Back again, readers? Come on in. We’ve saved a chair for you at the table. Hors d’oeuvres are up, the game is afoot, there’s beer in the cooler, and you still have time to place your bets.


Bets, you say? Is that a bookie on the phone? Nah, we’re not talking about football or the ponies. This isn’t Derby Day, and, no, officer, we don’t have an office pool going on the Horned Frogs.

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The wager here is on something more important: What is Fort Worth going to look like in the next … well, let’s say 50 years. Will we be a Dallas clone? A gridlocked, cookie-cutter Levittown? Or maybe a Southern version of Detroit, our once-powerful civic future compromised by an army of Trojan gas rigs that, once invited in, turned our city into a swamp of fouled groundwater, depressed property values, and abandoned industrial sites?

Or maybe we won’t be any of those things. This is where the betting gets interesting. Because last year in this space, we invited our readers to join a wide-ranging, hard-to-pin-down revolution, of greening Fort Worth, making our urban spaces work better, acting in ways that benefit both the economy and planet, and standing up and complaining when government doesn’t also do those things –– or as we said then, “when necessary, leaving [a] metaphoric footprint on some public officials’ behinds.”

Well, don’t look now (and we sure don’t take credit), but there are a lot of folks around here with their boots on. This isn’t the Tea Party, and we’re not trying to fire up people to “take back America.” (From what? Democracy and observance of the Constitution?) It may be a “take back Fort Worth” shindig, though.

Local neighborhood leaders are standing up against excesses at city hall, local citizens are filing ethics complaints, local environmental groups have won some important victories, the EPA is again doing its best to protect our air and water against pollution, and even the state environmental watchdog agencies are being goaded into action. There are whistleblowers on the loose at the Fort Worth school district, pointing out clothes-less emperors right and left. Tarrant County College has a new board majority determined to stop and, as much as possible, reverse the excesses of their predecessors. Wow. What a year.

Along the way, Fort Worth has also made strides in turning itself into a collection of lively, walkable, breathable urban villages. We’ve got one of the finest restaurant rows in Texas still a-growing along West Magnolia Avenue. In the West 7th Street corridor, there’s a more chain-heavy, Dallas-ized version of the same thing developing but still with plenty of local touches and with the huge benefit of putting thousands of condo and apartment residents within walking distance of everything from clothes to groceries. There’s an environmentally unique new headquarters for the Botanic Research Institute of Texas going up on University Drive and a new museum open in the Cultural District. Fort Worth also seems to be taking the increasing diversity of its populace in stride –– check out our list of top taquerias, for instance, and count how many are not on the North Side.

This is how things work in cities: Some wonderful things are cherished, strengthened, and saved while others fade away. Some bad things get cleaned up, but others just burrow deeper. These days, we have fewer independent coffee shops, book stores, and record shops, but many exciting new clubs, restaurants, and public art pieces. So let’s celebrate and patronize the independent places we’ve got — and the independent thinkers, chefs, musicmakers, artists, kickers of hornets’ nests, and challengers of the status quo.

We’ve tried to round up the best in Tarrant County in a lot of those categories for you here. As usual, in our balloting, there were a few categories in which there were no clear winners and so no readers’ choices to report. And as always, this mammoth issue could not have landed (with a thump) without the hard work and help of our staff writers and editors, freelance writers and photographers, production folks, ad salesfolk, ballot counters, interns, and a lot of you Out There. This rocket ship is scheduling departures daily for the future (or maybe, many futures). We’re glad to be on the launch pad and that you’re here with us. — Gayle Reaves



Customer Service

Readers’ choice: Perfect Touch, 3023 Bledsoe St, Ste 103, FW

Critic’s choice: Hysen Lushaj, Nizza Pizza, 401 University Dr, FW

We’ll trade a dozen gabby servers for one no-nonsense supervisor like Hysen Lushaj. The Nizza Pizza owner is friendly enough and likes to call customers “Boss,” but during peak hours it’s clear who’s really in charge: He sometimes forgets to smile and might even admonish a slow-moving employee in front of customers. The end result, however, is snappy and efficient service that’s worth more than a couple of extra toppings on that pie slice.



Readers’ choice: Race Street Barber Shop, 2921 Race St, FW

Critic’s choice: Exquisite Beauty & Barbershop, 2222 Handley St, FW

A large, spacious, clean establishment with eight chairs plus hair dryers and a relaxed, chatty atmosphere in the great tradition of African-American barbershops. The place is lively even when there’s only one client. Whether you need a haircut or you’re just waiting for your clothes to be done at the Laundromat next door, this place is worth a stop.



Readers’ choice: Shear Steel, 3400 W 7th St, FW

Critic’s choice: Karizza Aguilar Shook, Zeeba Salon and Spa, 501 Carroll St, FW

Ask any hipster with covetable hair who made her (or him) look so spectacular, and quite often the answer is Karizza. She knows how to make each person’s hair work for the look that he or she wants, and she’s not afraid to be inventive. Shook recently relocated to Zeeba from Esoterica Salon, and her clients are sure to follow.


Tattoo Parlor

Readers’ choice: Knuckle Up, 2467 N Main St, FW

Critic’s choice: Royal 1 Tattoos, 6467 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW

Whether you’re getting your first tattoo or your 50th, you owe it to yourself to get good work done in a professional environment. That’s why you need to flip through the photo albums at Royal 1 and make an appointment. Taylor, Troy, and Hannah are among the area’s best, and their studio is clean and welcoming. From custom work to cover-ups, the talent at Royal 1 will make your subdermal dreams come true.


Head Shop

Readers’ choice: (tie) Fantasy Imports, 6663 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW; and Fusion, 2205 W Berry St, FW

Critic’s choice: Fusion

This centrally located shop has almost any “tobacco” accessory you need, including vaporizers, bongs, pipes, dugouts, and rolling papers. Fusion’s 100 different types of scented tobaccos can be sampled on site in a comfortable hookah lounge. The store still sells the controversial but popular K2 and offers friendly and attentive service, which isn’t guaranteed in an industry in which employees can sometimes be young, clueless, and semi-conscious.


