.

Congratulations to each of our winners, and to each of you as well, for your continued support and enthusiasm. And be sure to tune into contest co-sponsor WWSB Channel 40’s "Best of the Best" series, which begins May 2 and runs every Friday throughout the month on the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts.

BEST WATERFRONT RESTAURANT

Ophelia’s

Finalists: Beach Bistro, The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort, Marina Jack

Water, water everywhere is what diners in this city want for the ultimate mealtime mood enhancer. Ophelia’s romantically pairs a Continental menu with tropical views for an incomparable experience for tourists and residents alike.

BEST MEAL DEAL

Yoders

Finalists: Dutch Heritage, Mi Pueblo

Early birds, snow birds, night owls, legal eagles-all birds of a gourmet feather eventually flock together at this Mennonite restaurant where simple home cookin’ leaves money left over to feather your nest.

BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT

Cafe Baci

Finalists: Carrabas Italian Grill, Mediterraneo

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, you’re in Sarasota. This area has its share of Italian restaurants, but Cafe Baci stands out for authenticity, quality, and a comfortable ambience. The outside doesn’t look like much, but genuine gourmet surprises await within.

BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT

Oriental Buffet

Finalists: Le Chang of Boston, Mrs. Chen’s

Not your mother’s frozen supermarket egg rolls. Meals at Oriental Buffet deliver all kinds of exotic Asian specialties and an ever-changing menu, along with the health benefits of adding a little ginger and green tea to your diet.

BEST JAPANESE RESTAURANT

DaRuMa

Finalists: Jo-To Japanese Steakhouse, Saga Japanese Steakhouse

From sushi to sake to steak prepared and served as if you were in the land of cherry blossoms, DaRuMa has atmosphere and expertise to spare.

BEST THAI RESTAURANT

Bangkok

Finalists: Siam Orchid, Thai Gardens, Tropical Thai

Besides Bangkok’s refreshing take on Thai specialties that appeals to nearly everyone, this tastefully appointed restaurant finds fans among vegetarians who can always be assured of special attention and creative dishes.

BEST FRENCH RESTAURANT

C’est La Vie

Finalists: Cafe L’Europe, Cafe of the Arts

Is it the flaky warm croissants, the fruit-filled pastries, the hearty sandwiches or the cross-cultural chatter that keeps the downtown crowd so passionately devoted to C’est La Vie? Eat in, take out or snag a seat under an umbrella on the sidewalk.

BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT

Two Senoritas

Finalists: El Adobe, Mi Pueblo

Love those margaritas, the heaping platters of Mexican comfort food and the prices at this colorful downtown eatery. Two Senoritas is a popular meeting place after the monthly art gallery walk and a genuine neighborhood hangout for folks who call downtown home.

BEST RESTAURANT TO PROPOSE

The Summerhouse

Finalists: Alley Cat Café, Bijou Café, Euphemia Haye, Michael’s On East, Ophelia’s

If you’ve got the ring, The Summerhouse will take care of the romantic meal and the ambience. They’ll even chill the champagne in advance so your surprise will unfold blissfully. And the lush gardens have been the location for many outdoor wedding ceremonies.

BEST SEAFOOD RESTAURANT

Barnacle Bill’s

Finalists: Bonefish Grill, Phillippi Creek Village Oyster Bar

Locals love Barnacle Bill’s catch-of-the-day because of its fresh, innovative preparation, moderate prices and comfortable, nautical atmosphere.

BEST RESTAURANT TO SEAL THE DEAL

Michael’s On East

Finalists: Fred’s, Patrick’s

It’s not just the great food and drink that make Michael’s on East the place for auspicious beginnings; there’s something about the plush décor that signals good things to come. Drop by any time to spot this town’s wheelers and dealers in action.

BEST NEW RESTAURANT (Opened in 2002)

The Bonefish Grill

Finalists: Patria, Too Jay’s

Sleek décor, hip patrons, excellent martinis-The Bonefish Grill gives chain restaurants a good name. It outgrew its first location on Tamiami Trail in no time, and stylish gourmands are now packing the new University Park location.

