Best of The Northland 2014

Voting Results

Paul Whyte

Best of Health and Fitness
Health Club
The "Y" wins for the third year in a row and offers a wider range of services than most health clubs. Part of its mission includes strengthening communities and delivering positive change.  Its multigenerational appeal is obvious when you walk through the door: Teenage boys can shoot some hoop, while toddlers safely play in the nursery.
Runner Up: Anytime Fitness

Best Bike Shop
Ski Hut
With a wide variety of mountain bikes, fat bikes and road bikes, all of your on-and-off road fantasies can be fulfilled. Try out one of Ski Hut’s fat bikes for a winter trail ride then you’ll know what it feels like to be both a super jock and circus clown. Have fun, and remember wearing a helmet may be just as important as wearing a red clown nose.
Runner Up: Continental Ski & Bike

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 score them Best Ski Shop. With two locations and a full service repair shop, Ski Hut has won this category every year since Year One.
Runner Up: Continental Ski & Bike
Best Hair Salon
Bada Bing! Bada Boom! BAM has permanently moved to 133 East Central Entrance. Brothers Boris, Arsen, and Mikhail Nektalov have been cutting hair since they were wee lads in the former USSR. All three brothers moved to Duluth in the mid-nineties and, BAM!, have been a Northland success ever since.
Runner Up: Trends

Best Optical

?Vision Pro
With ten Northland locations including Duluth, Two Harbors, Superior & Cloquet, Vision Pro garnered first place. Knowledgeable optometrists and attentive staff have customers leaving Vision Pro stores with sharper vision and big smiles.
Runner Up: Blink

Best Place to Rollerblade

Lakewalk?Year after year after year…

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?
Runner up: Superior Hiking Trail (now that's more like it.)

Best Bike Trail

Munger Trail?

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.
Runner Up: Coggs Lester River Trail

Best Sporting Goods Store

Northwest Outlet
Northwest Outlet has been providing the Northland with a wide variety of outdoor items and apparel since 1958. Don Hobson, a manager, has been working with Northwest Outlet for 19 years. Once he was done helping a customer pick out the best pair of socks to suit their needs, he took some time to talk with us. "We carry the needs, not the wants," said Hobson. "Whether you need to survive in the cold or go camping and hiking in the boundary waters, we carry quality goods at low prices. We strive to provide great customer service."
Runner Up: Dunham's

Best of Services

?Best  Attorney

Melanie Ford
Melanie Ford has years of experience working with businesses such as with Cargill Inc. and in law in both solo practice and even being elected as St. Louis County Attorney. Her experience helps her bring her clients peace of mind. She specializes in civil litigation, consumer law, elder law and estate planning and wills. The diversity of her background and knowledge of the law must have helped a few of our readers or people they know because she won with a healthy lead.
Runner Up(s): Pat Spott tied with Stephanie Balmer

Best Bank

Members Cooperative Credit Union
From its humble beginnings in the 1930’s in Cloquet to over $350 million in assets MCCU boasts that they’ve continually been able to “provide the same kind of personal, responsive service our founders envisioned so long ago.” Apparently, Reader readers agree voting them Northlands Best Bank. Lara Wilkinson of Members Cooperative Credit Union told The Reader 'We are honored to be recognized, our members are our primary focus as a nonprofit; and it that means a lot to hear that we are making them happy ."
Runner up: National Bank of Commerce (NBC)

Best Florist

Engwall's has been around for over a century and it’s way more than just a place to buy pretty flower arrangements. Florist Shops, Greenhouses & Garden Centers are just the tip of the iceberg (wrong metaphor, but you get the point). Since 2010 customers have marveled at Engwall’s 52,000 square foot corn maze at its main sight in Hermantown. Folks and organizations can schedule parties or fieldtrips to this A-MAZE-ING place.
Runner Up: Bella Flora 


??Best Photographer

?Three Irish Girls
This is the second year in a row for Three Irish Girls to win. Three Irish Girls was  founded by Sharon McMahon. McMahon originally ran a yarn company and began shooting photos for her own catalog. She spent some time in Washington DC and moved back the Twin Ports three years ago 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. The name, "Three Irish Girls," stems from a term of endearment that McMahon used towards her and her daughters by her husband. She continues to take quality pictures of people; primarily babies, children and couples.
Runner Up: Anne Victoria Photography??



Best Cab Company

Yellow Cab

?Whether you need to catch a flight or you’re playing it safe after a night out on the town, Yellow Cab provides fast and reliable service. They're professional and will get you where you need to go. Don’t forget to tip.
Runner Up: Custom Cab?



