It's a little embarrassing to admit it, particularly in retrospect, but the newsroom here at Riverfront Times was caught by surprise and thoroughly discombobulated when the End of the World failed to make its scheduled appearance back on May 21.

In anticipation of the Big Event, we'd set up an entire Rapture Bureau — in the musty old storage closet where our art director dumps all the crap he uses for photo shoots (boy, was he pissed!) — and now we had to totally dismantle it. Worse, everything was going back to business as usual, the same old same old.

You can imagine the grumbling.

But then it hit us: Research for our annual "Best of St. Louis" issue was about to get under way. We could have our own Rapture!

So here you have it, the "Best of St. Louis 2011," a celebration of all that's still marvelous about the town we call home, in the form of nearly 400 blurb-length tributes to everything from the "Best Baby Store" to the "Best Cemetery." From the "Best Adult Video Store" to the "Best Place to Shop for Grandma" and no, they're not the same place — not this year, anyway). From the "Best 3 a.m. Bar" to the "Best Breakfast with a Hangover." Read, enjoy, jot down notes, shake your head and sneer at our totally off-base selection in the category that was the subject of your PhD dissertation.

Which seems as good a time as any to note that our picks are entirely subjective, that all of us have our own personal favorites in our own personal-favorite categories and that once again we invited y'all to share yours via our Readers' Poll, the results of which you will find alongside our own choices.

Go ahead and see what we've found, but by all means take your time: You've got an entire year until the "Best of St. Louis 2012" — unless the rescheduled Rapture really does come to pass (in which case we've all got, oh, about three weeks).

Tom Finkel, Editor

P.S.: Earlier this week, as we were putting the final touches on this year's issue, St. Louis lost one of our very, very best. To say sculptor and City Museum founder Bob Cassilly will be missed is a colossal understatement. In his creative genius, boundless capacity for whimsy and unstinting love of all things loonbag, Cassilly was a walking, talking, working, stark-raving embodiment of anyone's definition of the Best of St. Louis.

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Writers: Mike Appelstein, Jessica Baran, Diana Benanti, Dennis Brown, Tom Carlson, Calvin Cox, Suzy Crancer, Michael Dauphin, Sarah Fenske, Tom Finkel, Brooke Foster, Paul Friswold, Ian Froeb, Julia Gabbert, Chad Garrison, Deborah Hyland, Roy Kasten, Kristen Klempert, Josh Levi, Aimee Levitt, Kiernan Maletsky, Kristie McClanahan, Bob McMahon, Melissa Meinzer, William Melton, Dean Minderman, Elizabeth Ortmann, Nicholas Phillips, Albert Samaha, Christian Schaeffer, Alison Sieloff, Mabel Suen, John Tucker, Ryan Wasoba, Robin Wheeler, Kelsey Whipple, Chrissy Wilmes, Amanda Woytus
Operations manager: Kristie McClanahan
Ballot tally: Chrissy Wilmes
Fact-checking and proofreading: Meghan Edmonds, Jamie Scott, Chrissy Wilmes
Editorial coordinator: Chrissy Wilmes
Design: Tom Carlson
Photography and photo-illustration: Josh Rowan
Photographer's assistant: GoGo McGregor
Hair, makeup and styling: Greta Garter
Layout: Kholood Eid

See a slideshow of this year's Best of St. Louis photo-illustrations by Josh Rowan.

Download a pdf of vector-based Best of St. Louis 2011 winners graphics here.