Best of Skagit 2016

Best Breakfast:

Home Skillet

Home_Skillet_1a.jpg
Tina and Kirby White got good with grits in cozy conditions the adventuresome way—they practiced culinary arts at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. There, color, grace, style and a gentle humor helped nourish an extended working family through long, frosty, seldom sunny mornings. That’s the tradition they’ve built at their Sunnyland breakfast nook, where Bellingham’s family rubs elbows over spicy huevos rancheros, chorizo and eggs, and tater tot hash with piping mugs of dark roast to stave off the coming winter chill. Last time I was there, I knew everyone in the joint. It’d been a while since I’d seen these old friends, and it was good to break the fast with them again.
Where: 521 Kentucky St.
Info: [url=http://www.homeskilletinsunnyland.com]http://www.homeskilletinsunnyland.com[/url]


Best Farm Store/Nursery:

Country Store

In 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
Info: [url=http://www.countrystore.net]http://www.countrystore.net[/url]


Best Auto Repair:

Bellingham Automotive

A 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
Info: [url=http://www.bellinghamautomotive.com]http://www.bellinghamautomotive.com[/url]


Best Bike Shop:

Kulshan Cycles

Anyone who’s ever thrilled at the way it feels to ride a bicycle down a steep hill can likely also attest to the not-so-great feeling that occurs when you discover the brakes on your two-wheeled conveyance need some assistance. That’s where Eric and Kae Moe of Kulshan Cycles come in. When the duo took over the bike business from previous owner Jack Kimmes in 2005, Eric had already put in a decade at the Chestnut Street locale, making him an ideal successor to the now-35-year-old shop—which is known not only for its enviable selection of bike-related products, but also for the crew’s ability to fix pesky brakes (and so much more), host clinics and weekly bike rides, and sharing their love of riding with the public. (Honorable mention: Earl’s Bike Shop.)
Where: 100 E. Chestnut St.
Info: [url=http://www.kulshancycles.com]http://www.kulshancycles.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 Clothing Stores:

Bargains Galore Thrift Store, House of Style Boutique and Salon

House of Style wins best place to buy clothes in Skagit Valley
If you’re considering dropping by Bargains Galore or House of Style, be aware the Mount Vernon-based retailers are shuttered on Sundays. I found that out the hard way, but was still able to suss out what led to a tie in this coveted category. Both community-minded establishments offer deals—a sign in front of Bargains Galore boasted a “75 percent off pants” sale, and a peek at a “locals only” placard inside the House of Style promoted a hefty discount to local customers—and each business also expands its vision to include more than clothing. At either locale, patrons can expect a win-win experience.
Where: 224 Chenoweth St., 510 S. First St., Mount Vernon
Info: [url=http://www.bargainsgalorethrift.org]http://www.bargainsgalorethrift.org[/url], www.houseofstylemv.com


Best Thrift Store:

Value Village

Whenever I’m stricken by the need for a little quality retail therapy, Value Village is my first stop. Last week I fished an almost-new Black Diamond collapsible avalanche shovel out of the bins for a screaming deal ($5!). And the week before that I scored a mint-condition 1964 Smith-Corona Corsair Deluxe manual typewriter for $27. Three weeks ago, I gifted myself a pinstripe suit for $30 and had just enough funds left over to raid the book section. For less than a 10-spot I added a quality paperback edition of Life with Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse and a 1983 Buyer’s Club edition of Stephen King’s Christine to my shelves. My girlfriend thinks I’m an addict. She’s probably right. But at least I own the first pinstripe blazer in my life to show for it.
Where: 150 E. Bellis Fair Pkwy.
Info: [url=http://www.valuevillage.com]http://www.valuevillage.com[/url]


Best Park:

Whatcom Falls Park

Whether I’m sailing through via cross-country skis on the rare snow day, seeking to dazzle my latest round of out-of-town guests or simply on the hunt for a bracing dose of vertically enhanced riparian topography, Whatcom Falls Park’s chasm-friendly trail system never fails to deliver the mossy green goods. Come rain or shine, I’m pretty notorious for dawdling across the stone bridge as slow as my feet will carry me. Noisy water is good for my soul and the primordial atmosphere around it deserves to be savored.
Where: 1401 Electric Ave.
Info: [url=http://www.cob.org]http://www.cob.org[/url]


Best Bakery:

Mount Bakery

It’s a rainy and brisk fall morning, but stalwart customers can still be found sitting at the outdoor tables under the awning at the Mount Bakery’s Champion Street locale. Perhaps they don’t feel the cold because they’re warmed to the core by what they’re eating—scones fresh out of the oven, made-by-scratch croissants, maple-glazed cookies, lemon meringue tarts, pieces of pie or one of the other myriad baked goods the longtime bakery stocks at both its downtown and Fairhaven locales. A commitment to using locally sourced ingredients, a passion for the craft and the ability to keep Bellinghamsters coming back for more makes this award-winning business a no-brainer in this category.
Where: 308 W. Champion St., 1217 Harris Ave.
Info: [url=http://www.mountbakery.com]http://www.mountbakery.com[/url]


Best Margarita:

Black Sheep

When it comes to margaritas, Black Sheep is unapologetic about its lack of a blender. “Sorry not sorry” reads a note above the long menu of tequila-inspired cocktails offered on the regular—and on the rocks—at the self-described “bar with tacos.” Whether you’re in the mood for a simple yet delicious Dude-a-rita (made with Lunazul reposado, triple sec, limes and lemons) or want to get fancy with a Siddha (Classico reposado, Kuma turmeric liqueur and limes), the award-winning Holly Street hideout will slake your thirst with the best margarita in town.
Where: 215 W. Holly St.
Info: [url=http://www.blacksheepbellingham.com]http://www.blacksheepbellingham.com[/url]


Best Movie Theater:

The Pickford Film Center

Pickford Film Center
The Pickford Film Center’s motto is “More than movies” and it’s a promise they make good on, offering such events as the Rooftop Cinema, annual Oscar party, Children's and Human Rights film festivals and so much more. Currently, the not-so-tiny-but-certainly-mighty independent movie theater is in the middle of Doctober, its annual, month-plus celebration of nonfiction filmmaking, which has become the largest documentary film festival on the west coast and helps anchor the PFC’s Doc-Ed and Media Literacy programs. Of course, they still show plenty of those art-house movies you love, which is how they win this category—and your hearts—year after year. That, and the real butter they put on their popcorn.
Where: 1318 Bay Street, 1416 Cornwall Ave.
Info: [url=http://www.pickfordfilmcenter.org]http://www.pickfordfilmcenter.org[/url]


Best Breakfast:

The Rhododendron Cafe

Rhododendron_Cafe_by_Jessamyn_Tuttle_(4)-o.jpg
The Rhododendron Cafe has been enticing breakfast-lovers for years. But when Jim and Lisa Kowalski took over the cafe last year, they elevated this restaurant’s culinary delights. Have you had their salmon Eggs Benedict? No? That’s no one else’s fault but your own. Rhody Cafe is showing its craft in every plate. They even make their own English muffins, which is reason enough to head up Chuckanut Drive and stop in for an award-winning breakfast.
Where: 5521 Chuckanut Drive, Bow
Info: [url=http://www.rhodycafe.comia-deli.com]http://www.rhodycafe.comia-deli.com[/url]


Best Park:

Boulevard Park

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Although I can definitely do without having to spend another summer watching the grounds of Boulevard Park be trenched apart by a clamorous array of hydraulic tools and machinery, that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the utility improvements. Installing all those new water/sewer/power/telecommunications pipes reduces many hazards and since most of the wounds are starting to heal I feel extra-grateful to be able to roam the expanded beach-nourishment footprint seeking solace among the drift stills and rock revetments that help stabilize and protect this singular stretch of urban shoreline from wind shear and wave energy.
Where: 470 Bayview Dr.
Info: [url=http://www.cob.org]http://www.cob.org[/url]


Best BBQ:

Double Barrel BBQ

A secret of the Skagit, you’ve got to—I don’t know—get invited to a wedding or something to sample Double Barrel’s rich, savory meats that just fall from the bone. That’s because their southern style pit BBQ business is focused on catering. They take their time with their orders, slow smoking their meats over oak and fruit woods. They’ve made a wedding crasher out of me.
Where: 108 W. Moore St., Sedro-Woolley
Info: [url=http://www.doublebarrelbbq.com]http://www.doublebarrelbbq.com[/url]


Best Realtor:

Dominic Pettruzzelli

Dominic Pettruzzelli wins best realtor in Skagit Valley
There isn’t much Dominic hasn’t accomplished in the last nine years of his real estate career. From “Rookie of the Year” to the cover of Realtor Magazine, the list of his accomplishments goes on and on. But what really sets the Pettruzzelli team apart is Dominic’s passion for helping others build net worth through homeownership, which deservedly garnered him this year’s title of Best Realtor.
Where: 425 Commercial St., Mount Vernon
Info: [url=http://www.pettruzzelli.com/realestate]http://www.pettruzzelli.com/realestate[/url]


Best Ski Shop:

Backcountry Essentials

Backcountry_Essentials_2a.jpg
What’s the Essentials? Their knowledge that you’ll need to save some of your budget for the slopes, because skiing is no longer an inexpensive sport. And that means good gear at good prices. But the backcountry is about more than slopes, and this shop caters to the whole outdoor community, from climbers to campers. Owners Chris and Erica Gerston say, “Our business philosophy recognizes that, while we have to sell a certain amount of gear to remain open, we ideally want to be a resource and meeting place where people can find out the latest information on trails, routes and conditions, swap stories about where they have been, or learn about the pros and cons of the ‘latest and greatest’ in gear. Since we love to test gear, we can give you the real dirt on everything we sell—how functional it is, how well it holds up, and how it compares to other products in its category.” In this category, Backcountry Essentials is one of a kind.
Where: 214 W. Holly St.
Info: [url=http://www.backcountryessentials.net]http://www.backcountryessentials.net[/url]


Best Coffeehouse:

Black Drop Coffeehouse

With so many coffee shops from which to choose—each with its own fierce loyalists—the Black Drop’s string of wins in this category is telling. Simply put, they are flat-out exemplary at what they do. Whether they’re pulling perfect shots from locally roasted beans, explaining their many specialty drinks or slinging double shots of espresso on Free Doppio Friday, they execute with a minimum of fuss and an abundance of excellence. Add to that an inclusive atmosphere that tolerates everything except hate, and it’s easy to see what makes the Black Drop your favorite.
Where: 300 W. Champion St.
Info: [url=http://www.blackdropcoffeehouse.com]http://www.blackdropcoffeehouse.com[/url]


Best Fine Dining:

Saltine

Saltine_by_Jessamyn_Tuttle_(4)-o.jpg
It’s quite possible that Saltine won in this category on the strength of its fried green olive appetizer and the prosciutto-wrapped chicken they can’t take off the rotating menu lest all of Bellingham revolt. At the forefront of the city’s recent dining revolution, Saltine offers a thoughtfully edited selection of seasonal fare in an elegant-but-comfortable atmosphere that has been popular with Bellinghamsters since their very first dinner service. Fine dining has had a tough time getting a toehold in Bellingham. And then came Saltine.
Where: 114 Prospect St.
Info: [url=http://www.saltinebellingham.com]http://www.saltinebellingham.com[/url]


Best Casino:

Silver Reef Hotel Casino Spa

Silver Reef Casino
Lummi are a wise and resourceful people, and they plan for generations to come. Some years back tribal leaders understood demographics were changing and casino crowds were seeking a new experience. They expanded their casino operations to include a top-flight destination resort and convention center, and a community center for their nation. If you haven’t toured their casino recently, you’re missing a spectacular treat.
Where: 14876 Haxton Way, Ferndale
Info: [url=http://www.silverreefcasino.com]http://www.silverreefcasino.com[/url]


