2011 Best of Grants Pass

I had to go through last year’s issues of the Sneak Preview to see exactly what happened in the placid, little town of Grants Pass.

The election in November produced a new County Commissioner (Simon Hare) and retained the incumbent sheriff (Gil Gilbertson). Since then, County Commissioner Dwight Ellis resigned to find a more placid (there’s that word again) lifestyle, leaving the remaining two commissioners (Hare and Sandi Cassanelli) to find a replacement. When that ended up in useless bickering, Ellis has again ridden to the rescue and agreed to take part in the process.

In February, the City Council voted to allow a cell tower in a residential neighborhood, forcing the Peaceful Pink People to appeal to the State.

In March the State Elections Division upheld a decision that City Manager Laurel Samson violated some “rules” during the 2009 public safety election. The headline of my story was “much ado about nothing,” and I stand by that opinion.

In May the City astounded everyone with a proposal for a sales tax in Grants Pass. Yeah, good luck on that one. And in June, we wrote about possible contaminants in the Rogue River due to the removal of Gold Ray Dam.

All in all, a fairly exciting year. No earthquakes or tsunamis … just your run-of-the-mill craziness in Josephine County. Which is why I want everyone to relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy this 25th running of the “Best of the Rogue Valley.”

We received 318 ballots this year, and we want to thank everyone for taking the time fill them out. Granted, this type of survey is not totally accurate and is subject to a certain amount of ballot stuffing, but all of that is taken into consideration by our team of professional ballot counters. The results are as close to reality as we can get in an imperfect world, and they also achieve an important goal—recognizing and naming as many individuals, businesses and organizations in the community as we can. And that’s a good thing.

But enough of the rhetoric and on with the show … the 2011 “Best of the Rogue Valley.”

DEMOGRAPHICS

We asked the question, “Ducks, Beavers or Others,” figuring it would provide some kind of hint as to what kind of people answered this survey. The results were 54% Ducks, 29% Beavers, and 17% “Others,” with the Raiders gaining the most “other” votes.

MEDIA

FAVORITE RADIO STATION

Marconi didn’t know the can of worms he was opening when he postulated the possibility of sending signals by radio telegraphy. Little could he know that the invention would make millions of dollars for professional haranguers like Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh.
Here in the Rogue Valley, we keep our haranguing on the radio to a minimum, which is why our readers once again gave their voice of approval to KAJO and KLDR, owned and operated by the Wilson family. They were awarded 37% of the votes, with Jefferson Public Radio coming in third with 19%.
Other favorites included:

  • KBOY: 9%
  • KDOV: 6%
  • KRWQ: 6%
  • KISS-FM: 5%
  • KRRM: 4%
  • 102.7 “The Drive”: 4%
  • KROG: 3%
  • KZZE: 2%
  • KCNA: 2%
  • All others: 3%

FAVORITE DJ

There’s a conspiracy theory going around that when the aliens landed at Roswell, N.M., in 1947, they inserted their brains into radio disc jockeys around the world, spreading their message of rock ‘n’ roll, which was invented on their home planet. More on this theory later.
One deejay able to thwart the advances of the alien takeover was KAJOs Carl Wilson, who has won this event five times in the last 25 years. There ain’t an alien alive that would dare mess with ol’ Carl. We don’t call him “the Rock” for nothing … so thanks for saving humanity, dude.
Other deejay stalwarts featured:

  • Jeanette Stark of KLDR.
  • Don Matthews of JPR.
  • Jason Allen of KRWQ.
  • Cassie Callas of KLDR.
  • Gemineye at KISS-FM.

BEST LOCAL TV NEWS STATION

Okay, how many people saw me interviewed on Channel 10 while spending a day at Grants Pass Downs in June? The reporter even zoomed in on my stat sheet where it showed me winning $1.75 for the day. Last of the big-time spenders, I’ll tell ya.
Once again this category was a runaway as NewsWatch 12 (KDRV) continues to impress viewers with their coverage of the news.
KOBI/Channel 5 and KTVL (Channel 10) also received their fair share of votes.

FAVORITE TV SPORTS REPORTER

The local guys don’t get to cover the perp walks of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, but they’re on the scene when our local high school teams make a run for the state championship. And seriously, isn’t that more interesting, anyway?
Topping the list for 2011 was Joe Camarlinghi of KOBI, who’s been with Channel 5 since 2007.
Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Chris Leone of KDRV.
  • Chris Breece, who does weekend sports for KDRV.

FAVORITE REPORTER AT THE DAILY COURIER

According to Wikipedia, the local daily started in 1885 as the Grant’s Pass Courier, then became the Rogue River Courier from 1886 until 1919. It was changed to its current nomenclature “to avoid confusion after the town of Woodville changed its name to Rogue River.”
Today, it is the second oldest, continuously running newspaper in the entire state of Oregon, and our readers appreciate their efforts, naming quite a few reporters. Topping the list was Zach Urness, a sports reporter who also writes “Zach’s Adventures,” taking readers to outdoor destinations in Southern Oregon and Northern California.
Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Natural resources reporter Jeff Duewel.
  • City editor Kevin Widdison.
  • County reporter Stacy Stumbo.
  • Entertainment editor Edith Decker.
  • Police/courts reporter Shaun Hall.
  • City reporter Jim Moore.
  • Lifelines reporter Kathleen Alaks.
  • News editor Patricia Snyder.

BEST ADS IN THE SNEAK PREVIEW

Whenever we ask the question “Favorite part of the Sneak Preview?” there are “x” number of people who invariably answer, “The ads.” So here’s your chance to single out your favorites for recognition. While the overwhelming choice was “coupon ads for restaurants,” we were actually looking for something a little more specific.
Taking down top honors in this category was the back page ad for Roe Motors, written by Ross Roe and laid out by yours truly. Ross and I have been collaborating on that back page spread for the last 24 years, and I suppose I should buy him lunch one day.
Also receiving their fair share of votes were:

  • The ads for Martin Printing.
  • Club Northwest ads.
  • The Barnstormers’ ads.
  • The ads for Wildlife Images.
  • The Evergreen Federal ad with the bear on a motorcycle.
  • The Kitchen Company ads.

PEOPLE/BUSINESS

BEST NEW BUSINESS IN TOWN (LAST YEAR)

Anyone who opens a new business in this economy is a true hero and an eternal optimist. But seriously, the only reason we’re in this economic mess is that we all got a little greedy back during the housing bubble, and the house of cards came tumbling down. We just got to hang in there and support each other.
Anyway, winning this category for 2011 was Sleadd’s Adventure Depot, a “toy and hobby shop” at 420 SW 6th where you can find slot cars, train sets, remote-control helicopters, nerf guns, Lego sets and more.
Five different restaurants were also mentioned, which included:

  • Black Bear Diner.
  • Hannah’s Restaurant.
  • Yogurt Hut.
  • Chik-n-Ribs.
  • Pita Pit.

MOST COMMUNITY-INVOLVED BUSINESSPERSON

This was an interesting category, as Grants Pass is home to an extraordinary number of businesspeople who devote themselves to the betterment of this community. Two of those are Cliff Bennett and his son Travis who get up every morning at 5:00 to water and plant fifty flower baskets scattered throughout downtown Grants Pass. The Bennetts have provided this beautification program to local residents for the last ten years and should be honored for it.
Others included:

  • Brady Adams of Evergreen Federal.
  • Ross Roe and Steve Roe at Roe Motors GM.
  • Dave Thomason of Taprock and Elmer’s.
  • Giff Gates of Gates Furniture.
  • Rick Chapman of Plaza Sewing.

FAVORITE HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER (GRANTS PASS)

Your time in high school only lasts four years but for many it’s a defining moment in their career as a human being. Why else would high school reunions be so popular?
By definition, we all probably exhibited a certain amount of adolescent behavior at that time, and we should thank our teachers for putting up with us. At GPHS, that list would include Marty Zottola, who teaches Advanced Humanities, college writing and English.
Also high on the list were:

  • Teri Houghton, English.
  • Kate Skudstad, Theater.
  • Shaun Gross, Math.
  • Bob Gulden, English and Journalism.
  • Andy Frye, History.

FAVORITE HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER (JOSEPHINE COUNTY)

On the county side of the high school ledger, our readers most often named Sherry Zottola, a language arts and drama teacher at Hidden Valley, followed by:

  • Greg Patch, science at North Valley.
  • James Speelman, agriculture at HVHS.
  • Robert Jackson, PE/Heath at Hidden Valley.
  • Stuart Burgess, social studies, HVHS.

FAVORITE LOCAL SPORTS COACH

Whether they win the state championship or come in last in their league is irrelevant to the real task: teaching kids to play together as a team and exhibit good sportsmanship. And in that regard our readers named Marlo Manzanares, the swimming coach at GPHS, as number one.
The list also featured:

  • John Musser, GPHS football.
  • Christy Pitts, GPHS Royalettes.
  • Todd Willaman, North Valley football coach.
  • Bill Cowell, GPHS basketball.
  • Frank Pagni, GPHS bowling.

FAVORITE PRINCIPAL

When the latest natural disaster hits (a plague of locusts, a 9.2 earthquake, etc.), everyone else in school is allowed to go crazy, bemoaning their fate and generally acting like a human. The principal, however, has got to keep it together and be totally in charge, instilling confidence, directing traffic, and laying down the rules.
Who to turn to when disaster strikes? Our readers most often mentioned Ernie Baldwin, principal of Grants Pass High School, followed by:

  • Ryan Thompson, Allendale Elementary.
  • George Personius, Highland.
  • Dennis Misner, Hidden Valley High School.
  • René Cardiff, South Middle School.
  • Jessica Durant, Manzanita Elementary.

FAVORITE INSTRUCTOR AT RCC

 Rogue Community College could easily be the best value for higher education in the entire state. With two campuses in Grants Pass and Medford, and a partnership with Southern Oregon University, not to mention a dedicated faculty, you can’t ask for much more.
And when it comes to dedicated faculty, our readers named quite a few, including this year’s winner Lutz Kramer, a Humanities instructor who also won this award back in 1993.
Others landing near the top were:

  • Bobbi Kidder in theater.
  • Midge Shaw in the Tutoring Center.
  • Pete Ridgeway in the Automotive Department.
  • Kate Campbell in music.
  • John Salinas, science.

CUTEST BABY BORN IN LAST YEAR

We received an extraordinary number of submissions for this category, and in the end our team of pediatric professionals chose Calum Yarrish as number one. See all their photos on the front page for the complete list.

FAVORITE DENTIST

They greet you in the mirror every morning with a beautiful smile, and three times a day they take complete responsibility for making sure your food is properly chewed. So, hey, show ‘em a little respect and visit your dentist.
All of the local dentists were mentioned by our readers at least once in this category, with the final nod going to Greg Bigelow, who is a 4-time winner of this event, dating back to 1988.
It was a tough battle for the top, and the Top Five were:

  • Steven Rogers.
  • Richard Miller.
  • Matt Johnston.
  • Mart Erickson.
  • Also mentioned a lot were:
  • Tyler Wright.
  • Tim Dwyer.
  • Peter Pastrell.
  • Dan GaRey.
  • Sara Riechers.

FAVORITE DOCTOR

You could have all the money in the world, live in a beautiful mansion, own expensive cars, and have your own private golf course in the backyard, but if you ain’t feeling well, it’s all for naught. You might as well be holed up in a compound in Pakistan, hiding from Navy Seals.
Visiting your family doctor and learning how to stay healthy is extremely important. Thirty-two different doctors were mentioned by our readers, with number one going to Dan Gleffe, a family practitioner who graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1984.
Others high on the list were:

  • Steve Marshak, pediatrician.
  • Tamara Medley at the Women’s Health Center.
  • Heather Kahn, family practitioner.
  • Lorene Hamilton, M.D.
  • Derrick Sorweide, D.O.
  • Bernie Hill, M.D.
  • Edmund Glovinsky, D.O.
  • Felicia Cohen, OB/GYN.

FAVORITE OPTOMETRIST/OPTICIAN

Your eyes are basically an extension of your brain, so it semi-behooves you to treat them right. Not staring into the sun right before a solar eclipse should be at the top of the list, and visiting an eye doctor or optometrist every year or two would be a close second.
Who to see (no pun intended)? Our readers most often mentioned Michael W. Schwartz, O.D., although the battle at the top was an eye-opener. They included:

  • Mark Maffett, M.D., P.C., of Cascade EyeCare Center.
  • Scott Walters, O.D., of the Eye Care Group.
  • Dennis Kantor, O.D., of Exclusive Eyewear.
  • Russell Leavitt, M.D., P.C., of Cascade.
  • Kenji Hamada, O.D.

FAVORITE NATUROPATHIC DOCTOR/ACUPUNCTURIST

Surgery and a lifelong addiction to pharmaceutical drugs are not always the best solution to perfect health. Sometimes it just comes down to nutrition and lifestyle, with an emphasis on preventive medicine. And when our readers want to learn more about naturopathic medicine, they most often turned to Ellen Heinitz of the Naturopathic Medical Clinic, followed by:

  • Kristin Plunkett.
  • Stephanie Hansen Love.
  • Acupuncture is another alternative to relieving symptoms and maintaining health. Our readers were most impressed with the work of Greg Doss of the Acupuncture and Herbal Medical Center and Janet Moret of River of Wellness. Also mentioned a lot were:
  • Ráven Sárá of the Acupuncture & Herb Clinic.
  • Deborah Lang of River of Wellness.
  • Lisa Berger of Shen Ming.
  • Ellen Leonard of Acupuncture at Riverside.
  • Paula Edwards at the Naturopathic Medical Clinic.
  • Kim Bibeau of Kaizen Healing Arts.

FAVORITE MASSAGE THERAPIST

You just spent the entire afternoon helping your buddy Sisyphus try to roll an immense boulder up a hill, and the damn thing kept rolling back just as you got to the top. Being a former king, he tried to blame it all on you. By the end of the day, every muscle in your body ached, and the only cure was a visit to your favorite massage therapist.
Our readers were able to name quite a few, including the number one choice, Sabina Hillman, of Body Evolution Massage, followed by:

  • Charlotte Sperisen.
  • Jocelyn Vodovoz.
  • Sheri Vorberg.
  • Cara Brown.
  • Suzanne Rosa of Cloud 9 Massage.

FAVORITE HAIR STYLIST

Out of the blue, Hollywood called and asked you to emcee the Oscar awards next year, and you’re already freaking out about your hairdo. Forget the fact that millions of people, not to mention George Clooney, will be listening to your introductions and one-liners … what’s most important is that you look good.
Where to go when the Academy calls for you? In this popular category, 38 different hair stylists were named, so the competition was tough. It also turned out to be extremely close, so the award goes to the Top Three: Linda Whalen of Action Hair Designs; Kari Heglin of Shear Pleasure; and Carrol Oyler of  Carrol’s Image Connection.
The Top Ten featured:

  • Gary Poulton.
  • Traci Brown of Personal Touch.
  • Jackie Simonsen of Spa at Club Northwest.
  • Peggy Hayes of Cinderella Beauty Salon.
  • Kelly Horban of Endulgence.
  • Holly Riley.
  • Richard Elling of Park Avenue Salon.

BEST PLACE TO GET FACIALS/SKIN CARE TREATMENT

In this helter skelter world of tsunamis, Navy Seal attacks, phone hacking in Britain, and bad reality TV shows, you need a little pampering. Nothing says it quite like a facial, where you just lie back and have your face transformed in a tranquil atmosphere of total serenity. (I missed my calling; I should write ad copy for Vanity Fair.)
Anyway, who are our readers most impressed with when it comes to facials? The majority said The Spa at Club Northwest, although quite a few were mentioned, including:

  • AesthetiSpa.
  • La Bella Faccia.
  • Ambiance.
  • En Vogue.
  • Skin Rejuvenation.
  • Avenue Salon.

BEST AUTO REPAIR SHOP

The first car I ever bought was a ’49 Packard in Yellowstone Park the summer of 1969. Four of us chipped in on it, and while driving it home from St. Anthony, Idaho, it broke down on us. Turned out it was unfixable, and the guy gave us half our money back. Doesn’t seem right, does it?
Where would our readers recommend we go if the same thing happened today? Many of the local repair shops were mentioned, with Tom’s Auto Service getting the number one nod. It was extremely close at the top, however, and the Top Five were:

  • Extreme Auto Repair.
  • Huck’s Garage.
  • Star Automotive.
  • Towne Center Auto Repair.
  • Others high on the list were:
  • Bridge Street Auto Repair.
  • Roe Motors GM.
  • Auto Smith.
  • Jim Sigel Chevrolet.
  • Mock’s Ford.
  • Henderson’s.

FAVORITE AUTO BODY SHOP

In 1985 I finally bought my first new car, and two months later an idiot dinged it in a parking lot. I went and had the door repainted, but the color didn’t match. I had to endure a mis-matched door for the next eight years because I was too cheap to have it done right.
Where to go in order to do that? This one ended up in a tie between Apland’s Auto Body (2163 Spaulding) and DJ’s Bump & Paint at 3235 SW G, followed by:

  • Ham’s Auto Body.
  • Mock Ford.
  • Roe Motors GM.
  • Valles Auto Body.

FAVORITE CAR SALESMAN

I still remember the scene in Breaking Away, where the teenage son is helping his car salesman dad at the lot and tells an unsatisfied customer he can have a refund. “REFUND!” the dad screams, then has a heart attack and is taken to the hospital.
Things aren’t nearly that drastic here in the Rogue Valley, and our readers appreciate all the hard work that car salesmen put in. Topping the list for 2011 was Kevin Newins of Wheeler Toyota.
The Top Five included:

  • Fred Shepherd at Roe Motors.
  • Lon McKellar of Quality Cars.
  • Mike Reese of Glenn Reese Auto Sales North.
  • Scott Gigstad at Mock’s Ford.
  • Joe Bouquet at Roe Motors.

FAVORITE CPA/ACCOUNTANT

Have you ever seen a college textbook on Accounting? It’s about as thick as a New York City phonebook and details all the mistakes people can make when they try to do their taxes and bookkeeping by themselves.
Where to go if you flunked Accounting 101? This one ended in a tie between Ken Behymer (237 SE J) and Cynthia Harelson (318 NW A), followed by:

  • Randy Jentzsch.
  • Bobbie Winters.
  • David Raskin.
  • Kathleen Kelly.

FAVORITE ATTORNEY

Okay, did you hear about the new sushi bar that caters exclusively to lawyers? It’s called “Sosumi.” Or did you hear about the terrorists who took a whole courtroom full of lawyers hostage? The threatened to release one every hour until their demands were met.
Seriously, though, we love our attorneys, especially when they’re there to bail us out of bad situations. The lawyer jokes always refer to the other guy’s lawyer.
Twenty-five different attorneys were mentioned in this survey, with the top spot going to Richard Lane, followed by:

  • Ben Freudenberg.
  • Chris Mecca.
  • Pat Kelly.
  • Dennis James.
  • Matt Galli.
  • Dan Simcoe.
  • Bill Ransom.
  • Jason Hayward.

FAVORITE POLICEPERSON

We live in a society full of rules, and the only way to ensure the success of such a system is to have a dedicated group of people to enforce them. The best police officers, though, are ones who realize that “the law” should never trump “the people,” and that every situation needs to be approached with some flexibility. That’s my soapbox for the day.
This is always a popular category with our readers, and 21 different police officers were mentioned, including this year’s winner, Officer Pete Jenista of Grants Pass Public Safety. Others mentioned a lot were:

  • GP Officer Mike Miner.
  • Sheriff Gil Gilbertson.
  • GP Officer Kevin Blaich.
  • GP Community Service Officer Lyle Brown.
  • Jo Co Officer Ernie Fields.
  • GP Officer Scott Hyde.
  • K-9 officer Jeff Gaunt.