Enviro-Friendly Business

Readers’ choice: Starbucks, Montgomery Plaza, 2600 W 7th St, Ste 100, FW

Critic’s choice: Weston Gardens in Bloom, 8101 Anglin Dr, FW

Wander the paths of Randy and Sue Weston’s gardens beneath the shade of pecan and oak trees, and you’ll find waterfalls, fish ponds, and meandering creeks surrounded by native flowers, prairie grasses, and fragrant herbs. The gardens –– some formal, some wild –– are designed to show that water-scrimping native plants, organically fed, can produce gardens of great beauty that are easy on the environment. The couple have been promoting environmental-friendly gardening for 16 years, since they bought and restored the 1930s-vintage home and gardens of the late Leon Bandy. Everything planted here is for sale across the street in their commercial nursery. It’s pricier than Wal-Mart but cheaper in the long run due to lower maintenance costs — better for you and the planet.


Toy Store

Critic’s choice: Miss Molly’s Toy and Candy Shop, 4804 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW

There are few things that take us back to the joy of childhood as quickly as stepping into a store that smells like candy and is filled with toys from top to bottom. Mom’s old rule of “Don’t touch, because if you break it, we can’t afford it” probably applies at Miss Molly’s, but you wouldn’t know it from the relaxed atmosphere. This is an old-fashioned store with sleds and wagons, hand puppets and stuffed animals, dolls and board games, juggling balls and magic tricks. There’s plenty of fancy stuff but also more than enough to keep regular kids’ eyes lit up. Children have been known to sit still for a 45-minute ride from the hinterlands to the city if they hear, “How ’bout we stop at Miss Molly’s on the way?”


Bicycle Shop

Readers’ choice: Trinity Bicycles, 207 S Main St, FW

Critic’s choice: Trinity Bicycles

Bernie Scheffler took a few years off from the bike business to help run State Sen. Wendy Davis’ office. But now he’s back on the Near South Side with a shop that goes beyond just selling and fixing two-wheelers. Scheffler is using his political experience to get the city to be more bike-friendly: bike lanes in the streets, a long-term bike plan, more places to park and lock. Trinity is also encouraging commuting by bicycle, providing showers in the shop for downtown workers and allowing daytime bike storage. Rentals are also available.


Motorcycle Shop

Readers’ choice: Wild Child, 209 E McLeroy Blvd, Ste B, Saginaw

Critic’s choice: Perry’s Motorcycles & Side Cars, 816 S Sylvania Av, FW

There are lots of motorcycle shops around North Texas, but how many can show you a World War II-era German bike complete with sidecar and machine gun? Not that you could necessarily buy that one (and even if you did, it wouldn’t be street-legal, which is probably a good thing). Perry Bushong and his crew will sell you new or used bikes and offer parts and service on all kinds of European motorcycles. But Perry’s real specialty is restoration of vintage bikes and the sale, installation, and restoration of sidecars — a pretty rare and fascinating, um, sideline. If you get your ride fixed up with a sidecar at Perry’s, he’ll take you out on the property next door and teach you how to drive the thing — very different from a motorcycle alone — before turning you loose with it.


Fashion Fad

Critic’s choice: Leggings

Whether it’s the middle of winter or in summer’s cruel heat, there’s a reason to wear leggings — shiny metallic ones for nights out or plainer ones for daytime. They transcend fashion styles: They’re worn by bohemians and also preppies and fashionistas. The best thing about leggings is they keep even the most scandalous outfit modest.


Thrift Store

Readers’ choice: Berry Good Buys, 1701 W Berry St, FW

Critic’s choice: Goodwill SuperStore, 2100 Altamesa Blvd, FW

In this new Goodwill spot, which is an open room the size of a large grocery store, even lazy thrift shoppers can find a wealth of new or almost-new threads. A cast of volunteers works quickly to re-stock the rapidly shifting inventory. On monthly half-price sale days, a savvy shopper can acquire a new wardrobe for the price that a mall shopper would pay for a shirt.


Guitar Shop

Readers’ choice: Guitar Center, 5250 S Hulen, FW

Critic’s choice: Zoo Music, 3409 Indale Rd, FW

Zoo has been peddling guitars and lessons from its spot off Camp Bowie West since hair metal was popular. Owner Dave Anderson has decorated the place with vintage gear and a reasonably priced selection of new noise-makers. His incredible teaching staff — which includes Bill Pohl, Ron Geida, and Andrew Skates — is reason enough to spend some time at Zoo. A little bargaining never hurts either: Zoo is good about matching the prices of the corporate music megastores.


Skate Shop

Critic’s choice: Rhythm Skate Shop, 5725 Watauga Rd, Watauga

Skateboarding has come a long way since Christian Slater gleamed the cube. The area’s new generation of skaters has a home at Rhythm Skate Shop. It offers a wide variety of boards, gear, and clothes, and hosts a lot of events in which young people hurt themselves. The staffers are friendly and knowledgeable, and they often wear their hats sideways.


Car Wash/Auto Detailer

Readers’ choice: Flagship, 3124 Collinsworth St, FW

Critic’s choice: Cityview Car Wash & Oil Change, 4665 Bryant Irvin Rd, FW

Car washes are a dime a dozen, but a top-notch, full-service shine for your ride is hard to come by. Cityview Car Wash cleans every part of the car inside and out, including slides on seats and inside AC vents. Staffers will also wax it, change the oil and air filters, and check out your radiator. Thanks to its location amid all sorts of retail stores, you can get a lot of shopping done while you wait — but the wait is never too long.