Best Breakfast:

Old Town Cafe

Dawn’s breaking a little later these days, and there’s a feeling of frost in the air. Old Town’s up early, and the mugs of aromatic coffee are steaming. There’s a little gathering this morning at the community table, the first laughs of the day from people who’ve been up and at ’em before the birds started chirping. What am I having? I think it’s definitely, definitely going to be something different today, but—the Number Nine, of course. Smiling, Adrienne turns her ticket book around so I can see it. She’d already written down #9, because for me it’s always the same. You can depend on it. The table erupts in another laugh.
Where: 316 W Holly St.
Info: [url=http://www.theoldtowncafe.com]http://www.theoldtowncafe.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 Real Estate Agent:

Eric J. Larson, Coldwell Banker Bain

Buying or selling a home—especially in a market as permanently red-hot as Bellingham’s—comes with a lot of pressure, both financial and emotional. As such, who you trust with your home sweet home is of paramount importance. In a hotly contested category, Coldwell Banker Bain’s Eric J. Larson garnered the most votes. With deep roots in the community and almost two decades of experience, Larson brings knowledge, skill and pride of place to each client and every home bought or sold. Home is where the heart is, after all.
Where: 3610 Meridian St.
Info: [url=http://www.ericlarson.coldwellbankerbain.com]http://www.ericlarson.coldwellbankerbain.com[/url]


Best Place to Get a Massage:

Calm Water Massage

If you’ve been pondering where to find a place to relax, unwind and take care of yourself, this is it. The winner in this category every year, Calm Water Massage will leave you (and your pocketbook) feeling pretty darn amazing. Treat yourself, or those you love.
Where: 308 Pine St., Mount Vernon
Info: [url=http://www.calmwatermassage.com]http://www.calmwatermassage.com[/url]


Best Clothing Store:

Oliver Hammer

Skagit takes their rugged outdoorsin’ serious, right down to their long johns and underpants. Heavy-duty Bogs mud boots, Filson shirts stiff as sailcloth, Carhartt jackets, and Dickies rain gear. There’s nothing the river country can throw at you you can’t weather. You’re good to go.
Where: 821 Metcalf St., Sedro-Woolley
Info: [url=http://www.oliverhammer.com]http://www.oliverhammer.com[/url]


Best Place to Meet Women:

Temple Bar

Like many of the couples you can find populating Temple Bar on a regular basis, this is a perfectly matched pairing. Need to impress on that first date? Take your love to the Temple. Date doesn’t go well? Well, you can end it right there because you’ll probably find your lifelong partner at the table next to you. Temple Bar is really a revolving door of love, good food and drinks. We love their dessert menu—if your date makes it that far.
Where: 306 West Champion St.
Info: [url=http://www.templebarbellingham.com]http://www.templebarbellingham.com[/url]


Best Bloody Mary Best Patio Seating:

Bayou On Bay

BoB-10-16-19-Bayou-o.jpg
Whether made by a bartender or mixed yourself at the restaurant’s DIY bloody mary bar, Bayou on Bay’s bloody marys are the real deal: slightly spicy, flavorful, and poured strong and true, just like all of the signature drinks on their cocktail menu. During the summer months, it seems like all of Bellingham posts up on Bayou’s expansive, dog-friendly patio, happy to take in the view and watch the world go by over po’ boys and popcorn shrimp. As seasonal traditions go, it’s one of Bellingham’s best.
Where: 1300 Bay St.
Info: [url=http://www.bayouonbay.com]http://www.bayouonbay.com[/url]


Best Gym:

Whatcom Family YMCA

I admit, sometimes on a chilly morning I go just for a stretch and then the steam or sauna—just to sit in the company of people I know and have come to know. Locker room talk? Oh, yeah. Usually about the Seahawks. Heck, who am I kidding? Honestly? Always about the Seahawks. But also lots of tales of gardening and weekend-warrioring. The weights await. But let them wait a bit longer. Friends are here, and they’re talking.
Where: 1256 N State St.
Info: [url=http://www.whatcomymca.org]http://www.whatcomymca.org[/url]


Best Music Store:

Everyday Music

In previous years, this category has been a knockdown, drag-out competition between downtown Bellingham’s two music-store mainstays, Everyday Music and Avalon Records. After the tragic fire that gutted Avalon, Everyday Music got the majority of your votes, although nearly all of you mentioned Avalon when you cast your ballots. To Everyday Music, we say, keep up the good work. We need you more than ever now. To Avalon, we miss you, and are grateful for all of your years spent making Bellingham a more musical place.
Where: 115 E. Magnolia St.
Info: [url=http://www.everydaymusic.com]http://www.everydaymusic.com[/url]


Best Asian Food/Takeout:

Rachawadee Cafe

It 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
Info: [url=http://www.rachawadeethaicafe.com]http://www.rachawadeethaicafe.com[/url]


Best Pet Hospital:

Maplewood Animal Hospital

Whether you’re there for a simple vaccination or an emergency, a visit to the vet is always nerve-wracking for your precious pets—and you. In a town where high-quality animal care is plentiful, it’s that much more meaningful that you’ve singled out Maplewood Animal Hospital as your favorite. They combine advanced technology, dedication to preventative care, commitment to customer service and a staff of veterinarians and assistants that are as compassionate as they are knowledgeable. They’re the cats meow.
Where: 2869 W. Maplewood Ave.
Info: [url=http://www.maplewood-vet.com]http://www.maplewood-vet.com[/url]


Best Place for 
a First Date:

13moons

13 Moons cafe best place for a date in Skagit Valley
There’s something about an old-school steakhouse fine-dining experience, and that’s what 13moons in the Swinomish Casino & Lodge so capably provides. Decorated in Swinomish Native tribal art and with a menu separated into sections such as “From the Salish Sea” and “From the Salish Land,” the tribe’s pride of place is on display in every detail. While you can certainly partake of one of their skillfully prepared steaks or other mouthwatering dishes, the most popular order at 13moons is the signature hand-cut Alder-wood grilled salmon. Given how important salmon are to every facet of Swinomish tribal history, culture and life, it makes perfect sense that 13moons would treat it with the reverence it deserves.
Where: Swinomish Casino & Lodge, 12885 Casino Dr.
Info: [url=http://www.swinomishcasinoandlodge.com]http://www.swinomishcasinoandlodge.com[/url]