BEST HEALTHY RESTAURANT

Sweet Tomatoes

Finalists: Nature’s Way, Panera

Healthy eating is a pleasure at Sweet Tomatoes, where luscious salad fixings jostle for attention with made-from-scratch soups, pasta cooked every 20 minutes, and freshly baked goodies.

BEST STEAKHOUSE

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse

Finalists: Outback Steakhouse, Sam Seltzer Steakhouse

Pricey, but worth the indulgence, Sarasota’s premier steakhouse features a majestic décor, professional wait staff and a signature filet so tender it slices with a fork. We like to start with the lobster bisque and end with bread pudding, all complemented by an impressive array of wines and a la carte sides.

BEST WINE LIST

Michael’s On East

Finalists: The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort, Fred’s

Co-owner Michael Klauber personally selects vintages of an astounding diversity, from a $22 bottle of French Chardonnay to a $750 burgundy. His staff is keenly trained in the art of matching your meal to the appropriate vintage.

BEST POWER BREAKFAST

First Watch

Finalists: The Broken Egg, The Serving Spoon

Extensive menu aside, First Watch patrons love the leisurely atmosphere and corner coffee-shop feel. There’s a tempting array of omelets and hearty bacon and egg meals, as well as baked goods and healthy fruits and grains.

BEST BRUNCH

The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort

Finalists: First Watch, Hyatt

Sunday brunch here is not only a long-standing local tradition, it’s an opportunity to see and be seen, all while taking in breathtaking water views from the Colony Dining Room.

BEST BAR

Fred’s

Finalists: Gator Club, Patrick’s

With its snazzy interior and extensive wine and martini menu, Fred’s tops the list of late-night hotspots. Also appealing: a delicious selection of nibbles, and the even more delicious-looking people surrounding the gorgeous circular bar.

BEST PLACE TO EAT OUTDOORS

Alley Cat Café

Finalists: Old Salty Dog, Ophelia’s

Whether you choose to dine amid lush tropical plants in the courtyard or opt for the tin-roof pavilion, outdoor dining at the Alley Cat transports you to a place of almost mythical romance.

BEST EARLY BIRD SPECIALS

Café Baci

Finalists: Marie’s Italian Kitchen, Rosebuds, Steak and Ale

Early diners love Café Baci’s great Northern Italian fare, huge portions and reasonable prices. Osso buco once a week; make sure you arrive early for the choicest cuts.

BEST NON-CHAIN PIZZA

Il Panificio

Finalists: Caragiulo’s, Demetrio’s Restaurant and Pizza, Honeycrust

Who would have thought that a town renowned for its citrus would have a plethora of authentic pizza joints? Whether it’s deep pan, Chicago-style, or Little Italy, you’ll find it in Sarasota. But if you want a slice at Panificio, be aware the parking lot fills fast over lunch hour.

BEST PLACE FOR DESSERT

Euphemia Haye

Finalists: Epicure, Yoder’s

Euphemia’s Haye Loft is a loving ode to the self-indulgent sugar glutton in all of us. Enjoy desserts and coffee in overstuffed sofas while soothing jazz lingers in the background. Feeling decadent? Skip dinner and head upstairs first.

BEST PLACE FOR SALAD

Sweet Tomatoes

Finalists: Columbia, Crispers

It’s no surprise that the winner of the best healthy food would take the salad award, especially since the salad bar here spans what seems like the length of a city block.

BEST SUSHI

DaRuMa

Finalists: Jo-to Japanese Steakhouse, Pacific Rim, Taste of Tokyo

Sarasota takes its sushi seriously, and DaRuMa diners are loyal to a fault. And why not, when they can enjoy specialties like tuna, salmon and eel and breathtaking bay views?

BEST BURGER

Patrick’s

Finalists: Chili’s, Hob Nob

Not every cheeseburger prepared in Sarasota is paradise, but at Patrick’s, a burger comes pretty darn close. Regulars at the friendly restaurant and bar at the corner of Five Points downtown swear by its juicy beef burgers, grilled to such perfection that it’s hard to keep your tablemates from swiping bites.

BEST CATERER

Michael’s On East

Finalists: Morton’s Catering, Nellie’s Deli

For years, Michael Klauber and Phil Mancini have been creating gourmet cuisine for special events that range from intimate business luncheons to grand fund-raisers and weddings. As good as the food is the professional staff that prepares and presents it with signature aplomb.

