Best of Ashland 2015

Another year, another “Best of Ashland,” and once again our readers responded beautifully, sending in over 300 ballots. Yes, there were 144 categories and while some complained that it was too much, we only asked that readers respond to as many as they felt comfortable with.
It’s been a fairly ho-hum year in Ashland since the last “Best” was published in February 2014, so maybe this survey will help bust things open. The highlights from last year included:

  • A citizens’ request to the City Council to ban the open carrying of guns brought the crazies out of the woodwork. In the end, the Council decided to do nothing because, heck, we all need to pack weapons when walking around town.
  • The Council also voted in February to speed up the construction of the Talent-Ashland-Phoenix water Intertie. It was finished in late August, just in time for the drought (although we never had to use it, thanks to the citizens stepping up and conserving water).
  • It was a bad year for Mt. Ashland as the ski area failed to open for the first time ever. They achieved a short-term loan to stay afloat and began to majorly pray for snow this year. Their prayers were answered.
  • The biggest story of the year was the citizen-driven ballot measure in May that banned GMO crops from Jackson County. Despite Monsanto donating $28 zillion to defeating the measure, it passed with 64% of the vote. Take that, Monsanto!
  • The Legislature passed a bill allowing for medical marijuana dispensaries. Although some cities placing a one-year moratorium on them, dispensaries started cropping up in southern Oregon. In November, voters would actually legalize the use of recreational marijuana, and it will soon be a brave, new world in this state.
  • Jim Giancarlo of Oregon Cabaret Theatre unexpectedly died in August, and the outpouring of support at his memorial service was extraordinary.
  • The November election for City Council was a yawner, as both Pam Marsh and Steffani Seffinger won in landslides. In the rematch race for the State Senate, incumbent Alan Bates was able to fend off a vigorous challenge by Dave Dotterer.
  • The City Council instituted a plastic bag ban, which went into effect November 1. The Conservation Commission wanted to charge people 25¢ for paper bags, but the Council balked and changed it to a dime.

But onward to the future! These results were painstakingly compiled by our staff with a keen eye on ferreting out ballot stuffing. This is not an exact science nor is it the final arbiter on the “popularity” of anything but is, rather, an opportunity to recognize as many people, businesses and organizations as possible. On categories that were close, we have awarded multiple ties; in a survey like this, that is the only fair way to do it.
Anyway, have fun with this, our 24th annual “Best of Ashland.”

DEMOGRAPHICS

To gauge exactly what kind of people were answering this survey, we asked the question “favorite movie of all time.” We got probably 100 different responses but only recorded answers that received at least two responses. The results show how eclectic our readership is:

  • Gone with the Wind.
  • Sound of Music.
  • The Princess Bride.
  • Out of Africa.
  • Shawshank Redemption.
  • Wizard of Oz.

MEDIA

FAVORITE RADIO STATION

You’d think in this era of instant video gratification with Youtube, Skype, Facebook and Instagram, that no one would take the time to listen to a box with people talking … but you’d be wrong. It seems that radio is as popular as ever, and this is one category which every single one of our voters answered.
I wish I could say that a commercial station challenged the supremacy of Jefferson Public Radio in this category, but once again it was a major landslide victory.
Other favorites included:

  • KRWQ.
  • KCMX (Lite 102).
  • KISS-FM (107.5).
  • KROG.
  • KBOY.
  • KSJK (1230-AM0.

FAVORITE RADIO PERSONALITY

They also go by the moniker “disc jockey,” aka dj’s, but not all radio personalities play Top 40 songs amid pithy repartee, one-liners and up-to-date reports on I-5 drug busts. Take, for instance, this year’s winner Geoffrey Riley, who has been a journalist in southern Oregon for over three decades now, from radio to TV. He’s now the full-time host of The Jefferson Exchange on JPR.
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Don Matthews at JPR.
  • Maria Kelly at JPR.
  • Gemineye at KISS-FM.
  • Colleen Pyke at JPR.
  • Leslie Haze at Lite 102.

BEST LOCAL TV NEWS STATION

On the radio you can hear about the big pileup on I-5, but with TV you can see all the mangled bodies and severed limbs … just kidding, just kidding. Our local TV newspeople are very discrete about that kind of stuff, and we thank them for staying on top of local happenings every day of the week.
And in that regard, our readers once again chose NewsWatch 12 (KDRV) as their favorite. The battle for number two ended up in an exact tie between KTVL (Channel 10) and KOBI/Channel 5.
Also receiving votes were Fox 26 and Southern Oregon Public Television.

FAVORITE TV SPORTS ANCHOR/REPORTER

Covering the Ashland High School volleyball team’s rush to the playoffs might not be as exciting as reporting on the World Cup from Rio de Janeiro, but for most people it’s way more important. Seriously, how life-shattering is it that Germany beat Brazil 7-1 when the Lady Grizzlies are winning tournaments in Bend?
Taking down the number one spot this year was Chris Leone of KDRV NewsWatch 12. Chris has been with the NewsWatch 12 team since October 2010. He grew up in the Northeast and graduated from Syracuse University in 2008 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.
Also making the list were:

  • Will Maetzoid of KTVL.
  • Brandon Kamerman of KDRV.

FAVORITE REPORTER AT THE DAILY TIDINGS

There was a major change at our favorite almost-daily newspaper in August, when they followed the lead of the Sneak Preview and went to a tabloid-sized publication. The change was a good one, as they brought in a new editor who actually lives and works in town, while employing a host of local writers to concentrate on Ashland. Taking down the top spot this year was sports editor Joe Zavala, who practically became a household name with his coverage of the SOU football team winning a national championship this year.
Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Vickie Aldous.
  • John Darling, freelance reporting.
  • Bert Etling, the new editor.
  • Chris Honoré, columnist.
  • Angela Decker, columnist.

BEST PART OF THE SNEAK PREVIEW

When I started the Sneak Preview 28 years ago, there was one column that I knew had to be included every month: a Profile featuring someone in the community who was active in an organization. It would be a chance for the person to plug his group while also answering important questions like “Favorite Movie” and “Favorite Beatle Song.” I knew it would be a popular column, and I was right, as The Profile once again won this category.
Practically every article or column got some kind of recognition, and our writers appreciate the accolades. Coming in second place were our monthly cover stories, which attempt to report on local issues in a more in-depth, Gonzo-style manner.
Also popular with our readers are:

  • The Business Grapevine.
  • The Ads, (“Very good local resource,” one person wrote).
  • The “Best of Ashland.”
  • Letters to the Editor.
  • News Briefs.
  • Calendar of Events.
  • “Twenty Years Ago Today” article.
  • Theater, music and art reviews.
  • Rick Bleiweiss’s stuff.
  • And our favorite: “All of it!”

PEOPLE/BUSINESS

BEST NEW BUSINESS IN TOWN (LAST YEAR)

Each month I write a “Twenty Years Ago Today” column in which I go through Sneak Previews from 20 years ago. I’m totally amazed at how many businesses are no longer with us. Being an entrepreneur is risky business (pun intended), but it can also be extremely rewarding … especially if you succeed. Even in failure, though, you can at least say you gave it a try.
Anyway, winning this category for 2015 was a tie between Harvey’s Place (50 E. Main) and The Brick Room (35 N. Main, upstairs). These two businesses had some tough shoes to fill, as Harvey’s replaced the downtown institution Chateaulin Restaurant, while The Brick Room is where Alex’s used to be. A changing of the guard!
Coming in a close third was Piccadilly Cycles at 525 A Street, followed by:

  • Granite Taphouse at 23 N. Main (upstairs).
  • Live at the Armory, promoting events at Ashland Historic Armory.
  • Home State BBQ (376 E. Main).
  • NW Raw Organic Juice Bar at 370 E. Main.
  • Dobrá Teahouse at 75 N. Main.
  • Blue Toba (Indonesian food) at 1690 Ashland St. (next to Printfast).
  • The Lunch Show at 165 E. Main.
  • Swing Tree Brewing Company at 300 E. Hersey.
  • The Leaf & Dragon (33 N. First).
  • Platt Anderson Cellars Winery.

FAVORITE BUSINESSPERSON

One of the keys to having a successful business is to ensure that your community is strong and vital. Most businesspeople you see on this list just don’t open the doors to their business every morning and hope for the best. They donate their time, energy and money to community organizations and projects that generate goodwill among their customers and a thriving local economy. Among those was this year’s winner Jason Gallagher, the head honcho at Live at the Armory, a production company that is trying to bring the magic back to the Ashland Historic Armory with plenty of shows and events.
The list also included:

  • Pam and Don Hammond of Paddington Station.
  • Tom Beam of Pasta Piatti and Sesame.
  • Alex Amarotico of Standing Stone.
  • Morgan George of Northwest Pizza and Pasta.
  • Neil Clooney of Smithfield’s.
  • John Brenes of the Music Coop.
  • Jim Teece of Ashland Home Net.

FAVORITE FAMILY OWNED BUSINESS

You gotta love a place where mom, dad, siblings, nieces, nephews and even grandparents chip in to help the cause. There are quite a few businesses in town where it’s a “family affair.” Winning the hearts and minds of our readers this year was La Casa del Pueblo, where the De La Cruz family (Salvador, Lupe, Ramon, etc., etc.) try to make you feel at home and part of their extended family.
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • NW Nature Shop.
  • Paddington Station.
  • Gold & Gems.
  • Breadboard.
  • Standing Stone.
  • Weisinger’s Family Winery.

