We know that the North has great things to offer, and the 800 people who attended this year’s second annual Best of the North celebration agree. From bagels and coffee to dance and yoga, they voted on the best in the North to create this list of the places and people you need to know. We partnered with the West Chester-Liberty Chamber Alliance for the party, which was sponsored by Lyons & Lyons Attorneys at Law, Great Oaks Career Campuses, Bishop Fenwick High School and Peoples First Savings Bank. Proceeds benefited One Way Farm, a nonprofit in Fairfield that provides temporary and emergency housing for abused, abandoned, neglected or troubled children as well as long-term independent housing.

Dining and Food

Best Bagel
Bruegger’s Bagels

Bruegger’s Bagels must be doing something right since they’ve won Best Bagel for two years in a row. Bruegger’s really has every type of bagel, from seasonal favorites including Cranberry Apple to classics like Asiago Parmesan, General Manager Robyn Hubbuch’s favorite. She has a guess as to why the company’s bagels taste so good. “It’s the way we bake our bagels in the original New York style. It allows them to have a hard, crunchy outside but a soft interior,” she says. 8220 Arbor Square Dr, Mason. 513-770-0451, brueggers.com.

Best Bakery
Wyoming Pastry Shop

With amazing cakes, delicious holiday cookies and perfectly spiced cinnamon Danish pastries, it’s quite easy for Wyoming Pastry Shop to steal the hearts and stomachs of its customers. “We just have really good products that go over well,” says Manager Molly Glacken. “We do almost everything fresh here every day.” Wyoming Pastry Shop is really a one-stop shop for all things perfectly sweet, including brownies, cream horns, cheese pocket coffee cake and long johns. For those with a sweet tooth, there is a good chance this pastry shop will keep you there for a while. 505 Wyoming Ave, Wyoming. 513-821-0742, wyomingpastryshop.com.

Best BBQ
Pit-to-Plate BBQ & Saloon

Barbecue is one of the few cuisines where a nondescript location and a homely look signify a great meal.

“It’s all about flavor and consistency. That’s what is most important in a restaurant,” says Diane Creech, owner of Pit-to-Plate BBQ and Saloon.

Pit-to-Plate’s reputation sits with the hickory-smoked chicken, pork, ribs and brisket that keeps customers’ mouths watering. Mix that with a barn-like setting and western-themed ambiance and you’ve found the best barbecue in the North.

“It’s just like walking into a place down in the hollar,” says Creech.

Creech says the secret to a great barbecue joint is a quality smoker and flavorful sauces. After smoking their meat for 18 hours, it’s quickly chopped up before landing on your plate. Once it’s there, choose from seven different sauces that range from a mustard-based sauce to a horseradish and mayo one. Rest assured, Pit-to-Plate has the traditional dry rubs and sweet barbecue for the taste conservatives.

The experience also includes a list of 20 homemade sides and desserts that Creech says are customary for any southern meal.

While she’s proud of all her menu items, it’s her brisket that’s her masterpiece.

“It’s just so succulent and flavorful,” says Creech, “It’s a secret family recipe and I only share it with people that come in.” 8201 Hamilton Ave, Cincinnati. 513-931-9100, pittoplatebbqcatering.com.

Best Breakfast
First Watch

When you want fresh, made-to-order breakfast, First Watch accomplishes the job with the best interests of its customers in mind. “We care and have a different viewpoint on customer service and food quality,” says General Manager Tonya Sult. “We try to be unique in our menu.” Unique flavors come in the form of mouth-watering omelets and healthy options like the Power Wrap with egg whites, turkey, spinach, Crimini mushrooms and Swiss in a sun-dried tomato tortilla. Is it breakfast yet? 9233 Floer Dr, West Chester. 513-942-5100, firstwatch.com.

Best Burger
Quatman Cafe

This burger joint has been a Cincinnati staple since 1966, dishing up favorites like chili, homemade soups and their well-talked-about burger. “Anybody that doesn’t know about Quatman or it’s their first time, we like them to try the burger, then they can try everything else,” says Owner Matt Imm. With two locations, there really is no reason to miss out on the cafe’s burgers packed with fresh ingredients. Not to mention, they are “big” burgers according to Imm. Size really does matter with a good burger. 224 W Main St, Mason. 513-229-0222, quatmancafe.com.

Best Catering
Vonderhaar’s Catering

Choices and variety, that’s what Vonderhaar’s Catering offers when the company caters an event. It doesn’t matter if you want a buffet or a sit-down meal; Vonderhaar’s does both. When it comes to food, Vonderhaar’s gives you the standard options, but with extras to make the food truly great. For example you can add a French toast station, a made-to-order pancake bar and a made-to-order omelet bar to a brunch event if you wish. The catering company also has themed menus, like its Cincinnati, Mexican fiesta and pig roast options. 19 W Pleasant St, Reading. 513-554-1969, vonderhaars.com.

