Best of Skagit 2016
Bellingham Training and TennisWalking 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.
Best Bike Shop:
Skagit Cycle CenterAt Skagit Cycle, you’re not going to be stereotyped as a sissy if you inform employees you’re looking for sturdiness, not speed. “Cycling intensity levels range from gleeful joyrides to foaming-at-the-mouth, all-out efforts and anything in between,” the spokespeople at the Skagit Valley hub say when talking about why bicycling is the best exercise around. “This ability to choose your perfect pace is what makes cycling so much fun and so accessible to just about everyone,” they add. And with 1,000-plus conveyances to choose from, it seems as if Skagit Cycle Center is apt to have a perfect ride for just about everybody.
Where: 1704 Burlington Blvd., Burlington and 1620 Commercial Ave., Anacortes
Best Island Destination:
Friday HarborThe 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
Wait Staff at Old Town CafeThis is the only time the entire staff of a restaurant has won a Best of Bellingham award, and it is only fitting that the Old Town Cafe servers are the first. After all, we patiently wait in long lines every single weekend to be served scrambles, sandwiches, pancakes and plate after plate of the much-beloved Number Nine by this crackerjack and eternally sunny crew who handle the crowds—and Bellingham’s long-term love affair with the Old Town—with great skill and good humor.
Where: 316 W. Holly St.
Where: 1200 11th St., Bellingham, and 403 Front St., Lynden
Best Fine Dining:
Where: 100 North Commercial St.
Best Cocktail :
RedlightAt the Redlight, many of the cocktails come with musical connotations, but no matter how fierce their titles might be—treat yourself to a Reign in Blood, Le Butcherette or Warm Gun—they are mixed by an excellent crew of bartenders from ingredients that are made in-house wherever and whenever possible. That means the strawberry/peppercorn vodka for my Blonde Redhead is infused on the premises, and the hot apple cider for my seasonally available Autumn Sweater is probably mulled by the person taking my drink order. The same thoughtfulness permeates the small spot tucked away on State Street, which is how it has come to occupy such a big spot in our hearts.
Where: 1017 N. State St.
Best News Story:
ProtestsSkagit knows the importance of farming to the economy, and the importance of migrant labor to farming. Too harsh a national policy on labor, too much fear and uncertainty in a vital, irreplaceable work force and suddenly crops are threatened in the fields. Climate change, too, is a concern for the future of farms. People have taken to the streets in labor marches, they’ve assembled in protest of fossil fuel expansions, they’ve let their voices be heard in support of human dignity and personal liberty. Because Skagit is a place worth fighting for.
Best Auto Repair:
Bellingham AutomotiveA few years ago, I took a rock to the radiator of my aging-but-still-ticking Nissan Maxima. I polled my Facebook friends to see who to entrust my beloved Maxxie to, and when tallied, the winner of that vote was the same as this one: Bellingham Automotive. Sure enough, the customer service was great and very professional and the repair work was done right--and righteously fast. They even hauled me to and from their Hannegan Road shop via their tricked-out courtesy car. Getting back on the road again has never been so simple.
Where: 4116 Hannegan Road
Best Bike Store:
Skagit Cycle CenterWhen 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 Pet Store:
Bellingham Pet SupplyWe are a community of pet owners and we put a lot of consideration into how we feed and care for our pets, if the number of truly great pet stores around here is any indication. Recently joining their ranks is Bellingham Pet Supply, which is owned by lifelong local Julian Friedman. A carefully chosen array of products to keep your creatures happy and healthy, free delivery and homegrown ownership by a guy who is the proud owner of three adorably weird-looking dogs are just a few of the reasons you’ve deemed this newcomer to be the best.
Where: 1701 N. State St.
Best Ski Shop:
Where: 214 W. Holly St.
Best Music Store:
Where: 115 E. Magnolia St.