FAVORITE HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER

It’s hard to pick a time in our lives that holds more power over our imagination than high school. As soon as you get out, people are already planning reunions, and it never stops, from the 10th to the 50th.  The friends you make in high school are forever, and some of the teachers helped determine your direction in life. You can be 50 years old when you run into an old teacher at Safeway, and you’ll still refer to him as Mr. Smith.
Quite a few teachers were mentioned in this survey, starting with the number one choice, Todd Hobein, who teaches Earth Science and Biology.
He was followed in the balloting by:

  • Nikki Thommen, Humanities.
  • Betsy Bishop, Humanities and Fine Arts, including Drama.
  • Jay Preskenis, Humanities.
  • Kate Kennedy, Science.
  • Caroline Spear, Fine Arts and Alternative Education.
  • Charlie Hall, PE teacher and head football coach.

FAVORITE PRINCIPAL

When you’re young and in school, the principal is equivalent to being President of the World. Actually, President of the World would be a step down from the all-knowing, all-wise position of principal. Almost all of the local principals were named in this survey, and we’ll name the Top Four, starting with Steve Retzlaff at the Middle School, and followed by:

  • Michelle Zundel at the high school.
  • Glenna Stiles at Helman Elementary.
  • Catherine Razi at the Siskiyou School.

FAVORITE CROSSING GUARD

Who would have thought that a crossing guard could be controversial, but that’s exactly what happened when this year’s favorite, Chris Miller, decided to liven the job up by donning elaborate and funny costumes while blasting rock music from his car on Walker Street, near the Middle School and Walker Elementary. Unfortunately, the School District felt that it was a distraction, and Miller graciously cleaned up his act.
Others popular with our readers were:

  • Lillian Toothman at the middle school.

FAVORITE LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETE

Whether you’re quarterback of the football team or backup wrestler in the 120-pound division, you still give it your all. While quite a few local athletes were mentioned, it was Hope Baldrica, a star volleyball player, who got the most recognition. Others receiving lots of votes were:

  • Gabe Lehrburger, boys soccer.
  • Georgia Williams, girls basketball.
  • Kyle Weinberg, quarterback, football team.
  • Facie Graham, girls soccer.
  • Jordan Tilley, volleyball.

FAVORITE INSTRUCTOR AT SOU

 Watching SOU win the national championship on ESPN was total fun, but the players still had to come back to Ashland and take finals. Life just kind of goes on, doesn’t it? Quite a few faculty members were mentioned in this survey, including this year’s winner Mike Jones, in the Department of Health & Physical Education.
Also receiving a lot of votes were:

  • Miles Inada, Digital Arts.
  • Edwin Battistella, English.
  • David Humphrey, Theatre Arts.
  • Dennis Slattery, Business.
  • Paul French, Choral Studies.
  • Vickie Purslow, Music.

CUTEST BABY BORN IN LAST YEAR

The balloting was fast and furious this year for “Cutest Baby,” but in the end Twain Nunes garnered the most support. Our congratulations to Twain and his parents, Ashley and Matt.

FAVORITE DENTIST

Did you know that sharks grow a new set of teeth every two weeks to replace worn teeth? (Probably from eating surfers and old Michelins floating in the ocean.) That would certainly keep the shark dentists busy. Humans aren’t that lucky; we have to take really good care of our teeth or problems can occur at any time. Dentists come in handy to not only handle emergencies but to also prevent problems from occurring in the first place.
There was some extraordinary interest in this category this year, and three dentists battled it out for the top spot. Our congratulations to the winners—Eugene Robbins, Brandt Cullen and Brady Frank.
The Top Twelve featured:

  • Brian Kitchell.
  • Ed Warr.
  • Gary McGraw.
  • Tom Dumont.
  • James Benson.
  • Dan Jackson.
  • Joe Cochran.
  • Eric Jones.
  • Mike Henneman.

FAVORITE DOCTOR

Here in Oregon, we have the luxury of having a doctor for governor, and John Kitzhaber has been making the news lately for stopping at scenes of medical emergencies and working his magic. When we don’t have the gov around, however, we have to make do, and our readers named 35 different doctors as their favorites.
Topping the list this year was Jani Rollins, who also won this category in 2008 and 2001.
The list also included:

  • Craig Mather.
  • Sylvia Chatroux.
  • John Sager.
  • John Delgado.
  • Leslie Stone.
  • Dee Christlieb.
  • Richard Morris.
  • Karin Kuhl.

FAVORITE ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE PRACTITIONER

I Googled “Obamacare and Alternative Medicine” just now and was relieved to hear that the Affordable Care Act will make a point of including complementary medicine as part of its coverage (unless, of course, the Supreme Court decides otherwise, but that’s a topic for another day). Preventive medicine is actually the wave of the future, and I think everyone should be relieved to hear that you don’t have to be on pharmaceutical drugs to be healthy.
Anyway, there were 30 alternative medicine practitioners mentioned in this survey, which is a testament to its growing strength all across southern Oregon. The number one mention in this category was Dr. Deborah Gordon, an MD who practices holistic medicine, “treating patients by looking at the body as a whole.”
The list of favorites was fairly extensive and included:

  • Acupuncturist Jenn Collins.
  • Naturopathic doctor Geoff Houghton.
  • Acupuncturist Ken Bendat.
  • Naturopathic doctor Bonnie Nedrow.
  • Chiropractor Kathleen Manley.
  • Acupuncturist Jody Herriott.
  • Chiropractor Marc Heller.
  • Mona Tara, MD, specializing in holistic care.
  • Acupuncturists Jason and Kara Miller, of Jade Mountain.
  • Acupuncturist Suzanne Sky.
  • Chiropractor Jordan Weeda.

FAVORITE NURSE PRACTITIONER

According to Wikipedia, Nurse Practitioners “have completed advanced coursework and clinical education that gives them clinical competencies for expanded practice beyond that of a registered nurse (RN).” Our readers obviously know who they are, as they were able to name 15 of them in this survey, including their number one choice, which was a tie between Patti Frires and Kathryn Stringer.
Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Carolyn Self.
  • Shannon Rio.
  • Caroline Dryland.
  • Cindy Parks.

FAVORITE MASSAGE THERAPIST    

You just got back from a weight lifting tournament, and then your neighbor asked you to carry her new refrigerator up three flights of stairs. Now, for some obscure reason, every muscle in your body aches. Where to go? Ashland certainly has its share of massage therapists, and I would love to name all 32 of them that our readers singled out, but we’ll have to stick with the top ten. Topping the charts again this year was Leinani Lundahl, followed by:

  • Kelly Vittoria.
  • JoAnn Lewis of Family Massage Education Center.
  • Lily Baty of Sunshine Salon.
  • Jode Dawson of Clear Creek Healing Arts.
  • Ruby Henrie of Cascade Massage.
  • Beka Chandler.
  • Noah Volz.
  • Eden McCarthy.
  • Gema Allen.

FAVORITE HYPNOTHERAPIST

To the person who wrote in, “I.M. Sleepynow,” we’ll have to admit, that was pretty funny. Hypnotherapy can actually be fairly effective for resolving some personal issues, and when our readers wanted to get some help in that regard, they most often called (in alphabetical order):

  • Rochelle Jaffe.
  • Renee Miereanu.
  • Lydia Norris.

Also receiving votes were:

  • Nancy Bloom.
  • Teja Shankara.

FAVORITE HAIR STYLIST

So your date comes to pick you up for a wonderful night out on the town, and when he or she pulls up in front of the house, you notice that the car is a convertible. You panic, but since you have your hair stylist on speed dial, you agree to have him or her meet you at the restaurant for a quick once-over in the bathroom. Then voilá, you look like a million bucks again.
Whom to call when you need that emergency once-over (or even a monthly tune-up)? Our readers were able to mention 38 different hair stylists, with the top nod being a tie between Ann-Britt Malden of Renu (who also won this event in 2012), and Leon Danielle, who won back in the Dark Ages of 1998.
The Top Ten featured:

  • Susan Zastoupil of Be Cherished.
  • Linda Hood of Victoria’s Salon.
  • Shirley Remington of Salon Juliet.
  • Sherrie Rockwell at Sunshine Salon.
  • Katie and Darrell Yasui of Dkor Hair Design.
  • Renee Fox-Rowe of Kurl Girl, above Abbinito.
  • Julie Schmeiss of the Blue Giraffe.
  • Lezlie Green of the Waterstone Spa.

BEST AESTHETICIAN (FACIALS)

The skin on your back or even your arms can begin to look like seven miles of bad roads in West Virginia, but when it comes to your face, there’s not a whole lot of compromise. You gotta look at that every day in the mirror, so it pays to keep it lookin’ good. The science on that is fairly exacting, and skin experts have been working 24/7 for the last, oh, couple of thousand years to work out the logistics of every single pore in your face.
The balloting was pretty close on this one, but in the end Tiana Bramson of Abbinito shared the award with Lily Baty of Sunshine Salon, followed by:

  • Diana Taracena of Pure Alchemy.
  • Tasa Painter of Glow.
  • Serena Beach of The Beach House.
  • Katie Hartman.
  • Kate Wasserman and Gretchen Lee of Imani Institute of Cosmetology.