Best Place of Worship

?The Vineyard
With an impressive house of worship on Arrowhead Rd and a packed parking lot, the Vineyard has catapulted itself to the Best Place of Worship in this year’s Reader poll. Its mission, “Love God. Love People. Period.” and its focus on building community resonates with the hearts, minds and souls of it growing membership.
Runner up: Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth (UUCD)

Best Service

Vision Pro
There’s something about the staff at Vision Pro that has caught the focus of Reader readers. Knowledgeable and friendly staff willing to take extra time with their customers; one can clearly see why they were voted Best Service.
Runner up: Trailfitters

Best of the Material World

Best Antique Shop

Father Time
Father Time once again wins for best antique shop. If your looking for vintage treasures that time has treated well, Father Time is a great place to explore.  Father Time is well-lit and well-liked and well-maintained and perhaps most important, the prices are fair.?Runner Up: 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.
Runner Up: 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!

?Runner Up: Chester Creek Bookstore??


Best Car Dealer

?Kari Toyota
Kari is really unbeatable for customer care and service and Reader readers have been letting us know that for years. 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. 
Runner Up: Krenzen…again...


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. They've been winning this category for years.\

?Runner Up: TJ Maxx


??Best Fashion (Women)

?TJ Maxx
TJ Maxx wins again for "Best Women's Fashion" 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. If you're looking to clean out the closet, bringing in those old lightly used clothes could put a few bucks in your pocket.?

Runner Up: Trailfitters??


Best Fine Jewelry

?Security Jewelers
For 17 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.?

Runner Up: The Jewelry Bench??


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.
Runner Up: Vinyl Cave…yes, we know they're a vinyl store.??


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. 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.
Runner Up: 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."
Runner Up(s): Schmidt Music with Northwoods Music very close on their heels.

Best Art Gallery

?Tweed Museum of Art
Located on the UMD campus the Tweed Museum is known showing unique exhibits.  Whether it's art of cultural significance or something a little more abstract, there's always something worth checking out there.
Runner Up: Lizzards Art Gallery


 ?Best Movie Theater

Zinema 2
It's once again another win for Zinema 2. They've been making out with a healthy lead every year in our poll ever since they started rolling reels. No, they probably won't be showing the latest multi-million dollar block buster with no plot or an obnoxious comedy that only your 13 year old niece will like. They show some of latest indy flicks and sometimes some great classics and we get the feeling you like those type of movies.
Runner Up: Duluth 10??


Best Second Hand Store

?Dannie Duluth
Dannie's always has some stiff competition from the usual thrift stores but this time came out on top. They offer quality fashions and home furnishing. That's right, their clothes don't smell like a wet dog that was hanging out in a smoky bar that is next door to a fish processing plant. It's nothing but the best. If you have quality goods, you can put them up for consignment.
Runner Up(s): Savers with Goodwill right on top of them the whole time.

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.
Runner Up: Shorty's in Superior. They have urinals that are fun!
Best Bowling Alley

Incline Station
We can assure you their bowling allies are NOT at an incline. Incline Station has turned the tables on Country who won last year after a neck and neck race. Looking a fun time out with friends or the kids? Incline has all of the essential things. Pizza and snacks, beer and of course plenty of bowling allies that should assure that your party will fit somewhere. It doesn't cost too much to play a few frames, which is nice as well.
Runner Up: Country Lanes??


Best Lodging 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.
Runner Up: Lutsen?

Best of People & Media

Best Politician

Duluth Mayor Don Ness
Don Ness has consistently won "Best Politician" ever sense he became Mayor of Duluth. This will be his last year as Mayor and we're going to miss him and are sure he'll succeed at whatever he does from here. Now we get to watch the race unfold for the seat over the next year. That should be interesting. Thanks for all you've done, Don!

Best Band/Musician

Trampled by Turtles
It didn't come as much of a surprise that a band that once played small shows right here in the Twin Ports and now sells out two night in row shows at the First Avenue Main room might have earned a few fans along the way. It's hard to not feel a little proud watching that guy you might have worked with, or that guy who was your roommate playing on Nationally televised late night talk shows. Few from the Northland will make it as big as Trampled by Turtles, but we love them for the effort and dedication it take to get as far as they have.

Runner up: Todd Eckart
Since Trampled by Turtles has indeed gained quite a bit of notoriety, we'd like to make mention of the runner up, Todd Eckart. Eckart can be found playing at venues all over the Twin Ports on most any given day. He delights fans with an array of songs and has been known to play a show specifically focused on one artist, like his Elvis show. "I am very blessed and very thankful for the support I have gotten in the two years since I moved back from Los Angeles. I am very humbled by all of this," said Eckart about being voted as runner up in our poll.