Info: (360) 676-1404
Silver Reef Casino Resort and Spa
Where: 4876 Haxton Way, Ferndale
SunnylandWhat makes a great neighborhood? Well, one that is walkable, with tree-lined streets and ample parks, nearby services and entertainment. One that allows people to work from or near their homes. Many artists have moved to Sunnyland for exactly that reason, so they can run a studio out of their home—and that has produced a flourishing local arts community. Sunnyland is a nucleus for many of the favorite haunts and hangouts cited in this year’s reader survey. That dynamism has a downside, too, and Sunnyland is experiencing some growing pains from its tangy mix of industrial and commercial uses in proximity to family homes. Friends, an outdoor beer garden is a heartbreaking thing to quarrel about! I predict they’ll soon solve those problems, and continue to claim their crown as Bellingham’s favorite neighborhood. Info: [url=http://www.sunnylandneighborhood.com]http://www.sunnylandneighborhood.com[/url]
Birdstock at Birdsview BrewerySkagit 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
Taste of IndiaThe Hindu gods have many hands and many mouths, as though in mirrors facing one another, reflecting infinity. I often think of this while poring over the menu in the brightly lit, many-mirrored dining area of Taste of India, longing for so many more hands, more mouths to enjoy all of their savory vindaloo and biryani and tandoori dishes served with buttery naan—the flavors of eternal summer. Their vegetarian menu alone is the most generous in the city. On Fridays, they have dancers—their hands, their mouths awash with light.
Where: 3930 Meridian St.
Best Day Trip:
Birdsview BreweryBeer is a big deal in Cascadia. This is reinforced when the Best Day Trip category is won by a brewery. I've often stopped by Birdsview on my way past and snagged a growler before heading to epic adventures in the Cascades. Make sure to roll through on your next Skagit adventure.
Where: 38302 Washington 20, Concrete
Best Pot Store:
Where: 2615 Old Hwy 99 S. Rd., Mount Vernon
Farm to Market Bakery
Where: 5507 Chuckanut Drive, Bow
Best Cannabis Product:
Cafe AkroteriOne of the great unsung food deals in Bellingham is Cafe Akroteri’s $10.50 gyro and beer or wine special. One of the great unsung bars in Bellingham is the one at the downtown Greek mainstay. But you’ll need some food to soak up that ouzo and retsina, and Akroteri is here to help with all your Greek favorites like moussaka, spanakopita, falafel, souvlaki and lamb of many varieties. Treat yourself to a sampler platter and try a little bit of everything.
Where: 1219 Cornwall Ave.
Riverside Health ClubAt 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
Blue Fin SushiOh, 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
Best News Story:
Lummi Nation defeats a coal dump
The Laughs You LeaveYes, yes—Ryan Stiles always tops the list of Best Bellebrity. But the editors want to give a special shout-out this year to Peter Gunn, who was also in the fond thoughts of many readers. In his unofficial capacity, Peter was a sort of People’s Mayor of Bellingham, and certainly its biggest booster and ambassador. He cared for the streets and for the people on them, always ready with a joke or barb or keen observation. He was a Brooklyn standup comedian in every setting and sense, with steady delivery and the precision timing of a cuckoo clock. He was a friend and a wise counselor, always. Our streets are darker without his gleam.
Pure Bliss DessertsConfession: 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.
Home SkilletDon’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.
Best Music Festival:
WinterStockEven 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
Bastion Brewing CompanyWhen the folks at Bastion Brewing Company urge visitors to “bring the whole crew” to their popular Anacortes beer hall, it’s not hyperbole. In addition to its family-friendly ethos—the brewery hosts all-ages events and provides a kids’ corner complete with games—leashed dogs (and even cats) can visit both the taproom and the outdoor beer garden. So while you’re slaking your thirst with a handcrafted Skagit Valley Blonde or Cascadian Twilight Dark Lager and noshing on fish and chips or a giant burger, rest assured there will be be plenty of two- and four-legged action to be observed.
