Best Adult Entertainment in the Triangle: Boom or Bust Burlesque

Finalists: 4 Play NC, Capital Cabaret, Nerd-vana Burlesque

Best Art Gallery in the Triangle: Artspace

201 East Davie Street, Raleigh,

INDY: Artspace is so much more a gallery where you go to look at art in relative solitude. For starters, it contains several galleries, which are currently showing exhibits by local painter Lien Truong and Richmond’s Katie Shaw. And its thirty thousand square feet of space in the historic Sanders Ford building also teems with working artists—more than thirty have open studios there—as well as teaching spaces and programs and large, lively crowds at its numerous receptions. As a nonprofit visual art center that appeals to a wide slice of Raleigh’s community, it’s a strong contender to keep art downtown, as other, smaller galleries have absconded to places like Dock 1053 and slipped out of the downtown social circuit.

Finalists: The Carrack Modern Art, Gallery C, Hillsborough Gallery of Arts, Pleiades Arts

Best Barista in Durham County: Benjamin Tarlton, Joe Van Gogh (Woodcroft)

4711 Hope Valley Road, Durham,

Finalists: Dave Chapman, Bean Traders; Maricarmen Paz Hernandez, Cocoa Cinnamon; Midiala Lafita Utria, Cocoa Cinnamon

Best Barista in Orange / Chatham County: Rajeev Rajendran, Caffè Driade

1215 East Franklin Street, Suite A, Chapel Hill,

Finalists: Zach Brown, Cup-A-Joe; Thurmond Buckelew, Carrboro Coffee Roasters; Casey Lunceford, Joe Van Gogh; Christina Sykes, Weaver Street Market

Best Barista in Wake County: Klay Meisenheimer, Bittersweet

16 East Martin Street, Raleigh,

INDY: Bittersweet barista Klay Meisenheimer is almost too cheerful for 7:00 a.m. The thirty-one-year-old swirls a heart in the cream atop his first cappuccino of the day. “Bitches be loving my lattes” is embossed in a sparkly text on his t-shirt. He laughs easily and has a huge smile and bright brown eyes, but it’s a bittersweet kind of day—his last at the downtown Raleigh coffee shop/gin emporium/dessert palace after five years. He’s changing careers, going to work for a local architectural design firm and putting his art degree to use. At least he’s going out on top.

Finalists: Casey Lunceford, Zach Neuman, Pine State Coffee; John Michael Parnell, Videri Chocolate Factory; Larz Robison, Pine State Coffee

Best Bartender in Durham County: Paul Gulley, Bull City Burger and Brewery

4120 University Drive, Durham,

Finalists: Jesse Boutchyard, The Pinhook; Kelsey Dawson, Ponysaurus; Kerri Hoffman, Beer Study

Best Bartender in Orange / Chatham County: James Peery, The Kraken

2823 North Carolina Highway 54 West Chapel Hill,

Finalists: Andrew, Linda’s Bar & Grill; Cynthia Burkins, Vecino Brewing Co.; Mandey Brown, Zog’s/Imbibe

Best Bartender in Wake County: Johnny Hardison, Southern Peak Brewery

950 Windy Road, Suite 100, Apex,

Finalists: Derek Clausing, Bottle Revolution Apex; Ari Greco, Imurj; William Warcup, Tonic, Bar and Social Club

Best Comedy Club in the Triangle: Goodnights Comedy Club

861 West Morgan Street, Raleigh,

Finalists: ComedyWorx, The PIT Chapel Hill, Raleigh Improv

Best Community Event in the Triangle: Chinese Lantern Festival

INDY: The Triangle is awash in festivals, and most of them sort out into one of a few categories: music, film, dance, theater, books, etc. But there’s one that stands alone: the annual Chinese Lantern Festival in Cary. In celebration of the Chinese New Year, the festival transforms Koka Booth Amphitheatre at night into an illuminated wonderland of enormous dragons and lions, flowers and swans, created by Chinese artisans on the grounds. Locals with a Cary aversion are already missing out on the forested grounds and ship-like amphitheater of Koka Booth, and there’s no better time to discover it than this family-friendly fantasy world each winter.  

Finalists: Beaver Queen Pageant, Carrboro Music Festival, Hopscotch Music Festival

Best Gay or Lesbian Bar in the Triangle: The Pinhook

117 West Main Street, Durham,

Finalists: The Bar, The Green Monkey, Legends Nightclub, Ruby Deluxe

Best Golf Course in the Triangle: MacGregor Downs Country Club

430 Saint Andrews Lane, Cary,

Finalists: Chapel Hill Country Club, Hope Valley Country Club, Treyburn Country Club

Best Karaoke in the Triangle: The Pinhook

117 West Main Street, Durham,

Finalists: Kingdem Karaoke, Krafty’s Burgers and Brews, The Night Rider

Best Live Theater Company in the Triangle: Raleigh Little Theatre

301 Pogue Street, Raleigh,

INDY: We love Raleigh Little Theatre because it’s grown up right alongside Raleigh. One of the area’s oldest community theaters, it was founded in 1936 as part of a New Deal arts project, blossoming as a small proscenium theater, a large outdoor amphitheater, and a rose garden. In the ensuing decades, it expanded its technical capacities and added the black box Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre, apt for an institution that’s as much about community engagement and education as it is about entertainment. Though its goals are more inclusive than commercial, Raleigh Little Theatre shows are frequently well-reviewed in the INDY and appear on our best-of-the-year lists. Inevitably, some famous faces have passed through, from Andy Griffith to, a half-century later, future Chilling Adventures of Sabrina actor Lachlan Watson.

