Best of The Northland 2013

Best of Health & Fitness

The local “YMCA” has a wide range of services that can be enjoyed by more than just The Bold, The Beautiful and the Buff (yes, we just coined that phrase). Their mission includes strengthening communities and delivering positive change. The “Y” serves a broader socioeconomic population than most health clubs,  bridging gaps in our community’s needs and working to create opportunity and meaningful change. The difficulty in parking downtown to get to the Village People’s favorite hang-out should serve as a reminder that we should all be better utilizing public transportation. Free child care, Dude & Dudettes.

2nd Place: Anytime Fitness

Best Bike Shop
Continental  Ski & Bike
Continental takes their first Best of the Northland victory. Oddly enough, for such a centrally located business at 1305 East 1st Street, Continental Ski and Bike is not the easiest place to locate. That aside, it’s worth five minutes of weaving back and forth in the Plaza area to find this Northland gem where the staff are as personable as they are knowledgeable. Bike overhauls for $99, ski rentals, waxing (Ouch! Not that kind of waxing) makes this one stop shopping for the Banff Film Festival crowd.

2nd Place: Ski Hut
Best Ski Shop

Ski Hut
Ski Hut boasts a full range of skis which can accommodate the needs of a beginner doing cross country to the most skilled of alpine skier. A knowledgeable staff, a great product line and fair prices once again With two locations and a full service repair shop, Ski Hut has won this category every year since Year One, this time winning even without including the votes for their west location.

2nd Place: Continental  Ski & Bike
Best Hair Salon
Touch of Plasch
Since 1972, A Touch of Plasch “has been keeping the citizens of Twin Ports gorgeous!” Do we need to say more? And believe us, sometimes gorgeous hurts! Have you ever been waxed? This is the kind of clever “Best of the Northland” prose you’ve come to expect from us year after year, no? But seriously, the voters have spoken and agree that Plasch has the magic touch.

2nd place: BAM

Best Optical

Relf Optical.
 There was a tight battle with defending champion Vision Pro and newcomer, Blink, but Relf won-out in the wee hours of the morning. The knowledgable and personable staff at Relf pride themselves customer service, state of the art diagnostic tools, their variety of stylish frames that create the perfect look and feel for their customers.  Relf provides “quality products and competitive pricing.”

2nd Place: Vision Pro & Blink

Best Place to Rollerblade

While we don’t recommend rollerblading on the Lakewalk during subpolar temperatures, we imagine, like our voters, it’s quite a bit of fun when you can actually feel your toes. Lakewalk always wins this category. We are getting bored…What about the mall or the halls of UMD? You think some of you renegade Reader readers of Paul Ryan would vote for one of these other places...just to be difficult.

Best Place to Walk

Granted the Lakewalk has a Superior view, but come on...Really? Do you think all our other walking trails Inferior? What about Chester Creek? Lester Park? Bagley? Hartley? Munger?

2nd Place: Superior Hiking Trail (now that’s more like it.)

Best Bike Trail

Munger Trail
Local legislator, and “true Minnesota hero”, Willard Munger, spent nearly fifty years of his career crafting legislation to protect the environment. His son who bears the same name, and his wife Sally are two of the kindest, most civic-minded folks you’d ever meet, and are continuing his legacy through their work in the community. Will and Sally own the Munger Inn at 7408 Grand Ave, but we digress... The Munger Trail has over 100 miles of paved and natural surfaces. The most beautiful part of this trail system is a 15 mile stretch between Duluth and Carlton. Quoting its website, “The dense forests,the rock bluffs and formations make for some great make sure you bring a camera along.” One can easily spend an entire day out in the beautiful East Central Minnesota forests. During winter months, segments of the trail are open to snowmobiling as well.

2nd Place: Coggs Lester River Trail

Best Sporting  Goods Store

Northwest Outlet.
Northwest Outlet is a family owned business that has been serving our region for over a half century.  Clothing, footwear, outdoor gear. You name it, they probably got it.  Hard to imagine kayaking this time of year, but they have those too.  Centrally located in Superior, they are a repeat winner.

2nd place: Play it Again Sports
Best of Services

Best  Attorney

Peter Greenlee
2013 marks another year where Peter Greenlee has won “Best Attorney.” Greenlee specializes in home foreclosures and has represented families and individuals in nearly 3000 cases in the Northland. He has worked with Project Save Our Homes as a volunteer attorney and has volunteered for other groups. “Home ownership strengthens our community…if people want to get back on track with making payments and keeping their homes. It’s better for the community than having them lose their homes or ending up homeless,” said Greenlee.

2nd place: Melanie Ford

Best Bank

National Bank of
Commerce (NBC)
Okay, this is pretty cool: National Bank of Commerce just gave $35,000 to the Duluth Legacy Endowment Fund, part of the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation which awards grants in the areas of “arts, culture, beautification, education, environment, human service, parks and recreation.” Steve Burgess, CEO of National Bank of Commerce  says, “We exist to help the people, businesses and organizations within our region achieve greater things, grow within our economy and live full lives. Their recent pledge is “another example of how NBC makes that possible.” NBC has several branches in NW Wisconsin and one in Duluth, just past the Plaza. This is the first time the Reader readers have favored NBC with a victory.

2nd Place: North Shore Bank of Commerce

Best Employer

Duluth Grill
 This is the second year in a row that Jaima and Tom Hanson, owners of Duluth Grill, have won this award. All businesses, large and small, are driven by a set of values. The question is: What are those values? Sustainability, quality, consistency, creativity & fairness are some of the values driving Duluth Grill. All these values not only translate into being a successful business, they have made Duluth Grill one of the most popular employers in the region.

2nd Place: Maurices

Best Florist

Engwall’s has been around for over a century! Flowers are one of those perennial traditions that can communicate both subtle and powerful messages. I love you...Happy Valentine’s Day...Sorry about your loss.. Get well soon...are just the tip of the iceberg (sorry to mix metaphors, but it’s late). Sometimes flowers say, “I screwed up royally, here’s something beautiful, can you ever forgive me?” Maybe Paul Ryan should read this, and I’m not just talking the senator from Wisconsin, if you take my meaning.