Best Indian:

Naan and Brew

Bellingham is home to a growing number of Indian restaurants, each of them with its own particular merits. But as in years past, Naan and Brew has earned the majority of your votes. The downtown restaurant’s great attention to detail results in dishes that are deeply flavorful, rich and complex, whether they’re cooked on the stovetop or in the traditional tandoor oven. To try a bit of everything, visit during lunch, where you can load up your plate at their lunch buffet with butter chicken, veggie pakoras and fresh-made naan. Order a cocktail from their full bar and take the rest of the day off
Where: 200 E. Maple St. #101
Info: [url=http://www.naanandbrew.com]http://www.naanandbrew.com[/url]


Best Beach:

Locust Beach

Any time of year is the right time of year to visit the coastline of Birchwood for an intertidal immersion therapy session at Locust Beach. With 200 acres of forested shoreline to absorb and inspire you, this breezy hideaway is the perfect place to hunker in the driftwood and/or launch the flotation device of your choosing. For a salty old beach bum like me it only takes a few seconds down there before my boots come off, I start shedding some layers and suddenly I’m chest-deep in the shallows grunting for joy and flapping my flippers around like a teenage walrus.
Where: Locust Road at Marine Drive
Info: [url=http://www.cob.org]http://www.cob.org[/url]


Best Pizza:

Village Pizza and Wheelhouse Bar

Pizza is our most fiercely divided and voted-upon category. We get it, Cascadians. You like your ‘za. And this year you deemed Village Pizza as the ruler of all. From fresh dough baked each morning and standard favorites to unique toppings such as mandarin oranges, oysters or shrimp, their menu is sure to please every palate.
Where: 807 Commercial Ave., Anacortes
Info: [url=http://www.villagepizza.org]http://www.villagepizza.org[/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 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 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 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 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 Trail:

Little Mountain

During my most recent session in this amply forested, vertically well-endowed Mount Vernon city park, I peddled my junker up the 1.5-mile paved entrance road to the 934-foot summit and rubbernecked the tulip fields, the San Juan Islands, Olympic Mountains, and Mt. Baker. Then—to savor as much single-track goodness as my played-out shocks and antiquated gear shifter allowed—I wheeled my way down Sidewinder to the service road that spit me out onto Huff N Puff. Upon finally reaching the High Road, I decided to go Over the Top so I could cruise the contours of Upper Surfer’s Way and Lower Surfer’s Way before departing via La-Z-Boy with a smile that stayed glued on my face for days.
Info: [url=http://www.mountvernonwa.gov]http://www.mountvernonwa.gov[/url]


Best Place to 
Play Cards/Slots:

Swinomish Casino & Lodge

I can think of few locales more perfect for a celebration or staycation than the Swinomish Casino & Lodge. When you’re not gaming at one of their tables or trying your luck at a slot machine, you can relax in one of the well-appointed rooms in the Lodge and enjoy the view of scenic Padilla Bay. When hunger strikes, your only difficulty will be in deciding which of its many eateries suits your cravings. And if your idea of a good time is a round of golf, the Swin’s stunning 18-hole course is waiting for you to tee up.
Where: 12885 Casino Dr., Anacortes
Info: [url=http://www.swinomishcasinoandlodge.com]http://www.swinomishcasinoandlodge.com[/url]


Best Bar/Best Cocktail:

Train Wreck Bar & Grill

The 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
Info: [url=http://www.trainwreckbar.com]http://www.trainwreckbar.com[/url]


Best Place to See Live Music:

Wild Buffalo

The Wild Buffalo
This is far from the Wild Buffalo’s first win in this category, and if the margin of votes by which they won this year is any indication, the longstanding staple of the music scene is more beloved than ever. Owner Craig Jewell just celebrated his 10th anniversary with the venue, and he and business partners Joey Crahan and Lee Huffman commemorated the event by building a bigger, better stage to improve our live music experience. You don’t have to keep wooing us, Wild Buffalo (but please keep wooing us), we already love you.
Where: 208 W. Holly St.
Info: [url=http://www.wildbuffalo.net]http://www.wildbuffalo.net[/url]


Best Theater Company:

Sylvia Center for the Arts

When iDiOM Theater was founded by Glenn Hergenhahn-Zhao in fall of 2001, it was with an aim to present high-quality, innovative, original works to its patrons. For 14 years, it did just that--plus a whole lot more--in a small space on Cornwall Avenue. Since morphing into the Sylvia Center for the Arts and making the move to a much larger locale on Prospect Street, its mission has expanded to include gathering a number of other arts organizations under its creative umbrella, thus turning a former laundry building into a thriving, multi-venue performance space. Oct. 11-12 will feature the 53rd iteration of the 48 Hour Theater Festival--a feat that will see approximately 12 new short plays created in the course of a single weekend--and is a great way to celebrate Sylvia's much-deserved win in this category.
Where: 205 Prospect St.
Info: [url=http://www.sylviacenterforthearts.org]http://www.sylviacenterforthearts.org[/url]


Best Neighborhood:

Columbia

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What makes a great neighborhood? In the years we’ve been polling readers for their favorite places, this category has moved steadily north—as has the emphasis on great parks, trails, schools, places to hang out, and homes that are stylish, established yet affordable have come into focus. The Elizabeth Park Summer Concert Series is just one example of a neighborhood laying out all of its finest for the enjoyment of others. Roll on, Columbia! Best of Bellingham write-ups by Tim Johnson, Carey Ross, Amy Kepferle, Scott Pelton, and Trail Rat Photos by Patrick Beggan (versaphotography.com)
Info: [url=http://www.columbianeighbors.com]http://www.columbianeighbors.com[/url]