Best Chef
Michelle Brown of Jag’s Steak & Seafood

For Michelle Brown, it’s not about being better than other chefs: it’s about being her best version of one. “I strive for perfection in all that I do, and enjoy the challenge of working towards that,” she says. “I love food and the art of cooking. Pretty much, I love my job.” Her attention to detail and respect for cooking can be seen in Jag’s menu, where items likes the Black Truffle Filet and the Chilean Sea Bass show that she’s about the food, not the notoriety. 5980 West Chester Rd, West Chester. 513-860-5353, jags.com.

Best Chinese Cuisine
Johnny Chan 2

If you are craving authentic, flavorful and well-priced Chinese cuisine, Johnny Chan 2 is the answer. Classic Chinese dishes like Mongolian beef and sesame chicken are kicked up a couple notches with fresh ingredients and seasonings. Owner Frank Shi put it quite simply when asked why the restaurant won Best Chinese Cuisine: “The food always tastes good and it’s always very fresh.” It’s the perfect place to dine in, or order take out and enjoy the fresh flavors with the comforts of home. 11296 Montgomery Rd, Harper’s Point. 513-489-2388, johnnychan2.com.

Best Dessert
J. Annette’s Cheesecake & More

When it comes to cheesecake in Cincinnati, there is no messing with J. Annette’s Cheesecake & More. Maybe it’s the fact it has over 30 delicious flavors that have won it Best Dessert for two years in a row. “There is not a lot of bakeries that do cheesecake,” says Owner Darlene Mullenger. “This company has been here for 23 years and we think it has the best in the city.” The place’s number-one seller is its classic raspberry, always a favorite of cheesecake lovers. 9623 Cincinnati Columbus Rd, between West Chester and Sharonville. 513-777-0875, jannettes.com.

Best Family Dining
Paxton’s Grill

It can be hard to find a restaurant to please everyone in the family. This kid’s too picky, this one’s too adventurous and another will only eat cheeseburgers. Luckily, Paxton’s offers food everyone will enjoy in a comfortable, historic building near the Loveland Bike Trail. Open for lunch and dinner every day and breakfast on the weekends, its eight burgers, seven wraps, vegetarian options and build-your-own omelets will make sure everyone leaves feeling full. 126 W Loveland Ave, Loveland. 513-583-1717, paxtonsgrill.com.

Best Fresh Catch
Tony’s of Cincinnati

You don’t always need to live near the ocean to enjoy fresh and well-prepared seafood. Tony’s of Cincinnati brings the big blue to the city with dishes like its Chilean Sea Bass, Linguini Frutti di Mare with mussels, shrimp and lobster saffron broth and, of course, fresh lobster tail. 12110 Montgomery Rd, near Deerfield Twp and Loveland. 513-677-1993, tonysofcincinnati.com.

Best Farmers’ Market
West Chester Farmers Market

Started in 2004 in the Feed Barn’s parking lot by Linda and Jim Rosselot, the West Chester Farmers Market now hosts dozens of vendors at the Square in Union Centre. Vendors sell delicious local produce, homemade products for people and pets and tasty prepared foods like crepes. Linda stepped down from running the market in 2013, but Linda knows that it’s been the hard work of all involved that has made the market special. “When things are good, the word spreads in all directions,” she says. The Park in the Square, 9100 West Chester Towne Centre Dr, West Chester. westchesterohiofarmersmarket.org.

Best Frozen Yogurt
Orange Leaf

Refreshing frozen yogurt is the new ice cream; that’s not anything new. What’s also not new is how addicting and good Orange Leaf frozen yogurt is. With flavors ranging from honeydew, pineapple, and red velvet cake to sweet and refreshing chocolate mint, the only hard part about going will be deciding which flavor to try. 11364 Montgomery Rd, Harper’s Point. 513-489-5323, orangeleafyogurt.com.

Best Ice Cream

When it comes to who has the Best Ice Cream, Graeter’s is pretty much a no-brainer. Since the 1870s, the company has been dishing up fresh ice cream to the city and still continues its tradition of using the French Pot method. Eating an entire pint in one sitting of its best-selling flavors like black raspberry chocolate chip, mocha chocolate chip and mint chocolate chip is naturally expected, and perfectly OK. 5076 Natorp Blvd, Mason. 513-339-0140, graeters.com.

Best Independent Coffeehouse
True West Coffee

When Chris Cannon and his future wife, Vanessa, were attending Ohio University in Athens, they really liked hanging out in the local coffee shops. After he was laid off from his job a few years ago, they wrote a business plan and with the help of a local investor began renovating a 150-year-old house on Main Street, on Hamilton’s Westside, as the home of True West Coffee.

“We’re really trying to create an urban community and create a third space. It’s not your home or your work. It’s your alternative space,” says Chris. The old home has a lot of nooks and crannies where folks can come in and connect. “We’ve had people meet and get hired for new jobs and others who’ve met and started dating,” he says.

Besides the coffee, there’s the food, such as Gourmet Grilled Cheese and Pita Pizza, and live music on weekends.