FAVORITE MUSIC INSTRUCTOR

From the mating calls of crickets to the piano concertos of Chopin, music has been soothing souls since the beginning of time. Where to go when you want to join the music? Our readers were most often impressed with the work of Laura Boldon, who is the Orchestra Music Director at Grants Pass High School.
Also receiving lots of votes were:

  • Paul Hendershott, guitar.
  • Joann Pilcher.
  • Larry Cavalier.

FAVORITE DANCE INSTRUCTOR

In lieu of dancing the Hayden Tango my entire life, I’m tempted to take at least one dance lesson to learn some basic steps. Dance, however, comes in all sizes and shapes, and our readers were most impressed with the work of Penny King at Stillpoint Dance Studio.
Filling out the list were:

  • Kristen de Bellis of All That Jazz.
  • Nancy Gordon.
  • Lori Cangilose.
  • Chris, a Zumba teacher at Curves.

FAVORITE LOCAL RESTAURANT OWNER

Grants Pass has had a renaissance in restaurants over the last ten years, and we can thank a strong cadre of dedicated restaurant owners for that. Fifteen different people were mentioned in this category, with the top spot going to Tim and Sandra Mock at Aja (which is now located at 2030 NW Vine) and Cucina Mista (where Aja used to be at 118 NW E).
Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Bob and Darla Feil at Train Depot.
  • Gwen and Tawni Hendricks of The Vine.
  • Dave Thomason of Taprock and Elmer’s.
  • Chris Parker at Herb’s LaCasita.
  • Keturah Alger at Laughing Clam.
  • Bret Musselman of 115 Broiler.
  • Stephanie Jones of Circle J.

FAVORITE WAITPERSON

They say that ocean fishermen, loggers, aircraft pilots, ranchers and roofers have the five most dangerous jobs in the world, but those guys wouldn’t last a week as a waitperson. They’d buckle under the pressure and would go back to their day jobs.
This is another popular category, as our readers mentioned 25 different waitstaff as their favorite. Taking down the top nod was Debbie Kelly at Herb’s LaCasita, followed by:

  • Melissa Carnes at Train Depot.
  • Marci Fenton at The Vine.
  • Dotti Kochis at 115 Broiler.
  • Debbie Hamblin at the Powderhorn.
  • Karen Brown at Elmer’s.
  • Shelly Chapman at the Mediterranean Bar & Grill.
  • Joe Gomez of G Street Bar & Grill.

FAVORITE BARTENDER

So a hotdog walks into a bar and orders a beer. The bartender replies, “Sorry, we don’t serve food here.” Or … a gorilla walks into a bar and orders a beer. The bartender gives him a mug and says, “That’ll be five bucks.” As the gorilla reaches for his pocket the bartender says, “You know, we don’t get many gorilla customers in here.” The gorilla shrugged and replied, “At five bucks a beer, it’s no wonder.”
Where do our readers go when they want to hear great jokes like that? The competition was intense, but in the end Marty Thomas of Blondie’s pulled out the win.
Other popular bartenders are:

  • Willie Evans of the Wonder Bur.
  • Kari Musselman of 115 Broiler.
  • Bob Lewis of The Cedarwood.

FAVORITE CHEF

They rarely make an appearance except at the end of the night when the customers gives them a standing ovation, but it’s the chef in the kitchen that makes or breaks a restaurant. Quite a few were mentioned by our readers, and the top nod goes to both Justin Gibson of 115 Broiler and Dennis Hanson of Taprock Northwest Grill.
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Sandy Mock at Aja.
  • Gordon Pitts at The Vine.
  • Bruno Jappert of Morrison’s Lodge.

CUTEST PET

It was a tough decision this year, but Bonnie (the dog) and Cosette (the cat), belonging to the Drevets family,  were named “cutest pets” by our expert panel of judges, followed by:

  • Turbo the dog.
  • Fluffy the dog.
  • Hunter the cat.
  • Stevie the cat.
  • Bly the dog.

FAVORITE NUTRITION COUNSELOR

Staying healthy, or even recovering from an illness, can be as simple as eating the right things. Where do our readers recommend we go to get the right advice? Number one on their list was Danielle Wirkkala of “the new well,” a weight loss and wellness center at Club Northwest.
Also receiving their fair share of votes as “Favorite Nutrition Counselor” were:

  • Rob Pell at Sunshine Natural Foods.
  • Ray Spencer at The Herb Shop.
  • Diane Seehawer.
  • Cynthia O’Dell.

FAVORITE LANDSCAPER/GARDENER

Getting your yard and garden looking good may require a little bit of work, but at the end of the day it’s all worth it. Living in a beautiful surrounding can work wonders for your soul.
And when our readers want some uplifting work done in their yard, they most often turned to Jack Sutters of All American City Landscaping, followed by:

  • René Paré of Mountain View Landscaping.
  • Randy Furtado.
  • Grow’s Landscape Maintenance.
  • Ted Smith of Fall River Landscaping.

FAVORITE CARPET CLEANERS

Your daughter gave you a puppy for Christmas, and it took over two months to train the darling little animal not to do its thing on the carpet. Now that he knows to scratch at the door when nature calls, who do you call to have the carpets cleaned? Taking down the number one spot in the category was Al’s Carpet Cleaning & Restoration.
They were followed closely in the balloting by:

  • Kleen-Masters.
  • K&L Chem Dry.
  • All Pro Carpet Cleaning.
  • Stanley Steemer.
  • American Carpet Cleaning.

FAVORITE HOUSE CLEANERS

Yeah, that party you threw at the house for all your buddies from work was fun, but now you have to get the house clean before your significant other gets back from that seminar. Who to call? Our readers were able to name a few, including the number one choice, Peggy Best of Helping Hands.
Others on the list included:

  • Miracle Workers.
  • The Cleaning Crew.
  • Molly’s Cleaning Service.
  • Southern Oregon Cleaning Services.

FAVORITE STORE DOWNTOWN

There’s talk of creating a “plaza” in downtown Grants Pass, and while it sounds like a good idea, I’m not sure of the logistics. Where would they place it? G Street would be the most obvious choice since that is the historic “downtown,” but how would it work? This may require a little more thought.
In the meantime, our readers mentioned 27 stores downtown that they thought were doing a good job. Winning this category again was The Kitchen Company, which recently moved across the street to 301 SE 6th.
The Top Ten were:

  • Never a Bum Steer.
  • Grants Pass Pharmacy.
  • Gates Furniture.
  • Shop River Rock.
  • Listen Here Music.
  • Primrose Lane.
  • Blind George’s.
  • La Bella Casa.
  • Tierra del Sol.
  • Savannah Faire.

FAVORITE STORE OUTSIDE DOWNTOWN

Okay, Fred Meyer’s, Wal-Mart and Bi-Mart all got their share of votes, but we were looking for the smaller, more intimate stores that reflect the community. Winning that category was Emilia’s Closet, located at 1545 NE F in Parkway Village.
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Rogue River Florist.
  • The Dollar Store.
  • Bath Thyme.
  • Fashion Bug.
  • Judy’s Florist & Gifts.
  • Dan’l Boone’s Trading Post.
  • Jan’s Hallmark Store.
  • Probst Flower Shop.
  • JC Penney’s.
  • Roley’s Pacific Supply.

GIFT STORE WITH MOST UNIQUE GIFTS

Variety is the spice of life, and when our readers want to find a lot of different, interesting gifts, they once again turned their attention to the selection at Hellgate’s River Rock Gift Shop, located at 966 SW 6th Street.
The list also included:

  • Never a Bum Steer.
  • Savannah Faire.
  • Jan’s Hallmark.
  • Real Deals.
  • Elegance.
  • Tierra del Sol.
  • Grants Pass Pharmacy.
  • Oregon Store.

BEST STORE TO SHOP FOR MOTHER’S DAY

If it’s something you want to buy for Mom, our readers most often turned to both The Kitchen Company and Grants Pass Pharmacy, with River Rock and Savannah Faire not far behind.

TOY STORE WITH MOST UNIQUE GIFTS

While toys are a great way to keep kids occupied, they’re also meant to help teach them how the world works. From Legos to Barbie dolls, they’re a microcosm of the real world.
While a lot of readers mentioned Wal-Mart and Toys R Us in the survey, the most support was shown for Cat & the Fiddle, located at the corner of 5th and G, and Sleadd’s Adventure Depot at 420 SW 6th,

BEST PLACE TO BUY FURNITURE FOR YARD/GARDEN

An ideal yard/garden would be an extension of the house, complete with chairs, tables, pottery, statuaries, the works. Where to go when you want to properly outfit that extra “room?” Many people picked Fred Meyer’s in this category, followed by:

  • Diamond Home Improvement.
  • Chet’s Garden Center.
  • Gates Furniture.
  • Wal-Mart.
  • Chris Hart Studio.
  • Redwood Nursery.

BEST PLACE TO BUY FLAT SCREEN TVs

Those big, ol’ hunker TV sets may be a thing of the past. We just bought a flat screen TV, and I carried it with one hand. To replace the old one required two people to safely lift it. Technology is a wonderful thing, especially on backs.
Anyway, the votes were spread out fairly evenly on this category between four different stores:

  • Wal-Mart.
  • Photo Den.
  • Fred Meyer’s.
  • CostCo.

BEST PLACE TO BUY STUFF FOR SWIMMING POOL/SPA

Ah, nothing like jumping in the pool on a hot summer day … and relaxing in the spa late at night to soothe those aching bones. And when our readers wanted to make sure the pool/spa were in tip-top shape, they chose the friendly confines of both Jerry’s Pool/Spa (555 NE F) and Paradise Pool & Spa Supplies at 1578 NE 7th.
Others mentioned were:

  • Action Pools & Spas.
  • Wal-Mart.
  • Grants Pass Pool Service & Sales.
  • Fred Meyer’s.

BEST STORAGE UNITS

The ability of the average human being to collect “stuff” knows no bounds. Once the attic, garage, basement and off-shore safe deposit boxes are filled up, we’re forced to turn to storage units. And trust me, it doesn’t take long.
When and if that day happens, our readers had few suggestions, starting with Parkway Mini Storage, a state-of-the-art facility located at 1100 SE Milbank Road.
The list also featured:

  • Lee’s Mini Storage.
  • Mill Street Mini Storage.
  • Booth Street Self Storage.
  • A+ Mini Storage.
  • Foothill Mini Storage.

BEST SELECTION OF WOMEN’S CLOTHES

I really doubt if Lady Gaga is going to talk many women into wearing some of the crazy stuff she comes up with, like a dress with Christmas tree bulbs flashing all around it. Fashion for most women is just a little more functional than that.
And when it comes to shopping for women’s clothes, our readers named quite a few places, starting with Emilia’s Closet and Fred Meyer’s, and followed by:

  • JC Penney’s.
  • Fashion Bug.
  • Tierra del sol.
  • Ross Store.
  • Van Olpton’s Boutique.
  • Goodwill Store.

BEST SELECTION OF MEN’S CLOTHES

If there’s a Lady Gaga, where’s Mr. Gaga? And what does he wear, an outfit with the heads of golf clubs glued to it?
Anyway, when it comes to men’s clothes, our readers most often chose Fred Meyer’s, with the rest of the votes spread out evenly between:

  • JC Penney’s.
  • Wal-Mart.
  • Ross Store.
  • Roley’s Pacific Supply.
  • Goodwill.

BEST PLACE TO BUY SHOES

The first time a caveman wrapped a piece of mastodon leather around his feet, a huge technological leap occurred in the history of mankind. Today, we now obsess over our shoes (just ask Imelda Marcos), and luckily our readers can direct you to two stores downtown which are right next to each other: Norris Shoes at 133 SW G, and Never a Bum Steer at 125 SW G.
The list also included:

  • Famous Footwear.
  • Fred Meyer’s.
  • Van Olpton’s.
  • Shoes Right Here.
  • Wal-Mart.

BEST PLACE TO BUY EARRINGS

Jewelry is the spice of life, and earrings are a perfect accent, almost like bookends to the unique human face. And where to go for those perfect bookends? Our readers were able to name 15 different places, starting with Hart Jewelers downtown.
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • King Jewelers.
  • Never a Bum Steer.
  • JC Penny’s.
  • Rue 21.
  • Fashion Bug.
  • Bead Merchant.
  • Shop River Rock.

HARDEST WORKING FLORISTS

When you think about it, every flower we see was once growing wild in the woods and valleys. It is one of mankind’s accomplishments that we have taken the best and brightest from the plant kingdom and turned them into beautiful bouquets.
Showing their appreciation, our readers voted Judy’s Grants Pass Florist & Gifts as their favorite this year. The votes were, however, very close, and they included:

  • Rogue River Florist.
  • Probst Flower Shop.
  • Chet’s Garden & Pet Center.
  • Albertson’s

BEST PLACE TO BUY FLOWERS/SHRUBS FOR THE GARDEN

A garden is not just something beautiful to behold but is home to a myriad of animals, from birds and spiders to ladybugs and butterflies. With a little creativity, you can also keep the “bad” animals out without resorting to a lot of pesticides.
Running away with this category again was Chet’s Garden Center at 229 SW “H” Street, which also offers expert advice and follow-up service.
The list included:

  • Greenleaf Greenhouse.
  • Murphy Country Nursery.
  • The Grange Co-Op.
  • Fred Meyer’s.
  • Redwood Nursery.
  • Diamond Home Improvement.
  • Bi-Mart.
  • Sandy’s Nursery.

BEST PLACE TO GET FAMILY NEWSLETTER PRINTED

Sure, you can just slap something together and have a hundred copies made of your annual family newsletter, but what fun is that? You need a printer who can help you find graphics, maybe assist in laying it out, and then printing it up on full-color glossy paper. Now we’re talkin’!
And in that regard, our readers picked both Martin’s Design & Print Studio (111 SE G) and Ray’s Printshop (405 Union Avenue) as their favorites.
They were followed by:

  • Apple Press.
  • MacGraphically Yours.
  • Logan Design.
  • Staples.

GROCERY STORE WITH FRIENDLIEST CHECKERS

Grocery shopping is actually a social event, as you will regularly run into friends and acquaintances, exchanging hugs and war stories in the aisles. The checkers are like the emcees, keeping everything running smoothly and making sure there are no party crashers.
Who do our readers think have the friendliest checkers? The competition was tough among the top four, with Safeway eking out a win, followed by:

  • Albertson’s.
  • Fred Meyer’s.
  • Ray’s Food Place.
  • Grocery Outlet.
  • Gooseberries.
  • Bridge Street Market.

BEST PLACE TO BUY/RENT SCUBA EQUIPMENT

Put on the scuba equipment and head to the bottom of the ocean, and you are literally in another world. It is almost an out-of-the-body experience, and our readers appreciate the efforts of both Coral Sea Scuba and Sundance Divers, which received all the votes in this category.

BEST PLACE TO BUY “STUFF” FOR THE KITCHEN

Yes, you could sit and watch the Food Channel all day and fantasize about becoming an Iron Chef … or you could just go out and stock your kitchen with all the “stuff” necessary to make that happen. And according to our readers, the best place to start would be The Kitchen Company, located downtown at 212 SW 6th, which overwhelmingly won this event again.
Others on the list were:

  • Wal-Mart.
  • Fred Meyer’s.

BEST PLACE TO BUY HERBS/SUPPLEMENTS

If you want to stay healthy the natural way, I would recommend researching all the available literature for the best combination of herbs and supplements for your particular body type and lifestyle. My favorite is drdavidwilliams.com.
Where to go locally? Most readers mentioned The Herb Shop at the corner of 5th & G, with Sunshine Natural Foods at 128 SW H as their favorites.
Also included were:

  • Farmer’s Market.
  • Fred Meyer’s.
  • the new well.

BEST PLACE TO GET YOUR BOAT SERVICED

Whether out fishing or just relaxing on the lake, your boat can quickly become your best friend. What to do you when your little buddy is ailing? A lot of people called Lewis Enterprises at 214 NE Hillcrest, where Boatnik legend Jeff Lewis runs the show, and Rogue River Boat Shop at 1815 SW Bridge Street.

FAVORITE GAS STATION

It wasn’t shocking to me to learn that the reason for the recent high gas prices is because speculators back in New York have been driving the price up. I mean, these are the same kind of people who caused the housing bubble/crash, and as long as they can make some quick short term profit, they couldn’t care less what happens to the rest of us.
Whew! It was good to get that off my chest. Now I think I’ll go fill up the car. Where would our readers recommend? The top choice this year was the station at Fred Meyer’s, just off the GP Parkway.
The list also featured:

  • Albertson’s.
  • The ARCO Station at 7th & “M.”
  • Larry Henderson’s “A” Street Chevron.
  • Fairgrounds Shell.
  • Lonnie’s Shell.
  • Chevron Station on Redwood Highway.

FAVORITE STORE IN MEDFORD/ASHLAND

Yes, Virginia, sometimes it is good to get out of good ol’ Grants Pass and visit the rest of the world. And when our readers take the precipitous leap of visiting our neighbors to the south, where do they most like to go? For the tenth year in a row, the runaway winner of this event was CostCo, followed by:

  • Macy’s at the Mall.
  • Target.
  • Barnes & Noble in Medford.
  • Lowe’s in Medford.
  • Paddington Station in Ashland.
  • Kohl’s in the Mall.
  • Deja Vu in Ashland.

POLITICS

FAVORITE CITY COUNCILOR

This is always a fun category because at almost every meeting the eight City Councilors stick their necks out and take stands on local issues that they feel are important. Like society at large, there is rarely a unanimous decision, and that is a good thing.
It was also good to see that all eight councilor received votes in this category, and we will list the top four here:

  • Kris Wodburn.
  • Dan DeYoung.
  • Richard Michelon.
  • Rick Riker.

FAVORITE COUNTY COMMISSIONER

Dwight Ellis certainly threw county government a curveball when he decided to announce his early retirement a couple of months ago. Out of fairness, he removed himself from the debate on whom to replace him, but after the other two commissioners, Simon Hare and Sandi Cassanelli, couldn’t agree on a candidate, he volunteered to help out. It only makes sense. Who better to decide what candidate would best represent his views than Ellis himself?
Amazingly, this category ended in an exact tie between Dwight Ellis and Simon Hare. Even more amazing … former commissioner Dave Toler garnered more votes than Sandi Cassanelli.

MOST EFFICIENT CITY OFFICE/DEPARTMENT

Government employees have been taking a beating in the media lately, but seriously, they’re there to do jobs that we hired them for, and they take it very seriously. So cut them some slack!
This year, our readers with most impressed with the efforts of the Grants Pass Public Safety Department, which is responsible for both police and fire. They were followed by:

  • Parks Department.
  • Water Department.
  • Community Development.
  • Administration.

MOST EFFICIENT OFFICE/DEPARTMENT IN COUNTY

On the County side of the ledger, the ballots ended up in a tie between the Sheriff’s Office, which has to operate under a greatly reduced budget, and the County Clerk, which runs the local elections very efficiently.
Others mentioned were:

  • Public Health.
  • Parks Department.
  • Planning.
  • Public Works
  • The Library, which actually is now run by a nonprofit group, was also recognized.