Best Band Name

Tin Can Gin
The name Tin Can Gin certainly does have a nice ring to it. This bluegrass band was founded in 2011 and they've caught a lot of attention. It is of course their fun, foot stomping, performances that keep people going to their shows but there is perhaps something in a good band name. "The name was the brainchild of our old bass player. He worked as a server in town and was delivering a tray full of gin and tonics when the name clicked, Tin Can Gin. We didn't really have any other names that were in the running. Plus, we all like gin, so it works out! Simple, easy to pronounce, short and sweet…memorable. Overall makes a good band name!" said Harrison Olk, the band's banjo player.
Runner up(s): There was a tie between Dance Attic and Bratwurst.

Best Album in the Last Year

Sarah Krueger: Lustrous
Lustrous was released in December and since then it has made the Electric Fetus top seller list and won this poll. In that sense this album has caught on fast. The idea that "you get what you put in" has paid off for Sarah Krueger because this album wasn't made over a weekend, a month, or a year. Over the last three years she would do sessions at Erik Koskinen's Real Phonic Studio in Minneapolis. She wasn't alone on her endeavor to make this album, she brought in an impressive line up of guest musicians that worked on laying down tracks. JT Bates and Eric Pollard took on drum duties, Erik Koskinen put in his work on guitar, and Steve Garrington and Frankie Lee are featured on bass. Sean Carey, Jordan Taylor, Don House, Ben Lester, Jake Hanson, and Kyle Keegan also played a part in making this album happen.
Runner Up: Tin Can Gin (ST)

Best Concert in the Last Year

Dierks Bentley at the Bayfront
On July 10, Dierks Bentley stopped by to play a show at the Bayfront while on his "Riser Tour." He had special guests such as Sara Evans and played a special reunion performance with The Whiskey River Band. Bentley has had numerous singles that have hit "Number 1" on country music charts.
Runner up: Atmosphere with Trampled by Turtles at the Bayfront

Best Community Activist

Deb Holman
The issue of homelessness in the area sometimes goes unappreciated in this area but not to Deb Holman from the CHUM Center. She works tirelessly on the field as the center's Street Outreach Worker. "Working with people experiencing homelessness who are living outside…meeting with them where they're at, trying to get them services and housing, that's what I do in a nutshell," said Holman.
We thank you, Deb, for doing what you do and we thank our readers for voting a person who truly deserves to be known as Best Community Activist for this year.
Runner up: Laura Erickson

Best Dance Club

The Flame-Duluth
The Flame is a great place to meet with friends and do nightlife right! The club was opened for those who didn't feel like going to the Superior Flame to groove it on the dance floor. Apparently some people still have good times at the Superior Flame because they won runner up. Both clubs have a variety of music, drink specials and perhaps most important, cool bartenders and staff.

Best Open Mic

Beaner's Central
For over a decade Beaner's open mic has facilitated artists of all ages and talent. Some bands and lasting friendships have been made as a result of this open mic that happens every Wednesday. Local musicians take turns hosting each week that keep a fun and positive atmosphere. Food, beer, wine and of course, coffee, also add to the night. The open mic runs from 6 to 10 p.m. and showing up early for sign up is usually advised.
Runner up: Thirsty Pagan (Sundays)

Best Music Club

Clyde Iron
Clyde Iron has won "Best Music Club" this year. The "club," or what we'd more closely describe as an event venue, has a number of shows each month including Friday nights with The Fractals, a local surf-rock band and also holds larger shows featuring National artist of all sorts of genres ranging from metal to hip-hop and electronic dance music to country. The club is the main event center when Homegrown has their West Duluth night and has featured bands such as Trampled by Turtles and Charlie Parr playing to an at capacity audience.  
Runner up: The Red Herring Lounge

Best Place to Hook Up

If we were to give this a "win," a number of you voted for "my bed." Umm…if you say so.

Best Local Play in the Last Year

Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Sources say that this play went from being a little shaky on it's first night to standing room only in its closing weekend. Duluth's version of the comedy/music called Hedwig has received outstanding reviews from seasoned actors to the general public. If you didn't get a chance to see this play the first time around keep your hopes up. There is talk that it will be coming back.
Runner up: Sealed for Freshness

Best Actor

Alec Schroeder (Hedwig and the Angry Inch)
While we're on the topic of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, we might as well mention the actor who played Hedwig. Yes, Alec Schroeder stepped up to take on portraying a German transgender rockstar and her often humorous and sometimes deep outlooks brought out through antics and songs. "By day, I work as a Registered Nurse in the community with adolescents and young adults. I have to thank my loving Hedwig obsessed family, especially my big sister for putting up with me. People have to thank our stage manager, and my dear friend, Sara Marie Briggs Sorenson, who was with me from auditions to closing night; she kept me sane and loved and I’m forever grateful. To all of my supportive friends, too many too name, but those of you who have shared a drink or a cigarette with me at some point in time; you are the loves of my life and I’m forever yours. Finally, to my fellow freaks reading this: Just know that you are good enough and you are loved, all you have to do is come find us," wrote Schroeder in an email to us.
Runner up: Chris Nollet (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf)