Chris and Vanessa love Hamilton. “There’s so much here,” he says. “There are arts and culture and a variety of places to live, old historic homes and new developments. There’s also a lot happening downtown.”

Last July, True West opened its second location in a renovated building on High Street adjacent to the Artspace lofts being developed downtown. The name True West is a combination of the first name of their son West and their eldest daughter Penelope’s middle name True. They’ve since had a second daughter, Clementine. “We haven’t figured out yet how we’ll explain that to her,” says Chris. 313 Main St and 221 High St, Hamilton. 513-668-1488 and 513-668-5815, truewestcoffee.com

Best Italian Cuisine
Pitrelli’s Italian Ristorante

Italian cuisine is all about taste and feeling at home. Whether it’s a romantic evening with a significant other, or a family dinner, Pitrelli’s offers an unforgettable meal with an intimate charm. Pitrelli’s captures flavors from several regions of Italy, from the light and delicate sauces of the North, to the red, full-flavored sauces of the South. It’s a can’t-miss meal for any Italian lover. 404 2nd Ave, Mason. 513-770-0122, pitrellisitalianristorante.com.

Best Mexican Cuisine
Cazadores Mexican Restaurant

With so many options for Mexican dishes in Cincinnati, it’s hard to just pick one place. But Cazadores Mexican Restaurant is a step above the rest. “We won because of the flavors and the spices we use,” says Owner Juan Reyes. “We try to make it as authentic as possible.” Some dishes you may want to try include the Fajita Quesadilla, the classic Beef Burrito and the Fajitas Suprema with sirloin steak, chicken, shrimp, squash and zucchini all perfectly packed in a flour tortilla. 4590 Cornell Rd, Blue Ash. 513-489-7444, cazadores-restaurants.com.

Best Outdoor Dining
Trinity Pub

Going out for dinner and drinks isn’t always about food; it’s also about the atmosphere. Trinity Pub in West Chester has captured the perfect atmosphere in its outdoor dining area, with a patio that seats up to a 100. Equipped with three fireplaces and island-like tiki torches, it may be hard to go back home. “We do smores on the fireplaces,” says owner Doug Smith. Sitting along the Miami Erie Canal Path, this is the place to be. 8953 Princeton Glendale Rd, West Chester. 513-874-5200.

Best Pizza
Mellow Mushroom

‘The secret is in the sauce’ is an old adage for many specialty dishes, but its especially true for pizza. Whatever your pizza is topped with, Mellow Mushroom’s vine-ripened and hand-selected tomatoes create the succulent pizza sauce. It’s all part of a mellow mission to provide delicious food in a fun and creative environment. 9238 Floer Dr, West Chester. 513-860-0888, mellowmushroom.com.

Best Sandwich Shop
Sharonville Depot Deli

Known for its famous Reubens, Sharonville Depot Deli is the home away from home for most of their frequent customers, but of course, equipped with hearty sandwiches and the like. “When you walk in the door, you are pretty much family,” says Owner Nicole Wilson. “We know all of our regulars by name. It really is just a friendly environment.” Make sure not to miss out on the deli’s popular chicken salad, turkey club and daily homemade soups while you’re there. 3327 Creek Rd, Sharonville. 513-769-1718.

Best Sports Bar
Putters Sports Grill

With a slew of awards ranging from best burger and wings in Cincinnati to winning Best Sports Bar for two years in a row, Putters Sports Grill has a track record that can’t be ignored. With over 50 TVs throughout the bar and an atmosphere that makes you feel like you’re actually in the show Cheers, there is no debate as to why it made it to the top again. “We are consistent, clean and classy. Come on in and see what we are all about, you will be amazed,” says Owner Jan Collins. 6575 Cincinnati-Dayton Rd, Liberty Twp. 513-755-0222, putterstavern.com.

Best Steak
Jeff Ruby’s Carlo & Johnny

It’s hard to top a steakhouse with more than 14 U.S.D.A. prime steaks. Add a vibrant bar scene and some live entertainment and it’s nearly impossible. Jeff Ruby’s marquee steakhouse offers intimacy and charm inside a historic mansion that once served as a casino for alleged gangsters. Choose from a list of premium steak exclusives, including the Steak Collinsworth, the Anthony Muñoz or the Marvin Lewis. 9769 Montgomery Rd, Montgomery. 513-936-8600, jeffruby.com/carlojohnny.

Best Sushi
Soho Japanese Bistro

Cincinnati may sit in the Midwest, but its geography won’t stop you from enjoying the best cuisine of the orient. Enjoy fresh tuna, salmon, squid and other far Eastern delicacies at Soho. Not in the mood for fish? Soho has a teppanyaki grill with top quality sous chefs capable of frying up mouth-watering filet mignon and chicken. 7655 Voice of America Centre Dr, West Chester. 513-759-6876, sohojapanesedining.com.

