Central Chicago's Southland dishes their favorite everything- local BBQs and pet stores score big 

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First in fun: Families find all ways to have a ball while visiting Odyssey Fun World in Tinley Park. The site was the winner in the Family Fun Center category of the 2011 Best of Chicago's Southland. | File photo

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Shrewd shoppers seek out the best in their region.

The SouthtownStar got the ball rolling last month by prompting readers to let us know their favorite places to shop, eat, go dancing, golf, get their nails manicured, and dozens of other choices — and boy did they respond. Ballots cut out from the SouthtownStar or done online poured in, keeping the staff busy tabulating the winners. But that’s nothing new, the popular contest has been going on for 15 years and for good reason, according to the SouthtownStar’s advertising manager John Doolin.

“All the feedback we receive year after year is positive and all businesses look forward to the results,” Doolin said.

Doolin sees the promotional contest as a win-win situation for SouthtownStar readers as well as for the businesses in the newspaper’s region.

Among the 2011 winners are long-time business and former champions in multiple “Best of” contests, including Jack Gibbons Gardens restaurant in Oak Forest, Hollywood Park in Crestwood and Evergreen Door & Window in Evergreen Park.

“We’ve had customers congratulate us (for past wins) and tell us it brought them to our door,” said Bob Grilic, owner of Evergreen Door & Window. “It’s our reward for always aiming for excellence and to be the best.”

Others are enjoying their first experience of being named one of the most liked businesses in the Southland, such as Hog Wild in Midlothian and Animal Krackers Pet Center in Merrionette Park.

“We’re a small business and happy to be noticed,” said Animal Krackers owner Carl Kogut. “We try to satisfy our customers and this recognition makes us feel we’re doing something right.”

In addition to being listed in this special section, those named in the contest receive a framed certificate and a window cling proclaiming them winners in the “SouthtownStar Best of Chicago’s Southland - 2011” to place at their business location.

Congrats to all! Be sure to vote again next year to keep your favorites in the top spots.