 2nd Place: Bella Flora

Best Photographer

Three Irish Girls
Happy couples, musicians and naked babies: these are merely a few of the things Three Irish Girls Photography covers in their work. Who doesn’t like adorable pictures of babies and happy couples? We’re glad Three Irish Girls won’t be around to take photos at the Reader office. No one wants to see the quiet desperation that exists on deadline night.  (More beer please)  
We had a chance to speak with Three Irish Girls founder, Sharon McMahon. McMahon originally ran a yarn company and wound up shooting photos for her own catalog. She returned to the Duluth area two years ago after a  stint in the Washington DC area and began getting requests to do photo shoots. “I was so into this business that I finally sold my yarn company and now just do this full time,” said McMahon. McMahon’s photography business has been active in the area since fall of 2012. McMahon explained how the company’s name came to be, “It was a term of endearment from my husband. He would come home from work and see me sitting on the couch reading to my kids and he’d say, ‘there’s three Irish girls.’ It used to refer to me and my two daughters, I’ve since gone on to have a third daughter and I suppose I could remove myself from the equation and it could be about the three of them. I am the only photographer, but the name is a family term of endearment.”  McMahon indicated that she has gotten a lot of support from the area, “I have been amazed how wonderful the city of Duluth has been to me. I’m just so honored to be able to capture really important moments for people…that everyday is a privilege.”

2nd Place: JaneCane Photography

Best Cab Company

We sometimes take cabs but must admit that we’ve never tried Allied before our “Best Of” results came in. Out of curiosity we thought we’d give them a test drive. It was pushing 10 below, so a short ride didn’t seem too out of line. We called and, informed dispatcher informed us that it was going to be “15 to 20 minutes, maybe longer.” We timed them and a cab showed up 13 minutes later. That’s cool. They were here in less time than Allied estimated. Allied Taxi has been operating in the Twin Ports for over 50 years. We interviewed Crystal Burke, who has worked for Allied for a little over a year.  “Our cars are phenomenal, Allied gives us proper equipment and good snow tires.  We can pretty much drive in just about anything unless if it’s really bad.” Allied stands out as a cab company that looks after it’s drivers and when it comes to customers, “We’re safe, we’re courteous and we’re on time, That’s what people look for.” said Burke. 

2nd place: Custom Cab

 Best Place of Worship

Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA)
In our “place of worship” category we have consistently received votes for places other than churches, synagogues or mosques. It’s not uncommon to see “the shores of Lake Superior” as a place of worship. Many who live in the Northland are here because they love the outdoors and choose to surround themselves in nature. This year the Boundary Waters won “best place of worship.” Several of you mentioned canoeing in that area. With the debate of sulfide mining being a hot issue lately, it is not surprising to see how passionate people are about protecting the Boundary Waters. We talked with Ian Kimmer from Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, whose mission is “ To protect, preserve and restore the wilderness character of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the Quetico-Superior Ecosystem”. The Reader asked him why people would choose the Boundary Waters as the best place of worship. He has traveled to BWCA over a hundred times and said “It’s a sacred space in this world that is incredibly rare versus all of the cities, traffic and lights. The experience is impossible to quantify in value because it is a spiritual experience. No one goes in and then comes back out unchanged. It draws 250,000 people a year because of the power it has. “ People from all walks of life and from all over the world recognize the irreplaceable value and natural beauty of the Boundary Waters.

2nd Place: The Vineyard Church

Best Service (non-restaurant)

You’ve got to totally check out the Brian Barber commercial on the Trailfitters website. My favorite line, “Exciting endeavors await everyday in your own back yard.” Trailfitters is one of those stores staffed by people who love what they do. It provides a wide range of footwear, clothing and camping gear. It’s recently expanded store is located in the Fitger’s Brewery Complex

2nd Place: Lifespan Closets

Best of the Material World Best Antique Shop

Father Time
Who says history never repeats itself?  Repeats itself? Father Time once again wins for best antique shop.  Father Time is well-lit and well-liked and well-maintained.  Prices are good.

2nd place: Old Town

Best Bookstore

Barnes and Noble
You’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all. Still, there’s a wide selection of fiction and non-fiction, music and movies. It’s well organized, and, dare we admit...appealing. Their staff is both knowledgable and helpful. We obviously have a local bias,  but are begrudgingly forced to admit to that it is a very comfortable shopping experience and easily the best single reason to go to the Miller Hill Mall.

2nd place: The Bookstore at Fitgers’

Best Bookstore  (Used)

Amazing Alonzo
Once again Amazing Alonzo wins best used bookstore.  It has a wide selection, well organized and the prices are reasonable. Seriously, why isn’t anyone nominating Amazing Alonzo’s for best green business? Just think of all the forests this humble bookstore has saved by encouraging people to reuse, reread and recycle! Thank you, Alonzo!

2nd place: Chester Creek Bookstore

Best Car Dealer

Kari Toyota
For over 80 years the Kari family business has served the Twin Ports and now through Kari Toyota continues to serve the region. State of the art equipment and factory-trained technicians provide top notch service. Their gigantic inventory of parts means you rarely have to wait to have your car back on the road after having it serviced. Loyal customers are willing to travel to have Kari service their vehicles; a testimony to their quality and care.  Reader voters have consistently chosen Kari as the “Best Place to Buy a Car.”

2nd Place: Krenzen.
(Oddly, this is the “All K” lineup, with Kia of Duluth and Kolar Toyota taking third and fourth.)

Best Green Business

Duluth Grill 
Duluth Grill successfully completed a Kickstarter program in which, if all goes as plans, a small orchard will be planted in the back parking lot. We encourage you to watch the short film interviewing owner, Tom Hanson, and Head Gardener, Francois Medion, explaining how this orchard will not only provide food, but help filter run-off from all of the surrounding parking lots. From beekeeping on the roof to veggies grown in local compost, Duluth Grill wins hands down as “Best Green Business.”

2nd place: Whole Foods Co-op

Best Fashion (Men)

Mainstream offers unparalleled customer service, hospitality, and fine clothing with a European flair.  Stop in to experience the “Mainstream Difference”. As quoted from their website, “We take time to understand your needs because clothing creates an image… and image creates results.” One result being, Mainstream is a repeat winner of Best Men’s Fashion.

2nd place: Savers

Best Fashion (Women)

TJ Max
No doubt, TJ Max won Best Women’s Fashion because they offer designer clothing at discount prices. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to save money and be stylish at the same time. Frugal is the new black.

