Best of Skagit 2016

Best Bike Shop:

The HUB

thehub2-o.jpg
Oh, the bike lovers’ lament—a major student housing project has displaced the Alley Arts District on State Street, and along with it the HUB Community Bike Shop. The HUB is an innovative project and community space that rescues and refurbishes donated bike parts and makes them available for custom builds. They offer full-service repairs and tune-ups, in addition to a self-repair station with tools so you can be an expert in fixing your own bike. They’ve lost their home—they closed up shop in September—but not their fire. Never fear, they’re moving into a new location with a new lease near Wander Brewing. Details to come.
Info: Info: [url=http://www.thebikehub.org]http://www.thebikehub.org[/url]


Best Breakfast:

Home Skillet

Don’t be daunted by the line that forms outside Home Skillet on weekend mornings—well, most mornings. If you’ve visited the Sunnyland staple before, you know the food prepared by co-owner Kirby White is well worth the wait. Once you’ve made it inside the small-but-mighty eatery, don’t dither. Place your order with Tina White or one of the other no-nonsense waitstaff—whether it’s for giant platters of biscuits and sausage or chorizo gravy, a poutine “skillet,” cinnamon roll French toast, a meat-and-egg-filled “Barnyard,” corned beef so tasty it’ll make you eat more than you wanted to, or a breakfast burrito big enough to feed the entire table—eat what you can (trust us, you’ll have leftovers), then scram. Someone else is waiting to eat breakfast, and they’re hungry.
Where: 521 Kentucky St.
Info: [url=http://www.homeskilletsunnyland.com]http://www.homeskilletsunnyland.com[/url]


Best Bed & Breakfast:

Katy’s Inn

In 1882, Captain John Peck built a lovely Victorian residence on a hill in the Skagit Valley. It’s the oldest house in La Conner, and anyone can spend the night there—provided you clear it first with Kimberly Good Rubenstein, the new owner of Katy’s Inn. Like the former proprietors, the fifth-generation Skagitonian has already done plenty to preserve the integrity of the 133-year-old landmark. Lucky guests will also discover Rubenstein is convinced the farm-to-table breakfast spread she offers her visitors every morning is a perfect way to introduce them to Skagit County.
Where: 503 S. 3rd Ave., La Conner
Info: [url=http://www.bedandbreakfastlaconner.com]http://www.bedandbreakfastlaconner.com[/url]


Best Bank:

BECU

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
Info: [url=http://www.becu.org]http://www.becu.org[/url]


Best Place to See Live Music:

Conway Muse

It’s impossible to overstate how special of a place the Conway Muse is. Off the beaten path, in the tiniest of towns, the Muse is the definition of a destination worth seeking out. Live music happens every Friday and Saturday, with multiple artists and bands performing in two different rooms, and often spills into the rest of the week as well. Owner Elfa Gisla is the Muse’s guiding light, and its her distinctive touch that makes this unique venue feel like home.
Where: 18444 Spruce St., Conway
Info: [url=http://www.conwaymuse.com]http://www.conwaymuse.com[/url]


Best Auto Dealer:

Dewey Griffin

Perhaps it’s because we live in the Pacific Northwest, where the affinity for Subarus, flannel and a local cup of Joe are the staple of Cascadians. Or maybe it’s because the fine folks at Dewey Griffin have a proven track record of providing superior customer service before, during and after purchasing your beloved ride. In business since 1967, they not only sell new and used cars, but also offer servicing, repair, parts and tires. They even have a dog park for while you wait. Tried, true and Fido-approved.
Where: 1800 Iowa St.
Info: [url=http://www.deweygriffinsubaru.com]http://www.deweygriffinsubaru.com[/url]


Best Place to Get a Tattoo:

Old Gold Tattoo Parlor

Old Gold Tattoo
There’s no shortage of tattoo shops in Bellingham, as well as incredible artists employed within those venues. But within a couple of narrow walls on State Street—nestled appropriately next to a pinball and rock and roll bar—lives this year's winner, Old Gold Tattoo. As someone who bears a piece of art from the fine folks at Old Gold, it’s fair to say I’m a forever fan. The spotless shop boasts bright and colorful artwork lining every inch of the walls, a safe and sterile environment, and artists who are incredibly knowledgeable and pretty darn friendly. Regardless of the kind of permanent ink you are looking for, Old Gold has an artist for you, seven days a week.
Where: 1222 N. State Street
Info: [url=http://www.facebook.com/OldGoldTattoo]http://www.facebook.com/OldGoldTattoo[/url]


Best Beach:

Clayton Beach

clayton-_best_beach.jpg
Thanks to a small army of dedicated volunteers who donated time and plenty of elbow grease during a graffiti-removal work party earlier this summer, the sandstone cliff faces along our most beloved stretch of shoreline are free of puerile ornamentation and vile vulgarisms. Although it’s heartening to see how quickly our go-to splash zone was rendered family-friendly again, you have to wonder just what the hell is going wrong in our society that so many doofuses feel entitled to turn our publicly owned natural treasures into a medium for their own insipid close-mindedness.
Where: Chuckanut Drive
Info: [url=http://www.wta.org]http://www.wta.org[/url]


Best Gym:

Bellingham Training and Tennis

Walking into Bellingham Training and Tennis for the first time, you’ll notice this isn’t your typical gym. Beautifully decorated, the high-end, state-of-the-art center provides much more than a place to hang your racket; BT&T is a community centered on the journey of wellness. Their fitness portion of the building was remodeled in 2017, and provides its many members with a wide array of classes, individual and group training, a must-see cycling room, and more. Treat yourself—and your body—right at the Fairhaven-based sports hub. You deserve it.
Where: 800 McKenzie Ave.
Info: [url=http://www.betrainingtennis.com]http://www.betrainingtennis.com[/url]


Best Casino:

Skagit Valley Casino Resort

There’s more than one way to get lucky, and the Skagit Valley Casino Resort has all of them covered. Roll the dice at their plentiful gaming tables. Take in a show of high-caliber entertainment (Vanessa Williams and John Michael Montgomery are both coming soon). Eat a delicious meal in one of their restaurants. Book a room and stay the night to do it up just right. Everything at the Skagit may be a gamble, but a good time is guaranteed.
Where: 5984 Darrk Lane, Bow
Info: [url=http://www.theskagit.com]http://www.theskagit.com[/url]


Best Cannabis Product:

SUBX

subX02-o.jpg
I was wary of the prerolled “Thick Wicket” joint I purchased last weekend. The specimen was huge and skunky and intimidating. I’d told my friendly budtender I was hoping to head outside to do yard work after testing it, and he assured me the hybrid strain from the perennially popular growers of Subdued Excitement (SUBX) was smooth and wouldn’t throw me for a loop. Soon after inhaling a few puffs, I was wandering the garden with a trowel in hand and enjoying the autumnal splendor. While I likely wouldn’t mow the lawn while under the influence of Thick Wicket, it was just the ticket for an afternoon of weeding in the sun.
Info: [url=http://www.subdued-excitement.com]http://www.subdued-excitement.com[/url]


Best Head Shop :

Avalon

Avalon-Best_Head_shop.jpg
Remember the good old, bad old days when you had to slink furtively into the patchouli-scented bong shop, cough and complain about how rough tobacco treats your throat? Yeah, right: Tobacco. Now you can just walk in and buy the water pipes and stemware you want, the vape gear, the grinders and scales and all the rest of the paraphernalia, the whole lovely lot of it. And talk to the staff instead about their latest music picks and the happenings on Railroad Avenue. Freedom is awesome.
Where: 1330 Railroad Ave.
Info: [url=http://www.avalonrecordshop.com]http://www.avalonrecordshop.com[/url]


Best Deli:

Old World Deli

oldworld2-o.jpg
I’m not sure it is possible for me to express the depth of my love for Old World Deli, and judging by the number of votes they get in this category every year, I’m far from the only one who feels that way. I’m in it for the sandwiches—their specials board is what decides my day’s eating habits—and while I’m watching them be carefully crafted from premium ingredients by the most entertaining staff in town, I also watch all of you browse the constantly rotating wine selection, order party plates of cheeses and cured meats, and procure all the pasta, sauce, spices and condiments necessary to living the life of the righteously well-fed.
Where: 1228 N. State St.
Info: [url=http://www.oldworlddeli1.com]http://www.oldworlddeli1.com[/url]


Best Burger:

Skagit Valley Burger Express

Skagit Valley Burger express wins best burger in Skagit Valley
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
Info: [url=http://www.skagitvalleyburgers.com]http://www.skagitvalleyburgers.com[/url]


Best Auto Repair:

JP Automotive

The Ford Ranger had a worrisome shudder, and the guys at JP Automotive took me right in. Gave me a loaner so I could tool around town while they worked. The repair didn’t hit my wallet too hard, but the guys told me it could have been avoided with some regular maintenance. Well, I’ve been back ever since.
Where: 1304 Memorial Hwy., Mount Vernon
Info: (360) 336-3496


Best Grocery Store:

Community Food Co-op

Community Food Co-op
As a longtime member of the Community Food Co-op, my typical visits are pretty predictable—wine, cheese, produce, quick lunches, and my favorite hot sauce when we run out (which is often). However, one of my favorite things about the Community Food Co-op is the amount of community outreach and events they offer on a regular basis. Don’t know how to cook? They’ve got a class for that. Starting a health and wellness journey? You're covered there, as well. Beer and wine pairings? Bingo. Their commitment to community is nothing less than superb, from farmer to consumer. It's an easy win all around.
Where: 1220 N. Forest St., 315 Westerly Rd.
Info: [url=http://www.communityfood.coop]http://www.communityfood.coop[/url]


Best Fast Food:

Boomer’s Drive-In

There’s regular fast and there’s Boomer’s fast. Boomer’s fast isn’t quite as fast as regular fast, but when it comes to ordering exceptional burgers, hard ice cream shakes and waffle fries, we’ll gladly take the fast at Boomer’s every single time. And now that Boomer’s smartphone apps are available for downloading, Boomer’s fast is getting even faster.
Where: 310 N. Samish Way
Info: [url=http://www.boomersdrivein.com]http://www.boomersdrivein.com[/url]


Best Nonprofit:

Lydia Place

October is memorable for Lydia Place. It was during that month in 1989 that the first family moved into the nonprofit’s nascent transitional housing facility. Thirty years later, the organization has never wavered on their stance that “every family deserves a home.” Started by a task force of can-do women who saw a need for safe housing for women and children experiencing homelessness, Lydia Place has grown from an eight-bedroom, single-family home to a full-service organization that serves more than 150 families at a time. It’s community service in action, and it’s beautiful to behold.
Info: [url=http://www.lydiaplace.org]http://www.lydiaplace.org[/url]


Best CSA:

Rabbit Fields Farm

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Every October, Rabbit Fields Farm founder Rosyln McNicholl tries to talk me out of buying her discounted garlic for fall planting purposes. “It’s not the cream of the crop,” the organic farmer says, pointing to the larger, cleaner bulbs placed atop the colorful rows of fall bounty—everything from winter squash to carrots, cabbage, potatoes, radishes, celery, herbs and beyond—she sells Saturdays at the Bellingham Farmers Market. But every July—around the time McNicholl and her team are amping up their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, which provides 20 weekly boxes of seasonal produce to lucky customers—I harvest a successful crop of summer garlic, thanks to Rabbit Fields Farm.
Info: [url=http://www.rabbitfieldsfarm.com]http://www.rabbitfieldsfarm.com[/url]


Best Band:

Whiskey Fever

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Jack Mattingly first realized he wanted to be a musician when he was in the fourth grade. Presumably, he spent the time between then and now honing his craft and luring other likeminded music-makers to help him realize that dream. The result is Whiskey Fever, a four-piece band that describes itself as “rocky-tonk acousta-billy,” with definite indie rock leanings. In other words, their catchy songs of love and life fall right in line with the impressive regional musical tradition they’re part of, which probably has a little something to do with why so many of you voted for them in this hotly contested category.
Info: [url=http://www.facebook.com/WhiskeyFeverBand]http://www.facebook.com/WhiskeyFeverBand[/url]


Best Gallery:

Dakota Art Gallery

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According to Dakota Art Gallery Director Hannah Cwiek, big changes are in the works for the two-year-old creative space abutting Cornwall Avenue's Dakota Art Supplies. Although the focus for the award-winning venue will still be on contemporary art and curated exhibits, Cwiek is hoping to make the space a nonprofit—meaning it'll be easier to host Draw-A-Thon's and other fundraisers for organizations like Northwest Youth Services, Earthjustice, Community to Community Development, and more. In November, the public can get directly involved with the gallery by coming into the store and picking up a small canvas (for free), painting on it, then turning it back in for an upcoming exhibit.
Where: 1324 Cornwall Ave.
Info: [url=http://www.dakotaartgallery.com]http://www.dakotaartgallery.com[/url]


Best Trail:

Oyster Dome

Oyster Dome
Whether we’re grinding up the dog hair switchbacks from Chuckanut Drive or sauntering through the fern glades on the Samish Bay Connector, the prospect of enjoying the view afforded by this rocky seaside brow never fails to beckon us deeper into the raw, rugged heart of Blanchard Mountain. It’s our go-to promontory for scenic stimulation that never fails to keep us striving ever upward through the clouds.
Where: Pacific NW Trail, Bow
Info: [url=http://www.wta.org]http://www.wta.org[/url]


Best Winery:

Tulip Valley Winery

Wine, delicious wine. Free-flowing between glasses, feeling fine. A toast to my beloved, dear, sweet wine. We’ve lost count on how many years Tulip Valley Winery has won in this category, but every year they continue to be victorious with the sweet nectars of the valley. Make this an absolute must-see while stopping to enjoy the tulips (or any other time, for that matter). Make sure to include their popular Burro Loco Tulip Festival Cider in your tasting!
Where: 16163 WA-536, Mount Vernon
Info: [url=http://www.tulipvalley.net]http://www.tulipvalley.net[/url]


Best Pot Store:

Loving Farms

Rest assured you won’t get blown off at Loving Farms, where the budtenders at the Mount Vernon-based pot shop are known for being as welcoming as they are knowledgeable about the product they’re selling—whether it’s a gram of Washington Glue, a cannabis cookie, a pre-roll of Middle Fork, Northern Lights concentrate, or Orange Blossom wax. And as the only locally owned marijuana store in the city, it’s a cinch to support.
Where: 2615 Old Hwy 99 S., Mount Vernon
Info: [url=http://www.lovingfarmsmarijuanastore.com]http://www.lovingfarmsmarijuanastore.com[/url]


Best Deli:

Gere-A-Deli

Gere-a-deli_by_Jessamyn_Tuttle_(4)-o.jpg
In an old brick bank building from another era is a vault stuffed with treasures—a deli counter filled with aromatic cheeses, meats, salads and pickles. Simmering behind the counter are savory soups to pair with hand-built sandwiches on crusty bread with all the fixins. I grab Grandma Mcphee’s thick meatloaf sandy—oh, man!—and am just lucky enough to find a table. It’s lunchtime, and this Anacortes tradition is busy!
Where: 502 Commercial Ave., Anacortes
Info: [url=http://www.gere-a-deli.com]http://www.gere-a-deli.com[/url]


Best Trail:

Oyster Dome

oyster-dome.jpg
In September, the state Board of Natural Resources approved the purchase of an additional 76 acres of working forest next to Blanchard State Forest in Skagit County. In addition to protecting a major public access route into the forest, the acquisitions will help replace timber revenue from the inner forest that is being put into conservation status—forever protecting the glorious views of islands and delta at the summit known as Oyster Dome. The purchase from private sellers is the final win-win-win of an agreement that protects the choicest core of existing mature forest while continuing to provide forestry jobs and revenues for schools.
Where: Blanchard Mountain
Info: [url=http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/
oyster-dome]http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/
oyster-dome[/url]


Best Greek:

Cafe Akroteri

Recently, when I was feeling peckish and craving the flavors of the Mediterranean, I made my way to Cafe Akroteri, Bellingham’s longtime Greek food stalwart. Normally, I’m a sampler platter kind of girl, which allows me to satiate my longing for Akroteri’s tasty spanakopita, dolmathes, Greek salad and more on one snackable and shareable plate. But this time, I scored their gyro and draft beer special, a budget-friendly deal that gets savvy diners a gyro meal and beer for a little more than a sawbuck—which is a whole lot cheaper than a plane ticket to Greece.
Where: 1219 Cornwall Ave.
Info: [url=http://www.cafeakroteri.com]http://www.cafeakroteri.com[/url]


Best Food Truck:

StrEAT Food

During a recent sojourn to Kulshan Brewery—after consuming my weight in StrEAT burgers and reuben dogs over the past few years—I finally mustered up the gumption to give the gyro pita a try. “Well?” queried my lunch date as she witnessed me annihilate the entire tzatziki-drizzled roasted lamb and beef concoction before she even got started on her chicken artichoke sandwich. “How is it?” “Mmm,” I said, wiping my beard with my shirt cuff as I scooped up another mouthful of golden crisp fries. “It was unequivocally the right thing to do.” Then—after suitably cleansing my palate with a prodigious measure of Bastard Kat IPA—I zipped back outside to order another.
Where: Find the trailer at Kulshan Brewery, K2, 
and Samuel’s Furniture
Info: [url=http://www.streatfood.com]http://www.streatfood.com[/url]


Best Place to Dance, Best Place to See Live Music:

Wild Buffalo

One need look no further than the Wild Buffalo’s string of wins in the category to see that Bellingham truly does consider the venue their favorite place to see live music. The Buff's almost magical ability to entice national talent to town has made inroads into the EDM scene, snaring big house, trance, dubstep and other artists in their tractor beam, and earning them a new accolade: Best Place to Dance. Well done, Wild Buffalo.
Where: 208 W. Holly St.
Info: [url=http://www.wildbuffalo.net]http://www.wildbuffalo.net[/url]


Best Gallery:

Make.Shift Art Space

When I dropped by Make.Shift Art Space recently to check out the featured exhibit in the roomy upstairs gallery, I was reminded of the many times I’ve ventured through the doors of the creative compound on Flora Street for events ranging from monthly art openings to studio tours, crafty Christmas sales, poetry readings, all-ages concerts and beyond. If you, like me, are grateful for the 10 years the nonprofit has been making its space a welcome one, consider procuring tickets to a Sat., Oct. 6 auction and fundraiser taking place at Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher Building. “I’m overwhelmed with gratitude to live in a community that has continually shown up to support all-ages music and art for a decade now,” Executive Director Katie Gray says. “The core of our organization has always been the belief that expression through art and music is vital to the happiness and health of a community.”
Where: 306 Flora St.
Info: [url=http://www.makeshiftproject.com]http://www.makeshiftproject.com[/url]


Best Bookstore:

Village Books

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that possibly no local institution is as beloved as Village Books. Like every one of you, I have whiled away countless hours at the expansive and community-minded Fairhaven bookseller, perusing its three floors of tomes, picking up items on my reading list, and stopping to sip coffee at the Book Fare Cafe before buying a piece of fudge from Paper Dreams. And seriously, if there is any local delight sweeter than earning a free book through their Reader Rewards program, I have yet to discover it. Never change, Village Books.
Where: 1200 11th St.
Info: [url=http://www.villagebooks.com]http://www.villagebooks.com[/url]


Best Stop on the North Cascades Highway:

Birdsview Brewery

It’s cold and wet. My mates and I have been high up on the highway, milepost 134, where the snows have closed the road until late spring. Coming down, we pull into the Birdsview. The place is jammed, duffers old and young in their Carhartts are hiding out from the rain, the high hewn-hardwood rafters buzzing with their tall tales and laughter. Our crew orders the whole spectrum of craft brews, from a pale Pils to a hearty malty Scotch ale. Brats are sizzling on the grill. Looks like the skies are lifting, or maybe that’s just our spirits.
Where: 38302 State Route 20, Concrete
Info: [url=http://www.birdsviewbrewingcompany.com]http://www.birdsviewbrewingcompany.com[/url]


Best Auto Dealer:

Dewey Griffin Subaru

Dewey_Griffin_Subaru_by_Jessamyn_Tuttle_(1)-o.jpg
Bellingham loves its Subarus, so it comes as no surprise that the winner in this category would be a Subaru retailer. But Dewey Griffin is so much more than a car dealership. With their motto of “Let’s all put a little in and there will be a lot for everyone,” Dewey Griffin has donated more than $1.2 million in the last five years to such charitable organizations as Blue Skies for Children, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and others, and were named the Subaru Love Promise Retailer of the Year for 2019. No wonder Bellingham has been trusting Dewey Griffin with its business—and its precious Subarus—for more than 30 years.
Where: 1800 Iowa St.
Info: [url=http://www.deweygriffinsubaru.com]http://www.deweygriffinsubaru.com[/url]


Best Clothing Store:

Oliver-Hammer

Dad’s old fly rod was balanced heavy to lift back and come forward flat and straight to throw a weightless lure. I stripped off line from the reel and watched the fly dance on the sparkling surface of the current. In one pocket of my heavy flannel shirt was the leather book full of flies tied for any river, big and small. The pocket of my weather jacket held a big lunch. The sun crawled lazily from behind a rain cloud, hot on my neck. Whatever nature brought, I was dressed for it. I saw the fly dip, a cautious nibble, the reel sang.
Where: 817 Metcalf St., Sedro-Woolley
Info: [url=http://www.oliverhammer.com]http://www.oliverhammer.com[/url]


Best Music Store:

Everyday Music

Everyday Music
Even though the whole world seems to be in a torrid love affair with streaming services, Bellingham remains a place where people still purchase their music--or at least enough of it to keep a couple of music stores in business. As they always do, Everyday Music and Avalon Records slugged it out in this category, but this year Everyday emerged the victor. Convenient hours (they’re open from 10am-10pm, seven days a week) and a wide-ranging selection make for a perfect place to peruse and purchase your latest earworm.
Where: 115 E. Magnolia St.
Info: (360) 676-1404


Best Brewery:

Farmstrong Brewing Company

Farmstrong Brewery wins best brewery in Skagit Valley
“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: 
Info:
Where: 110 Stewart Rd., Mount Vernon
Info: [url=http://www.farmstrongbrewing.com]http://www.farmstrongbrewing.com[/url]


Best Asian:

Busara Thai Cuisine

I recently spent a desperate swath of time trying to phone in my usual takeout order. At first, I just assumed the restaurant was too busy, so they weren’t able to field my call. I considered giving up, but my Pavlovian lust for green chicken curry and prawn pad thai superseded all rational thought. When my lady friend returned home an hour later looking for dinner, she was aghast to find me still on the phone. “Sweet lord, not this again,” she sighed. “Don’t you remember? Busara is closed on Tuesdays!”
Where: 404 36th St.
Info: [url=http://www.busarabellingham.com]http://www.busarabellingham.com[/url]


Best Breakfast:

Old Town Cafe

They open at 6:30am, and that’s plenty early for all but the most sleepless of ’hamsters. We crowd in at the big community table—socialists all!—and are joined for a moment by glum police lamenting the loss of their morning Rocket Donut. It’s too early to laugh, but we do anyway, and the strong coffee helps. I order my usual, the Number Nine. For so many years now—going on 50—Old Town has generously opened its doors at Thanksgiving, and our table talks again about volunteering to help serve. This is community. This is Bellingham. This is truly the most important meal of the day.
Where: 316 W. Holly St.
Info: [url=http://www.theoldtowncafe.com]http://www.theoldtowncafe.com[/url]


Best Place to Get a Massage:

Prime Sports Institute

IMG_2700-o.jpg
A little more than a year ago, a multidisciplinary sports medicine clinic opened on North State Street with a goal of helping people maintain healthy, active lifestyles through a comprehensive approach to wellness—including athletic training, physical therapy, coaching, sports nutrition and acupuncture. Luckily, part of their fitness formula also includes massage. Kerry Gustafson, one of the four massage therapists on staff, is also the owner. As an expert at sports therapy, she says her obsession is “connecting the dots to dysfunction in your body and returning you to the sports and activities you love.”
Where: 1704 N. State St.
Info: [url=http://www.primebellingham.com]http://www.primebellingham.com[/url]


Best Tulip Farm:

Roozengaarde

When you visit the Skagit Valley during the annual Tulip Festival, it is likely Roozengaarde is the place you stop for the quintessential festival experience. Every fall since 1985, the Roozengaarde staff has expertly and lovingly planted three acres worth of show gardens with more than 300,000 spring-flowing bulbs. But that’s just a small part of what this Skagit staple does. With more than 1,000 acres of blooms and 16 acres of greenhouses, the Roozen family’s tulip, daffodil and iris farm is the largest in the world. Take in the sweeping fields of tulips, buy some bunches to take home (the fifth bunch is free), snack on some fudge and marvel at the wonder that is Roozengaarde.
Where: 15867 Beaver Marsh Road, Mount Vernon
Info: [url=http://www.tulips.com]http://www.tulips.com[/url]


Best Yoga Studio/Best Yoga Instructor:

Studio 1010

When she’s not busy helping her community as an Anacortes City Council member, raising her family and tending an urban farm, Liz Lovelett can be found teaching Hatha Yoga classes at Studio 1010. With a catchphrase of “Exhilarate Your Body. Stimulate Your Mind. Ignite Your Creativity,” the space is much more than a yoga studio—it’s also a gathering place where people come to feel united in body, mind and spirit.
Where: 1010 Sixth St., Anacortes
Info: [url=http://www.studio1010.net]http://www.studio1010.net[/url]


Best Place to Get a Tattoo:

Good Vibes Body Art

Good Vibes Tattoo Studio wins best tattoo studio in Skagit Valley
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
Info: [url=http://www.goodvibesbodyart.com]http://www.goodvibesbodyart.com[/url]


Best Lunch/Sandwich:

Avenue Bread

When it comes to stacking signature ingredients between two (or more) slices of bread, Avenue has set the gold standard. And since they also happen to make the bread upon which all these goodies are stacked, their sandwiches exhibit extra levels of freshness, fragrance and flavor. Not only is their Rueben famously scrumptious, but they also offer a well-regarded plethora of delicious soups and salads. And, as any lunch lover knows, once you throw those into the mix, it gives them bragging rights to a special kind of midday goodness.
Where: 1313 Railroad Ave., 2301 James St., 1135 11th St.
Info: [url=http://www.avenuebread.com]http://www.avenuebread.com[/url]


Best Brewery:

Kulshan Brewing Company

Kulshan2_Laurence.jpg
What a fierce competition this has become! And just when you think Bellingham cannot support another brewery, another comes along and astonishes you. There’s a fine maturity to Kulshan’s craft, however, and each of their brews has a satisfying crispness and the confident finish of a master product. And as dramatic as each is, I admit to a real fondness for their Good Ol’ Boy Pale Ale, which is just a quiet and modest, well-balanced sipping beer. It’s an old friend.
Where: 2238 James St., 1538 Kentucky St.
Info: [url=http://www.kulshanbrewery.com]http://www.kulshanbrewery.com[/url]


Best Deli:

Gere-a-Deli

Gere-a-deli wins best deli in Skagit Valley
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
Info: [url=http://www.geradeli.com]http://www.geradeli.com[/url]


Best Burger:

Skagit Burger Express

O.K., this place takes a little finding, east along Highway 20 heading into Sedro-Woolley. A modest old red caboose serving up the biggest, thickest, juiciest gourmet burgers you’ll ever bite into. On the advice of my friend, I ordered the Atomic Mushroom burger—a startling, electrifying blast of flavor, ground zero for ground beef.
Where: 1172 State Rt 20, Sedro-Woolley
Info: (360) 707-8778


Best Place to Dance:

Rumors Cabaret

Every Wednesday this month, the Panty Hoes drag queens—hosted by Aruba Sterling and Mahogony Knight—literally reach out to the LGBTQ community and drag dancers to the floor. Their show runs until 11:30pm, which—every night, any night—is like the witching hour at Rumors, where crowds rush in to writhe and whirl under the bright lights to music spun by the most talented DJs in the city. The drinks are cheap and well-mixed, served with style by a talented and good-looking waitstaff. Alternative? Mandatory.
Where: 1119 Railroad Ave.
Info: [url=http://www.rumorscabaret.com]http://www.rumorscabaret.com[/url]


Best Band:

The Wednesdays

The Wednesdays
Music scenes, including ours, have traditionally been boys’ clubs—but the Wednesdays win in this category is a welcome indication of a change that has been a long time in coming. Unabashedly feminist and unapologetically political, the Wednesdays are making music with a message—and people are listening. With a motto of “Dismantling the patriarchy by day, playing basement blues punk by night,” coupled with an electrifying live show, the Wednesdays are making their mark and making it count.
Info: [url=http://www.facebook.com/thewedns/]http://www.facebook.com/thewedns/[/url]


Best Day Trip on the 542:

North Fork Brewery

Whether we’re hiking, climbing, paddling, cycling, skiing, snowboarding or mostly just sightseeing, the massive angular slopes of the North Cascades are our oyster once we head eastbound from anywhere along this 57-mile stretch of mountain-hugging blacktop. And to help ease the transition upon our inevitable return to the flatlands, we are blessed to have a roadside pub as savory and solar-powered as the North Fork Brewery, where we can fuel up on a cornucopia of scratch-made fare—everything from cold pints of barrel-aged Belgian-style sours to warm bowls of Stout French Onion Soup and pans of smoked salmon-sprinkled Pineapple Express pizza.
Where: 6186 Mt. Baker Hwy.
Info: [url=http://www.northforkbrewery.com]http://www.northforkbrewery.com[/url]


Best Happy Hour:


The Porterhouse Pub

Porterhouse_Pub_by_Jessamyn_Tuttle_(2).jpg
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
Info: [url=http://www.porterhouse.pub]http://www.porterhouse.pub[/url]


Best Yoga Studio:

Riverwalk

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Whether a dabbler, a fitness enthusiast or a daily devotee, finding a studio that feels like home is often the key to success when it comes to building a personal yoga practice. Since 2014, you’ve been taking your tense muscles and weary bones to the soothing atmosphere and skilled instructors of Riverwalk Yoga Studio. They cater to yogis at all stages and abilities with classes that range from “Easy Like Sunday Morning” to more intermediate-level offerings. All that, and they’ll teach you to belly dance too. Namaste all the way.
Where: 117 N. 1st St. #5, Mount Vernon
Info: [url=http://www.riverwalkstudio.net]http://www.riverwalkstudio.net[/url]


Best Music Festival:

Riverwalk Summer Concert Series

One thing we do exceedingly well in this corner of the Pacific Northwest is marry our love of music to our love of our lovely outdoor spaces. Nowhere is that more evident than at Mount Vernon’s Riverwalk Plaza every Thursday night from the beginning of July until September. That’s where the Riverwalk Summer Concert Series takes place, which is free, family-friendly and open to all. This year’s series features the likes of the Chris Eger Band, Rabbit Wilde, the Geoffrey Castle Trio, Polecat, Rivertalk, and more. The events are designed not only to entertain, but also to draw people to Mount Vernon’s Riverwalk, a beautifully scenic spot that was almost a decade in the making.
Where: Riverwalk Plaza, Mount Vernon
Info: 
www.mountvernonchamber.com/riverwalk-summer-concert-series


Best Dessert:

Pure Bliss Desserts

Confession: I visit Pure Bliss at least once a week, I have tried nearly everything they bake and I am only too happy to vouch for all of it. Judging by how many of you I see there purchasing a slice of cake, a six-pack of assorted cupcakes, cookies, bars and more, you’re regular visitors as well. At the moment, nothing in the dessert cases at Pure Bliss is nearly as exciting as the sweet sounds of construction—a soon-to-be-finished renovation project will see the Cornwall Avenue shop double its footprint, and I have been assured that the already plentiful and varied selection of treats will only become more so. Challenge accepted, Pure Bliss.
Where: 1424 Cornwall Ave.
Info: [url=http://www.pureblissdesserts.com]http://www.pureblissdesserts.com[/url]


Best Gallery:

Smith & Vallee Gallery

On a recent slow roll through Edison, a friend who’d never encountered the small-but-mighty Skagit hamlet was agog at the astounding array of restaurants, bakeries, bars, shops and galleries populating the tiny town. “What’s that?” she queried, pointing to Smith & Vallee Gallery as it receded in the rearview mirror. “It used to be a schoolhouse,” I answered, “but a couple of sustainable woodworkers converted it into a kick-ass gallery a while back, and now it houses some of the best art in the region.” We didn’t have time to stop, but I promised her we’d return soon to check out “Bloom”—a group show running through April that celebrates the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival with intriguing interpretations of the many blossoming beauties to be found in the Pacific Northwest.
Where: 5742 Gilkey Ave., Edison
Info: [url=http://www.smithandvallee.com]http://www.smithandvallee.com[/url]


Best Casino:

Silver Reef Casino Resort and Spa

silver_reef.jpg
The Lummi have a saying, “When the tide is out, the table is set.” The saying speaks to the generosity of the Lummi people in matters of feast and festival. There’s a deep, trans-generational understanding within the tribe that the Silver Reef must grow and update to serve a changing demographic. To that end, a beautiful new wing was recently dedicated for the resort, providing ample convention center facilities and additional spa capacity. They’re gambling on a tide, and that’s always a good bet.
Where: 4876 Haxton Way, Ferndale
Info: [url=http://www.silverreefcasino.com]http://www.silverreefcasino.com[/url]


Best Band:

Sky Colony

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With a love for the likes of Fleet Foxes, Dawes, and Neil Young, the Sky Colony’s self-described “dream folk” manages to pay homage to its late-’60s Laurel Canyon influences while still sounding like a band rooted firmly in the Pacific Northwest’s neofolk movement. This likely has something to do with the band’s collective experience level—each member was already a musical veteran before coming together to form the Sky Colony in 2011. With their refreshingly real vocal harmonies and ever-widening appeal, they remind us that there’s a whole world of Skagit County music to be found outside of Anacortes.
Info: [url=http://www.theskycolonymusic.com]http://www.theskycolonymusic.com[/url]


Best Taphouse:

Elizabeth Station

Whenever Frodo and I get a hankering to imbibe a draught or three of craft beer or hard cider, we crawl out of our hobbit-holes and quest-journey over to the Columbia hood for a quality sesh at the Station. Offering a bountiful array of rotating taps, delicious food-truck fare to forage and copious cozy seating areas to accommodate our assembly, it’s tailor-made for lunch, casual dinner, vigorous snacking or even the occasional elevenses.
Where: 1400 W. Holly St.
Info: [url=http://www.elizabethstation.es]http://www.elizabethstation.es[/url]


Best Food Truck:

StrEAT Food

I’ve been known to cajole my boyfriend into spending Saturday mornings ferrying me to garage sales by promising to buy him a post-bartering lunch at StrEAT Food. It’s an easy sell. Since James and Poem Pitzer’s multiple-award-winning mobile food truck is typically parked at one of the two Kulshan Brewing Company locales or at the nearby Wander Brewing, I order our favorite items from the short-but-amazing menu—a mouthwatering chicken artichoke sandwich for me, a savory lamb gyro pita for him, large fries, plus an order of vanilla crème brulee when we need a treat—while he grabs us each a cold beer and a place to sit. All in all, we both get a great deal.
Where: Kulshan Brewing Co., Wander Brewing
Info: [url=http://www.streatfood.me]http://www.streatfood.me[/url]


Best Trail:

Oyster Dome

Snagging a sunset on the rocky bald above the bat caves is a vertical payoff that makes the hard march up the trail doubly worth the effort. But when it comes to attaining a medicinal dose of Skagitonian solitude, I prefer a predawn tromp through the dog hair every time. Reclined regally in the silent embrace of my root-gnarled breakfast nook, I watch familiar vistas emerge into expressive horizons—and that’s when part of me emerges, too.
Where: Pacific Northwest Trail, Bow
Info: [url=http://www.wta.org]http://www.wta.org[/url]


Best Nursery:

Garden Spot Nursery

I was heading into Garden Spot Nursery to pick up some fall foliage when my boyfriend informed me he’d heard owner Marcy Plattner was selling the beloved Alabama Street plant store. I told him I’d dig up the dirt. After perusing some swanky Halloween displays, flats of pansies, perennials and shrubs, I settled on dreamy peachy-pink Belgian mums to adorn our front porch, and made my query at the register. A friendly employee informed me that yes, Garden Spot’s for sale, but it’s not shutting down. Plattner’s retiring, and is hoping to sell to someone who wants it to carry on. If you’re that person, rest assured that Garden Spot’s roots are strong, and the seeds of success have already been planted.
Where: 900 Alabama St.
Info: [url=http://www.garden-spot.com]http://www.garden-spot.com[/url]


Best Asian:

On Rice

There’s something so cozy about Thai food and fall. On Rice has been crowned as the winner once again for Best Asian, and with three Bellingham-based locations, you’re just a few minutes away at any given time. Got a hunger pang for Panang? A passion for potstickers? Feelin' nice with fried rice? No need to slow your egg roll, because today—and every day—is the perfect day for yum.
Where: 209 N. Samish Way, 1224 Harris Ave., 2200 Rimland Dr. #100
Info: [url=http://www.onricethai.com]http://www.onricethai.com[/url]


Best Winery:

Ded Reckoning at Compass Wines

Ded_Reckoning_wines_at_Compass_by_Jessamyn_Tuttle_(3).jpg
It's possible the red stuff coursing through Doug Charles' veins is wine. Since first becoming involved in the industry in 1978, Charles has been a cheerleader for Washington state wines—first at regional restaurants, and now at Compass Wines, the Anacortes-based wine shop he co-founded with Will Parks in 2001. Ded Reckoning Wines kicked in in 2004, featuring high-quality wines still in the barrel, making a stop at Compass Wines a must for grape-lovers everywhere.
Where: 1405 Commercial Ave., Anacortes
Info: [url=http://www.dedreckonging.com]http://www.dedreckonging.com[/url]


Best Celebrity/Best Theater Company:

Ryan Stiles and the Upfront Theatre

Ryan Stiles and the Upfront Theatre
If laughter truly is the best way to cure what ails you, then Ryan Stiles should be given a stethoscope and a medical degree, pronto. Since 2004, the so-tall-he’s-impossible-to-miss funnyman—a veteran of television shows such as Whose Line is it Anyway? and The Drew Carey Show—has been dropping by the improv theater company he founded in downtown Bellingham 14 years ago for both scheduled shows and also surprise performances. Sure, “Dr. Stiles” is a bona fide celebrity, but when he shares the stage with his fellow actors, they become famous in their own right. And, judging by this year’s Best Theater Company win, the mainstage mavens are working their own fan base just fine.
Where: 1208 Bay St.
Info: [url=http://www.theupfront.com]http://www.theupfront.com[/url]


Best Day Trip:

Artist Point

mtbaker_-_best_day_trip.jpg
Even smack-dab in the dead of winter—when the uppermost 2.7 miles of the Mt. Baker Highway lie buried beneath 10 feet of pow-pow—the curvaceous contours of Kulshan Ridge provide panoramic vistas and topographic inspiration to a steady stream of skiers, snowshoers and boot-packers who ascend from the back lot at Heather Meadows with survival gear on their backs and resilient grins on their faces. Although these intrepid day-trippers might look like a bunch of crazy pilgrims, there is a proven methodology to their madness. They have long since realized that Artist Point actually becomes easier to access before the road gets plowed and all the trails melt out.
Info: [url=http://www.wsdot.wa.gov]http://www.wsdot.wa.gov[/url]


Best Place to Dance/Place for a First Date/Place to See Live Music/Meet-Up:

Conway Muse

Oh, Conway Muse, how do we love thee? Well, we don’t need to count the ways, we can simply count the awards this tiny-town entertainment powerhouse has racked up. This multidisciplinary artistic hub is your Skagit go-to when you seek live music, are picking a perfect spot for a first date or meet-up or you just need to dance the night away. The only thing that can possibly make a visit to the Muse even better is a cocktail (or three—we don’t judge) expertly mixed by your favorite bartender Kelly Hayton, who is always ready with a surplus of drink knowledge and her trademark warm smile. No wonder the Muse is your end-all, be-all destination for fun, year in and year out. Best Bartender: Kelly Hayton at the Conway Muse
Where: 18444 Spruce St., Conway
Info: [url=http://www.conwaymuse.com]http://www.conwaymuse.com[/url]


Best Seafood:

Chuckanut Manor

Chuckanut Manor wins best seafood in Skagit Valley
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
Info: [url=http://www.chuckanutmanor.com]http://www.chuckanutmanor.com[/url]


Best Asian:

Busara Thai Cuisine

As much as I relish being able to savor the delectable Thai cuisine that emerges from the kitchen at Busara for lunch and dinner, I’m even more appreciative of its winter-proof southeast Asian decor. Although I’m apt to patronize their pagoda-esque parlor on a regular basis throughout the year, it’s during the cold, darker heart of our more inclement seasons that I appreciate the resident ambience to its most soothing degree. Whether I’m sitting down for transformative portions of crispy duck in ginger sauce or just stopping by to pick up extra spicy green curry takeout, it feels like I’ve gone 7,000 miles away—to a much warmer part of the Pacific.
Where: 404 36th St.
Info: [url=http://www.busarabellingham.com]http://www.busarabellingham.com[/url]


Best Destination on Highway 20:

Birdsview Brewery

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
Info: [url=http://www.birdsviewbrewingcompany.com]http://www.birdsviewbrewingcompany.com[/url]


Best Pizza:

La Fiamma

fiamma.jpg
It takes me approximately 100 steps from the lobby of the Herald Building to one of my favorite lunch spots, La Fiamma, where I eat approximately twice a week. While there’s surely no shortage of pizza joints in Bellingham, Fiamma continually steps out of the just-your-average-pie constraints. Fiamma now does brunch on the weekends, and has breakfast pizza—including Eggs Benedict Pizza. This menu item combines two of my favorite things and solidifies that, in combination with its fantastic pizza (and everything else off the menu), one-stop-shop Pye Hole (not just for late night anymore!) and brunch, I’ll never need to go anywhere else for all things ‘za.
Where: 200 E. Chestnut St.
Info: [url=http://www.lafiamma.com]http://www.lafiamma.com[/url]


Best Artist:

Pieter VanZanden

In Edison-based artist Pieter VanZanden's hands, plastic bottles become barnacles and mollusks, wood is magicked into beaks and tentacles, and plastic army men woven together turn into a life-sized sculpture of a soldier. A construction worker with a creative bent, VanZanden's works can be viewed April 30 at the Edison Studio Tour and during the month of May at Smith & Vallee Gallery's 10th anniversary exhibit. "Edison is where dreams come true," the emerging artist says of his hometown. Indeed.
Info: [url=http://www.smithandvallee.com]http://www.smithandvallee.com[/url]


Best Sushi:

Blue Fin Sushi

Oh, autumn shivers, softly, tender octopus yields to our warm mouths cold ocean so deep, hot flavors of wasabi and of ginger soy we discover humble knowing of bright sea and fields, sorcerers embark
Where: 102 S. Samish Way
Info: [url=http://www.bluefinbellingham.com]http://www.bluefinbellingham.com[/url]


Best Outdoor Seating, Best Bloody Mary:

Bayou on Bay

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Probably because we spend so much of the year surviving the elements, when we actually get to bask in the sunshine, we want to thrust our pale bodies into the light as often as possible. As such, outdoor seating is a very big deal in Bellingham, and as the voting showed in this category’s inaugural year, folks definitely have their allegiances. With its singular downtown locale, revamped family-style seating and friendly vibe—not to mention the best bloody marys in town—perennially popular Bayou on Bay is your favorite place to shed some layers, order up a drink and a snack, and soak up the sun.
Where: 1300 Bay St.
Info: [url=http://www.bayouonbay.com]http://www.bayouonbay.com[/url]


Best Brewery:

Boundary 
Bay Brewery

aaronjacobsmithboundary-o.jpg
Bellingham is undeniably a beer town. We’re recognized around the region and the United States as home to some of the best beer around. With about 10 breweries to choose from, you really can’t go wrong. Boundary Bay is what started the tap trend, recently celebrating 21 years of crafting award-winning beer. But at Boundary, it’s not just about the beer. They’ve been a cornerstone in our community the entire time—the granddaddy that keeps getting better.
Where: 1107 Railroad Ave.
Info: [url=http://www.bbaybrewery.com]http://www.bbaybrewery.com[/url]


Best Casino:

Silver Reef Casino Resort

I love Lummi Nation, and all they do. Their casino and resort is a centerpiece of their business face, a world-class community conference center that serves international visitors and tribal members alike. A new executive wing offers destination hotel spa and resort services, another wing offers a powerful forum auditorium for a symposium. And, yes, you can throw dice and play cards, too, in a welcoming setting. Lummi love to laugh, but there is a deep seriousness, too. They know leadership is service. Like Lummi Nation itself, the Silver Reef offers so much more.
Where: 4876 Haxton Way, Ferndale
Info: [url=http://www.silverreefcasino.com]http://www.silverreefcasino.com[/url]


Best Tattoo:

Old Gold Tattoo

I have one tattoo. It's pretty special to me. Old Gold Tattoo has inked more than one tattoo in its years of service on State Street (right next to the Shakedown). This walk-in tattoo shop is open seven days a week and allows customers to either choose from any of its custom designs or bring in their own. I have many friends that have raved about their experience at Old Gold. If I ever get a second tattoo, I'll be sure to take a seat under their steady hands.
Where: 1222 North State St.
Info: [url=http://www.facebook.com/OldGoldTattoo]http://www.facebook.com/OldGoldTattoo[/url]


Best Lunch:

Leaf & Ladle

leafandladle-o.jpg
Soon after Linda Melim and her daughter Morgan Gaunt opened Leaf & Ladle in the summer of 2013 , I inhaled a memorable chicken panini and a serving of “grandpa’s potato salad” there while lunching with a group of lady friends—one of whom admitted she had already ordered the new restaurant’s vegan Caesar salad “four or five" times that week. In the years since, the dynamic duo has expanded their locally sourced array of sandwiches, soups, salads, wraps, casseroles and seasonal specials (vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options are always on the menu) to include a case full of delicious to-go offerings. “We want everyone to feel like they have the option to get really good food, fast,” the women say. Mission accomplished.
Where: 1113 N. State St.
Info: facebook.com/LeafandLadle