FAVORITE MAIL CARRIER

The Post Office has been going through some tough times lately with declining profits, etc. I have a great way to help them out which, for the lack of a better phrase, we’ll call The Hayden Plan. It’s simple—every state in the union would institute vote-by-mail. The P.O. would get an infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars a year in mailings, and maybe that would help make the nut.
Out there in the field, our carriers are still hoofing it to get the mail to us in a prompt and efficient manner. Our readers appreciate it and named David Gall, who covers the downtown route, as their favorite.
The list also included:

  • Steve Case.
  • Debbie McKinnis.
  • Eddie Morgan.
  • Rick Georgeson
  • Steve Meyer.
  • Jackie Anderson, although she retired a year ago.

FAVORITE CAR SALESMAN

You’ll have to admit that the automobile was one of the biggest game-changing inventions of all time. It allowed people the freedom to travel, visit relatives, go shopping and be anywhere on a minute’s notice. It turned the U.S. from a nation of introverts to extroverts overnight.
And there to help you make that extroverted decision is the car salesman. Tell him or her what you’re looking for, and with their expertise, they can steer you in the right direction. Leading the list of friendly car salesmen this year was Dave Skolnik at TC Chevy, who used to own a record shop here in town.
Others mentioned a lot were:

  • John Thomas of Ashland Motor Company.
  • Joel Nickerson of Butler Ford.
  • Brian Darby of TC Chevy,
  • Rocky Moore of Butler Ford.

FAVORITE MECHANIC

Every mechanic has a special area of the brain, the Cardate Nucleus, that is specifically reserved for information about automobiles. It’s not cluttered with useless information like politics and sports, but helpful things like A/C compressors, drain hoses, air filter restriction indicators, etc. There’s also a neurological pathway that goes straight to the ear, allowing the mechanic to hear even the most obscure noise from the engine and decipher EXACTLY what is going on.
Our readers named 22 different mechanics as their favorite, with Zach Edwards of Ashland Automotive Inc., and Dan Dawson of McClure’s tying for the pole position. They were followed by:

  • Bo DeBey at Siskiyou Imports.
  • Alan Sommers.
  • Rudi at Rudi’s Car Service.
  • Dave Welch at Butler Ford.
  • Dan Wolff.
  • Tony Bonsell of Euro Mek.
  • Donnie at Southern Oregon Automotive.

BEST PLACE TO GET YOUR OIL CHANGED

You seriously don’t want to go very long without checking the oil and getting it changed. Car engines have way too many moving parts that create friction, and if those parts aren’t properly lubricated, disaster can happen at any time (like in the middle of Death Valley in August).
Where to go to keep your engine happy? Our readers most often picked Ashland Auto Repair at the corner of Lithia Way and Pioneer, although it was a hard fought battle between the Oil Stop (near Shop ‘n’ Kart) and the Texaco Pit Stop on Lithia Way.
Others getting lots of votes were:

  • Valley View Automotive.
  • Rudi’s Car Service.
  • Dan Wolff Auto Repair.

FAVORITE ATTORNEY

Fifteen years ago I was sued by some crazy person and hired a lawyer. It was a frivolous lawsuit, and I was quoted in the Grants Pass Daily Courier as saying, “If this isn’t thrown out of court, I’ll buy everyone in Josephine County a drink.” Luckily, it got thrown out of court, and having a lawyer definitely came in handy. It saved me a lot of money, but I’m sure the local bars were bummed out.
Where to go when some crazy person sues you? Or even for your run-of-the-mill legal needs? This year’s balloting was another barn burner as both Allen Drescher and Jack Davis, who have won a combined total of ten times in the last 24 years, landed on top.
The list also included:

  • Mike Balocca.
  • Robert Good.
  • Gary Turner.
  • Susan Krant.
  • Alexis Packer.
  • Sydnee Dreyer.
  • Carolyn Anderson.
  • Chris Hearn.

FAVORITE POLICEPERSON

Policemen have been in the news a lot lately, but one thing to keep in mind is that they are out there every day putting their lives on the line to keep us safe from the crazies. Granted, a very small percentage of those officers may be crazy themselves, but we have to trust that the system will weed them out before they do any harm.
Anyway … our readers appreciate their local police officers, naming 15 of them in this survey, starting with their number one favorite, Corey Falls, who thrilled everyone in Jackson County in November by winning the race for County Sheriff. We’ll miss you, Corey.
Others mentioned a lot were:
• Officer Bon Stewart.
• Deputy Chief Tighe O’Meara.
• Police Sergeant Hector Meletich.
• Officer Malcus Williams.
• Police Chief Terry Holderness.
• Officer Bob Smith.

FAVORITE CPA/ACCOUNTANT

You may think they’re overpaid just for pushing a bunch of numbers around while wearing green visors, but when they save you a couple of thousand dollars during tax season, you’re ready to take them to Las Vegas for the weekend (they would come in real handy at the blackjack table). Who to turn to when you want to splurge in Sin City? Landing at the top this year was Julie Padilla and Glenn Cunningham of Nagel & Padilla, followed by:

  • Tom Reid.
  • Marty Peterson.
  • Marilyn Hanna.
  • Mike Bakke.
  • Dorothy Walsh.
  • Lisa Cooper.
  • Liberty Tax Service.

FAVORITE BANK TELLER

They’re there to greet you with a smile, even when you make a deposit of 1,500 nickels. Our readers had a hard time making up their minds on this category, but in the end named both Sara of U.S. Bank, and Julie at Key Bank as their favorite.
Others receiving lots of votes were:

  • Shannon at Umpqua Bank.
  • Alan at Key Bank.
  • Maria at Umpqua Bank South.
  • Shannon at People’s Bank.

FAVORITE LOCAL RESTAURANT OWNER

According to Wikipedia, the “modern idea of a restaurant—as well as the term itself—appeared in Paris around 1765 when Monsieur Boulanger, a tavern keeper, opened an establishment where one could order a meal from a range of choices and eat it on the premises.” Since then, restaurants have become a way of life for a lot of people. Here in Ashland, we love our 100+ restaurants, giving them as much support as possible.
This is always a popular category with our readers, and they named quite a few restaurant owners, starting at the top with Marty Morlan of Macaroni’s and Martino’s.
Also receiving lots of votes were:

  • Pete and Kristal Foster of Breadboard.
  • Dal and Renee Carver of Wild Goose.
  • Daniel Greenblatt of Greenleaf.
  • Crissy Barnett of Peerless.
  • Rob and Annie Harvey of Beasy’s on the Creek and Harvey’s Place.
  • Billy Harto of Kobe and Thai Pepper.
  • Tom and Lisa Beam of Sesame and Pasta Piatti.

FAVORITE WAITPERSON

In the Waitress Hall of Fame in Great Falls, Montana, tourists can watch a dioramic history of waitressing, complete with life-size wax models of all the famous waitresses in history, from Flo in the TV show Alice (“kiss my grits”) to the waitress in Five Easy Pieces when Jack Nicholson wants to order toast but it isn’t on the menu. So he orders a chicken salad sandwich, and tells her to hold the butter, the lettuce and the mayo. “You want me to hold the chicken, too?” she says. “Yeah,” Nicholson replies. “I want you to hold it between your knees.” A classic scene.
Anyway, 25 different waiters and waitresses were mentioned in this survey, and topping the charts this year was Kerri Baldwin of the Breadboard, who also won this category in 2007.
The list also featured:

  • Beth Crites of Wild Goose.
  • Pai Kim of Omar’s.
  • Amy Wong at Martino’s.
  • Anna Hogan of Salame.
  • Jacqueline Vidalo-Singh at the Loft.
  • Chino Orozco at El Paraiso.
  • Gina Velando at the Standing Stone.
  • Dexter Reid at Pasta Piatti.

FAVORITE BARTENDER

So a chicken walks into a bar, and the bartender says, “We don’t serve poultry!” The chicken replies, “That’s okay; I just want a drink.” Then this one: A grasshopper walks into a bar, and the bartender says, “Hey, we have a drink named after you.” The grasshopper says, “Really? You have a drink named Steve?”
Yeah, I know, a career in comedy is probably not coming my way, but if I really wanted to hear the latest jokes, I’d visit our friendly local bartenders. The favorite this year with our readers is Chris Arthur at Omar’s.
He was followed in the balloting by:

  • Paul Schmeling of Martino’s.
  • Steve Owsley at Peerless.
  • Tonie Stewart at Granite Taphouse.
  • Lindsey McIntosh at the Wild Goose.
  • Angela Yackley at Oberon’s.
  • Lucy Blackinton at Liquid Assests.
  • Jen Jamison at the Beau Club.

FAVORITE VETERINARIAN

Our cat Pebbles died a few months ago, and she was the end of our line of outdoor cats. We adopted her grandmother as a stray, watched her mother be born on the floor of my office in the spring of 1995, and woke up one morning in July 1996 to find Pebbles and her three siblings under our daughter’s bed. Through it all, our friendly vets were there for every lailment they encountered—some big, some small—and we are grateful for their professional help.
Our readers also appreciate their local vets, and they named quite a few of them. The top spot was a 3-way tie between Anette Heaslet of The Cheerful Vet; Scott Knox at the Animal Medical Hospital; and Stephen Tesluk of the Ashland Vet Hospital.
Also receiving a lot of votes were:

  • Alice Sievers of Bear Creek Animal Clinic.
  • Tiffany Graebner.
  • Kathleen Blackshear.
  • Leanna Ahlbrecht of Animal Medical Hospital.
  • Dallas Hymans of A Street Animal Clinic.