2nd place: Global Village

Best Fine Jewelry

Security Jewelers
For 16 consecutive years, Security Jewelers has won “Best Fine Jewelry”. The Seiler family has operated this downtown bastion since 1924, steadily building an impeccable reputation for fine jewelry and quality watches such as Rolex.  We interviewed one of the owners, Jay Seiler, about the history of Security Jewelers.  Seiler’s grandfather, who immigrated from Germany  in 1917 came to Duluth “without two nickels to rub together.” The original location was where the Radisson is currently located. The store moved to its current location in the mid-40s and business has been thriving ever since. We asked Seiler about the business, “Our slogan is the ‘areas leading jeweler’ and we really try to live up to that. We have the largest manufacturing facility of any retail store in the state of Minnesota where we can create custom work and do repairs, we can make anything someone can dream.”  Although Security Jewelers does significant internet business, their true concern is the Northland. “The heart and soul of this business is giving the local customer the best service and value anywhere,” said Seiler.  Security Jewelers innovative, (think: Men in Black) marketing has proven a foolproof formula for success. The Reader is also proud of our Reader readers; the top six vote totals belong to local, non-mall, non- chain jewelers.  Valentines Day is coming, help keep your sweetheart sweet AND help spend your dollars locally.

2nd place: Siiviis

Best CD Store

Electric Fetus
Sometimes, it’s hard to say where the Twin Ports ends and the Twin Cities begins. It’s fair to say the Twin Ports  and the Twin Cities share a lot of the same culture. For example: The Electric Fetus, which started in 1968 in Minneapolis has spawned a second location here in Duluth. Pizza Luce, too has locations in both regions, but we digress. Back to the Fetus: What’s so cool about the Electric Fetus is you can find CD’s from up and coming artists who perform at local coffee shop or pubs right along side those who have “made it” in the music industry. The diverse musical talent of the Northland can be discovered by a visit to the Fetus.  Its knowledgeable audiophiles can help navigate you through vinyl, new and used CDs, oddities and art to find treasures that that will enrich your heart and soul. These are gems you’ll never find at Best Buy. The Fetus is the go-to spot for your music.
2nd Place: Vinyl Cave

Best CD Store (used)

Electric Fetus
Although the Fetus carries plenty of new releases, it has a fantastic selection of old vinyl and used CD’s. We stopped in at the Fetus and talked with employee Mike Cane, about what happens at the store. “Many of our regular customers sell us the stuff. We’re basically mostly a used store now.”  The relaxed, Bohemian vibe of the Electric Fetus makes it a perfect place to browse on long Saturday afternoons when the frigid wind is whipping off the lake. With a little digging and the help of one of the Fetus’ knowledgeable audiophiles, you are sure to unearth a musical treasure with every visit.

2nd Place: Vinyl Cave

Best Music Instrument Store

Music Go Round
Music Go Round once again wins our “music store” category. Many of the music stores in the area have knowledgable staff and Music Go Round is no exception. Where they’re hard to beat is their prices. A lot of their instruments and equipment are used and in excellent condition. The store is filled with great playing instruments and gear that can be “taken for a test drive” making it a better bet than picking up something on Craigslist or from a catalog. The store has an excellent reputation for standing behind its gear; if you get home and your new instrument is not working the way you thought, call them up and there’s a good chance they’ll let you bring it back for a trade. The people at the pawn shop might know a thing or two, but as far as servicing instruments and finding the perfect one for you at an unbeatable price, most local musicians will tell you, “Music Go Round is the place to go.”

2nd Place:  Northwoods Music

Best Art Gallery

Prove Gallery has been around for less than two years, but the word is already out about this influential art venue. PROVE have featured a variety of artists including Adam Swason, Kathy McTavish and Kathren Meier.  PRØVE promotes and supports up and coming artists. “We have emerging artists and accomplished artists displayed on the same walls. Part of our is to support up and coming artists.” said Kathleen Roberts, co-owner of the gallery.  PRØVE is “a cultural organization dedicated to the role of art exhibition as a conduit of powerful ideas and diverse viewpoints. Our mission is to foster a greater appreciation of the contemporary arts, to bridge cultures, create and expand community, and provide cultural exchange, networking opportunities and educational outreach through regular interaction with the contemporary arts.” PRØVE has new art openings on the second Fridays of each month.

2nd Place: Siiviis
Best Movie Theater

Zinema 2
Ever since its opening, Zinema 2 has received the majority of votes for Best Movie Theater. Our readers, like most folks, enjoy movies but desire more than just the garden variety Hollywood blockbuster. Indy films make you think, sometimes feed the soul and often challenge our personal paradigms.  In addition to showcasing non-mainstream films, Zinema has showcased local music videos and supports local music and the arts. Recently, they aired live the Trampled by Turtles performance on David Letterman. How cool is that? Although we may all go to mainstream theaters to see Anchorman II or the latest Adam Sandler movie (editor’s note: no we won’t), Zinema has filled an entertainment niche that the Northland really needs and appreciates. It says something about our readership that small independents business win again and again.      

2nd Place: Duluth 10

Best New Business

7 West Tap House
It’s not that surprising to see 7 West Taphouse win the category. Their central location and friendly vibe have beer and burger lovers returning again and again. Taphouse owner,  Rick Lampton may have created some serious burger competition for the Anchor. The games on!

2nd Place: Canal Park Brewery

Best Second Hand Store

Savers slogan is “You’ve got the stuff good deeds are made of.” There’s no doubt that Savers is a for profit corporation, but they donate a portion of their profits to various non-profits. Kinda a cool hybrid between private interest and public good. Their Duluth store is large, clean and well organized.

2nd Place: Goodwill

Best Public Restroom

Teatro Zuccone
The only way this bathroom could rock more is if it had a lock. Seriously, walking into the loo at Teatro Zoccone is like entering some sort of parallel universe where public bathrooms are actually pleasant places to be. Given its Italian monicker, you’d think that Teatro Zuccone might have modeled its water closet after ones in Italy. We have no desire to cause an international incident, but some of our writers have first-hand experience entering bagni publico (public restrooms) in Italy and let us assure you, with the exception of the Vatican, all public restrooms in land of Leonardo DaVinci, are, without a doubt, imbarazzi internazionali disgustose, i.e disgusting international embarrassments. Teatro Zuccone has much to boast about: great local theater, laugh-your-ass-off improv and, you guessed it...a great public restroom! One might be tempted to move in to Teatro Zuccone’s Restroom and never move out, lending new meaning to the term squatter.