Where: 12529 Christianson Rd., Anacortes
Best Pot Store:
Herbal Legends CannabisBefore 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 Day Trip:
Fiamma Burger“Oh Burger! My Burger!—these are the words I’m sure Walt Whitman would be uttering had circumstances been a bit different and he found himself walking through the doors of Fiamma Burger. Exceptionally delicious from start to finish, the friendliest burger folks behind the bun, and all at a price point that you can take the whole family in? Clearly winning. On top of it all, their extensive burger menu also features breakfast, happy hour, desserts, and more. I feel kind of bad ol’ Walt never got the chance to indulge.
Where: 1309 Railroad Ave.
Skagit Valley Burger Express
Where: 172 WA-20, Sedro-Woolley
Best Place to See Live Music:
Conway MuseIt’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
The Rhododendron Cafe
Where: 5521 Chuckanut Drive, Bow
Village BooksI’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.
Best Place to Dance:
Where: 1119 Railroad Ave.
Best Day Trip on the 542:
North Fork BreweryWhether 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.
Max Dale’s Steak & Chop HouseMax and Pauline Dale met Paul Pickering, and a legend was born along Old Highway 99. This place is like stepping back to a time when a good meal wasn’t complete unless it included a juicy steak or chop alongside a hearty vegetable, potato and green salad. Surf and turf? You got it! I take my meal in the lounge seated in a comfy high-backed booth with an expertly mixed martini. Times have never been better.
Where: 2030 Riverside Dr., Mount Vernon
Honey SalonWalking through the doors of Honey Salon, you feel like you’ve traveled outside our little corner of the PNW and into a swanky salon in New York City; warm, exposed brick walls, wood floors, beautiful lighting, comfy window seats—you feel stylish upon entering. But the design aesthetic is nothing compared to the beauty within the hands of the people that make up Honey. The artists behind the shears are committed to giving you their best, while making you look yours. Traditional services apply (cuts, color), but Honey also offers sugaring, makeup, straight shaves and more. Turns out the sweetest Honey is found in our own backyard.
Where: 310 W. Holly Street
Best Asian Food/Takeout:
Rachawadee CafeIt makes perfect sense that Rachawadee Thai Cafe would win in both of these categories. This tiny, off-the-beaten-path Mount Vernon stalwart cranks out not just the best Thai food in the Skagit Valley, but the best Thai food its many devotees have ever had—by a very long shot. Whether you show up for lunch or dinner, be prepared to wait in line, and with a very limited amount of counter seating, ordering your soups, curry and noodle dishes for takeout is often the only option. But don’t let any of that deter you—the only thing as good as the food is watching the floor show as Rachawadee’s experienced cooks work their exotic magic with seemingly pedestrian ingredients. The restaurant wins every year because it is, simply, the best.
Where: 410 W. Gates St., Mount Vernon
Ristretto Coffee Lounge and Wine BarIf you can't come up with the scratch for a trip to Europe, spending time at Mount Vernon's Ristretto Coffee Lounge and Wine Bar might be the next best thing. Whether you're sipping on a smokey espresso (beans provided by Seattle's Victrola Coffee Roasters) or a glass of wine (red, white or sparkling), the relaxed, welcoming atmosphere is one where you're encouraged to settle in and plan your next adventure.
Where: 416 First St., Mount Vernon
Best Place for Hunting & Fishing Supplies:
Holiday SportsWhether 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
COA Mexican EateryAn early morning spent tramping Padilla Bay's trails and negotiating a backlog of tulip field traffic had us famished. After locating the Mount Vernon faction of COA, our day trip turned into a culinary adventure. The flavors of Mexico came alive in the complexly simple pork tacos and taco salad we ordered, but we could also taste the ingredients grown closer to home. And, just our luck, it was $5 Friday—meaning the discounted margaritas went down all the smoother.