BEST DELI

Nellie’s Deli

Finalists: Morton’s Market, Publix

A deli is where we go when we need something good, quick and reasonable. Nellie’s is a hometown favorite that manages to be all three-and consistently creative as well.

BEST GOURMET MARKET

Morton’s Market

Finalists: Granary, Publix

Even with a wealth of selections that rival those in any big city, Morton’s retains the feel of a neighborhood grocery. The aisles can be tight when downtown employees jostle for ready-made dinners on their way home from work, but the staff is hospitable and the food first-rate.

BEST BAKERY

Publix

Finalists: C’est la Vie, Panera

How lucky are we that the best bakery in town resides inside the biggest and best-managed supermarket. Even the pickiest purists line up for these fresh goods, from signature birthday cakes to an abundance of breads, muffins, pastries and more.

BEST MARTINI

Espresso Martini at Fred’s

Finalists: Chocolate Martini at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, Espresso Martini at Silver Cricket

How about a drink that promises a jolt of caffeine with its relaxing vodka base? It may be a mixed message, but voters went wild for Fred’s mix of this seductively sweet beverage. Just be sure to check your upper lip for a cocoa mustache.

BEST BEER SELECTION

The Ale House

Finalists: Bennigans, Sarasota Brewing Company

A cool draught is a lifesaver in Sarasota’s heat, thanks to these winners. The Ale House comes out on top with a heady selection of brews, including the addition this year of that ancient Belgian beauty, Stella Artois.

BEST ART, ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTS

BEST PERFORMING ARTS GROUP

Asolo Theatre

Finalists: Florida Studio Theatre, Sarasota Ballet of Florida

The verdict is in: With a strong production of the courtroom drama Inherit the Wind and a moving Brighton Beach Memoirs, among other offerings this season, the Asolo (also last year’s winner) kept its place in your hearts. Now if it can somehow hold on to the Conservatory.

BEST LOCAL ACTOR OR ACTRESS

Sharon Scott

Finalists: Carolyn Michel, Bradford Wallace

By the voting deadline, Scott’s big voice and big presence hadn’t appeared in a theater company production this season, but her fans have not forgotten her. Maybe this win will encourage Scott and local theaters to join forces again.

BEST BLACK TIE EVENT

UnGala Gala

Finalists: Mistletoe Ball, Out-of-Door Extravaganza

Every year the top-drawer committee working to present the UnGala strives to come up with something new and different in the world of benefit bashes, and you all agree they again succeeded. The glorious setting of the Ringling Museum’s courtyard and loggias doesn’t hurt, either.

BEST PLACE TO WORK OUT

YMCA

Finalists: Gold’s Gym, Southside Athletic Club

We’re still discovering the benefits of all those machines in the workout room at the renovated Berlin Branch, while our young ones can’t get enough of the water slides at the Selby Aquatic Center by Palmer Ranch. And downtown’s location is so convenient we really have no excuse for not getting there more often-darn it.

BEST FESTIVAL OR SPECIAL EVENT

Suncoast Offshore Grand Prix

Finalists: Sarasota Film Festival, A Taste of Sarasota

You love the roar of those big powerboat engines (and maybe the bikini-clad young ladies who pose with their owners?), but this year’s expanded film fest and the opportunity to sample all those goodies from local restaurants also made your motors race.

BEST PLACE TO WATCH A PERFORMANCE

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

Finalists: FSU/Asolo Center, Sarasota Opera House

The legal battle over our lavender lovely’s renovation continues, but that doesn’t stop audiences from pouring into the hall for big shows like Riverdance and Rent and big stars like Tony Curtis and Bill Cosby. Maybe the new dining service from Café L’Europe in the Grand Foyer has something to do with that.

BEST PLACE FOR LIVE MUSIC

Five O’Clock Club

Finalists: Gator Club, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

When the cars start lining up on Hillview in the evening, you know performers like bluesman Tom Cat Blake or reggae/ska masters Strangeways are playing at the Five-O. It’s intimate, it’s a little noisy, and it’s fun.