Best Actress

Tonya Porter (Hedwig and the Angry Inch)
Overall, the production of Hedwig must have made quite the impact on you readers because Tonya Porter won best actress for being in that play. She played the role of Yitzhak, Hedwig's back up singer, which is actually a man who was a drag queen, who had promised Hedwig to not do drag again, but is portrayed by a woman in the actual production making it a huge blur of gender lines in that aspect. It was a role which Porter describes as her, "biggest role to date." The came as quite a challenge to Porter, "I spent a lot of time researching the role and watching how men stand/sit/gesture. It was a completely amazing experience. The role of a lifetime for me.The crowds were so supportive and the production team behind the show was a dream." Porter's next role will be in Titanic: The Musical which is set to come out in July.
Runner up: Caroline LePine (Next to Normal)

Best Athlete

Kara Goucher
Kara Goucher moved to Duluth with her family when she was four years old. She ended up growing up to be a pretty badass runner. We tried to get a hold of her to comment, but were unsuccessful. Either way, according to Wikipedia, Her latest achievement was placing 6th at the Rock n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon in September 2014. She also ran well in the Boston Marathon in 2013, placing 6th and also placed 3rd in in 2009. On an international level, she has placed 3rd in the 10,000 meter in the 2007 World Finals.
Runner up: Mike White "Local Disc Golf Legend"

Best Author

Chris Monroe
Known for her Monkey with a Tool Belt Books, a comic in the Duluth News Tribune and countless illustrations by her featured in everything from event flyers to album cover art, Chris Monroe's style and sense of humor has become easily recognized in the area. Her last book, Bug on a Bike, was released just a few months ago and it has been added as one of the "Best Children's Books of 2014" by the editors of Apparently readers of all ages appreciate Monroe's books or we have more youth readers than we thought.
Runner up: Margi Preus (Heart of a Samurai/Shadow on The Mountain)  

Best Book in the Last Year

How Lefty Stepanovich Turned Water Into Wine by Teague Alexy
Sometimes this category can a little hit and miss and we get one or two votes for a number of books, but no real clear winner. This year Teague Alexy's short illustrated folk tale ended up undeniably on top. This win is a good thing for Alexy because he plans on releasing more folk tales in 2015.
Runner up: Jackpine Savages by T.K. O'Neill

Best Rumor

Kestrel to Build Aircraft in Superior
Well, readers, this was more than a rumor three years ago and if you would have picked up our January 20, 2012 issue, you'd know that. The story was first broken by the Reader in October 20 of 2011. The project was quoted to be a $100 million development and will eventually create up to 600 lasting jobs. The Kestrel project is now looking shaky after some lack of funding, but it still might happen. So, this could be considered a viable rumor.
Pretty much most of the other rumors you sent in were a little out their and seems that some of you think you're some sort of comedians. "Mayor Don Ness isn't running for re-election because he has a bad case of ebola." or "Mayor Don Ness is having an adulterous relationship with Oprah Winfrey." Wow, you guys are so funny. Has anyone ever told you how funny you are? Like super funny. You could probably go on a comedy tour or something with that kind of material.

Best Story Swept Under the Rug

Twins Bar is Closing
Yup, it closed, then open and closed again. Now it's a place called The Break Room. It's a clever play on words as it is a pool hall. Get it, "break…room," you get it, right? Either way, there is sometimes live music there and people have apparently been showing art there too. That seems cool to us.

Best TV News Station

WDIO has always been a strong contender in the category. They came up short last year and we attributed that to losing Dennis Anderson, a man whose legend lives on. It must have been tough for them to not only lose such an amazing TV personality, but then go on to lose our poll to KBJR. Life isn't always fair, but we all have to move on. WDIO did just that and are back on top with another win for this year!
Runner up: KBJR

Best TV Personality

Dan Hanger (Fox 21)
When it comes to personality, Dan Hanger certainly doesn't come up short in that category. He has taken his own approach in reporting the news and a lot of you seem to find that as a refreshing angle that makes the news a little bit fun rather than having it just read off a prompter for you. Hanger worked his way to head anchor and can be found hosting events, making appearances in parades and posting pictures of his beloved dog, Brewster. We went down to the Fox 21 news station and interviewed Hanger in a piece we'd like to call "Asking Dan Hanger the Hard Questions with Paul Whyte." Check out to watch our interview with Dan.
Runner Up: Darren Danielson

Best TV Commerical

Animal Allies
We don't watch a lot of TV, but we did look up commercials for Animal Allies and found a few videos, one that was more or less a commercial and then a handful of videos for animals that are up for adoption. Animal Allies is a great organization and we're just happy that some people find their commercials as beneficial rather than annoying.

