March 18, 2010

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Hippo’s Best of 2010
Readers’ Poll Results

You voted; now here’s what you have to say…

Once again, we asked you, the Hippo readers, to tell us what you love about living here in southern New Hampshire and once again thousands of you responded with your very strong opinions. All caps, exclamation points and more let us know that you really really care about who offers the best cup of coffee, the best hair cut and the best yoga instruction.

More people voted this year than ever before — about 50 percent more than last year, which at the time was our highest participation ever. After days (and nights) spent staring at the computer, counting and recounting and counting some more, we present the results of the 2010 readers’ poll.

But first, some ground rules. “Best” or “Best of the best” designations are the top vote-getter in each category. In categories with a “Runner-up” and “Honorable mention,” these designate the second- and third-highest vote-getters. In categories where there is a “Best of the best” and then a “Best of Concord,” the “Best of Concord” (or Manchester or Nashua) is the highest vote-getter in that area, not counting the Best of the best (so if the “Best of the best” is from Concord, the Best of Concord would be the Concord person or business that got the second-highest number of votes).

So here we go — Best Cheese Counter, Best Teacher, Best NH Poet (and yes, next year we will specify “living”). Here are your picks for the Best of 2010.

ART

Best live theater show
Best of the Best: CATS at the Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St. in Manchester, 668-5588, www.palacetheatre.org. CATS  was most recently presented at the Palace Oct. 30 through Nov. 14, 2009.

Best of Concord: The Soweto Gospel Choir at the Capitol Center of the Arts, 44 S. Main St. in Concord, 225-1111, www.ccanh.com. The South African choir performed at the Cap Center in early February.

Best of Manchester: Noises Off at the Palace Theatre. Noises Off ran Jan. 15 through Jan. 23 of this year.

Best of Nashua: The Producers from the Actorsingers of Nashua (www.actorsingers.org). The group presented The Producers at the Keefe Auditorium in Nashua last May.

Best art gallery
Best of the Best: McGowan Fine Art, 10 Hills Ave. in Concord, 225-2515, www.mcgowanfineart.com.

Best of Concord: Mill Brook Gallery, 236 Hopkinton Road in Concord, 226-2046, www.themillbrookgallery.com.

Best of Manchester: East Colony Fine Art, 55 S. Commercial St. in Manchester, 621-7400, www.eastcolony.com.

Best of Nashua: Maison de L’Art, 57 E. Pearl St. in Nashua, 870-9888, www.moniquesakellarios.com.

Best art in a public space
Best of the Best: Statue in the Town Common of Londonderry.

Best of Concord: Concord Arts Market, which runs Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in downtown Concord during the summer and fall. According to the Web site (www.concordartsmarket.com), the first market of 2010 is scheduled for June 5.

Best of Manchester: Art on the Wall at City Hall in downtown Manchester features changing exhibits of works by local artists. See artsmanchester.blogspot.com or www.manchesternh.gov (and search for “Art on the Wall”) for upcoming exhibits.

Best of Nashua: Sculptures from the Nashua Sculpture Symposium, which are placed at locations around the city including the Nashua Library lawn, the rotary on Main Street, the corner of Temple and Court streets and more. See the sculptures and learn more about the symposium at sites.google.com/site/sculpturesymposiumofnashua.

Best art, theater or classical music event of the year
Best of the Best: Boston Pops at the Verizon Wireless Arena, 555 Elm St. in Manchester. The Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra performed holiday music in December at the Verizon.

Best of Concord: Concord Arts Market, which runs Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in downtown Concord.

Best of Manchester: A Christmas Carol at the Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St. in Manchester, 668-5588, www.palacetheatre.org. A Christmas Carol ran in December 2009 at the Palace.

Best of Nashua: Art Walk Nashua, an annual open house of studios and galleries of Nashua artists. The last Art Walk was held in October 2009. See www.cityartsnashua.org.

Best arts educator
Best of the Best: Michael Cirelli of Merrimack High School (seen here in a Michael Cirelli Photography photo). Cirelli teaches basic and advanced photography at Merrimack, where he has taught for eight years. He studied photography at the Cleveland Institute of Art, and did several internships, some with magazines in New York City. One of his many internships, however, was for a private school in Ohio where he found teaching exciting. That put him on his current path. Cirelli also exhibits, and shoots photos professionally outside of school, bringing that knowledge back into the classroom, he said.

“I really try to kind of bring in the real world,” Cirelli said. He tries to share what he’s working on with students to show you can make a living as an artist and share your vision with your community, he said.

Cirelli is also an avid skateboarder, and exhibited a photography essay on the skate scene at Eastern Boarder in Nashua. Some of his students were involved in the project.

Visit www.michaelcirelli.com or www.cirelliworks.com to see his work.

Best of Concord: Jeff Fullam of Concord High School.

Best of Manchester: Monique Staples, art teacher at Northwest Elementary School, Manchester. “[I’m] an active painter myself. ... I just try to share the joy of art with kids, I guess,” Staples told the Hippo when she won last year. She’s in her eighth year at Northwest and also teaches at the Currier Museum Art Center. Her Northwest classes paint, draw and work in a variety of media.

“I’m lucky to work with so many great teachers... I’ve met all of the elementary art teachers [in the district] and they are all fantastic. So it’s a big honor to be recognized,” Staples said.

Best of Nashua: Robin Peringer of Nashua High School South. “I’m wondering how this happened,” Peringer said of the award. “[I’m] hoping it’s my former students that responded to the poll,” Peringer said. But she also has some name recognition as the district arts coordinator, she said.

Best local theater performer
Best: George Piehl. Director and Equity actor Piehl, of Manchester, has performed professionally for more than 35 years. In February, Piehl received the Francis Grover Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award at the New Hampshire Theatre Awards (an honor given to On Golden Pond writer Earnest Thompson in 2009). Piehl has been seen on the Palace Theatre stage in Manchester, often as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. His next show is through the company he and his wife, Jeannemarie Thorpe, founded, Stage One Productions. Rumors “is just a hysterically funny Neil Simon comedy,” Piehl said. The dinner theater show runs Friday, March 19, through Sunday, March 21, at the Chateau Restaurant, 201 Hanover St. in Manchester (669-5511, www.stageoneproductions.net). Stage One closes its 28th season with its traditional “George Piehl and Friends” dinner show, a “relaxing, cabaret-style” musical revue with some show tunes and some pop tunes, Piehl said.

Piehl produced both dinner theater and summer stock for 18 years, but now Stage One sticks with dinner theater for the winter, and he spends the other half of the year waiting to hear back about auditions.

Runner-up: Patrick Lavallee. Lavallee performed as Sgt. O’Leary in the national tour of Movin’ Out (featuring the music of Billy Joel and choreography by Twyla Tharp) and as Andy Lee in 42nd Street, he wrote in an e-mail. He’s currently performing on a   cruise ship, according to his brother, local comedian Nick Lavallee.

Honorable mention: Kai de Mello-Folsom of Sanbornton. “It’s just fantastic to be recognized by the New Hampshire community,” De Mello-Folsom, 20, said. He’s currently working on a BFA in Theater Performance and a BFA in Film Production at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., Class of 2011. De Mello-Folsom, who attended Sant Bani School in Sanbornton from kindergarten through 12th grade, gets back to New Hampshire in the summers and for winter break.

Best local visual artist
Best: Sid Ceaser. Ceaser, of the Nashua-based Ceaser Photography (www.ceaserphotography.com), is primarily concentrating on creative portraiture these days. “I’m trying to make my niche in band photography” — promotional images musicians can use for CD artwork, press kits and other marketing. Ceaser (seen here in a Sid Ceaser photo) also does some editorial work, corporate head shots, head shots for actors and models, and sometimes high school senior portraits. He teaches a lighting workshop for photographers looking to work with artificial strobe lighting (www.portableportrait.com).

Ceaser’s fine art photography has been represented at McGowan Fine Art in Concord since 2003. The New Hampshire Institute of Art graduate is known for his portraits of toys (www.sidceaserfineart.com). “It’s fun to just sort of play around with the viewer’s mind a little bit, [make them ] question whether they are looking at a real person or something that’s not real,” Ceaser said.

Ceaser said it took him a while after finishing school to figure out what he wanted to be taking pictures of. Now, he’s realizing “if I’m shooting stuff that I love it’s possible to find a market for the work,” rather than trying to produce stuff he thinks people want.

About the “Best of” award, Ceaser said, “It’s encouraging. It’s exciting.”

Runner-up: Scott Bulger. Originally inspired by famous photographers including Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Alfred Stieglitz, local photographer Bulger focuses on shooting in black and white. Bulger teaches at the Kimball-Jenkins School of Art and NHTI in Concord. Currently, he’s preparing to open a new show of larger pieces in July at Kimball-Jenkins.

“I’m just looking for a more engrossing experience for the viewers,” Bulger said. He wants the viewers to “to be wrapped up in the work physically as well as visually.” About his style of work, Bulger said, “what I try to do is focus on smaller things,” show their individual and unique beauty and try to force people to look at those things by putting it into a frame. See examples at www.scottbulger.com.

Honorable mention: Cameron Bennett. An illustrator and fine artist, Bennett attended the Baltimore School For the Arts, Rhode Island Institute of Design, Maryland Institute College of Art, and MassArt, and later studied with Paul Ingbretson in Manchester for four years. He has illustrated for The Hippo, New Hampshire Magazine, Salem Observer, Annalee Dolls and others. See his work at www.cameronbennettart.com and www.cameronbennett.com. (He also teaches Argentine tango.)  

HEALTH & BEAUTY

Best gym
Best of the Best: Executive Health & Sports Center, 1 Highlander Way in Manchester, 668-4753, www.ehsc.com.

Best of Concord: Get Fit NH Bootcamp, 26 Commercial St. in Concord, 344-265, getfitnhbootcamp.com.

Best of Manchester: Greater Manchester Family YMCA, 30 Mechanic St. in Manchester, 623-3558, www.gmfymca.org.

Best of Nashua: Dynamic Strength & Conditioning, 100 Factory St. in Nashua, 882-2348, www.dynamicsc.com.

Best independent clothing store
Best of the Best: Alapage, Bedford Square, 25 S. River Road in Bedford, 622-0550, alapageboutique.com.

Best of Concord: Gondwana, 13 N. Main St. in Concord, 228-1101, www.gondwanashop.com.

Best of Manchester: George’s Apparel, 11 W. Central St. in Manchester, 622-5441, www.georgesapparel.com.

Best of Nashua: Fresh of Nashua, 178 Main St. in Nashua, 821-9888, www.freshofnashua.com.

