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IOWA CITY — Our worlds are changing so quickly — and one great illustration of that is the Third Annual Best of the CRANDIC from Little Village Mag, just announced last week to celebratory social media fanfare throughout the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids area.

Even though the CRANDIC awards are presented by “another” publication, honoring them is a worthwhile effort.

• To honor Little Village Mag by recognizing its CRANDIC awards is to pay homage to a respected ancestor, in a way. LV has been publishing since 2001, though these awards are just three years old. It’s a publication that deserves to be recognized for its recognitions.

• Reflecting on LV‘s awards gives us a chance to also honor many CRANDIC winners that are also part of The Real MainStream‘s baby family. A few paragraphs down, you’ll read about the 17 CRANDIC honorees — several of them downright trend-setting — that have also been pivotal to The Real MainStream‘s first two years of publication.


• And finally, it’s a win for us, because many of the trends apparent in LV‘s third annual CRANDIC Awards help illustrate why The Real MainStream formed two years ago. Amazingly, a strong confluence exists between what LV readers said through their votes (the CRANDIC are based on readers’ votes from August and September) and what The Real MainStream stands for since our founding in December 2018. Who knows whether our new publication helped influence LV reader choices, or whether we were simply ahead of the times in reflecting changes to come? Regardless, what a thrill to feel such a resonance between this publication, and the evolutions apparent in LV‘s latest CRANDIC.

Here’s a quick rundown of those new qualities, and how they align with TRM. And then, we’ll circle back to talk about some specific, standout award-winners.

• Cruelty-free eating is far more prominent today than the CRANDIC’s first two years. Vegan options weren’t even part of the awards in 2018 and 2019. This year, by contrast, not only is “vegan” a category; the all-vegan Trumpet Blossom Cafe won three categories outright and was named runner-up in four more. Wow! After 10 years, this Iowa City one-of-a-kind is finally getting its just due. As a publication that has focused on animal welfare from our first edition, we’re also excited to see this CRANDIC evolution.

• “CRANDIC for Grownups” seems to be a trend. Though categories like “where to take your parents” and “where to go on a first date” still remain, the whole collection seems to have a more mature feel, including new categories like Best Home Furnishings and Most Innovative in Food and Drink

• Booze is no longer the only vice that matters in the CRANDIC! For the first time in the awards’ three-year history, vaping and smoking accessory shop is a category, claimed by The Konnexion. This sign of the times is significant in a town where alcohol holds a certain spot on the pedestal; at a time when vaping is the easiest scapegoat; and at a time when the related topic of legalization is becoming more relevant as Iowa is gradually surrounded by legal states.

• “I coulda used a little more Deadwood …. I gotta have more Deadwood …. More Deadwood!” After hardly appearing in the first two CRANDIC editions, The Deadwood appeared in five categories this year. That’s notable for a place that’s been around for 50 years.

• Spoken word finally gets the nod it deserves — many years too late in a town that bills itself as the “city of literature.” We began to focus on spoken word in February 2019, with the ample skills of this year’s Best Spoken Word Artist, Caleb “The Negro Artist” Rainey, who wrote a series of seven columns about spoken word that explored its past, present and future. A shame it’s taken this long for the art of spoken word to be honored, but we’re here now, thankfully.

• The business names mentioned above are all at least 10 years old. And yet they each have a greater presence in this year’s CRANDIC than ever before. Like this column and the gesture it is to LV, this trend is a sign of renewed respect among CRANDIC voters for those that have paved all of our paths in eastern Iowa. It’s also a fabulous development in a city that heretofore has built its reputation on the transient, ever-changing, and not-really-attached community of “students.” So good to see our community’s pioneers get their just CRANDIC respect this year!

In recognizing CRANDIC award-winners with a TRM connection, we have to start with Caleb Rainey. It’s only right that this poet, whose original inspiration was to stand up for racial justice, is earning greater recognition than ever before in a year also devoted to the pursuit of racial justice. Here’s a look at all of his spoken word columns:

And then, there are another 16 entities whose relevance to this community included current or past periods of huge relevance to TRM:

  • Dodge Street Tire & Auto: Named Most Trusted Mechanic for all three years, Dodge Street Tire & Auto joined TRM earlier this year.
  • Dwell Home Furnishings: Appearing in the CRANDIC awards for the first time ever, in a new category, Dwell joined TRM in January of this year
  • Emma Goldman Clinic: Named Best Women’s Health Clinic for three years in a row, EGC advertised in TRM for a year.
  • FilmScene: Best Movie Theater for three years running, FilmScene was part of TRM until the pandemic hit in March.
  • HABA Salon: Runner-up for Best Hair Salon this year, HABA was part of TRM for a year and also had its North Liberty sister salon the Hartwood on board for a while.
  • Iowa Running Co.: Named Best Shoe Store, a brand new category, Iowa Running Co. joined TRM in February of this year.
  • Micky’s: Earning runner-up for Best Pub Food this year, Micky’s was part of TRM from founding until the pandemic hit in March.
  • RAYGUN: named Most Unique Shop and runner-up for Best Locally Made Product, RAYGUN appears in the CRANDIC for the first time ever and has been part of The Real MainStream since January 2019.
  • Shakespeare’s Pub & Grill: Honored for Best Pub Food, and Best Karaoke Night, Shakesepeare’s became part of TRM in March 2019.
  • Studio 13: Though it hasn’t been part of TRM since June 2019, it helped kick things off! Studio stays strong for the third straight year as LV CRANDIC’s Best Place to Dance and Best LGBTQ Hangout, and runner-up for Best Karaoke
  • The Deadwood: Honored this year for Best Atmosphere, The Deadwood also received runner-up for Best Bartender (Carlos Amaya), Best Dive Bar, Best LGBTQ Hangout, and Best Place to People-Watch. The Deadwood has been part of TRM since its founding in December 2018.
  • The Konnexion: Appearing in the CRANDIC for the first time ever, in a new category, The Konnexion was named Best Tobacco/Vape Shop.
  • Toyota of Iowa City: Toyota of Iowa City was named Most Trusted in Auto Sales for the third straight year and has been part of TRM since its founding in December 2018
  • Trumpet Blossom Cafe: Founder Katy Meyer was recognized this year as Best Chef, and Trumpet Blossom was named Best Innovative Menu, and Best Vegan Option. Trumpet Blossom also received runner-up for Best Restaurant, Best Food-Scene Game-Changer, Best Gluten-Free-Friendly Options, and Best Place to See Live Music. Trumpet Blossom Cafe joined TRM in December 2019.
  • World of Bikes: This Gilbert Street shop, which joined TRM in March 2019, earned runner-up for Best Bike Shop.

The CRANDIC name comes from an acronym for “Cedar Rapids and Iowa City,” and is also the name of a historic railway serving Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. Read about ALL the CRANDIC winners from this year, 2019 and 2018 here..

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Author Christine Hawes is managing/executive editor of The Real MainStream.