Best Local TV Program

The Playlist (WDSE)
Since 2010 The Playlist has featured over a thousand local and regional music acts as well as people and events in the arts community. "The PlayList is a community stage where we share the talent and perspectives of a wide range of artists--its music, art & theater and community.  It’s a document of the creative work being made in the region and an accessible, online archive of what is happening," stated Karen Sunderman the producer of the show. They've done a terrific job staying on top of showing area viewers the best new music and art happenings and are showing no signs of slowing down, "the show continues to improve as a quality production.  The sound is great thanks to Jake Larson’s ninja mixing and it looks great thanks to Steve Ash’s masterful editing.  (An opinion supported by three regional Emmy nominations for the show last year.) Our music guests get great energy thanks to dozens of people who come to the in-studio sessions. The poll results, readers of The Reader, and WDSE viewers, drive our commitment to presenting the arts in the Arrowhead region with the highest quality program possible. Thanks for the boost!"
Runner up: Almanac North

Best Radio Station

KUMD 103.3 FM
KUMD picks up the win again for "best radio station." We like your taste. There is a wide array of programming from student run shows such as "The Basement" to the always wonderful "The World Cafe." Local artists are often featured on KUMD and they keep you up on local and world news as well as new bands to check out.
Runner up: Mix 108

Best Radio Personality

Jeanne Ryan From Mix 108
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. No, Jeanne has a way about creatively and non-offensively coming up with radio banter. It's a skill to be fun and witty at 6 a.m. We admit that it must be no easy job to do day in and day out. Ryan is one of the best.
Runner up: Christine Dean (KUMD) came in really close behind Jeanne. You might not think that your votes count, but some of these races go down to some of the last votes.

Honorable Mention: Walt Dizzo from KUWS takes 3rd place again. Last year he was one vote behind Manning. Dizzo has been hosting a show for the Dean's List on Thursdays for around a decade and is always with reach of win or runner up, but not this year.   

Best Newspaper Columnist

Sam Cook
This race has been going on year after year. Nature columnist, Sam Cook, once again beats out our "humor" columnist, Paul Ryan. As usual Paul Ryan has a special column for his disappointing loss.

Good Cop

Gordon Ramsay
No matter your feelings on the police, it's hard to deny that Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay has really done a lot to keep this community safe as well as keeping himself and his department involved in positive community reenforcement over just law enforcement. He was proponent for equipping officers with body cams ahead of the national movement to do so and has taken his department's image pretty seriously.

Best of Food & Drink??

Best American Restaurant

?Duluth Grill
This jewel of the West End lends a whole new meaning to the term “America’s Melting Pot.” It’s hard to know (and this is a good thing) what constitutes “American” food anymore. Could it be the “Industrial Burger” made with a half pound of local beef, house-made sauerkraut, French fried onions and siracha aioli? Is it the heaping bowl of gluten-free mac n’ cheese…or perhaps the Vietnamese inspired “Banh Mi” duck burger? Knowing you’re supporting a local business that supports other local businesses and practices sustainability makes the experience all the more enjoyable.
Runner Up(s): Anchor Bar with Kounty Quarthouse coming in really really close behind them.

Best Appetizer

Pommes Frites (Fries with Aioli)
Imagine, if you will, a large and lovely bouquet of hand-cut French fries sitting in the middle of your table. Imagine yourself selecting one of those delectable fries and dipping it into an equally delectable herbed aioli. Imagine yourself slapping someone’s hand who is also reaching for a fry…Scratch that last thought….Now instead of imagining, head down to Zeitgeist Arts Café with a friend or two and order some Pommes Frites for yourself. You’ll know why it was voted one Best Appetizer in our BON Poll!

Best Asian Restaurant

Hanabi specializes in freshly prepared sushi and other traditional Japanese dishes including Teriyakis, tempuras and pan-fried noodles. Aptly described as “Japanese Fusion” cuisine, there is an adventurousness to the menu that keeps our Reader readers returning. The muted tones and clean lines of the décor create a peaceful atmosphere that transports Hanabi’s patrons half-way across the globe. This includes the music selection. There's nothing weirder than listening to country music while dining at an Asian restaurant.
Runner Up: Taste of Saigon

Best Bakery

?How Sweet It Is
The fabled Willy Wonka has nothing on Eileen Brown and the “scrumdiddlyumptious” confections she whips up at her downtown bakery, aptly named, How Sweet It Is. Cakes and confections, resembling Salvador Dali paintings or treats from a Mad Tea Party in Alice In Wonderland grace the counters. Hand-built wedding cakes, pies, cookies, breads, oh my!
Runner Up: Positively 3rd Street

Best Bar & Grill

?Fitger’s Brewhouse
Fitgers Brewhouse raises Scottish Highland cattle at their own farm in Twig for their beef supply. 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.
Runner Up: Anchor