Best independent shoe store
Best of the Best: Alec’s Shoes, 201 Main St. in Nashua, 882-6811, www.alecs-shoes.com.

Best of Concord: Joe King’s Shoe Shop, 45 N. Main St. in Concord, 225-6012, www.joekings.com.

Best of Manchester: Bee Bee Shoes, 1525 S. Willow in Manchester, 621-0608, www.beebeeshoes.com.

Best of Nashua: Shoe Box, 17 Route 101 in Amherst, 672-6570, www.shoeboxnh.com.

Best independent jewelry store
Best of the Best: Bellman’s Jewelers, 1650 Elm St. in Manchester, 625-4653, www.bellmans.com.

Best of Concord: Capitol Craftsman, 16 N. Main St. in Concord, 224-6166, www.capitolcraftsman.com.

Best of Manchester: Jonathan’s Jewelers, 460 Route 101 in Bedford, 471-2828, www.jonathansjewelers.com.

Best of Nashua: Scontsas Fine Jewelry & Home, 169-173 Main St. in Nashua, 882-3281, www.scontsas.com.

Best Laundromat
Best of the Best: Bird Bath Laundromat, with locations at 253 Lake Ave., 622-2694, and 1000 Hanover St., 623-6826, in Manchester.

Best of Concord: South End Village Laundromat, 71 Downing St. in Concord, 228-8768.

Best of Manchester: Bea’s Wash N Dry, 478 S. Main St. in Manchester, 668-7110.

Best of Nashua: Palmer’s Cleaners, 300 Main St. in Nashua, 889-7922.

Best barbershop
Best of the Best: Dude’s Barber Shop, 1311 Hooksett Road in Hooksett, 626-0533.

Best of Concord: Lucky’s Barber Shop, 50 S. State St. in Concord, 715-5470.

Best of Manchester: La Coupe Barber Shop, 165B Kelley St. in Manchester, 669-9299.

Best of Nashua: Chuck’s, 168 Main St. in Nashua, 882-3711.

Best salon
Best of the Best: Not So Plain Jane’s Salon, 155 Dow St. in Manchester, 622-5971, www.notsoplainjanes.com.

Best of Concord: Chrome Salon, 219 S. Main St. in Concord, 224-1123, chromesalon.squarespace.com.

Best of Manchester: Philip Mark Salon and Spa, 27 Webster St. in Manchester, 622-5225.

Best of Nashua: Aidan James Salon, 4 Water St. in Nashua, 598-0795, www.aidanjamessalon.com.

Best spa
Best of the Best: Chill Day Spa, 1224 Hanover St. in Manchester, 622-3722, www.chilldayspa.net.

Best of Concord: Serendipity Day Spa, 23 Sheep Davis Road in Pembroke, 229-0400, serendipitydayspa.com.

Best of Manchester: Not So Plain Jane’s Salon, 155 Dow St. in Manchester, 622-5971, www.notsoplainjanes.com.

Best of Nashua: Innovations the Salon & Spa, 228 Naticook Road in Merrimack, 880-7499, www.innovationsnh.com.

Best yoga studio
Best of the Best: Bikram Yoga, 195 McGregor St. in Manchester, Mill West Annex, 669-7711, www.manchesterbikramyoga.com.

Best of Concord: Sharing Yoga, 3 Pleasant St., second floor, in Concord, 630-5576, www.sharingyoga.com.

Best of Manchester: Riverflow Yoga, 198 Londonderry Turnpike in Hooksett, 935-9822, www.riverflowyoga.com.

Best of Nashua: Bikram Yoga Nashua, #6 Mill South, 5 Pine St. Ext. in Nashua, 880-9642, www.bikramyoganashua.com.

Best barber
Best of the Best: Nancy Dixon at La Coupe, 165 B Kelley St. in Manchester, 669-9299. “I really have the best customers in the world,” Dixon said, adding many have become good friends. “It’s all thanks to them.” Dixon was voted best of the best last year as well. In her line of work, a lot of her business comes from referrals. She said that’s the best compliment. Dixon attended barbering school in Massachusetts, before working in her first shop in Andover. She said she likes the creativity her job allows.

Best of Concord: Shane Perron at Chrome, 219 A South Main St. in Concord, 224-1123, www.chromesalon.net. “I think it’s awesome,” Perron said. “I’ve only been out of school a little bit. It’s pretty cool to be voted best barber.”

Best of Manchester: Brett Sellingham at Not So Plain Jane’s, 155 Dow St. in Manchester, 622-5971, www.notsoplainjanes.com. Now voted best barber of Manchester two years in a row, Sellingham thanked the voters and said it’s nice to be respected on that level, especially since, he said, he doesn’t campaign for the honor.

Best of Nashua: Richard MacDonald at Dick’s Barbershop, 263 Union Square in Milford. A Nashua resident, MacDonald said being picked by voters again this year is important, as it tells him he’s doing something right. “I love the people,” he said. “You get very attached.”

Friendliest dentist
Best of the Best: Dr. Lawrence J. Puccini, Puccini & Roberge, 505 Riverway Place in Bedford, 622-3445. “I think it’s awesome. I think it’s the best,” Puccini said upon hearing of his selection once again. “We love what we do and I guess it shows.” Puccini said he and the other staff members at the practice try to treat their patients like family. He said he has the best coworkers in the world. Growing up, he had a good relationship with the family dentist, to the point where he’d sit in on appointments to observe. He’d even ask for a mirror when the dentist was working on him.

Best of Concord: Dr. David A. Bogacz, 102 Pleasant St. in Concord, 225-4143. A little humble and possibly embarrassed by his selection, Bogacz had his receptionist, Robin Seidman, call in his stead. “It’s because he’s real,” Seidman said. “It’s like hanging out with your brother.”

Best of Manchester: Dr. Elizabeth Spindel, 862 Union St. in Manchester, 669-9049. “It’s a great honor,” Spindel said. “People are often very afraid of the dentist so if I can help them relax in the office, that’s the number one goal.”

Best of Nashua: Dr. Arthur Lyford, 9 Ash St. in Hollis, 465-3800, www.lyfordsmiles.com. Lyford, who initially thought his selection was a practical joke of sorts, said he tries to make sure there’s plenty of humor in the office. “You’ve got to practice with integrity and a sense of humor,” he said.

Best fitness instructor
Best of the Best: Susanne Larkham at Manchester Jazzercise, 259 Hanover St. in Manchester, 624-9122, www.manchjazz.com. Larkham, who was voted best of the best last year as well, said Jazzercise is a fusion of jazz dance, pilates and a little bit of yoga. She said it’s thrilling to help and watch people meet their fitness goals, whether that’s losing five pounds or 100 pounds. “I adore my students,” Larkham said. “They make getting out of bed and doing what I do, I just love it every day.” She said Jazzercise has something for everyone and the program has been running in Manchester for more than 40 years. Larkham bought the center in 2007 and her husband Peter is a teacher there as well. Despite the poor economy, Larkham said Jazzercise is growing. In 2007, the gym had 16,000 participants and that number jumped to more than 23,000 in 2009. “I love the positive effect…it has on our students. As much as it’s physically challenging, it’s really created a community at Manchester Jazzercise.”

Best of Concord: Dean Carlson at Get Fit NH Bootcamp. The main office is located at 167 New Orchard Road in Epsom and the boot camp also rents space at the Concord Dance Academy at 26 Commercial St. in Concord, 344-2651, getfitnhbootcamp.com. Carlson, who said he was gratified by being chosen by voters, said the primary reason he loves what he does is seeing people reach their goals.

Best of Manchester: Mike Good at Good Training, 289-1120, www.goodtraining.vpweb.com. Good started his own personal training company just last year. “I think it’s awesome,” Good said of being voted best of Manchester.

Best of Nashua: Kevin Buckley at Dynamic Strength and Conditioning, 100 Factory St. Suite 4F in Nashua, 882-2348, www.dynamicsc.com. “It’s exciting because it means that all the effort that I’ve put into this, all the energy, that people appreciate it,” Buckley said.

Best hair stylist
Best of the Best: Derek James Costa at Aidan James Salon, 4 Water St. in Nashua, 598-0795, www.aidanjamessalon.com. “It’s funny, when I heard, it was shocking,” Costa said. “The first thing that came to mind was that I owe it to my team, my partner. … It truly is a collaboration of artists at Aidan James Salon.” He grew up sweeping floors at a salon and said he always looked up to the hairdressers. “They’re what makes you look beautiful and feel good,” Costa said, adding he’s been in the business for nine years now. The creativity of being a hair stylist keeps him interested day after day. “People are my canvas. It’s always something new. That’s what I love about the industry; it keeps you on your toes.”

Best of Concord: Sondra Perron-Parlatore at Chrome Salon, 219 A South Main St. in Concord, 224-1123, www.chromesalon.net. She said she always wanted to be a hair stylist and she’s been styling hair for 11 years.

Best of Manchester: April Arnold at 26th on Hanover, 26 Hanover St. in Manchester, 626-0250, www.26thonhanover.com. Now in the industry for almost a decade, Arnold said she likes how each day in her salon is a little different.

Best of Nashua: Rachel Aidan Holmes at Aidan James Salon, 4 Water St. in Nashua, 598-0795, www.aidanjamessalon.com. A stylist for 14 years, Holmes merged her salon with her now-partner Derek James Costa in 2008.

Best mechanic
Best of the Best: Ralph Brutus of Brutus Auto, 148 Merrimack St. in Manchester, 624-8881, www.brutusautonh.com. Brutus couldn’t be reached for comment for this year’s edition, but this isn’t the first time he’s been named best of the best. He took home the same honor last year. Brutus opened his auto shop in 2000. Last year, Brutus said his team works hard and they respect their customers.

Best of Concord: Jon Chartier of Commercial Tech Services, 54 River Road in Bow, 225-8844. Chartier said it was flattering to be recognized. He attributed his selection to his friendly nature with customers. “I genuinely like everyone. We try to have a relationship with customers. I think that goes a long way,” he said.

Best of Manchester: Mike Alton of Pro Image Automotive, 254 Sheffield Road (on South Willow Street) in Manchester, 644-8480, malton6844@yahoo.com. Alton has been working hard for 20 years in the automotive industry. Excited by his choice, he said being recognized was terrific. Alton began his career as an aircraft mechanic but switched to cars because, he said, he could make more money.

Best of Nashua: Donald Bubble of Boss Equipment, 28 Quincy St. in Nashua, 882-4770. “I think it’s exciting,” Bubble said. “It’s good to be appreciated.” A mechanic for 40 years, Bubble works on just about anything — cars, small engines, trucks, boats and motorcycles.

