For our Ultimate Guide, you were the judge

By Jay Cridlin
Published June 29, 2007

Welcome to the Ultimate Guide to Tampa Bay.

Now, before we begin, we are prepared for your gripes. "Exactly what, " you are no doubt grumbling to your cubicle partner at this very moment, "makes this guide so 'Ultimate?' "

A valid question. And here is our answer: You picked every single winner.

Every week for the past six months, tbt* has asked you, the loyal reader, to vote on your favorite bars, restaurants, personalities and attractions in Tampa Bay.

And every week, you did just that. You clicked, you texted, and you shouted your picks from the rooftops of Tampa Bay. You told us your ultimate ice cream shop, your ultimate Irish pub, your ultimate barbecue joint, your ultimate tourist trap and your ultimate local reality TV star.

Today we present your choices in 25 categories. If you don't like the winners, you have no one to blame but yourselves. (And probably us, too. But mostly yourselves. For shame!)

Here's how the process worked: Each week, we scoured Tampa Bay for the top five contenders in each particular category. This, as you can imagine, was not easy. In some difficult cases, we actually had to sample the hot dogs, sushi, cocktails and spa treatments in order to determine whether a business was worthy of inclusion. For accounting purposes, we will call these trips "research."

The winners were determined via that most rigid of scientific methods: the Internet poll. If it's a good enough way to determine who's the sexiest Pussycat Doll or which character on The Office we most resemble, it is good enough for us. (As an added bonus, no one in the history of the Internet has ever manipulated poll results for personal gain. So that's a relief.)

Finally, we went back and revisited our winners, exploring what made you all fall in love with them in the first place. The end result, the Ultimate Guide to Tampa Bay, is currently resting in your hands.

Alongside each winner, you'll find a list of the other five nominees in that category, and what percentage of the vote each one received. If you'd like to know more about any of the candidates, head to blogs.tampabay.com/ultimate. Click on the appropriate category, and you'll see a complete breakdown of all the nominees, as well as a recap of that particular vote.

(Please note that some of the vote totals might not equal exactly 100 percent. This is due to decimals and rounding and numerators and pi and cosine and several other mathematical terms we aren't sure we fully understand. But rest assured, the totals are legit.)

So let's get to it. Who is Tampa Bay's ultimate bartender? What is Tampa Bay's ultimate dessert? Where is Tampa Bay's ultimate dog park? Where is the Ultimate place to propose in all of Tampa Bay?

You should know. After all, the choice was ultimately yours.