Best Bartender

Kelli Barker (Norm's/Spirit Room)
For some bartending might just be a job and a way to pay the bills. It's not the easiest job, especially in Superior. Kelli Barker doesn't look at it that way, " love my job...I don't consider it is too much fun!" Barker has been bartending for 12 years, but is perhaps know best for working at Norm's Beer and Brats in Superior for the last eight years. Recently, she has started also working at the Spirit Room, a newly opened tapas bar and restaurant just down the street from Norms. "I get to see my friends and meet new people daily. I absolutely love bartending and everyone that I have met by doing it. I am beyond grateful for Norm's and Spirit Room for having me. I am incredibly flattered for being nominated and honored to have been voted 'Best of.' There are incredible bartenders in this area so it is a huge compliment," replied Barker when we informed her of her win.
Runner up: Jake Kimball (Third Base Bar/Tower Avenue Tavern/Strikers Sports Bar)

Best Locally Brewed Beer

Bent Paddle
It's another win two years in a row for Bent Paddle with a landslide victory. They wouldn't have won more than that so far because they got their start in 2013 and have done nothing but grow since then. It probably doesn't hurt that they can their beers which can be found at most local liquor stores all the way down to the Twin Cities. Bent Paddle is doing beer right and will be a mainstay in this areas thriving beer culture.
Runner up: Thirsty Pagan

Best Beer Selection

7 West Taphouse
This will mark the third year in a row to win for "Best Beer Selection." It's going to be hard to beat the Taphouse because they are levels beyond any other establishment as far as the variety of beers they have. The last time we checked they were at 40 taps of beers from all over that rotate regularly. The kinds of beers that the Taphouse has featured since they opened lists well into the hundreds.

Best Mexican Restaurant

?Mexico Lindo - Cloquet
The Cloquet location of Mexico Lindo prepares authentic Mexican cuisine with the finest of ingredients.  The place has 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 your choice of meat or seafood, onions, peppers and nopales cactus. Their philosophy is to provide great tasting food and drink in a laid back atmosphere.
Runner Up: Guadalajara - Superior


??Best Burger Joint

The Anchor is a Northland eatery that might drive-away the faint of heart. Judging by landslide wins it enjoys year after year, one might conclude that the Anchor may have a bit of cult following. Burgers under $4.00. 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.? The Anchor’s been known to cause life-long vegetarians to fall off the wagon.
Runner Up: Fitgers Brewhouse

Best Coffee House

Red Mug
Cool vibe. Hot coffee. Great pottery. Quality Eats. The Red Mug has almost single-handedly exponentially increased the cool factor in Superior, which has been enjoying its own mini renaissance over the past several years.
Runner Up: Duluth Coffee

Best Grocery Store

Mount Royal Market?

Locally owned and operated, Mount Royal Market boasts a first class deli, sushi, soup and salad bars and a first rate deli. Gorgeous housewares, plates and place settings, candles, plants and cut flowers. It is upscale and clean. It features a large produce section and butchers stand on the ready to custom cut your meat. The staff  shares 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.
Runner Up: Whole Foods Co-op

Best Gourmet Dinner

?New Scenic Café
Always offering a culinary adventure, dinner at the New Scenic offers casual elegance in a Northwoods setting. Perennial favorites such as artichoke slather appetizer and newer offerings such as traditional French cassoulet de toulousse prepared with duck confit, tarbais beans & pork belly.  With an emphasis on seasonal ingredients and exotic accents, New Scenic always is sure to create a memorable dining experience.
Runner Up: Va Bene

Best Happy Hour

Blackwater 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 if you get too happy.
Runner Up(s): Blackwoods with Spirit Room not too far behind.

Best Dive

Read “Best Burger” to get the lowdown on the Anchor. If you haven’t been there yet, GO! If you’re a vegetarian, they still have grilled cheese sandwiches, if you're vegan…umm.
Runner Up: Thirsty Pagan

Best Liquor Store

Keyport Liquor
It's another win for Keyport putting this at 17 years of wins in a row straight. With great prices, great selection, great service and they're open on Sundays, Keyport really can't be beat. They recently finished remodeling the store providing room for an even huge selection, which was already pretty darned good. Sometimes other stores come close when we count the votes, so this category isn't going anywhere, but we know Keyport will probably stay on top with a healthy lead.
Runner up: Cash Wise Liquor

?Best Outdoor Dining

Canal Park Brewery
It is true that Canal Park Brewing's patio is pretty great. It's an "all season" patio which makes it nice for when the weather isn't totally nasty. The layout surrounds a fire pit, which is nice to gather around during the night time, or staying a little warmer on certain days. In the summer, it really can't be beat. The lake is right there, there's good people watching and there's even outdoor games. We imagine Canal Park Brewery will come through strong for years to come in this category.
Runner up: Va Bene

Best Place for Business Lunch

Formerly Duluth’s City Hall, where for decades so much of Duluth’s business was conducted, it’s no surprise that Tycoons was voted Best Place for Business Lunch. In addition to harboring distant echoes of business past, Tycoons is able to offer private rooms for a variety of business or social functions.
Runner Up: Va Bene

Best Place for a Romantic Dinner

New Scenic Cafe
Settling into a windowed table-for-two, watching the waves of Superior lapping the Northshore.  Add a bottle of wine and some sultry jazz playing in the background. Is there anything more romantic than that? No, there is not.