Best teacher
Best of Manchester: Sarah Brancone at Parker-Varney Elementary School in Manchester. Brancone is in her sixth year as a third-grade teacher at Parker-Varney. “I’m absolutely flattered to win for the second year in a row.... It’s very exciting to win for something you do every day,” Brancone said. Brancone was voted Best Manchester Teacher in the 2009 Hippo readers’ poll.

For Brancone, having a lot of energy and patience is key. Each day is different at her job, which is one of her favorite things about teaching, she said.

Best of Concord: Denise Fournier, curriculum facilitator for the English Department at Concord High School. “I’m stunned and excited,” Fournier said. Fournier is in her 27th year of teaching, most of them in the Concord School District. She also graduated from Concord High School, and said because of that, “I really feel part of the community in a very significant way.”

Best of Nashua: Tray Sleeper of Merrimack High School. Sleeper e-mailed the Hippo from the BinHai Foreign Language School in Tanggu, China. Sleeper and Jeff Capone are the first Merrimack High School teachers to teach there in an exchange program with that school, and will be there until April 24.

Best yoga instructor
Best of the Best: Elizabeth Vlangas at Riverflow Yoga, 198 Londonderry Turnpike Suite 2 in Hooksett, 935-9822, www.riverflowyoga.com. “I feel honored that the students and people voted two years in a row for me,” Vlangas said. This April, Vlangas and Riverflow Yoga will celebrate its two-year anniversary. The Goffstown resident said she started out as a personal trainer but after a few yoga workshops, yoga “spoke” to her. As a “typical type-A, do-more person,” she figured if yoga helped her, it would help others as well. In the midst of a tough economy, her studio is growing. “People are starting to spend money on things that feed their soul,” she said, “rather than buying clothing or cars. That’s why the yoga industry is doing well.”

Best of Concord: David Breen at Sharing Yoga, 3 Pleasant St. 2nd Floor in Concord, 630-5576, www.sharingyoga.com. Breen said he was a little surprised but felt good about voters choosing him best of Concord. “That’s great that people have decided to take the time and go ahead and vote…,” he said.

Best of Manchester: Pubali Campbell at Bikram Yoga Manchester, 195 McGregor St. Mill West Annex in Manchester, 669-7711, www.bikramyogamanchester.com. “It just gives me little goose bumps that there are people our there that think that way,” Campbell said, adding especially after she’s tortured participants during a 90-minute session.

Best of Nashua: Melissa Dabilis of Open Space Yoga, 19 Factory St. in Nashua, 557-8172 www.osyoga.com. Dabilis said her intention is always to be of service to her students. “If they took time out of their day to [vote] than I feel like I am on the right path to my goal,” Dabilis said.

FOOD

Best Asian food
Best of the Best: Lilac Blossom, 385 East Dunstable Road in Nashua, 888-9588, and 650 Amherst St. in Nashua, 886-8420, www.lilacblossom-nh.com.

Best of Concord: Moritomo Japanese Steakhouse, 32 Fort Eddy Road in Concord, 224-8363, www.moritomonh.com.

Best of Manchester: Taipei & Tokyo 3, 7 Colby Court in Bedford, 622-2588, www.taipeitokyo3.com.

Best of Nashua: You You Japanese Bistro, 150 Broad St. in Nashua, 882-8337, www.youyoubistro.com.

Best bakery
Best of the Best: Frederick’s Pastries, 109 Route 101A in Amherst, 882-7725; 25 S. River Road in Bedford, 647-CAKE; www.pastry.net.

Best of Concord: Bread and Chocolate, 29 S. Main St. in Concord, 228-3330.

Best of Manchester: Michelle’s Gourmet Pastries & Deli, 819 Union St. in Manchester, 647-7150, www.michellespastries.com.

Best of Nashua: The Black Forest Café, 212 Route 101 in Amherst, 672-0500, www.theblackforestcafe.com.

Best bar menu
Best of the Best: Strange Brew Tavern, 88 Market St. in Manchester, 666-4292, www.strangebrewtavern.net.

Best of Concord: The Barley House, 132 N. Main St. in Concord, 228-6363, www.thebarleyhouse.com.

Best of Manchester: Murphy’s Taproom, 494 Elm St. in Manchester, 644-3535, www.murphystaproom.net.

Best of Nashua: Stella Blu, 70 E. Pearl St. in Nashua, 578-5557, www.stellablu-nh.com.

Best beer selection
Best of the Best: Strange Brew Tavern, 88 Market St. in Manchester, 666-4292, www.strangebrewtavern.net.

Best of Concord: The Barley House, 132 N. Main St. in Concord, 228-6363, www.thebarleyhouse.com.

Best of Manchester: Murphy’s Taproom, 494 Elm St. in Manchester, 644-3535, www.murphystaproom.net.

Best of Nashua: Martha’s Exchange Restaurant & Brewing Co., 185 Main St. in Nashua, 883-8781, www.marthas-exchange.com.

Best place to buy beer (retail)
Best of the Best: North End Superette, 1308 Elm St. in Manchester, 627-1416.

Best of Concord: Barb’s Beer Emporium, 208 N. Main St. in Concord, 369-4501, www.barbsbeeremporium.com.

Best of Manchester: Bert’s Better Beers, 1100 Hooksett Road in Hooksett, 413-5992, www.bertsbetterbeers.com.

Best of Nashua: Jasper’s Home Brew & Winemaking Supply, 4 Temple St. in Nashua, 881-3052, www.boomchugalug.com.

Best breakfast
Best of the Best: Red Arrow Diner, 61 Lowell St. in Manchester, 626-1118, redarrowdiner.com.

Best of Concord: Corner View, 80½ South St. in Concord, 229-4554.

Best of Manchester: Julien’s Corner Kitchen, 150 Bridge St. in Manchester, 622-4044.

Best of Nashua: Parker’s Maple Barn, 1316 Brookline Road in Mason, 878-2308, www.parkersmaplebarn.com.

Best burgers
Best of the Best: Billy’s Sports Bar & Grill, 34 Tarrytown Road in Manchester, 622-3644, www.billyssportsbar.com.

Best of Concord: The Barley House, 132 N. Main St. in Concord, 228-6363, www.thebarleyhouse.com

Best of Manchester: Strange Brew Tavern, 88 Market St. in Manchester, 666-4292, www.strangebrewtavern.net.

Best of Nashua: Buckley’s Great Steaks, 438 DW Highway in Merrimack, 424-0995, www.buckleysgreatsteaks.com.

Best butcher
Best of the Best: Bull Run Beef, 1100 Hooksett Road in Hooksett, 669-0891.

Best of Concord: Yankee Market, Route 101 in Raymond, 895-3418, freetownyankee.com.

Best of Manchester: Mr. Steer Marketplace, 27 Buttrick Road in Londonderry, 434-1444, mrsteermeats.com.

Best of Nashua: Brother’s Butcher, 8 Spit Brook Road in Nashua, 809-4180, www.brothersbutcher.com.

Best candy/chocolate shop
Best of the Best: Van Otis Chocolates, 341 Elm St. in Manchester, 627-1611, www.vanotischooclate.com.

Best of Concord: Granite State Candy, 13 Warren St. in Concord, 225-2591, www.nhchocolates.com.

Best of Manchester: Candy Kingdom & Fudge Factory, 235 Harvard St. in Manchester, 641-8470, www.thecandykingdom.com.

Best of Nashua: Swan Chocolates, 436 DW Highway in Merrimack, 142 Main St. in Nashua, 800-490-SWAN, www.swanchocolates.com.

Best cheap eats
Best of the Best: Red Arrow Diner, 61 Lowell St. in Manchester, 626-1118; 63 Union Square in Milford, 249-9222; redarrowdiner.com.

Best of Concord: Dos Amigos Burritos, 26 N. Main St. in Concord, 410-4161, www.dosamigosburritos.com.

Best of Manchester: Blake’s Restaurant, 353 Main St. in Manchester, 669-0220; 53 Hooksett Road in Manchester, 627-1110; www.blakesicecream.com.

Best of Nashua: Sausage King, 53 Main St. in Nashua, 204-5110, www.thesausagekingofnashua.com (there are also sausage cart locations throughout the city, including both Home Depots).

Best cheese counter
Best of the Best: Angela’s Pasta & Cheese Shop, 815 Chestnut St. in Manchester, 625-9544, www.angelaspastaandcheese.com.

Best of Concord: Butter’s Fine Food & Wine, 70 N. Main St. in Concord, 225-5995, www.buttersfinefood.com.

Best of Manchester: Harvest Market, Route 101 in Bedford, 472-5017, www.myharvestmarket.com.

Best of Nashua: Cooking Matters, 97 Main St. in Nashua, 880-6200, www.facebook.com/CookingMatters.

Best chicken tenders
Best of the Best: Puritan Backroom, 245 Hooksett Road in Manchester, 669-6890, www.puritanbackroom.com.

Best of Concord: Cheers, 17 Depot St. in Concord, 228-0180, www.cheersnh.com.

Best of Manchester: Goldenrod Drive-In Restaurant, 1681 Candia Road in Manchester, 623-9469, www.goldenrodrestaurant.com.

Best of Nashua: Chicken N Chips, 12 W. Hollis St. in Nashua, 943-5840.

Best cocktails
Best of the Best: Mudslide at Puritan Backroom, 245 Hooksett Road in Manchester, 669-6890, www.puritanbackroom.com.

Best of Concord: Margarita at Hermanos Cocina Mexicana, 11 Hills Ave. in Concord, 224-5669, www.hermanosmexican.com.

Best of Manchester: Firefly Dirty-tini at Firefly American Bistro & Bar, 22 Concord St. in Manchester, 935-9740, www.fireflynh.com.

Best of Nashua: The Stella Blu at Stella Blu, 70 E. Pearl St. in Nashua, 578-5557, www.stellablu-nh.com.

Best cup of coffee
Best of the Best: J Dubs Coffee, 1000 Elm St. in Manchester, 622-7944, www.jdubscoffee.com.

Best of Concord: True Brew Barista, 3 Bicentennial Square in Concord, 225-2776, www.truebrewbarista.com.

Best of Manchester: Red Arrow Diner, 61 Lowell St. in Manchester, 626-1118, redarrowdiner.com.

Best of Nashua: A&E Custom Coffee Roastery, 135 Route 101A in Amherst, 578-3338, www.aeroastery.com.

Best desserts
Best of the Best: Frederick’s Pastries, 109 Route 101A in Amherst, 882-7725; 25 S. River Road in Bedford, 647-CAKE; www.pastry.net.

Best of Concord: Bread and Chocolate, 29 S. Main St. in Concord, 228-3330.

Best of Manchester: Bedford Village Inn, 2 Olde Bedford Way, off Route 101, in Bedford, 472-20001, bedfordvillageinn.com.