Best Vegetarian Cuisine
The Veg Head

It’s always nice to feel spry after eating a delicious and satisfying meal. At Veg Head, that luxury is a reality with items like the Vegetarian Philly, black bean burgers and the award-winning Veg Head Wrap. Or enjoy tofu spread, fresh hummus, salad and a selection of veggie-friendly pizzas. 920 B Loveland Madeira Rd, Loveland. 513-697-7090, imaveghead.com.


Best AC/Heating Company
Al’s Heating & Cooling Inc.

Planting its roots in Mason in the 1950s, Al’s Heating & Cooling Inc. has serviced the Mason, Lebanon and West Chester areas for the last couple decades. Owner Richard Cox has a strong sense of dedication to his community, and he helps them through the services of Al’s Heating & Cooling. “Richard tries to take care of the small town of Mason,” says Office Manager Kimberly Meals. “His city means a lot to him.” 657 Reading Rd, Mason. 513-398-7921, alshvac.com.

Best Barber
Sport Clips

Sport Clips takes the traditional men’s haircut and turns it into a relaxing experience, all while in the care of professional stylists. “I think our customer service is top notch,” says Manager Shannon Vehr. “We have affluent training for our stylists.” Guys looking to get the total barber experience should try the MVP Experience, which includes a precision haircut, a hot steamed towel wrap, a scalp massage and a neck and shoulder treatment, all within 20 minutes. Pretty good deal, huh? 7749 Cox Ln, West Chester. 513-759-5666, sportclips.com.

Best Car Wash
Mike’s Carwash

Since 1948, Mike’s Car Wash has shampooed, polished and waxed nearly every model on the road. The car wash’s commitment to detail and service has made it a popular destination for Tristate motorists looking to cruise in a pristine ride. With specially formulated detergents, computer-controlled equipment and special hot air dryers, Mike’s can make any car sparkle for a special night on the town. 8281 Highland Pointe, West Chester. 513-759-4045, mikescarwash.com.

Best Dry Cleaners
Tide Dry Cleaners

We already associate Tide with clean clothes, why shouldn’t it be associated with dry cleaning as well? Tide brings its trademark stain removal, color maintenance and scent to the dry cleaning process. The dry cleaner also offers other services, like evaluating your clothes beforehand so that your clothes look the best they can. Additionally, you can use its drive-thru, 24-hour drop box and lockers so that your dry cleaning is convenient as well as clean. 8100 S Mason-Montgomery Rd, Mason. 513-770-0295, tidedrycleaners.com.

Best Florist
Oberer’s Flowers

Though Oberer’s Flowers is now a successful business with stores in five different cities, its roots are in vegetables instead of flowers. Carl Oberer started growing and selling vegetables in the 1890s, offering flowers alongside the produce. His flowers became more and more popular, leading to the company being solely a provider of flowers in 1922. This dedication to quality, along with its continuing popularity, has made it the fifth largest florist in the country and a Best of the North winner. 7675 Cox Ln, West Chester. 513-333-7435, oberers.com.

Best Garden Center
Natorp’s Nursery Outlet & Landscape

Sometimes bigger is better. Natorp’s Nursery Outlet is the region’s largest plant nursery. They sell 740 cultivars of annuals, 800 varieties of perennials and shrubs and 10,000 trees with 200 varieties. In total, they have one million plants for sale. The center is always staffed with a team of horticulturalists willing to help even those without a green thumb. The outlet doesn’t open again until the spring, but you can still email or call for any advice, ensuring its service is just as great as its selection. 8601 Snider Rd, Mason. 513-398-4769, natorpnurseryoutlet.com.

Best Home Remodeler
Neal’s Design Remodel

Who says you have to go to multiple places to get a home remodeled? Neal’s Design Remodel, a two-year winner, prides itself on full service design, setting it apart from competitors. “Our clients get everything they need done here,” says CEO Alan Hendy. “It’s why they look to work with us.” With a highly trained staff, the company makes remodeling look easy. “Our staff does a great job, and they deserve all the credits for the rewards we receive. They take great care of our clients,” says Hendy. 7770 E Kemper Rd, Cincinnati. 513-489-7700, neals.com.

Best Landscaper
Lichtenberg Landscaping Inc.

Owned and operated by landscape architect Steve Lichtenberg, Lichtenberg Landscaping designs distinctive, beautiful outdoor spaces that work for their customers. The company’s staff can design, install and maintain your yard as well as assist with spring and fall clean-ups. The company’s high standards have even led to it being featured on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. 1110 Western Row Rd, Mason. 513-770-4011, lichtenberglandscaping.com.

Best Manicure/Pedicure
Statements in Hair

For some people, there really is nothing better than treating your fingers and toes to a professional manicure and pedicure. Statements in Hair, a full-service salon with a truly talented staff, takes manicures and pedicures to the next level of perfection. “We have staff who have come from the best cosmetology schools and have training on a regular basis that includes role playing for customer service, new products and personal training,” says Robyn Allegyer, who does communications for the salon. Not to mention, the salon carries only top-notch products and equipment to get the job done. 13 Village Sq, Glendale. 513-772-7262, statementsinhair.com.