Where: 102 S. 10th St., Mount Vernon; 214 Maple Ave., La Conner
Ded Reckoning at Compass Wines
Where: 1405 Commercial Ave., Anacortes
Best Place to Get a Tattoo:
Good Vibes Body Art
Where: 503 S. 1st St., Mount Vernon
Cafe AkroteriRecently, 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.
Boulevard ParkI’ve now spent more than a year living with a bird’s-eye view of the city’s most popular park, and I can say, I’m impressed with you, Bellingham. No matter the weather—rain, wind, freezing cold, a combo of all three—you can be found running its trails, frolicking on its lawn and taking time out on its benches. You skinny dip in Bellingham Bay during the summer, and stand at the water’s edge and let the spray drench you during the winter. You love Boulevard Park, and it is lucky to have you.
Where: South State Street and Bayview Drive
Mount BakeryIt’s a drizzly Sunday morning, and the downtown brunch crowd at the Mount Bakery is on the verge of reaching full capacity. While I’d love to settle in with a Tomato Benny, I’ve just dropped by to secure a sweet treat. Among the baked-from-scratch delights, the marionberry orange scones look divine. But so too do the orange vanilla morning rolls, the ginger molasses and triple chocolate cookies, the seasonal fruit galette, and the platter of cinnamon rolls—which resemble miniature mountains topped with gooey layers of snow. After much deliberation, I settle on a raspberry cream cheese scone, secure I’ve made the right choice. But let’s face it, when it comes to Mount Bakery’s to-die-for baked goods, there in no wrong decision.
Where: 308 W. Champion St., 1217 Harris Ave.
Best Brunch/Bloody Mary:
Trainwreck Bar & Grill
Where: 427 E. Fairhaven Ave., Burlington
Top News Story:
#MeToo and Bellingham’s (Alleged) Bad MenFrom the restaurant sector to professional and political spheres, from up on the hill at WWU to down at the brewery, men in Bellingham have really outdone themselves, being accused of the full bingo card of sexual misconduct—groping, sexually assaulting and harassing, and exposing themselves to women who, frankly, are fed up and not having it. To the women who have come forward: Thank you. We see you. We admire your courage and we support you. To any confused men trying to navigate these rapidly changing times and wondering under what circumstances it is appropriate to show someone your penis: Keep it in your pants. If you have not gotten permission, you do not have consent. When we want to see it, we’ll ask.
Best Auto Repair:
Harmony MotorworksIt says something subtle and marvelous about Bellingham that our favorite mechanics specialize in mending fuel-efficient and innovative European and Japanese model autos. Sometimes, they do break! Harmony has been working on European-built vehicles since 1979—just about the time gas-guzzlers were going the way of the dino—and they know them quite well by now. Smart cars for smart drivers, repaired by smart mechanics—all cylinders firing.
Where: 1922 Grant St.
Where: 502 Commercial Ave., Anacortes
Best Pot Grower:
Trail Blazin’ Productions
Best Place to get a Tattoo:
Good Vibes Body ArtI have one tattoo. Good Vibes has been hard at work in downtown Mount Vernon since 1999. Darius, Shauna, Tiffany, and Jason have 46-plus years of collective ink experience between the four of them and, had I known I had access to such artistic expertise, I’d have let them stick me. If I ever decide to complete my full tattoo, I’ll be seeking out those good vibes.
Where: 503 S. 1st St, Mount Vernon
Best Place to Dance/Place for a First Date/Place to See Live Music/Meet-Up:
Conway MuseOh, 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
Jalapeños Family Mexican RestaurantsYou’ve just got to love a place that features Bellingham’s biggest burrito—a monster tortilla packed with spicy goodness the size of a bread loaf—as well as the town’s biggest margarita, too—a frosty fishbowl of lime-sour tequila. But they also have lunch specials and happy hour menus that extend much further into the day than many restaurants, making Jalapeños an extraordinary place to hold a business lunch. They have several locations. My favorite is the central waterfront, with sunny outdoor seating that looks down our industrial-strength waterway with intense longing at the shimmering green islands in the distance.