Readers’ choice: UberKinetics, 3001 Shamrock Av, FW

Critic’s choice: The Trinity Trails

So it’s not the brick-and-mortar building with hordes of contraptions, treadmills, and stationary bikes. But the Trinity Trails provide what a traditional gym lacks: intrigue. The scenery changes. The temperature changes. With miles and miles to choose from, runners, walkers, and bikers can get away from the stale monotony of a treadmill or riding the bike in front of the TV. Pick up a trail map at any of the three visitor information centers in Fort Worth, including downtown at 508 Main St., open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. To tap into the biking community, join the Fort Worth Bicycling Association for $25 a year, cheaper than what you’d pay at most gyms each month.


Liquor Store

Readers’ choice: Goody Goody, two locations

Critic’s choice: Two Bucks Beverage Center, 4702 S Fwy, FW

If Two Bucks is beginning to seem familiar as a winner in this category, it’s because they’re the best by miles. Wine? More than 2,500 selections from around the world. Beer? Hundreds of choices. Kegs? Besides the standards, they’ve got Rahr, Fat Tire, and Blue Moon. Whiskey? Incomparable selection. Slivovitz? They carry two types, though the Fort is no hotbed of Serbian or Bulgarian immigrants. Top it off with good prices, a great staff, and a history that dates back to moonshining in Johnson County.


Gun Store

Readers’ choice: Cheaper Than Dirt, 2524 NE Loop 820, FW

Critic’s choice: Cheaper Than Dirt

Is that a Cold-War-era Spanish bazooka on the wall? Yes, it is, and it retails for $199. Of course, it doesn’t actually fire, but just about everything else in Cheaper Than Dirt’s expansive headquarters does — and all for great prices. The store’s huge selection of firearms encompasses a broad range of calibers and makes, as well enough accessories to turn Walter Sobchak green with envy. You can even buy Duncan yo-yos here, no permit required.


Garden Store

Critic’s choice: Elizabeth Anna’s Old World Garden, 2825 8th Av, FW

Elizabeth Anna’s sells only organic fertilizer and products, plus farming supplies and animal food. But the real heart of Elizabeth Anna’s is its dedication to living green, with permaculture courses taught throughout the year and its nonprofit “2 Hands” organization teaching gardening in urban areas. Decent prices, a wide variety of native plants, and knowledgeable employees seal the deal.



Readers’ choice: Perfect Touch

Critic’s choice: Daired’s Salon and Spa Pangea, 2400 W I-20, Arl

Daired’s is like a one-stop shop for all of your pampering needs. There’s a full-service salon, a spa, a med-spa, café, and conference center all under one roof. This establishment is also on the cutting edge of new spa treatments and massage techniques.


Hardware Store

Critic’s choice: The Home Depot, 7950 S Fwy, FW

Independent hardware stores are nostalgic, charming, and harder to find than a flat bastard at a 7-Eleven (that’s a kind of file to you DIY newbies). Why? Because bullies like The Home Depot, with its three-acre stores, ate them all up. The bonus at the Home Depot on the South Freeway: two master trade specialists, in plumbing and electrical work. Which means there’s someone on hand who can actually tell you what the doohickey you’ve just described is really called, where to find it, and how to use it to get the job done.


Place to Buy:


Readers’ choice: Kubes Jewelers, 2700 W Berry St, FW

Critic’s choice: Artful Hand, 3408 W 7th St, FW

Jewelry is just one part of the inventory of this delightful shop filled with intriguing, one-of-a-kind, and handmade items. Much of the jewelry is made by artists and, like everything else in the place, ranges from whimsical to gorgeous. The best part is that many of the pieces are very affordable. Gents, this place could make you a hero on your next gift-giving occasion.



Readers’ choice: Half Price Books, 5417 S Hulen St, FW

Critic’s choice: Friends of the Fort Worth Public Library, 5332 Trail Lake Dr, FW

Friends is a delightful mini-library. The selection is enormous, the store is quiet, and — best of all — the prices are dirt-cheap on everything from yoga books to German dictionaries to Hillary Clinton’s life on CD. Many of the items are former library materials, but everything is in excellent condition, and all the proceeds go toward supporting the struggling Fort Worth public library system.


Cheap Threads

Readers’ choice: Plato’s Closet, 4625 Donnelly Av, Ste 113, FW

Critic’s choice: Berry Good Buys

As we learn more about environmental impacts and human costs, cheap new threads begin to look not so cheap. It’s less expensive in the long run to buy long-lasting classics and wear the heck out of them — or even (radical!) learn to sew. In the meantime, this little charity shop puts name-brand wearables for men, women, and kids on the racks every day. And unlike with many other thrift stores, there’s a preponderance of good stuff.


Adult Toys

Readers’ choice: (tie) Christal’s, various locations; Velvet Box, 9100 N Fwy, Ste 124, FW

Critic’s choice: Rock & Roll Offroad, 6920 NE Loop 820, North Richland Hills
Nothing says “toy for grownups” like a tricked-out 4×4, and R&R has all the gear you need to realize your monster-truck fantasies. Roll on down and pick yourself out a steed.


Comic Books

Readers’ choice: Lone Star Comics, 1215 S Cooper St, Arl

Critic’s choice: Generation X Comics, 239 N Industrial Blvd, Bedford

Comic book stores haven’t been able to rely on selling just comics since the economic bubble burst in the 1990s, so most stores also stock collectibles, card games, and miniature figures. A truly special store, however, doesn’t just feel like a grab-bag for geek interests but a testimony to fandom. Generation X has all the usual merchandise as well as used games and DVDs. But it also has something rare: an extensive back-issues catalog. In an age when most comic stores keep maybe three months’ of back issues and focus on the new, Generation X has row upon row of comic history for rediscovery. Don’t let its simple exterior fool you: Inside is a store representing the heart and history of the medium.