CUTEST PET

It was a tough decision, but Wags,  a 5-year-old Australian shepherd, won this year. Coming in a close second were three dogs (Iris, Luna and Athena Louise) and two cats (Miss Priss and Ozlyn). They can fight it out among themselves.

FAVORITE HOUSE CLEANER

Back in my bachelor days, house cleaning was fairly low on my list of priorities, especially when I had a bunch of roommates. Pieces of pizza could lie on the floor for months before anyone even noticed. As a family man, a clean house zoomed up near the top of the list, which is where house cleaners have come in handy.
Our readers were able to pinpoint quite a few local cleaners, with the number one nod going to Felicia at Grace Works House Cleaning, followed by:

  • The Cleaning Crew.
  • Shirley & Harry of Just Cleaned.
  • Coral Harding-Console.
  • Stratford Inn Professional Cleaners.
  • Antoinetta Minitti.
  • Affordable House Cleaning.

FAVORITE HOUSE PAINTER

When you have to look at the exterior paint job every day of the year, you want it to be exactly the color you chose. You also don’t want the job to take five weeks, nor do you want paint chips cluttering up your flower beds. And it’s really not necessary for the painters to be blasting rap music outside all day. Am I being picky?
When it comes to picking a house painter, our readers most often mentioned Derek Volkart, who also won this in 2012, followed by:

  • Garrett Edmonds.
  • Andy Stallman.
  • Bob Jennings.
  • John Arnold.
  • Michael Meyers.
  • Andre Anderson.

FAVORITE APPLIANCE REPAIRMAN

In the last month alone, we’ve had appliance guys come by to fix the refrigerator, washing machine and dishwasher. When it rains, it pours, I guess. Where to go when a deluge hits your appliances? Topping the list for 2015 was Warren Willis at Courtesy Appliance, who’s been serving Ashland for almost forever.
The list also included:

  • Rob Raby of Total Home Maintenance.
  • Dave Backer.
  • Handyman John Arnold.
  • Elijah at Ashland Home Center.

FAVORITE STORE DOWNTOWN

From First Friday Art Walk, the Ashland Parade, Halloween, Sidewalk Sales, the Chocolate Festival, the Film Festival, Christmas Celebrations, and outstanding stores and restaurants, downtown Ashland proves that Big Boxes can’t keep a good downtown down. Every year it grows in popularity, and this year our readers named 32 different favorites.
Once again, Paddington Station, located at 125 E. Main, ran away with the balloting, although Papaya (on the Plaza) and Bloomsbury Books (290 E. Main) gave them a good run for their money.
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Travel Essentials.
  • Renaissance Rose.
  • Outdoor Store.
  • Nimbus.
  • Gold & Gems.
  • Crown Jewel.
  • Earthly Goods.
  • Flower Tyme.
  • Love Revolution.

FAVORITE STORE OUTSIDE DOWNTOWN

From the Northside, Railroad District, College District, Ashland Shopping Center, and the Southside, there are plenty of choices for Ashland shoppers. While Bi-Mart actually garnered the most votes, we were looking for smaller stores with a more personal feel. Topping the charts this year was a tie between Déjà Vu, a consignment clothing store located in the Ashland Shopping Center, and Ashland Artisan Emporium, conveniently located next to Déjà Vu.
The list also included:

  • Rare Earth in the Railroad District.
  • Bookwagon in the Shopping Center.
  • Get n Gear in the Railroad District.
  • Ashland Recycled Furniture in the Railroad District.
  • Dagoba Chocolate, 1105 Benson Way.
  • Bombshell in the Railroad District.
  • Piccadilly Cycles in the Railroad District.
  • Earth Friendly Kids, on Siskiyou Blvd, just outside downtown.
  • Revive in the Railroad District.
  • Hill Station in the Railroad District.

BEST PLACE TO BUY GIFTS FOR MOTHER’S DAY

Of course, this category isn’t just restricted to Mother’s Day. As far as I’m concerned, every day is reason enough to buy a gift for one’s mother, or anyone for that matter.
Where to visit first? According to our readers, they most preferred the selection at Papaya and Renaissance Rose, on the Plaza, although Paddington Station came in a close third.
Others high on the list were:

  • Flower Tyme.
  • Ashland Artisans Emporium.
  • Eufloria.
  • Crown Jewel.
  • Manzanita.
  • Soundpeace.
  • Rare Earth.
  • Paddington Jewel Box.
  • Bloomsbury Books.

BEST PLACE TO BUY GIFTS FOR FATHER’S DAY

 You have to get semi-creative when it comes to choosing gifts for ‘ol dad. Picking out a fishing rod or a 9-iron is a little chancy, as are sweaters and ties. It’s always good to consult with a professional, and in that regard, our readers most often chose Bi-Mart and the Outdoor Store as the place to go, followed by:

  • Nimbus.
  • Get n Gear.
  • Travel Essentials.
  • Ace Hardware.
  • NW Nature Shop.

BEST PLACE TO BUY TOYS

To the person who wrote in “Love Revolution,” we have to admire your sense of humor. We were, however, looking for children’s toys, and when it comes to that, our readers were a little torn and couldn’t quite make up their minds. So here are the Top Five in alphabetical order:

  • Bug a Boo at 40 N. Main.
  • NW Nature Shop (154 Oak Street).
  • Small Change at 5 N. Main on the Plaza.
  • Tree House Books (15 N. Main on the Plaza).
  • Unicorn Gifts & Toys at 242 E. Main.

Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Earth Friendly Kids.
  • Bi-Mart.
  • Rare Earth.
  • Tudor Guild.

BEST PLACE TO BUY GARDEN FURNITURE

If done right, gardens can be considered another room of your house, except in this case you have hundreds of roommates. You get the right furniture, add some pots with flowers and shrubs, and the patio just calls for a gin and tonic after work (or play).
Where to go when shopping for garden furniture? Most people picked Bi-Mart in this category, followed by:

  • Grange Co-op.
  • Valley View Nursery.
  • Ace Hardware.
  • Ashland Recycled Furniture.
  • Revive.

BEST PLACE TO BUY JEWELRY

According to Wikipedia, “perforated beads suggesting shell jewelry made from sea snail shells have been found dating to 75,000 years ago in a cave in Kenya.” Most people probably want something a little more current than that, and when do, they can choose between the selections at Gold & Gems on the Plaza, and Art Fx (45 E. Main), which tied in this category.
Also receiving votes were:

  • Papaya.
  • Crown Jewel.
  • Bella Terra.
  • Paddington Jewel Box.
  • Lithia Artisans Market.
  • Heart & Hands.

BEST PLACE TO BUY OUTDOOR EQUIPMENT

We live in the middle of an outdoor paradise, with mountain trails just outside our back door, high-country lakes a short distance away, a ski mountain, and the Coast just a two hour drive. It’s nice to be prepared for those experiences, and according to our readers, the best place to start is the Ashland Outdoor Store, located at 37 N. 3rd Street, followed by:

  • Get n Gear.
  • Bi-Mart.
  • Mountain Supply also received votes, but they unfortunately closed their doors in December after almost 30 years in Ashland. It was a sad day.

BEST PLACE TO BUY BICYCLES

In this modern era where exercise and diet are considered the keys to a healthy life, bicycles are becoming more and more popular. Not only that, but you can ride them to work and kill two birds with one spoke. There are a number of excellent bike shops in Ashland, and our readers most often named both Cycle Sport (191 Oak Street) and Piccadilly Cycles, located at 525 A Street, followed by:

  • Ashland Electric Bikes.
  • Get n Gear.
  • Bear Creek Bicycle.
  • Siskiyou Cyclery.
  • The Rogue Bicycle.
  • Flywheel in Talent.

BEST PLACE TO BUY CD’s/ALBUMS

It’s kind of funny how music aficionados complain that CDs don’t sound as good as the old cassette tapes. Before that, they complained that cassette tapes didn’t have the same sound quality as albums. Now here we are today and a lot of people are downloading stuff on the Internet. I’m not an expert, but I’ll have to admit that the sound quality isn’t nearly as good. Give me a CD/cassette tape/album any day.
And when shopping for CDs and albums, our readers most often directed us to Music Coop, located at 268 E. Main, just down from Bloomsbury.
Long-time record store CD or Not CD also received a lot of votes.
Others mentioned were:

  • Bi-Mart.
  • Garage sales.

BEST SELECTION OF WOMEN’S CLOTHES

When you look up “history of fashion” on Google, you find things like when the button was invented, who were the first ones to sew (and how), and a complete history of the hemline. Modern shoppers don’t want their brain muddled by such facts … they just want to look good. Where to go in that respect? Earthly Goods (142 E. Main), Kixx (264 E. Main), and Thread Hysteria on the Plaza tied for that honor.
Patina Soul (342 Lithia Way), and 250 Main (250 Main Street), were also quite popular, as were:

  • Déjà Vu.
  • Red’s Threads.
  • Avant Garb.
  • Three Penny Mercantile.
  • Papaya.
  • Heart & Hands.
  • Fredrica Lawrence.
  • Bombshell.
  • Nimbus.

BEST SELECTION OF MEN’S CLOTHES

Men aren’t nearly as picky about their clothes—t-shirts, dress shirts, pants, jeans … did I cover everything? And when it comes to that, our readers first chose perennial favorite Nimbus (25 E. Main), followed by:

  • Outdoor Store.
  • Bi-Mart.
  • Goodwill.