Finalists: Bartlett Theater, Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern, PlayMakers Repertory Company

Best Live Theater Venue in the Triangle: Durham Performing Arts Center

123 Vivian Street, Durham,

Finalists: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, Raleigh Little Theatre, Theatre in the Park

Best Local Podcast: Criminal

INDYIt seems that every week sprouts a new true-crime podcast exploring the dark side of human nature. But before the genre exploded, there was Criminal, a podcast exploring “stories of people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.” Produced in Durham by hosts Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer, the podcast explores everything from gruesome homicides to the origin of Stockholm Syndrome. Now with millions of listeners per episode, Criminal has taken the show on the road; you can catch the team at the Carolina Theatre on October 5. 

Finalists: At the Intersection, RDU on Stage, Weddings For Real

Best Museum in the Triangle: Museum of Life and Science

433 West Murray Avenue, Durham,

Finalists: CAM Raleigh, Nasher Museum of Art, North Carolina Museum of Art, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Best Neighborhood Bar in Durham County: Beer Study

2501 University Drive, #4, Durham,

Finalists: Accordion Club, Barley Labs, The Glass Jug Beer Lab

Best Neighborhood Bar in Orange / Chatham County: The Wooden Nickel Pub and Grill

113 North Churton Street, Hillsborough,

Finalists: The Kraken, Orange County Social Club, Zog’s Pool

Best Neighborhood Bar in Wake County: The Green Monkey

1217 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh,

INDY: The Green Monkey, which opened in a former grocery market on Hillsborough Street in 2013, is a lot of things. It’s a gift shop that sells kitschy T-shirts (e.g., “Lard Have Mercy”) and kitschy other things (a “Bitches Be Sippin’” stemless wine glass). It’s a place to view and buy locally made art. It’s a bottle shop with a well-curated selection of beer and wine. It’s a bar with an always interesting rotation of brews on tap. But more than anything else, The Green Monkey is an inclusive, welcoming space for friends—and a place where strangers become friends. That’s what a neighborhood bar is all about. 

Finalists: Bottle Rev Apex, Krafty’s Burgers and Brews, Sharky’s Place

Best Open Mic Night in the Triangle: Carolina Waves

Finalists: Imurj, Ruby Deluxe, Zog’s Pool

Best Outdoor Music Venue in the Triangle: Red Hat Amphitheater

500 South McDowell Street, Raleigh,

Finalists: Durham Central Park, Koka Booth Amphitheatre, North Carolina Museum of Art

Best Place for Indoor Fun in the Triangle: Boxcar Bar + Arcade

330 West Davie Street, Raleigh,

Finalists: Bull City Escape, Dogwood Country Club, Whole Brain Escape

Best Place to Dance in the Triangle: Legends Nightclub

330 West Hargett Street, Raleigh,

Finalists: Arcana Bar and Lounge, The Kraken, Ruby Deluxe

Best Place to Get Specialty Cocktails in Durham County: Alley Twenty Six

320 East Chapel Hill Street, Durham,

Finalists: Arcana Bar and Lounge, Bar Virgile, The Durham Hotel

Best Place to Get Specialty Cocktails in Orange / Chatham County: The Crunkleton

320 West Franklin Street, Chapel Hill,

INDYYes, the bartenders wear suspenders, Avett-style. Yes, there’s a sliding ladder. Somehow, though, the Crunkleton manages to avoid the fussiness that usually accompanies these sorts of stylings. Fact is, it’s a great bar with great bones and one of the liveliest spirit selections in the South, and owner Gary Crunkleton just wants to put a good drink in front of you. Whether that drink comes off the menu—the Elderflower Sour, the Gin-and-Germain equivalent of the first swimming-hole plunge of the summer, is a thing of wonder—or is dreamed up in a conversation with one of the attentive bartenders, it won’t disappoint. 