20th-Century Relics

Readers’ choice: Montgomery Street Antique Mall, 2601 Montgomery St, FW

Critic’s choice: Ties 2 the Past Antiques, 8629 Camp Bowie Blvd W, FW

Ties 2 the Past definitely leans more toward retro than “true” antiques. But what fun stuff there is amid the furniture (oak, maple, and Formica and chrome): a James Dean cookie jar, a whole set of smiley-face mugs, sewing machines, a full-size high school megaphone, even a 1982 Backstage Club jacket from the Fort Worth rodeo. Prices, especially on the nicer furniture, are very reasonable, and the staff is friendly and helpful. Check here first for the hip, the campy, or just solid secondhand items.


Used CDs/Records

Readers’ choice: Doc’s Records & Vintage, 2111 Montgomery St, FW

Critic’s choice: Doc’s

Doc’s is a must for any music junkie, and we know there are more than a few of those in Tarrant County. Crates hold forgotten gems from bygone years of jazz, soul, and classic rock. Vintage clothing lines the back walls, and customers can choose from thousands of old and new CDs. Doc’s would be perfect if only the management would create a specific section for local music. A recent visit turned up shiny discs from Fate Lions, The Burning Hotels, and Blood of the Sun, but we demand more.


Video Games

Readers’ choice: Game Stop, 4800 S Hulen St, Ste 2074, FW

Critic’s choice: Movie Trading Company, 4115 S Cooper St, Arl

Movie Trading Company’s Arlington store is like a museum of gaming history. Its amazing library reaches back to the Atari 2600, offering more than 400 titles for the Pitfall-famous machine alone, and stretches forward, past the NES and Sega Genesis, to the Xbox 360, Wii, and PS3. Vintage systems –– as well as vintage accessories like power plugs, video and sound connectors, and controllers –– are also available. No PC games, but the quantity and quality of the console catalog more than make up for the lack. If you’re dying to find a copy of Chrono Trigger or just need the newest version of Madden, there’s hardly a better place to shop.



Critic’s choice: Antique Revival, 418 S Main St, Grapevine

The prices are a bit on the high side and the showroom isn’t as roomy as some, but this elegant shop features beautiful wood furniture and tea services. Shoppers who prefer order and high quality to anything-goes clutter should check this place out.


Kitchen and Tableware

Critic’s choice: Cost Plus World Market, 4701 W Fwy, FW

There’s serious cookware here, along with a better-than-average selection of dishes and glassware — miles and miles cheaper than someplace like Williams-Sonoma and way more fun than shopping at the mall. After you buy the pots and pans, you can move a few aisles over to find tasty, unusual stuff to cook in them and tables and chairs at which to sit. And all sorts of napkins with which to dab your satisfied lips.


New or Used DVDs/Videos

Readers’ choice: Movie Trading Co., 4604 SW Loop 820, FW

Critic’s choice: Sight & Sounds, 5410 Arkansas Ln, Arl

This store may not have the selection of EntertainMart or Movie Trading Company, but it still has considerably more than Half Price Books or the sale bins at the big-box retailers. Movies on DVD are its stock in trade, but there’s a whole wall devoted to VHS, plus old video games and even a bin with laser discs. Best of all is its VHS-to-DVD transfer service.


Future Garage Sale Items

Critic’s choice: Busy Body, 4801 S Hulen St, FW

This fitness equipment store is a dandy, with quality treadmills, exercise bikes, rowing machines, free weights, and many other items that you will faithfully use for a few months. Then they will be used as a place to hang your clothes for a few more months. After that, they’ll migrate to the garage to gather dust until you finally put them in a garage sale and sell them for a fraction of what you paid.



Critic’s choice: Oliver Dyer’s Appliance, 8320 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW

Oliver Dyer’s isn’t the fanciest of showrooms, but it does have a reputation for value and excellent customer service. They carry all the major brands, and customers never feel pressured. It’s a family-owned and -operated business that seems to actually care about the people it serves.



Critic’s choice: Kiss It Good Buy, 150 N Main St, Grapevine

Consignment shops can be hit or miss, but Kiss It Good Buy’s selection has a great balance of the funky and functional. Looking for a vintage end table or something classy to counter the pressboard shelves you kept from college? You’re bound to find a piece you like at Kiss It Good Buy.


Sporting Goods

Critic’s choice: Backwoods, 2727 W 7th St, FW

No matter what you need for camping, hiking/trekking, trail running, travel, or fitness — backpacks, hydration equipment, luggage, sleeping bags and pads, tents, and cookware — Backwoods carries only the best brands, including The North Face, Patagonia, and Reef. And you can sign up for classes with experts.



Readers’ choice: Pop’s Safari, 2929 Morton St, Ste A, FW

Critic’s choice: Bon Ton Roulé, 6500 Camp Bowie Blvd, Ste A, FW

Sometimes it’s a little smoky, but that’s to be expected in a cigar shop that has a humidor running nearly the length of the place. You’ll find the best selection of cigars in the Fort, weekly specials, special events, and knowledgeable staffers who will give you the time and attention you need.


Place to Blow Lots of Money Accidentally

Critic’s choice: Southlake Town Square, Southlake Blvd & Central Av, Southlake

Any big-box retailer is a reasonable candidate for this category, but we’ll go with this shopper’s paradise because of its combination of high-end clothiers, fine restaurants, movie theater, bookstore, and other places to spend your cash. If they had condos here, you might never leave — or at least not until the oil well dried up, the stock market crashed, or Daddy took the credit cards away.



Thing Tarrant County Needs

Critic’s choice: A regional park system

Whenever city governments hit budget problems, as so many around the country have this year, park development and maintenance are often the first programs that get kicked to the curb. But in urban areas that have well-maintained park systems –– Seattle and Minneapolis come to mind –– the parks are regional systems with their own funding sources. Fort Worth and Tarrant County could do that as well, with better long-term planning. As it stands now, whenever there is a budget crisis, pools get closed, and (if city officials have their way) stay closed. Politicians may get more quick-fix calls about potholes, but they earn long-term rage for neglecting beloved parks and pools.