2nd Place: 7 West TapHouse
Best Bowling Alley Country Lanes North

What’s not to like? There’s something deafeningly nostalgic about bowling. It has a long history, likely dating back to the ancient Egyptians. I always thought that there was something quintessentially wholesome and family oriented about bowling, but it turns out that in the not-so-distant past, bowling was banned in Connecticut because it was connected to gambling! But that’s Connecticut, we’re Minnesotans, dammit. We’ve got no problems with gambling and and we’ve got no problems with bowling. So there.

2nd Place:Incline Station

Best Romantic Getaway

Bluefin Bay
Bluefin Bay is a “premier Lake Superior resort where guests experience the very best Minnesota’s North Shore has to offer. When you’re this close to the exhilarating waters lapping at the shores of Lake Superior, inhibitions run wild and your entire vacation is enhanced. Accommodations include in-suite fireplaces, whirlpool baths, and breathtaking views of the world’s largest freshwater lake. Bluefin offers access to the year-round playground includes kayaking, skiing and snow-shoeing.

2nd Place: Rittenhouse

Best of People & Media Best Politician

Don Ness
Well, well, well. The Don gets another win for “best politician” in our survey. We’re not sure what it would take for Don to lose this category. As the years pass, he becomes more personable and displays selflessness and integrity. While Congress gives themselves raises while simultaneously stripping its citizens of our rights, what does the Donster do? Oh, he’ll probably be working at making Duluth a nicer, better, greener city. Offer him a well-deserved raise and he declines it. If anything, Donny is NOT cut out for politics, he’s too clean, respectable and well spoken. While a politician lMichelle Bachmann spouts out things that don’t make sense, Don has managed to show he has both a big heart, big smile and common sense while standing firm on certain issues. We must admit that we haven’t been hit up by a pan handler, watched someone vomit in the street or witnessed agitated people scream at each other outside a certain business that has been closed down for awhile. Don is an approachable guy you can sit and have a beer with or see him out at the ice caves with his family.  

Best Band/Musician

Big Wave Dave & The Ripples
If you haven’t checked out Big Wave Dave and The Ripples yet, you’re missing out. This band is all about a good time. While we know it’s perfectly respectable to sit alone in a dark room with your cat listening to Low, however, Big Wave Dave and The Ripples is about getting that introverted ass of yours out on the dance floor and shaking it like you don’t care. They were a mainstay at The Rex on Thursday nights for quite sometime but have since branched out to playing other gigs.
We checked in on Dave Adams, the front man, of The Ripples and he shared some history about the band and his gratitude to all of you who voted. “We’re an eight-piece soul band that has been bringing funk to the Northland since 2010. We’ve enjoyed every minute of it! The group was formed to help people get down and have good time and we’re thrilled whenever we can make that happen. We’d like to say thanks to everyone that has come out and danced over the last four years and the clubs that have put us on their stages. A special thanks goes out to Dicky Brooks, Mike Lemon and everyone at The Rex Bar that moved the ping pong table and gave us a home every Thursday night for two years. Finally, thanks to our families for their support. Get in, get on, get up and get down!”
Big Wave Dave and The Ripples consists of Adams, Peter Knutson (guitar), Alex Piazza (bass), Dave Mennes (drums), Alex Nordehn (trombone), Steve Rogers (tenor sax), Matt Wasmund (baritone sax) and David Rode (trumpet). Adams’ high energy performance along with the well filled out horn section provides a fun and unique stage show that is unlike any other in the area.

2nd Place: Trampled by Turtles…whoa, who are they?

Best Band Name

Tin Can Gin
This is one of our more interesting categories. What’s in a band name? A lot. We’ve seen our share of both wonderful and not so great band names (we won’t name names). You, the readers seemed to like the band name Tin Can Gin. It’s fairly simple, yet effective. We talked with Tin Can Gin’s banjo player, Harrison Olk, about the band name, “Our former bass player was serving one night in Duluth and was delivering a lot of gin and tonics to a table and it suddenly hit him that Tin Can Gin was a perfect name for a bluegrass band. We also happen to enjoy gin on the regular, so it worked out quite well.” Tin Can Gin has been gaining popularity and by all accounts its name has a better ring to it than “Cardboard Box Whisky.”

2nd Place: Trampled By Turtles

Best Album

“Number One Contender” by Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank
Recorded live on to tape in four days in the north woods “Number One Contender” captures a very real and hard hitting feeling delivered by Teague and Ian Alexy. The album shows a display of Americana that is both powerful yet remains simple. From upbeat to contemplative, “Number One Contender” leads the listener through the world of Hobo Nephews.   

2nd Place: “Victory March” by Ryan Van Slooten

Best Concert

Bob Dylan/Wilco/
My Morning Jacket
& Richard Thompson
Bob Dylan returned once again to his beloved old stomping grounds in Northern Minnesota to play a show at the Bayfront last summer. He was so happy to be back here, he was speechless! Bob Dylan played the Bayfront with Paul Simon over a decade ago and that show was pretty awesome. This time, a more mature Dylan played all of the favorites that folks young and old have grown up with; the love and warmth was practically palpable.  If the Rock Legend’s presence wasn’t enough,  Wilco, which was named an honorary Duluth band by Mayor Don Ness also played!  Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker from Low joined WIlco in singing Gordon Lightfoot’s classic “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. My Morning Jacket and Richard Thompson also rounded out the Bayfront Performance. It just doesn’t get any better than this.

2nd Place: Chicago

Best Community Activist

Steve O’Neil
The late Steve O’Neil was one of those rare souls who, just by his presence, made communities and all those within them better. He knew how to gently bring out the best in everyone. Social justice, faith and serving those less fortunate were the driving values behind this quiet, pacifist warrior. O’Neil was one of the driving force behind “Loaves and Fishes,” the Catholic Charities program that has created housing for the homeless. Up until the very end of his life, Steve was still working to end homelessness.
 The last we saw Steve, he was at a packed celebration honoring his life’s work at Clyde Iron in April 2013.  In true fashion, Steve deflected the focus from himself to the needs of others: CHUM was able to raise over $33,000 that evening. Scores of people volunteered. To borrow a line by Sharon Smickle, “One of Steve O’Neil’s colleagues described his leadership this way: ‘Steve transforms how people see the world, and he does it in a way that he brings people along on the journey.’ “
 In July 2013, a mere three months after the CHUM Fundraiser, Steve passed away. His quiet, yet formidable, presence will be missed.