Best of Nashua: The Black Forest Café, 212 Route 101 in Amherst, 672-0500, www.theblackforestcafe.com.

Best diner
Best of the Best: Red Arrow Diner, 61 Lowell St. in Manchester, 626-1118, redarrowdiner.com.

Best of Concord: Tilt’n Diner, 61 Laconia Road in Tilton, 286-2204, www.thecman.com.

Best of Manchester: Airport Diner, 2280 Brown Ave. in Manchester, 623-5040, thecman.com.

Best of Nashua: Red Arrow Diner, 63 Union Square in Milford, 249-9222, redarrowdiner.com.

Best ethnic food market
Best of the Best: Saigon Asian Market, 93 S. Maple St. in Manchester, 644-3555.

Best of Concord: Concord Food Coop, 24 S. Main St. in Concord, 225-6840, www.concordfoodcoop.coop.

Best of Manchester: Spice Center, 245 N. Maple St. in Manchester, 626-7290.

Best of Nashua: Saigon Asian Market, 33 Pine St. in Nashua, 521-6171.

Best farmers market
Best: Downtown Manchester Farmers Market, Thursday afternoons in the summer on Concord Street between Chestnut and Pine streets.

Runner-up: Concord Farmers Market, Saturday mornings in the summer next to the Statehouse.

Honorable mention: Bedford Farmers Market, Tuesday afternoons in the summer.

Best french fries
Best of the Best: Caesario’s Pizza & Subs, 1057 Elm St. in Manchester, 669-8383.

Best of Concord: Beefside, 106 Manchester St. in Concord, 228-0208, www.beefsiderestaurant.com.

Best of Manchester: Puritan Backroom, 245 Hooksett Road in Manchester, 669-6890, www.puritanbackroom.com.

Best of Nashua: The Peddler’s Daughter, 48 Main St. in Nashua, 821-7535, www.thepeddlersdaughter.com.

Best grilled cheese
Best of the Best: Red Arrow Diner, 61 Lowell St. in Manchester, 626-1118; 63 Union Square in Milford, 249-9222; redarrowdiner.com.

Best of Concord: Tilt’n Diner, 61 Laconia Road in Tilton, 286-2204, www.thecman.com.

Best of Manchester: Puritan Backroom, 245 Hooksett Road in Manchester, 669-6890, www.puritanbackroom.com.

Best of Nashua: Cooking Matters, 97 Main St. in Nashua, 880-6200, www.facebook.com/CookingMatters.

Best hot chocolate
Best of the Best: Swan Chocolates, 436 DW Highway in Merrimack, 142 Main St. in Nashua, 800-490-SWAN, www.swanchocolates.com.

Best of Concord: True Brew Barista, 3 Bicentennial Square in Concord, 225-2776, www.truebrewbarista.com.

Best of Manchester: J Dubs Coffee, 1000 Elm St. in Manchester, 622-7944, www.jdubscoffee.com.

Best of Nashua: Bonhoeffer’s Café & Espresso, 8 Franklin St. in Nashua, 883-6879, www.bonhoefferscafe.com.

Best ice cream
Best of the Best: Puritan Backroom, 245 Hooksett Road in Manchester, 669-6890, www.puritanbackroom.com.

Best of Concord: Arnie’s Place, 164 Loudon Road in Concord, 228-3225, www.arniesplace.com.

Best of Manchester: Goldenrod Drive-In Restaurant, 1681 Candia Road in Manchester, 623-9469, www.goldenrodrestaurant.com.

Best of Nashua: Hayward’s Ice Cream Stand, 7 DW Highway in Nashua, 888-4663, www.haywardsicecream.com.

Best Italian restaurant
Best of the Best: Piccola Italia Ristorante, 815 Elm St. in Manchester, 606-5100, www.piccolaitalianh.com.

Best of Concord: Angelina’s Ristorante Italiano, 11 Depot St. in Concord, 228-3313, www.angelinasristorante.com.

Best of Manchester: Fratello’s Ristorante Italiano, 155 Dow St. in Manchester, 624-2022, www.fratellos.com.

Best of Nashua: Villa Banca, 194 Main St. in Nashua, 598-0500, www.villabanca.com.

Best late-night eats
Best of the Best: Red Arrow Diner, 61 Lowell St. in Manchester, 626-1118, redarrowdiner.com.

Best of Concord: Cheers, 17 Depot St. in Concord, 228-0180, www.cheersnh.com.

Best of Manchester: Puritan Backroom, 245 Hooksett Road in Manchester, 669-6890, www.puritanbackroom.com.

Best of Nashua: Red Arrow Diner, 63 Union Square in Milford, 249-9222, redarrowdiner.com.

Best menu item
Best of the Best: Chicken tenders at Puritan Backroom, 245 Hooksett Road in Manchester, 669-6890, www.puritanbackroom.com.

Best of Concord: Dublin Burger (peppercorn charred with whiskey gravy, blue cheese and crispy onions) at The Barley House, 132 N. Main St. in Concord, 228-6363, www.thebarleyhouse.com.

Best of Manchester: Go-go bread at Firefly American Bistro & Bar, 22 Concord St. in Manchester, 935-9740, www.fireflynh.com.

Best of Nashua: Butternut squash ravioli at Saffron Bistro, 80 Main St. in Nashua, 883-2100, www.thesaffronbistro.com.

Best Mexican/Latin American food
Best of the Best: La Carreta Restaurante Mexicano, 545 Hooksett Road in Manchester, 628-6899, www.lacarretamex.com.

Best of Concord: Hermanos Cocina Mexicana, 11Hills Ave. in Concord, 224-5669, www.hermanosmexican.com.

Best of Manchester: Shorty’s Mexican Roadhouse, 36 Salmon St. in Manchester, 647-1050, www.shortysmex.com.

Best of Nashua: La Carreta, 139 DW Highway in Nashua, 891-0055, www.lacarretamex.com.

Best muffins
Best of the Best: The Bridge Café, 1117 Elm St. in Manchester, 647-9991, www.thebridgecafe.net.

Best of Concord: Bread and Chocolate, 29 S. Main St. in Concord, 228-3330.

Best of Manchester: Jewell & the Beanstalk, 793 Somerville St. in Manchester, 624-3709, www.jbeanstalk.com.

Best of Nashua: Swan Chocolates, 142 Main St. in Nashua, 800-490-SWAN, www.swanchocolates.com.

Best neighborhood market
Best of the Best: Bunny’s Superette, 75 Webster St. Manchester, 622-5080.

Best of Concord: Quality Cash Market, 11 Eastman St. in Concord, 225-9661, www.qualitycashmarket.com.

Best of Manchester: Sully’s Superette, 10 N. Mast Road in Goffstown, 297-7176, www.sullyssuperette.com.

Best of Nashua: Jeannotte’s Market, 2 Courtland St. in Nashua, 882-0161.

Best outdoor food vendor
Best of the Best: Sausage King, 53 Main St. in Nashua, 204-5110, www.thesausagekingofnashua.com (there are also sausage cart locations throughout the city, including both Home Depots).

Best of Concord: Puppy Love, North Main Street in Concord — outdoor stand near Butter’s in the summer, indoor stand in the winter.

Best of Manchester: Jonathan’s Quick Eats, a stand outside the Black Brimmer many evenings in Manchester.

Best of Nashua: Jean’s Hot Dogs in Greeley Park in Nashua.

Best pizza in your neighborhood
Best of the Best: Alley Cat Pizzeria, 486 Chestnut St. in Manchester, 669-4533, alleycatpizzerianh.com.

Best of Concord: Constantly Pizza, 39 S. Main St. in Concord, 224-9366; 51 W. Main St. in Tilton, 286-2229; 108 Fisherville Road in Penacook, 227-1117; www.constantlypizza.net.

Best of Manchester: 900 Degrees, 50 Dow St. in Manchester, 641-0900, 900degrees.com.

Best of Nashua: Espresso Pizza, 85 Main St. in Nashua, 889-9826.

Best pizza worth the drive
Best of the Best: 900 Degrees, 50 Dow St. in Manchester, 641-0900, 900degrees.com.

Best of Concord: Vinnie’s Pizzeria, 200 S. Main St. in Concord, 224-7727.

Best of Manchester: Alley Cat Pizzeria, 486 Chestnut St. in Manchester, 669-4533, alleycatpizzerianh.com.

Best of Nashua: Pearl Street Pizza, 112 West Pearl St. in Nashua, 204-5010, pearlstpizza.com.

Best poutine
Best of the Best: Chez Vachon, 136 Kelley St. in Manchester, 625-9660, chezvachon.com.

Best of Concord: Tilt’n Diner, 61 Laconia Road in Tilton, 286-2204, www.thecman.com.

Best of Manchester: Airport Diner, 2280 Brown Ave. in Manchester, 623-5040, thecman.com.

Best of Nashua: Estabrook Grill, 57 Palm St. in Nashua, 943-5035, www.estabrookgrill.com.

Best restaurant to take kids to
Best of the Best: Puritan Backroom, 245 Hooksett Road in Manchester, 669-6890, www.puritanbackroom.com.

Best of Concord: Dos Amigos Burritos, 26 N. Main St. in Concord, 410-4161, www.dosamigosburritos.com

Best of Manchester: Airport Diner, 2280 Brown Ave. in Manchester, 623-5040, thecman.com.

Best of Nashua: Chunky’s Cinema Pub, 150 Coliseum Ave. in Nashua, 880-8055, www.chunkys.com.

Best ribs
Best of the Best: KC’s Rib Shack, 837 Second St. in Manchester, 627-7427, www.ribshack.net.

Best of Concord: Arnie’s Place, 164 Loudon Road in Concord, 228-3225, www.arniesplace.com.

Best of Manchester: Cactus Jacks, 782 S. Willow St. in Manchester, 627-8600, www.go2cjs.com.

Best of Nashua: Shorty’s Mexican Roadhouse, 328 Nashua Mall in Nashua, 882-4070, www.shortysmex.com.

Best salads
Best of the Best: Puritan Backroom, 245 Hooksett Road in Manchester, 669-6890, www.puritanbackroom.com.

Best of Concord: Cheers, 17 Depot St. in Concord, 228-0180, www.cheersnh.com.

Best of Manchester: Café 324, 324 N. Commercial St. in Manchester, 666-5432, www.cafe324.com.

Best of Nashua: Seedling Café, 9 Water St. in Nashua, 594-4002, www.theseedlingcafe.com.

Best sandwich
Best of the Best: Cardiac Sam (pulled pork topped with cheese, pulled chicken breast, bacon, roasted red peppers, lettuce and garlic & herb mayo) at KC’s Rib Shack, 837 Second St. in Manchester, 627-7427, www.ribshack.net.