BEST PLACE TO PLAY TENNIS

University Park Country Club

Finalists: Bath & Racquet, The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort

There’s lots of court action at University Park, with league play, tournaments, lessons and friendly matches filling the schedule year-round. Bet you can’t play just once.

BEST PLACE TO PLAY GOLF

University Park Country Club

Finalists: The Legacy Golf Course at Lakewood Ranch, TPC at Prestancia

University Park’s golf has been top-ranked by everyone from Florida Golf News to Golf Digest to the real experts-you.

BEST MUSEUM

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

Finalists: G.WIZ, Museum of Asian Art

Attendance has zoomed at the Ringling Museum since they re-opened the Cà d’Zan; and if you like the place now, just wait until that new visitor’s center and expanded circus museum come on board.

BEST ART GALLERY

Missing Link

Finalists: Galleria Silecchia, Wyland

You get caught up in looking at the pre-Columbian ceramics or the tribal masks from Africa, and then you turn around and wham! you’re struck by the Surrealist-influenced photographs of Jerry Uelsmann. Credit the eclectic tastes and talents of Missing Link gallery owner Frank Breuer.

BEST ATTRACTION FOR KIDS

G.WIZ

Finalists: Jungle Gardens, Mote Marine Aquarium

Sure, kids love it, but, hey, we grownups like it, too. Personally, we love moving around the little action figures and Lego pieces to make those animated movies, and the butterfly garden’s nice, too.

BEST PLACE TO HIKE, CANOE OR KAYAK

Myakka State Park

Finalists: Lido Beach, Oscar Scherer State Park

Myakka is not just a journey in space, it’s a time trip as well. Once you get into the heart of this 28,000-acre wildlife refuge (the state’s largest park), you’re in Florida before man’s arrival, where bobcats roam, owls hoot, and maybe even the mighty panther prowls. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

BEST BEACH

Siesta

Finalists: Crescent, Lido

We love them all. That’s why we keep a beach towel and sunscreen in the car at all times. Because you never know when you just might have to play hooky.

BEST GOODS & SERVICES

BEST HAIR SALON

Victor Leon

Finalists: Spa Hollywood, Yellow Strawberry

Talk about the cutting edge! At Victor Leon and Sarasota’s other top salons you’ll get creative designers, coloring and styles that prompt passers-by to inquire where on earth you got that fabulous do.

BEST TRAVEL AGENCY

AAA Club South Travel

Finalists: Gulliver’s Travels, VIP Travel

AAA offers discounts on area attractions, vacation rentals, hotel reservations, cruises and tours, even luggage. Plus, trip planners come complete with speed trap warnings (a must in uncharted territory).

BEST CHILDREN’S/BABY SHOP (not a department store)

Bennett’s World of Children

Finalists: Baby Gap, Bambinos

More than just a clothing shop for youngsters, Bennett’s features everything from toys to pint-sized furniture and accessories that suit any underage lifestyle.

BEST MANICURIST

Susie Del Castillo (Victor Leon)

Finalists: Kelli Binns (Signature Nails), Julie Young (Signature Nails)

A well-dressed woman must have the nails to match, and these winners will help you get them.

BEST MASSAGE THERAPIST

Michelle Buice (Signature Nails)

Finalists: Andrew Duskin (University Park Country Club), Karen Knieriem (Essential Health Care)

There may be bad massage therapists-though we’ve never met one-but these are the ones you say are the very best.

BEST ANTIQUE SHOP

Sarasota Trading Company

Finalists: Chrissy’s, Country Loft

Scrounging through these packed aisles is like sifting through the trunks in your crazy great-grandmother’s attic. You’re bound to find something that’s quirky, beautiful, classic, functional, or downright valuable. Be sure to check every nook and cranny-treasures lie hidden everywhere here.

BEST BOOKSTORE

Barnes & Noble

Finalists: Books-a-Million, Main Bookshop

The bookselling giant attracts residents of all shapes and sizes, gender and age, with a daily diet of aromatic coffee and deli treats, CD listening rooms, author appearances and guest lectures. The immaculate interior and regular deep discounts are winners, also.