Best Really Really Cheap Food

The Anchor has had this category locked down since the beginning. The burgers cost less than most cups of coffee. Need we say more?
Runner Up: The Kitchen on North 5th Street in Superior

Best Place to Eat at 2 a.m. When You’re Wasted

Perkins wins it again this year. We're sure they love putting up with you.
Runner Up: Kosta’s Gyros

?Best Pizza

?Thirsty Pagan
Thirsty Pagan pizzas are made to order using Wisconsin cheese, the finest meats and fresh veggies. Try a Pizza Diane made with pesto, grilled chicken, spinach, tomatoes & special blend of cheeses, it'll rock your taste buds. You can wash it down with one of their craft microbrews.

Runner Up: Vintage Italian Pizza (VIP) John Dandrea has owned VIP since the stone age. With three locations and pizza selections ranging from Pepperoni to Chicken Reuben. There’s something everyone can enjoy. Great value. Cooked or uncooked, you can’t go wrong. Banquet facilities available for social or business gatherings.  
3rd Place: Sammy’s was sooooo close they could almost taste it.

Best Ribs

?Eddies World Famous Ribs
Eddies is a hidden gem which harkens back to old fashioned supper club culture. Their award-winning ribs and excellent customer service are what have created loyal customers. Eddies can accommodate parties up-to-twenty and cater events for two hundred! On Thursdays and Fridays you can enjoy an All You Can Eat Fish Fries.
Runner Up: Famous Dave’s


??Best Sandwich

Northern Waters Smokehaus
Once again, Northern Waters wins Best Sandwich. The SLAMMIN' GORDON, made with smoked Atlantic salmon, green onion, parsley, lemon juice, horseradish, spices, and mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, cukes, cilantro, served in rolled naan. Cajun Finn is a traditional standby for many of us.
Runner Up: Amazing Grace
Best Seafood

Red Lobster
We hate to say it, but this is the last year we will be having this category. Red Lobster wins every year probably because there isn't really a true local seafood place in the area. Sure, there's good fish and shrimp dinners at other restaurants, but there's no place that specializes in sea food. While we will allow corporate chains to win in the poll, it's kind of pointless to have the same chain win every year. If a local restaurant opens up that exclusively does seafood, we may consider bringing the category back, but that's unlikely.

Best Steak House

The Hammond?

Not surprisingly, The Hammond has won best steakhouse. It has a old fashioned, comfy feel. Nothing pretentious about this place. Good food. Relaxed dining atmosphere. In addition to steaks, the Hammond also boasts Seafood Fettucini and Chicken Alfredo on their evening menue. You can call the Hammond for their weekly specials.
Runner Up: Texas Roadhouse

Best Serving Staff

Duluth Grill
If you're looking for rolling eyes, sneers, forgotten orders, empty cups and long waits for your tab when you're done with your meal, don't go to Duluth Grill. Duluth Grill's quality food is made even better with a fast and friendly staff who on top of their game.
Runner Up: Va Bene

Best Kept Secret

Spirit Room
Chances are if you drive over the Blatnik Bridge every day to come to or from Superior, you've passed the Spirit Room many times and don't even know it. It is located at the corner of Hammond and Broadway right above Red Mug coffee shop. It's a unique location. The building is the Old Superior City Hall that goes back to 1890. The name "Spirit Room" refers both to the full selection of liquor and beers the bar and restaurant has, but it also hints at the past of the building and the spirits that perhaps reside there due to its long history. This is not the only way Spirit Room is unique. It is also the area's only Tapas Bar. "Tapas are small plated exquisite appetizers designed to encourage social dining,” states the restaurant's website. It's definitely an establishment worth checking out.
Runner up(s): Eddies Ribs in Superior and Trapper Pete's Steakhouse in Cloquet ended up in a tie.