Best of Concord: French Dip at The Draft, 67 S. Main St. in Concord, 227-1175.

Best of Manchester: Steak and Cheese at Nadeau’s, 100 Cahill Ave. in Manchester, 669-SUBS; 776 Mast Road in Goffstown, 623-9315; 1095 Hanover St. in Manchester, 606-4411; 805 Canal St. in Manchester, 644-8888; nadeaus.biz.

Best of Nashua: The Big Papi (turkey, pepperoni, muenster cheese) at Nashua Garden, 121 Main St. in Nashua, 886-7363.

Best seafood
Best of the Best: Surf, 207 Main St. in Nashua, 595-9293, www.surfseafood.com.

Best of Concord: Makris Lobster & Steak House, 354 Sheep Davis Road in Concord, 225-7665, www.eatalobster.com.

Best of Manchester: Commercial Street Fishery, 33 S. Commercial St. in Manchester, 296-0706, www.csfishery.com.

Best of Nashua: Lobster Boat, 453 DW Highway in Merrimack, 424-5221, www.lobsterboatrestaurant.com.

Best menu of small plates
Best of the Best: Stella Blu, 70 E. Pearl St. in Nashua, 578-5557, www.stellablu-nh.com.

Best of Concord: Granite Bar & Grill at The Centennial, 96 Pleasant St. in Concord, 227-9000, www.graniterestaurant.com.

Best of Manchester: XO on Elm, 827 Elm St. in Manchester, 560-7998, www.xoonelm.com.

Best of Nashua: Eden Restaurant & Lounge, 292 Route 101 in Amherst, 249-3336, www.edenrestaurantandlounge.com.

Best soups
Best of the Best: Collins Brothers Clambake, 59 Temple St. in Nashua, 883-2347.

Best of Concord: In a Pinch Café, 146 Pleasant St. in Concord, 226-2272, www.inapinchcafe.com.

Best of Manchester: The Bridge Café, 1117 Elm St. in Manchester, 647-9991, www.thebridgecafe.net.

Best of Nashua: Cooking Matters, 97 Main St. in Nashua, 880-6200, www.facebook.com/CookingMatters.

Best steakhouse
Best of the Best: Hanover Street Chophouse, 149 Hanover St. in Manchester, 644-2467, www.hanoverstreetchophouse.com.

Best of Concord: Makris Lobster & Steak House, 354 Sheep Davis Road in Concord, 225-7665, www.eatalobster.com.

Best of Manchester: Depot Square Steakhouse, 1 E. Broadway in Derry, 437-4200.

Best of Nashua: Buckley’s Great Steaks, 438 DW Highway in Merrimack, 424-0995, www.buckleysgreatsteaks.com.

Best subs
Best of the Best: Nadeau’s, 100 Cahill Ave. in Manchester, 669-SUBS; 776 Mast Road in Goffstown, 623-9315; 1095 Hanover St. in Manchester, 606-4411; 805 Canal St. in Manchester, 644-8888; nadeaus.biz.

Best of Concord: Moe’s Italian Sandwiches, 71 S. Main St. in Concord, 225-6637, www.moesitaliansandwiches.com.

Best of Manchester: Giovannis, 379 South Willow St. in Manchester, 644-5757, www.giovannis.biz.

Best of Nashua: Bill Cahill’s Super Subs, 8 Kimball Hill Road in Hudson, 882-7710.

Best vegetarian menu
Best of the Best: Seedling Café, 9 Water St. in Nashua, 594-4002, www.theseedlingcafe.com.

Best of Concord: Café Indigo, 128 Hall St. in Concord, 224-1770, www.cafeindigo.com.

Best of Manchester: Café Momo, 1065 Hanover St. in Manchester, 623-3733, www.cafemononh.com.

Best of Nashua: Meena’s Kitchen, 113 W. Pearl St. in Nashua, 204-5025, www.meenaskitchen.com.

Best wine list
Best of the Best: Unwine’d, 865 Second St. in Manchester, 625-9463, www.unwined.net.

Best of Concord: The Common Man, 25 Water St. in Concord, 228-3463, www.thecman.com.

Best of Manchester: Bedford Village Inn, 2 Olde Bedford Way, off Route 101, in Bedford, 472-20001, bedfordvillageinn.com.

Best of Nashua: Michael Timothy’s, 212 Main St. in Nashua, 595-9334, www.michaeltimothys.com.

Best wine shop
Best of the Best: The Wine Studio, 53 Hooksett Road in Manchester, 622-9463, www.thewinestudionh.com.

Best of Concord: Butter’s Fine Food & Wine, 70 N. Main St. in Concord, 225-5995, www.buttersfinefood.com.

Best of Manchester: Angela’s Pasta & Cheese Shop, 815 Chestnut St. in Manchester, 625-9544, www.angelaspastaandcheese.com.

Best of Nashua: state liquor store #69 off Exit 6 in Nashua, 27 Coliseum Ave., 882-4670, www.nh.gov/liquor.

Best new eatery
Best of the Best: XO on Elm, 827 Elm St. in Manchester, 560-7998, www.xoonelm.com.

Best of Concord: Sunny’s Table, 11 Depot St. in Concord, 225-8181, www.sunystable.com.

Best of Manchester: Ignite Bar & Grill, 100 Hanover St. in Manchester, 644-0064, ignitebng.com.

Best of Nashua: The Rustic Leaf, 15 Elm St. in Milford, 672-1556, therusticleaf.com.

Best restaurant overall
Best of the Best: Puritan Backroom, 245 Hooksett Road in Manchester, 669-6890, www.puritanbackroom.com.

Best of Concord: The Common Man, 25 Water St. in Concord, 228-3463, www.thecman.com.

Best of Manchester: Firefly American Bistro & Bar, 22 Concord St. in Manchester, 935-9740, www.fireflynh.com.

Best of Nashua: Michael Timothy’s, 212 Main St. in Nashua, 595-9334, www.michaeltimothys.com.

Best bartender
Best of the Best: Billy Laforge of Wild Rover, 21 Kosciuszko St. in Manchester, 669-7722, www.wildroverpub.com. “I love what I do,” Laforge said. Giving people a place to feel comfortable is key, he said. At the Wild Rover for 14 years, Laforge actually said that his customers love getting abused [verbally], and giving abuse back, although he’s professional and “knows when to turn it off,” he said. Laforge has won multiple “Best of” awards over the years, and wants to give “shout outs” to Dennis and Jimmy at Strange Brew, “all the girls at the Backroom,” and Karen at Shorty’s.

You can find Laforge at the Wild Rover Wednesday, Friday and Sunday nights, and Thursday days.

Best of Concord: Michael Lyon of Common Man, 25 Water St. in Concord, 228-3463, www.thecman.com. How do you get to be the best? “Being happy with what I do, and having fun,” Lyon said. “Making sure people are happy,” being consistent, and keeping smiles on patron’s faces are some of Lyon’s tricks to being a good bartender, he said.

Best of Manchester: Josh Durand of 900 Degrees, 50 Dow St. in Manchester, 641-0900, www.900degrees.com. Last year, Durand won “Best of the Best” in the “Hottest Bartender” category; he said the resulting hazing had only recently tapered off. Durand said regulars are like extended family.

Best of Nashua: Joey Zontini, recently of Stella Blu, 70 E. Pearl St. in Nashua, 578-5557, www.stellablu-nh.com. Zontini finished working at the now defunct Black Orchid in Nashua about three months ago, then took a break before heading over to Stella Blu. “That was a lot to close down the Orchid. A big part of my heart was there,” Zontini said. Zontini was the general manager as well as bartender at the Black Orchid and holds those roles at Stella Blu. “I’ve been very fortunate to land at Stella Blu,” Zontini said.

Hottest bartender
Best of Concord: Michael Lyon of the Common Man in Concord. See “Best Bartender, Best of Concord.”

Best of Manchester: Leah Bunka of KC’s Rib Shack, 837 Second St. in Manchester, 627-7427, www.ribshack.net. “Hot diggity dog,” Bunka said of the award, which she also won last year. Bunka can still be found slinging drinks among the guitar and music memorabilia-lined walls of KC’s on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Best of Nashua: AJ Miller of Peddler’s Daughter, 48 Main St. in Nashua, 821-7535, www.thepeddlersdaughter.com. Miller said he “was surprised” about the award. He also won last year when he worked at the Nashua Garden. These days instead, you’ll find him periodically behind the bar at Peddler’s, usually Saturday nights.

Best chef
Best of the Best: Michael Buckley of Michael Timothy’s, 212 Main St., Nashua, 595-9334, and Surf, 207 Main St. in Nashua, 595-9293, www.surfseafood.com. Buckley has also won “Best of the Best” yearly for Michael Timothy’s since at least 2007. He and his wife Sarah opened that restaurant in 1995, followed by Surf in 2002, and Buckley’s Great Steaks in Merrimack in 2005.

Buckley said basically he gets up and goes to work every day, tries to be consistent, tries to bring new things to the restaurants, and tries to constantly work with staff to be the best. And being voted “Best of the Best” doesn’t come from doing everything himself, he said. Being the best takes a lot of commitment and a great staff, he said. He has a staff of almost 20 chefs and more than 150 employees between the three restaurants. Buckley likes to think he sets the standards; with his executive chefs, he come up with “great food,” then tries to “make sure everyone’s on board and understands the mission,” he said. “If one person in the chain of command doesn’t get it, there’s going to be egg on our faces,” he said.

Best of Concord: Ben Lane at C.C. Tomatoes, 209 Fisherville Road, Concord, 753-4450. The self-taught Lane also won in this category last year. “I’m thrilled for the honor once again,” Lane said.

Best of Manchester: Tom Puskarich of Z Food and Drink at 860 Elm St. in Manchester, 629-9383, www.zfoodanddrink.com.

“Wow — I’m honored. I’m glad people think of me in that way,” Puskarich said. His secret? “Work an insane amount of hours and always be looking to improve my craft,” he said.

Best of Nashua: Aimee Giard of Michael Timothy’s. “She’s been working side by side with me for about four years now,” Michael Buckley said. Giard is someone who came out of culinary school and “really applied herself,” he said. “She’s worked extremely hard and I think she accomplished a lot in a short amount of time,” Buckley said.