A VERY UNSCIENTIFIC POLITICAL POLL

Ah … my favorite part of the Best of the Rogue Valley. Being a political animal and having worked for a market research company in Denver for 14 years, I always find these answers fascinating. So let’s get it on …

  1. 1. Do you support a specialized sales tax in Grants Pass? This idea was broached by staff last winter after the City Council asked them to find permanent funding for the Department of Public Safety. Unfortunately, it is so riddled with loopholes, restrictions and exceptions that not a whole lot of people took it seriously, our readers included.
    Yes, good idea: 11%
    No, bad idea: 89%

  2. Should the cell tower in northwest Grants Pass have been approved? This also came to the City Council last winter, as AT&T wanted to put a 90-foot cell tower in a field off Hawthorne Street directly across from a residential neighborhood. The local residents naturally complained, but to no avail as the City Council approved the siting. The case is being appealed to LUBA, but apparently not everyone in town agrees with the neighbors.
    Yes, it should have been approved: 61%
    No, it should not have: 39%

  3. Should people who disrupt public meetings be asked to leave? You’d think in a civilized society, this wouldn’t have to be asked, but some people just don’t know how to be civil. I’d name names, but I’m pretty sure you know who you are.
    Yes, they should be asked to leave: 86%
    No, they should not: 14%

  4. Are the County Commissioners doing a good job? There’s a lot of turmoil right now surrounding a replacement for retiring Dwight Ellis, but have the commissioners been generally taking care of business? Our readers had mixed feelings.
    Yes, doing a good job: 52%
    No, they’re not: 48%

Patience is one of those virtues that every loyal reader of the Sneak Preview learns to cultivate at least once a year. It’s been a long five weeks since Part I of the “Best of the Rogue Valley” was published, and we’re glad to report that everyone waited patiently and there were no incidents of rioting or looting in Josephine County (as opposed to what happened when “The Best of London” came out a little late).
But enough of this long-winded introduction. Let’s move onto the real stuff—Part II of the “Best of the Rogue Valley,” featuring restaurants and entertainment. As always, multiple ties will be awarded in any category where the votes had a difference of five or less at the top.

RESTAURANTS

BEST NEW RESTAURANT

As opposed to last year when only three new restaurants popped up in Josephine County, this year there were EIGHT! Who said there was a recession, anyway? I think the media is just making it all up.
Taking down the top spot for 2011 was an exact tie between Hannah’s Restaurant, featuring authentic Southern cooking at the corner of 5th & H; and Black Bear Diner, which opened at 1900 NW 6th Street, right near the Caveman Statue.
Coming in a close third was Chik-n-Rib, located at 407 NE 7th, followed by:

  • Cucina Mista (118 NW E), Sandy and Tim Mock’s Italian Restaurant located where Aja used to be.
  • Papa’s Smokin’ BBQ (1720 Redwood Avenue).
  • Four Seasons at 122 K Street.
  • Pita Pit (330 NE Beacon).
  • Cowboy Camp Café, located at 221 SW G.

BEST PLACE TO MEET FRIENDS FOR BREAKFAST

When you wake up and your stomach is already growling, you know it’s time to have some breakfast. And the best way to drown out the rumblings from down under is good conversation with friends.
Where do our readers go in that regard? This year was a 3-way tie between the Powderhorn Café at 321 NE 6th; Elmer’s Restaurant (175 NE Agness), and Black Bear Diner.
It was a vicious battle for the top, however, and other popular restaurants included:

  • Train Depot, located at 577 NE F.
  • The Gold Miner Restaurant at 786 SE 7th.
  • Taprock Northwest Grill (971 SE 6th).
  • Shari’s, at 190 NE Agness.
  • The Black Forest, at 820 NE E.
  • Tee Time, at 117 SE H.
  • Herb’s LaCasita, at 515 SE Rogue River Highway.
  • Della’s, located at 1802 NW 6th.

BEST PLACE TO MEET FRIENDS FOR LUNCH

This was probably the most popular category in the restaurant section of this survey, as 34 different establishments were named. Lunch apparently is one of those times when we love to socialize (“let’s do lunch,” etc.) and get out of the house.
Topping the list for 2011 was Taprock Northwest Grill at 971 SE 6th, which has attracted quite a loyal lunch following in the last two years.
I’ll admit that the Top Five were very close, and they included:

  • The Train Depot.
  • Circle J Café (located at 241 SW “G).
  • Rosso’s Delicatessen at 225 SE 6th.
  • Wild River Brewing & Pizza Company, at 595 NE “E.”
  • Others featured a lot were:
  • Black Bear Diner.
  • Della’s.
  • Elmer’s.
  • The Powderhorn Café.
  • Laughing Clam, at 121 SE “G.”
  • Mediterranean Bar & Grill at 219 SW G.

BEST STEAK & EGGS

They say you’re supposed to load up on protein at breakfast. If that’s really the case, then steak & eggs is the perfect meal. And in that regard, our readers named both Train Depot and Black Bear Diner as their favorites.
Coming in a close third was Elmer’s, followed by:

  • Herb’s LaCasita.
  • Tee Time.
  • Shari’s.
  • Gold Miner’s Restaurant.
  • Powderhorn Café.

BEST REUBEN SANDWICH

At chef school, they actually give degrees in Reubenology, because this isn’t just any ordinary pastrami sandwich … it’s a Reuben.
Which restaurant went to the top of the class this year with regard to this sandwich? Most of our readers saved their accolades for both 115 Broiler, located at 117 NE D Street; and Circle J Café.
Other top Rueben sandwiches included:

  • Taprock Northwest Grill
  • Rosso’s.
  • Applebee’s.
  • Bluestone Bakery at corner of 6th and D.

FAVORITE DINNERHOUSE

Going out for dinner can be a cause for celebration or for just wanting to get out of the house. Either way, diners in the Rogue Valley have a great selection to choose from. Ending in a tie for first were Aja, at 2030 NW Vine; Taprock Northwest Grill (971 SE 6th); and 115 Broiler, at 115 NW D.
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • The Vine, located at 1610 Allen Creek Road.
  • Summer Jo’s, at 2315 Upper River Road Loop.
  • Laughing Clam.
  • R-Haus, located at 2140 Rogue River Highway.
  • Blondie’s Bistro (226 SW G).
  • Hannah’s Restaurant.

MOST ROMANTIC RESTAURANT FOR LUNCH

When it comes to romantic lunch spots, you don’t need Edith Piaf at the piano singing “La Vie en Rose,” but you do want an ambiance that isn’t all hectic and stressful.
And when it comes to that, our readers named both The Vine (1610 Allen Creek Road) and Summer Jo’s 2315 Upper River Road Loop) as their number one choice.
Blondie’s Bistro, at 226 SW G, was also mentioned a lot, followed by:

  • Taprock Northwest Grill.
  • Rosso’s.
  • Hannah’s.
  • Mediterranean Bar & Grill.

MOST ROMANTIC RESTAURANT FOR DINNER

Sometimes, instead of sitting there and checking out the scores on Sports Center with one eye, you want to gaze lovingly into the eyes of your significant other and talk about important things, like the Yankees/Red Sox series … just kidding.
In this category, our readers named both The Vine and Hannah’s Restaurant as being particularly romantic.

  • The Top Nine were actually pretty close, and they included:
  • Summer Jo’s.
  • 115 Broiler.
  • Taprock Northwest Grill.
  • Aja.
  • R-Haus.
  • Blondie’s.
  • Morrison’s Lodge, located at 8500 Galice Road.

BEST STEAK DINNERS ON MENU

I went on the Internet to check out the leading cattle producers in the world and was shocked to see that India led the way. I always thought cows were sacred in India, and that they could practically get elected president if only they had the right slogan. “Got milk?” would be a good one.
Anyway, when the slogan becomes “Where’s the beef?” our readers once again named 115 Broiler, located at 115 NW D, as their number one choice, followed by:

  • Applebee’s.
  • Blondie’s Bistro.
  • R- Haus.
  • Sizzler.
  • Train Depot.
  • Rogue Riviera (outside Gold Hill).

BEST SEAFOOD DISHES ON MENU

Oceans cover 75% of the world, and it’s almost amazing that humans are notoriously close to depleting some of the fish stock. I mean, a single (or married) cod produces 9 million eggs per spawning season, and we have somehow depleted them. As a species, we border on being idiots.
When it comes to enjoying some great seafood, though, our readers are pretty smart, naming both Aja and the Laughing Clam, at 121 SW G, as their favorites.
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • 115 Broiler.
  • Summer Jo’s.
  • Taprock Northwest Grill.
  • The Vine.
  • Hannah’s.
  • R-Haus.

BEST PASTA DISHES ON MENU

Pasta comes in a variety of different shapes and is basically unleavened dough of wheat, flour, water, and sometimes eggs. Add some meat and sauces to it, and it borders on being a perfect dish.
Where do our readers go to seek perfection? This year they chose the friendly confines of both The Vine, in the Allen Creek Shopping Center; and Cucina Mista at 118 NE D, as their favorites.
Other favorite pasta providers were:

  • The Bistro, at 1214 NW 6th.
  • Rosso’s.
  • Taprock Northwest Grill.
  • The Train Depot.
  • G Street Bar & Grill.
  • 115 Broiler.
  • Applebee’s.
  • Summer Jo’s.

BEST SOUPS AND SALADS

They can either accompany a meal or be a meal unto themselves, so what more could you ask for? Our readers didn’t mess around, as they named Rosso’s Delicatessen at 225 SE 6th as their favorite, followed by:

  • Circle J Café.
  • Train Depot.
  • Blondie’s.
  • Taprock.
  • Summer Jo’s.
  • Shari’s.
  • Elmer’s.
  • Bluestone Bakery.

BEST CHICKEN DISHES ON MENU

My daughter got up this morning and complained that someone ate all the eggs, so I simply went out to the chicken coop and collected four of them. Having chickens comes in handy at times. I also showed the eggs to our dog, Brody, and said, “Some pets pull their weight around this house.” He felt guilty, then went out and retrieved the morning paper for me. Now we’re talkin’, boy!
Where to go when you’re hungry for a really great chicken dish? Topping the charts this year was a tie between Applebee’s and Taprock Northwest Grill.
They were followed by:

  • Rosso’s.
  • Hannah’s.
  • The Vine.
  • Summer Jo’s.
  • Aja.

FAVORITE MEXICAN RESTAURANT

It’s a slice of Mexico City every time you walk into a Mexican restaurant here in the Rogue Valley. Not just the cuisine, but the atmosphere and the staff combine to make it a fun, south-of-the-border experience without the expensive plane ticket.
All of the local Mexican-style establishments were mentioned this year, and winning this category was Casa Amiga, located at 1720 Redwood Avenue.
Coming in a close second was Si Casa Flores at 202 Beacon Drive, with Taqueria Mexico (137 SE H), placing third.
The list also included:

  • El Patron (799 Rogue River Highway).
  • Tacos Locos in the Allen Creek Shopping Center.
  • La Burrita, at 941 SE 7th.
  • El Paraiso, located at 201 E. Park Street.
  • Angela’s Hacienda, which recently reopened at 111 NE Hillcrest.
  • Kalypsso Latin Cuisine, at 775 SE 6th.
  • Las Fajitas, in Parkway Village.

BEST CHILE RELLENOS

This is a dish that originated in the city of Puebla, which is also famous for being the site of the battle on Cinco de Mayo, 1862, when the Mexican army kicked butt on the French. You take a roasted pepper (Poblano, Anaheim, pasilla or jalapeño) and stuff it with all kinds of interesting things, and voilà (excuse my French), the end result is exquisite.
Where to go for great chile rellenos? Our readers most often named Si Casa Flores and Casa Amiga, followed by:

  • Taqueira Mexico.
  • El Paraiso.
  • El Patron.
  • La Burrita.

BEST MARGARITAS

A lot of Mexican bartenders try to take credit for this cocktail, but it probably got its start as the “Daisy” during Prohibition in the U.S. The drink was remade with tequila instead of brandy. Margarita, by the way, is Spanish for the word “daisy.”
Where to go for that perfect daisy? Our readers once again were most impressed with the margaritas at Si Casa Flores, although quite a few people raved about the concoctions at Angela’s Hacienda, which has returned to the scene after a few years off.
Other favorites include:

  • Taqueira Mexico.
  • Casa Amiga.
  • La Burrita.
  • El Paraiso.
  • Las Fajitas.
  • Herb’s LaCasita.

FAVORITE ASIAN RESTAURANT

The first “Asians” crossed over into America about 25,000 years ago via the Bering Strait, setting up their first sushi restaurant at an Eskimo village in Alaska. Since then, the Rogue Valley has seen a proliferation of outstanding Asian restaurants, covering the full spectrum of choices.
Taking down the number one spot this year was the triumvirate of Pongsri’s, a Thai restaurant in its new location at 323 NE E; Hunan Garden, located in the Grants Pass Shopping Center; and Hong Kong, at 820 NW 6th.
Other favorites included:

  • Matsukaze, located at 1675 NE 7th.
  • Thai BBQ at 428 SW 6th.
  • Musashi Sushi Bar & Japanese Cuisine, located at 314 SE H.
  • Royal Barge, at 120 SW H.
  • Sunflower Thai Cuisine (1571 NE 6th).
  • China Buffet, at 144 SE 7th.
  • Four Seasons at 122 SE K.
  • Aja (2030 NW Vine).
  • A Taste of China (211 NE A).
  • China Hut (1434 NW 6th).
  • Shiki Sushi Bar, at 125 SE G.

BEST THAI DISHES

When you break it down into restaurants that cater to Thai cuisine, this ended in a tie between Thai BBQ and Pongsri’s, although I am happy to report that Royal Barge and Sunflower also have a huge cadre of loyal and happy followers.

BEST JAPANESE DISHES

I’m still mad at Japan for beating our women’s soccer team in the World Cup last month, but how can you stay mad at a country that just suffered a devastating earthquake, tsunami, and the breakdown of a nuclear power plant? You can’t, so you go, Japan!
Here in the Rogue Valley, our readers definitely love their Japanese-style restaurants, once again naming Matzukaze as their favorite, followed by:

  • Musashi.
  • Shiki’s.
  • Aja.

FAVORITE ITALIAN RESTAURANT

Poor Italy. It’s one of the most beautiful and fun countries in the world, and they have a president who controls most of the newspapers and TV stations and who messes around with underage girls. I mean, at least Monica was 24-years-old, dude.
We all love our Italian restaurants, however, and in this category our readers named The Vine as their number one favorite. This category was actually very close between the Top Five, which included:

  • The Bistro.
  • Cucina Mista.
  • Rosso’s Delicatessen.
  • Olive Garden in Medford.

BEST SELECTION OF PIZZAS

Watching a video of professional pizza makers is fascinating stuff. They roll the dough around in their hands to make a huge pie, then literally throw it 20 feet in the air, catching it behind their backs, etc.
Here in the Rogue Valley, our pizza guys don’t get that crazy, but they do make some mean pizza. Topping the charts this year was Abby’s Legendary Pizza (in the Williams Plaza and on NE Beacon), although the competition was pretty tough between the top four, which included:

  • Papa Murphy’s (1011 NE 7th and 263 Rogue River Hwy).
  • Wild River Brewing Co., located at 595 NE E.
  • Circle J Café.
  • Others mentioned a lot were:
  • Papa John’s, located at 107 SW 4th.
  • The Bistro.
  • The Vine.
  • Figaro’s.
  • Domino’s.
  • Baldini’s in Merlin.

BEST BUFFET/SALAD BAR

Sometimes looking over a menu can be stressful. The names and descriptions all seem to blend together in your left brain, and what you need is to see what you’re going to be eating. That’s where a buffet and salad bar comes in handy … by going straight to the source.
For our readers, this category once again ended as a tie between J.J. North’s, located at 1150 NE E in the Grants Pass Shopping Center, and Sizzler, at 1871 NE 7th.
Also mentioned a lot were China Buffet and Abby’s Pizza.

BEST VEGETARIAN DISHES

Human beings are natural omnivores, but for a long time the only food items we regularly had access to were vegetables and fruit, so we probably lean toward that orientation (although a balanced diet that includes some carnivorous delights is not a bad thing).
Many restaurants in the Rogue Valley offer vegetarian dishes to complement their omnivorous menu, with Blondie’s Bistro and The Vine receiving a lot of attention from our readers.
Also mentioned were Abu’s Oasis Deli, located at 1330 NW 6th Street; and Sunshine Natural Foods at 128 SW H, followed by:

  • Circle J Café.
  • Thai BBQ.
  • Rosso’s.
  • Pongsri’s.

BEST RESTAURANT TO TAKE THE ENTIRE FAMILY

“Get that ol’ station wagon loaded up, and let’s head out to dinner!” Grandpa said one night after scratching off 300 lottery tickets. “I just won $74, and the treat’s on me.”
Where to go when Grandpa strikes it rich? This one ended up as a tie between Black Bear Diner on the north end, and Wild River on F Street.
The list also included:

  • Taprock Northwest Grill
  • JJ North’s.
  • Sizzler.
  • Elmer’s.
  • Train Depot.
  • Della’s.

BEST BBQ DISHES

I was at a restaurant a few years ago and got to hear an argument about what was better—Texas-style barbecue or North Carolina barbecue. It got pretty heated, and I thought they were going to take it outside, but someone across the room offered to buy them a couple of shots of bourbon if they’d shut up, and they went for it. Then they argued about what was better—Kentucky Bourbon or Tennessee Whiskey. You can’t win!
Our readers certainly appreciate the efforts of our local barbecue providers, reserving their number one choice for Chik-n-Rib, which recently opened at 405 NE 7th. They were followed by:

  • Papa’s Smokehouse on Redwood Avenue.
  • Hannah’s Restaurant.
  • Leo’s BBQ.
  • Train Depot.

RESTAURANT WITH MOST EXOTIC MENU

It’s always fun to step outside the box and create a menu with a little more flair, something that you don’t find everywhere. And in that regard, our readers were most impressed with the selection at Hannah’s Restaurant, with its concentration on authentic Southern cooking; and the Mediterranean Bar & Grill, with offerings from southern Europe.
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Aja’s.
  • Abu’s Oasis Deli.
  • Musashi.
  • Hunan Garden.
  • China Buffet.
  • Kalypsso.
  • Blondie’s.

RESTAURANT WITH BEST DESSERTS

I grew up in a family with nine kids, and we all ate dinner around a huge table. Somehow, my mom always had a dessert ready for us every night, and how she never got nominated for sainthood is beyond me.
Our readers would certainly like to nominate some local restaurants for desserthood, including this year’s winner, the Powderhorn Café at 321 NE 6th, where their award-winning pies are all the rage.
Others high on the list were:

  • Blondie’s Bistro.
  • Black Forest.
  • 115 Broiler.
  • Shari’s.
  • Hannah’s.
  • Chocolate Affair.

BEST PLACE TO BUY PASTRIES

They come in all shapes and sizes, from tarts and cakes to scones and cream puffs, but one thing is for sure … we all love them.
When it comes to finding the perfect pastry, our readers most often turned to the creations at the Fourth Street Deli & Bakery, located at 200 NW 4th Street. They were followed by:

  • Bluestone Bakery and Café.
  • Chocolate Affair.
  • Shari’s.
  • The Donut Shop.
  • Saturday Grower’s Market.

RESTAURANT WITH BEST APPETIZERS

Instead of just making a decision off the huge entrée available, it’s sometimes best to check out some of the competition. That’s where appetizers come in. They tip you off as to exactly what is happening in the kitchen and how to best make the all-important decision on which entrée to order.
And when it comes to great appetizers, our readers most often chose the selection at Applebee’s, located at 250 NE Agness Avenue. The list also included:

  • Mediterranean Bar & Grill.
  • Aja.
  • Laughing Clam.
  • Blondie’s Bistro.
  • 115 Broiler.
  • Hannah’s.
  • Taprock Northwest Grill.

