Thatcher Hillegas

Best Of Santa Barbara 2011

Independent Readers Deal Out the Winners

How the Best Was Won

Winning: This is how it works. Barely into the first golden days of summer, a coterie of Santa Barbara Independent staff, editorial, and business people, working harmoniously together, begin reviewing ballot lists inherited from eons previous. At this point, new categories might be added, while others get whisked away, reflecting the glacial changes in our cultural map or, mayhaps flagging reader interest in stuff like Best Eight-Track Tape Store. Then, toward summer’s end, just before Fiesta, we begin running the ballot both in our paper version and newfangled electronic edition, where readers are asked to pick superlative stuff, a minimum of 20 to help prevent ballot stuffing. Votes pour swiftly in. They are carefully examined to prevent obvious frauds such as dozens of similarly voted ballots coming from the same address (it happens; don’t laugh), until, at long last and deadline here, our gnomish, secretive staff begins the arduous task of counting, an Augean labor made slightly easier by the advent of the electronic entries, which give us a kind of spreadsheet for the print votes to be tallied on.

Several grueling weeks later, the results — checked to perfection — are handed over to designated ad staff, who call the winners, as, simultaneously, your obedient word wrangler elicits from many of them ecstatic responses and writes a wee ditty to each business, service, or person picked.

That done, the thing gets checked again by editors and fact-checkers whilst our intrepid photographer snaps some pics, the artful designers lay out the results in a well-tempered manner enabling easy perusal of any and every category so restive readers can zestily pluck up the paper, go out, and boldly test results — appreciating classical favorites or learning new truths about the town they thought they knew.

Meanwhile, us? We check into sanitariums, take a snifter or two, or visit relatives far away until summer comes again and we return, tireless, to our best pursuits.

• Eating - The best steak, burrito, clam chowder, Thai food, and more are all detailed here as part of our readers’ choices for top eating spots in Santa Barbara.

• Drinking - From coffee sipping to cocktail slamming, here are our readers’ choices on the best places for drinking in Santa Barbara.

• Falling in Love - As one of the capitals for getting married, Santa Barbara’s best love zones are listed here as part of our readers’ choices for where to fall in love in Santa Barbara.

• Going Out - Rock shows, dance performances, pool halls, and art galleries are just some of the categories in this round-up of our readers’ choices for top places to go out in Santa Barbara.

• Driving - Taxicabs, car dealerships, and repair shops are just some of the categories in the list of our readers’ choices for best driving-related businesses in Santa Barbara.

• Housing - From buying your home to planting your garden, here are our readers’ choices for top home-related businesses in Santa Barbara.

• Living Well - Acupuncturists, bookstores, copy shops, and retirements residences are but a short list of the many categories highlighted here as our readers’ choices for favorite lifestyle spots and services in Santa Barbara.

• Little Creatures - Pets and babies are the focus here, with readers’ choices for the best spots for kids and creatures in Santa Barbara.

• Looking Good - Hairdos, manicures, clothing stores, and dry cleaners can be found here, amidst our readers’ choices for best beauty and style-related businesses in Santa Barbara.

• Media - Who and what to read and watch are covered here as part of our readers’ choices for top media in Santa Barbara.

• Sporting Life - Running shoes, skateboards, blue whales, and tee times are part of the selections here in our readers’ choices for all things sporting in Santa Barbara.

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