Best Dance Club

Flame- Duluth
The newly opened Flame in Duluth located at 21 N. 1st Ave. offers a spacious dance floor, cool environment and fun atmosphere.
It’s 20 below on a Friday night, you could stay in with the cat watching X Files on Netflix or you could go out for a night on the town and get your dance on. Many of you felt that The Flame in Duluth is a great place to show your slick dance moves and you’re right. The Flame is probably the best place to shake it in the Northland. We talked with part owner, Alvin Berg, who opened The Flame in Superior in 2010 and, more recently, The Flame in Duluth with his business and life partner, Vince Nelson. “We opened The Flame in Duluth as a gay bar for all those who don’t want to travel over the bridge” explained Berg. The dance club has a nice, urban atmosphere, similar to New York and Chicago clubs. The place fills up on the weekends so Berg expanded by opening the downstairs. The recent opening of the “Bottoms Up” (yes, we know) Club has decreased some of the capacity strain on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. It is also a dance room featuring a mix of electronic music DJs. “We have all kinds of music from top 40 to electronic,” said Berg. With the diversity of musical styles, a huge dance area, full bar, and fun atmosphere for gay and straight people to hang out in, The Flame is a great way to spend and evening with friends or fly solo.

2nd Place: Red Star Lounge

Best Open Mic

Beaner’s Central
Every Wednesday come and enjoy the talent of all kinds of musicians and artists at Beaner’s in the West end of Duluth. A fun atmosphere encourages poets, singer-songwriters, rockers, comedians and much more at this long running open mic. Local musicians host and moderate this open mic. There is great food and options, beer, wine and other beverages. The open mic starts at 6 p.m. and goes through 10 p.m. We recommend showing up early.

2nd Place: Thirsty Pagan Brewing…the host is the worst.

 Best Place to Hook Up:

We don’t know which Ace’s, but we suspect the Ace’s on First Street. There is the Ace’s in Superior which has volleyball courts running in the summer. A word to the wise: if you’re interested in scoring a date, do not, I repeat DO NOT say you are a writer or an aspiring writer. This will knock you into the friend zone faster that you can say “What’s your sign?” Tell her anything…anything but that. Once you hook-up, you’ll have the rest of the winter to ruin things for yourself before you have to admit that you’re the dishwasher at Grandma’s. It’s alright, don’t despair, you’ll find that right person, then she’ll move away to some place more hip and warm.

2nd Place: Sadly, no clear runner-up presented itself.

Best Live Music Club

Clyde Iron
We get it. You like some of the bigger acts now and again. Clyde Iron is suited to hold the “bigger” bands at Homegrown Music Festival and can accommodate upcoming shows like Cloud Cult, Atmosphere and Buckcherry.  Buckcherry? Who booked Buckcherry? If we hear that Crazy Bi…never mind, where were we? When the DECC is too big and Carmody’s is too small, Clyde can be the perfect sized venue for mid-sized events. The Clyde Iron has a reputation for being fair when offering space for benefits. The food at Clyde is good, but we feel sympathy for the wait staff who walk up and down those stairs everyday.

2nd Place: TIE Tycoons and Beaner’s Central


Best Local Play in the Last Year

Twin Ports Live Radio Soap Opera

“Twin Ports” Live Radio Soap Opera is a collaboration between Twin Ports Stage and KUWS. Live episodes are performed and taped at the Belknap Lounge in Superior every other month, and then broadcast on KUWS/WPR 91.3. Each episode is written by Lori Kempton and Victoria Main. The cast includes many familiar and funny faces from both sides of the bridge, including Julie Ahasay, Jerry Bacon, Pat Castellano, Lee Gundersheimer, Gary Kruchowski, Victoria Main, Brian Matuszak, John Munson, Chris Nollet, Cathy Podeszwa, Barbara Reyelts, and Jean Sramek. Each cast member plays a variety of colorful characters, including Connie of Connie’s Curl Up and Dye and KRAP Radio Personality Candy Landers. Come to the Belknap Lounge at 130 Belknap Street on Tuesday, February 18th to be transported. Show time is 6:00.

2nd Place:  Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson

Best Actor

Brian Maturszak
Brian Matuszak has a long history with theater and production in the region.  He grew up in the Saginaw, MN area and, just out of high school,  briefly attended UMD. He later studied theater at UWS and was inspired by his Professor, John Munsell to pursue a career in theater. After graduation, Maturszak scored a job at his Alma Mater sharing his wide knowledge of production and acting to the next generation of students. He eventually parted ways with UWS and, in 2008, founded the Rubber Chicken. Rubber Chicken runs various productions throughout the year, often incorporating elements of improvisation. Performances include live reading of movie scripts, the Chicken Hat plays held at Harbor City School, and Halloween productions like “Evil Dead: The Musical.” Matuszak offered, “There’s lots of great opportunities for everyone up here. Right now, I’m working with Chani Ninneman’s Shakespeare company, we’re going to be doing Macbeth in March.” Hard to imagine Maturszak, known for his comedy, doing Macbeth. May we recommend “Green Eggs and Hamlet?”

2nd Place: Chris Nollet

Best Actress

Julie Ahasey
Julie Ahasay, like Brian Maturszak, has ties to UWS. Last fall she performed in two plays, “Collected Stories” and the production “Frozen,” which were both held at The Underground.
she has been active in regional theater for many years, earning the reputation as one who brings out the best in all who work with her.  Recently she has shifted her focus on directing and doing less acting. She will be debuting her production of “The Odd Couple” next week at the Duluth Playhouse.

2nd Place: Barbara Reyelts

Best Athlete

Anders Broman
Anders Broman is now attending South Dakota State University, but you know what they say, “You can take a boy out of Duluth but you can’t take Duluth out of a boy.” Before attending SDSU, Broman made Minnesota history by surpassing the record for career scores in boys basketball. He has dominated state basketball tournaments in 2012, 2013 and has lead the country scoring in both 2012 and 2013. And if that’s not enough, he’s a  member of the National Honor Society and a four year honor roll student. He is truly deserving of the Best Athlete award.

