Best of Skagit 2019
Deception Pass State Park
With 10 islands, two bays, multiple headlands and both sides of a jaw-dropping chasm to catch the tidal currents that flood and ebb within its storied Salishian bounds, the most visited state park in Washington harbors nearly 14 miles of saltwater shoreline where expansive beaches provide intimate vistas and sequestered beach-goers proliferate. I tend to hug the western shore of Fidalgo Island among the tidal pools of Rosario Beach, then zip across the bridge to explore the intertidal fringes of the Whidbey side. West Beach provides sand dunes to frolic among, while North Beach offers a carpet of pebbly sand.
Where: Anacortes and Oak Harbor
When it comes to winning in this category, this is not Whiskey Fever’s first rodeo. The band is led by Jack Mattingly, who got his start singing Elvis songs for his elementary school classmates and hasn’t stopped performing since. The band has made its reputation by waking up sometimes-sleepy Skagit County with high-octane performances, hallmarked by Mattingly’s songwriting skills and the group’s unbridled energy and desire to engage their audiences from the front row clear to the back door.
Riverside Health Club
At Riverside Health Club, the goal is simple: setting you up for success no matter where you are on your health journey. Beautiful, state-of-the-art facilities and knowledgeable and passionate trainers provide the opportunity to find the best workout for you, whether it’s in the pool, on the racquetball court, or in the weight room. Nutritional services and personal training are also available among the astounding 100 classes offered at its two locations.
Where: Mount Vernon, Sedro-Woolley
Farmstrong Brewing Company
“Crafting award-winning beer while remaining agriculturally independent is no longer a dream, but a reality,” a staffer at Farmstrong Brewing Company recently told us. They weren’t kidding. After spending a year tweaking recipes, the Mount Vernon-based brewery can now boast that every brew they pour was made with grain that was grown, malted and brewed within a 10-mile radius. So while you’re on the Farmstrong patio sipping a Valley Gold in the spring sunshine, you can rest assured it quite literally tastes like the place it comes from.
Where: 110 Stewart Rd., Mount Vernon
Inside Mount Vernon’s Grainery building, Il Granaio owner and Chef Alberto Candivi creates his own brand of magic. A native of Italy, Alberto’s passion for cooking has graced the Skagit Valley for nearly 20 years, and we are all the better for it. In addition to fresh, handmade pasta, house specialties and room for private parties, you can also learn from the chef himself by participating in one of Alberto’s Italian cooking classes.
Where: 100 W. Montgomery St. #110, Mount Vernon
Best Place to Get a Tattoo:
Good Vibes Body Art
Few decisions in life are as permanent as getting a tattoo. Which is why you trust your expanses of blank skin to the artists at Mount Vernon’s Good Vibes. The talented crew of artists is well-versed in all styles of ink, from small line drawings and simple lettering to elaborate back pieces and full sleeves. Even better, Good Vibes breaks the male monopoly found at many tattoo shops, with an all-female staff and an inclusive ethos, no matter how weird or wonderful your tattoo idea or inspiration might be. Looking to get pierced in a sanitary, professional environment? Good Vibes has you covered.
Where: 503 S. 1st St., Mount Vernon
Any barbershop can cut a person’s hair, but Mount Vernon’s Genesis Salon + Spa offers an immersive full-service spa experience typically only found in much larger cities. They’re equipped to handle all your hair needs, from a simple kid’s cut all the way up to balayage that will be the envy of your fashionable friends. And that’s just the beginning because Genesis’ talented and practiced staff is fully ready to wax your monobrow, make your skin glow with a facial, give you eyelash extensions and doll you up for a big event. In short, they can spruce you up from head to toe, and give you big-city services with small-town charm and prices.