Best Master Stylist
Kellie MacGregor of the Village Spa

Kellie MacGregor says she always helped her friends style their hair before they went out.

“I always seemed to be the one helping people get ready, but it never occurred to me that I could turn it into a career until I saw people in the industry and watched them enjoy what they did for a living,” says MacGregor, who’s styled for 11 years.

Before shifting to cosmetology, MacGregor worked in sales for a beauty company and saw firsthand how the craft was performed. She was backstage at styling shows and in and out of salons constantly. The insider perspective spring-boarded her into a new profession that allowed her to reshape images, inside and out.

“It’s an escape for [the clients] and they can feel better and look better when they leave,” says MacGregor. “It just freshens up their day.”

Along with brightening up her clients’ day, MacGregor says her talents lie with cutting and coloring. But she’s also well versed in styling for formal events, like proms and weddings.

“I really do it all, and I love everything I do,” says MacGregor. 8862 Cincinnati Dayton Rd, West Chester. 513-755-9241, thevillagespasalon.com.

Best Nursing Facility
Mason Christian Village

The continuing care community of Mason Christian Village earned Best Nursing Facility by offering amenities galore while providing Christ-centered, compassionate care to older adults. “At Mason Christian Village we’re not just about retirement living, we’re about inspirement living. We promise an extraordinary living experience, from the beauty of our 75-acre lakeside community to our unprecedented customer service and care,” says MCV CEO Larry Monroe. “The true measure of our success is in the positive feedback we receive from our residents and their families.” 411 Western Row Rd, Mason. 513-398-1486, masonchristianvillage.org.

Best Place for a Spa Day
Bajon Salon & Spa

A great spa is a place where you can get quality, relaxing treatments for your body and soul. Bajon Salon & Spa does this by offering haircuts, waxing, microdermbrasion, FaSSages (a European facial combined with a full-body relaxation massage), European back facials and more from an experienced team. By including consultations and a skin analysis with facials, using only the best products and allowing customers to switch stylists if they desire a different experience, Bajon ensures that it’s an excellent place to unwind. 6072 West Chester Rd, West Chester. 513-874-9999, bajonsalon.com.

Best Plumber
Pete the Plumber

Locally owned Pete the Plumber works on everything that may require a plumber. In business for 20 years, the company works on dishwashers, drain cleaning, room additions, water softeners and even the kitchen sink. Pete the Plumber’s goal is to provide high-quality craftsmanship and experience to every job, no matter how big or small. Serves Butler, Clermont, Hamilton and Warren County. 513-934-3884, petetheplumberohio.com.

Best Place to Pamper Your Pet
Mandy’s Dog-O-Mat

There is such a thing as paradise for your pets, and the destination is Mandy’s Dog-O-Mat. Offering full-service grooming and washing at an inexpensive price, it makes sense why it was voted Best Place to Pamper Your Pet for two years in a row. “It’s our cleanliness and customer service,” says owner Mandy Watts. “We really take care of our customers.” Mandy’s even offers self-serve pet wash stations at a low cost, also not requiring appointments. Sounds like a win-win for you and your pup! 6896 Tylersville Rd, West Chester. 513-847-1240, mandysdogomat.com.


Best Consignment Shop
2nd Chance Upscale Resale Shoppes

“I believe no one runs your business like you do and us being present makes a big difference,” says Sue Hater, owner of 2nd Chance Upscale Resale Shoppes. That’s why Hater and her daughters are at the stores several days a week. Their goal: to make 2nd Chance feel like a real boutique. They organize and attractively display everything, while also carrying a large selection of jewelry and designer handbags. Adds Hater, “There’s so much to look at and every time you come in, there’s something new and interesting.” 8109 Beckett Center Dr, West Chester and 11792 Springfield Pike, Springdale. 513-860-3860 and 513-671-7162, shop2ndchance.com.

Best Jeweler
Welling & Co. Jewelers

Since 1920, Welling & Co. Jewelers has been providing the very best product to the Tristate community. Welling & Co.’s long success in the area has won it Best Jeweler, and Owner Bill Welling has a couple ideas why the store won the community over. “We go out of our way to give you the best experience in our store,” he says. “We are a diverse store that sells great products.” For bridal and wedding pieces, the store offers some of the world’s leading brands and diamonds. 7712 Voice of America Dr, West Chester. 513-779-8883, wellingsjewelers.com.

Best Place for Antiques
Ambassador’s Antiques and Fine Linens

Amongst the sea of antique stores that are prominent throughout the Tristate, Ambassador’s Antiques and Fine Linens is a cut above the rest, specializing in fine antiques from Europe and North America. If you are looking for unique and authentic, Owner Minnie LeForce promises you can find it at her store. “We spend a lot of time with our customers and also do custom orders on high-end linens,” she says. “When people come in, we want to be warm and welcoming. That is what makes small businesses great.” 35 E Main St, Lebanon. 513-934-567, ambassadorsantiques.com

Best Place for Home Accessories
The Pink Hippo

The Pink Hippo sums itself up with its tagline: “From the chic to the unique.”