Best Nursery:

Garden Spot Nursery

What in the heck is a “lasagna bulb” pot? If you were one of the attendees at a recent class on the topic at the Garden Spot Nursery, you would’ve gotten your hands dirty finding out (spoiler alert: it’s a layered pot containing bulbs designed to provide steady blooms through winter and into the spring). Sure, the longtime plant purveyors at the Garden Spot—led by owner Marcy Plattner—will be happy to sell you perennials, annuals, seeds and everything else necessary to cultivate your own piece of paradise, but the hands-on guidance they provide is one of the many reasons the Alabama Street mainstay has been voted “Best Nursery” four years in a row.
Where: 900 Alabama St.
Info: [url=http://www.garden-spot.com]http://www.garden-spot.com[/url]


Best Indian:

Naan and Brew

Harbhajan Singh Chana approaches with great delight and curiosity about everyone’s dining experience. We must learn more. “This is where we make the naan,” he points to places on a personal tour his efficient kitchen. “Over here is where we grind and make our own spices. This is the oven, yes, the tandoor.” True, this the real brew of Naan and Brew, but there are others, too—a full bar featuring taps of the Pacific Northwest. The lunch buffet is without peer downtown, and an excellent way to sample the complete menu of warm and exotic flavors. “We will see you again,” he predicts as we exit. And this is also true.
Where: 200 E Maple St., #101
Info: [url=http://www.naanandbrew.com]http://www.naanandbrew.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 Stop on Highway 542:

North Fork Beer Shrine

Best 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
Info: [url=http://www.northforkbrewery.com]http://www.northforkbrewery.com[/url]


Best BBQ:

Bayou on Bay

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It is a quintessential downtown Bellingham experience to walk by Bayou on Bay early in the day and be bathed in the warm, welcoming scent of smoked meat. Like many of you, I have eaten my way through the popular restaurant’s menu and can vouch that its Cajun/Creole offerings are delicious, its brunch is as legit as the Bloody Marys they serve alongside it and everything is cranked out, mostly from scratch, in its tiny kitchen. Also coming out of that impossibly small space is really good barbecue, and it makes its way into all parts of the menu: brisket hash (my favorite) in the morning, pork po boys at lunch, smoked chicken wings at happy hour and barbecue ribs at dinner. Show up on Wednesdays for rib night and your slab of meet comes with a side of beer. They’ll supply the napkins.
Where: 1300 By St.
Info: [url=http://www.bayouonbay.com]http://www.bayouonbay.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 Home Store:

The Greenhouse

Greenhouse
It wasn’t too long ago that the fate of the Greenhouse was unknown. Thanks to new owners BreAnne and Eric Green—yep, that’s their real surname—the beloved downtown Bellingham home store lives on, and just as fabulously as before. From coasters to Le Crueset to your Nespresso needs and Soda Streams, the Greenhouse carries the finest of fabrics on the coziest of couches, bakeware beginnings to a cornucopia of candles and so much more. I think we can all agree we’re beyond elated the Greenhouse will live on for many years to come.
Where: 1235 Cornwall Ave.
Info: [url=http://www.greenhousehome.com]http://www.greenhousehome.com[/url]


Best Salon:

Shearer’s Hair Design

Did Deborah Shearer decide she wanted to cut hair for a living because of her name, or did she change her name to better reflect her chosen profession? That’s one of the many things you can ask the owner of Shearer’s Hair Design when you schedule a haircut, coloring, perm or eyebrow or lash tint with her or one of the other experienced beauticians at the popular Yew Street locale, which is taking home its first win in the “Best Salon” category—proving they’re a cut above the rest.
Where: 2420 Yew Street Rd.
Info: [url=http://www.shearershairdesign.com]http://www.shearershairdesign.com[/url]


Best Italian:

D’Anna’s Cafe Italiano

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One day, a dish will come along that will dethrone D’Anna’s manicotti from the top of my personal pantheon of Bellingham’s Perfect Meals—just kidding, that day will never come. It’s no secret what makes D’Anna’s so good: Everything that comes out of the restaurant’s kitchen is homemade, from the perfect pasta to the sausage inside my manicotti to the sauces and right on down to the focaccia bread served with every meal. But you need not take my word for it when you can watch the best staff of tattooed line cooks in town craft your meal right before your very eyes.
Where: 1317 N. State St.
Info: [url=http://www.dannascafeitaliano.com]http://www.dannascafeitaliano.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 Pot Store/Head Shop/Place to Meet Men and Women:

2020 Solutions

2020 Solutions
When 2020 Solutions opened its first cannabis-related business at 4:20pm on July 10, 2014, it became Bellingham’s second retail pot store—and one of the first in the state to offer recreational marijuana to the masses. In the years since, high demand for the product has resulted in a proliferation of neighborhood joints offering everything from buds to concentrates, edibles and accessories (pipes, papers, grinders, vaporizers, etc.). Keeping up with the competition, 2020 Solutions has added two venues to their original Iron Street locale, made their mantra “responsible, knowledgeable, discreet” a reality, built warm and welcoming spaces that resemble high-end bars—perfect for locking eyes with the cutie checking out the Blackberry Kush—and made one-stop-pot-shopping a cinch.
Where: 2018 Iron St., 5655 Guide Meridian, 4770 Pacific Hwy.
Info: [url=http://www.2020-solutions.com]http://www.2020-solutions.com[/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 Place to Dance/Place to See Live Music/Best Bartender:

Conway Muse

Conway Muse wins best place to see live music in Skagit Valley
Year after year, no one cleans up in more Best of Skagit categories than the Conway Muse. That’s saying something for a venue that exists in a town way off the beaten path and with a population of fewer than a hundred people. The header on the Muse’s website calls it “where the magic happens,” and that magic has a whole lot to do with owners, Elfa Gisla and Tom Richardson. And if you’re the type of person who likes your magic in the form of an expertly crafted and poured cocktail, Kelly Hayton is who you most want to see behind the bar, as her multiple wins in this category can attest.
Where: 18444 Spruce St., Conway
Info: [url=http://www.conwaymuse.com]http://www.conwaymuse.com[/url]