Best Author

Margie Preus
We can’t say that we’re surprised that Margi Preus was voted Best Author. For crying out loud, her first kids’ novel, Heart of a Samurai, is a 2011 Newbery Honor Book.  That’s wildly impressive. But seriously speaking, Margi Preus also very, very funny. She and Jean Sramek have collaborated for years, writing and performing with the comedy troupe, Colder By the Lake.  Her picture books include Celebritrees; Historic and Famous Trees of the World, which won the 2013 Flicker Tale Award.

2nd Place: Heather Bradford

Best Book in the Last Year

No winner emerged.

Best Rumor

Trader Joe’s Coming to Town

(sing to Santa Clau is Coming to

You better watch out, you bette
 not cry. You better not pout, I’m
 telling you why: Trader Joe’s is
coming to town. You’re makin’
a list, checkin’ it twice, Standing in
 line for walnuts and rice
Trader Joe’s is coming to town.
The Co-op’s sweating bullets, they
 know they can’t compete Mount
Royal’s kind of nervous ‘cuz it may
 be down the street!
We can’t say for sure, we can’t
say we know If it will come or
where it will go Trader Joe is
coming to towwwwn!
 Best Story Swept Under The Rug

Kerry Gauthier
Was this swept under the rug? What did you want, some video camera footage of his consensual and inappropriate incident with a 17 year-old boy? The NY Daily News and The Huffington Post are reasonably large media outlets, and they covered it. It was also in the DNT on several occasions. Gauthier said he would not seek reelection because of his scandal. When looking at similar cases from this year, look at Cook County Attorney, Tim Scannell, who was charged with two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conducted in an alleged relationship with a 17 year-old girl in Grand Marais.  Sadly, these things happen again and again. Ultimately, does public humiliation and shaming change behavior of these public figures? Unlikely, but one can hope.
Best TV News Station

KBjR Channel 6
Well, for once WDIO did not win. Don’t worry, they came in second place this year. Without Dennis Anderson we can see how WDIO might slip a little bit on a long enough time line. There’s some fine reporters and news anchors with KBJR; we’d be horrible at broadcast, beards, slurred speech and blood shot eyes just don’t fly on the camera. Take a look at Michelle Lee, she hasn’t aged a day since she started. Let’s not even get started on Billy Wagness…talk about a stud…right ladies? Kevin Jacobsen just looks so cuddly and fun! While we look like death and it’s hard to remember the last time we showered, we know that a real broadcast team needs to be sharp, hard hitting and look fabulous!

2nd Place:WDIO Channel 10

Best TV Personality

Dan Hanger - Fox 21
Speaking of fabulous, Dan Hanger once again wins best TV personality! It’s hard to say if he actually is a good TV personality or if every time you see him on the news you’re thinking about his latest Facebook post with his dog, Brewster. It’s hard to not like a guy with a cute dog. To make matters worse, he got another adorable dog named Dexter! It’s freaking adorable. Hanger is making news fun, while some of his colleagues makes the news the news. Hanger has been working with Fox 21 since 2010 and was promoted to anchor in 2011.   

2nd Place TIE Darren Danielson and Billy Wagness - WDIO

Best TV Commercial

LoLa Eggs
Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the Amundson’s Farm, of course!
This year Locally Laid Egg Company gets the win for best TV Commercial. We can’t say for sure, but we’re pretty certain the Lola Commercial our readers have voted for is the one you can access through in which Locally Laid Egg Company owner, Jason Amundson, donned in overalls and surrounded with (what else?) chickens at his farm in Wrenshall, tells us about the importance of healthy egg production. Locally Laid took Second Place and will have the ad show on a future FOX Sports show. If you have no idea what we’re talking about, ask your neighbor to tell you about the competition for businesses to be aired on the Superbowl -- Sorry, we don’t have enough space to get everyone up-to-speed! Amundsen and some of his employees  flew to New York City to find out, on January 31st, if they won a 30 second spot during the Superbowl.  Too bad Reader votes can’t count towards the Superbowl competition, they would have helped Locally Laid score its own touchdown!

2nd Place: Dahl’s Sunrise Dairy

Best TV Program

The Playlist -
Channel 8
For the last four years The Playlist has covered this area’s arts, theater and music community. Brought to you by the Minnesota Arts and Heritage Fund and PBS, The Playlist features some of the Northland’s most recognized bands and showcases new talent and rising stars. We know you like local music, at least a little.  If you’re interested in what is going on with music and the arts in the area, The PlayList is an excellent source of information. Since the show launched in 2010 at Pizza Luce with a performance by Trampled by Turtles ,they’ve featured over a thousand musical acts. “The PlayList is a community stage on WDSE-TV. We’re honored work with a bunch of inspiring, talented musicians and artists in the region and pleased to know they have made a powerful impression on your readers. Thank you so much for the recognition and your support of local arts & music,” noted Karen Sunderman the producer of the program. Each Thursday at 9 p.m. there is a new PlayList with encores on Saturday at 3 p.m. and on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

Best Radio Station

Why are we not surprised that the readers of an alternative weekly newspaper would vote for a college radio station? KUMD provides a wide array of programing and shows such as the student run show, “The Basement” and NPR’s “The World Cafe.” The station also provides programming such as “Democracy Now” and Duluth City Council Meetings. When you get tired of listening to the same songs over and over again, KUMD should be first on your dial.

2nd Place: KQDS

Best Radio Personality

Jeanne Ryan MIX108
Although you seem to enjoy college radio, Jeanne Ryan is once again your pick for “best radio personality.” Admit it, Mylie Cyrus is your favorite singer. But seriously folks, Jeanne has a talent, not shared by many of her colleagues, in which she charmingly and non-offensively engages in radio banter. It’s a gift to be funny and witty at 6 a.m. It’s no easy job day in and day out. Ryan is one of the best.

2nd Place: Jason Manning – KQDS

Honorable Mention: Walt Dizzo  KUWS DJ, who was one stinking vote behind Manning.

Best Newspaper Columnist

Sam Cook
Sam Cook with the Duluth New Tribune once again wins “best newspaper columnist.” We aren’t denying that he is good but we must lower our heads once again in shame at our defeat. Well, maybe not us, but Paul Ryan is disappointed. There’s always next year.