TV Journalist

Readers’ choice: (tie) Jane McGarry, NBC-TV/Channel 5; and John McCaa, WFAA-TV/Channel 8

Critic’s choice: Chris Hawes, Channel 8

Most journalists in Dallas apparently still can’t tell the Barnett Shale from Barney Fife, but Chris Hawes has figured it out. She’s become one of the best reporters on the subject, print or broadcast, in North Texas. The North Central Texas Communities Alliance singles out Hawes (and the Weekly, of course) on its web site for her “concerns for the welfare of people in all parts of the Barnett Shale.” Hear, hear.



Readers’ choice: David Finfrock, Channel 5

Critic’s choice: Mike Burger, KTVT-TV/Channel 11

Part salesman, part showman, and all professional, weathercaster Mike Burger has been on the scene a long time, between his former stint at Channel 4 and his current post at Channel 11. He’s one of the unsung TV personalities in North Texas. His persona is brisk and big-hearted in the manner of an old-time carnival barker, but he can turn serious and authoritative on a dime when the skies start to get stormy. A few weeks ago — just after the Weekly’s decision to pick him for this category — Burger announced he was retiring after almost 40 years. Future meteorologists should consider him the model of what a weathercaster should be.


Traffic Reporter

Readers’ choice: Tammy Dombeck,

KDAF-TV/Channel 33

Critic’s choice: Chip Waggoner,

KDFW-TV/Channel 4

Waggoner earned our respect three years ago by surviving a helicopter crash in the line of duty and then quickly reporting back to work. The Texas Christian University graduate no longer reports from inside flying copters, but he’s a solid traffic guy in the studio, delivering with easy charm the type of news that helps so many folks plan their day.



Readers’ choice: Dale Hansen, Channel 8

Critic’s choice: Brian Estridge, WBAP/820-AM and WBAP/96.7-FM

Estridge, like any radio personality whose opinion is worth a damn, can wax poetic on several subjects. He serves as co-host of Hal Jay’s Morning News Show and as “Voice of the Horned Frogs,” doing play-by-play for TCU football games. His enthusiasm is infectious. Unlike the know-it-alls hogging North Texas’ sports airways, Estridge isn’t a dinosaur stuck in a 1980s Cowboys-Southwest Conference mind-set. He broadcasts from the highly exciting here and now.


Hottest Local Celebrity (Male)

Readers’ choice: Casey James

Critic’s choice: TCU quarterback Andy Dalton

Redheads don’t always turn heads, but freckled Andy Dalton is definitely loaded with perfect teeth, manly muscles, and All-American good looks. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a record-setting quarterback for TCU, a guy whose name the rest of the country associates with Fort Worth. Humble and dedicated to the success of his team, Dalton has become a darling of the sports media –– and swooning female fans.




Hottest Local Celebrity (Female)

Readers’ choice: (tie) Karen Borta, Channel 11, and Kelly Clarkson

Critic’s choice: Krys Boyd, KERA/90.1-FM and KERA-TV/Channel 13

TCU alumnus Krys Boyd blows the lid off the “face for radio” stereotype. But don’t let the good looks fool you. She hosts the brainy Think program on the local public radio station at noon Mondays through Thursdays and on Channel 13 at 7 p.m. on Fridays.

Old Gal

Critic’s choice: Anne Gibson

Whether you think the film Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives is a treat or a travesty, this retired University of Texas at Arlington professor deserves kudos for her support, both monetary and otherwise, for the filmmakers. The 84-year-old cinema enthusiast saw it as an opportunity for straight audiences to learn about the transgendered community. She hopes moviegoers will leave a screening asking themselves, “How does society treat these people?”


Print Journalist

Readers’ choice: (tie) Bud Kennedy and Randy Galloway, both Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Critic’s choice: Eva-Marie Ayala, Star-Telegram

Ayala, the Star-Telegram’s education reporter, does a yeoman’s job in covering the Fort Worth school district, from the ridiculous to the really important stuff that parents and taxpayers need to know. She shines a light on how the district is spending taxpayer dollars and what it’s doing (or failing to do) to educate our children. She can make those dreaded TAKS results understandable and even serves up the rare bit of school-board humor, as when President Ray Dickerson recently proposed using pet alligators to fend off copper thieves who target the district’s air-conditioning systems.


Local Morning TV Newscast

Readers’ choice: Good Day, Channel 4

Critic’s choice: Daybreak, Channel 8

In the intense battle among local television stations to win viewers on weekday mornings, it’s difficult to strike the right balance of enthusiasm and professionalism. A personality that might be fine at 6 or 10 p.m. could be downright overbearing at 7 in the morning. Channel 8 seems to have found a good formula with co-anchors Cynthia Izzaguire and Chris Flanagan, traffic reporter Alexa Conomos, and weather guy Greg Fields. The repartee often takes on an interesting dynamic –– Izzaguire, either by herself or with Conomos, takes the role of pestering little sister to Fields’ stoic older brother. The blandly pleasant Flanagan plays the youngest sibling who stands by and snickers.


Radio Personality

Readers’ choice: Kidd Kraddick In the Morning, KHKS/106.1-FM

Critic’s choice: Kidd Kraddick

It may not be high-brow talk radio or a world-music show on an independent station, but Kidd Kraddick and crew provide the light-hearted humor desperately needed early in the morning when folks are trudging off to work. The show’s main appeal is the offbeat chemistry among crew members. This group of people never seems afraid to say something stupid, act whiny, or produce a horrible radio segment, all of which ends up being comedy gold.


Servant of the People

Readers’ choice: Joel Burns, Fort Worth City Council

Critic’s choice: The Rev. Kyev Tatum, Pastor Friendship Rock Church, FW

For years now, Tatum has been a valuable thorn in the side of city fathers, almost always on behalf of Fort Worth’s voiceless and powerless. He has worked tirelessly toward his goal of eliminating Tasers from the arsenal of the Fort Worth Police Department and, in the meantime, yelling about the sometimes-fatal abuses of the electronic weapons. He started a local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and began pointing out inequalities in living conditions, social services, and housing between the area’s haves and have-nots. But Tatum is not all about pulpits, bully or otherwise. He also runs after-school and weekend programs for the kids at the Sycamore Center Villa Apartments and consoles the families of those who have lost family members due to violence. It’s hard to imagine a truer servant of the people.