BEST ICE CREAM/YOGURT/GELATO

While a soothing, tasty ice cream dish is good almost anytime, it’s especially appropriate after a spicy meal. Where to go when you want to soothe that palate, or just taste something outstanding? In this category, our readers most often named the new Yogurt Hut, which opened a few months ago at 162 NE Beacon.
The list also included:

  • Baskin-Robbins at 300 Union Avenue.
  • Dairy Queen.
  • Blind George’s.
  • Grants Pass Pharmacy.

RESTAURANT WITH FRIENDLIEST WAITSTAFF

It’s an unenviable assignment, trying to keep everyone happy during every second they’re in the restaurant, but our ever-friendly waitstaff are up for the occasion. Thirty-five different restaurants were mentioned in this survey, which is a testament to how friendly they are.
Topping the list for 2011 were the friendly folks at the Train Depot, who narrowly edged out Taprock Northwest Grill in this year’s balloting.
They were followed by:

  • The Vine.
  • 115 Broiler.
  • Circle J Café.
  • Powderhorn.
  • Laughing Clam.
  • Elmer’s.
  • Aja.
  • Herb’s.

BEST “QUICK SERVICE” RESTAURANT

Apparently, a few people objected to the term “fast food,” claiming that it has gotten a bad rap in this country lately. Most fast food restaurants have upped their game dramatically in the last decade with regard to nutrition and wholesome ingredients, so we’ve opted for a new nomenclature: “Quick Service” restaurants.
Taking down the top spot in this category for 2011 was both Carl’s Jr., at 6th & Hillcrest and Terry Lane & the Parkway, and Casablanca Coffee & Grill at 686 Union Ave.
The Top Five included:

  • Jimmy’s Drive-In.
  • Jack in the Box.
  • Arby’s.

Others receiving a lot of votes were:

  • Burger King
  • Taco Bell.
  • Dairy Queen.
  • Carl’s Jr.
  • Sonic Drive-In.
  • McDonald’s.
  • Wendy’s.

BEST SELECTION OF SANDWICHES

They can be anything from Dogwoods, wraps, melts, burritos, pasties, etc., but one thing is for certain … we love them. And when it comes to a great selection of sandwiches, our readers again turned to the Pita Pit, located at 330 NE Beacon, follwed by: on G Street, followed by:

  • Circle J Café
  • Subway Sandwiches.
  • Quizno’s.
  • Millie’s.
  • The Vine.
  • Rosso’s Delicatessen.
  • Wild River.

BEST SELECTION OF BURGERS

As I’m writing this, I’m waiting for my family to get it together to leave for dinner. Being hungry, just the thought of a big juicy cheeseburger makes me want to start gnawing on my arm … pass the ketchup, please.
In lieu of that, our readers would much rather visit Jimmy’s Classic Drive-In, located at 515 NW E, which was once again voted “Best Burgers,” followed by:

  • Carl’s Jr.
  • Burger King.
  • Wild River Brewing Co.
  • Jack in the Box.
  • Wonder Bur Café.
  • Dairy Queen.
  • Wendy’s.
  • Sonic Drive-In.
  • McDonald’s.

BEST FRENCH FRIES

When stationed in Germany in the army, my buddies and I used to go to Heidelberg and walk the Hauptstrasse, which was almost a mile-long pedestrian-oriented street jammed with tourists and students. We were semi-poor G.I.s, so I practically lived on pom frites, which is what the Germans called French fries. That diet probably did wonders to my G.I., but it was a lot of fun!
Where to go when I want to relive the good old days in Germany? Most readers steered me to the “sweet potato fries” at Circle J Café, located at 241 SW G.
Others garnering a lot of votes from local G.I.s were:

  • Wild River Brewing Co.
  • Jimmy’s Classic Drive-In.
  • Dairy Queen.
  • Carl’s Jr.
  • McDonald’s.
  • Wendy’s.

BEST WINERY/BEST PLACE TO GO WINE TASTING

These were actually two different categories until we realized that they overlapped each other. So we combined all the results into one grand overall category, and the winner was Troon Vineyard, located at 1475 Kubli Road in the Applegate Valley.
Also landing at the top of the list were:

  • Schmidt Family Vineyards in the Applegate Valley.
  • Bridgeview Winery in Cave Junction.
  • Elegance Wine Shop in downtown Grants Pass.
  • Rosella’s Vineyard in the Applegate Valley.
  • Wooldridge Creek Winery in the Applegate Valley.
  • Del Rio Vineyards in Gold Hill.
  • Oregon Outpost in downtown Grants Pass.

BEST FAMILY-OPERATED RESTAURANT

When I was in grade school, my best friend’s family owned a bar and grill with an apartment above, where they lived. While my 10-year-old buddy didn’t go down and serve drinks or wait on tables, I always thought it was kind of neat that the family all chipped in toward the success of the business.
Winning this category for 2011 was the Powderhorn Restaurant at the corner of 6th and E, where Kathy, Tina and the crew still keep the family spirit alive.
Others in the mix were:

  • Hannah’s Restaurant.
  • Train Depot.
  • The Vine.
  • 115 Broiler.
  • Aja.
  • Si Casa Flores.
  • Matsukaze.

FAVORITE BARISTA (COFFEE SERVER)

It’s amazing how friendly and upbeat every barista I’ve ever met is. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they have access to caffeine on a minute’s notice! That would make anyone happy.
Anyway, a number of baristas were named in this category, including this year’s winner, Nicole from Rogue Coffee Roasters.

FAVORITE COFFEEHOUSE

Twenty-five years ago, when the Sneak Preview first started, there were exactly zero coffee stands in Grants Pass. Today it seems as if they’re at every street corner, with everyone wanting to capitalize on our craving for caffeine. That’s not a bad thing. The quality of coffee has gone up dramatically during that time, and we can thank our local coffee purveyors for that.
Who do our readers first want to thank when it comes to coffee? Once again they voted Dutch Brothers, who opened 23 years ago, as their favorite.
Coming in second was Rogue Coffee Roasters, followed by:

  • Bluestone Bakery.
  • Human Bean.
  • Ethereal Café.
  • Copper Barrel.

RESTAURANT WITH BEST OUTDOOR SEATING

My wife and I have an outdoor patio where we enjoy dinner every night during the summer, so I understand the motivation behind everyone who answered this question. There’s nothing more fun than communing with nature and enjoying lunch or dinner.
And when it comes to that, Taprock Northwest Grill, with its wrap-around deck overlooking the river, Riverside Park and the Caveman Bridge, won this category going away.
Other outstanding outdoor seating areas included:

  • Summer Jo’s.
  • R-Haus.
  • Galice Resort.
  • O.K. Corral.

BEST RESTAURANT OUTSIDE GRANTS PASS

As a great American once said: “Sometimes in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to get the hell out of Dodge and visit restaurants outside Grants Pass. We, of course, hold these truths to be self-evident, that we are endowed by our Creator with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of different restaurants.”
Okay, I kind of got out of control there, but you know what I mean, and when it comes to that our readers most often picked the Olive Garden and McGrath’s in Medford, although Morrison’s Lodge outside Galice came in a close third.
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • The Jacksonville Inn.
  • Porter’s in Medford.
  • The Galice Resort.
  • Bella Union in Jacksonville.
  • The Roadhouse Grill in Medford.
  • Peerless Restaurant in Ashland.

ENTERTAINMENT

BEST ROCK/BLUES CONCERT IN GRANTS PASS LAST YEAR

Taking down the number one spot in this category was folk-rock singer/songwriter Marc Cohn, who made an appearance at the Rogue Theatre. Cohn is best known for his song “Walking in Memphis” from his 1991 album Marc Cohn.

BEST “CLASSICAL” CONCERT LAST YEAR

Many of the Rogue Valley Symphony concerts, under the direction of Martin Majkut, were named by our readers. Topping the list was the February concert featuring soloist Elinor Frey on cello.
Also mentioned a lot was the Jefferson Baroque Orchestra concert in November, “A Special Evening of Antonio Vivaldi,” with John Taylor on mandolin,

FAVORITE CONCERT AT THE BRITT FESTIVAL

Our readers love the Britt Festival in Jacksonville, and they named quite a few performances, including this year’s favorite, Michael Franti and Spearhead.
Others mentioned a lot were Alison Kraus and Styx.

FAVORITE CONCERT IN THE PARK

Local funk/soul band Funktional Fusion won this category, followed by the Southern Oregon Jazz Orchestra.

MOST FUN PLACE FOR FIRST FRIDAY ART NIGHT

You don’t have to have a degree in art to appreciate the First Friday Art Night. Many of the events offer food, refreshments and entertainment, and often the artist is there to explain some of the finer details of his or her work. All in all, it’s one big social event that introduces everyone to the scintillating and colorful world of art.
According to our readers, a good place to start (or end) the evening is the Grants Pass Museum of Art on G Street, which won this event for 2011. Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Elegance.
  • Kitchen Company.
  • All along G Street.
  • FireHouse Gallery.
  • Laughing Clam.
  • Glass Forge.

FAVORITE LOCAL ARTIST

Taking down the top spot in this category was Del Hearn, who also won in 2005. Del specializes in alykd oil paintings, and he has lived in the Rogue Valley since 1971.
The list also included:

  • Janet Higgins.
  • Julie Bickle.
  • Janet Gogue
  • Jeff Gogue.
  • Judith Spahn.

FAVORITE PART OF THE “BEAR HOTEL”

Brady Adams’s Evergreen Federal Bank is famous for its displays of public art, including all the various Bear Fests that have adorned downtown Grants Pass over the last ten years. The “hotel,” which has been designated as a museum by the City of Grants Pass, serves artists, nonprofits and bank customers, while housing event displays. It is open for public tours by appointment and open tours during events.
Most popular with our readers was the Christmas on Mars display, followed by:

  • All the bears.
  • The murals.
  • Finding Bigfoot.
  • The tee-pee.
  • The Wild Bunch bears on motorcycles.
  • Winterfest.

FAVORITE ANIMAL AT WILDLIFE IMAGES

It’s one of the most famous wildlife rehabilitation and education centers in the country, established by J. David Siddon and his son Dave in 1981 on 24 acres twelve miles west of Grants Pass. Their passion is to rehabilitate and return injured wildlife back to their homes in the wild, and over the last the last thirty years they have released 35,000 animals back to their natural habitat.
The center is open to visitors year round, rain or shine, with 90-minute tours available. Many of our readers have obviously taken that tour because almost all of the animals at Wildlife Images were mentioned. The winners were Clark and Katrina, two adorable cougars that are permanent residents of the facility.
Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Lakota and Tundra, two grey wolves.
  • The eagles.
  • The five black bears and two grizzlies.
  • The otters.
  • The owls.

BEST SPORTING EVENT IN JOSEPHINE COUNTY LAST YEAR

Who needs the Super Bowl or World Cup when equally exciting sporting events take place locally on an almost daily basis? Topping the list in this category was the run that the Hidden Valley Volleyball Team made in the state tournament. Coach Dan Jackson guided them to a third place finish at the state tournament, chalking up a 27-2 record.
Other exciting events included:

  • The Boatnik Race.
  • Horse racing at Grants Pass Downs.
  • GPHS football.
  • Kinder soccer.

FAVORITE JETBOAT DRIVER AT HELLGATE EXCURSIONS

They know the Rogue River like the back of their hands, they’re on a first-name basis with practically every osprey, beaver and otter in the Valley, they know all the latest jokes, and they can execute flawless 360° wheelies with the greatest of ease. By the time you’re done with the trip, the boat driver has practically become your best friend. And when it comes to that, driver Derek Kellenbeck was voted this year’s favorite.
Others included:

  • Donnie Brent.
  • Beau Dunson.
  • Craig Lawless.
  • Rick Olsen.

BEST FITNESS CLUB

You could have all the money in the world and live in the nicest house on the planet with all the toys you ever wanted, but if you don’t have your health, it’s all meaningless. The best way to ensure that is to watch what you eat, stay away from cigarettes, try not to get stressed out … and exercise at least 4-5 times a week. I realize that’s easier said than done, but there are quite a few fitness clubs in the area that are willing to help you start.
Winning this category for the umpteenth time in a row was Club Northwest, located on NW Vine Street, where they have programs and exercise regimens for people of all levels. Grants Pass Family YMCA also received a lot of votes, as did Thrive, Anytime Fitness, and Curves for Women.

BEST BARNSTORMERS’ PLAY LAST YEAR

They’ll be celebrating their 60th year in 2012 and they are officially the oldest, continuously running community theater in the state of Oregon. Last season was a particularly exciting one, and our readers were most impressed with the production of Chicago, a musical that takes place in the Roaring 20s.
Others high on the list were:

  • On Golden Pond.
  • Scapino.
  • A Child’s Christmas in Wales.

BEST OLD TIME RADIO PLAYERS’ SKIT LAST YEAR

Every two months the “Players” reenact a radio show from the 1930s-40s, complete with creative sound effects and the requisite melodrama/humor. Topping the charts this year as favorite skit was last February’s “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet: Buying a Valentine.”
Coming in second was “My Friend Irma.”

BEST THEATER PERFORMANCE (FEMALE)

Rogue Music Theatre featured Annie Get Your Gun in August 2010, and our readers didn’t forget the effort turned in by Jocelyn Vodovocz as Annie. Jocelyn was also recognized for her work in the Barnstormers’ production of the musical Chicago.
Other top female roles included:

  • Geneva Hughes in the Barnstormers’ On Golden Pond.
  • Lynn Beach in the Barnstormers’ Look Homeward Angel.
  • Janeen McGinnis in the Barnstomers’ I Hate Hamlet and Noises Off.
  • Julia Cuppy as Dorothy in RMT’s The Wizard of Oz.
  • Ella Sachs as Clara in Stillpoint’s The Nutcracker.

BEST THEATER PERFORMANCE (MALE)

The Barnstormers presented an unforgettable performance of On Golden Pond last fall, and Kent Prickett was recognized as number one by our readers for his role as Norman Thayer.
Other great performance included:

  • Heath Koerschgen for his role as Butler in Rogue Music Theatre’s Annie Get Your Gun.
  • Eric Epstein in the Barnstormers’ Scapino.    
  • Adam Cuppy in RMT’s Wizard of Oz.
  • John Stuart  in the Barnstormers’ Look Homeward Angel.
  • Colin Hewitt in the Barnstormers’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales.
  • Adam Gross in 111 Evelyn’s Peter Pan.


BEST DIRECTOR (LOCAL THEATER)

The competition was tough for this one, but Russell Lloyd ended on top with his work on the Barnstormers Scapino.
Also mentioned were:

  • Tricia Drevets for the Barnstormers’ On Golden Pond.
  • Burt Eikelberry for the Barnstormers’ Look Homeward Angel.
  • Shane Skinner for RMT’s Annie Get Your Gun.
  • Susan Cohen for the Barnstormers’ Noises Off.

BEST PLAY IN ASHLAND THIS YEAR

There was a collective groan heard throughout southern Oregon when the Angus Bowmer Theatre at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland cracked a beam in June and had to be shut down for six weeks. The Festival brings in $170 million a year to the southern Oregon economy, and the last thing we needed was for our bread and butter to suffer. The Festival responded by erecting a 600-seat tent theater in Lithia Park, and the show definitely went on.
As far as this season is concerned, our readers are most impressed with To Kill a Mockingbird.
Others included:

  • The Language Archive.
  • August: Osage County.

BEST LOCAL MUSICIAN/SINGER

Whether they’re kickin’ out the jams with rock ‘n’ roll or waltzing away with classical tunes, local musicians entertain us on a daily basis with their talents and creativity. A number of them were named by our readers, including this year’s winner Jen Ambrose, who plays a “stylistic blending of folk, blues and world music.”
Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Megan Sdudstad of Funktional Fusion.
  • John Trujillo.
  • Dave Vestyns.
  • Charles Wright.
  • Mike Smith.
  • Kristy Lee Cook.

BEST LOCAL ROCK ‘N’ ROLL BAND

They’re actually more of a funk/soul band, but Funktional Fusion won this category for 2011, followed by:

  • River City Rhythm & Blues.
  • Jen Ambrose Band.
  • Broadway Phil & the Shouters.
  • Mr. J.

BEST PLACE TO HEAR KARAOKE

A karaoke bar is the ultimate definition of spontaneous fun as total strangers get up before a crowd and start singing to background music while words to the song scroll across the screen.
Where to go when you want to have some go ol’ karaoke fun? Most people mentioned Shenanigans (at Herb’s LaCasita), which has karaoke Friday through Wednesday nights, followed by JD’s Sports Pub & Deli.

BEST NIGHTCLUB TO HEAR LIVE MUSIC

The scene for live music in Grants Pass is not overwhelming, but there are still a few places where you can party with live music. The number one spot according to our readers is the “G” Street Bar & Grill, followed by:

  • Laughing Clam.
  • JD’s Sports Pub.
  • Cedarwood Tavern.

BEST ENTRY IN THE 2011 BOATNIK PARADE

It’s probably the biggest parade in all of southern Oregon, and if you’re not there watching it, then you’re probably a part of it. Topping the list for the 2011 event was the entry by Dutch Brothers.
Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Wildlife Images.
  • St. Anne’s Church.
  • Grants Pass High School Marching Band.
  • The YMCA.
  • Three Rivers Community Hospital.
  • South Middle School Marching Band.

BEST BAR TO MEET FRIENDS AFTER WORK

Blue collar, white collar, or any color in between, once 5:00 rolls around you’re ready to PAR-TAY! Or at least hang out at the bar and talk about what a doofus your boss is.
Where do people most like to meet after work? The top two choices with our readers were the Laughing Clam and Blondie’s Bistro, which are across the street from each other on G Street.
The Top Ten in this category were:

  • Herb’s LaCasita.
  • Joe’s Place.
  • Cedarwood.
  • G Street Bar & Grill.
  • Taprock.
  • H Street Bar & Eatery.
  • JD’s Sports Pub.
  • Wonder Bur.

BEST BAR TO MEET FRIENDS LATE AT NIGHT

It’s probably not something you want to do every night, but hitting the bars to connect with friends can be very healthy when practiced in moderation. There, that’s my public service message for the day.
And when it comes to fun bars where friends can meet late at night, there was a three-way tie between the Wonder Bur, G Street Bar & Grill, and Herb’s Shenanigans/Outback Lounge.
Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Cedarwood.
  • Laughing Clam.
  • JD’s.

BAR WITH MOST ROMANTIC ATMOSPHERE

Bars aren’t all loud music, football games on TV, pool tables and raucous laughter. There are also places where you can relax and have a refreshing drink while carrying on a scintillating conversation with your significant other or close friends. Topping the list in this category was both Hannah’s Restaurant and Blondie’s Bistro, followed by:

  • 115 Broiler.
  • The Vine.
  • Mediterranean Bar & Grill.
  • G Street Bar & Grill.

BAR WITH BEST LATE NIGHT MENU

The munchies can attack at any time, and you gotta be prepared. Luckily, there are quite a few bars to help out in that assignment, starting with the G Street Bar & Grill, which won our readers’ hearts (and stomachs).
Other favorites included:

  • Taprock.
  • Joe’s Place.
  • Blondie’s.
  • JD’s.
  • Laughing Clam.
  • Hannah’s.