2nd Place: Paul Ryan

Best Visual Artist

Adam Swanson
After three years in Ithaca, New York and a stint in Antarctica, painter, Adam Swanson, has called Duluth home for five years. The young painter, married and father of two, has creating quite a following in the short time he lived in the region.  Perhaps its his distinctive style: bright, bold, Impressionistic yet accessible, Swanson has quickly achieved a measure of local respect in the arts community. Penguins, bicycles,water and wolves. He both inspires, (and we hope) is inspired by the region. We’re lucky to have him.

2nd Place: Sarah Brokke
She gets high points from her students at St. Scholastica, but what counts here are votes from Reader readers who assigned painter Sarah Brokke with the Runner Up title in this year’s poll. Her work has been in the Zeitgeist Atrium, Duluth Art Institute and PROVE, among other spaces in recent memory. She has been influenced by her studies abroad (England and Italy) obviously and the Northland is better off for it.

Good Cop

Gordon Ramsay
Repeat winner. Whether it be on the fighting crime on the streets, mediating relations with the public or volunteering in the community, Duluth Police Chief, Gordon Ramsay, has once again made it clear that he’s all about making Duluth a better place for it’s residents. He’s not afraid to get out from behind the desk and talk face to face with people when there are disagreements and demonstrates a fairness and balance in his approach.  By engaging the community, reaching out to address problems, and encouraging his officers to do the same, he has earned people’s trust. Although not every decision he makes is cut and dried, he always looks out for the communities best interest and the common good.

2nd Place: Nick Lepak

Best of Food & Drink

Best American Restaurant

Duluth Grill
Duluth Grill won in a landslide for Best American Restaurant.
Okay, maybe I am a little biased. But seriously, you need to check out their website and scroll through the images of omelets, pancakes, mac n’cheese, burgers and pies and cheesecake if you have any doubt. Better yet, stop in, like so many repeat visitors, and sample DG’s wide variety of menu items. Here’s another awesome thing about Duluth Grill: you can enjoy a fabulous meal and not break your New Year’s Resolution: Salads made with organic greens, nourishing Smoothies, lean burgers, baked Lake Superior white fish and wild rice.  Enjoy your dining experience and feel good afterwards. As mentioned in our last year’s write up, “Best American Restaurant” is a rather limited descriptor given the fact that, in addition to classic American fare, you can enjoy a Thai inspired Asian Steak & Wild Rice Bowl, quesadillas served with house-made salsas and guacamole, and Indian inspired Curried Polenta and Fire Roasted Stew.

2nd Place:  At Sara’s Table/Chester Creek Cafe

Best Appetizer

Lake Avenue Café -
Chorizo Stuffed Dates
Smoked bacon, chorizo sausage, romesco and grilled scallions. Call us provincial, but we had no idea what romesco was, so we looked it up. Start salivating now: Romesco is a nut and red pepper-based sauce from Spain and is typically made from any mixture of roasted or raw almonds, pine nuts, and/or hazelnuts, roasted garlic, olive or sunflower oil, bitxo peppers and/or nyora peppers. Yum.

2nd Place: Curry Puffs at Pak’s Green Corner

Best Asian Restaurant

Not your typical Asian restaurant. Hanabi specializes in sushi and other unique Japanese food for four years. We talked with Joe Foster who has been a manager at the establishment for two years. “I believe we have one of the best staff and our local fan base has been outstanding,” Hanabi has either won or turned out very strong on votes since they opened. The decor is clean, pleasantly austere and visually appealing.  Recently, Hanabi’s been playing all Japanese pop music for a more authentic feel. There’s nothing weirder than walking into an asian restaurant and getting American top 40 on the sound system. While their food is delectable and authentic, the price of a gin and tonic was slightly steep.

2nd Place: Taste of Saigon

Best Bakery

Amazing Grace:

Amazing Grace is a locally owned and operated business that employs green principles. Fair trade coffee. Breads made from scratch. Yummy muffins, cinnamon rolls, cakes, cookies and pies. I’m gaining weight just writing this! The setting, in the basement of the DeWitz Seitz Building is both comfy and artsy. Photos of musicians from all over the U.S. and world grace its walls.

2nd Place: Johnson’s Bakery

Best Bar & Grill

Fitger’s Brewhouse
Fitgers Brewhouse raises Scottish Highland cattle at their own farm in Twig for their beef supply. It’s kinda weird, kinda cool, locavore/carnivore thing. They also purchase from local suppliers as often as they can. Artichoke dip, black bean quesadillas and beer battered fries are just a few of their appetizer offerings. Drunken Cowboy Burger, served with onion straws and cowboy sauce, Wolf Creek Elk Burger prepares with Woodford Reserve bourbon mustard and Northern Waters Smokehaus Whitefish Burger served with wasabi mayo are three of their Specialty burgers. Wash down with award-winning brews: Apricot Wheat, Starfire Pale Ale and Lighthouse Golden.

2nd Place: 7 West TapHouse

Best Bartender

Maggie at 7 West
Maggie Bowman started working at the very beginning of 7 West Taphouse back in October of 2012. She has been a bartender for 10 years and loves what she does. Usually liking your work makes one slightly better at it than one going through the motions. “I like the social aspect and developing relationships with the customers,” said Bowman. We talked with a customer sitting at the bar who has been coming into 7 West for quite sometime, “I think she has carpal tunnel from all the pints she’s poured, she continues to work bravely despite of the pain.” The customer of course was joking, or we assume she was.

2nd Place: Laurina Siebolds (Canal Park Brewing)

Best Locally Brewed Beer

Bent Paddle

Bent Paddle is a fairly new to Duluth’s brewing scene. They opened in May 2013 and started from an idea shared by two couples; Karen and Bryon Tonnis, Colin and Laura Mullin. The fabulous foursome concocted a perfect brew (pardon our pun) of expertise and savvy marketing which has launched them to the top. You can pick up a six pack of Bent Paddle in Cities or go right to the source in Lincoln Park.  The origins of the name refers to the bent shaft canoe paddle that Byron used to stir the brewing mash when he worked at Rock Bottom Brewery in Minneapolis,  but also acknowledges the couple’s love of canoeing in the Northland.  The brewery itself is a 30 barrel production craft brewery featuring flagship beers such as their feisty “Bent Hop” Golden IPA. They also offer a variety of seasonal brews. There is a lot of competition in this area between breweries but it should be noted that it’s probably the most friendly and open competition that can be imagined. Many of the brewers in town work with each other to make world class beers for you to enjoy. The Northland is a great place to be if you like good beer.