Best Attorney:

Brock Stiles

Originally founded by Bill Stiles in 1951, Brock followed his father’s footsteps into the family business, Stiles Law. He has been practicing in Skagit County for more than 30 years, covering a vast array of legal services including personal injury, workers comp, probate, estate and real estate planning, and landlord/tenant disputes—meaning you can leave your legal issues in his capable hands.
Where: 925 Metcalf St., Sedro-Woolley
Info: [url=http://www.stileslaw.com]http://www.stileslaw.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 Park:

Boulevard Park

I’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
Info: [url=http://www.cob.org]http://www.cob.org[/url]


Best Asian:

On Rice

She gets off the plane from a year in Europe, and I see immediately what she’s craved and what she’s missed about Bellingham—a heaping bowl of Pud Thai with seafood and another of Panang Curry with rice. Gone! Something else? How about the Monk’s Party stir fry or a bowl of searing good Tom Yum? It’s a homecoming, the flavors of the East served way out West.
Where: 2200 Rimland Drive; 206 North Samish Way; 1224 Harris Ave
Info: [url=http://www.onricethai.com]http://www.onricethai.com[/url]


Best Fast Food:

Boomer’s Drive-In

Boomers_1-o.jpg
On a recent Sunday, my better half and I spent the afternoon putting the garden to bed and, come sunset, couldn’t find the gumption to make dinner. Without missing a beat, he offered to make the short journey to Boomer’s Drive-In for a couple of Big Booms, two orders of waffle fries and a blackberry shake (to split). After ordering from the carhop service, he was home not long afterward with fast food fit for royalty—double-stacked burgers made with fresh ingredients, hefty fries cooked just right, and a dangerously delicious handmade milkshake featuring ice cream locally sourced from Edaleen Dairy. Since the visit, I’ve since learned diners can now order in advance online—meaning Boomer’s is still old-school, but your Smartphone can help you secure a meal.
Where: 310 N. Samish Way
Info: [url=http://www.boomersdrivein.com]http://www.boomersdrivein.com[/url]


Best Fine Dining:

Hundred North

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Eat Local. It began as a simple concept, and has become a mantra for chefs who want to create authentic dining experiences with the freshest wild salmon and choicest vegetables, berries, dairy and honey. No one embraces this idea with more passion and flair than Chef Todd Alan Martin of Hundred North. The setting is intimate and every seat in the house has a view of the kitchen, where the marvels of the menu are prepared. Eating, he promises, is a communal experience where people share laughter and love.
Where: 100 North Commercial St.
Info: [url=http://www.hundrednorth.com]http://www.hundrednorth.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 Bike Store:

Fanatik Bike Co.

Fanatik_Bikes_by_Jessamyn_Tuttle_(2)-o.jpg
Rest assured that when you find a new ride at Fanatik Bike Co.—or help customize it through their handy Bike Build program—you’ll be purchasing your two-wheeler from people who will likely be hitting the trails as soon as they leave their day job (and will gladly share their favorite rides with you). That love of the outdoors is part of what makes the spacious State Street bike hub so beloved. Since 2004, founders Mark and Kathy Salisbury have hired staff members who are as passionate about mountain biking (and more) as they are, and it shows. You’ve come a long way since your humble beginnings in a car garage, Fanatik.
Where: 1812 N. State St.
Info: [url=http://www.fanatikbike.com]http://www.fanatikbike.com[/url]


Best Place for a First Date, Best Happy Hour:

Temple Bar

Not long ago, I met friends for happy hour. It had been a bit since I had been to Temple Bar, and we ended up staying for more than four hours. Wine was flowing, cheese plates were nibbled, nuts were pecked, olives were noshed and laughter was abundant; not just from our table, but every table around us. It was one of those memories that stays with you for a while. And now, when one of us suggests meeting up again, the question will always be “...Temple?” Friend dates or otherwise, we love you, Temple Bar.
Where: 306 W. Champion St.
Info: [url=http://www.templebarbellingham.com]http://www.templebarbellingham.com[/url]


Best Shoe Store:

Mi Shoes

When 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
Info: [url=http://www.mishoes.com]http://www.mishoes.com[/url]


Best Pizza:

La Fiamma Wood Fire Pizza

fiamma-o.jpg
’Hamsters love their pizza. Year after year, this query always receives the most votes and is the most fiercely contested category in Best of Bellingham. Always beloved, this year La Fiamma received nearly one vote in five. One of the reasons? This unique and creative pizzeria expanded the hours of Pye Hole. La Fiamma now includes lunch hours for their convenient late-night window where you can walk up and get a hot slice of wood-fired crispy-cheesy goodness. Because Bellingham must have its great pizza at all hours!
Where: 200 E. Chestnut St.
Info: [url=http://www.lafiamma.com]http://www.lafiamma.com[/url]


Best Nursery/Best Place to Buy Chicken Feed:

The Country Store

Like many indelible institutions in the Skagit Valley, the Country Store has a fascinating backstory. And when customers attend in-store garden parties taking place Sat., April 23 at locales in Burlington, Sedro-Woolley, and Mount Vernon, they can find out more about how a 46-member cooperative that was founded in 1934 with a commitment to source high-quality products for area farmers grew into a 13-store business serving both small- and large-scale farmers throughout the region. At the hands-on event—which will feature free soil and help with planting garden goods you purchase at the Country Store in pots you bring from home—you can also inquire how it is possible that, in more than 80 years, the company has had only three general managers. Pick up some chicken feed sourced by Skagit Farmers Supply while you’re at it.
Where: 1276 S. Burlington Blvd., Burlington; 900 Riverside Dr., Mount Vernon
Info: [url=http://www.countrystore.net]http://www.countrystore.net[/url]


Best Hardware Store:

Ace Hardware Anacortes

Will it ever stop raining? My gutters filled to flooding and their sheer weight loosened them from the house. They needed fastening and caulking. Ace provided all I needed for the repairs. Now spring seems ready to burst like a pent-up critter, the buds are like ripe melons and the lawn is a jungle. So I’m heading back to Ace to meet spring with a passion. And this time I’m also buying the stuff I’ll need for grilling.
Where: 1720 Q Ave., Anacortes
Info: [url=http://www.aceanacortes.com]http://www.aceanacortes.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 Nursery:

Christianson’s 
Nursery & Greenhouse

On the way to Edison for a late lunch after a dizzying tour through downtown Mount Vernon, I bellowed “pull over!” when we passed by Christianson’s Nursery. I handed my date a Power Bar to snack on, and we set off to explore the expansive grounds and greenhouses that house the largest selection of roses and perennials in Northwest Washington. After a quick peek at the annual “Art in the Schoolhouse” exhibit in the 1880s-era restored schoolhouse, we were back on the road.
Where: 15806 Best Rd., Mount Vernon
Info: [url=http://www.christiansonsnursery.com]http://www.christiansonsnursery.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 Salon:

Susan Lehman Salon

Susan Lehman is proof you don’t need a fancy salon with a billion chairs and a crew of shampoo girls to earn a devoted following. Lehman operates her salon right out of her Bow Hill home. Make no mistake: Lehman is not going to seat you in a folding chair in the middle of her kitchen to redo your hairdo. She’s built herself a proper full-service salon, complete with natural and organic products and spa services. It’s like having a spa day with one of your girlfriends, only better.
Where: 5799 Jennifer Lane, Bow Hill
Info: (360) 708-9223


Best Place to Meet People, Best Pot Store:

2020 Solutions

Your 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.
Info: [url=http://www.2020-solutions.com]http://www.2020-solutions.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 Clothing Store:

Stowe’s Shoes & Clothing

Stowes_Clothing_by_Jessamyn_Tuttle_(2).jpg
I don't want to be the belle of the ball. I want to be able to find footwear that will keep me dry whether I'm gardening or hiking and clothing that doesn't require dry cleaning. Since 1940, Stowe's Shoes & Clothing in downtown Burlington has made sure those living and working in the Pacific Northwest find both comfort and confidence in what they're wearing—and that's my kind of style.
Where: 420 E. Fairhaven Ave.
Info: [url=http://www.stowesshoesandclothing.com]http://www.stowesshoesandclothing.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 Bakery:

Farm to Market Bakery

Few things in life are better than waking up on a sunny Saturday and cruising down breathtakingly scenic Chuckanut Drive into the Skagit Valley and stopping at the Farm to Market Bakery for a sweet thing, cup of coffee and a little community commingling. Owned by Jim and Lisa Kowalski and next door to the Rhododendron Cafe, which they also own, Farm to Market has a menu full of all of our favorites, made with local ingredients and done right. On the sweet side, the Triple Chocolate Pecan Brownies and their signature Lime-Soaked Polenta Cake will never do you wrong, but if you happen to be there early enough on a Saturday or Sunday morning, you could have the great good fortune of scoring a coveted and rare Pecan Sticky Bun, and then you’ll know you’re really living right.
Where: 5507 Chuckanut Drive, Bow
Info: [url=http://www.rhodycafe.com/farmtomarketbakery]http://www.rhodycafe.com/farmtomarketbakery[/url]


Best Place for a First Date:

Temple Bar

The Temple Bar is no stranger to winning this category. Its cozy atmosphere, perfectly priced happy hour, expertly crafted cocktails and scrumptious bites make this the ideal place for a first date—or any date. They’ve recently launched their fall menu, which is full of items to elicit the savory sensations of the season. Impress your first date now, celebrate your anniversaries there later. Just don’t forget to invite us to the wedding.
Where: 306 W. Champion St.
Info: [url=http://www.templebarbellingham.com]http://www.templebarbellingham.com[/url]


Best Yoga:

Yoga Northwest

yoganorthwest8.jpg
What do you get when you divide 36 (the number of years Yoga Northwest has been offering Iyengar yoga to the public) by nine (the amount of times they've won in the “Best Yoga Studio” category? While you may think the correct answer is four, it’s more complex than that—mainly because longevity is part of the equation. With classes for every age and body type and a commitment to “vibrant health, mindful living and inner peace” for everyone, their 10th win is a no-brainer.
Where: 1440 10th St.
Info: [url=http://www.yoganorthwest.com]http://www.yoganorthwest.com[/url]


Best Food Truck:

StrEAT Food

Years ago, when the Weekly began adding the food truck category to our annual compendium of the people and places that make Bellingham great, StrEAT Food was the clear winner. And thanks to James Pitzer’s commitment to providing locally procured, high-quality menu items—my choice typically turns out to be the chicken artichoke sandwich, but the lamb gyro pita and shrimp tacos are other family favorites—that’s pretty much been the case ever since. And although StrEAT Food has since opened a cafe in the Bellingham Cruise Terminal, their mobile eatery continues to garner forever fans wherever they go.
Where: Kulshan Brewing Co., K2, Carne, Wander Brewing, and beyond
Info: [url=http://www.streatfood.me]http://www.streatfood.me[/url]


Best Bakery :

Mount Bakery

Judging by the number of excellent places to partake of baked goods in town, Bellingham has itself a bit of a sweet tooth. And while the Mount Bakery does everything well (cough, eggs Benedict, cough), it particularly excels at those sweet treats we love to eat, but do not necessarily love to bake for ourselves. Its buttery, infinitely layered croissants are my go-to—chocolate first, ham and cheese next and whatever is left in the case if they’re out of the first two. My coworkers are devoted to the chocolate chip cookies. And then there are the cinnamon rolls. And the Belgian chocolate truffle cake. And…
Where: 308 W. Champion St./1217 Harris Ave.
Info: [url=http://www.mountbakery.com]http://www.mountbakery.com[/url]