BEST PLACE TOBUY SHOES

As Nancy Sinatra once said, “These boots are made for walkin’.” Then, of course, Carl Perkins sang about his “Blue Suede Shoes,” while KC and the Sunshine Band put on their “Boogie Shoes.” There was actually a Google site called “Top 10 Songs about Shoes.” Don’t you love the Internet?
And when you want to go shopping for those blue suede, walkin’, boogie shoes, where should you go? Our readers most often mentioned Village Shoes at 369 E. Main Street as their favorite, although Earthly Goods came in a close second.
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Lithia Park Shoes.
  • Rogue Valley Runners.
  • Dan’s Shoe Repair.
  • Bi-Mart.
  • Déjà Vu.

FAVORITE FLORAL SHOP

I look out my office window and see an ocean of flowers in repose. They’re just biding their time waiting for Groundhog Day (unofficially the first day of spring). Until then, there’s nothing to do but head down to one’s favorite floral shop and stock the inside of your house with flowers.
And in that regard, our readers chose Flower Tyme on the Plaza as their favorite. It was definitely close among the top three, and they included:

  • Eufloria.
  • Enchanted Florist.

Also receiving votes were:

  • Safeway.
  • Albertson’s.
  • Food Co-op.

FAVORITE ART GALLERY

Ashland may have the Shakespeare Festival, the college, Lithia Park, and a lot of great shops, restaurants and bars, but it has also become a mecca for artists over the last twenty years. Despite losing Davis & Cline and Illahe last year, the art scene is still alive and vibrant, as our readers were able to name 15 different art galleries, starting with their number one favorite, Hanson Howard Gallery at 89 Oak Street, followed by:

  • Ashland Art Center.
  • Gallerie Karon.
  • Adelante.
  • Art & Soul.
  • Schneider Museum of Art.
  • Thomas Lee Gallery.

BEST PLACE TO BUY “STUFF” FOR THE GARDEN

According to Wikipedia (and it’s got to be right!), gardening is great stress reliever. It gets you into the sunshine and fresh air, and the end result is a more beautiful surrounding to enjoy every day of the year. For some information on how to get started or what to concentrate on now, go to one of your local nurseries or garden centers for advice and information.
And in that regard, our readers once again named Grange Co-op at 421 A Street as their favorite.
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Valley View Nursery.
  • Ashland Greenhouses.
  • Bi-Mart.
  • Growers’ Market.

GROCERY STORE WITH BEST SELECTION OF FISH

It doesn’t have to come straight out of the Rogue River or be flown in by jet from Alaska, but it would be nice if it didn’t have a fishy smell when you opened the package. Where to go to ensure the freshest fish possible? This ended up a runaway as Ashland Food Co-op won by a huge margin over:

  • Albertson’s.
  • Safeway.
  • Market of Choice.
  • Shop N Kart.

BEST PLACE TO BUY MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

I know that many local musicians bemoan the lack of venues in Ashland, but there’s actually a lot going on. From the Shakespeare Festival and the college, to the Ashland Armory and gigs at local restaurants/bars, there’s something for everyone. Which is why it’s absolutely essential that we keep our musicians happy and supplied with the appropriate equipment. Where to go? The landslide winner in this category was Cripple Creek Music (353 E. Main), which has been serving southern Oregon musicians since 1976.
Also receiving votes was Fretwell Music in the Ashland Shopping Center. And, of course, one person mentioned craigslist.

BEST PLACE TO BUY KITCHEN APPLIANCES

We may spend the most time in the bedroom and, of course, we watch TV in the living room, but the kitchen is by far the most important room of the house. It plays a huge role in our lives, going full tilt three times a day to make sure the energy stores in our body are fully replenished. And in that regard, our readers are most appreciative of the selection found at Paddington Station.
Also receiving a lot of votes were:

  • Bi-Mart.
  • Home Depot.
  • Kitchen Company in Grants Pass.

FAVORITE GAS STATION

I wonder how long Oregon will continue to ban self-serve gas stations? It undoubtedly adds to the cost, but I’ll have to admit that when I traveled to California a couple of months ago and had to get out and pump my own gas, I was a little put out. How dare they!
And in this category, the friendly staff at the 76 station on Lithia Way won top honors, followed by:

  • The Chevron station at Exit 14.
  • The Astro station downtown.
  • ARCO at Exit 14.
  • Valero at Exit 14.
  • Valley View Auto.
  • The Texaco station at Exit 14.
  • The 76 station at Exit 14.
  • The Shell station on Siskiyou.
  • The Texaco station on Lithia Way.

FAVORITE STORE IN MEDFORD

Sometimes it’s extremely important, just for one’s peace of mind, to get out of Dodge and see that other world. You know, Medford, our neighbors to the north. And when our readers get brave enough to venture out, they most often visit Trader Joe’s, although CostCo was a close second.
Other favorite destinations are:

  • Fred Meyer.
  • REI.
  • Ross Dress for Less.
  • Barnes & Noble.
  • Central Art.
  • Macy’s at the Mall.
  • TJ Maxx.
  • Crafter’s Warehouse.

POLITICS

FAVORITE CITY COUNCILOR

Ho hum … no recalls or sex scandals or anything in Ashland last year. What’s an investigative reporter supposed to do, write a novel and make things up?
In this category, all six City Councilors received votes, with the top nod going to Carol Voisin. The Top Three included:

  • Pam Marsh.
  • Dennis Slattery.

FAVORITE CITY EMPLOYEE    

After the Festival, SOU, health care, and the School District, the City is one of the biggest employers in Ashland. They’re here to serve us and to make sure that everything runs smoothly. We take a lot of things for granted in life, but it’s important to remember there are many people working behind the scenes to make life easier for us.
Our readers certainly appreciate their employees, as they named 21 different people in the category, with number one going to Public Works Director Mike Faught. You know, the guy who makes sure that our water, electricity, sewer, and roads are all in working order.
The list also featured:

  • Street Supervisor John Peterson.
  • City Administrator Dave Kanner.
  • AFN’s Vince Zauskey.
  • Community Development’s Brandon Goldman.
  • City Recorder Barbara Christensen.
  • Assistant Planner Amy Gunter.

BEST THING GOVERNMENT HAS DONE IN THE LAST YEAR

The plastic bag ban was our cover story in December, and our readers are definitely on board, as they named it the best thing government did last year. Other things receiving votes were:

  • Obamacare.
  • Legalization of marijuana.
  • Allowing for medical marijuana dispensaries.
  • The Talent-Ashland-Phoenix Water Intertie.
  • The conservation of water.

WORST THING GOVERNMENT HAS DONE IN THE LAST YEAR

Somehow, this category didn’t get much traction this year. Some people are still upset over the Road Diet and the Plaza Remodel, but that’s old news from the year before. And some aren’t happy with the Plastic Bag Ban, but other than that, it was a mellow year in Ashland.

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 the SOU Pool be saved? This is a touchy subject because the pool is used by a lot of different groups in the community, including a certain percentage of SOU students. Recently, SOU came up with $29 million to upgrade their athletic facilities, and as of right now, the Master Plan calls for razing the pool and not replacing it. They point to a survey taken by SOU students that didn’t show much support for the pool, yet the survey was not well-promoted, nor was it done scientifically. Supporters of the pool claim it can retrofitted for $850,000, a mere fraction of the $29 million earmarked by the university. What does the community think? Should it be saved? Apparently yes.
Yes, it should be saved: 80%
No, get rid of it: 20%

2. Should the Plaza get another makeover? This is still in the news, as a group of activists not happy with the original design want to do some major tweaking. The City seems reluctant to do a complete makeover, and the majority of citizens agree and are ready to move on.
Yes, do a makeover: 41%
No, let’s move on: 59%

3. Should the City do something about all the deer? When you consider traffic accidents, ticks causing Lyme’s Disease, the destruction of flower and vegetable gardens, and attacks on humans and pets, the overpopulation of deer in the city limits is a major problem. And it’s not like we intruded on their territory because this is a recent problem. Twenty years ago, deer were limited to the outskirts of town, mainly above the boulevard. Today, they’re everywhere, and I’m not sure why. They would be much happier, and healthier, in a natural habitat. They are cute, though, which is why our readers were split down the middle.
Yes, do something: 50%
No, leave them alone: 50%

4. Should the City have its own GMO labeling law? I agree with a number of our readers who questioned how this law could be implemented and enforced in such a small locale, but I thought it was an idea worth pursuing. A majority of people agreed.
Yes, do it: 53%
No, dumb idea: 47%


* * * * *
Well, that was certainly fun. I’ll see you next month for Part II of the “Best of Ashland.” May the Sneak Preview be with you.                          —C.H.

 

I know, it's been a nail-biting four weeks waiting for Part II of the "Best of Ashland." There were a lot of ballots to count, but I made it a personal goal to do ten a day, giving each one my personal attention. As always, any category where the vote was "close," ties were awarded. In some categories, 20-30 restaurants were named, but there wasn't room to list everyone. For those not mentioned, don't feel bad—rest assured that you do have your supporters. And so ...