Where: 501 W. Holly St., 1007 Harris Ave., 2945 Newmarket St.
Best Shoe Store:
Mi ShoesWhen we say Michelle Bouma is consistently putting her best foot forward, it’s not just a clever play on words. Since starting the mini-but-mighty Mi Shoes on Bellingham’s Railroad Avenue 11 years ago, the energetic entrepreneur has expanded her fashionable realm. These days, you’ll also find the products of her keen eye for what women want to wear at Commercial Street’s Heroine, and at Mi Shoes Lynden, which is expected to open sometime this week. Look for a grand opening celebration there Nov. 12, and rest assured that, in the meantime, the award-winning downtown Bellingham store is going strong.
Where: 1315 Railroad Ave., 511 Front St., Lynden
Best Grocery Store:
Skagit Valley Food Co-op
Where: 202 South First Street, Mount Vernon
Best Auto Dealer:
Dewey Griffin Subaru
Where: 1800 Iowa St.
Best Farm Store/Nursery:
Country StoreIn 1934, the Skagit Grange Supply opened with a mission to provide high-quality products for the ever-growing community of Skagit Valley farmers. The original name has changed, but the directive has stayed the same. So whether you’re enhancing your lawn or garden, sourcing food for your chickens, cows or indoor pets, picking out hardware, or fueling up at one of the three stores located throughout the county, rest assured they’ve got you covered.
Where: 1276 S. Burlington Blvd., Burlington; 915 Moore St., Sedro-Woolley; 900 Riverside Dr., Mount Vernon
Ristretto Coffee Lounge and Wine Bar
Where: 416 S. 1st St., Mount Vernon
D’Anna’s Cafe Italiano
Where: 1317 N. State St.
Best Watering Hole:
Brown Lantern Ale House
Where: 412 Commercial Ave., Anacortes
Skagit Valley Burger Express
Where: 1172 WA-20, Sedro-Woolley
Info: (360) 707-8778
Brock StilesOriginally 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
Washington ParkAlthough there’s hardly a shortage of panoramic vantage points to catch a soul-stirring sunset on Fidalgo Island, none of them succeeds to help capture the rapture quite as stunningly as the cliffy swath of forested, flower-meadow-endowed shoreline that fronts this mountain rimmed island-jeweled Anacortes city park.
Where: 6300 Sunset Dr., Anacortes
Where: 425 Commercial St., Mount Vernon
La Traviata Ristorante ItalianoLa Conner, small-town wonder that it is, hardly lacks for places to score an excellent meal, so it makes sense the Italian food you deemed Skagit’s best would be found there. Family owned and operated, La Traviata sources its dishes straight from Florence, Colombia, Sicily, Sardinia, and Capri, and the menu, which skews heavily on the traditional side, is huge and varied. If you have a tough time deciding, know that you can’t go wrong with the lasagna, vitello picata (that’s veal piccata to you and me), lobster ravioli, gnocchi de patate, or any of the 10-inch pizzas on the menu. Trust that no matter what you order, all will be homemade, perfectly cooked and preceded by house-made rolls, soft and still warm from the oven.
Where: 201 Morris St., La Conner
Where: 1000 Harris Ave.
Best Tulip Farm:
RoozengaardeWhen 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
Whatcom Family YMCAThere was a time in my life when I reserved a couple nights of the week for kickboxing aerobics classes at the Whatcom Family YMCA. The sessions were full of women of every shape and fitness level, and were also social in nature. Years later, the vibe hasn’t changed much (even if my ability to karate-kick has). Whether you’re lifting free weights, soaking up the stellar view of Bellingham Bay from the comfort of a stationary bicycle, swimming, taking a class—or signing your kids up for one—acceptance is the name of the game, and all are welcome.
Where: 1256 N. State St.