Where: 302 S. 1st St.,
Best Place for a First Date:
There’s something about an old-school steakhouse fine-dining experience, and that’s what 13moons in the Swinomish Casino & Lodge so capably provides. Decorated in Swinomish Native tribal art and with a menu separated into sections such as “From the Salish Sea” and “From the Salish Land,” the tribe’s pride of place is on display in every detail. While you can certainly partake of one of their skillfully prepared steaks or other mouthwatering dishes, the most popular order at 13moons is the signature hand-cut Alder-wood grilled salmon. Given how important salmon are to every facet of Swinomish tribal history, culture and life, it makes perfect sense that 13moons would treat it with the reverence it deserves.
Where: Swinomish Casino & Lodge, 12885 Casino Dr.
Skagit River Salmon Festival
A number of factors contribute to the success of the Skagit River Salmon Festival, which is held early every September at Mount Vernon’s Edgewater Park. Strong connections to other members of the conservation community and the lovely locale along the banks of the body of water the nonprofit is working to protect are key to the event’s popularity, but so too is the roster of live music, food and drink, artisan wares, raptor shows, arts and crafts, and family-friendly activities that are part of the gathering. Organizers promise attendees will have heaps of fun, but also hope they’ll leave with a greater sense of the stewardship role each community member can take in safeguarding the Skagit River watershed.
Where: 600 Behrens-Millett Rd., Mount Vernon
Village Pizza and Wheelhouse Bar
Pizza is our most fiercely divided and voted-upon category. We get it, Cascadians. You like your ‘za. And this year you deemed Village Pizza as the ruler of all. From fresh dough baked each morning and standard favorites to unique toppings such as mandarin oranges, oysters or shrimp, their menu is sure to please every palate.
Where: 807 Commercial Ave., Anacortes
Now that companion bills to preserve the 1,600-acre core of Blanchard State Forest for all current and future generations are working their way through the finalization process deep in Washington State Legislature, legions of loyal trail users can expect that whether they’re chugging up the switchbacks from Chuckanut Drive, contouring along the ridge line from Samish Overlook, or slogging through leeward dog hair via B-1000 Road, the crowning stand of mature timber on and around the dome will be perpetually protected from the denuding process and waiting to be savored in all its rocky, salal-carpeted glory.
Where: Pacific NW Trail, Bow
Best Place to Get a Massage:
Calm Water Massage
Spotted on Calm Water Massage’s website is a quote from fashion designer Donna Karan: ”It’s all about finding the calm in the chaos.” Owner Traci Fralic takes that motto to heart, offering daytime getaways from aches and pains via Swedish, deep tissue, pregnancy, and hot stone massages at her serene Pine Square studio in downtown Mount Vernon. Aromatherapy is complimentary with each treatment, further removing you from the stresses of everyday life.
Where: 312 Pine St., Mount Vernon
Best Place to Dance/Place to See Live Music/Best Bartender:
Year after year, no one cleans up in more Best of Skagit categories than the Conway Muse. That’s saying something for a venue that exists in a town way off the beaten path and with a population of fewer than a hundred people. The header on the Muse’s website calls it “where the magic happens,” and that magic has a whole lot to do with owners, Elfa Gisla and Tom Richardson. And if you’re the type of person who likes your magic in the form of an expertly crafted and poured cocktail, Kelly Hayton is who you most want to see behind the bar, as her multiple wins in this category can attest.
Where: 18444 Spruce St., Conway
Best Grocery Store:
Skagit Valley Food Co-op
Walking the aisles of the Co-op is like a brief tour through the Skagit—fresh local produce from partner farms, a focus on the nutritious and the sustainable, and the locals who are passionate members and supporters of this thriving market. A recent expansion has brought in C-Square, the deli and bistro complex. Third Street Cafe is the only community-owned restaurant in Skagit Valley, and well beyond. Life is so good here.