2nd Place: Fitger’s Brewhouse

Best Beer Selection

7 West Taphouse

It’s no surprise to see 7 West Taphouse win the category again. They won last year, after being open for just a few months and word spread that if you’re a beer connoisseur look no further than the Taphouse. “We just change our beers all the time and get new stuff in as much as we can. New beers that come to area, we tap them right away. We have vendors bringing us beer that wouldn’t exactly come any other way. Part of the thanks goes to our vendors for making it happen,” said
Taphouse general manager, Ben Herseth. 7 West stays ahead of the game when it comes to their beer selection, “We’ve probably had 400 beers on tap since we’ve opened. Most of them are regional, but all of them are U.S. beers,” said Herseth.

2nd Place: Canal Park Brewery

Best Mexican Restaurant

Mexico Lindo - Cloquet
Mexico Lindo, translates, Beautiful Mexico, prepares authentic Mexican cuisine with the finest of ingredients.  The place has got a relaxed and inviting vibe. Alambres… enchiladas…molcajetes… quesadillas…The words roll off your tongue as the delicioso food slides down your throat. Mexico Lindo’s Alambres are made with you’re your choice of meat or seafood, onions, peppers and nopales cactus. How cool is that? Their philosophy is to to provide great tasting food and drink in a warm and inviting atmosphere.

2nd Place: Guadalajara - Superior

Best Burger Joint

The Anchor is a Northland eatery with an almost indescribable vibe. So we will describe it anyway. Badly. Judging by landslide wins it enjoys year after year, one might conclude that the Anchor may have a bit of cult following. Entering the Anchor is like entering a 20th Century Twilight Zone-ish Time Capsule: Eisenhower, or is it Nixon, is still president, Walter Cronkite is on the tube and your cheeseburger costs $3.25. Needle scratching vinyl…What? A Cheeseburger for $3.25? That’s right, remember, you’ve entered a time capsule. With unique offerings such as the cashew burger, the Hawaiian and the fresh (slaughtered before your eyes) potato fries, it’s no real wonder that the Anchor just keeps winning.

2nd Place: 7 West TapHouse

3rd Place: Big Daddy’s squeezed out by three votes.

Best Coffee House

Beaner’s Central
What a relaxed and inviting vibe Jason Wussow has created at Beaners. Jason, by the way, may be one of he kindest businessmen in Duluth. With great coffee, homemade soups and hot cocoa that looks like something out of Alice In Wonderland, it’s a favorite stomping ground for musician, philosophers and plain ‘ol me.

2nd Place: Red Mug

Best Grocery Store

Mount Royal Fine Foods
Mt. Royal boasts a Caribou coffee, first class deli, and extensive sushi, soup and salad bars. Gorgeous housewares, plates and place settings, candles, plants and cut flowers. Let’s face it, it’s more like an Edina shopping experience than anything else in Duluth. More upscale. Clean. Oh! Did we fail to mention it’s a grocery store too. Butchers stand on the ready to custom cut your meat, staff are not put out to share samples of produce, and like the co-op, Mt Royal does a good job showcasing and selling local products.  Clean-cut baggers and drive-up service harken back to the good ol’ days. It says something about our readership that Walmart, Sam’s Club and Target did not garner a single vote in this category.

2nd Place: Whole Foods Co-op

Best Gourmet Dinner

New Scenic Cafe
A dinner at the New Scenic Café offers Casual Elegance in a Northwoods setting. Perrenial favorites such as artichoke slather appetizer and newer offerings such as Afghan inspired kaddo bourani made with pumpkin, greek yogurt mint and fried leeks have loyal customers willing to pilgrimage from as far as the Cities because going to Scenic promises a culinary adventure. With an emphasis on seasonal ingredients and exotic accents, New Scenic features masterful entrees such as grilled  pheasant breast, brioche, taleggio, peas, pear & maple syrup.

2nd Place: Lake Ave Cafe

Best Place for Happy Hour

Blackwoods has two Happy Hours, one from 3pm till 6pm and the other from 9pm till midnight. They offer half priced tap beer, dollar off cocktails and $5 Special martinis. Happy Hour appetizers include onion rings, a chicken wings and pizzas. Remember to have your designated driver.

2nd Place: Pizza Luce

Best Dive

Need we say more? Read “Best Burger” to get the lowdown on the Anchor. Join the cult.
2nd Place: Tom’s Burned Down Café – Madeleine Island. You wouldn’t understand unless you’ve been there; and even then you are likely to be scratching your head…

Best Liquor Store

Their selection of wines and microbrews are unmatched, their prices can’t be beat.  Keyport takes a win for its 16th straight year. Party on!  New Growler Tap available with rare and exotic beers you can’t find anywhere else. Wine experts, beer experts. No wonder they win.

2nd Place: Cashwise

Best Outdoor Dining

Sir Benedict’s
There something truly relaxing and enjoyable about outdoor dining at Sir Ben’s. Yeah, there’s great sandwiches, soups and beer on tap, but equally as important is the setting.  In spite of the traffic on Superior Street, the trees, turn-of-the-century architecture and view of Lake Superior make for pleasant outdoor dining. Sir Ben’s elevates your mood without draining your wallet.

2nd Place: Mexico Lindo

Best Place for a Business Lunch

Zeitgeist Cafe
Zeitgeist is cosmopolitan without being pretentious. Well-lit, good service, centrally located; we can totally understand why it won Best Place For Business Lunch. Another asset is that Zeitgeist offers a private dining room and Atrium for a variety of business or social functions.

2nd Place: Lake Avenue & Tycoons

Best Place for Romantic Dinner

What could be more romantic than sitting across from your lover suffused in the soft light of Scenic Café sharing a bottle of cabernet?  Maybe a little poetry?
The Song of Hiawatha
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon…
Dark behind it rose the forest,
Rose the black and gloomy
Rose the firs with cones upon them;
Bright before it beat the water,
Beat the clear and sunny water,
Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water...

2nd Place: Bellisios

Best Really Cheap Food

Read about cult following under Best Burger Joint

2nd Place: Azteca Mexican Grill