Best Hunting and Fishing Gear:
Cabela’sWell, it ain’t strictly in Skagit, but who’s fussing? Cabela’s is like REI for people who hunt things. And who eat the things they hunt around a camp stove. I love wandering this outfitter’s jungle, the thickets of rods and reels, the racks of boats and canoes, critter dioramas at every turn, and the gun library where every stock and caliber has a story and a staffer who can tell it. When you’re ready to hit the rivers and woods of the high country, make Cabela’s your first stop.
Where: 9810 Quil Ceda Blvd., Marysville
Lincoln TheatreIn 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
Kelley’s BBQ & CateringHeavens and holy smokes, I about fainted when I drove up to Kelley’s little red wood pit, the barbecue smelled so sweet and savory. They do it up Ole Miss style, slow cooked and delicately crisped, moist and falling from the bone. I ordered the No. 5 Family Combo—a wonderful sampler, with a rack of spare ribs, pulled pork, half a chicken and cowboy-style baked beans. There was plenty to take home.
Where: 805 W. Division St., Mount Vernon
Ciao BellaIt's not on Ciao Bella's regular menu, but if diners ever see gnocchi make an appearance in a daily special, they should order it—no questions asked. Owners Michele and Francesca hail from southern Italy, and in addition to serving pasta, sauces and bread made from scratch, the duo also brings authenticity to the table—whether it's in the flavors of the Pollo Valtelina or having dinner served with a smile by the Anacortes restaurant's owners.
Where: 1560 Commercial Ave., Anacortes
Best Grocery/Best Vegetarian:
Skagit Valley Food Co-opIn my lifelong dedication to their tuna salad sandwich I’ve convinced myself that if the world could learn to become more like the deli/bakery department at Skagit Valley Co-op, it would be a better place. Throw in the organic garden center, fresh vegetable section and the bulk area and you essentially have paradise on Earth. Whether I’m wolfing a non-GMO double-scoop cone or slurping a sustainable fresh-roasted cuppa, my love for this farm-to-table Mecca continues to grow. And now—thanks to its recent C-Square expansion—there is even more of it to love.
Where: 202 S. First St., Mount Vernon
La Fiamma Wood Fire PizzaAccording to the number crunchers at La Fiamma, each of their large wood-fired pizzas features 132 square inches of toppings. That’s likely one of the reasons the food hub at the intersection of Chestnut Street and Railroad Avenue has long been a destination for those who know a great pizza when they taste one. Quality ingredients and choices for meat-lovers, vegetarians, vegans, omnivores, gluten-intolerants, pescatarians and those who prefer “just cheese, please” are also reasons you return. My favorite is the shrimp-and-pesto enhanced Finn, but I’m also fond of classics such as the meaty Brooklyn Bridge. If you don’t want to commit to a full meal deal, drop by the window of the Pye Hole—located on the Chestnut Street side of the eatery—for a slice or two from lunchtime until late-night.
Where: 200 E. Chestnut St.
Railroad Pub & PizzaBurlington is making a habit of this—refitting a classic old brick and mortar building and filling it with fresh food and friendly spirits. The Railroad Pub offers wood-fired pizzas—comfortable old favorites like pepperoni line up alongside startling exotics like Brussels & Bacon—paired with an ample selection of draft beers from local breweries. And, wine, if you’re so inclined.
Where: 122 S Spruce St., Burlington
Best Gear Store:
Dick’s Sporting GoodsA 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 Bar/Best Cocktail:
Train Wreck Bar & GrillThe secret is out on this place as the crossroads of Skagit, and it is busy at all hours. Which is exactly what you want from a pub—lively and full of action, with a menu loaded with gourmet grub served with some joy and style. Mondays, they feature tart margaritas with housemade tacos and tamales. Wednesdays, they feature a uniquely Northwest-y hand-rolled sushi.
Where: 427 E. Fairhaven Ave., Burlington
Caitlin Beebe, Aslan Brewing Co.