Where: 202 South First Street, Mount Vernon
Skagit Valley Burger Express
The open road of the North Cascades Highway beckoned. On the way out, I pulled in at the little red caboose just this side of Sedro-Woolley. Ordered my favorite, the appropriately named Atomic Mushroom burger—a toasted bun loaded like a catchers’ mitt full of beef and bacon, grilled onions, molten Swiss cheese and, yeah, sautéed mushrooms. Thick chocolate shake, and I was good to go. The sun broke through the overcast, and I was on my way.
Where: 172 WA-20, Sedro-Woolley
There isn’t much Dominic hasn’t accomplished in the last nine years of his real estate career. From “Rookie of the Year” to the cover of Realtor Magazine, the list of his accomplishments goes on and on. But what really sets the Pettruzzelli team apart is Dominic’s passion for helping others build net worth through homeownership, which deservedly garnered him this year’s title of Best Realtor.
Where: 425 Commercial St., Mount Vernon
Christianson’s Nursery & Greenhouse
On the way to Edison for a late lunch after a dizzying tour through downtown Mount Vernon, I bellowed “pull over!” when we passed by Christianson’s Nursery. I handed my date a Power Bar to snack on, and we set off to explore the expansive grounds and greenhouses that house the largest selection of roses and perennials in Northwest Washington. After a quick peek at the annual “Art in the Schoolhouse” exhibit in the 1880s-era restored schoolhouse, we were back on the road.
Where: 15806 Best Rd., Mount Vernon
The first time I went to Schuh Farms, it was during harvest season and I was enchanted by its many charms. There were U-pick pumpkins aplenty, a corn maze, the perfect little shop to purchase locally harvested goods and the best tractor ride in Skagit County. Happily, the Schuh Family opens its doors daily from April through December to allow you and your posse to have fun on the farm.
Where: 15565 WA-536, Mount Vernon
Eagle Haven Winery
The artisan libations Eagle Haven Winery crafts from the fruits of its lush orchards near Sedro-Woolley are worth pulling off the freeway to procure, but visitors shouldn’t just grab their purchases and go. Whether you’re sipping a glass of raspberry wine by the fire in the tasting room, touring the vineyard, listening to live music as part of an outdoor summer concert series, or dropping by the inaugural farmers market—which opens in late May—there’s always something to experience at Eagle Haven.
Where: 8243 Sims Rd., Sedro-Woolley
With a list of deli sandwich options a mile long, it’s arguable that the hardest part about eating at Gere-a-Deli is finding your favorite. But the list doesn’t stop there. The eatery that has been feeding Anacortes residents since 1981 also features a fantastic salad and soup menu, as well as baked in-house desserts. Need to feed a group? Yep, they’ve got you covered there, too.
Where: 502 Commercial Ave., Anacortes
Mad Hatter’s Ice Cream
What do Pokemon Go and Mad Hatter’s Ice Cream have in common? A few summers ago, the award-winning dessert destination in Anacortes made national news after finding itself in close proximity to a number of the popular app’s real-world stops—something owner and Navy veteran Gary Dear said led to a boom in sales and new friendships forged over servings of hard and soft ice cream made with milk from local dairies, house-made waffle cones and sundaes. While the news stories related to Mad Hatter’s have mostly subsided, people’s seasonal cravings for Dear’s flavorful concoctions crafted at the small blue building on Sixth Street have not. No matter what, you’re still in for a scoop.
Where: 801 6th St., Anacortes
Originally founded by Bill Stiles in 1951, Brock followed his father’s footsteps into the family business, Stiles Law. He has been practicing in Skagit County for more than 30 years, covering a vast array of legal services including personal injury, workers comp, probate, estate and real estate planning, and landlord/tenant disputes—meaning you can leave your legal issues in his capable hands.
Where: 925 Metcalf St., Sedro-Woolley
Shambala Bakery & Bistro
Using only non-GMO products, Shambala Bakery & Bistro in downtown Mount Vernon offers a plethora of gluten-free breads, carefully crafted sandwiches, wraps, salads, soups, sauces and even pizza with attention paid to every menu item, and with allergy sensitivities in mind. The food lovingly prepared here is a vegetarian and vegan’s dream. Even if you’re not following that particular food path, the fare is undeniably delicious. Be kind to yourself. Eat at Shambala.