Finalists: Lantern, Laplace Louisiana Cookery (closed), Zog’s Pool

Best Place to Get Specialty Cocktails in Wake County: FOUNDATION

213 Fayetteville Street, Raleigh,

Finalists: Bittersweet, C. Grace, MOFU Shoppe

Best Place to Hear Bluegrass in the Triangle: PNC presents Wide Open Bluegrass, Raleigh

Finalists: The Blue Note Grill, Community Church of Chapel Hill Unitarian Universalist, Haw River Ballroom

Best Place to Hear Blues in the Triangle: The Blue Note Grill

709 Washington Street, Durham,

Finalists: C. Grace, The Kraken, PineCone-Piedmont Council of Traditional Music

Best Place to Hear Hip-Hop or Soul in the Triangle: Cat’s Cradle

300 East Main Street, Carrboro,

Finalists: Imurj, Kings, Pinhook

Best Place to Hear Jazz in the Triangle: C. Grace Cocktail Bar

407 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh,

INDYNot all Prohibition-era speakeasies involved flappers, swing dancing, or big-band jazz. Some were just Jersey teenagers with a bathtub full of booze they’d mix with juniper juice and sell to working-class customers. Not as sexy as the movies, but pretty badass, regardless. If you want a more glamorous take on the Roaring Twenties, there’s C. Grace, a burlesque-inspired basement speakeasy that serves sophisticated cocktails in an elegant environment. Order the Mendacity—an original cocktail, with gin, absinthe, and frothy egg whites—then sink into a plush couch and let the always-excellent jazz musicians on stage transport you to a more refined era.   

Finalists: Arcana Bar and Lounge, Art of Cool Festival, Imbibe

Best Place to Hear Noise/Electronica in the Triangle: Nightlight

405 1/2 West Rosemary Street, Chapel Hill,

INDY: Fifteen years ago, when we used to eat sandwiches and browse waterlogged paperbacks at The Skylight Exchange, we never imagined that the sunny spot would soon become synonymous with darkest night. Now, we can’t imagine it any other way. Nightlight, which briefly shared space with the lunch-and-used-books business before the latter closed, is hidden down a long, narrow alley at 405 1/2 Rosemary Street. There’s something perfect about that street number for a music venue that shelters the in-between genres, whether it’s electronic noise music, noisy electronic music, or anything else that slips through the rock clubs’ nets. It’s our undisputed champion of experimental music venues; long may it lurk in the dark. If you’re not sure what noise music is and you’re feeling brave, check out the Savage Weekend festival this week for a truly crashing crash course.

Finalists: The Fruit, Pinhook, The Wicked Witch

Best Place to Hear Rock ‘n’ Roll in the Triangle: Cat’s Cradle

300 East Main Street, Carrboro,

Finalists: Imurj, Kings, The Kraken, Slims

Best Place to Hear World or International Music in the Triangle: Duke Performances

2010 Campus Drive, Durham,

INDY: The strength of Duke University’s art presenter is diversity, as it brings everything from classical and jazz to modern dance to venues on campus and around Durham. But it particularly fills a gap for music from other countries, and not just European string quartets. This past season brought Cuba’s Afro-Cuban All Stars, Ireland’s The Gloaming, and Benin’s Angélique Kidjo, and that’s leaving aside the invaluable Black Atlantic Festival, which explores music from Africa and the African diaspora through the Americas. Even the homegrown bookings have a cosmopolitan flair, such as the Farsi-language garage rock of Brooklyn’s Habibi.

Finalists: The ArtsCenter, Cat’s Cradle, Neptunes Parlour

Best Place to Shoot Pool in the Triangle: The Green Room

1108 Broad Street, Durham,

INDY: What can you possibly write about The Green Room that hasn’t been written a million times before? It’s not a complicated place, and it never really changes. That’s the charm. Were it not for the excellent selection of craft bottles and the lack of cigarette smoke, entering this un-gussied-up pool hall would be like taking a time portal three decades into the past. (They shot a key Bull Durham scene there, you know.) There’s beer, there’s pool, there’s rock music, there’s usually a so-bad-it’s-good horror movie on the small TV; you play, you drink, you talk, you watch, you laugh. 

Finalists: High House Billiards, Sharky’s Place, West End Billiards, Zog’s Pool

Best Theater to See an Indie Film in the Triangle: The Carolina Theatre

309 West Morgan Street, Durham,

INDY: You can frequent The Carolina Theatre without ever laying eyes on a movie, given the regular performing arts rotation rolling through Fletcher Hall, from stand-up comics to Moogfest. But you’d be missing out on a charming old-school arthouse experience paired with modern comforts and energy. The historic Beaux Arts theater screens new indie and international films in its two cinemas daily, and even if your tastes run more Avengers than the latest from Branagh, Assayas, or Jarmusch, there’s something for you in the robust rosters of retro film screenings, which have found new lifeblood in the age of digital cinema. 

Finalists: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Raleigh, Chelsea Theater, The Rialto Theatre

Best Trivia Night in Durham County: Tomato Jake’s Pizzeria

8202 Renaissance Parkway, #101, Durham,

Finalists: Barley Labs, Bull City Ciderworks, Growler Grlz

Best Trivia Night in Orange / Chatham County: Linda’s Bar & Grill

203 East Franklin Street, Chapel Hill,

Finalists: House of Hops, King Street Bar, Vecino Brewing Co.

Best Trivia Night in Wake County: Ruckus Pizza, Pasta, and Spirits

2233 Avent Ferry Road, Raleigh,

Finalists: House of Hops; Krafty’s Burgers and Brews; Ruckus Pizza, Pasta, and Spirits (Apex)

Support independent journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.