by Mike Corrigan
Best Movie Theater - AMC's River Park Square 20
Once again, the plush AMC 20 in River Park Square with its great sound, big screens and stadium seating you can stretch out in (heck, lie down in) gets to walk the runway with the crown for best movie house. Second placer, the NorthTown Regal made one hell of an impressive showing for being the new kid on the block. And the Regal in the Valley came in a close third with everyone's favorite discount theater, the venerable Garland, nipping at its heels. The AMC seems to be doing everything right, including bringing in art films that have always had a tough time getting screened here. And they finally have that screen count up to the 20 in their name. Yahoo.
Second place: Regal NorthTown
Third place: Regal Spokane Valley
Best Casino - Coeur d'Alene Tribal Bingo Casino
They're back. Shredding the competition once again (this time by a margin of nearly 3 to 1) is the tightest ship in the local gambling biz, the Coeur d'Alene Casino. In addition to the more than 1,000 video pull-tab machines, high stakes bingo, off-track betting, a steakhouse, big-time musical acts and boxing events, the Coeur d'Alene Tribe now has a brand new luxury hotel to trumpet.
Second place: Silver Lanes
Third place: Northern Quest/Players & amp; Spectators (tie)
Best Bowling Alley - Lilac Lanes
Once deemed too geeky or geriatric for the hipster set, the game of 10 pins is making a big comeback among the young and those until recently too cool to strap on those dorky two-toned shoes. Perhaps it's the enduring image of Fred "Twinkletoes" Flintstone from cartoonland or the popularity of films like The Big Lebowski and Kingpin that keeps the, um, sport at the forefront of our "things to do with friends" list. Whatever. Lilac Lanes wins here. The 3-year-old, 32-lane, state-of-the-art facility looks more like a sparkling roller disco palace (especially during weekend night bowling) than the "tavern with a few lanes attached to it" ambiance we've come to expect from more traditional bowling emporiums.
Second place: Silver Lanes
Third place: Players & amp; Spectators
Best Hot New Nightspot - Thirsty's
Just FYI, the category here was not "Best Hot Nightspot That Has Been Around For Almost Two Years." Its relative newness notwithstanding, Thirsty's up on Division at Lincoln Road finds itself placing in this category for the second year in a row. By the looks of the parking lot up there on weekend nights, it's obvious that this dance club has become a right of passage for throngs of just-turned-21s looking for that perfect Long Island ice tea and a place to shake it. It should be noted that the second placer, the Blue Spark, has also been around for more than a year (ending up No. 1 in our 2000 Best of results). The only truly "new" nightspot to end up in the top three was Far West Billiards on the corner of First and Monroe. The atmosphere at Far West is very friendly, casual and agreeably low key. There's plenty of pool tables for the gamers and lots of cozy, overstuffed furniture for those looking to relax with beer and conversation.
Second place: Blue Spark
Third place: Far West Billiards
Best Bar - Blue Spark
The Blue Spark excels on many levels. The interior is stylish and modern yet comfortable, a pleasing mishmash of old and new with warm hardwoods juxtaposed by industrial wall treatments, intriguing globular overhead lighting and punk rock posters galore. As for booze, the Spark boasts the best brews and spirits the world has to offer, including more than a dozen import and micro drafts and top shelf hard licks. There are good tunes to be found in the jukebox and live music offerings and vintage pinball machines for the chronically antisocial. But for as popular as this place has become recently, the staff still manages to make each customer feel welcome. It gets pretty packed in here on the weekends and on Monday's Open Mike Night. Get there early and secure your seat.
Second place: The Ram
Third place: Steam Plant Grill
Best Dance Club - Havana's
After many years at No. 1 in this category, Dempsey's Brass Rail has finally been usurped by one little vote -- see, your vote does count (just not in presidential elections). Call it a statistical dead heat if you must, but the fact is, Havana's, the swanky club on the top floor of the Ram Restaurant and Brewery, has inched ahead to take top honors for 2001. Incidentally, Havana's did well in several other categories as well, including Best Karaoke and Best Bar.
Second place: Dempsey's
Third place: Thirsty's
Best Comedy Club - Wise Guys at Season Ticket
This was a hard one to tally up mainly because the winner spent much of the past year hopping from location to location in search of a proper home. Add to that a name change just to make things really confusing. But when the dust settled, it was obvious by a fairly wide margin that Inlander readers appreciate head Wise Guy Nick Theisen's dedication to live stand-up comedy and the top notch acts he consistently brings to town -- wherever he chooses to set up the stage.
Second place: Brickwall Comedy at the Bayou
Third place: The Blue Door Theater
Best Live Music Club and Best Smoke-Free Hangout - The Bayou
For the second year in a row, the Bayou takes top honors as a smoke-free haven. And for 2001, Inlander readers have dubbed them best music club as well. Though shows in Fat Tuesdays (the"big room," which is well set up for live shows) have only recently picked up steam and consistency, the mellower, conversation-friendly tunes found in the Voodoo Lounge (performed by the likes of Ben Staley, Don Thomsen, the Dawg House Boys and Calliope's Burden) have been mainstays of the Bayou experience for years. Combine these honors with their number one showing in the local microbrew category and do the math. A place big enough to spread out in, dark enough to get lost in, friendly enough to make you feel at home. Oh yeah, and the food ain't bad either.
Second place: Kelly's
Third place: Thudpucker's/Outback Jack's (tie)
Second place: The Elk
Third place: Steam Plant