FAVORITE PART OF THE GROWERS MARKET

Now in its 33rd year, the Saturday Growers Market has evolved into not only a great place to buy fresh produce and crafts, but a social scene and gathering place for many in the community.
The variety at the market is endless, but our readers most appreciated the selection of organic produce that was available. Also important are:

  • The people and social scene.
  • Tamales.
  • Donuts.
  • Crafts.
  • Earl’s Eggs.
  • 3-Mile Farm.

BEST SWIMMING HOLE

To the person who wrote, “Not telling,” we appreciate your candor and desire to skinny dip in peace. Quite a few people, however, gave away their secrets, including those who voted the Illinois River as their favorite.
It was followed by:

  • Turtle Lane.
  • Applegate River.
  • Caveman Pool.
  • Schroeder Park.
  • Griffin Park.
  • Lake Shasta.

FAVORITE CITY PARK (OTHER THAN RIVERSIDE)

There are certain reasons why we pay taxes: police and fire protection, good roads, good schools, water and sewer, public health protection, and parks. No urban environment would be remotely livable without a good system of parks, and in lieu of hosting bake sales every week to pay for maintenance, we all chip in and enjoy the beauty together. That’s America.
Anyway, when it comes to City parks, everyone knows that Riverside is the crown jewel. After that, our readers most often appreciated the Reinhart Volunteer Park, followed by:

  • Lawnridge Park.
  • Croxton Memorial.
  • Ogle Park.

For all those who mentioned Indian Mary, Tom Pearce, Schroeder and Griffin Parks, you should be aware that those are County owned.
* * * * *
There we go … 144 categories and another year under my belt. Looking forward to 2012! If you have any suggestions for new entries next year, write to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. —C.H.

2012 Best of Grants Pass

Before jumping into this 26th annual readers' survey, let's review some of the more momentous events of the last year. In a supreme example of irony, two female political figures—County Commissioner Sandi Cassanelli and City Manager Laurel Samson—were ousted from their jobs. Now, to fill the gender void, two women are running for the open County Commissioner spots. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

We did a special report in November about dwindling funds at the Animal Control Center. That facility is something I think most people feel is important to the community. The commissioners could put an extremely small tax increase on the ballot to pay for the Animal Shelter, and I think it would pass.

It took about a month, but in December the toxic oil spill at the River Road Reserve got a cleanup. The area next to it is part of the Josephine County Food Bank, but unless the City wins the lottery, the rest of the 248 acres won't be developed anytime in the near future.

In February, we reported on the County's efforts to supplement its dwindling finances by advocating a Forest Management Plan that would set aside "x" acres of forest land for conservation and "y" acres for timber harvesting. It may be a few years away, but the plan has the potential to replace all the lost federal largesse we used to get.

In March, we did a followup to the Raphael Amoroso story, in which we admitted that our original reporting might have been a rush to judgment. Raphael had been picked up by police in October for a DUI after seen hanging out in the high school parking lot, and a subsequent search of his home found guns and incendiary literature. His neighbors testified to his character and claimed he was being railroaded. The case is still in federal court.

In the May primary, 14 candidates vied for the two open county commissioner positions. There will be no incumbents on the ballot, as newcomers Toni Webb and Keith Heck will face off in Position 2, while Cherryl Walker and Bob Just will battle for Position 3.

In that same primary, voters soundly rejected a proposal for a property tax increase that would fund law enforcement. Then on May 31, 39 inmates were released from the Josephine County, and that night four scumbags robbed the offices of UCAN, a non-profit agency whose sole mission is to help low income people and those just barely hanging on.

Now back to more important things ... the 2012 "Best of the Rogue Valley." We received over 400 ballots this year, and we congratulate everyone who took the time to fill them out. Those who only answered three or four categories were put into the "suspicious" stack, but everyone else did an admirable job.

The reason we have 144 categories is because we want to try and recognize as many people, businesses and organizations as possible. We like to spread the wealth around. That being said, let's proceed.

DEMOGRAPHICS

We asked the question, "Favorite TV Show," figuring this would give us an insight into the minds of our readers. The results were all over the board and we didn't even start writing them down until they notched two mentions. The top seven were: The Big Bang Theory, NCIS, Dancing with the Stars, House Hunters, Modern Family, American Idol and Downton Abbey. It's obviously a very well-rounded group of respondents.

MEDIA

FAVORITE RADIO STATION

I went on Google and typed in "Radio Stations Grants Pass Oregon," and unbelievably there are 51 of them in the region, from Cave Junction to Hornbrook. Make that 52 since the list did not include Don Monette's new station KCMD.

Anyway, taking down top honors again in the category were the friendly folks over at KLDR and KAJO, which has been entertaining and informing local listeners since August 15, 1957.

  • Other favorites included:
  • Jefferson Public Radio.
  • KRRM
  • KDOV
  • KRWQ
  • KISS-FM
  • KCMD

FAVORITE DJ

In 1959 the most famous deejay of all time, Alan Freed, lost his job at WABC in Cleveland when it was learned that he accepted money (payola) from artists to play their songs on the radio. He was basically a scapegoat since practically everyone was doing the same thing at that time.

Here in the Rogue Valley, payola is not an issue, although sometimes I feel like paying them money not to play some of the music I hear. Topping the charts for 2012 was Jeanette Stark, a stalwart at KDLR who also won this in 2000 and 2010.

The list also included:

  • Carl Wilson of KAJO
  • Cassie Callas at KLDR
  • Gemineye at KISS-FM
  • Chris Barnett at KLDR
  • Don Monette at KCMD

BEST LOCAL TV

NEWS STATION

Every night they present a cross section of life in the Rogue Valley, from local heroes to scurrilous villains, keeping us apprised of community events as they happen.

Winning this category for the umpteenth time in a row was NewsWatch 12 (KDRV).

They were followed by KOBI/Channel 5 and KTVL (Channel 10).

FAVORITE TV

WEATHER PERSON

One thing you can say about the Rogue Valley: we don't have to worry about hurricanes or tornadoes. Sure, we have occasional floods and fires, and the rare earthquake, but for natural disasters caused by weather, we're fairly insulated.

And when we have to rely on someone to tell us to "head to the hills," we most often turn to Scott Lewis of KKRV, Channel

Also high in the ranking were:

  • Jeff Heaton of KOBI-5
  • Kevin Lollis, KTVL-10
  • Lindsay Matherly, Channel 10
  • Milt Radford, KDRV-12

FAVORITE REPORTER AT THE DAILY COURIER

Well, heck, I just Googled "Most Distrusted Professions" and learned that politicians were number one, bankers #2, and journalists #3. Sad, isn't it? They spend their entire waking hours trying to keep you informed of the news, and this is the thanks they get.

Locally, our intrepid reporters at the Courier diligently strive to dispel that stereotype, and leading the way is Health & Business reporter Lindsay Cathey, followed by:

  • Zach Urness, sports
  • Shaun Hall, police/courts
  • Kathleen Alaks, Lifelines/Entertainment
  • Patti Richter, Education
  • Stacey Stumbo, County
  • Edith Decker, Features Editor

FAVORITE PART OF THE SNEAK PREVIEW

To all those who said "all of it," we thank you profusely, but we were hoping to break this thing down. While "The Best of the Rogue Valley" held the home field advantage and garnered many votes, we were looking at the other 95% of the paper. Winning the most support again was The Profile, featuring a light-hearted interview with local personalities.

Other favorites include:

  • Kudos & Klunkers
  • The covers stories
  • Letters (and the editor's responses)
  • Business Grapevine
  • All of the ads/coupons
  • The Calendar of Events
  • Doug Beacham's articles

PEOPLE/BUSINESS

BEST NEW BUSINESS IN TOWN (LAST YEAR)

The vast majority of people in this country have 9-5 jobs but practically everyone "dreams" of owning their own business. It's a risky proposition, though, and if you don't do your homework, it can end ugly. Our hats are off to anyone who even attempts it.

Our readers also appreciate their efforts, naming quite a few new businesses in town, including this year's winner, The Twisted Cork, a restaurant and bottle shop located at 210 SW 6th Street (in the old Kitchen Company building).

Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Home Depot.
  • River's Edge (new and improved at 1936 Rogue River Highway)
  • Maurice's, a clothing store in the Grants Pass Shopping Center
  • Goodness Gracious Café & Catering at 221 SW G
  • MaMosa's, a restaurant the recently opened at 118 NW E
  • The Vietnamese Food Cart
  • Red Heels Salon at 221 NE D
  • Adorn Me Fashion Boutique & Gifts at 543 NE E (Suite 206)

FAVORITE BUSINESSPERSON

They may technically be the CEO/boss/jefe, but most of them put in longer hours than their employees and take an active interest in every aspect of the business, from greeting customers and cleaning the bathrooms to public relations.

Landing at the top in this category for 2012 were Frank Wright and Roy Heinzle of the Kitchen Company, who have turned their store into a mecca for food lovers in southern Oregon.

The Top Ten included:

  • Cliff Bennett of Chet's
  • Brady Adams of Evergreen Federal
  • Scott and Annette Draper at Club Northwest and Spa at Club Northwest
  • Giff Gates of Gates Furniture
  • Tom Hart, Jr., at Hart Jewelers
  • Dave Thomason at Taprock Northwest Grill
  • Steve Roe at Roe Motors GM
  • Michelle Belcher of Grants Pass Pharmacy
  • Rick Chapman of Plaza Sew 'n' Vac

FAVORITE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER (CITY)

We all remember that first day of elementary school. Landing on the moon would have been infinitely easier—at least there wouldn't have been scary-looking figures of authority ready to swallow you up for every little mistake. Then you met your first teacher, and he/she immediately put you at ease, introduced you to fellow classmates, and the vistas of a new life suddenly opened up.

Quite a few teachers were mentioned in this category, including this year's winner Connie Hagerman, a first grade teacher at Lincoln.

Others receiving lots of votes were:

  • Carla Healey, a kindergarten teacher at Allendale
  • Holly Rousaville, a Title 1 teacher at Allendale
  • Abby Harden, first grade at Redwood
  • Kelly Moodie, music teacher at Lincoln
  • Laura Richardson, second grade teacher at Riverside

FAVORITE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER (COUNTY)

On the Three Rivers School District side of the ledger, the winner was Sharon Fisher, a 2nd grade teacher at Madrona, followed by:

  • Cecilia McKee, kindergarten teacher at Jerome Prairie
  • Kari O'Brien, 3rd grade at Ft. Vannoy
  • Carrie Simpson, 3rd grade at Madrona

FAVORITE SCHOOL JANITOR

In first grade, you see men and women going around sweeping up the halls and cleaning your rooms, and you think to yourself, "I thought Mom was supposed to do that!" Just kidding, of course.

Sweeping the honors in the category for 2012 was Mike DeLay, head custodian at Jerome Prairie Elementary.

FAVORITE HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETE

To the enterprising writer who requested that we add the category, "Favorite Brain Bowl Participant" or "Favorite Math Club Member," all we can say is, "Maybe next year." For now, we're sticking with the athletes. And in that category, GPHS baseball player Matt Cole took down top honors, followed by:

  • Tony Shriven, GPHS basketball
  • Chad Lowe, GPHS football
  • Rashaun Sells, GPHS softball
  • Tyler Bennett, GPHS baseball

FAVORITE INSTRUCTOR AT RCC

Rogue Community College was established in November 1970 by the voters of Josephine County. In 1996 the boundaries were extended to include all of Jackson County, and today it "provides a wide range of educational programs, job-training opportunities, and greater college access for students throughout the Rogue Valley."

The faculty, of course, is excellent, and our readers recognized quite a few including this year's winner, Midge Shaw, in the Humanities Department.

The list also included:

  • Wayd Drake, Humanities and Drama
  • Sandy Contreras, Health/PE
  • Cynthia Charat, Humanities
  • Debbie McLennan, Mathematics
  • Ann Hackford, Nursing

FAVORITE DENTIST

It may cause a panic attack just thinking about dental work, but taking care of your teeth is one of the best investments you can make when it comes to eliminating pain down the line. Just ask my third molar, which I had to have removed while in basic training in the army.

The ballots were coming in fast and furious with this category, and bunched up at the top was a 3-way tie between Don Lanahan, Steven Rogers and Matt Hill, followed by:

  • Greg Bigelow
  • Richard Miller
  • Peter Pastrell
  • Matt Johnston
  • Mart Erickson
  • Sara Riechers
  • Michelle Johnson
  • Tim Dwyer
  • Ray Sutton.

FAVORITE DOCTOR

It's one of mankind's higher calling—spending your life making sure that we all stay healthy and then healing us when things turn south. Our readers certainly appreciate their efforts, as they named 35 different doctors in this survey.

Topping the charts this year was Heather Kahn, a family practitioner who also won this category in 2007.

Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Edmund Glovinsky, DO
  • Tamara Medley at the Women's Health Center
  • Dan Gleffe, family practitioner
  • Eric Perry, MD
  • Ron Sinclair, MD
  • Felicia Cohen, OB/GYN
  • Derrick Sorweide, DO
  • Ed Groenhout, MD

FAVORITE NATUROPATHIC DOCTOR/ACUPUNCTURIST

Occram's Razor tells you to always search for the simplest solution to any problem. That stomach ache you have might not be an ulcer which requires surgery; it just might be an imbalance of beneficial flora in your bowels which needs some adjustment. That is the whole basis behind naturopathy, and when our readers are looking for their favorites, they most often chose Ellen Heinitz and Kristen Plunkett of the Naturopathic Clinic.

Acupuncture, meanwhile, is an alternative medicine methodology that originated in ancient China 2500 years ago ... you know, when Europeans were living in crude huts without a clue about medicine other than herbal remedies.

Our readers were able to name most of the area's acupuncturists in this survey, reserving their number one choice for Janet Moret of River of Wellness.

FAVORITE CHIROPRACTOR

It was a long day of unloading anvils, safes and refrigerators at the factory, and your back seems a little out of whack. Where to go? Our readers most often chose both Glen Litwiller and Edward Welch as their favorite, followed by:

  • Owen Martin
  • Kevin Teagle
  • Ryan Baker
  • David Krauss
  • David Willing
  • Todd Harris

FAVORITE HAIR STYLIST

You were on your way to meet the future in-laws for the first time, and your significant other insisted that you ride in his convertible with the top down. "Come on honey, it will fun." By the time you got there, you looked like you'd just crawled out of a dipsy dumpster. Desperate, you called your favorite hair stylist for a quick once-over.

And when it comes to making sure your hair always looks perfect, our readers were able to name 39 different hair stylists. So once again, we're going with a three-way standoff between Kathy Johnson at Roberta's Shear Pleasure; Amy Taradash at the Spa at Club Northwest; and Ashley Lawson at RockStar Hair Studio.

The top of the list also included:

  • Carrol Oyler of Carrol's Image Connection
  • Ron Gillaspie at Gillaspie's Hair Design
  • Shawna Maddox at Shine
  • Traci Brown of Personal Touch
  • Sally Roudebush, Progressive Beauty Center
  • Linda Whalen of Action Hair Designs

BEST PLACE TO GET MANICURES/PEDICURES

Okay, I hang my head in shame for labeling this category "Best Place to Get Medicures/Pedicures." My proofreader (wife) didn't even catch it. And what's amazing is that back in 2010 when we ran this category, the same mistake was made. And to everyone who circled "medicures" with about nineteen exclamation points, thank you for your attention to details.

Anyway, who are our readers most impressed with when it comes to manicures/pedicures? The number one choice was Forever Nails, located at 1634 Williams Highway, followed closely by Spa at Club Northwest.

Others bunched up near the top were:

  • Ambiance Hair & Nail Studio
  • Da-Vi Nails
  • Avenue Salon
  • En Vogue
  • La Belle Vie Salon
  • Indulgence

FAVORITE AUTO MECHANIC

America has a love affair with their automobiles and when the relationship goes sour, you both agree to talk to a therapist, in this case your mechanic. "He doesn't give me enough oil," the car complains. "She doesn't give good gas mileage," you counter. Being a professional, the mechanic puts you both back on track.

Winning this category for 2012 was Ken Cook of The Shop.

The field was very crowded, however, and the top vote-getters included:

  • Tom Hill at Tom's Auto
  • Jim Lefeber at Star Automotive
  • Larry Anberg at Revolvo West
  • Gary Smerdon
  • Frank Miranda at Extreme Auto
  • Huck Webb of Huck's Garage
  • Mike Dunbar of Bridge Street Auto

BEST PLACE TO BUY USED CARS

As much as you want to, sometimes you just don't have the money to spring for a brand new car. Buying a used car is chancy, however, because you never know if the previous owner used it to go fishing at the tip of the Baja every spring. That's where a knowledgeable car salesman comes in handy.

  • And in this category, the friendly folks at Mock's Ford came in first, followed by:
  • Roe Motors GM
  • Wheeler Toyota
  • Quality Used Cars
  • Jim Sigel
  • Best Used Cars
  • And craigslist

BEST PLACE TO BUY TIRES

The vulcanization of rubber was developed by Charles Goodyear in the year 1839, and the first practical pneumatic tire was developed by John Boyd in Ireland in 1887 to "prevent the headaches his son had while riding a bicycle on rough roads." By the 1920s synthetic rubber was developed in the laboratories at Bayer, and today over one billion tires are produced annually in over 400 tire factories.

A certain percentage of them end up here in Grants Pass, and according to our readers the best place to buy them is at Les Schwab, with two locations at 1694 NW 6th and 320 Union Avenue.

They were followed in the balloting by:

  • Expert Tire
  • Towne Center Tire Factory
  • Quick Lane Tire & Auto
  • River City Auto & Tire

FAVORITE ATTORNEY

You really didn't mean to burn the neighbor's house down when the charcoal grill got out of control. It was the neighbor's fault for not properly pruning his shrubs and leaving combustible material on the ground. He sued you anyway, so where do you go? Many of our readers most often named Jack Davis, followed by:

  • Chris Mecca
  • Ben Freudenberg
  • Lynn Myrick
  • Jim Dole
  • Claudia Browne
  • Walt Cauble
  • Dan Hughes
  • Richard Lane

FAVORITE POLICEPERSON

Here's a rhetorical question: do policemen get a panic attack when they're off duty and driving 74 miles an hour down the Interstate and see a police car off to the side with a radar gun? Kind of like does a tree falling in the forest make a noise if no one is around to hear it? Just askin'.

Anyway, our readers were able to put the radar gun on 19 different officers this year, including the year's winner, Officer Joe Robles of Grants Pass Public Safety.

Others high in the standings were:

  • GP Public Safety Director Joe Henner
  • GP Officer Scott Hyde
  • GP Community Service Officer Lyle Brown
  • GP Officer Pete Jenista
  • Sheriff Gil Gilbertson
  • County patrol officer Joel Heller

BEST FINANCIAL ADVISOR

Okay, you just won the lottery, and you're trying to decide where to invest that $35 you got on the scratch-off ticket. Just kidding ... let's assume just for assuming sake, that the amount was $1 million. Who would you turn to for advice? Our readers were all over the board on this one, naming quite a few. In the end, Ken Guerra of Independent Financial Group was the top vote-getter. He was followed by:

  • Jeff Voigt of Pfs Investments
  • Jon Mainard of Financial Network Investment
  • Rick Wilson of Ameriprise Financial Services
  • Brian Sachs of Edward Jones
  • John Beckstead of Edward Jones
  • Rodger Jordan of Lpl Financial
  • Jason Lewis of Allstate Financial Services
  • Nelson Maler of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney

FAVORITE VETERINARIAN

Having your dog or cat come down sick is almost as painful as when it happens to you. When my cat Mau Mau lost four kittens giving birth in the vet's office three years ago, I was freaking out that something might happen to her. A great vet is worth his or her weight in gold.

