READERS' PICK: Hey, don't give us any gas about national chains. Ever wonder why chains are national? Maybe it's because they give people what they want. Applebee's has good food, a nice ambiance, reasonably priced drinks, sports on TV and good service. What a blight, huh? We love our local restaurants to death, but our readers have spoken. So we'll see you at Applebee's.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP -- TIE: Bison Witches, 326 N. Fourth Ave. (see Best Bar Food, page 123; and Best Sandwiches, page 51); and Javelina Cantina, 445 S. Alvernon Way. The finger foods are tasty and the drinks are on the large side here in the Doubletree Hotel, which seems to be in fashion again these days. It's on North Alvernon, south of Broadway, across the street from the entrance to the Randolph Park Golf complex. The cool thing about the Doubletree is that John F. Kennedy stayed there once. So after you've belted down a few, you can suggest to that attractive person down the bar a ways that the two of you go upstairs and relive Camelot.
MORE MANIA: When we break for the evening and want to stay close to home, we head over to Barrio, 135 S. Sixth Ave., where a working stiff can get anything a reasonable heart desires: a table and a round of Guinness with a view of the sun setting west of Sixth Avenue; a glass of wine at their classy bar; or if it's been one of those days, a stiff cocktail and a quiet place to glue our eyes to the suspended television screen. Best of all we like Barrio's appetizer menu, which features real food in miniature, rather than five different kinds of unrecognizable fried things. The clanging and jostling of movement and conversation off this interior of hard surfaces just adds to its bright, shiny feel. Things are always happening at Barrio...but happening at a pace that's nonetheless relaxed.