Best waiter/waitress
Best of the Best: Carrie McNiss at Strange Brew Tavern, 88 Market St. in Manchester, 666-4292, www.strangebrewtavern.net. McNiss recently celebrated her five-year anniversary working at Strange Brew. The business keeps her young, she said. She meets people of all different ages, from all over the world. Being able to joke around, always having a smile on her face, and making the customers happy are all key, she said. McNiss has waitressed for about 10 years. Find her at Strange Brew Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Best of Concord: Mechelle Zydenbos of the Barley House, 132 N. Main St. in Concord, 228-6363, www.thebarleyhouse.com. Zydenbos has worked at Barley House for about seven years. “I have been often told by other people I work with...I have an uncanny ability to say things other people would never dare say at a table … and make [customers] laugh,” Zydenbos said.

Best of Manchester: Jacy Howard of The Derryfield, 625 Mammoth Road in Manchester, 623-2880, www.derryfieldrestaurant.com.

Best of Nashua: Bastian diCaprio, general manager at San Francisco Kitchen, 133 Main St. in Nashua, 886-8833. diCaprio said he wants to thank everyone for voting, and that he is honored and flattered. He also won the title in 2008 and 2009. He’s worked on and off at the Asian fusion restaurant for about 17 years ? and for the proprietors for about 21.

Best poet
Best: Robert Frost. Frost (1874-1963) was the U.S. Poet Laureate in 1958-1959. Frost was born in San Francisco, farmed in Derry and Franconia, and taught in Derry and Plymouth, according to the University of New Hampshire Library’s Milne Special Collections. According to Milne’s introduction to its Frost collection, “In 1938 Frost said of his association with the state: `Not a poem, I believe, in all my six books, from A Boy’s Will to A Further Range, but has something in it of New Hampshire. Nearly half my poems must actually have been written in New Hampshire … It has been New Hampshire, New Hampshire with me all the way.’”

Runner-up: Donald Hall. “It’s fine to be number two to Robert Frost,” Hall said. Hall met Frost first in 1944, and probably eight or 10 times total. Frost was kind to Hall, he said.  Hall was the 2006-2007 U.S. Poet Laureate.

“We have a lot of poets in New Hampshire,” and a lot of people could be listed before him, Hall commented. “I admire two other people, both poet laureates, too” — Charles Simic and Maxine Kumin, both living in New Hampshire, Hall said. New Hampshire seems to attract poets, he said. “Part of it is the relative solitude,” Hall said. “I’m a widower and live alone,” he said.

Honorable mention: Mark Palos. Palos, 27, of Manchester, hosts the “Slam Free or Die” open-mike poetry night that happens every other Friday at the Bridge Café in Manchester and coaches the New Hampshire poetry team of the same name. Winning honorable mention was a “really pleasant surprise,” Palos said.

“I’ve been writing and performing poetry since I was in high school,” Palos said. He studied creative writing at UNH. What draws Palos to poetry is that he feels it’s the most passionate style of writing. “Slam tends to be kind of raw,” he said. He tells his team if they are communicating something to an audience, as long as it’s passionate, it doesn’t matter what they are writing about.

Best NH author
Best: Jodi Picoult. “Wow! Another honor from my home state? I’m thrilled — especially since there are so many great NH authors! It’s been a busy year for me, with My Sister’s Keeper becoming a movie and House Rules hitting the bookstores — but running around globe on book tour only makes me that much happier to come back home to New Hampshire. Really, is anyone as lucky as we are, living here!?” Picoult e-mailed from her current book tour for House Rules. Picoult has written 17 bestselling novels. The Princeton graduate worked as a technical writer, for an ad agency, for a textbook publisher and as an English teacher, and attended Harvard for her education master’s degree, according to her Web site. Picoult and her husband, Tim Van Leer, live in Hanover with their three children.

New Hampshire theater company Yellow Taxi Productions commissioned a playwright to adapt Picoult’s The Pact (1998) for the stage; it was performed in Concord and Nashua in 2009.

Picoult talks about House Rules at The Music Hall in Portsmouth Wednesday, March 31, at 7:30 p.m. “Writers on a New England Stage: Jodi Picoult” is part of a series from the Music Hall and New Hampshire Public Radio; call 436-2400 or see www.themusichall.org.

Runner-up: Dan Brown. Dan Brown grew up in Exeter, according to media reports, and is the author of The Da Vinci Code. His The Lost Symbol was published in 2009. Brown is also the author of Angels & Demons.

Honorable mention: J.D. Salinger. Author of The Catcher in the Rye (1951), Salinger died at age 91 in Cornish on Jan. 27 according to his New York Times obituary. The Catcher in the Rye is often required reading for high school students. According to English teacher Tyler Ingram at Concord High School, via e-mail: “His novel … still works in the classroom. Students become really engaged in the story even if they ultimately don’t like Holden Caufield. There are always those who identify with Holden — idolize him on some level — because he so effectively personifies teenage angst. Yet there are also those who find Holden entirely annoying. Rarely are students neutral in their response to him. He is a great catalyst for class discussion.”

Best local athlete
Best: Bode Miller is fresh off a successful Olympic skiing campaign last month that saw him earn four medals. Miller, a Franconia native, bounced back from a disappointing Olympics in 2006 with his first Olympic gold medal last month in Vancouver in the super combined. He’s twice been the World Cup overall champion and has won the world championships four times. The 32-year-old has competed in four Olympics and now has five Olympic medals to his credit. Miller won two silver medals in the Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002. Miller made his first appearance in the World Cup in 1998.

Runner-up: Chris Carpenter, 34, had a big year pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals last season, finishing with a 17-4 record and a 2.24 earned run average — the best earned run average in the National League. The 6’6” right-handed pitcher has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, but when healthy, he’s been one of the best in baseball. Carpenter graduated from Trinity High School in Manchester. In 2005, when he won the Cy Young, Carpenter finished 21-5 with a 2.83 ERA. For his career, Carpenter is 117-74 with a 3.88 ERA. He’s been with the Cardinals since 2004 and prior to that he played six seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Honorable mention: Matt Bonner. Now in his fifth year in the NBA, Bonner, 29, a product of Concord High School, is averaging 6.4 points per game and 3.2 rebounds per game this season for the San Antonio Spurs. The 6’10” forward is playing about 16 minutes per game this year. He joined the Spurs in 2006. Prior to that, he spent two seasons with the Toronto Raptors. Bonner starred at the University of Florida.

Best NH sports team
Best: Manchester Monarchs, affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings, have become firmly entrenched in the Queen City since the franchise formed in Manchester in 2000. Playing at the Verizon Wireless Arena, the Monarchs belong to the American Hockey League. Last year was the first year the team did not make the playoffs, but they were in it right down to the wire, said Jeff Eisenberg, outgoing team president. The team remains in the top third of the league, he said. “Hockey has passed through so many generations here,” Eisenberg said. “It’s just in our blood. It’s really about the fans’ love of the game.” With hockey likely even more on people’s minds recently with the Olympics featuring an exciting tournament in February, Eisenberg said anything that is good for hockey is good for the Monarchs. “Anybody who saw the U.S.A.-Canada gold medal game…it just reminds us that it’s just the best game going. The intensity of a game like that is just unmatched.” As of last weekend, the Monarchs were 34-24, with three overtime losses and five shootout losses, good for fourth place in the league. Visit www.manchestermonarchs.com.

Runner-up: New Hampshire Fisher Cats have become quite the attraction in Manchester. The team, which is the AA affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, finished fifth in the northern division of the Eastern League, with a 64-78 record last year. The Fisher Cats set several attendance records last year as well. Opening day this year is scheduled for April 8. Play-by-play broadcaster Mike Murphy was named last year’s sportscaster of the year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. Fisher Cats President and General Manager Rick Brenner declined a request to be interviewed for this piece.

Honorable mention: University of New Hampshire Wildcats Men’s Hockey. With 0.1 seconds remaining in the final period of an NCAA tournament game last year, UNH was able to even the score against North Dakota, before eventually winning in overtime. The game, which was played at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, was one of the most exciting wins in team history, said Tom Wilkins, associate director of athletic media relations at UNH. The team eventually lost 2-1 to Boston University in the NCAA tournament. In a big regular-season game last year, UNH beat Dartmouth College, also in Manchester. The team went to the NCAA tournament for the eighth straight season and won at least 20 games for the 13th consecutive season. UNH, which as of last weekend was ranked 10th nationally, won the regular-season championship in the Hockey East this year and was the top seed in the Hockey East tournament which began last weekend. UNH lost to the University of Vermont in Round 1. 

Best local radio show host
Best: Mike Morin of WZID. “It pays to have a lot of relatives in the area,” Morin said of his selection. (His relatives actually live in Detroit, he said.) Morin said he was humbled and grateful for his selection once again — it’s the fifth year in a row Morin has been voted best local radio host. With 39 years in the radio industry under his belt, Morin takes listeners through the breakfast hours on NH in the Morning on 95.7 FM WZID with Tracy Caruso and Suzanne Roantree. Morin credited his show partners for making the show fun and full of energy. “I guess I like the two-way communication. We say something and throw it out there and then they lob it back at you,” Morin said. “You get a little back and forth. Sometimes it’s funny. Sometimes it’s serious. ...You really do touch people’s lives.” He’s been on the morning shift since 2002. Before that, he spent five years working the afternoon. “We’re not doing brain surgery, but we’re hoping to put people in a little better mood than they were,” Morin said. Catch Morin from 5 to 10 a.m. weekdays.

Runner-up: Greg Kretschmar. Kretschmar hosts Greg and the Morning Buzz on Rock 101, 101.1 FM WGIR and 100.3 WHEB. Kretschmar, who couldn’t be reached for comment for this piece, has been popular with Hippo readers over the years. He’s been  broadcasting in the morning since 1987 on Rock 101. Visit www.morningbuzzonline.com.

Honorable mention: Scorch. “It’s always humbling when...anybody recognizes you,” Scorch said. “It’s a good feeling to be respected by listeners.” Scorch’s afternoon show runs from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays on Rock 101, 101.1 FM WGIR. He calls his show the most interactive one on the radio. He’s one of the few hosts who doesn’t have a co-host. He says that’s because the listeners are his co-hosts. “My show is a good mix of music and talk and fun,” he said. Scorch has been in radio since 1987. “It’s my love,” he said.

Best local TV personality
Best: Fritz Wetherbee, WMUR. “You know, the Hippo is the hippest magazine in the state. It amuses me. I’m 73, going on 74,” Wetherbee said. “It’s really pretty neat.” Wetherbee, far from a stranger to the top spot, reaches viewers on New Hampshire Chronicle on weeknights. He said coming up with five stories every week, “you’d think that I would have run out of them.” He’s written more than 2,000 stories for Chronicle. Recently, he found out about a Manchester man who had written a popular song in World War I, and another man who wrote a popular Civil War song. Wetherbee formerly ran the radio station WSCV/WSLE in Peterborough for 10 years. Chronicle airs weekdays at 7:30 p.m.

