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Best Jazz Diva: Vivian Lee
As a musician, Vivian Lee brings silky-smooth vocals and warmhearted energy to every performance. She plays all around town and celebrated her ninth straight year at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee. Behind the scenes, Lee's just as energetic in her efforts to keep jazz alive in Sacramento. She organizes Sunday jazz concerts at JB's Lounge at the Red Lion Hotel Sacramento. Featuring some of the best local and national talent, the concerts have become go-to events for area jazz fans.
Best Jam Band: Izabella
With infectious music, the rock- and-soul jam band Izabella knows how to bring people to their feet. The band boasts members from Berkeley and Sacramento, including SAMMIE Hall of Famers Brian Rogers and Sam Phelps. Their whirlwind touring schedule takes them all over the country, so check them out the next time they swing through Sacramento.
Best Excuse To Go to Winters: The Palms Playhouse
The Palms Playhouse brings some of the best alternative, folk, blues and country musicians in the United States to play tiny downtown Winters. Having once been a small-town opera house, the intimate, beautifully decorated venue has gorgeous acoustics and has hosted acts ranging from jazz legend Mose Allison to folk icon Utah Phillips. 13 Main St., Winters; (530) 795-1825; palms play house.com
Best Blower of the Blues Harp: Rick Estrin
There's a lot to like about Rick Estrin, frontman of The Nightcats (formerly Little Charlie and The Nightcats). It could be his sharp lyrics, his swanky, '40s- inspired get-ups or his soulful vocals. Maybe it's that he's considered one of the best blues harmonica players in the world. Or that you can catch him all the time right here in Sacramento.
Best Folk Song Lyricist: Justin Farren
Justin Farren excels at writing quirky, delicate songs with lyrics that evoke Paul Simon, while his masterful guitar playing reminds of us of Dave Matthews. A musical star in our midst, Farren does exhibit one hallmark of the true folk singer: humility.
Best Happy Feet With a Heart: Instituto Mazatlan Bellas Artes de Sacramento
Whether performing in China, Mexico or Sacramento's Memorial Auditorium, the dancers of the Instituto Mazatlan Bellas Artes de Sacramento leave audiences mesmerized with a stageful of complex footwork, swirling skirts, flowing ribbons and respect for cultural heritage. But the institute-which offers dance classes for all ages and levels- is just as concerned with giving back to young people through outreach and education for low-income children.
Best Remodel That Keeps the Bar Low: JB's Lounge at the Red Lion Hotel Sacramento
The folks at the Red Lion took an underwhelming hotel bar and created a showplace, transforming the space into a world-class performance venue, with a newly renovated sunken bar, a top-notch sound system and a modern vibe. Blues, jazz, Latin or funk, JB's has got it all in style. 1401 Arden Way, Sacramento; (916) 922-8041
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It’s an annual tradition: the Best of Sacramento, celebrating the best in the region, our editors hand-chose 40 local “Bests” they think you should know about.
Food & Drink
Best Wurst: Morants Old Fashioned Sausage Kitchen
We first gave this award to Morants in 1994. But 15 years haven't changed one thing: Morants sausages are still wonderful. This South Sac butcher shop is the place for authentic German sausages such as bratwurst, weisswurst and bündnerfleisch, as well as other German favorites. 5001 Franklin Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 731-4377
Best Reason To Visit a Strip Mall in Rancho Cordova: Udupi Cafe
The Indian cuisine at this unassuming restaurant located between a used bookstore and an animal hospital in Rancho Cordova's Sunriver Shopping Center is 100 percent vegetarian with numerous vegan options. Want to sample a little of (most) everything? Stop in for the lunch buffet, offered every day except Tuesday (when the restaurant is closed). 2226 Sunrise Blvd., Rancho Cordova; (916) 851-5900; udupicafe.net
Best Southern Hemisphere-Style Coffeehouse: Chocolate Fish Coffee
The self-described coffee geeks at this New Zealand-inspired cafe turn java into an intellectual pursuit and an art form. Not only are the drinks finely crafted; the cafe itself looks smart with its cool, refined, dark interior. Don't leave without a chocolate fish; made of 82-percent dark chocolate (from Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates), the candies are 82 cents apiece or three for $2. Corner of Third and Q streets, Sacramento; (916) 400-4204; chocolatefishcoffee.com
Best Reason To Move Over, Mrs. Fields: Chocolate Chip Cookie From Nopalitos Southwestern Cafe
Try one of these big, golden goodies–baked fresh by Nopalitos' owner Rose Hanke and you might find yourself driving to this East Sacramento establishment, not for the smothered burrito or huevos rancheros, but for the dang cookie! Hanke makes the cookies most days, but the cafe closes at 2:30 p.m. on weekdays and is not open on weekends. Bottom line: Call ahead. 5530 H St., Sacramento; (916) 452-8226; nopalitoscafe.com
Best Energy Drink on a Stick: DavePops
The brainchild of Sacramentan Dave Feldpausch, these nondairy frozen novelties come in such flavors as mint chocolate chip, strawberry, root beer and Red Bull. Yup, as in the energy drink. Did we mention they are virtually dripless and most pops contain about 100 calories? The only thing you might have to worry about when eating one of these is brain freeze. davepops.com
Best Tequila Bar: Tres Agaves
You can get a margarita just about anywhere. But this is the only place in the region where you can order a $500 shot of Jose Cuervo 250 Aniversario tequila. This new Roseville restaurant stocks about 120 premium tequilas- 100 percent blue agaves only–including its exclusive Tres Agaves Tequila Casa Noble Single Barrel Reposado. In addition, the well-trained staff can educate you on the differences between, say, a blanco, a reposado and an añejo. 1182 Roseville Parkway, Suite 110, Roseville; (916) 782-4455; tresagaves.com
Best Dim Sum: Capital Tea Garden
No trips to Hong Kong planned for the near future? Fortunately, Capital Tea Garden, a downtown hole-in-the-wall restaurant, cooks up some of the most authentic-and delicious- dim sum imaginable. Its low-key atmosphere, rock-bottom prices and juicy shrimp bonnets induce multiple visits. 1110 T St., Sacramento; (916) 448-1218