“People like different, they don’t want the same thing that everyone else has. They want something with character,” says Owner Jo Wise. By selling repurposed, recycled, reused, reclaimed and restored products, the Pink Hippo always has one-of-kind items in stock. Add in work from local artists and other carefully purchased pieces, and you have a store that sells unique pieces meant to make people smile. 15 N Broadway St, Lebanon. 513-836-3738.

Best Shopping Center
Deerfield Towne Center

“Deerfield Towne Center has current stores that shoppers want,” says Shannon Libecap, property coordinator for the shopping center. With stores like Whole Foods, Buy Buy Baby, Altar’d States, Bed Bath and Beyond, Francesca’s Boutique, Hot Mama, Ulta and Ashley Furniture, there’s no question why this shopping destination won for the second year in a row. 5503 Deerfield Blvd, Mason. 513-770-0273, deerfieldtownecenter.com.


Best Community Arts Center
Sharonville Fine Arts Center

With four different venues, the Sharonville Fine Arts Center has something for everyone. Love art galleries? Its Westheimer Art Gallery hosts art from local artists, like Mary Beth Thompson Dowlin. Enjoy going to the theater? The center features two different theater groups, the Tri-County Players and Stagecrafters, Inc., as well as plays from Playhouse of the Hill, the Ensemble Theatre and the Children’s Theatre. Need a creative outlet? The Artists Loft has studios and space for events while the Music Room is home to many music classes, including those for the Sharp Music School. 11165 Reading Rd, Sharonville. 513-554-1014, sharonvillefinearts.org.

Best Festival
Taste of Blue Ash

Blue Ash knows that a great festival needs fantastic food and good music. And that’s what the city delivers with the Taste of Blue Ash. During the day, festivalgoers can enjoy food from all over the area, like local favorites City Barbeque and Taste of Belgium. Then at night, you can relax listening to nationally known artists. Last year’s festival featured the well-loved Pointer Sisters, Kenny Loggins and Rodney Atkins. “I believe it boils down to the fact that we are a very family-friendly community and this mind-set trickles into the management of our events. This approach of planning guides our decisions on everything including valued pricing on concessions, providing a family-fun area, and the choice of entertainment,” says Tiphanie Howard, Blue Ash Recreation Department special events and marketing supervisor. Blue Ash Towne Square, Blue Ash. 513-745-8500, blueashevents.com.

Best Golf Course
Blue Ash Golf Course

It’s always time to play golf at the Blue Ash Golf Course. The public course is open year-round, weather permitting, to the residents of Blue Ash. Locals can partake in tournaments, eat at the sandwich shop, visit the pro store and even have private golf lessons at this 18-hole, 6,800-yard, par-72 course. 4040 Cooper Rd, Blue Ash. 513-686-1280, blueashgolfcourse.com.

Best Happy Hour
Silver Spring House

The Silver Spring House may be known as “The Chicken Joint,” but its Happy Hour is pretty great, too. From four to seven, you can enjoy discounts on their 31 draft (which includes three local brews) and 30 bottle beers. Plus, there are discounts on domestic buckets on Bucket Mondays, half-price martinis on Tuesdays and half-price bottles of wine on Wednesdays. 8322 E Kemper Rd, Cincinnati. 513-489-7044, thesilverspringhouse.com.

Best Live Music
Doc’s Place

Located in historic downtown Lebanon, Doc’s Place combines upscale cuisine from its professionally trained chef with a traditional sports bar feel to create an atmosphere all its own. And don’t forget the music. With live music from local acts every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, it’s easy to enjoy some local flavors, both in the music and the food. 12 W Mulberry St, Lebanon. 513-932-0287, docsplacelebanonohio.com.

Best Wine Store/Tasting
Bella Vino Wine Merchant and Bar

Wine, food and song are three ingredients for a great time.

At Bella Vino Wine Merchants and Bar, you can find all of them under one roof. Choose from more than 1,000 different bottles, while enjoying some specialty pizzas, salads, cheeses and live music.

“We like to consider ourselves a home away from home,” says Amanda Ellis, Bella Vino store manager.

The staff at Bella Vino can help wine enthusiasts at all phases of their palate’s evolution. Whether you’re trying to find a red to accompany that filet mignon, or a white for an evening of imbibing, Bella Vino can help. The store also offers wine tastings with full-page notes on traits to taste for, as well as education dinners that teach pairing etiquette. Each dinner features a sommelier, a professional formally trained in wine pairing and tasting

“Every wine is different so there are different things to look at no matter what you’re drinking,” says Ellis.

The wine bar also includes a range of vodka, bourbon and craft beers for the reluctant wine drinkers. After finding your favorite libation, take a seat at the bar, in the lounge or out on the patio for a relaxing and refined evening. 6064 West Chester Rd, West Chester. 513-942-9463, bellavinomerchants.com.