Runner-up: Al Kaprielian, meteorologist with MCAM. Known for his trademark “Good evening” and “High pressure,” Kaprielian, formerly of WZMY-TV, said though he brings humor to his weather reports, he also brings a sincerity. Growing up in Natick, Mass., he said, he always used to get excited about the weather changes in the region. “Any kind of weather really fascinates me,” Kaprielian said. He likes the challenging and oft-changing weather in New England, whether that’s tracking a storm along the coast or following a wind storm inland. He said he tries to match his style to the circumstance — he’ll be more serious when the weather is particularly bad, and he’ll add in some more humor when the sun is shining. “I like to make the weather exciting,” he said. “It shows you love what you do.... But I’m also sincere about weather.”

Honorable mention: Kevin Skarupa, meteorologist with WMUR. Considering all the horrific weather hitting the area this past year, Skarupa said he thought it was pretty neat to be picked by voters as an honorable mention once again this year. Ever since the movie The Weatherman came out, he’s been looking over his shoulder for people throwing tomatoes at him. Though he appreciated the votes, he said it was somewhat odd for him, since the being-on-TV part of his job probably wouldn’t be one of his top reasons why he loves it. For him, it’s all about the forecasts, working with his colleagues and doing school visits. The weather in New Hampshire keeps him on his toes — one day last week, it was 39 degrees in Concord and fat snowflakes were falling, while at the same time, it was bright, sunny and 51 degrees in Berlin.

LOOKING FOR LOVE

Best pick-up place
Best of the Best: The Black Brimmer, 1087 Elm St. in Manchester, 669-5523, www.blackbrimmer.com.

Best of Concord: The Draft, 67 S. Main St. in Concord, 227-1175.

Best of Manchester: The Derryfield Restaurant, 625 Mammoth Road in Manchester, 623-2880, www.derryfieldrestaurant.com.

Best of Nashua: The Peddler’s Daughter, 48 Main St. in Nashua, 821-7535, www.thepeddlersdaughter.com.

OUTDOORS

Best local hiking trail
Best of the Best: Lake Massabesic, which has a parking lot on Depot Road near the Auburn-Manchester line.

Best of Concord: Oak Hill Trail off Oak Hill Road in Concord.

Best of Manchester: Livingston Park and its Dorrs Pond, off Hooksett Road in north Manchester.

Best of Nashua: Mine Falls Park in Nashua.

Best city park
Best of Concord: White Park, off White Street in Concord.

Best of Manchester: Livingston Park, off Hooksett Road (DW Highway North) in northeast Manchester.

Best of Nashua: Greeley Park, off Concord Street in Nashua.

Best state park
Best: Bear Brook State Park, 157 Deerfield Road in Allenstown, 485-9874, www.nhstateparks.org.

Runner-up: Pawtuckaway State Park, 128 Mountain Road in Nottingham, 895-3031, www.nhstateparks.org.

Honorable mention: Odiorne Point State Park, Route 1A in Rye, 436-7406, www.nhstateparks.org.

Best swimming hole
Best of Concord: Conservation Center, 54 Portsmouth St. in Concord, 224-9945, www.spfnh.org.

Best of Manchester: Pool at Livingston Park, off Hooksett Road (DW Highway North) in northeast Manchester, 624-6565, www.manchesternh.gov.

Best of Nashua: Baboosic Lake, Baboosic Lake Town Beach, 25 Broadway Circle in Amherst, www.amherstrec.org.

Best spot from which to enjoy the view
Best of Concord: Oak Hill Fire Towers (which are technically in Loudon), park at Oak Hill and Shaker roads in Concord.

Best of Manchester: top of Rock Rimmon on Manchester’s West Side.

Best of Nashua: Studio 99, 115 Main St. in Nashua, studio99nashua.com.

NIGHTLIFE

Best bar for live music
Best of the Best: The Black Brimmer, 1087 Elm St. in Manchester, 669-5523, www.blackbrimmer.com.

Best of Concord: The Barley House, 132 N. Main St. in Concord, 228-6363, www.thebarleyhouse.com.

Best of Manchester: Strange Brew Tavern, 88 Market St. in Manchester, 666-4292, www.strangebrewtavern.net.

Best of Nashua: The Peddler’s Daughter, 48 Main St. in Nashua, 821-7535, www.thepeddlersdaughter.com.

Best spot for comedy
Best of the Best: Boynton’s Taproom, 155 Dow St., 3rd floor, in Manchester, 623-7778, www.boyntonstaproom.com.

Best of Concord: Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 South Main St. in Concord, 225-1111, www.ccanh.com.

Best of Manchester: The Shaskeen, 909 Elm St. in Manchester, 625-0246, www.theshaskeen.com.

Best of Nashua: Fody’s, 9 Clinton St., Railroad Square in Nashua, 577-9015, www.fodystavern.com.

Best larger music venue
Best: Verizon Wireless Arena, 555 Elm St. in Manchester, 644-5000, www.verizonwirelessarena.com.

Runner-up: Tupelo Music Hall, 2 Young Road in Londonderry, 437-5100, www.tupelohall.com.

Honorable mention: Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 South Main St. in Concord, 225-1111, www.ccanh.com.

Best bar with an outdoor deck
Best of the Best: The Derryfield, 625 Mammoth Road in Manchester, 623-2880, www.derryfieldrestaurant.com.

Best of Concord: Cheers, 17 Depot St. in Concord, 228-0180, www.cheersnh.com.

Best of Manchester: Jillian’s Billiard Club, 50 Phillippe Cote St. in Manchester, 626-7636, www.jilliansbilliards.com.

Best of Nashua: Pasta Loft, 241 Union Square #4 in Milford, 672-2270, www.pastaloft.com.

Best bathroom
Best of the Best: Billy’s Sports Bar & Grill, 34 Tarrytown Road in Manchester, 622-3644, www.billyssportsbar.com.

Best of Concord: The Common Man, 25 Water St. in Concord, 228-3464, www.thecman.com.

Best of Manchester: Hanover Street Chophouse, 149 Hanover St. in Manchester, 644-2467, www.hanoverstreetchophouse.com.

Best of Nashua: Giorgio’s Ristorante & Meze Bar, 524 Nashua St. in Milford, 673-3939, www.giorgios.com.

Best dance club
Best of the Best: The Amber Room, 53 High St. in Nashua, 881-9060, www.theamberroomnightlife.com.

Best of Concord: The Red Blazer Restaurant and Pub, 72 Manchester St. in Concord, 224-4101, www.theredblazer.com.

Best of Manchester: WB’s, 20 Old Granite St. in Manchester, 641-2583, www.wallyandbernies.com.

Best of Nashua: Sky Lounge & Bistro, 522 Amherst St. in Nashua, 882-6026, www.skyloungenh.com.

Best place to be seen
Best of the Best: The Black Brimmer, 1087 Elm St. in Manchester, 669-5523, www.blackbrimmer.com.

Best of Concord: The Draft Sports Bar and Grill, 67 South Main St. in Concord, 227-1175, www.draftsportsbar.com.

Best of Manchester: J.W. Hill’s Sports Bar & Grille, 795 Elm St. in Manchester, 645-7422, www.jwhills.com.

Best of Nashua: Studio 99, 115 Main St. in Nashua, 526-5179, studio99nashua.com.

Best place to go after last call
Best of the Best: Red Arrow Diner, 61 Lowell St. in Manchester, 626-1118, www.redarrowdiner.com.

Best of Manchester: Manchester Diner, 119A Hanover St. in Manchester, 669-8928, www.manchesterdiner.com.

Best of Nashua: Sausage King, 53 Main St. in Nashua, 204-5110, www.thesausagekingofnashua.com (there are also sausage cart locations throughout the city, including both Home Depots).

Best place to people-watch
Best: Mall of New Hampshire, 1500 South Willow St. in Manchester, 669-0433, www.simon.com.

Runner-up: Manchester Boston Regional Airport, One Airport Road in Manchester, 624-6556, www.flymanchester.com.

Honorable mention: downtown (Elm Street) in Manchester.

Best place to play pool
Best of the Best: Jillian’s Billiard Club, 50 Phillippe Cote St. in Manchester, 626-7636, www.jilliansbilliards.com.

Best of Concord: Penuche’s Ale House, 6 Pleasant St. in Concord, 228-9833, www.penuchesmanchester.com.

Best of Manchester: Raxx, 1211 Elm St. in Manchester, 625-0029, www.myspace.com/raxx_billiards.

Best of Nashua: Boston Billiard Club, 55 Northeastern Boulevard in Nashua, 943-5630, www.bostonbilliardclub.com.

Best pub
Best of the Best: Wild Rover Pub, 21 Kosciuszko St. in Manchester, 669-7722, www.wildroverpub.com.

Best of Concord: The Barley House, 132 N. Main St. in Concord, 228-6363, www.thebarleyhouse.com.

Best of Manchester: Strange Brew Tavern, 88 Market St. in Manchester, 666-4292, www.strangebrewtavern.net.

Best of Nashua: The Peddler’s Daughter, 48 Main St. in Nashua, 821-7535, www.thepeddlersdaughter.com.

Best sports bar
Best of the Best: Billy’s Sports Bar & Grill, 34 Tarrytown Road in Manchester, 622-3644, www.billyssportsbar.com.

Best of Concord: The Draft Sports Bar and Grill, 67 South Main St. in Concord, 227-1175, www.draftsportsbar.com.

Best of Manchester: J.W. Hill’s Sports Bar & Grille, 795 Elm St. in Manchester, 645-7422, www.jwhills.com.

Best of Nashua: Nashua Garden, 121 Main St. in Nashua, 886-7363.

Best local comedian
Best: Nick Lavallee. Lavallee formerly was a member of the punk band “5 Bucks!” and says he “traded the mosh pit for your laughter.” Manchester has “spawned such great comedic talent,” including Adam Sandler, Sarah Silverman, Seth Meyers and Mystery Team members, that there’s “gotta be something in the Massabesic [water],” he said.

Lavallee started performing about a year ago at Shaskeen’s weekly comedy open mike, and has since performed in Boston and at UNH in Durham with a few other local comics known collectively as “We Have Beards.” [Coincidently, other members are listed below.]

“I localize my set wherever I go. I think that I bleed Massabesic, and people seem to really like when I do the local stuff,” he said. In fact, Nick David, a Shaskeen comedy open-mike host, nicknamed Lavallee the “Mayor of Manchester,” Lavallee said.

He also likes to poke fun at a lot of people’s perceptions, he said.