BEST BANK

Bank of America

Finalists: SunTrust, Wachovia (formerly First Union)

Banks’ services, products and even their names keep changing, but the qualities that distinguish the best-integrity, responsibility and a commitment to their customers and community-remain the same.

BEST FLORIST

Beneva Flowers

Finalists: Bee Ridge Florist, Mr. Florist Plants ‘n Things

From his unassuming location in a strip mall off Beneva Road, owner Arthur Conforti has successfully merged the fine art of flower design with computerized systems and savvy promotion. Name a regular customer and he’s likely to tell you his or her favorite rose. And those friendly customer service reps ensure every arrangement arrives fresh and beautiful.

BEST HOME ACCESSORIES

Pottery Barn

Finalists: Home Goods, Pier One Imports

The home store that inspired an entire episode of the TV sitcom Friends several years ago is also inspiring many Sarasota homes. Its smooshy soft fabrics, smartly styled furniture and an evolving line of nostalgic accessories give trendy cocooners hep-cat comfort.

BEST CONSIGNMENT SHOP

Woman’s Exchange

Finalists: Designer Consigner, Laura Jean’s

The last resting place for luxurious furs, household furniture and anything else that well-heeled residents want to unload. This anchor of the SoMa district at Oak Street and Orange Avenue is so popular that during high season, there’s often a line of luxury cars waiting for a space in the parking lot. The best part-all proceeds benefit charitable causes in Sarasota.

BEST GIFT SHOP

Persnickety Cat

Finalists: Elysian Fields, Mary’s on Main

Can’t decide what to give that special someone? Then head to Persnickety Cat, home of every little thing on earth: needlepoint, candles, knick-knacks, pillows, cards, pet items-the list goes on forever.

BEST SWIMSUITS

Swim Mart

Finalists: Splash, Swim City

Not all of us were cut out for itsy- bitsy teeny-weeny yellow polka-dot bikinis-but everyone can find a style to suit at Swim Mart. Along with skimpy shockers, Swim Mart stocks compassionate separates that flatter any figure, dozens of designer labels and accessories for men, women and children.

BEST PET GROOMER

PetSmart

Finalists: The Pampered Poodle, Southside Village Pet Salon

If animals could talk..Hey, Scottie, sorry I’m late. Been dying to get to PetSmart all day, but my owner had to stop at three places first. (Humans, can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em.) As soon as I get a bath and blow dry, I’m heading straight over to pick up a new squeak toy and check out that Irish setter.

BEST SPA

The Met

Finalists: Body & Spirit, Spa Hollywood

Day spa fanatics say the world melts away once they reach the top of the curving staircase at The Met’s day spa on St. Armands Circle. The atmosphere offers Zen-like tranquility and the treatments are oh-so divine.

BEST LINGERIE

Victoria’s Secret

Finalists: Burdines, The Girl from Ipanema

Victoria’s is so alluring and feminine that men still blush when they enter its sweet-scented interior. The guys may favor the lusty merry widows, but a word of advice here: Your girlfriends are mad for Victoria’s silky cotton undies, too.

BEST NEIGHBORHOOD FOR YARD SALES

Gulf Gate

Finalists: Harbor Acres, Southgate

With miles of winding streets, enough retirees to guarantee great vintage finds and a steady flow of new residents who discovered they packed way too much for their Florida ranch, Gulf Gate is garage-sale heaven indeed.

BEST DRY CLEANERS

Cove Cleaners

Finalists: Bob’s Cleaners, Michael the Cleaners

If Sarasota looks clean, presentable and well-pressed, these are the folks to thank.

BEST PRIVATE SCHOOL

Out-of-Door Academy

Finalists: Julie Rohr Academy, New Gate School

Remember those rumors that Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman had enrolled their children at Out-of-Door on Siesta Key? They hadn’t, but if that ill-fated couple had ever moved here, they probably would have picked this prestigious academy with campuses on Siesta Key and in Lakewood Ranch. For more than half a century, it’s offered advanced academics and extracurricular programs to Sarasota students.

BEST LIMOUSINE SERVICE

Longboat Limousine

Finalists: All American Limousines, Black Tie Limousine

Wanted: drivers. Must be punctual, discreet about backseat liaisons and able to corral rambunctious teenagers, bachelor and bachelorette parties. And if they’re driving for Longboat Limousine, they must be able to handle any car in the fleet, from a vintage 1961 Rolls Royce or a 29-foot cabin cruiser to the Mercedes with extra leg room.