Best Bike Shop
West Chester Cyclery

In business since 1981, West Chester Cyclery aims to sell the best bikes and accessories while providing great service. It’s easy to do when your sales staff is made up of bike mechanics. Customers are even allowed to take a quick trip around the parking lot to test a bike before they buy it. Plus, every bike they sell gets a year’s worth of free service and most repairs only take two or three days. 9304 Cincinnati-Columbus Rd, West Chester. 513-777-9742, westchestercyclery.com.

Best Charitable Race
Shamrock Shuffle

The Shamrock Shuffle is more than a race; it’s an event. Along with its 5k and 10k, it hosts a children’s fun run, a breakfast and even a block party. This year, the race is even allowing participants to raise funds for any school, nonprofit or community organization of their choice. Happening this year on March 8, the Shamrock Shuffle gives the community a chance to come together right before St. Patrick’s Day. The Square at Union Centre, West Chester. 513-874-5450,

Best Fitness Center
TriHealth Fitness & Health Pavilion

This open-concept facility features everything you could hope for (and more) in a fitness center. It includes three strength training circuits, a cushioned indoor training track, over 100 pieces of cardiovascular equipment, 80 weekly land and water group fitness classes, two indoor pools, an outdoor pool and a gym specifically designed for kids. It’s also the first certified medical fitness facility in the country and the only one in Cincinnati. 6200 Pfeiffer Rd, Montgomery. 513-985-0900, trihealth.com.

Best Fitness Class
Pure Barre

While some fitness classes may use many different types of equipment, Pure Barre uses only one: the ballet barre. “We inspire people to transform their mind and body while having a fun and fabulous workout,” says Megan Hallaren, studio manager. It’s completely different from other classes, but it still gives you great results. 5939 Deerfield Blvd, Mason. 513-204-1978, purebarre.com.

Best Fitness Trail
Loveland Bike Trail

Traveling along an old railway line, the Loveland Bike Trail offers people a chance to view some great sites while being healthy. As you walk or bike the trail, you’ll pass by downtown Loveland and its shops and restaurants. When you near the river, you’ll see the area’s natural wildlife. You’ll also get a chance to see the area’s history, as its passes Civil War sites, the scene of a train robbery and an Indian burial ground. 206 Railroad Ave, Loveland. 513-683-0468, lovelandbiketrail.com.

Best Health Food Store
Whole Foods

As a seller of healthy food, Whole Foods is top-notch. It’s easy to find fresh produce and meat and healthy, ready-to-eat food at this store. But Whole Foods also aims to be a part of the community. Depending on the night of the week, you can try different beers and wines, have kids eat free or try cuisine from local food trucks. The store even host its own Food and Wine Festival. 5805 Deerfield Blvd, Mason. 513-398-9358, wholefoodsmarket.com.

Best Personal Trainer
Brad Sper of Sper Trained

Whether you’re a high school athlete looking to improve your performance on the field or a busy homemaker looking to shed a few pounds, you can be Sper Trained.

“Everybody’s goals are different,” says personal trainer Brad Sper, who started his fitness career 30 years ago training as a competitive arm wrestler.

Sper takes pride in working one-on-one with each of his clients.

For one client, it might be losing 30 or 40 pounds, for another it’s improving their fitness for competition, for yet another it might be to gain weight to look good for an event.

Sper does more than 50 personal training sessions each week and also offers group sessions at his 1,200-square-foot gym north of Hamilton.

When you walk in the door, there aren’t any fancy machines.

“I believe in working out, not sitting on a machine,” says Sper. He uses free weights, ropes, kettle bells, waterballs and monkey bars for a variety of high-intensity workouts.

Demand for Sper Trained is so great that he’s planning to move to a larger facility being developed by partner Joe Brown on Cincinnati-Dayton Road in Middletown this year.

What won’t change is Sper’s joy in seeing his clients succeed. He points to a thank-you note from the mother of an eighth-grade student he helped shed 55 pounds. “He is so excited and proud of himself and his whole attitude has changed,” the boy’s mother wrote.

“That’s why I do what I do, and why I think I have the best job on Earth,” says Sper. 5583 Eureka Dr, Hamilton. 513-240-1598, spertrained.com

Best Place to Buy Fitness Gear
Fleet Feet Sports

Fleet Feet Sports wants to do more than sell fitness gear. “Our vision is to bring the people in our community together through self-betterment, good health, goals and fitness; to treat customers like family, educate, inspire and lead; and to smile everyday,” says Stacey Kaiser, owner of the store’s local location. This means making sure that the products you buy truly fit and work for your needs. Kaiser adds, “We help people accomplish their goals whether it’s qualifying for the Boston Marathon, walking their first 5K or simply finding comfort in their everyday lives.” 9525 Kenwood Rd, Blue Ash. 513-793-8383, fleetfeetsports.com.