“My family is a big inspiration for my comedy. My dad let me and my brother listen to George Carlin records when my mom wasn’t looking. And I think my mom unintentionally is the funniest person...,” Lavallee said.

Runner-up: Brad Hagen. Hagen, of Manchester, runs Shaskeen’s Wednesday open-mike comedy nights with Nick David (www.myspace.com/comedynightnh) and is a member of We Have Beards. He also performs at Headliners Comedy Clubs at the Clarion in Manchester and other Headliners events by Rob Steen (www.headlinerscomedyclub.com).

Honorable mention: Kevin Cotter. Also to be found at the Shaskeen on Wednesdays, Cotter has won the weekly $50 to the funniest comic seven times, he said. Cotter has also done stand-up from Portland, Maine, to Boston, to New York state, he said.

Cotter’s style involves mainly talking about “past relationships and pop culture,” Cotter said. He’s scheduled to perform at Rob Steen’s contest at Milly’s in Manchester Thursday, March 18.

Best live DJ
Best: DJ Midas. “It’s exciting to me that people keep giving me the compliment with [Hippo’s “Best of” awards] every year,” DJ Midas, a.k.a. John Manning, said. He does experimental mixing with brand new music or music he thinks is really cool — but he doesn’t use Top 40 or anything you might hear on the radio. He uses a lot of electronic music, like House, and Funk and Disco. He’s most comfortable in a festival kind of environment — “left to my own devices, I put on a psychedelic melt-down type of deal,” he said. “That’s why it’s exciting to get that recognition — because it’s really off the beaten path, what I do,” Manning said.

DJ Midas starts a Thursday night residency at the Amber Room in Nashua in April, and plays TJ’s in Manchester on the last Sunday of each month. You can also find him periodically at Shaskeen, Milly’s, Penuche’s or WB’s in Manchester. Manning used to DJ all over the country, but sticks to gigs nearby now, he said. At 36, he’s also managing a Daddy’s Junky Music in Salem.

Find out where he DJs next on his Facebook page; search for “John Midas Manning.”

Runner-up: Adam Furious. These days you can usually find Adam Furious at Stadium Ten Pen in Manchester on Friday nights. He also DJs functions for the United States Marine Corps and United States Navy for the divisions out of Londonderry, his way of serving those who serve the country, Adam said. Adam also DJs and announces for the New Hampshire Roller Derby Skate Free or Die All Stars.  He’s a radio personality at Rock 101, and the house DJ for Scorch’s PFG-TV (www.pfg-tv.com), which is shown on MCAM and MYTV cable stations.

Honorable mention: Nazzy. Nazzy sticks with weddings, parties and private functions as a live DJ. “I love entertaining. I love watching people have a good time. I love that people are forgetting about problems, forgetting about stress [during their] time on the dance floor with me,” Nazzy said. Nazzy said he thinks that the fact that he loves what he does shows. He’s been DJing for 18 years and has owned Nazzy Entertainment DJs (www.nazzydjs.com) for about five. You can also hear him on his WJYY 105.5 FM morning radio show, Nazzy & The JYY Wake Up Crew.

Best local band/performer playing originals
Best: Ron Noyes Band “We’re definitely really grateful for everyone who voted for us,” said Ron Noyes. “It helps keep things moving in the right direction.” Noyes described the band as a “roots rock band.” In the midst of a big year, the band was signed by an independent label and is expecting to release a new album this summer with John Popper from Blues Traveler. “I like Manchester. People actually go out to listen,” Noyes said. “Manchester definitely has a great music scene to it.” Noyes is joined in the band by Chuck Tufankjian, Jarrod Taylor and Tim Gray. The band will play next at Penuche’s in Manchester on March 26. The Ron Noyes Band released its first album, Mosaic, in 2002. Visit www.facebook.com/ronnoyesband. 

Runner-up: Jamantics Lucas Gallo, rhythm guitar player with Jamantics, said it was a great honor that voters picked his band. “Our fans and family and friends have been huge supporters,” he said. “They’ve helped us more than we could have ever imagined.” Gallo said the band combines elements of rock, funk and even bluegrass: “We just have fun with it and we jam it out.” Jamantics features high-energy shows from a package of talented musicians, Gallo said. “I just think it’s addicting,” he said of the music and shows. Gallo is joined by Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki, Freeland Hubbard, Eric Reingold and Masceo in the band. Visit www.jamantics.com.

Honorable mention: Alli Beaudry No stranger to Hippo’s “best of” list, Beaudry said she was excited to be part of it once again. “It’s just wonderful to be a part of such a big thing coming from the people. I’m psyched.” Beaudry began taking voice lessons when she was five years old and obtained a performance degree from the Berklee College of Music in 2002. “For me, it’s kind of like I feel like I’m opening up my heart when I sing,” she said. “I try to write music that people can relate to.” Beaudry is now the Thursday night artist in residence at Z Food and Drink in Manchester. Beaudry is also teaching private voice classes in Manchester. Visit www.allibeaudry.com.

Best local band/performer playing covers
Best: Mama Kicks. “Once again, we’re delighted,” said Gardner Berry, Mama Kicks’ keyboardist. “It’s a nice feather in our cap.” Mama Kicks continues to be a staple in the greater Manchester area. The band has played every Wednesday at The Black Brimmer in Manchester for more than a decade — a run that will come to an end March 24 with a final big show at the Brimmer. They also play regularly at several other area venues. “We just have a good time,” Berry said. “We just really enjoy what we do. It’s always fun for us. We appreciate that we can do this for a living in a not-so-great-economy.” Berry and vocalist Lisa Guyer began as a duo back in 1994. Drummer David Stefanelli and guitarist Chris Lester round out the band. Guyer said she’s noticed in recent years a new interest from a younger crowd, people in their early 20s, who come out to see Mama Kicks play music by bands like Journey and Foreigner. “It’s a real cool resurgence,” Guyer said. “We’re old enough to be their parents. But it’s music their parents probably listened to…and now they dig it too.” Visit www.mamakicks.com.

Runner-up: Best Not Broken. Best Not Broken singer and guitarist Eric Jackson said it’s exciting to have a good deal of success in a relatively short time — the band formed in 2007. “We are really excited it’s our second year in a row [to be named runner-up],” Jackson said. “The response from the fans continues to be really favorable.” Jackson is joined by Scotty Attridge, a.k.a. Hollywood, on bass, Danny Cyr on drums and Brian Cross on the keyboard. Jackson said the Manchester-based group is a rock and roll band that plays everything from contemporary hits to classic rock music. “We try to have high energy. It seems to be working,” Jackson said. “People here love to come out and have a good time.” Best Not Broken is working on its first studio album, which Jackson said they’re hoping is released by the end of the year. He also said they’ve had a favorable response to their original material. Visit www.bestnotbroken.com.

Honorable mention: Southern Breeze “I think that’s great,” said Don McHugh, drummer for Southern Breeze, upon hearing of his band’s selection. The group is a Lynyrd Skynyrd-Molly Hatchet tribute band. McHugh said growing up the band members were all big Lynyrd Skynyrd fans. “Who doesn’t like Lynyrd Skynyrd?” he asked. “…There are a million classic rock bands out there, but nobody here was really doing this.” Considering the voters’ choice, McHugh said Southern Breeze must be doing something right. Along with McHugh, the band is made up of vocalist Marc Pilcher, guitarist Rick Roy, guitarist Marc Vadeboncoeur and bassist Joe Zalgenas.  “We try and keep the high energy going,” said. Visit www.myspace.com/NHsouthernbreezeband.

Looking for Love

Best date place
Best of the Best: Unwine’d, 865 Second St. in Manchester, 625-9463, www.unwined.net.

Best of Concord: Red River Theatres, 11 S. Main St. in Concord, 224-4600, www.redrivertheatres.org.

Best of Manchester: Firefly American Bistro & Bar, 22 Concord St. in Manchester, 935-9740, www.fireflynh.com.

Best of Nashua: Studio 99, 115 Main St. in Nashua, studio99nashua.com.

Best make-out spot
Best of Concord: The Draft, 67 S. Main St. in Concord, 227-1175.

Best of Manchester: Rock Rimmon, park on Manchester’s West Side.

Best of Nashua: Greeley Park, off Concord Street in Nashua.

Best break-up spot
Best: The Black Brimmer, 1087 Elm St. in Manchester, 669-5523, www.blackbrimmer.com.

Runner-up: Mall of New Hampshire, on South Willow Street in Manchester, 669-0433, www.simon.com.

(Dis?)Honorable mention: Via text message.

Living Here

Best thing about your city
Best: Location, location, location is once again your favorite thing about living here in southern New Hampshire. Close to Boston, to the great big New Hampshire outdoors and close to airports that can take use all around the world. “[Go] an hour in any direction for additional fun you can’t find IN the city,” one person said of Manchester.

Runner-up: And there is plenty to do here. Readers like the proximity to cool stuff and the easy access to lots of local fun — from pizza to bars to cultural activities. As one person put it: “If you know where to look, it’s got everything you want — Nashua.” And while plenty of people praised their smaller towns, there was also a lot of praise for the area’s downtowns. “Manchester changes outsiders’ ideas of NH” and “Manchester, the downtown area is improving daily,” others reported.

Honorable mention: The people. You love your neighbors. Many readers pointed to their sense of community or specifically to the people as the best thing about their city or town. Even in the Queen City, New Hampshire’s biggest city, people praised their neighbors: “Most people are nice.”

Best thing about New Hampshire
Best: Seasons. Though there isn’t a whole lot of love for winter — a whole three people wrote in specifically in praise of winter and only seven wrote in praise of snow — readers do indeed love having all four seasons and, specifically, prize that autumnal beauty. (The general beauty of our landscape and cleanliness of our air also rated high.)

Runner-up: No sales or income tax. Combine that with the many people who answered simply “Live free or die!” and you understand why we have our reputation for independence. Many readers once again cited our tightfistedness and our extremely representative government as their favorite things: one reader remarked that when we have something to say, our politicians have little choice but to listen.

Honorable mention: We’re not Massachusetts. Many people chose the favorable comparison of New Hampshire to its neighbors as the thing they love best about our state. As one voter put it: “More polite than Massachusetts, less crazy than Vermont.”

Best thing we forgot to ask about
Once again readers took this opportunity to shout out for an acupuncturist (Manchester Acupuncture Studio), ballroom dance studio (Queen City Ballroom), a barista (Christina at Bonhoeffer’s in Nashua gets a few votes), best dog park (Manchester pet owners can apparently focus their jealousy at the Derry Dog Park) and best free newspaper (oh, blush, thank you). Keep your suggestions for future readers’ polls coming (send to adiaz@hippopress.com) — hottest firefighter? Best plumber? Hottest plumber?