Where: 1330 N. Forest St.
Best Place to Dance:
Rumors CabaretEvery 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.
Where: 310 W. Holly St.
Best First Date, Best Happy Hour:
Rock and RyeConfession: I went to Rock and Rye three times in one week recently. Although none of my outings at the restaurant on the ground floor of the Herald Building were for first dates, two out of those three visits were for its stellar early and late-night happy hours. A dozen of its freshly shucked happy-hour oysters, a bowl of flavorful and spicy mussels, and a pork taco or two make me the happiest person at happy hour. A roasted beet salad if I’m feeling virtuous. Duck and pork belly poutine if I need to eat my feelings. And when Dennis Schafer—a many-time winner in the Best Bartender category—is behind the bar, I know my drinks will be creative in vision and expert in execution.
Where: Where: 1145 N. State St.
Community Food Co-opSecrets revealed: At least once a week, I go to the Food Co-op for an early-morning breakfast. Grits or oatmeal, scrambled eggs, potatoes—with chorizo gravy, if you’d like. Comes to about $12 with dark roast coffee, which is about the cheapest, most filling meal around on a tight schedule. I look over the bulletin board, filled with community events and information about the food co-operative I, in part, own. The Community Food Co-op Board is in intricately involved in nutrition and the local food web, working to increase the supply of local, sustainable and organic food by supporting and establishing projects that strengthen the local farming community. So much more than a grocery store—yet they’re really good at that part, too.
Where: 1220 N. Forest St., 315 Westerly Rd.
Best Stop on Highway 542:
North Fork Beer ShrineBest stop on the way to Mt. Baker? It’s a trick question. Actually, everyone knows the mountains are just an excuse to get out of town for the real destination: a frosty pint and a hearty slice of wood-fired pizza near a place called Welcome. Church Mountain is my cathedral, but the North Fork is my shrine.
Where: 6186 Mt. Baker Hwy, Deming
SunnylandThe center of the universe has coasted north over the years of our annual Best of Bellingham reader survey—Columbia and Sunnyland neighborhoods feature a vital mix of charming long-established Craftsman homesteads, innovative businesses and artist studios. They’ve taken their share of infill, proving urban densities can make a city come alive. The city’s bike and pedestrian plans have matured in these neighborhoods. They feel centered. And it is not at all a coincidence that so many winners in our Best of Bellingham survey are located here.
Best Place to Meet People, Best Pot Store:
2020 SolutionsYour favorite place—or places, given 2020 Solutions’ three locations—to procure pot is also your favorite place to score a date, a little bit of synergy that makes perfect sense. While you’re perusing 2020’s selection of flower, edibles, concentrates, topicals and more, you can also chat up the marijuana-minded person beside you and potentially emerge with some Kush and a crush. Now that’s one unforgettable high.
Where: 2018 Iron St., 5655 Guide Meridian, 4770 Pacific Hwy.
Garden Spot NurseryI 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.
Ryan Stiles and Misha Collins
Info: [url=http://www.theupfront.com]http://www.theupfront.com[/url] or www.randomacts.org
Best Stop on the North Cascades Highway:
Birdsview BreweryIt’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
Best Margarita, Best Bartender:
Brendan O’Neill @ Black Sheep
Where: 211 W. Holly St.
Where: 302 S. 1st St., Mount Vernon
Best Fine Dining:
Where: 114 Prospect St.
Where: Upfront Theatre, 1208 Bay St.
Avenue BreadTime was short. Lunch was calling. The plump-looking hoagies at the grocery store looked tempting. But then I had a better vision. Once again, as it has for several trips round the sun, my abiding fealty to the sandwich board at Avenue Bread pulled me through to a more savory situation. Within a half-hour, all I had to do was decide between an Avenue Club on rustic wheat or a Grilled Eggplant on artisanal focaccia.
Where: 1313 Railroad Ave., 2301 James St., 1135 11th St.