BEST NEW COMPANY

Panera

Finalists: Giovannie Day Spa, Hammond Financial Group, The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota

Word on the street about this bakery has been as hot as the dough rising in its aromatic ovens ever since it opened last year in Sarasota Pavilion. Residents are traveling out of their way to snatch up the golden-brown breads, tasty bakery treats and soups and sandwiches.

BEST HOTSPOTS & HIGHLIGHTS

BEST SARASOTA SOUVENIR

Sand

Finalists: Shells, a Tan

So that’s why we have to keep replenishing our beaches!

BEST PLACE TO TAKE VISITORS

Beach

Finalists: John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, St. Armands Circle

Many visitors head straight from the airport to roll up their thermal underwear and plunge their pale toes in our sugary sand. And no Sarasota vacation is complete without a champagne toast at sunset while azure waves lap at the ebbing shoreline.

BEST PLACE FOR A FIRST DATE

Beach

Finalists: Selby Gardens, St. Armands Circle, The Summerhouse

Why not? The beach is, after all, free; it’s definitely romantic, and there’s lots of room to get lost if things don’t go all that-well, swimmingly.

BEST LOCAL TV PERSONALITY

Scott Dennis (Anchor WWSB-TV)

Finalists: Bob Harrigan (Meteorologist WWSB-TV), Vida Urbonas (Anchor WWSB-TV)

Dennis has been with WWSB-TV since 1985, an eternity in today’s television market. He rose through the ranks of weekend sportscaster to sports director and, in 1995, was named anchor. He’s been charming viewers with his soothing and knowledgeable demeanor ever since.

BEST NEIGHBORHOOD

University Park Country Club

Finalists: Lakewood Ranch, Palmer Ranch

Let us count the ways University Park has made its name in this region: Numerous readers’ choice awards, rated one of America’s best golf courses by Golf Week Magazine, rated four stars by Golf Digest and as "the best in American living" by the National Association of Home Builders.

BEST POLITICIAN

State Representative Katherine Harris

Finalists: Carolyn Mason, David Mills

No chads hanging over this vote!

BEST FREE FUN

Beach

Finalists: Fishing, First Friday Downtown Strolls

Nature, sport and art-you people are so-o-o well-rounded.

BEST SARASOTA CONTROVERSY

Ringling Bridge

Finalists: Katherine Harris, Midnight Pass

The bridge is halfway finished and still causing mischief, with construction halted twice for cracks and other defects. But contractors say it’s on schedule for completion in 2003. No doubt next year we’ll hear your opinion of the finished product.

BEST PLACE TO SEE AND BE SEEN

Fred’s

Finalists: Michael’s On East, The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota

You may be nobody ’til somebody loves you, but in Sarasota, you’re nobody ’til someone’s seen you at Fred’s, that noisy, bustling bistro on Hillview that’s the place to rub bare shoulders with Sarasota’s loveliest up-and-comers.

MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSON IN TOWN

Patrick K. Neal

Finalists: Katherine Harris, Carolyn Mason

Pat Neal and Katherine Harris keep topping this category, but this year you also recognized our hardworking city commissioner and former mayor Carolyn Mason.

BEST DRESSED MAN

Kurt Lucas

Finalists: Kasey O’Donnell, Robert Roskamp

Interior designer Kurt Lucas dresses like royalty, which makes sense, since he designed and lives in that house that looks like a miniature castle on Mound Street.

BEST DRESSED WOMAN

Heidi Godman

Finalists: Katherine Harris, Michael Saunders

Not even an anchor desk can hide the winning style of this WWSB-TV newswoman, who even looked great in that maternity wear she sported earlier this year.

BEST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN IN 2003

Finish John Ringling Bridge

Finalists: Slow growth, World peace

Readers, relax! The bridge will be finished in 2003. It’s time to start working on the other two.

BEST PART OF LIVING HERE

The weather

Finalists: Beach, cultural atmosphere

The Sarasota story in a nutshell.

As it was in the beginning, is now-and we hope shall ever be.