Best Gym:

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
Info: [url=http://www.riversidehealthclub.com]http://www.riversidehealthclub.com[/url]


Best Burger:

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

I love burgers. Crave them, in all their many forms. I’m not a snob about it though. When nothing but a reliable burger from a chain restaurant will do, like many of you, my chain of choice is Five Guys. And why not? The menu is simple: it is literally just burgers in a couple of sizes (cheese and bacon optional), fries, hot dogs and a handful of random sandwiches probably no one ever orders. The magic comes from the melding of thin patty to gooey cheese—and the 15 different condiments and toppings from which to choose, for no additional charge. With more than 250,000 possible combinations, you could eat a different burger every single day for the next 685 years. Imagine the delicious glory.
Where: 1870 Marketplace Dr., Burlington
Info: [url=http://www.fiveguys.com]http://www.fiveguys.com[/url]


Best Place for Hunting & Fishing Supplies:


Holiday Sports

Whether you’re angling for pinks and cohos from the banks of the Skagit River, gunning for mulies on the backside of Cultus Mountain, or taking a family camping trip, the Steen family has you covered. Need a chrome and glow dodger with pink squid and glow insert for your early morning sockeye session on Baker Lake? No problemo. Looking for varmint cartridges, new/used firearms, rangefinders or a skilled expert to mount your rifle scope and sight your bore? Then make tracks to Burlington for an outfitting experience that is guaranteed to bolster your game bag—and your creel.
Where: 895 Nevitt Road, Burlington
Info: [url=http://www.holidaysportsburlington.com]http://www.holidaysportsburlington.com[/url]


Best Tulip Farm:

RoozenGaarde

tulips_by_Jessamyn_Tuttle-o.jpg
If you were to wend your way to RoozenGaarde, you would find field after field ablaze with the tulips for which the area is so famous. It is a carefully cultivated, wholly natural wonder of the world, and it draws thousands every year who make the pilgrimage to the Skagit Valley to take in the riot of color that has made the region famous. But the tulip fields, while certainly a sight unto themselves, are merely the gateway to a county that boasts a rich history of agriculture and art, and is inhabited by folks who proudly hew to a fiercely local lifestyle. With its distinct and disparate cities and towns, natural beauty from field to sea and the miles of scenic routes and backroads that link it all, there is much treasure to found in Skagit, if only you know where to look. What follows is that which you’ve deemed the region’s best, the places that have earned your votes and your love, the ones that exist right in your own bountiful backyard. Best of Skagit compiled by Carey Ross, Amy Kepferle, Tim Johnson, Scott Pelton, and Trail Rat. Photos by Jessamyn Tuttle
Where: 15867 Beaver Marsh Road, Mount Vernon
Info: [url=http://www.tulips.com]http://www.tulips.com[/url]


Best Watering Hole:

Brown Lantern Ale House

Brown_Lantern_by_Jessamyn_Tuttle_(4)-o_(1).jpg
The Weekly staff always argues over who gets to review the Brown Lantern. This year, I drew the lucky straw. Damn, I love this place! It’s barely noon and the place is jammed, as it always is, with locals who know their stuff. The bar is honky-tonk dark, yet lighted by a large picture window of the sunny street outside, and hewn of thick, heavy slabs of varnished wood from pines that just don’t grow this big anymore. And the burgers are from another glorious bygone time, too—thick and juicy off the grill, served with no nonsense, unless you consider cheese and special sauce fixins nonsense. There’s plenty of brews to choose from, but most of the nodding, wise fellows at the bar have in front of them a cracked can of icy Hamm’s old style. Who can argue?
Where: 412 Commercial Ave., Anacortes
Info: [url=http://www.brownlantern.com]http://www.brownlantern.com[/url]


Best Vegetarian:

Shambala Bakery & Bistro

Shambala Bakery & Bistro wins best vegetarian food in Skagit Valley
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
Info: [url=http://www.shambalabakery.com]http://www.shambalabakery.com[/url]


Best Theater:

Lincoln Theatre

In April alone, Mount Vernon’s Lincoln Theatre will host performances by Six Gun Sal, Jet City Improv, high school jazz bands from around Skagit County, the SVA Rainbow Alliance Drag Show, and a return engagement by perennially popular comedian Paula Poundstone. Additionally, a big-screen viewing of The Kid will help celebrate the venue’s 92nd anniversary. To find out how to get involved with the storied space—which has won this coveted award umpteen times—the month will also include open houses April 20-22 during the Tulip Festival Street Fair. Take a tour, browse the selection of film posters for sale, listen to tunes being played on the Mighty Wurlitzer, and learn about how you can help make the magic happen.
Where: 712 S. First St., Mount Vernon
Info: [url=http://www.lincolntheatre.org]http://www.lincolntheatre.org[/url]


Best Gallery:

Smith & Vallee Gallery

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Woodworkers Wesley Smith and Andrew Vallee stopped commuting to Edison a long time ago. Instead, they planted roots in the small Skagit town, where they grew their eco-friendly furniture-making business, Smith & Vallee Woodworks, and eventually restored a century-old schoolhouse and opened a gallery featuring both accomplished and emerging local and regional artists. Andrew lives in an adjoining space with his family, and Smith and his wife and son reside nearby, making the journey to work an enjoyable one. In fact, at the collaborative “Warping the Bubble” exhibit opening for Fidalgo Island-based sculptor Lanny Bergner and Skagit Valley glass artist Rik Allen on April 9 at Smith & Vallee Gallery, there’s a good chance you might run into one (or both) of the founders checking out the award-winning art scene they helped create.
Where: 5742 Gilkey Ave., Edison
Info: [url=http://www.smithandvallee.com]http://www.smithandvallee.com[/url]


Best Music Store:

Hugo Helmer Music

In recent years, music stores—especially large ones that offer a wide selection of instruments and accoutrements—have gotten a bit of a bad reputation. But Skagit mainstay Hugo Helmer is different. Their staff is knowledgeable, but not forceful or intrusive. Their service department takes great pride in standing behind their work. But the big draw is the incredible array of music instruments and equipment the expansive one-stop shop offers, as well as a customer-service ethos that encourages patrons to try before they buy. That’s how you stay in business for 80-plus years.
Where: 1025 S. Goldenrod Rd., Burlington
Info: [url=http://www.hugohelmermusic.com]http://www.hugohelmermusic.com[/url]


Best Nursery:

Skagit Farmers Supply’s Country Stores

A mission to "support agriculture" may sound simple, but if you take into account that Skagit Farmers Supply has been following that credo since 1934, it takes on a whole new meaning. Whether your acreage is of the sprawling ranch variety or you're looking to spruce up your yard, the cooperative's Country Stores located throughout the Skagit Valley will help get the jobs done.
Where: Sedro-Woolley, Burlington, Mount Vernon
Info: [url=http://www.skagitfarmers.com]http://www.skagitfarmers.com[/url]


Best Salon:

Genesis Salon+Spa

Genesis Salon and Spa wins best salon in Skagit Valley
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., 
Mount Vernon
Info: [url=http://www.genesismv.com]http://www.genesismv.com[/url]


Best Grocery Store:


Skagit Valley Food Co-op


Skagit Valley Food Co-op wins best grocery store in Skagit Valley
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
Info: [url=http://www.skagitfoodcoop.com]http://www.skagitfoodcoop.com[/url]


Best Gallery:

Smith & Vallee Gallery

It's no surprise Best Artist winner Pieter VanZanden's mind-bending sculptures have spent time in the gallery at the end of Edison's Gilkey Avenue. Since woodworkers Andrew Vallee and Wesley Smith turned a century-old schoolhouse into a creative hub that houses both established and emerging talents from around the region, the artists who exhibit at Smith & Vallee Gallery are consistently worth meandering down Chuckanut Drive to see. "The thing I love most is getting to see people connecting and falling in love with art," gallery manager Lucy Martin says. "It's truly the best."
Where: 5742 Gilkey Ave., Edison
Info: [url=http://www.smithandvallee.com]http://www.smithandvallee.com[/url]


Best Grocery/Best Deli/Best Vegetarian:

Skagit Valley Food Co-op

During its 45 years of existence, Skagit Valley Food Co-op has built itself into a go-to nexus for wholesome, locally produced food, high-quality cuisine and a sundry selection of meatless victuals. Rooted deep into the social and economic fiber of the most robust agricultural corridor in Washington state, the grocers' unyielding commitment to sustainable growing practices and local suppliers isn’t just a boon to mindful gormandizers, it’s also a victory for dietary health, mindful community building and practicable stewardship of our natural environment. Perhaps this is why every time I order a tuna salad sandwich from the deli or go hunting for exotic strains of kale in the produce section—which features 98 percent certified organic products—I feel patriotic about partaking in the bountiful fruits of their labor.
Where: 202 S. First St., Mount Vernon
Info: [url=http://www.skagitfoodcoop.com]http://www.skagitfoodcoop.com[/url]


Best Asian/Best Take-Out:

Rachawadee Thai Cafe

So good, and so tiny! I’m of the opinion that Rachawadee Thai is the best you’ll find in five counties and beyond. And I am not alone. The classic kitchen lunch counter seats fewer than a dozen, so it’s not surprising we all favor their takeout. Check out the daily specials, and try an early or late lunch to beat the crowd and enjoy the many tastes of Thailand.
Where: 410 W Gates St., Mount Vernon
Info: [url=http://www.rachawadeethaicafe.com]http://www.rachawadeethaicafe.com[/url]


Best Music Festival:

WinterStock

Even though the seasons around here are pretty mild, winter can be decidedly dreary in these parts. As an antidote, the fine folks at the Lincoln Theatre organized WinterStock to get us all out of the house and away from the dark pull of the seasonal downswing in our moods. They filled the night with foot-stompin’ Americana bands and pints from Skagit’s so-called “Beermuda Triangle,” Farmstrong, Northsound, and Skagit River breweries, and when it was all said and danced and done, we could almost see spring on the horizon. Judging by your votes, it seems you can use all the WinterStock you can get.
Where: Lincoln Theatre, 712 S. First St., Mount Vernon
Info: [url=http://www.lincolntheatre.org]http://www.lincolntheatre.org[/url]


Best Grocery:

Community 
Food Co-op

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It’s been nearly a year since the downtown Community Food Co-op celebrated the completion of its newly remodeled flagship store, which included a new mezzanine seating area, remodeled bathrooms, the addition of a salad bar and innovative hot bar and—across the street—a new Healthy Connections building and bakery. While the changes were welcome, we’re guessing the longtime natural grocer got your votes the old-fashioned way—by consistently offering quality service and products, and providing a place not just to shop, but also to connect with your fellow Bellinghamsters.
Where: 1220 N. Forest St. and 315 Westerly Rd.
Info: [url=http://www.communityfood.coop]http://www.communityfood.coop[/url]


Best Italian:

D’Anna’s Cafe Italiano

I’ve been a regular at D’Anna’s since the restaurant was just big enough for a few tables and the menu consisted of three or four different kinds of homemade ravioli and a couple of choices of sauce. As it was for so many of you, it was love at first bite, and the romance only deepens with time. Everything at D’Anna’s, from the pasta to the sauces to the sausage to the focaccia bread served with every order, is homemade from D’Anna family recipes and served up by a friendly and experienced wait staff. Watching D’Anna’s cooks sauté and flambé in the restaurant’s open kitchen is the best dinner theater in town.
Where: 1317 N. State St.
Info: [url=http://www.dannascafeitaliano.com]http://www.dannascafeitaliano.com[/url]


Best Beach:

Locust Beach

Locust Beach
A choice place to skim waves or catch a stellar sunset and own it. Spending a breezy summer day at low tide here provides ideal idling, but thanks to its all-season natural amenities and strategic shoreline setting, we can bank on the fact that a quick romp down the bluff below Locust Street is guaranteed to put sand in our shoes and lift our spirits with expansive alluvial vistas no matter what time of year we choose to lavish ourselves with its luxuries.
Where: Locust Road at Marine Drive
Info: [url=http://www.cob.org]http://www.cob.org[/url]


Best Burger:

Fiamma Burger

I’m not likely to add peanut butter to a burger, but it’s nice to have the option if I’m ever brave enough to broaden my culinary horizons. Of course, choices are what Fiamma Burger is all about. I can attest that their hormone-free, Northwest-sourced beef is top-notch—as are the daily-baked brioche buns—but so too are their salmon, bison, lamb and vegetarian burgers. And when it comes to add-ons, don’t be embarrassed to triple the order. Grilled onions, sauteed mushrooms and a fried egg? Why not! Just hold the peanut butter, OK?
Where: 1309 Railroad Ave.
Info: [url=http://www.fiammaburger.com]http://www.fiammaburger.com[/url]


Best Bed and Breakfast:

Guemes Island Resort

Just a short (and cheap!) ferry ride away lies the unsung hero of of the San Juans, Guemes Island. While the Skagit Valley has no shortage of (incredible) bed and breakfasts, this little gem allows for spectacular views that won’t hurt your pocketbook and can accommodate just about everyone, including Fido. If you’re looking for a relaxing spot away from the crowds but with all the modern amenities of home, this is your place. Sauna? Check. Massage therapy? Check. Foosball?! Check.
Where: 4268 Guemes Island Road, Anacortes
Info: [url=http://www.guemesislandresort.com]http://www.guemesislandresort.com[/url]


Best Music Store:


The Business

The Business had a big, real weird, occasionally scary year. After losing their longtime spot at 402 Commercial Avenue, they found a new one a couple of blocks down, at 216 Commercial Avenue—only to see that space sustain heavy damage in a fire. But due to some landlord largesse and a whole lot of hard work, on March 1 owner Nick Rennis proudly welcomed the public to the restored and renovated—and totally beautiful—Business. Although their digs may be sexier now, the Business remains as it ever was: fiercely independent, proudly local and an indelible (and resilient) piece of Anacortes’ proud musical landscape. Take your business to the Business.
Where: 216 Commercial Ave., Anacortes
Info: [url=http://www.thebusinessanacortes.com]http://www.thebusinessanacortes.com[/url]


Best Festival:

Birdstock at Birdsview Brewery

Skagit celebrates beer at every corner and its festivals are no different. Birdstock at Birdsview Brewery is the place to be, but not just to party. Birdstock began 11 summers ago because the owners of Birdsview wanted to give back to the local fire department. It has now become the fire department's biggest fundraiser.
Where: 38302 Washington 20, Concrete
Info: [url=http://www.birdsviewbrewingcompany.com]http://www.birdsviewbrewingcompany.com[/url]


Best Bed & Breakfast:

The Nantucket Inn

Coastal confusion can be found in the Nantucket Inn's moniker, but when visitors wake up in the 1920s-era colonial mansion and behold views of Fidalgo Bay and Mt. Baker, they'll know without a doubt they're in Anacortes, not New England. And, once they're sitting at the breakfast table, proprietors Jessica and Mike Ferguson will share with their guests how to further enjoy a visit to the valley they've called home for more than 20 years.
Where: 3402 Commercial Ave., Anacortes
Info: [url=http://www.nantucketinnanacortes.com]http://www.nantucketinnanacortes.com[/url]