Best Vegetarian:

Leaf & Ladle

This little lunch counter opens early and stays open late, serving generous portions of heathy and wholesome mixed greens salads, wraps, paninis and scratch-made soups—for dining in, or packaged to go for a hungry lunch crowd. Their menu changes with the season’s freshest vegetables, with the ripening flavors of autumn currently in demand. Owner Linda Melim has acquired the space next door and plans to open LL Libations later this month, serving mixed cocktails to the late-night leaf-eaters.
Where: 1113 N. State St.
Info: (360) 319-9718


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 Salon:

Studio Galactica

Two days after my latest haircut by Studio Galactica’s Kimberly Ross, I wasn’t yet tired of the accolades coming my way. Like all of the mane-tamers at the Cornwall Avenue locale, Ross knows exactly what she’s doing, but still listens to her clients when they tell her what they want (yep, even if it’s a perm or a mullet). The no-tipping salon is also jam-packed with local art and interesting things to look at, so there’s no chance of getting bored while you’re getting beautified.
Where: 1519 Cornwall Ave.
Info: [url=http://www.studiogalactica.net]http://www.studiogalactica.net[/url]


Best Sushi:

Blue Fin Sushi

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Two haiku: Depths of sea, surround me, make me your prisoner I will eat you whole Samish sashimi, you octopi all my thoughts Blue Fin, I thank you
Where: 102 S. Samish Way
Info: [url=http://www.bluefinbellingham.com]http://www.bluefinbellingham.com[/url]


Best Place to Buy Pot:

High Society

High_Society_by_Jessamyn_Tuttle_(1)-o1.jpg
With the legalization of pot in Washington state, recreational marijuana stores have turned up the volume so that everyone who is curious feels comfortable. High Society is no different. They are the source for everything from concentrates to edibles and flowers. They opened in Anacortes with the mission of educating the community through “professionalism and kindness.” In return, Skagit County has proven it is pretty high on High Society.
Where: 8630 S. March Point Road, Anacortes
Info: [url=http://www.420highsociety.com]http://www.420highsociety.com[/url]


Best Casino:

Silver Reef Hotel Casino Spa

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I’m getting a lift out to the Silver Reef on the back roads by a Lummi elder. There are two cars ahead of us on the road. “Indian Country traffic jam,” my droll driver comments. He tells me how Silver Reef was first dreamed of as a community gathering space, with generous meeting areas and conference facilities. The tribe, which tries to look ahead seven generations, understood casino operations and gaming, important as they are, are only one facet of the experience they imagined for Silver Reef, a launch point for an authentic travel adventure unique to the Salish Sea. The luxury hotel, spa and specialty suites have grown in size and beauty in recent years. The entertainment and events programming continue to deepen and improve. Now I see that we’re on the right road, he and I, and in the distance ahead is the destination.
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 Italian:

La Traviata Ristorante Italiano

La 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
Info: [url=http://www.latraviataitaliano.com]http://www.latraviataitaliano.com[/url]


Best Head Shop :

Avalon

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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 Grocery:

Community Food Co-op

Community Food Coop wins 2018 Best of Bellingham
You are what you eat, and that is a mission central to the Community Food Co-op. In recent years the volunteer board has reached out through a Farm Fund to increase the supply of local, sustainable and organic food by supporting and establishing projects that strengthen the local farming community. The Fund also works to educate consumers, increase access to local food, and to encourage ecological and socially responsible stewardship of farmland. To date, the fund has provided nearly $400,000 to more than 55 local food and farming projects through grants, loans and scholarships. It’s a way your membership is being put to work to invest in what you digest.
Where: 1220 North Forest Street; 315 Westerly Road at Cordata Parkway
Info: [url=http://www.communityfood.coop]http://www.communityfood.coop[/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 Movie Theater:

Pickford Film Center

This year, as part of the Pickford Film Center’s annual Doctober festival, the theater was able to extend an invitation to more than 5,000 students in Whatcom County to come and see a free documentary under the umbrella of its Doc Ed program. It’s just one of the many ways in which the nonprofit art-house movie theater takes its motto of “more than movies” seriously. Programs like Doc Ed, along with the PFC and Limelight’s carefully chosen lineup of independent and foreign films, endlessly delightful volunteer staff and state-of-the-art movie houses are just some of the things that have earned them an unbroken string of wins in this category—that, and the real butter on the popcorn, of course.
Where: 1318 Bay St./1416 Cornwall Ave.
Info: [url=http://www.pickfordfilmcenter.org]http://www.pickfordfilmcenter.org[/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 Pot Store:

2020 Solutions

2020 Solutions Wins Best of Bellingham Award
It’s not surprising that Bellingham’s Best Pot Store—or, in this case, stores—carries strains created by SubX, which our voters deemed the best grower around. “We partner with growers that are able to provide a consistent, high-quality product to you, our guest,” the 2020 team explains. “We focus on creating an experience that allows you to spend time with a professional, knowledgeable budtender. Our budtenders will guide you through the process and offer suggestions to enhance your cannabis experience.” In other words, if you’re not sure how many enhanced brownies you can eat without retreating to the fetal position, don’t be afraid to ask.
Where: 2018 Iron St., 5655 Guide Meridian, 4770 Pacific Hwy.
Info: [url=http://www.2020-solutions.com]http://www.2020-solutions.com[/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 Happy Hour:

Chuckanut Manor Seafood & Grill

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If your idea of happy hour is discount pitchers and fried bar food, hie thyself to Chuckanut Manor, stat. There, you’ll be treated to oysters (Blau, of course, freshly shucked, breaded, broiled or Rockefeller), tacos (pulled pork, smoked chicken or halibut), tapas (crispy polenta, truffled green beans, etc.), drink specials and more, all in quite possibly the most scenic locale on Chuckanut Drive.
Where: 3056 Chuckanut Dr., Bow
Info: [url=http://www.chuckanutmanor.com]http://www.chuckanutmanor.com[/url]