Where: 614 S. First St., Mount Vernon
Best Auto Repair:
Is there anything more stressful than a searing red engine light? Fortunately, JP was there to take away some of my stress. After a short wait, JP mechanics ran a diagnostic. They quoted me a low price for the scan—nope, all good, light’s out—then waived it for my promise I’d return soon for a full maintenance fluid replacement. Sometimes a light is just a light, but better tuned than marooned.
Where: 1304 Memorial Hwy., Mount Vernon
Info: (360) 336-3496
When you want a proper lunch, you like to hit up Carver’s Cafe at the Swinomish Casino & Lodge. Everything on the menu falls under the general header of “classic American cuisine,” but with the volume turned up. For instance, the flank steak comes with a side of cheese enchiladas, the fish and chips are made with halibut, and the “hot turkey sandwich” is really a full Thanksgiving dinner on a slab of bread. For those of you who skipped breakfast, Carver’s has you covered there too. If you time it right, you can even play a little blackjack before returning to work.
Where: Swinomish Casino & Lodge, 12885 Casino Dr., Anacortes
Nestled at the foot of the Chuckanuts, where the Skagit flats give way to the scenic climb along the sparkling coast, you’ll find this iconic roadhouse. Operated as a family business since the early ’60s, in 2019 the Manor brought in a new ownership and still operates under the capable stewardship of Executive Chef Victor Marquez and General Manager Eric Bemis. We start with Samish Bay kumamotos paired with a suggested dry white and, because I have hungered for it so much, I also order the whiskey crab soup. The sun sets, and we are suspended in air and golden light. We are transfixed.
Where: 3056 Chuckanut Dr., Bow
As its name suggests, Boeing Employees Credit Union originally existed to serve employees of the massive aerospace company. When they opened their membership to the general public, they also changed their name, and now they’re BECU to one and all. With a reputation for excellent customer service and sound financial advice, along with the particular perks that come with your membership, they’re doing their best to make managing your money a pleasure rather than a chore.
Where: 1753 S. Burlington Blvd., Burlington
Best Gear Store:
Dick’s Sporting Goods
A jungle teeming with sports and game supplies almost conceals a small forest of rods and reels at Dick’s. If you’re like me, you’re more into forests than fields, and creeks more than courts, and gaiters more than sneakers, and rainbows more than rinks. Doesn’t matter. Dick’s services it all with many brands, and a splendor of vendors.
Where: 2000 S. Burlington Blvd
Best Auto Dealer:
Over the rivers and through the hills, you can tell a lot about a Skagitonian by the rigs they drive. These are sensible cars, with an eye toward rugged off-road capacity. They’re imports mostly, which means good fuel-efficiency and full features. Where Skagitonians buy their rigs says just as much—high value at a good low price from a family dealership that’s been selling cars for just about as long as there have been cars.
Where: 1881 Bouslog Rd., Burlington
Info: (360) 757-7575
Best News Story:
Save the Whales
Skagit is a land of wild rivers, soaring glacier peaks, fertile valleys and forested dots of islands sprinkling an inland sea. Powerful predatory whales live in these waters and feed on the tastiest wild fish on earth, the Chinook. Ours is as exotic as any landscape on the planet, and perhaps it is more threatened than many.
Those whales—the southern resident orcas—aren’t especially shy and can be viewed almost daily, although their numbers are in precipitous decline. Deaths in their pods have exceeded live births, threatening a spiral to extinction. They’re sick, and they’re starving. The cause? Increased human activity around the Puget Sound, as a region that is loved too much and too recklessly.