There were quite a few bunched up at the top, so we'll name the top four in alphabetical order.

  • Russell Codd of Lincoln Road Vet Clinic
  • Heidi Buehner-McKenzie of Allen Creek Vet Hospital
  • Ron Guzman of Riverside Vet Clinic
  • Jean Manhart of Pacific Vet

Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Bob Cole of the Animal Clinic
  • Lorain Abel of Cedarview Vet Hospital
  • Charles Meyer of Applegate Animal Clinic

FAVORITE LOCAL RESTAURANT OWNER

Back when I first visited Grants Pass in 1976 there were about five restaurants in town. Today, there are over one hundred, and I think that's a good thing. A little healthy competition is what keeps restaurant owners on their toes.

Our readers agree, and they named 25 different people in this survey, with the top nod going to Bob and Darla Feil of the Train Depot. Bob and Darla also did a service to the community recently by re-opening River's Edge on the banks of the Rogue River.

Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Dave Thomason of Taprock and Elmer's
  • Emilio Guerrero of El Patron
  • Gwen and Tawni Hendricks of The Vine
  • Bret Musselman of 115 Broiler
  • Tina Gotchall of the Powderhorn
  • Adam Wehab of Abu's Oasis Deli
  • Tim and Sandra Mock of Beacon Bar & Grill

FAVORITE WAITPERSON

These people are the ultimate multi-taskers and someone you'd want in a foxhole during a battle. They have peripheral vision, engaging personalities, can handle stress, and can hold everything together when mere mortals are reaching for the razor blades.

Twenty-eight different waitpersons were mentioned in this survey, and the top choice for 2012 was Marty Thomas of River's Edge who, ironically, won for "Favorite Bartender" in last year's "Best of the Rogue Valley."

The list at the top also included:

  • Tricia Walker of Elmer's
  • Joe Gomez of G Street Bar & Grill
  • Debbie Hamblin at the Powderhorn
  • Dotti Kochis at 115 Broiler
  • Jennifer Cochran at Taprock
  • Rebecca Carpenter at Wild River
  • Melissa Carnes at Train Depot

FAVORITE BARTENDER

A horse walks into a bar with a pair of jumper cables wrapped around its head. He orders a drink and the bartender says, "Okay, but don't try to start anything around here." Yeah, yeah, I know it's a lame joke but it was the best I could find on the Internet.

When you want bartenders who can really tell jokes, you merely have to visit some local favorites, like this year's winner Christian Hahn of Taprock Northwest Grille.

Other popular bartenders are:

  • Bob Lewis of The Cedarwood
  • Dennis Getz of the Wonder Bur
  • Kari Musselman of 115 Broiler

BEST PLACE TO GET YOUR DOG GROOMED

In lieu of vacuuming up three tons of dog hairs each week, it's best to just take Ralphie in and let the professionals take over. And in that regard, our readers most often named Home Away from Home Pet Spa at 100 NE Mill Street as their favorite, followed by:

  • Purr-fect Pet Grooming
  • Specialized Grooming
  • A Dog Gone Cute
  • Champion Grooming

FAVORITE THERAPIST/COUNSELOR

No one really ran away with this category, and the whole thing was stressing me out, so I'm going to name the top five in alphabetical order:

  • Paige Bender
  • Kim Brouhard
  • Libby McClain
  • Michael Stattel
  • Lori Worden

FAVORITE PLUMBER

Your diamond wedding ring slipped off your hand and down the drain, sending shivers down your spine. You immediately cordoned off the area with police crime tape, then called your local plumber to come to the rescue.

Who to call for that all-important job? Rick Samuelsen of Heritage Plumbing edged out a long list of excellent local plumbers, including ...

  • Matt and Dan Headley at Rogue Valley Plumbing
  • Rich Shane at Aristocrat Plumbing
  • Pat Murphy of Shamrock Plumbing
  • Mike Murphy of Murphy's Plumbing
  • Frank Rauch Plumbing
  • Michael Toch of Michael's Plumbing
  • Bill Fairhurst of Grants Pass Plumbing

FAVORITE ELECTRICIAN

That little electrical outlet in the corner just wasn't working right, so you decided to "fiddle with it" and see what was wrong. Five minutes later, after a little CPR from your wife and every hair on your body burned off, you come to the realization that maybe, just maybe, you should have called a professional.

According to our readers, you have a lot of options, starting with the guys at Pro Electric. A lot of electricians were bundled near the top, however, including:

  • Danny York of York Electric
  • Brownell's Electric
  • Norm Sky
  • Darrin Fowler
  • Tom Bormuth

CUTEST BABY BORN IN LAST YEAR

Well, shoot, our expert panel of judges (my family) couldn't decide on this one. "They're all cute," was the opinion of my wife. So we are making this category of three-way tie between Ethan Blackhurst, Cole Jacoby, and Riley Arrijotti. Congratulations, kids!

BEST APPLIANCE REPAIRMAN

You probably open and shut a refrigerator door 30-40 times a day. That means 245 times a week; 980 a month, and 11,760 a year. Appliances definitely work overtime in an average house, and it's no wonder that they sometimes break down or need servicing. Who to call? The number one choice was Tom Bange of Action Appliance, followed by:

  • Dan Biller of Biller Appliance Repair
  • Al's Refrigeration
  • Active Appliance Center

FAVORITE HOUSE PAINTER

That house you bought that was painted bright pink might look good in Disneyland, but it's semi-hideous to the discerning eye. Who to turn to when you need it repainted. Brushing their way to victory this year was TM3 Painting Co., followed by:

  • Curt & Dave Healy
  • Scott Warner
  • Joe Stevens
  • Dennis' Painting
  • Bob Emery of Maranatha Painting

FAVORITE STORE DOWNTOWN

The Towne Center Association, the City, and the Chamber of Commerce have worked overtime the last 25 years to turn downtown Grants Pass into a happening place. With the help of some outstanding stores and restaurants, plus some well-timed promotions, they have succeeded.

Our readers agree with that analysis, as they named 25 different establishments as their favorites. And for the fourth year in a row, this event was won by The Kitchen Company, a store at 301 SE 6th Street, which caters to the chef in all of us.

The top five were close, though, and they included:

  • Blind George's
  • Never a Bum Steer
  • Savannah Faire
  • Grants Pass Pharmacy

Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Tierra del Sol
  • The Herb Shop
  • La Bella Casa
  • Oregon Outpost
  • Shop River Rock

FAVORITE STORE OUTSIDE DOWNTOWN

I think next year I'm going to turn this category into "Big Store" and "Little Store." The usual suspects of Fred Meyer's, Wal-Mart, Ross and Bi-Mart were mentioned a lot, but when it came to smaller stores, the winner was Rogue River Florist, a floral/gift shop located at 789 NE 7th.

Coming in a close second was Emilia's Closet, followed by:

  • Judy's Florist & Gifts
  • Maurice's
  • Cowboy Corral
  • The Dollar Store
  • Curiosity Company
  • Field's Home Center
  • Jan's Hallmark Store
  • Probst Flower Shop

BEST PLACE TO BUY GIFTS FOR MOTHER'S DAY

This kind of store requires a huge selection with a lot of variety, and in that regard our readers were most impressed with Hellgate's River Rock Gift Shop, located at 966 SW 6th Street.

Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Kitchen Company
  • Grants Pass Pharmacy
  • Rogue River Florist
  • La Bella Casa
  • Savannah Faire
  • Tierra del Sol
  • Never a Bum Steer

BEST PLACE TO BUY GIFTS FOR FATHER'S DAY

Dad is another whole animal, and topping this category was Fred Meyer's, followed by:

  • JC Penney's
  • Diamond
  • Fields Home Center
  • Sears
  • Home Depot
  • Grange Co-op

BEST PLACE TO BUY TOYS

Now that I'm a grandparent, I suppose I'll be back in the game for toy buying. Three months ago I was cleaning out the attic and bundled up about 75 beanie babies for a trip to Goodwill. Ah, the good old days.

Taking down the top spot in this category was Wal-Mart and Fred Meyers, followed by:

  • Eco Tots Baby Boutique
  • Chesi Jo's Baby Boutique
  • Sleadd's Adventure Depot
  • Cat & Fiddle

CUTEST PET

It was a real dogfight this year, but in the end "Chester" Jacoby edged out "Max" DelVaglio for the trophy.

Others in the hunt were:

  • Mopsy and Hobo Roser
  • A cat, "Stevie" Blackhurst
  • "Augie" Walker

BEST PLACE TO BUY JEWELRY

Human beings are genetically wired with a desire to "look good." And nothing says it better than diamonds, gold, pearls and gemstones. When our readers were looking to find the best in jewelry, they most often picked Hart Jewelers at 235 SE 6th, followed very closely by King Jewelers at 221 SE 6th.

Others receiving some recognition were:

  • Fred Meyer's
  • Never a Bum steer
  • Tierra del Sol
  • Cash Connection

BEST PLACE TO BUY CANDY

The first candy dates back to ancient civilizations, where they indulged in fruits and nuts rolled in honey. We've gotten a little more sophisticated since then, and when our readers want to placate their sweet teeth, they most often turn to Cary's of Oregon, located at 413 Union Avenue.

Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Sandie's Candies
  • See's
  • Blind George's
  • Dollar Store
  • Wal-mart

BEST PLACE TO BUY KNITTING/QUILTING SUPPLIES

My mother was a world-class quilter, and if she followed the advice of our readers, she would be spending a lot of time downtown at Plaza Sew 'n' Vac, which was the runaway winner in this category.

The list also included:

  • Unique Lee Yours.
  • Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts in Medford.
  • Wal-mart.

BEST PLACE TO BUY CDs/ALBUMS

Back in the day when I was collecting albums, they would take up the entire back seat of my car whenever I moved somewhere. Today, CDs take up a fraction of the space, but it's just not the same. The cover art of some of those old albums made them something special. Oh well ... progress.

And in that regard, our readers most often liked to visit Listen Here, a music store located downtown at 234 SE 6th Street.

Others mentioned were Fred Meyer's, Evangel Store, and Wal-Mart.

BEST SELECTION OF WOMEN'S CLOTHES

Ever since the first cavewoman donned that sporty little sabertooth tiger coat, clothing has been an obsession with the human species. Locally, there are quite a few places to shop, and the two top vote-getters were Fred Meyer's and JC Penney's, followed by:

  • Tierra del sol
  • Emilia's Closet
  • Fashion Bug
  • Ross Store
  • Second Chance
  • Goodwill Store

BEST SELECTION OF MEN'S CLOTHES

Functionality is the key word when it comes to men's clothes, and once again this ended in a tie between Fred Meyer's and JC Penney's.

Others receiving lots of votes were:

  • Ross Store
  • Extreme Board Shop
  • Bi-Mart
  • Roley's Pacific Supply
  • Goodwill

BEST PLACE TO BUY HATS

Hats are a combination of functionality and just looking cool. They keep the sun out of your face, protect your head from meteorites, and let everyone know how stylin' you can be. Where to go? Many of our readers said Hellgate's River Rock Shop, followed by:

  • Fred Meyer's
  • Cowboy Corral
  • Bi-Mart

BEST PLACE TO BUY T-SHIRTS

I've been collecting T-shirts for a long time, mainly because they're comfortable to wear and they carry messages that can be conversation pieces. I can walk down the street wearing my Madras Basketball shirt and someone can stop me and say, "Hey, you from Madras?" No, I reply, this is a hand-me-down from one of my nieces. Then it turns out he went to high school with my niece, and we end up in a bar drinking shots for a couple of hours ... just kidding.

Anyway, according to our readers the best place to buy cool T-shirts is at Ol' Champion Outlet, located at 401 SE 6th Street.

Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Never a Bum Steer
  • Oregon Outpost
  • Fashion Bug
  • Fred Meyer's

FAVORITE FLORAL SHOP

Sure, you can grow flowers in your backyard and cut them for bouquets, but it's a lot easier to just trust your local florist for that assignment. And in that regard our readers named Rogue River Florist, located at 789 NE 7th, as their favorite.

The top four were actually pretty close and they included:

  • Judy's Grants Pass Florist & Gifts.
  • Probst Flower Shop.
  • Chet's Garden & Pet Center.

BEST PLACE TO BUY FLOWERS/SHRUBS FOR THE GARDEN

When I'm not working or spending time with the family, you can usually find me at a.) the golf course or b.) the backyard taking care of the thousands of flowers, trees and shrubs that I've nurtured for the last twenty years. It's a full-time hobby, and a very rewarding one. I can walk the backyard and think I'm in paradise.

Helping me with that assignment are the local nurseries. Number one according to our readers is Chet's Garden Center at 229 SW "H" Street.

The vote this year was very close as Greenleaf Greenhouse came in second, followed by:

  • The Grange Co-Op
  • Diamond Home Improvement
  • Murphy Country Nursery
  • Sandy's Nursery
  • Home Depot
  • Redwood Nursery

BEST PLACE TO BUY WINE

The production of wine became a growth industry 15 years ago when doctors released studies showing that the consumption of wine led to a reduced incidence of heart disease and cancer. Well, duh, I'll drink to that.

Where to go for the best deals on quality wines? This category ended in a tie as both Elegance (321 SE 6th) and Grocery Outlet (350 NE Agness) were mentioned a lot.

The list also included:

  • Twisted Cork
  • Fred Meyer's
  • Ray's
  • Schmidt Family Vineyards
  • Bridgeview Vineyards in Cave Junction
  • Del Rio Vineyards in Gold Hill

GROCERY STORE WITH FRESHEST SELECTION OF FISH

Fish is one of those products that you really want to get as fresh as you can. Not that a three-day old fish is bad; it's just that something fresh out of the river or ocean can be exquisite.

This category ended up in a statistical dead heat as Cartwright's Valley Meat Company (825 Union Avenue) tied with Fred Meyer's.

Other's receiving votes were:

  • Albertson's
  • Ray's Food Place
  • Safeway

BEST PLACE TO BUY "STUFF" FOR THE KITCHEN

Once again this category was a runaway, as The Kitchen Company, 301 SE 6th Street, was the winner. Frank and Roy have stocked the store with every conceivable kitchen appliance known to man and woman.

Also received a smattering of votes were:

  • Fred Meyer's
  • Wal-mart

BEST PAWN SHOP

Pawn shops have seen a resurgence in recent years, mainly because of a down economy and the presence of such TV shows as Pawn Stars and Hard Core Pawn. Locally, Sneak Preview reporter Doug Beacham did a story on pawn shops four months ago, and we were curious which ones registered with our readers.

Winning this category for 2012 was Cash Connection, located at 754 SW 6th, followed by:

  • Pawn Plus
  • Rogue Valley Pawn & Jewelry

BEST THRIFT STORE

Doug Beacham also did a story on thrift stores which, amazingly, generated a little controversy. Again we were curious as to exactly which ones had the most local support, and this is what we found:

  • Goodwill Store
  • Salvation Army Store
  • Humane Society Store
  • Home for Good
  • Second Chance
  • St. Vincent de Paul

FAVORITE GAS STATION

You ever see that Norman Rockwell painting where a family of four pulls into a gas station back in the 1950s, and five guys dressed in white come out to pump gas, check the oil, clean the windshield, check the tires, etc.? Now that's what I call the good old days!

That kind of service just isn't possible today, but our local gas stations give it their best shot. Winning this category for 2012 was Larry Henderson's "A" Street Chevron, followed by:

  • Fred Meyer's
  • Lonnie's Shell
  • Redwood Texaco
  • The ARCO Station at 7th & "M"
  • Fireball
  • Towne Pump

FAVORITE STORE IN MEDFORD/ASHLAND

They're our neighbors to the south, and they're always fun to visit, from the Expo and Britt to the Shakespeare Festival and the Craterian. And while there, you might as well do some shopping, right?

The number one choice according to our readers was once again CostCo, followed by:

  • TJ Maxx
  • Macy's at the Mall
  • Target
  • Kohl's in the Mall
  • Paddington Station in Ashland
  • Sportsman's Warehouse
  • Harry & David Store

POLITICS

FAVORITE COUNTY COMMISSIONER

This was kind of a runaway for Simon Hare, as both Don Reedy and Harold Haugen are just temporary replacements for the retired Dwight Ellis and the ousted Sandi Cassanelli. We'll see how Simon does next year when he has some real competition.

FAVORITE CITY COUNCILOR

It's been a couple of years since angry citizens gave the boot to a cantankerous group of city councilors, and things seem to have settled down to normal. Boring, isn't it? Just kidding.

Anyway, taking down top honors in this category was Dan DeYoung, followed by:

  • Kris Woodburn.
  • Lily Morgan.
  • Richard Michelon.

BEST THING GOVERNMENT HAS DONE IN THE LAST YEAR

I hate to pick on Sandi Cassanelli when she's down, but many people picked her removal from office as number one in this category.

Other admirable things included:

  • Replacing City Manager Laurel Samson
  • Trying for a law enforcement levy
  • Killing Osama bin Laden

WORST THING GOVERNMENT HAS DONE IN THE LAST YEAR

Many people chose trying for a law enforcement levy, and since others chose that as something "good" that government did, you can see how polarizing that issue is.

Also on the "bad thing" chart were:

  • The bus stop shelters
  • Supreme Court upholding the health care act
  • Cutting funds to animal shelter

A VERY UNSCIENTIFIC POLITICAL POLL

Each year we ask our readers to answer four political questions just to gauge the mood of the community. These answers are "relatively" accurate since very few people stuff the ballot for them.

1. Should Grants Pass rent beds at the Josephine County Jail? Back in June I did a commentary after the law enforcement levy failed. What the citizens got was reduced patrols, a near-empty jail, a shuttered Juvenile Detention Center, and a D.A.'s office that will prosecute only the most heinous crimes. Since the City voters apparently like police protection, my proposal was for them to rent spaces at the jail to deal with criminals caught doing bad stuff within the city limits of Grants Pass. If that is successful, maybe county voters could try the same thing. Our readers apparently agree with this plan.

Yes, good idea: 77%
No, bad idea: 23%

2. Should marijuana be legalized and taxed? I don't want to sound like a drugged-out pothead, but the War on Drugs has been an utter failure for 40 years. It not only hasn't slowed the movement of drugs or stopped its usage, but the reverse is true. Yet we continue to spend billions of dollars a year on this "war," and we have the highest percentage of incarcerated citizens per capita than any other country on earth. The first step to stopping this insanity would be to legalize marijuana. How do our readers feel about this?

Yes, it should be legalized: 43%
No, it should not be: 57%

3. Should horse racing at Grants Pass Downs be discontinued? Some people think that the horse racing industry is cruel to animals and that it causes unnecessary deaths. Should Grants Pass Downs be shut down? Our readers don't think so.

Yes, it should be discontinued: 12%
No, it should not: 88%

4. Who are you voting for: Obama, Romney, or Undecided?

Well, whoever this Undecided guy is, he's got a shot at winning in 2012.

Obama: 27%
Romney: 33%
Undecided: 39%

RESTAURANTS

BEST NEW RESTAURANT

For the second year in a row, there were eight new restaurants listed in this survey, a testament to both our readers' insatiable appetites and the desire for local restaurant owners to stay on top of their game. Having a lot of restaurants in town is actually good for business, as it motivates everyone to do his or her best.