Candidate for Alien Abduction

Readers’ choice: Mayor Mike Moncrief

Critic’s choice: U.S. Rep. Joe Barton

Texas has a bad reputation with the other 49 states, and despite our sunny dispositions and ravishing good looks, it’s not always unwarranted. We can argue all day about what we do wrong, but here’s an easy one: an elected official who publicly apologizes to the CEO of a company responsible for the worst ecological disaster of this millennium. Barton’s apology to British Petroleum’s Tony Hayward before a U.S. Senate hearing made Smoky Joe look completely out of touch, and likening the treatment that BP received to a “shakedown” didn’t help either. In a time when the political surf is increasingly turbulent, maybe getting out of the country –– heck, off the planet –– and dealing with his own probing inquiry would help clear Barton’s head a little and give the rest of us a break in the embarrassment department.


Politician Most Likely to Sell Grandma to the Highest Bidder

Readers’ choice: Mike Moncrief

Critic’s choice: Fort Worth City Council

It’s true, occasionally a Kathleen Hicks or Joel Burns sticks up for some group other than big business, gas drillers, or other species of fat cats. By and large, though, this council deserves this award richly and collectively. Their flagrant disregard of the interests of their citizenry with regard to Barnett Shale drilling has become all too commonplace. But this year they’ve outdone themselves, unanimously voting to fire the ethics committee for (finally) doing its job, repeatedly ignoring the wishes of neighborhood leaders, then abusing those leaders for daring to publicly disagree with the council — and even turning down a federal streetcar grant that the city had requested. There’s no longer even a pretense of a glove on the fist.


Subject for Cryogenic Preservation

Readers’ choice: Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones

Critic’s choice: Arlington Heights High School administration

Widespread attendance fraud? Racial animosity? Violence? Students doing clean-up duty to keep their repeated absences off the school’s record? Looks like this place could use a spell in the deep freeze until a team of educational specialists can tackle all of AHHS’ myriad problems in one go. 

Old Guy

Readers’ choice: Steve Murrin

Critic’s choice: Larry Meeker

Meeker, a third-generation Texas oilman, says there are three things in his life he is proudest of: marrying his wife Peggy, killing “god-damned commies” in Korea, and convincing voters to create the Tarrant County Community College District. At 78, he is still fighting the good fight for folks who wouldn’t be able to go to college if it weren’t for the effort he put forth 35 years ago when he headed that successful campaign. Then in 2004, TCC Chancellor Leonardo de la Garza embarked on a plan to build a half-billion-dollar architectural monstrosity along the Trinity River. Outraged at what he called a “theft” from needy students, Meeker embarked on a second — and again successful — campaign, this one to shut the construction down, get rid of de la Garza, and replace de la Garza’s “rubber-stamping” board members with reformers. Today, he is three for three. Moral: Never underestimate a man who’s faced the army of North Korea and lived to tell about it.



Critic’s choice: Adam Dietrich, Butterfly Connection

As artistic director of the Butterfly Connection, Adam Dietrich has his finger on the pulse of Fort Worth’s arts scene. His organization offers local filmmakers and artists the opportunity to work on professional film and stage productions, even if they lack experience. He also works with underprivileged kids and mentors young, up-and-coming arts organizations. The Butterfly Connection has also collaborated with dozens of other nonprofits and arts groups.


Free Spirit

Critic’s choice: Lake Simons of Hip Pocket Theatre

Dividing her time between New York City, Fort Worth, and anywhere else that requires the skills of an actor-mime-clown-puppeteer, Lake Simons –– daughter of Hip Pocket co-founders Johnny and Diane Simons –– is effortlessly charming as a performer, writer, director, teacher, mentor, and arts advocate. She had a busy year in the Fort with her one-woman mime show Etiquette Unraveled, her puppet extravaganza Lowdown Wax, and her work on the Cowtown Puppetry Festival, but whether she’s wearing a big red nose onstage or helping a 10-year-old build an animal puppet, Lake puts her radiant spirit into everything she does.



Fight to the Finish

Critic’s choice: A.C. “Ace” Cook

Getting diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer in 2007 and being given just months to live didn’t scare this old Fort Worth character much. More than anything, the diagnosis pissed off the Stockyards business owner and noted early Texas art collector. Cook vowed to prove the doctors wrong, spend more time with family and friends, grow his red hair long and wild, and stand toe to toe in the ring with cancer for as long as he could. He won quite a few rounds. But on Sept. 13, two years and nine months after his diagnosis, he failed to answer the bell. He’s probably horse-traded his way into heaven by now.



Underrated Pro Athlete

Readers’ choice: David Murphy, Texas Rangers

Critic’s choice: Darren O’Day, Texas Rangers

O’Day deserves this in part because set-up pitchers are always undervalued, even when they’re working for what may be the best Texas Rangers team ever. The big right-hander from Florida became available from the Mets off waivers last year, and the Rangers have enjoyed excellent short-term relief from him. Together, O’Day and ninth-inning specialist Neftali Feliz give the Rangers a potent 1-2 punch at the game’s end, and the team’s success in the postseason will likely hinge on them.



Athlete (Almost) Worth His/Her Salary

Readers’ choice: (tie) Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers; and Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

Critic’s choice: Texas Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis

When the Rangers signed Lewis during the off season, few observers expected much. He had spent the past two years with the Hiroshima Carp (what a name) in the Japanese leagues, trying to resurrect his career following injuries. But the Rangers got a great season out of Lewis this year, and his salary for the 2010 was a fairly low $1.7 million. His win-loss record (11-13) suffered from weak support by the offense, but his earned-run average (3.79) was among the best among starting pitchers in the American League. Suffice to say, the playoffs might not have been in the cards this year had the Rangers not plucked this guy from Japan on the cheap.