Alarmed by the decline of these iconic creatures, the Washington Legislature this session passed sweeping protections for the Salish Sea’s ailing orca population. Championed by lawmakers who represent Skagit and the San Juans, a quartet of bills cover a variety of measures, including whale watching, pollution and more. Yet budgets passed by the House and Senate so far contain no funding to continue the governor’s task force on orca recovery. There’s no agreement on plans to increase Chinook runs. And revenue measures to help pay for everything, from increasing hatchery production to enforcement of habitat protections, have yet to be decided.
As we dedicate this issue to celebrate all the best our region has to offer in scenic beauty, in recreation, in menus and samplings that are unique to who we are, let us acknowledge how fragile it is and how fierce we must be in its protection.
Best Mexican/Best Margarita:
COA Mexican Eatery
This might be a controversial opinion, but at COA it is wise to bypass the tacos in favor of any dish that comes doused in one or more of their signature house-made sauces: mole, poblano and pimenton crema. If you really want to get a sense of what sets COA apart from the rest of Skagit County’s excellent Mexican options, try the award-winning chile relleno (ask for extra pimenton crema—trust me). Wash it all down with the freshest made-to-order margarita you’ve ever had and your only regret will be that it’s probably not feasible to eat at COA every single day of your life.
Where: Mount Vernon, La Conner
Ristretto Coffee Lounge and Wine Bar
Ristretto is exactly what you want a neighborhood coffeehouse to be: warm and inviting and full of regulars busy working, socializing or just stopping in for a cuppa. By day, they sling a variety of bagels, wraps and baked goods to go with their array of coffees, teas and smoothies (I’m a big fan of the Abuelita Mocha). By night, it becomes a cozy wine bar, offering a thoughtful selection of Washington wines and locally brewed beers, augmented by artfully crafted paninis, salads, and meat and cheese plates. If you show up for breakfast and stay all day, no one would blame you.
Where: 416 S. 1st St., Mount Vernon
On a recent drive through Skagit Valley, our vehicle came to a screeching halt in front of Bow-based artist Joe Treat’s home on Worline Road. A giant T-Rex stopped us in our tracks, and when a life-sized elephant came into focus, I realized we had arrived at a roadside gallery, and that the sinewy sculptures Treat crafts from driftwood are nothing short of miraculous. “I started this artwork three years ago,” the mostly retired insurance salesman explains, noting he was inspired by teak horses he happened upon in Thailand. “I made a triceratops and put it in my yard. It got so much attention, and people started calling me an artist. Since then, I have made 30 sculptures. Anacortes Depot Arts Center bought my giraffes, and I have a couple of pieces at the sculpture park in Roche Harbor. I am currently working on a horse.”
Where: 6751 Worline Rd., Bow
Best Island Destination:
The Sealth shudders as she eases out of a drippy morning mist. There’s a wrong way out to the islands and a right way, and the right way takes longer, needs no car, and catches all the islands—Lopez, Shaw, and at last thrumming and churning into San Juan. We walk right into town from the ferry landing and the shops and eateries unfold for us like a map. It’s cold, and raining—a perfect Pacific Northwest day—and the coffee is aromatic and warm. The live music starts just before the last ferry out and if we linger we’ll be stranded. I reckon we’ll stay awhile.
Where: San Juan Island
Rachawadee Thai Cafe
How can so much wonderful flavor be packed into so tiny a lunch counter? Little bigger than a food truck, Rachawadee features a rich selection of dishes from Thailand’s coast to the interior with an authentic heat that really opens your taste buds (and pores!). On this visit, I ordered their Noodle Boat, a beef stew in a savory broth with thick, chewy noodles. Delicious.
Where: 410 W. Gates St., Mount Vernon
Best Clothing Stores:
Bargains Galore Thrift Store, House of Style Boutique and Salon
If you’re considering dropping by Bargains Galore or House of Style, be aware the Mount Vernon-based retailers are shuttered on Sundays. I found that out the hard way, but was still able to suss out what led to a tie in this coveted category. Both community-minded establishments offer deals—a sign in front of Bargains Galore boasted a “75 percent off pants” sale, and a peek at a “locals only” placard inside the House of Style promoted a hefty discount to local customers—and each business also expands its vision to include more than clothing. At either locale, patrons can expect a win-win experience.