The top two new restaurants, according to our readers, were River's Edge, located at 1936 Rogue River Highway; and Twisted Cork, at 210 SW 6th Street. This is the second incarnation for River's Edge, as Darla and Bob Feil reopened the popular river-side restaurant this year. The Twisted Cork is owned by Mike & Beth Forshay, and Walt & Leanne Eaton.

Others mentioned a lot were:

  • MaMosa's at 118 NW E
  • Goodness Gracious Café, located at 221 SW G
  • Pho Sur at 1887 NE 7th
  • Saigon Xich Lo, the Vietnamese food cart
  • Luigi's, located at 755 SE 6th
  • Starbucks at 115 NE 7th

BEST BREAKFAST

Breakfast is supposed to be the biggest meal of the day, when you load up on protein and essential nutrients to get you through the day. The last thing you need during that morning board meeting is for your stomach to be growling and expressing disgust.

Where to go to satisfy the demands of your digestive system? This ended up in a 3-way tie between Elmer's Restaurant (175 NE Agness); the Train Depot, located at 577 NE F; and the Powderhorn Café at 321 NE 6th; and

Quite a few restaurants were mentioned, and the Top Ten were:

  • The Gold Miner Restaurant at 786 SE 7th
  • Shari's, at 190 NE Agness
  • Black Bear Diner, located at 1900 NW 6th
  • Taprock Northwest Grill (971 SE 6th)
  • Della's, located at 1802 NW 6th
  • Herb's LaCasita, at 515 SE Rogue River Highway
  • MaMosa's

BEST LUNCH

By mid-day the energy levels start to wane, and it's important to get a quick pick-me-up. It's also a time to socialize with fellow workers, clients, friends and family. The lunch crew usually knows you're in a hurry, and they work overtime to give you primo service.

Working their way to the top of the list for 2012 was both Taprock Northwest Grill at 971 SE 6th; and Circle J Café (located at 241 SW G), closely followed by:

  • Rosso's Delicatessen at 225 SE 6th
  • Wild River Brewing & Pizza Company, at 595 NE E
  • Elmer's
  • The Vine at 1610 Allencreek Road
  • Abu's Oasis Deli at 1330 NW 6th
  • Blondie's, located at 226 SW G
  • The Powderhorn Café
  • Della's
  • Twisted Cork
  • Laughing Clam, at 121 SE G
  • Mediterranean Bar & Grill at 219 SW G

BEST FRENCH TOAST

The first reference to this recipe was found in a 4th century Roman cookbook attributed to Apicius. Seventeen hundred years later we're still addicted to this delightful breakfast-time repast, and if our readers have anything to say about it, they'll first head over to Elmer's, which won this category.

The Top Three were very close, and they included the Train Depot and Goldminer's Restaurant, followed by:

  • Shari's
  • Powderhorn Café
  • Taprock Northwest Grill
  • Black Bear Diner
  • Herb's LaCasita
  • Black Forest

FAVORITE SOUPS & SANDWICHES

Sometimes menus can be daunting, especially at lunch. There are way too many choices and so little time. Enterprising restaurant owners recognize that reality and usually offer "sandwich and soup specials" for lunch. Landing at the top of this category was Rosso's, located at 225 SW 6th.

Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Powderhorn
  • Train Depot
  • Circle J Café
  • Elmer's
  • Taprock
  • Denny's
  • Della's
  • Wild River

FAVORITE DINNERHOUSE

They come in all shades and colors, from romantic enclaves to raucous steakhouses, but almost all dinnerhouses have one thing in common—the desire to make you feel confortable and at home.

It was close in this category, but our readers most often named 115 Broiler, located at 115 NE D; and Taprock Northwest Grill, at 971 SW 6th Street.

The Top Five included:

  • The Vine
  • River's Edge
  • Summer Jo's

Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Mediterranean Bar & Grill
  • R-Haus, at 2140 Rogue River Hwy
  • Blondie's Bistro (226 SW G)
  • Hannah's Restaurant, at 234 SW 7th

MOST ROMANTIC RESTAURANT/LUNCH

Lunch doesn't always have to be a "wham bam" affair involving 178 people from work intent on gobbling down their food just to get back to their cubicles on times. Sometimes it's fun to get away with that significant other and enjoy your meal in a relaxing environment. And when it comes to that our readers most often named Summer Jo's, located at 2315 Upper River Road Loop.

It was extremely close at the top with River's Edge, The Vine and Taprock coming in a close second, followed by:

  • Mediterranean Bar & Grill
  • 115 Broiler
  • The Bistro, at 2008 NW 6th St
  • Blondie's Bistro, at 226 SW G
  • Rosso's
  • Hannah's

MOST ROMANTIC RESTAURANT/DINNER

This place just screams out "marriage proposal." There's soft lighting, soothing music, an attentive waitstaff, and a jewelry store on premises for that last-minute impulse buy ... just kidding.

Our readers were in a romantic mood in this category, placing three establishments at the top. They included River's Edge, R-Haus, and 115 Broiler. Other romantic spots included:

  • Taprock Northwest Grill
  • The Vine
  • Hannah's Restaurant
  • Summer Jo's
  • The Bistro
  • Twisted Cork
  • Morrison's Lodge, located at 8500 Galice Road
  • Blondie's

BEST STEAK DINNERS ON MENU

Archaeologists estimate that the domestication of cattle occurred independently three times in Iran/Iraq, China and northern Africa 5,000 to 8,000 years ago. Our friendly moo-moos have a rich history of symbiosis with humans (they provide us with milk and meat, and we let them graze rent free on farmland).

Winning this category for the umpteenth time in a row was 115 Broiler, located at 115 NW D.

The rest of the list included:

  • Applebee's
  • Taprock Northwest Grill
  • R-Haus
  • Blondie's Bistro
  • Sizzler

BEST SEAFOOD DISHES ON MENU

Five hundred years ago, Native Americans in Oregon thrived on plentiful game and fish. Not much has changed today, except it's far easier to visit your favorite seafood restaurant than it is trying to land a 15-pound steelhead at Finley Bend. And in that regard, our readers most often named Laughing Clam, at 121 SW G.

Also mentioned a lot were:

  • The Vine
  • Taprock Northwest Grill
  • 115 Broiler
  • Summer Jo's
  • Hannah's
  • R-Haus

BEST PASTA DISHES ON MENU

In our version of Pasta Wars here in Grants Pass, three different establishments battled it out for top seeding with our readers. In alphabetical order, they were:

  • The Bistro
  • Ross's
  • The Vine

Other favorites included:

  • Twisted Cork
  • Wild River
  • Mediterranean Bar & Grill
  • Taprock Northwest Grill
  • Laughing Clam

BEST CHICKEN DISHES ON MENU

To the millions of chickens around the globe who sacrifice themselves daily for our culinary tastes, we thank you. It may sound barbaric to you, but just think of all the innocent bugs you kill every day scraping in the dirt, and you should be able to relate.

Anyway, for great chicken entrees, our readers mentioned quite a few, and at the top it was a 3-way tie between Taprock Northwest Grill, The Vine, and Hannah's, followed by:

  • Elmer's
  • Thai BBQ, located at 428 SW 6th St
  • Abu's Oasis Deli
  • Applebee's
  • Summer Jo's

BEST SOUPS AND SALADS

Yeah, I know, an earlier category had "Best Sandwiches & Soups," making this semi-redundant, so let's concentrate on the salads, shall we? And in that regard, our readers were most impressed with the salads at both Rosso's and Applebee's.

Also popular were:

  • Circle J
  • Della's
  • Taprock
  • Train Depot
  • Sizzler
  • Twisted Cork

FAVORITE MEXICAN RESTAURANT

Sure, you can sail the boat down to Cabo san Lucas and visit Edith's or the Giggling Marlin, but we have the next best thing here in the Rogue Valley, which is home to many former residents of Mexico. Eleven different restaurants were named in this survey, starting with numero uno, which was a tie between Casa Amiga (1720 Redwood Avenue) and Si Casa Flores at 202 Beacon Drive.

The Top Five were actually very close and they included:

  • Taqueria Mexico (137 SE H)
  • La Burrita, at 941 SE 7th
  • El Paraiso, located at 201 E. Park Street

Also mentioned a lot were:

  • El Patron (799 Rogue River Highway)
  • Angela's Hacienda, at 111 NE Hillcrest
  • Tacos Locos in the Allen Creek Shopping Center
  • Kalypsso Latin Cuisine, at 775 SE 6th
  • Las Fajitas, in Parkway Village

BEST BURRITOS

This is the ultimate Mexican-style sandwich, and it's practically a meal in itself, stuffed with every nutritious thing you can think of.

Where to go for great burritos? Our readers most often named El Paraiso and La Burrita, followed by:

  • Casa Amiga
  • Taqueira Mexico
  • El Patron
  • Si Casa Flores

BEST MARGARITAS

They're actually considered a "tourist drink" in Mexico, but they sure are good. Tequila comes from the agave cactus, which is prevalent in the state of Jalisco (which is also home to mariachi music). Hundreds of years ago, some intrepid soul distilled the agave plant to make tequila, and we've been doing shots ever since.

Taking down number one in this category for 2012 were the margaritas as Si Casa Flores and Taqueria Mexico.

The list also included:

  • Casa Amiga
  • Angela's
  • El Paraiso
  • Las Fajitas

FAVORITE ASIAN RESTAURANT

It's great to experience the exotic foods and tastes of different cultures, from China and Thailand to Japan and Vietnam. Our readers agreed and named 15 different restaurants in this category, reserving their number one choice for Matsukaze, located at 1675 NE 7th.

The Top Six were very close and they included:

  • Thai BBQ at 428 SW 6th
  • Hong Kong, at 820 NW 6th
  • Four Seasons at 122 SE K
  • Pongsri's, at 323 NE E
  • Pho Sur, a new Vietnamese restaurant at 1887 NE 7th

Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Hunan Garden, located in the Grants Pass Shopping Center
  • Musashi Sushi Bar & Japanese Cuisine, located at 314 SE H
  • Royal Barge, at 120 SW H
  • China Buffet, at 144 SE 7th
  • Sunflower Thai Cuisine (1571 NE 6th)
  • A Taste of China (211 NE A)
  • China Hut (1434 NW 6th)
  • Shiki Sushi Bar, at 125 SE G
  • Saigon Xich Lo, the food cart

BEST THAI DISHES

When I first started the Sneak Preview in 1986, Thai food was just starting to become the "next big thing." Today, there are many establishments offering Thai food on their menus, starting with Thai BBQ, which was most popular with our readers.

It was actually close at the top, with Pongsri's and Royal Barge garnering a lot of votes, followed by:

  • Sunflower Thai Cuisine
  • Pho Sur

BEST JAPANESE DISHES

We waited a whole year for a women's soccer rematch with Japan, and it was a good one. Japan beat the U.S.A. on penalty kicks in the World Cup last year, but the tables were turned in the Olympics, as the ladies in red, white and blue won 2-1 in the final game.

That calls for some Japanese food to celebrate, and where would our readers go locally? Most said Matzukaze (1675 NE 7th), but the list also included:

  • Musashi
  • Shiki's (at G Street Bar & Grill)
  • Hunan Garden

FAVORITE ITALIAN RESTAURANT

The Godfather trilogy were probably the best movies ever made, with Marlon Brando, Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino all making big names for themselves (well, Brando was already a household name, but who's counting?). And when you want a little Italian offer you can't refuse, our readers most often chose both The Vine (1610 Allen Creek Road) and The Bistro (2008 NW 6th Street) as their favorites.

Others receiving lots of votes were:

  • Rosso's Delicatessen
  • Olive Garden in Medford

BEST SELECTION OF PIZZAS

When I was in college, pizza was definitely one of the four major food groups (ice cream, chicken nuggets and doritos being the other three). One of my most enduring memories as a twenty-something was coming home from the bars one night and seeing my roommate Mac asleep on the sofa, sitting up, with a piece of pizza in his hand and the TV set blaring in front of him.

Where to go when you want to indulge in this nutritious food group? Wild River Brewing Company, located at 595 NE E, was tops with our voters this year, edging out Abby's Legendary Pizza (in the Williams Plaza and on NE Beacon).

The list of favorite pizzas also included:

  • Papa Murphy's (1011 NE 7th and 263 Rogue River Hwy)
  • Circle J Café
  • Papa John's, at 107 SW 4th
  • The Bistro
  • Pizza Hut
  • Figaro's

BEST BUFFET/SALAD BAR

It was the end of an era when J.J. North's closed earlier this year, but as with every other event that happens in this world, life goes on. Our readers responded to the pressure by naming Sizzler, at 1871 NE 7th, as their favorite this year, although Abby's Pizza and Sunshine Natural Foods at 128 SW H also received a lot of votes.

BEST VEGETARIAN DISHES

According to Wikipedia, vegetarianism can be adopted for various reasons, from ethical and religious beliefs, to heath, political, environmental, cultural, aesthetic or economic reasons. Whatever your reason, and whether you're a full-time or part-time vegetarian, you may want to follow the advice of our readers, who were most impressed with the selection at Sunshine Natural Foods (128 SW H) and Abu's Oasis Deli (1330 NW 6th), followed by:

  • Summer Jo's
  • MaMosa's
  • Twisted Cok
  • The Vine
  • Blondie's Bistro
  • Pho Sur

BEST CAESAR SALADS

Poor Caesar. It's March 15th, he's minding his own business on the floor of the Senate in the year 44 BCE, when some political fanatics stabbed him to death. There was an immediate outcry to outlaw knives, but that movement didn't get very far. He did, however, get a salad named after him, although there are rumors that it was named after some guy named Caesar in Tijuana. (Hey, man, give Caesar his due.)

Where to go when you want a great Caesars salad? Winning this category was a tie between Circle J Café and The Vine.

The list also included:

  • Taprock Northwest Grill
  • Elmer's
  • Train Depot
  • Wild River
  • Mediterranean Bar & Grill

BEST FRENCH ONION SOUP

This soup has ancient origins but underwent a resurgence in the 1960s when Jackie Kennedy renewed an interest in French cuisine (something that was begun in the White House by Thomas Jefferson). It's basically an onion soup based on beef broth and topped with cheese and croutons.

When it comes to onion soup, our readers were able to pinpoint a couple of establishments, starting with Applebee's, located at 250 NW Agness Avenue.

Others mentioned a lot were:

  • 115 Broiler
  • Train Depot
  • Della's
  • Taprock

RESTAURANT WITH BEST COUPONS

Coupons have becoming increasingly more popular during the Great Recession, and while economists say we're actually not in a recession anymore, it certainly doesn't feel like it. So ... let's save up those coupons and do what our readers do by visiting Shari's (190 NE Agness) and Elmer's (175 NE Agness).

Other great coupons include:

  • Train Depot
  • Arby's
  • Carl's Jr
  • Taprock
  • Abu's Oasis Deli

RESTAURANT WITH MOST EXOTIC COCKTAILS

I went on the Internet to find "weird cocktails" and I'd have to say the winner was from Ken Stewart's Grill in Akron, Ohio. They offer a $10 martini with a baby octopus on top. Seriously, does that sound disgusting or what? Those guys have been watching way too much Little Mermaid.

Here in the Rogue Valley, our bartenders don't try to gross people out. Instead, they concentrate on preparing outstanding cocktails that a.) Taste great and b.) Provide a little punch. And in that regard, our readers were most impressed with the creations at Blondie's Bistro, followed by:

  • Mediterranean Bar & Grill
  • Applebee's
  • Taprock Northwest Grill
  • Herb's LaCasita
  • Wild River Brewing Co
  • 115 Broiler
  • River's Edge

RESTAURANT WITH BEST DESSERTS

I can just picture a group of cavemen sitting around the fire polishing off a side of mastodon, when ol Clog says something like, "What I'd give for a little banana soufflé." So Mrs. Clog hustles off to the nearby jungle, finds a big ol' banana and a couple of chicken eggs, mixes it with some honey and vanilla extract, preheats the fire to 400 degrees, and surprises the whole troop with a big dessert.

Fifteen different restaurants were mentioned by our readers in this survey with Blondie's Bistro (226 SW G) and the R-Haus (2140 Rogue River Hwy) tying for top honors.

Others high on the list were:

  • Powderhorn Café
  • Shari's
  • Twisted Cork
  • Applebee's
  • Bluestone Bakery & Coffee (412 NW 6th)
  • Wild River
  • Black Forest
  • Hannah's
  • Taprock

BEST PLACE TO BUY PIES/CAKES

Pies and cakes are the quintessential American dessert ... just ask Johnny Appleseed and Betty Crocker. Locally, our readers are most impressed with the creations at both Powderhorn Café and Shari's, followed by:

  • Bluestone Bakery and Café
  • Chocolate Affair
  • Black Forest

RESTAURANT WITH BEST VIEW OF RIVER

It starts up near Crater Lake and flows 215 miles through Shady Cove, Gold Hill, Rogue River, Grants Pass, Agness and Gold Beach. It's world renowned for its fishing and whitewater rafting. And when you want to have dinner and watch this majestic river flow by, most people chose the cozy confines of Taprock Northwest Grill, located right on the river next to the Caveman Bridge and across from Riverside Park.

Other great views can be obtained upriver at both River's Edge and R-Haus, while the view downriver at both Morrison's Lodge and the O.K. Corral (via the Hellgate Jetboat Excursions) is also outstanding.

RESTAURANT WITH FRIENDLIEST WAITSTAFF

They don't have to be your best friends (I mean, who needs waiters and waitresses asking to borrow money?), but they do need to be friendly. Surly and suicidal doesn't make it when you're sitting down for a relaxing meal.

This was another popular category, as our readers named 25 different restaurants, starting with this year's winner, the friendly folks at Elmer's Restaurant.

  • The Top Ten included:
  • Taprock Northwest Grill
  • Herb's LaCasita
  • Train Depot
  • River's Edge
  • Mediterranean Bar & Grill
  • Della's
  • 115 Broiler
  • Wild River
  • Si Casa Flores

BEST "QUICK SERVICE" RESTAURANT

This is a genre that was practically invented by Americans. As a country that has been continually on the move ("Westward Ho," "Go West, young man" and all that), time is sometimes of the essence. And when it comes to that, our readers most often picked the fast, efficient (and tasty) service at Jimmy's Classic Drive-In, located at 515 NE E, which tied with Arby's (140 NE Terry Lane) in this survey.

Others mentioned quite a bit were:

  • Carl's Jr
  • McDonald's
  • Casablanca Coffee & Grill
  • Jack in the Box
  • Dairy Queen
  • Burger King
  • Taco Bell
  • Sonic Drive-In
  • Wendy's

BEST SELECTION OF BURGERS

American inventions ... apple pie, basketball, jazz, action movies and hamburgers. No wonder everyone wants to move here! And when they come to Grants Pass looking for great hamburgers, they most often turned to Jimmy's Classic Drive-In, followed by:

  • Carl's Jr
  • Applebee's
  • Burger King
  • Eddie's Old Fashioned Burgers
  • Jack in the Box
  • Wonder Bur Café
  • Dairy Queen
  • Sonic Drive-In
  • Wendy's
  • McDonald's

BEST MILKSHAKES

It's closer to a dessert than it is to a refreshing beverage ... just ask my sweet tooth for a testimonial. When it comes to great milkshakes, our readers named both Grants Pass Pharmacy (414 SW 6th) and Dairy Queen (1674 NW 6th and 610 Redwood Highway) as their favorites.

The list also included:

  • Shari's
  • Jimmy's Classic Drive-In
  • Carl's Jr
  • McDonald's
  • Eddie's Old Fashioned Burgers

BEST SELEC-TION OF SANDWICHES

Here's a line from comedian Jim Gaffigan: "Parents get burned out in big families. You can even see it in the naming of children. It's always, like, the first kid: 'You were named after Grandma.' The seventh kid: "You were named after a sandwich I had. I loved that. Now, get your brother Reuben.'"