RESTAURANTS

BEST NEW RESTAURANT

There were eight new restaurants recognized by our readers, and they were all good ones. The top three were replacements for restaurants that had made their mark on or near the Plaza, and are now initiating a changing of the guard. The winners were, in alphabetical order:

  • Brickroom (35 N. Main on the Plaza, upstairs); former location of Alex's.
  • Granite Taphouse (23 N. Main on the Plaza, 3rd floor); former location of Hong Kong Bar.
  • Harvey's Place (50 E. Main, across from the Plaza); former location of Chateaulin.

Good luck to everyone!
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Blue Toba, located in the Ashland Shopping Center next to Printfast.
  • Home State BBQ, at 376 E. Main, former location of Evo's.
  • Lunch Show (165 E. Main).
  • NW Raw at 370 E. Main.
  • Dobrá Tea (corner of E. Main and Granite).

BEST PLACE TO MEET FRIENDS FOR BREAKFAST

You get a call from your alleged best friend telling you that he's organizing a big breakfast get-together at your house. Say what! You gently suggest that you all meet at your favorite breakfast place. Where would that be in Ashland? Our readers were once again torn between their perennial three favorites:

  • Morning Glory (1149 Siskiyou).
  • Breadboard at 744 N. Main.
  • Brother's (95 N. Main).

The top three got some strong challenges this year from:

  • Wild Goose at 2365 Ashland Street.
  • Ruby's, located at 163 N. Pioneer.

Also receiving a lot of votes were:

  • Greenleaf (on the Plaza).
  • Oak Tree at 2519 Highway 66.

BEST PLACE TO MEET FRIENDS FOR LUNCH

The workday is officially half over, and it's time to celebrate with fellow office workers and/or friends and neighbors. Our readers actually named 35 different restaurants in Ashland in this category, which is a testament to the vibrant restaurant industry in this community.
Taking down the number one spot this year was a 3-way tie between Larks (located in the Ashland Springs Hotel); Standing Stone, at 101 Oak Street; and Ruby's, located at 163 N. Pioneer.
The Top Ten also featured:

  • Wild Goose.
  • Breadboard.
  • Sammich (424 Bridge Street).
  • Pangea at 272 E. Main.
  • Taj (31 Water Street).
  • Greenleaf on the Plaza.
  • Sesame at 21 Winburn Way.

BEST STEAK AND EGGS

Here's the thing about protein: when consumed and broken down by the body, it produces amino acids which are necessary building blocks for all kinds of important functions in the body. Steak and eggs are packed with protein, and if you want to get your day started right, they're the perfect combination.
Where to go to stock up on amino acids? Many of our readers picked the steak and eggs at Wild Goose (2365 Ashland Street), followed by:

  • Ruby's.
  • Breadboard.
  • Oak Tree.
  • Smithfield's (on Sunday morning).

BEST REUBEN SANDWICHES

I was reading the "Metropolitan Diary" in the New York Times the other day, and a reader sent in a story about being at a deli in NYC, and some yahoo from the Midwest (probably Indiana) ordered a Reuben sandwich with mayonnaise. The server gave her the sandwich with a side order of mayonnaise and said he couldn't with good conscience desecrate the sandwich by putting mayo on it.
Here in the more cosmopolitan Ashland, our readers were able to name ten different restaurants that make great Reubens, starting with their number one choice, Sammich, located at 424 Bridge Street.
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Ruby's.
  • Breadboard.
  • Wild Goose
  • Lark's.
  • Brother's.
  • Red Zone (at 303 E. Main).

BEST SOUPS

How you can argue with something that is tasty, convenient and filling? Soups are great as an accompaniment to an entree or as meal unto itself, and usually the broth is chock full of stuff that is good for you.
The competition was intense in this category, but in the end our readers chose both Pangea, located at 272 E. Main, and Ashland Food Co-op, at 237 N. 1st Street, followed by:

  • Lark's.
  • Pasta Piatti (358 E. Main).
  • Greenleaf.
  • Standing Stone.

BEST SALADS

Most people think of salads as small things that accompany meals, but you can order huge salads complete with a wide variety of foods, including vegetables, fruits, meat, eggs and grains. It can be your entire meal with the right combination of proteins and carbs. Just what the doctor ordered!
The votes were pretty evenly spread around on this category, and the top three vote-getters were:

  • Greenleaf (on the Plaza).
  • Lark's (in the Ashland Springs Hotel).
  • Standing Stone (101 Oak Street).

Other favorites include:

  • Martino's/Macaroni's (58 E. Main).
  • NW Raw.
  • Food Co-op.
  • Granite Taphouse.

FAVORITE DINNERHOUSE

You just finished watching the nightly news with mayhem in Sierra Leone, Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Paris and Nigeria, and you have no energy left to make dinner (watching the news these days can be a draining experience). So you and your significant other decide to let someone else do the cooking while you're free to discuss non-stressful topics like the upcoming March Madness or the latest reality TV show.
Where to go? The balloting was close at the top and ended in a tie between Smithfield's (36 S. 2nd), Loft (17 Calle Guanajuato), and Peerless (243 4th Street).
It was a tough battle at the top, though, and the Top Six featured:

  • Omar's.
  • Amuse.
  • Alchemy Restaurant.

They were followed by:

  • Beasy's on the Creek.
  • Kobe.
  • Lark's.
  • Salame.
  • Coquina.
  • Martino's/Macaroni's.
  • Cucina Biazzi.

MOST ROMANTIC RESTAURANT: LUNCH

This would be a place with soft music, subdued lighting, great views, attentive waitstaff, and bathrooms with little dispensers of perfume and cologne ... just kidding about that last part, but you get the idea.
And when it comes to romantic places for lunch, our readers most often picked Lark's, located in the Ashland Springs Hotel, followed by:

  • Martino's.
  • Sesame.
  • Omar's.
  • House of Thai Cuisine.
  • Black Sheep.

MOST ROMANTIC RESTAURANT:

DINNER

The balloting came in a little different for this category, as it was a 3-way tie between Cucina Biazzi (568 E. Main); Amuse (15 N. 1st); and Alchemy Restaurant (in the Winchester Inn).
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Peerless.
  • Loft.
  • Lark's.
  • Martino's/Macaroni's.
  • Kobe.
  • Salame.
  • Thai Pepper.
  • New Sammy's (between Ashland and Talent).
  • Smithfield's.
  • Beasy's on the Creek.
  • Harvey's.

BEST STEAKS

The movement to get everyone to cut back on their meat-eating hasn't gained a lot of traction lately, probably because a good juicy steak tastes so good to us carnivores (okay, fine, we're probably omnivores but try telling that to a hunter-gatherer back in the day who just brought a wild boar back to camp).
Once again this category ended up in a statistical tie, as Omar's (1380 Siskiyou) and Smithfield's (36 S. 2nd) took down top honors.
The list of great steak selections included:

  • Beasy's on the Creek.
  • Alchemy Restaurant.
  • Peerless.
  • Amuse.

BEST SEAFOOD

Fish are the oldest known vertebrates in the world and have developed elaborate mechanisms for extracting oxygen out of water (H2O). They also lay about 200,000 eggs at a time, which comes in handy when you're tasked with helping to feed humans. Add in the fact that fish are full of the good omega-3 fatty acids, and it's no wonder that seafood is so popular.
And when it comes to seafood, our readers most often chose Omar's followed by:

  • Beasy's on the Creek.
  • Peerless.
  • Kobe.
  • Alchemy.

BEST PASTA
DISHES
ON MENU

It's a great source of carbohydrates, and you need "x" amount of them every day to replenish your energy sources. They also taste great, especially when combined with some zesty sauces and chunks of meat. And when it comes to great pasta dishes, our readers most often mentioned Pasta Piatti, Tom and Lisa Beam's restaurant located at 358 E. Main.
They were closely followed in the balloting by:

  • Wiley's World (1606 Ashland Street).
  • Martino's/Macaroni's.
  • Cucina Biazzi.
  • Martolli's (at 38 E. Main and at 1469 Siskiyou in the Market of Choice Shopping Center).
  • NW Pizza & Pasta.

BEST CHICKEN
DISHES ON MENU

They're both egg-laying machines and supper. Our hats are off to our fine-feathered friends who sacrifice so much for the nutritional needs of human beings. They definitely taste good, and our readers appreciate the efforts put forth by local restaurants, including this year's winner, Loft (on Guanajuato Way behind the Plaza).
They were followed by:

  • Beasy's on the Creek.
  • Lark's.
  • Thai Pepper.
  • Greenleaf.
  • Standing Stone.

FAVORITE
MEXICAN
RESTAURANT

So I heard in the news that some Texans want to secede from the Union. I have a better idea...why don't we give Texas back to Mexico? Just kidding about that, but it would solve the immigration problem in one fell swoop.
Here in Ashland, we love our Mexican restaurants, and all of them were named by our readers in this survey. This year it was actually a tie between three different establishments, and our sombreros are off to them. They were, in alphabetical order:

  • Agave, now in a new space at 5 Granite Street.
  • El Paraiso, at 545 Clover Lane on the other side of the Interstate.
  • La Casa del Pueblo, located at 1209 Siskiyou, across from the college.

Coming in a close fourth was El Tapatio at 1633 Hwy 99, just down from Butler Ford.

Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Tabu.
  • Señor Sam's.
  • Milagros.
  • La Tapatia in Phoenix.