Worst of the Northland

Worst Politician

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
He attacks the work force, he's signed bills to take over women's bodies, he's tied into out of state interests that have massive amounts of money, he wants strip mining right above Native American territories where the run off will leak into streams and straight into Lake Superior, what's really not to love about Scott Walker? The land of beer, cheese and Harleys should be awesome right? It's hard to tell how a state that's had politicians like Russ Feingold came up with the likes of Walker, but despite a recall election, he's still going at it. Recently the Celtic punk group, Dropkick Murphys got upset with Walker using their song, "I'm Shipping Up to Boston." They responded by saying "we literally hate you." The band had actually released a song called, "Take 'Em Down," which was released in support of Wisconsin workers who were upset that Walker had taken away their bargaining rights. The band has essentially been against the ideologies Walker is for since they formed in 1996.
Runner up: Becky Hall

Worst TV Personality

Barbara Reyelts (KBJR)
Come on guys…every year with the Barbara bashing. Wouldn't it be fun to rip on someone else one of these years?

Worst Local Radio Personality

Chris Zooch (NU 92.1)
Apparently Zooch who used to run the Afternoon Trainwreck isn't to some your liking. He now hosts mornings for NU 92.1, joining current morning show host, Karina Bite. Is it the fact that in his bio he openly says that he likes the Gophers more than the Bulldogs? Red Rock Radio President said, "Chris and Karina seemed like a natural fit and together will provide a new experience for the listener." Apparently some of you think that experience sucks or you're just grumpy in the mornings and need to change the channel.

Most Obnoxious Local TV Commercial

Club Saratoga
Well, we'll say these commercials are somewhat unique since there aren't a whole lot of commercials for strip clubs. "Where all the action is the distraction," is the catch line on these somewhat seedy commercials. All the guys in the commercials look like someone's dad, the lighting seems cheesy, they're promoting an all nude strip club. We're guessing these are a few reasons some of you find these commercials obnoxious.

Bad Cop

Superior Police Officer George Gothner
Over a year ago Superior Police Officer George Gothner responded to assist his fellow officers with a disturbance between a few people at Keyport Liquor. He shows up as two men are being led away in handcuffs. A black female, Natasha Lancour, appears to be upset but is not really creating any kind of danger or major interference in the situation. Gothner thought otherwise and dragged her by her hair, slammed her face first into the hood of his car and gives her an open handed slap. It's only then that Lancour reaches up defensively to what a Bayfield County District Attorney to not be assault. Things were just starting. Gothner gives Lancour several closed fist punches and takes her to the ground, which was also not assault according to a DA. What was assault was that one moment where Lancour reached up to defend herself. The charge was eventually dropped against her, but not before a court battle. Gothner did not get in trouble for beating Lancour repeatedly in the face, but did face 10 hours of unpaid suspension for some of the language he used against her. Examples like this don't help the feeling that society is starting to get. The feeling that the police can do anything they want to people and get away with it.

Worst Government Boondoggle

Red Plan
The Red Plan has been on top of this category ever since its introduction. It's been heavily debated and is still pissing you off.

Worst Public Restroom

Third Base-Superior
We noticed that there were a fair amount of votes for "Best Bartender" for a couple of Third Base bartenders. If Third Base truly has the worst bathroom, we'd suggest buying a bunch of drinks from their awesome bartenders until it really doesn't matter what the bathroom is like.

Most Annoying Survey

Political Ones
We thought everyone loved getting asked in depth questions of how they lean politically.


The End


What’s with the Editor’s Choice awards?

We’re glad you asked. This year we’re introducing an additional category of Best of the Northland awards. There are certain circumstances and events that nearly beg to be included. In the “good old days”, we generally would let the moment pass, as it would mean taking out an established category that many of you love, merely to focus on the ball slasher, the guy from Superior who had sex with the deer carcass, or Scott Walker.
By introducing the Editor’s Choice, we can touch on timely topics that are unlikely to be relevant in future years or ahemmm…or to redress categories which we might have neglected to include due to lack of space in the print edition of the survey.

Best Green Business
Last years winner of the best green business Duluth Grill  successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign whereby a small orchard was planted in their back parking lot.  We encourage you to watch the short film interviewing owner  Tom Hanson and Head Gardener Francois Medion which explains how the orchard will help not only provide food but help filter runoff from all the surrounding parking lots. Beekeeping on the roof to veggies grown ino local compost Duluth Grill handily won Best Green Business. PS 28% of their annual expenditures are for food from local farmers and businesses. In case you don’t follow such things, that is a virtually unheard of level of support for local suppliers.

Best Medieval Dungeon
The Rathskeller, in the sub-sub basement of the Tycoons Ale House. Formerly the coal cellar of the then Duluth City Hall,the atmosphere is a magnificent throwback to the bad old days. One might well expect to find a torture rack or guillotine, but instead the unsuspecting visitor is treated to a variety of Fitgers Brewhouse beer. Beyond that their brewmaster imports rare kegs of exotic beer, often unavailable anywhere else in the Midwest.

Best Visual Artist
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Paul Whyte

A South Shore native and University of Wisconsin-Superior journalism graduate. Lifelong musician, and former open mic host. Passionate about the music scene and politics.

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