And when our readers are looking to find a future name for their 8th born child, they most often turned to the selections at both Wild River Brewing Company (595 NE E) and Subway Sandwiches (with three locations in Grants Pass), followed by:

  • Millie's
  • Circle J Café
  • Quizno's
  • Pita Pit
  • Rosso's Delicatessen

BEST FISH & CHIPS

This dish contains fish, which are high in all those good omega 3's. Although 99% of the population have no idea what that means, they've heard Dr. Oz talk about it on TV as something beneficial to your heart, so it must be good. Deep fried chips aren't great for the ol' arteries, but at least it all evens out, right?

Where to go for great fish & chips. Topping this category was the Laughing Clam, located at 121 SW G Street.

Others high on the list were:

  • Taprock Northwest Grill
  • Wild River
  • Elmer's
  • Goldminer Restaurant

FAVORITE BARISTA (COFFEE SERVER)

You're standing in line at your favorite coffeehouse and the Valley Girl in front of you is talking on the phone to ... like ... whomever! She finally makes it to the front of the line, puts her phone away and stares at the menu board for two minutes trying to figure out what she wants. Your only thought: "Why is murder illegal?" The barista feels your pain, moves the girl along, and gets you back focused on the important things in life, i.e., caffeine!

Quite a few baristas were named in this survey, including this year's winner Chad Sweeley at the Dutch Brothers main store downtown.

FAVORITE COFFEEHOUSE

Caffeine is only part of the equation when it comes to popular coffeehouses. It's also a social scene, where friends, relatives, colleagues and minor acquaintances meet to discuss the important issues of the day, like who will be the next person voted off Survivor.

Taking down the top spot in this category was once again Dutch Brothers, located at the corner of 6th & D.

It was actually fairly close this year as Rogue Coffee Roasters, Bluestone Bakery and Human Bean all have their followers.

Others mentioned were:

  • Jumpin' Bean
  • The new Starbucks

RESTAURANT WITH BEST OUTDOOR SEATING

Summertime, and the livin' is easy; fish are jumpin' and the outdoor patio is fine ... or something like that. All I know is when it's hot outside, there's nothing like sitting on the patio at your favorite restaurant and enjoying the great outdoors.

This category ended in an almost statistical dead heat as both Taprock Northwest Grill and River's Edge scored well with our readers.

The list also included:

  • Galice Resort
  • Morrison's Lodge
  • Summer Jo's
  • R-Haus
  • O.K. Corral
  • El Paraiso
  • Grants Pass Golf Club

BEST RESTAURANT OUTSIDE GRANTS PASS

I heard that there's talk of an Amtrak passenger train providing service from Eugene to Oregon. If that's true, it would certainly make local travel a little more fun and exciting. You could get on a train and visit all of your favorite out-of-town restaurants, including:

  • Bella Union in Jacksonville
  • Morrison's Lodge outside Galice
  • Olive Garden in Medford
  • Red Robin in Medford
  • The Jacksonville Inn
  • Porter's in Medford
  • The O.K. Corral
  • Galice Resort
  • Bambu in Medford

ENTERTAINMENT

BEST ROCK/BLUES CONCERT IN GRANTS PASS LAST YEAR

A number of concerts were named by our readers, but the number one choice was Funktional Fusion, a 10-piece funk/soul band, which made quite a few local appearances last year.

BEST "CLASSICAL" CONCERT LAST YEAR

Classical music goes all the way back to Pythagoras, who in 485 BC created a tuning system and helped to codify musical notation. Here we are 2500 years later and still enjoying the interplay of different musical instruments, which provide variations on the same notes.

Still a favorite with our readers are the 6-7 concerts provided by the Rogue Valley Symphony every year, under the direction of Martin Majkut. Many people specifically mentioned the concert in November with Chas Barnard on cello.

Also receiving votes were:

  • The Siskiyou Singers' "Night at the Opera" concert
  • Jefferson Baroque Orchestra
  • Three River Chorale; Kate Campbell, director

FAVORITE CONCERT AT THE BRITT FESTIVAL LAST YEAR

The Britt Festival celebrated its 50th season this year as "the Pacific Northwest's premier outdoor summer performing arts festival." Whether you have reserved seating in front or choice spots on the grassy knoll, the experience keeps thousands of people returning every year.

Landing at the top of the list with our readers this year was an appearance by The Avett Brothers, a rock band from Concord, North Carolina.

The list of favorites also included:

  • Smokey Robinson
  • Spearhead
  • Natalie Merchant
  • Chris Botti

FAVORITE CONCERT IN THE PARK

Every Tuesday night during the summer in Riverside Park, the Chamber of Commerce and some dedicated sponsors host "Concerts in the Park," with musical entertainment ranging from Big Band music to good ol' rock 'n' roll.

Strumming their way to our readers' hearts last year was The Boomer Band, which rocked everyone out in 2011 during the "Back to the 50s Celebration."

Also mentioned were:

  • Funktional Fusion
  • Reggae band Indubious at the end of June this year

MOST FUN PLACE FOR FIRST FRIDAY ART NIGHT

It's turned into one of the most fun social events on the Grants Pass calendar, as hundreds of people gather in downtown Grants Pass on the First Friday of every month to enjoy art, music, refreshments and conversation. And who knows, maybe it brings a small appreciation of art to some of the many teenagers who "hang out" there during the festivities.

Topping this category once again was the Grants Pass Museum of Art on G Street, followed by:

  • FireHouse Gallery
  • All along G Street
  • Rogue Roasters
  • Glass Forge
  • Elegance
  • Laughing Clam

FAVORITE LOCAL ARTIST

Quite a few local artists were mentioned by our readers, including this year's winner, Donna Walsh, who also recently won "Best of Show" in the professional division at the Josephine County Art Fair. Donna's paintings "have become known as authentically perfect around the country and have helped her to be noted as a celebrity painter."

The list also featured:

  • Janet Higgins
  • Janet Gogue
  • Del Hearn
  • Vickie Killian
  • Gene Rimmer, photographer

FAVORITE "BEAR" DOWNTOWN

Every summer for the last ten years, Brady Adams and Evergreen Federal Bank display some of their most popular public artworks, from eagles and doors to Independence Shield Monuments. Probably the most popular, though, are the bears, in which local artists creatively decorate their ursine buddies in a variety of costumes.

This summer was no exception, and the most popular bear according to our readers was Carmen Bearanda, complete with a fruit basket on her head.

Other ferocious bears were:

  • Berry Potter
  • Charlotte's Web's "Some Kind of Bear."
  • Pirate bear
  • Picasso bear

FAVORITE CITY OR COUNTY PARK

There's a reason why practically every city in the world has parks, from New York's Central Park to L.A.'s Griffith Park—they provide a refuge from the hustle-bustle of everyday life and are a source of beauty in an increasingly concrete jungle. Plus they can be a source of recreation and meditation.

In Grants Pass, where city residents ensure that parks are included in the budget, the overwhelming favorite is Riverside Park. The All Sports Park, which was built by volunteers, came in a close second.

The county, however, is a different story, as the current budget crisis has slashed the park's budget entirely, letting them twist slowly in the wind while the residents enjoy by far the lowest tax rate in the entire state of Oregon. Increased fees and minimal maintenance have kept many of them open, and the favorite with our readers is Indian Mary Park on the way to Galice, followed by:

  • Tom Pearce Park
  • Cathedral Hills
  • Griffin Park
  • Merlin Community Park

BEST SPORTING EVENT IN JOSEPHINE COUNTY LAST YEAR

We don't have anything as exciting as Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island, but who needs to see Joey Chestnut eat 68 hot dogs and buns anyway? Our readers were more interested in the horse races at Grants Pass Downs, which came in first place.

The list also included:

  • The Boatnik Race
  • GPHS football
  • Adult flag football
  • Girls softball tourney at the Boatnik

BEST PLACE TO GET A "WORKOUT"

Everything I've read about how to stay healthy and free of disease includes exercise as part of the program. So getting a workout is not just to help you keep the weight off; it's also important for a healthy heart and as a deterrent to cancer, diabetes, and a whole host of other ugly things.

Where to go to get a workout? The majority picked Club Northwest, located on NW Vine St., followed by:

  • Grants Pass Family YMCA
  • Knockout Fitness
  • Anytime Fitness
  • Curves for Women
  • The Zoo Health Club
  • Walking at the All Sports Park

BEST PLACE TO GO DANCING

From Wikipedia: "Dancing was designed by the forces of natural selection as a potent tool to put groups of human ancestors in a battle trance, a specific altered state of consciousness." That may be a little far-fetched, although some of the moves, e.g. "the bump," I witnessed in discos back in the 70s certainly reminded me of Civil War battlefields.

When it comes to finding that inner battle trance, our readers most often named the friendly confines of the G Street Bar & Grill.

Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Herb's Shenanigans
  • Zumba at Club Northwest
  • Concerts in the Park
  • J.D.'s
  • Cedarwood Saloon
  • Black, White & the Blues
  • Grants Pass Community Center
  • The Eagles' Lodge

BEST THING ABOUT "BACK TO THE 50s"

It's a 3-day nostalgia festival sponsored every July by the Towne Center Association, and it has become extremely popular with locals and out-of-towners alike. Especially popular are the classic cars and the Saturday night cruise. Also on the list are:

  • Musical entertainment
  • The street dance
  • Karaoke contest
  • The sidewalk sales

FAVORITE THING ABOUT HELLGATE JETBOAT EXCURSIONS

In 1978 I hitchhiked into Grants Pass from Denver to visit some old college buddies, who'd opened a restaurant in town in 1975 (the Bistro) and bought a property twelve miles outside town on the river. They dubbed the property the O.K. Corral after their last names (Obremski and Kochis). The day I arrived (June 4) they informed me that they'd converted their guest house into a restaurant serving dinner as part of the jetboat excursions out of Grants Pass.

That night was the premiere opening of the O.K. Corral, and it has grown in size and popularity ever year since. Our readers definitely appreciate the dinner at the O.K. Corral but what they most love about the Hellgate trip is the boat ride and the drivers.

Especially popular are 360° spins that the drivers execute on the way back. Stopping in Hellgate Canyon is also on the list.

BEST PLAY LAST YEAR

There were actually more plays locally than you'd think, as I counted ten of them. And that doesn't include the offerings by the Old Time Radio Players or any of the high school productions.

Envelope please for "Best Play Last Year" ... and the winner is ...The Great American Trailer Park Musical by the Barnstormers, which entertained full houses last spring.

Others in the running were:

  • Singin' in the Rain by Rogue Music Theatre
  • Steel Magnolias by the Barnstormers
  • The Nutcracker by Stillpoint Dance Studio
  • Cinderella – Enchanted by One Eleven Theatre Company
  • Crimes of the Heart by the Barnstormers
  • Sound of Music by GPHS Theatre Arts Department
  • The Winter Variety Show by the Old Time Radio Players

BEST THEATER PERFORMANCE (MALE)

For one of the few times in the 26-year history of this readers' survey, an actor came away with back-to-back victories, as Kent Prickett was honored for his role in the Barnstormers' An Enemy of the People.

Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Frankie Lane in the Barnstormers' The Great American Trail Park Musical
  • Adam Cuppy in RMT's Singin' in the Rain
  • David Mannix in the Barnstormers' The Delicate Balance
  • Sig Dekany in the Barnstormers' An Enemy of the People

BEST THEATER PERFORMANCE (FEMALE)

On the female side of the ledger, the most recognition went to Trivia Drevets for her work in the Barnstormers' Moon over Buffalo.

She was followed by:

  • Julia Cuppy for RMT's Singin' in the Rain
  • Lynn Beach in the Barnstormers' The Delicate Balance
  • Charlsie Lane in the Barnstormers' the Great American Trailer Park Musical
  • Angela Padilla for the Barnstormers' Steel Magnolias

BEST DIRECTOR (LOCAL THEATER)

Every production contains the personal stamp of its director, and everyone appreciates the time and energy he or she devotes to every performance.

And in that regard our readers most often mentioned Daniel Grossbard for his work on RMT's summer 2011 production of Singin' in the Rain.

Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Penny King for Stillpoint's The Nutcracker and for the Barnstormers' The Great American Trailer Park Musical
  • Russ Lloyd for the Barnstormers' The Delicate Balance
  • Nancy Ryan for the Barnstormers' Steel Magnolias

BEST PLAY IN ASHLAND THIS YEAR

It's world renowned, and every year thousands of tourists descend on Ashland to take part in the magic. Sneak Preview readers are no exception, and as far as this season is concerned, they are most impressed with Animal Crackers, a comedic take-off on the Marx Brothers.

Also popular is Romeo and Juliet.

BEST LOCAL MUSICIAN/SINGER

What would we do without music? It would certainly make life a lot more boring and routine. Can you image going to a football game or a parade without music? Or watching a movie? Or driving in the car? Or ... oh well, you get the picture.

Our readers were able to name quite a few local musicians, and strumming his way to the top was Mike Brons, a guitar instructor at RCC who also plays gigs around town at the Twisted Cork and other venues.

Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Megan Sdudstad of Funktional Fusion
  • Kristy Lee Cook
  • Jenny Skudstad
  • Mike Smith
  • John Trujillo of Col. Mustard
  • Joe Gomez

BEST LOCAL ROCK 'N' ROLL BAND

Rock 'n' roll is here to stay, and they built this city on rock 'n' roll. What more can you say? Rockin' and rollin' their way into our hearts was local band Col. Mustard, which plays regularly at the G Street Bar & Grill.

Also receiving lots of votes were:

  • Hot Gossip
  • Funktional Fusion
  • River City Rhythm & Blues
  • Lizard Mafia
  • 100 Watt Mind

BEST JAZZ BAND IN THE VALLEY

My dad was a jazz aficionado, but mainly the Big Band variety. I grew up hearing Benny Goodman, Louie Armstrong and Artie Shaw, and how my dad claimed to have "discovered" Bing Crosby.

Locally, our readers named the Oregon Little Big Band as their favorite, and my dad would probably concur.

They were followed by:

  • The Mixers
  • RCC Jazz Band
  • So. Ore. Jazz Orchestra

BEST NIGHTCLUB TO HEAR LIVE MUSIC

When you want to get out of the house and actually feel as if you've gone somewhere and done something, catching live music at a local nightclub is the perfect assignment.

Once again taking down the number one spot is the "G" Street Bar & Grill, followed by:

  • Laughing Clam
  • Herb's Shenanigans
  • JD's Sports Pub
  • Cedarwood Tavern
  • Eagles Lodge

BEST PART OF THE 2012 BOATNIK FESTIVAL

No one can accuse the Active Club of sitting on their hands, letting other people do the work, and putting everything off to the last second. With a festival the size of the Boatnik, you have to start working on the next one the day the other one ends. So, from all us ... good job, guys!

It's no surprise that the Boatnik Parade won the hearts of the majority of our readers. The event has a little bit of something for everyone.

Also high on their lists were:

  • The jet boat races
  • Jet flyover
  • The fireworks
  • Beer and wine festival
  • The V.I.P. tent
  • Softball tourney

BAR WITH BEST SELECTION OF MIXED DRINKS

Sometimes you want something with a little more pizzazz and cachet than just a gin and tonic or a bourbon and water. Creatively is the key here, and in that regard our readers most often mentioned the selections at Blondie's Bistro and Taprock Northwest Grill.

Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Mediterranean Bar & Grill
  • Hong Kong
  • G Street Bar & Grill
  • Laughing Clam
  • Wonder Bur
  • 115 Broiler

BAR WITH BEST SELECTION OF MICROBREW BEERS

The good old days when all you could get was Budweiser and Schlitz actually weren't that good. Not that those beers were bad, but it's just more fun when you have a lot of choices. Microbrewed beers have become such a science that you can now find varieties to fill almost every mood and taste.

And when it comes to having a great selection of microbrewed beers, our readers gave the nod to both the Laughing Clam and Wild River Brewing Co., followed by:

  • JD's
  • Joe's Bar & Grill
  • Taprock Northwest Grill

BAR WITH FRIENDLIEST BARTENDERS

You want a bartender with good jokes like this one: A Chihuahua, Doberman and Bulldog are in a bar when a great-looking female Collie comes in and says, "Whoever can best say liver and cheese in a sentence can go on a date with me." The Doberman says, "I love liver and cheese." The collie replies, "That's not good enough." So the Bulldog says, "I hate liver and cheese." She says, "That's not creative enough." Finally the Chihuahua says, "Liver alone ... cheese mine."

And when our readers wanted friendly bartenders with good jokes, it ended in a 3-way tie between The Cedarwood Saloon, JD's Sports Pub & Grill, and the Wonder Bur.

Also high on the list were:

  • Taprock
  • G Street Bar & Grill
  • Blondie's
  • Laughing Clam
  • H Street Eatery
  • Joe's Bar & Grill

BEST BAR TO WATCH SPORTS ON TV

The Olympics is over, but we now have the baseball playoffs, college football and the NFL coming up (Fantasy Football here we come). Where to go when you want to root your favorite team onto victory? This was pretty close, but in the end, Joe's Bar & Grill edged out JDs Sports Bar & Grill.

Also mentioned were:

  • Wild River
  • Applebee's

FAVORITE PART OF THE GROWERS MARKET

It's one of the oldest growers' markets in southern Oregon, and it's a veritable social scene every Saturday morning from 9am to 1pm behind the Post Office. This category received a lot of attention from our readers, and apparently everyone has an opinion. There's no denying that the selection of fresh organic produce and all the people are important, but when we break the market down into individual entities, it turned out like this:

  • The bread
  • Rosie's wood-fired pizzas
  • Breakfast burritos
  • Tamales by Maria
  • The mushroom guy
  • The donuts
  • Marti Fate
  • The fact that there are no dogs allowed

FAVORITE PART OF THE COUNTY FAIR

This year's event was a huge success, but it happened after our readers filled out their ballots. They have great memories, however, of last year's event, and they singled out all the music, including Starship and Marty Stuart.

  • Also high on the list were:
  • The Monster Trucks
  • All of the animals
  • The exhibits
  • The Art Fair
  • The photography exhibit
  • The petting zoo
  • The food

BEST PLACE TO GO FOR A SUNDAY DRIVE

Yes, the price of gas may be hovering around $4 a gallon, but surely there's some comfort knowing that the price is $8.17 in London and $9.63 in Turkey. Where to go when you want to spend $8-$15 on a short drive through the countryside? Many of our readers picked the Applegate Valley as their number one destination, followed by:

  • The Coast
  • Galice
  • Crater Lake
  • Onion Mountain
  • Jacksonville
  • Ashland

BEST PLACE TO GO GAMBLING

Yeah, I know, the best strategy to use when gambling is to not bet. The house definitely has the edge, but you never know when you might hit the big one. And if you consider your losses as entertainment, it's not that all bad ... unless you bet the mortgage on the house, then it becomes bad (and stupid).

Taking this category in a runaway was Seven Feathers, which is a mere 35 miles north on the Interstate.

Also mentioned were:

  • Las Vegas
  • Reno
  • The Mill Indian Casino
  • Smith River Indian Casino
  • Purple Parrot
  • The horse races at Grants Pass Downs

* * * * *

Wow ... 144 categories complete. I am now going to step out into the sunlight after three straight days in this basement office. I feel like Count Dracula. See everyone in 2013. If you have any suggestions for new entries next year, write to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. —C.H.

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