BEST BURRITOS

These are so addictive they could easily be placed on the Attorney General's list of banned substances. Just kidding, but when you stuff all kinds of goodies—from chicken, vegetables and rice—into a tortilla, you want to order more ... and more ... and more.
Where to go for great burritos? Our readers' first choice was perennial favorite Señor Sam's, located in the Ashland Shopping Center.
It was close, however, as Milagros, located down the street at the Market of Choice Shopping Center, gave them a good run for the dinero.
Others making the short list were:

  • Ruby's.
  • El Paraiso.
  • Agave.
  • La Casa del Pueblo.
  • El Tapatio.
  • Taco Bell.

BEST MARGARITAS

I don't know if this is good or bad, but my wife and I have become connoisseurs of margaritas, especially the Cadillac variety. Top shelf (or at the minimum, middle shelf) tequila, fresh limes, on the rocks, with salt on the glass. Just the way James Bond liked them ... or was that martinis? Whatever.
Where would James Bond go for a great margarita? Our readers' first recommendations were the concoctions at both Tabu (76 N. Pioneer) and Agave (5 Granite street), followed by:

  • El Paraiso.
  • La Casa del Pueblo.
  • El Tapatio.
  • Liquid Assets.
  • Alchemy Restaurant.
  • Black Sheep.

FAVORITE ASIAN RESTAURANT

The ties to Asia on the West Coast are a lot stronger than our ties to the Mayflower. That fact was proved with this category, as our readers named quite a few Asian restaurants as their favorites.
We'll start at the top, where Billy Harto's Thai Pepper & the Satay Bar (84 N. Main) tied with Kobe (96 N. Main) as favorites.
It was a battle, though, between the top six, and they included:

  • Sesame.
  • Taroko.
  • Bonsai Teriyaki.
  • House of Thai Cuisine.

Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Anya's Thai Bistro.
  • Umi Sushi.
  • Yuan Yuan.
  • Star Sushi.
  • Tot.
  • Taj.
  • Golden Dynasty.
  • Mihama's.
  • Blue Toba.
  • Panda Garden.

BEST THAI DISHES

I had a fraternity brother back in Indiana in the late 1960s who was from Thailand. About six years ago, I reconnected with Pat Boonpracong via Facebook. He was involved in all the protest demonstrations five years ago, and I haven't heard from him since. Pat, if you ever get out of detention, come to Ashland and we'll have dinner either at Thai Pepper (and its upstairs Satay Bar), located at 84 N. Main, or House of Thai Cuisine (1667 Siskiyou), which tied in this category.
Also receiving lots of votes were:

  • Anya's Thai Bistro.
  • Sesame.
  • Yuan Yuan.

BEST JAPANESE DISHES

It's a stratovolcanic archipelago of 6,852 islands with a history that dates back 32,000 years. The key word in that sentence is "stratovolcanic," as the Japanese have been subjected to numerous devastating earthquakes since the islands were settled. Every year, though, the resilient Japanese people bounce back.
Here in Ashland, there are a few Japanese restaurants to choose from, most notably Kobe (96 N. Main), which once again won this category.
It was close, though, as both Taroko (62 E. Main) and Bonsai Teriyaki (in the Albertson's Shopping Center) received plenty of support, followed by:

  • Star Sushi.
  • Umi Sushi.
  • Mihama's.

BEST FORTUNE COOKIES

When I met my wife 27 years ago, someone tried to talk me out of pursuing the relationship. That afternoon I went to a Chinese restaurant, and the fortune cookie read, "Your lover will never want to leave you." And the rest is history!
Where to go when you want to prove your friends wrong? Most of our readers mentioned the fortune cookies at Golden Dynasty (1415 Siskiyou), followed by:

  • Yuan Yuan.
  • Panda Garden.

FAVORITE ITALIAN RESTAURANT

Rome was founded in 753 B.C., and it didn't take long for them to conquer most of the known world. And so they brought Italian restaurants to all ends of the earth, including Ashland, where Cucina Biazzi (568 E. Main) was voted number one by our readers.
It was close, though, as both Martino's/Macaroni's and Pasta Piatti received a lot of votes, as well as:

  • Wiley's World.
  • Martolli's.
  • NW Pizza & Pasta.

BEST SELECTION
OF PIZZAS

In my college days, it was generally well known that pizza contained all the essential food groups that one needed for a balanced diet. Carbos, protein, vegetables, fruit ... what else would you need? Beer maybe.
And when it comes to great pizzas, our readers once again named both Great American Pizza (1448 Ashland Street) and Martolli's (at 38 E. Main and at 1469 Siskiyou in the Market of Choice Shopping Center), followed by:

  • Creekside Pizza.
  • Granite Taphouse.
  • NW Pizza & Pasta.
  • Papa Murphy's.
  • Martino's/Macaroni's.
  • Standing Stone.

BEST BUFFET/
SALAD BAR

You don't necessarily have to be starving to appreciate a buffet, but coming in with a big appetite helps the cause. Winning this category for 2015 was Taj Indian Restaurant, located at 31 Water Street, whose lunch buffets are very popular.
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Greenleaf.
  • Great American Pizza.

BEST VEGETARIAN DISHES

Whether you're a confirmed vegetarian or just someone trying to cut back on your consumption of meat, it's always good to find a restaurant that caters to your needs.
Here in Ashland, there are a lot of options, and our readers were appreciative of the effort. Their number one choice was the selection at Sauce, located in the Ashland Shopping Center, next to Radio Shack.
Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Taj.
  • Greenleaf.
  • Food Co-op.
  • Wiley's World.
  • NW Raw.
  • Lark's.

BEST CAESAR SALADS

We didn't come here to bury Caesar, we came here to EAT him! There's a lot to love—romaine lettuce and croutons topped with parmesan cheese, olive oil, an egg, garlic, black pepper and anchovy dressing. It's a perfect accompaniment to any meal.
And when it comes to Caesar salads, our readers most often named the creations at Martino's/Macaroni's, which ran away with this category, followed by:

  • Standing Stone.
  • Greenleaf.
  • Pasta Piatti.
  • Caldera Brewery & Restaurant.

RESTAURANT WITH BEST APPETIZERS

This can actually be one of the most fun parts of the meal. You can order tasty small plates of everything from chicken wings and beef bites to clams and calamari frites. THEN you can get started on your dinner.
Topping the list of great appetizers this year was Peerless Restaurant, located at 243 4th Street, which tied with Salame (on the Plaza) in this category.
Also receiving plenty of votes were:

  • Amuse.
  • Thai Pepper.
  • Brickroom.
  • Loft.
  • Alchemy Restaurant.
  • Taroko.
  • Sesame.

BEST ICE CREAM/YOGURT/GELATO

You don't have to be an Eskimo to appreciate frozen concoctions, but if any relatives from Iqaluit do show up unannounced, our readers recommend that you take them to three different places:

  • Mix (on the Plaza) for gelato and ice cream.
  • Zoey's (corner E. Main and 1st) for ice cream.
  • Yogurt Hut (140 Lithia Way) for yogurt.

Also mentioned a lot was Rocky Mountain Chocolate at 33 E. Main.

RESTAURANT WITH BEST DESSERTS

You gotta love the All American Sweet Tooth. After every meal, we have this unbelievable urge to order an apple pie with ice cream, or a crème brulee, or five or six bear claws, or an entire vat of cherry sorbet, or ... maybe I should stop there.
Anyway, our readers appreciate all of the desserts offered by our local restaurants, reserving their number one nod for Lark's, in the Ashland Springs Hotel, followed by:

  • Amuse.
  • Loft.
  • Alchemy Restaurant.
  • Smithfield's.
  • Wild Goose.
  • Black Sheep.

BEST PLACE TO BUY BAKED GOODS

This category can include everything from bagels and pound cakes to muffins, scones and cookies. And topping the list for 2015 was Little Shop of Bagels, located in the Ashland Shopping Center.
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Mix.
  • Village Baker (372 E. Main).
  • Deux Chats at 222 A Street.
  • Market of Choice.
  • La Baguette (340 A Street).
  • The Tuesday Growers' Market.

RESTAURANT WITH BEST OUTDOOR SEATING

There's nothing like being out there with the birds and the bees while you're eating, but hopefully they're behaving themselves. :) Quite a few places were mentioned by our readers, and the number one nod went to Peerless Restaurant (243 4th Street), which is set amidst a glorious outdoor garden.
There were followed in the balloting by:

  • Thai Pepper.
  • Smithfield's.
  • Beasy's on the Creek.
  • Loft.
  • Cucina Biazzi.
  • Pasta Piatti.

RESTAURANT WITH FRIENDLIEST WAITSTAFF

The cooks and chefs might be putting out the best food on the planet, but if the front staff don't make the customers feel welcome, you might as well pack it in. All of the Ashland restaurants recognize that fact, which made this category very popular with our readers, as they named 25 different establishments. Number one on the Friendly Scale was Oberon's Three Penny Tavern on the Plaza, where they're not only friendly but they transport you back to Elizabethan England for some fun times.
The list also included:

  • Wild Goose.
  • Lark's.
  • Breadboard.
  • Standing Stone.
  • Harvey's.
  • Ruby's.
  • Morning Glory.

BEST "QUICK SERVICE"
RESTAURANT

We changed this to "quick service" from "fast food" a few years back after a few restaurants complained that "fast food" had a negative connotation. Either way, our readers were looking for a place where they could order their food and get back on the road because, you know, we're all in a hurry these days.
The votes on this were spread out all over the place, with Señor Sam's and Wendy's taking top honors (and they're conveniently located next to each other in the Ashland Shopping Center).
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Milagros.
  • Mihama's.
  • Taco Bell.
  • Bento Express.
  • Big Al's.
  • Koko's (outside Ashland Hardware).

