May 5 2009 12:00 AM

A recap of our Top of The Town winners party


For Sandra Clark, director of the Michigan Historical Center, the award presented to her Monday night at the Chrome Cat in Old Town for Best Local Museum is part Sojourner Truth and part 70,000 school-age children.

Sojourner Truth because the museum has a tobacco pouch owned by the 19thcentury abolitionist and women’s rights crusader — the most goose bump-raising artifact the museum possesses, Clark said. And 70,000 school-age children, because that’s how many youngsters beset the museum on a yearly basis to ogle the history of our mitten-shaped state. “I think we’re a great place for kids and families,” Clark said Monday, shortly before accepting her award. “We’ve built our collection over 130 to 135 years.”

Monday night was an evening of award giving, Virg Bernero jokes and chocolate covered strawberries. It was, of course, the first City Pulse Top of the Town Awards ceremony. To put it more lightly, it was our chance to hand out nice little certificates to local businesses and people who were voted “the best” in the poll sponsored by City Pulse, WQTX-FM and Tim Barron.

Twenty-five awards were given out Monday out of winners in 103 categories (around 1,500 votes were cast). But — between counting drink tickets, dinner plates and heads at the door — an estimated 75 came out to party.

The festivities began at 5 p.m. with an hour of mingling and eating. Winners sat, chatted and imbibed in the Chrome Cat’s cavernous downstairs bar, as Michigan State University jazz students played speedy music.

Local best-of-the-besters, like Golden Harvest (Best Breakfast, Best Bang for your Buck, Best Wait staff) purveyor Zane Vicknair, rubbed elbows with the likes of Ingham County Drain Commissioner Pat Lindemann (Best Environmentalist) and Bob Fish, a co-founder of Biggby Coffee (Best Cup of Coffee).

“I think it’s because I work at a place that’s a really awesome establishment,” said Ashley “at Stober’s” Jasman on her win for Best Bartender. “I get along well with the customers, and I serve good drinks. I’m a good communicator.”

It’s also her drink creations, which she doesn’t often name; the other night, she slung a customer one part X-Rated Vodka (flavored vodka with oranges, mangos and passion fruit), one part Midori and some Sprite and sour mix.

Charlie Sinadinos, owner of the Knight Cap (Best Steak), chalked up her win to a “black magic” rub developed 40 years ago by the restaurant’s first chef. And, “We cut our own meat and use all organic beef,” she said.

Shortly after 6 p.m., City Pulse editor and publisher Berl Schwartz revved up the microphone and started handing out awards.

Some highlights included Vicknair’s daughter, Stella, who accepted all the awards on behalf of the restaurant (and tried to accept Great Harvest Bread Co.’s award, too). Then there was Best Mayoral Candidate winner Ben Hassenger, who gave an acceptance speech combined with a stump speech. Hassenger said his mother, who died eight years ago Monday, always supported his dreams and, whether she’s “up or down,” would support his bid for mayor. And, one of the biggest mysteries of the night (at least for this reporter) was solved when veterinarian Tara Harrison stepped up to accept the Best Park award on behalf of the animals, trees and grass over at Potter Park.

The top of the TOTT awards, however, came with the unveiling of a custom Photoshopped poster of Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero as Steve Carell in “The 40-year-old Virgin” (Best Movie Role for Virg Bernero). Bernero didn’t show up to the party (his office RSVP’d, Bernero told us later that he was in Detroit, but he would’ve come if his assistant, Randy Hannan, had told him about it), so everyone shared a good laugh at his expense. The poster plus his awards for both best and worst politician were delivered to him.

Craig Phillipich, an owner of Meridian Plumbing (Best Plumbers), summed up the meaning of the award up pretty well. “There’s a stigma with home improvement contractors,” he said. “Sometimes people don’t know what they’re getting into. But now that we won an award, we know we’re doing our job.”