Best Yoga Studio
Grace Tree Yoga & Growth Studio

Grace Tree is all about providing those who visit a place for peace and self-reflection. The studio even calls itself a shala, or sanctuary. Understanding that this means different things for different people, the studio allows people to participate in a variety of gatherings, individual work, classes and workshops based on their needs. 8933 Cincinnati-Dayton Rd, West Chester. 513-759-4458, gracetreestudio.com.


Best Birthday Party Location
Lazer Kraze

Dale and Robin Wilcox and their four sons enjoyed playing laser tag on family outings. So it made sense that when Dale and Robin shucked their corporate careers to start their own business, the popular high-tech game would play a role.

“We were looking for something that was fun and that families could do together,” says Robin.

That was nearly 10 years ago. Today the family’s Lazer Kraze Family Fun Centers have expanded to three locations.

They recently opened a larger Lazer Kraze in Mason, replacing their original center that opened on Western Row Road in 2004. Besides laser tag, the new center has an indoor trampoline park. The Mason center also has a new feature: Time Freak, a life-size speed and agility game where players compete against the clock.

Lazer Kraze hosts all types of parties and corporate events, but birthday parties are one of its specialties. “We’ll do 30-35 a week in Mason,” says Robin. The Mason facility has six party rooms to accommodate any size party and packages include everything from cake to candles to utensils.

The family moved to Columbus in 2010 to open a third location in nearby Lewis Center. Robin says next on the agenda is looking at franchising the Lazer Kraze concept. 7082 Columbia Rd, Mason. 513-339-1030, lazerkraze.com.

Best Cheerleading Gym
Midwest Cheer Elite

Midwest Cheer Elite doesn’t do anything halfway. The gym has 20 coaches teaching classes for athletes of all training and ages. It offers classes on tumbling, cheer and hip hop and even offers teams for those with special needs. With this variety of classes and the 25,000 square feet of its gym, Midwest has room for everyone to join in. 8730 N Pavilion Dr, West Chester. 513-779-9111, midwestcheerelite.com.

Best Dance/Theater Instruction
Mason Dance Center

Interested in learning to dance? The Mason Dance Center offers classes for everyone. The Center offers predance for the little ones, competition classes for those wanting to really perform, preprofessional classes for the truly dedicated students and even adult classes for people who want to have fun. There’s dance opportunities for people of all ages and ability at this dance center. 600 Reading Rd, Mason. 513-398-0353, masondance.com.

Best Gymnastics Center
Perfection Gymnastics

Developing kids’ physical and mental abilities is at the heart of Perfection Gymnastics. “We truly care about our kids, and we want to develop their physical talents and character,” says Owner and Head Coach Enrique Trabanino. “We have a strong, very well-trained staff and a great facility that sets us apart from others.” Not only does the gym offer gymnastics and tumbling classes, but it also hosts birthday parties, clinics and camps. “We want to thank our customers and everyone who voted for us,” says Trabanino. 5637 Union Centre Dr, West Chester. 513-860-3351, perfectiongymnastics.com.

Best Music Instruction
Mike Oakley

If guitar instructor Mike Oakley has anything, it’s experience. He started studying the instrument at age 10 and has been playing it ever since. “What makes what I do special is I don’t just teach music, I teach the student how to play music by making the complex seem simple and fun,” says Oakley. “Each student is evaluated and the curriculum is tailored to the student’s goals, natural abilities and individual learning pace.” When he’s not teaching his private half-hour sessions, he plays in one of his many bands, which includes the ‘80s big-hair band Hollywood. 3667 Sylvia Dr, Hamilton. 513-807-1997, michaelpoakley.com.

Best Park
Sharon Woods

Sharon Woods won Best Park for the second year in a row because it’s way more than just a park. It offers a visitor center that includes exhibits and a two-story indoor playground, a gift shop filled with nature-themed items, a place to rent boats and bikes, a golf course and even a recreated 1800s community with its Heritage Village Museum. 11450 Lebanon Rd, Sharonville. 513-563-4513, greatparks.org.

Best Preschool
The Goddard School

“The Goddard School is a nurturing place for your children and a comfortable place for your family,” says Mike Elser, an advertising account executive for The Goddard School. What seperates Goddard from other preschools is the school’s F.L.E.X (Fun Learning Experience) program, which prepares children for social and academic success. “We believe fun should be part of learning so much, we made it part of the name,” adds Elser. Multiple locations. goddardschool.com.

Best Summer Camp
Camp Sharonville

Camp Sharonville has provided summer camps for kids six through 12 for 35 years, and they’ve done it creatively and with an eye on fun. “Our staff has always had a history of creating new and exciting ways to interact with the kids and that continues to this day,” says Michael Blomer, special events coordinator with the Sharonville Recreation Department. It’s not just camp when you’re using squirt guns during water week, visiting the zoo or dressing up as superheroes. “Camp Sharonville is truly special,” says Blomer. 10990 Thornview Dr, Sharonville. 513-563-2895, cityofsharonville.com.