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After Dark: Critics' Picks

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BEST CONCERT VENUE

Visulite Theatre

Large, three-tiered and with the bar where it should be (at the rear), the velvet-curtained old dame (once a porno theater) works for most any kind of show, from ensemble performances to gritty punk rock. Bonus: seats for those who want them. Or need them, depending.

1615 Elizabeth Avenue. 704-358-9200.

BEST CONCERT VENUE The Visulite - RADOK
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  • BEST CONCERT VENUE The Visulite

BEST CONCERT OF PAST 12 MONTHS

Los Amigos Invisibles

When a band can pack the house and not play a single word in English, you know they've got a following. When the same band can make a jaded gringo feel like he immediately wants to go check out some foreign language software, you know they've got the goods. When you see people of all manner of social strata, race and age dancing their asses off until the wee hours, you know they have something more, something almost indescribable: the ability to move the soul.

BEST PLACE TO HEAR LOCAL MUSIC

The Evening Muse

Beautiful sound, thanks to co-owner, music engineer and NoDa godfather Joe Kuhlmann. Innovative booking, with local acts mixed in with national stalwarts like Vic Chesnutt, Michael Penn and Dave Alvin. A smoke-free environment, for those who hate dry-cleaners. Throw in the zero-tolerance rabble-rousing policy and fair pricing for shows, and you've got a winner.

3227 North Davidson Street. 704-376-3737.

BAR WITH HOTTEST MEMBERS OF OPPOSITE/SAME SEX Therapy - RADOK
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  • BAR WITH HOTTEST MEMBERS OF OPPOSITE/SAME SEX Therapy

BEST CLUB FOR MUSIC

The Milestone

If the music is really what you want, unadorned and totally lacking in bells and whistles, check out The Milestone. Adventurous booking, a long and starry history (R.E.M, Nirvana, Black Flag), and the coldest and cheapest beer in town. Ten bucks on most nights gets you a show and two tallboys, a bargain by anyone's standards (or should be, at least).

3400 Tuckaseegee Road. 704-398-0472.

BEST CLUB FOR DANCING

Latorre's Restaurant

No, we're not joking. And yes, Menage or Time might be more obvious choices (both were among the runners-up). But beginning at 10:30pm Friday and Saturday nights, this eatery transforms into a Latin nightclub, featuring free salsa dance lessons, great drink specials and some of the hottest dance moves you can catch in Charlotte. It's no Skándalos, but then you'd have to be committed enough to actually speak Spanish to graduate to that level.

118 West 5th Street. 704-377-4448.

BEST COLLEGE HANGOUT Summit Coffee, Davidson - RADOK
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  • BEST COLLEGE HANGOUT Summit Coffee, Davidson

BEST PLACE FOR A FIRST DATE

300 East

Get one of the intimate, two-seater wooden booths -- they can't be beat. Runners-up were Cinemark $1.50 movies for a fun budget date (make sure to choose a good flick so you don't just look cheap) or Cabo Fish Taco, especially on Gallery Crawl night.

300 East Boulevard. 704-332-6507.

BAR WITH HOTTEST MEMBERS OF OPPOSITE/SAME SEX

Therapy

We really don't think it's the martinis gone to our head making everyone look good in here. Of course, the delicious alcoholic concoctions can't hurt. Even our critics look attractive holding one of Therapy's many martinis in the warm yet sexy ambience, which gets much credit for being one of the too-few bars uptown that doesn't feel like a total meat market.

401 North Tryon Street. 704-333-1353.

BEST COLLEGE HANGOUT

Summit Coffee, Davidson

Contrary to popular belief, not all college hangouts have to be a bastion of drunkenness. Of course, it does help to have the option of beer and wine, as provided by proprietor Tim Helfrich at Summit Coffee. Most hours of the day, the cozy establishment serves as a place to grab caffeine. Evenings here bring beer and wine into the mix, along with an ever-growing roster of local artists performing on the patio. If you need a little bit of intellectualism, take a book to Summit, eavesdrop on an English class discussing Shelley, and enjoy the organic, shade-grown, free market beans.

128 South Main Street, Davidson. 704-895-9090.

BEST POOL HALL Elizabeth Billiards - RADOK
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  • BEST POOL HALL Elizabeth Billiards

BEST JUKEBOX

The Penguin

Nothing goes better with fried pickles and beer than great music. The Penguin's jukebox has so much of it that the songbook spills out of the actual box and into a binder full of listings on the side. Within both can be found mostly classic rock & roll, with a good dose of some punk and classic country mixed in. This one wasn't even a competition: The Penguin won in a landslide.

1921 Commonwealth Avenue. 704-375-6959.

BEST POOL HALL

Elizabeth Billiards

It's just not right to play pool in a pristine environment. Elizabeth Billiards is dark, slightly claustrophobic and covered in a haze of smoke. Made for drinking, darts and racking 'em up. This barely edged out The Room for this honor.

1400 Central Avenue. 704-342-2663.

BEST BOWLING ALLEY

Park Lanes

The full name is George Pappas' Park Lanes. You'd put your name on it, too, if you owned a bowling alley this cool. It's smoky, it's got gross-looking food and plenty of domestic beer on draft, with no high-tech gadgets for keeping score or flashing neon around the pins. In other words, it's perfect.

1700 Montford Drive. 704-523-7633.

BEST BAR Sir Edmond Halleys - RADOK
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  • BEST BAR Sir Edmond Halleys

BEST BAR

Sir Edmond Halley's

A yard equals three pints of beer all in one glass. It's a British thing, and it can be found at Sir Edmond Halley's. All that beer, along with one of the most diverse and consistently delicious menus to be found in this fair city. It leads Charlotte's small pack of restaurants open 'til 2am every night -- who doesn't crave ostrich meatloaf after a night at the clubs? Other bars that came close to the grand prize this year are The Comet Grill and Thomas Street Tavern.

4151 Park Road. 704-525-2555.

BEST STRIP CLUB

The Men's Club of Charlotte

Our critics hear they have good food here, too.

444 Tyvola Road. 704-525-8525.

BEST BEER SELECTION

Mac's Speed Shop

The new kid in town swooped in and beat out past faves Mellow Mushroom and The Flying Saucer. John Duncan, owner of Bonterra and Ratcliffe on the Green, recently opened his latest establishment with a beer list about as impressive as the wine list at Bonterra. One hundred and fifty beers are available for your consumption, and although they're not exactly discount (anything out of the ordinary Bud or Coors runs $3-$4 per bottle), the lengthy menu supplies ample opportunity for an adventuresome tasting experience.

2115 South Boulevard. 704-522-6227.

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