If there’s any doubt Mount Vernon’s Lincoln Theatre is a valuable asset, look to the “Drinkin’ for the Lincoln” fundraiser taking place through April at the Skagit Food Co-op and its Third Street Cafe—who will donate $1 from every Ninkasi six-pack or pint sold to the Lincoln’s historic preservation and arts programs. And the Lincoln gives back to its community in spades, whether it’s screening films that show a different worldview or point to local issues, hosting top-notch productions from Skagit Valley-based theater companies, bringing both Grammy Award-winning musicians and high school jazz programs alike to its historic stage, or focusing on important community conversations.
Where: 712 S. First St., Mount Vernon
Best Brunch/Bloody Mary:
Trainwreck Bar & Grill
The Bloody Mary that’s also a brunch, Trainwreck’s signature beverage is a meal in a mason jar. When it arrives, everyone within sight of it marvels. But there’s so much more packed into the menu—including a sinfully good bacon waffle, breakfast tacos, and French toast that tastes like its been dipped in a creamsicle. Brunch starts in the morning and carries through the afternoon, and I can’t think of a better place to spend that time than at this Burlington icon.
Where: 427 E. Fairhaven Ave., Burlington
Best Destination on Highway 20:
The pass was just cleared, but we weren’t going much past Diablo and the Ruby Arm, still frosty from winter. On the way back, we hit the place everyone chooses—coming or going. The Birdsview brewpub was packed, tables filled with folks spinning yarns and unraveling the hokum. I ordered the malty SasScotch; my partner called for the Ditsy Blonde and clowned as she drank it. We weren’t ready to say goodbye, so we parked on a quiet street in Hamilton and walked down to marvel at the Skagit, pregnant with the spring thaw.
Where: 38302 WA-20, Concrete
Best Yoga Studio:
Quantum Health and Yoga Lounge
“Exercise daily” is one of six steps the powers that be at Quantum Health and Yoga Lounge are bending over backward to help their customers achieve on their personal pathways to optimal health. And regardless of fitness level, age or ability to master the downward dog pose, all are welcome to find out more about what it will take to feel good on a regular basis at this Burlington-based oasis.
Where: 121 Spruce St., Burlington
Best Pot Store:
Herbal Legends Cannabis
Before recreational marijuana was legalized, the Healthy Living Center in Bellingham earned a reputation for stocking high-quality and effective medical cannabis for those able to purchase it under doctor’s orders. When Washington legalized the plant unilaterally, the family-owned business continued to offer superior products and service, but changed its name to Herbal Legends and opened another store in Mount Vernon. So whether you’re searching for flowers, wax, vape cartridges or edibles, rest assured the cannabis consultants at Herbal Legends still put the needs of their customers first.
Where: 2714 Henson Rd., Mount Vernon
Best Fine Dining:
Nell Thorn is snug and cozy and intimate as a private home. Dark hardwood tables are decked in cheerful white linen. I must try the fabulous braised lamb. My love chooses the toscano clams in a creamy sauce fragrant with fennel. We’re feeling decadent, so we share a slice of Nell’s signature French chocolate cake drizzled with a chocolate and berry sauce over warm steaming mugs of café au lait. It’s getting late and time to go home. No, not just yet.
Where: 116 S. 1st St. La Conner
Best Place to Play Cards/Slots:
Swinomish Casino & Lodge
I can think of few locales more perfect for a celebration or staycation than the Swinomish Casino & Lodge. When you’re not gaming at one of their tables or trying your luck at a slot machine, you can relax in one of the well-appointed rooms in the Lodge and enjoy the view of scenic Padilla Bay. When hunger strikes, your only difficulty will be in deciding which of its many eateries suits your cravings. And if your idea of a good time is a round of golf, the Swin’s stunning 18-hole course is waiting for you to tee up.