Use of Taxpayer Money

Critic’s choice: Air-pollution testing around gas drilling sites

Given the fact that the Fort Worth City Council has pretty much been a marionette for the oil and gas industry, many observers were shocked when the council approved a $600,000 contract with the Eastern Research Group to test the air quality around natural gas drilling sites. The study comes in the wake of news that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality withheld test results that revealed high levels of cancer-causing chemicals at drill sites in Fort Worth. Many citizens are skeptical as to whether or not the study will prompt the council to take any action. But it’s a good first step.


Media Overkill

Readers’ choice: Jerry Jones and Cowboys Stadium

Critic’s choice: Rick Perry shoots a coyote

Last spring, the governor used a .38-caliber gun with a laser sight to take out a coyote while jogging in an undeveloped area near Austin. The size of the gun and the hollow-point bullets he used were a bit of overkill, but since Perry was jogging with his dog, and since coyotes can easily carry off family pets given half a chance, that’s OK. What was dismaying about this was the way the Texas press used this to burnish our blow-dried governor’s image as some sort of backwoods he-man. That coyote gave its life to prove that the people covering our governor are a bunch of lapdogs.


Neighborhood Group

Critic’s choice: Oakhurst Neighborhood Association

Year after year, the Oakhurst Neighborhood Association just northeast of downtown is one of the busiest in the city. They don’t just talk it, they get out and do it, with monthly meetings, a beautification program, children’s activities, a citizens-on-patrol team, and more. Oakhurst also puts on barbecues and a Halloween costume contest and gives out a yard-of-the-month award. This year they’ve also been fighting two issues that leaders think will harm the community: a zoning change that would allow a metal recycling plant nearby and the use of Riverside Park as a floodwater storage area — a plan that would put a chunk of parkland beneath potentially contaminated water for parts of the year. Now that’s an active group.


Example of Gumption or Grit

Critic’s choice: Jim Ashford’s ethics complaint

Fort Worth’s ethics review panel has rarely met in the past 20 years, and even when they did, they seldom upheld complaints. But Ashford complained about city officials putting gas drillers on an air quality task force and actually got his case heard. Even more amazing, the panel voted unanimously to uphold the complaint. His victory was short-lived. The gas executives appealed. City officials belittled Ashford, fired the ethics panel, lauded the drillers, patted themselves on the back, and then revised the ethics ordinance to allow for more unethical behavior. But Ashford forced public discussion on this all-important issue, insisted that council members declare themselves, and made it clear to voters more than ever who and what is really running this city right now.



Readers’ choice: Kevin Buchanan,

Critic’s choice: Ann Sutherland, Fort Worth school board

You’d think a trustee of a public school district would have no trouble getting documents regarding that district — but guess again. Sutherland, elected last spring, was stunned to find that her requests for information were ignored, postponed, or stonewalled. So she filed freedom of information requests to get her hands on critical documents that are in the public domain, including an audit report highly critical of the administration’s financial policies, which administrators had withheld for months. Fellow trustee Christene Moss actually chastised Sutherland for “wast[ing] staff’s time” with the request — even though the withheld report was actually addressed to the board! Fortunately for the public, Sutherland, a long-time educator, ignored her critics and is charging full steam ahead to teach district officials how to spell “transparency.”



Critic’s choice: Amon Carter Museum blogs

The myriad posts at provide deep background on works in the permanent collection and also keep readers up to date on the goings-on at the constantly contemporizing museum, all in an accessible writing style.


Preserver of History

Readers’ choice: Local historian Ed Wallace

Critic’s choice: John T. Roberts

Roberts is the brains behind, which includes the history of every significant local building as well as a lively forum patronized by urban enthusiasts. The architect also served on the board of directors of Historic Fort Worth, Inc. His challenge these days is trying to save the Ridglea Theater from being partially bulldozed and turned into a branch bank.


Unused P.R. Slogan

Critic’s choice: “The Fort Worth Way: Hear No Citizen, See No Conflict, Smell Nothing Rotten”

If you’ve paid any attention at all to city hall in Fort Worth over the last few years, this one is self-explanatory. The city council has the bit in its teeth, and they’re not letting anyone — not citizens, scientists, neighborhood groups, nor their own ethics committee –– tell them what to do. “The Fort Worth Way” used to refer to what locals considered a more-genteel-than-Dallas method of handling conflicts, by talking them out informally before they became bitter public screaming matches. Now it pretty much means “Moncrief’s Way or the Highway.”



Critic’s choice: Casey James on American Idol

James went from a relative unknown in the Fort Worth club scene to an international superhero by ascending to the top-three tier of the Idol competition. On his hometown visit, he was followed by camera crews to the Keys Lounge, where he performed in a down-home jam session. The normally casual neighborhood bar was packed with screaming female fans, and even James seemed a little uncomfortable. He didn’t win, but the local pop and blues scene received some global exposure.


Best-Kept Secret

Critic’s choice: The toxic contents of hydraulic fracturing fluids

Drillers force natural gas out of the ground by injecting a mixture of sand, water, and chemicals at high pressure into underground rock formations. Drillers resist revealing the contents of all that stuff they’re shoving underground, and that’s allowed under a loophole in federal law written specifically for the oil and gas industry. But a few companies, led by Fort Worth-based Range Resources, are slowly beginning to open their files.


Sign of the Apocalypse

Readers’ choice: Bad winter of 2009-10

Critic’s choice: Wakeboarding in the Trinity

They keep saying the Trinity is clean enough to swim in, but that’s hard to believe when they also tell you not to eat the fish from it. True, the Trinity probably isn’t sufficiently full of chemicals to mutate resident fauna into sympathetic, anthropomorphic heroes, but the fact remains that a lot of people are afraid to dip so much as a pinkie in that rippling ribbon of brown. When wakeboarders set up demos in the bend near Gateway Park (not to mention when water district officials inner-tube down the river for the cameras), it kind of sends the imagination reeling in the direction of post-apocalyptic thrillers — call it Hell Comes to Cowtown, pitting the survivors of the great Barnett Shale Disaster against mutant Trinity Trout.