Where: 12885 Casino Dr., Anacortes
Best Bakery/ Breakfast:
If Skagit County has a touchstone for a hearty, homemade meal, it is surely Calico Cupboard. Locals and visitors alike flock to each of its three locations in Mount Vernon, Anacortes, and La Conner. No matter which Calico Cupboard you choose, you’ll find a welcoming atmosphere and a menu chock full of unique scrambles, sandwiches and other satisfying dishes—every bit of it made in house, with love. But where Calico Cupboard truly shines is in its staggering array of breads, bars, pies, pastries and other baked goods. Go for a heaping plate of Skagit hash, and be sure and take a giant cinnamon roll with you when you depart.
Where: Mount Vernon, Anacortes, La Conner
Best Happy Hour:
The Porterhouse Pub
With its location just off Mount Vernon’s Riverwalk and its 22 beers on tap and 13 wines from which to choose, the Porterhouse Pub is an easy place to wander into anytime of the day, but from 3pm-6pm daily and all day on Monday, the hours are a bit happier and the prices help the beer to flow. Pair a brew or glass of wine with nachos, carne asada fries, calamari or other small bites, or go for the “bottle of wine and snack plate” special. After you’re done, take a stroll along the river and bask in the afterglow of a happy hour that lives up to its name.
Where: 416 W. Gates St., Mount Vernon
Smith & Vallee Gallery
“North Fork Skagit River near Barge Island” is the title of the cast artist Allen Moe made on sandbars less than a mile from his shack on the Skagit River Delta. The otherworldly artwork greets visitors outside the door of Smith & Vallee Gallery in Edison, and is a harbinger of what to expect when you walk through the doors of the historic schoolhouse—namely, that each month’s artists often pay homage to the natural world. The exhibit by painter Hart James and sculptor Jan Hoy showing through April 28 is no exception. James’ artful abstractions such as “Sky Meets Earth, Skagit Valley” will look familiar, and Hoy’s sculptures have a contemporary bent, but are rooted in reverence for nature. They’re a wonder to behold.
Where: 5742 Gilkey Ave., Edison
Double Barrel BBQ
A secret of the Skagit, you’ve got to—I don’t know—get invited to a wedding or something to sample Double Barrel’s rich, savory meats that just fall from the bone. That’s because their southern style pit BBQ business is focused on catering. They take their time with their orders, slow smoking their meats over oak and fruit woods. They’ve made a wedding crasher out of me.
Where: 108 W. Moore St., Sedro-Woolley
Best Bike Store:
Skagit Cycle Center
When avid bicyclists Bernie and Gary Santiago opened Skagit Pedal Sports in Burlington in 1998, the spouses were fulfilling a lifelong dream of sharing a passion for biking with their community. More than 20 years later—with a name change to Skagit Cycle Center and expansions in Anacortes and Oak Harbor—their formula of combining work and play has paid off. Sure, the Santiagos sell cycles and accessories for everything from casual rides to mountain treks, but they’re also fellow adventurers who are eager to share the love, whether it’s offering advice on local rides or suggesting where to pick up lunch for your outing.
Where: Burlington, Anacortes, Oak Harbor
Best Music Store:
Hugo Helmer Music
It’s tough to miss the venerable Hugo Helmer—after all, it’s a fairly large bright yellow building that acts as a musician-drawing beacon. Once inside the expansive store that has been in business for more than 80 years, you’ll find a paradise of instruments, gear, accessories and all of the bits required to realize any rock star dream. A robust rental program and a full-service repair shop for when you windmill off the stage and smash your guitar’s headstock makes Hugo Helmer a worthy collaborator for any musical project.
Where: 1025 S. Goldenrod Rd., Burlington