Local Footage on YouTube

Critic’s choice: “What’s That Smell Like?” (

Frankly, a YouTube search for “Fort Worth, 2010” doesn’t produce a lot worth passing around the office. (“Interview with Kathryn Dunn, Miss Fort Worth 2010” isn’t going viral any time soon.) However, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll come across a clip from this year’s Air Power Expo entitled, “What’s That Smell Like?” As an F-18 taxis in front of the crowd, some guy, sounding a lot like Spike Jonez’ redneck private in Three Kings, says, “I love the smell of jet fuel.” His unseen buddy chuckles and says, “Smells like freedom, Donny.” Donny cracks up. “Smells like kickin’ ass!” he says. This is probably the best commentary on Fort Worth anyone could casually make.


Place to Earn Public Service Credits
Critic’s choice: Tarrant Area Food Bank, 2600 Cullen St, FW

There’s a seemingly infinite number of things to do at the Tarrant Area Food Bank, from wheeling around massive containers of donations on pallet jacks to separating good donations from spoiled ones. The best part: The full-time employees never make the newbies feel stupid.


Place to Study

Critic’s choice: Trinity River Park, FW

It’s an obvious pick here, but the park is big enough to accommodate both those seeking solitude and the large groups of students who want to discuss nuclear physics or Dostoyevsky. The river provides the soothing sound of water flowing, and there’s easy access to nearby shopping centers for lunch and snacks. 


Community Service Program

Critic’s choice: Community Kitchen, Tarrant Area Food Bank

The Food Bank’s Community Kitchen provides culinary-arts training to low-income adults, many of whom are homeless, ex-cons, or just down on their luck. The 16-week program also helps its graduates find jobs or internships. The program boasts a 60 percent graduation rate and an 85 percent employment rate.

Decision by Voters

Critic’s choice: Tarrant County College District board election

Finally. This year the voters elected two reform candidates to the Tarrant County College District board who promise to clean up the mess left behind by the infamous Chancellor de la Garza and the dysfunctional board majority he controlled. With the election of former journalist O.K. Carter of Arlington and Fort Worth lawyer Bill Greenhill, the tables have turned. Along with reform-oriented incumbents Joe Hudson and Robyn Winnett, they form a majority that now has a chance to steer this badly battered college district back onto the straight and narrow path of prudently managing the people’s money and opening the doors of opportunity to every kid from 19 to 90 in this county who wants an education.

Agency Most Open to the Public

Critic’s choice: U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Fort Worth District

While most government entities in this county seem to regard requests for public records as affronts to their dignity, HUD-Fort Worth is a refreshing exception. Response is quick and efficient; often the local office doesn’t take the 20 working days allowed by federal law to respond. In cases of public interest, they’ve even been known to waive the charges, as the law allows. And this was true even before that Kenyan Muslim socialist became president.


Environmentally Conscious Organization

Critic’s choice: Downwinders at Risk

It’s like an environmental fairy tale: Scrappy little group horrified at environmental implications of heavy (but lightly regulated) long-term pollution from major industry (in this case, the Midlothian cement kilns) sets out to fight them in the streets, at the barricades, in the courthouse and the court of public opinion –– and ends up, many years and many bake sales later, gaining victories that not only help clean the air and save the health (and possibly the lives) of thousands of people but also provide funding for more clean-air projects across the region. Give ’em a cape and a pair of tights, and they could star in their own comic book.

Special Awards: Living on the Shale

Individual Defender of the Environment

Readers’ choice: Don Young

Critic’s choice: EPA Region 6 Director Al Armendariz

This former Southern Methodist University engineering professor impressed local environmentalists after he started verbally slapping around state regulators for letting industries pollute our water and skies with very little oversight. Few could have predicted he’d be picked as the Environmental Protection Agency’s new regional administrator over Texas and surrounding states last November. Talk about an early Christmas present.



Barnett Shale Watchdog Group

Readers’ choice: North Central Texas Communities Alliance

Critic’s choice: North Central Texas Communities Alliance

Formed less than a year ago in response to Chesapeake’s assault on the homeowners of Fort Worth’s Carter Avenue, the NCTCA has become the leading voice in educating the public to the dangers of urban gas drilling across the Barnett Shale. Founded by Esther McElfish and Louis McBee, the NCTCA has been able to form a cohesive political unit out of the disparate community and neighborhood groups in the area, making them a force to be reckoned with.

Barnett Shale Video

Critic’s choice:

This is the video that changed the way we look at gas company operations. Shot by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on an overcast October afternoon, it shows a Quicksilver gas facility in Acton. As soon as the crew starts shooting, with their infrared (FLIR) camera, broad, dark plumes of pollution can be seen flowing from a condensate water tank, battery, and compressor station. To see more TCEQ videos, go to


Moment in Barnett Shale History in the Last Year

Readers’ choice: TCEQ lying about Fort Worth air quality

Critic’s choice: Como and Ridglea saying no to gas cash

Aug. 10, 2011: That’s the day Chesapeake Energy withdrew its application for a variance to drill four gas wells between the Como and Ridglea neighborhoods. It was a remarkable victory for homeowners who simply refused to take the money in exchange for the problems the drilling would bring. And there was some big money on the table: Chesapeake was said to be offering up to $7,000 per homeowner if they’d just sign a waiver saying they didn’t object to the location of the wells — necessary because the wells were going to be closer than 600 feet from homes. But damned if the affected homeowners didn’t say no to the cash. There’s no guarantee Chesapeake won’t come back and ask again in the future (and if they did, there’s a very good chance that the Fort Worth City Council would find a way to approve it), but in a world where the gas companies seem to win everything, it was nice to see the little guys take a round.