BEST SELECTION OF BURGERS

Apparently, the first hamburger was created in New Haven, Connecticut, by Louis Lassen, a Danish immigrant. Good thing we didn't have a strict immigration policy back then, or we wouldn't have hamburgers!
And when it comes to great hamburgers, our readers were a little torn, as three different establishment ended up at the top. They were, in alphabetical order:

  • Granite Taphouse.
  • Louie's.
  • Standing Stone.

Other hamburgers favored by our readers were:

  • Caldera Brewery & Restaurant.
  • Big Al's.
  • Omar's.
  • Oak Tree.
  • Wendy's.

BEST FRENCH FRIES

Well, slap me silly! I went on the Internet to see how to make French Fries, and there are all kinds of ways. I thought you just dumped them in a deep-fat fryer and let the cholesterol go to work, but there are actually all kinds of creative ways to make French Fries.
Where to go when you want to have some creative Fries de Francais? Quite a few people mentioned the offerings at Standing Stone (their sweet potato fries were specifically honored) and Granite Taphouse, followed by:

  • Omar's.
  • Ruby's.
  • Big Al's.
  • Wild Goose.
  • Creekside.
  • Oak Tree.

BEST RESTAURANT TO TAKE THE ENTIRE FAMILY

So Aunt Alice and Uncle Roscoe are passing through town, and they want to treat you and the family to the restaurant of your choice. Where to go where a loud, boisterous family can gather? Many of our readers mentioned Caldera Brewing & Restaurant, located at 590 Clover Lane, on the other side of the Interstate.
They were followed closely in the standings by:

  • Standing Stone.
  • NW Pizza & Pasta.
  • Lark's.
  • House of Thai Cuisine.
  • El Paraiso.
  • Great American Pizza.

BEST SELECTION OF SANDWICHES

They are classic American inventions, although we probably borrowed the basics from the French. And the concept is ingenious—pile a bunch of goodies inside a bun and tell everyone to just go for it. And usually the more goodies the better.
When it comes to packing in the goodies, our readers named quite a few places, with the number one mention being Sammich, located at 424 Bridge Street.
The list also included:

  • Food Co-op.
  • Pangea.
  • Ruby's.
  • Pita Pit.
  • Lunch Show.
  • Market of Choice.

FAVORITE BARISTA (COFFEE SERVER)

Apparently, there's going to be a sequel to Breaking Bad: Walter White's son is going to surreptitiously brew coffee beans in his basement and try to sell them to local baristas, bypassing the Mexican cartel. Stay tuned here for future developments.
When it comes to baristas, our readers named quite a few, including this year's winner Dustin Bernard at Rogue Valley Roasting Company.
Others mentioned a lot were:

  • • David at Bloomsbury Coffee.
  • • Summer at the downtown Starbucks.
  • • Jared at Noble.
  • • Nicole at the Beanery.
  • • Tristan at Mix.
  • • Danielle at Dutch Brothers.
  • • Heidi at the campus Starbucks.

FAVORITE COFFEEHOUSE

Back in 1992, you could have bought gold for $333 an ounce and sold it today for $1,295. Or ... you could have gotten into another commodity, coffee, and made an even bigger killing (and a lot safer ... the price of gold in 2001 was $276 and could easily go down again). When it comes to liquid gold (no, not oil), our readers most often preferred the friendly confines of both Noble Coffee Roasting (281 4th Street), and Rogue Valley Roasting Company (917 E. Main), which tied in this category.
The Top Seven were actually pretty close, and they included:

  • Mix.
  • Starbucks (both downtown and near the college).
  • Bloomsbury Coffee House.
  • Case Coffee.
  • The Beanery.

Others receiving votes were:

  • La Baguette.
  • Human Bean.
  • Dutch Brothers.

BEST RESTAURANT OUTSIDE ASHLAND

We're officially a nomadic, on-the-move society, which means getting out of Dodge is part of our DNA. And when our readers want to express their genetic imperative, they most often traveled to New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro, located between Ashland and Talent.
The list also included:

  • La Tapatia in Phoenix.
  • Kaleidoscope Pizza in Medford.
  • Porter's in Medford.
  • Arbor House in Talent.
  • Callahan's at the Mt. Ashland exit.
  • Julek's in Talent.
  • The Talent Café.
  • Pomordori Italian Restaurant in Medford.

ENTERTAINMENT

BEST LIVE CONCERT IN ASHLAND LAST YEAR

A number of bands and venues were named in the category, but the number one mention was the concert last fall by Michael Franti at the Ashland Historic Armory.
Also mentioned were:

  • Paula Cole as part of the Gaia Project .
  • The concerts in Lithia Park by the Ashland City Band.
  • The Rogue Valley Jeff All-Stars at Grizzly Peak Winery in September.
  • The Palo Alto Chamber Concert in June.
  • All of the concerts by the Rogue Valley Symphony.
  • Siskiyou Singers' "Color of Music" in May.
  • Southern Oregon Rep Singers' "Matthew's Passion" in May.

BEST PRODUCTION
AT THE CRATERIAN LAST YEAR

As of August 2012, it was officially renamed the Craterian Theater at the Collier Center for the Performing Arts, named for James Collier, a large benefactor in the Rogue Valley. They still fondly remember, however, Ginger Rogers, who performed there as early as 1926.
The Theater presents 5-6 shows a month, and tops with our readers last year was the Pink Floyd Tribute concert, followed by:

  • Folk singer Gordon Lightfoot.
  • Thomaseen Foley's A Celtic Christmas.
  • The Teen Musical Theater of Oregon's Shrek, the Musical.
  • Next Stage Rep's production of Mrs. Mannerly.
  • The Broadway production of Hair.
  • The concert by the Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon.

FAVORITE CONCERT AT THE BRITT FESTIVAL

When it comes to attracting tourists from all over the country, the Britt Festival is second only to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in popularity. They bring in top names in the music industry, and the setting outside under the stars is hard to beat.
Quite a few names were mentioned, but our readers reserved their number one nod for folk singer and 1960s icon Joan Baez.
Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Tori Amos.
  • Pink Martini.
  • Joan Jett.
  • Avett Brothers.

MOST FUN PLACE FOR FIRST FRIDAY ART WALK

This has turned into a major social event each month, as hundreds of people descend on downtown Ashland, the Railroad District and the college for art, conversation, refreshments, and entertainment. It's also a great way for starving and/or well-fed local artists to show their works to the public (who might actually buy something).
Taking down top honors this year was a tie between the Ashland Art Center (357 E. Main) and Hanson Howard Gallery at 89 Oak Street.
Other favorites include:

  • The scene on A Street.
  • Gallerie Karon (500 A Street).
  • Plaza Salon (60 N. Main).
  • Adelante Gallery (130 E. Main).

FAVORITE LOCAL ARTIST

It was an impressive list this year, topped by Gabriel Mark Lipper, whose work "celebrates the timeless antiquity of the world." At the Bilmes Art School in Ashland, he found a mentor, Semyon Bilmes, classically trained in the schools of Russia. Now, "the range and command of his pallet are as brilliant and sophisticated as any major artist of our time." And he lives in Ashland.
Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Denise Kester.
  • Betty LaDuke.
  • Julia Janeway.
  • Xavi.
  • Kevin Chrisman.
  • Sarah Burns.

BEST FILM AT FILM FESTIVAL LAST YEAR

Who needs Sundance or Cannes when you have the Ashland Independent Film Festival? Soon to present its 15th annual affair, the Festival has grown into one of the most popular film festivals on the West Coast. Over its five days, the Festival presents over 90 documentaries, features, and short films. Our readers definitely love it, as they named 20 different films as their favorite, starting with Obvious Child, "an honest and authentic comedy about what happens when a 20-something Brooklyn comedian Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) gets dumped, loses her job, and discovers she's pregnant—just in time for Valentine's Day."
Also popular were:

  • The Case Against 8, a documentary on the historic case to overturn California's ban on same-sex marriage.
  • Last Days in Vietnam, director Rory Kennedy's look at the chaotic final days of the Vietnam War.
  • Hank and Asha, a romantic comedy about two strangers in search of a human connection in a hyper-connected world.

BEST EXHIBIT AT SCIENCEWORKS LAST YEAR

Well, this was a runaway as the Dinosaurs Exhibit last summer was the overwhelming favorite. Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Da Vinci's Garage.
  • TinkerFest.
  • Bee TV.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT ASHLAND'S HALLOWEEN PARADE

Every year the kids (and the kids-at-heart) gather in front of the library for the scary trek down Main Street. It has grown from a parade just for kids to a community-wide event that celebrates the creative diversity of Ashland, young and old. Of course, everyone's favorite thing about the parade is seeing all the children having fun, followed by:

  • All the great costumes.
  • A family affair.
  • The samba drummers.
  • The zombies.
  • The "pink poodle girl."

BEST SPORTING EVENT IN ASHLAND LAST YEAR

This was another runaway, since the ballots were being filled out just when the Southern Oregon University Raiders' football team won the national championship in Daytona Beach, Florida, before a nationwide audience on ESPN. It was a great run, including a playoff win in Helena, Montana, in the middle of a blizzard that sent them into the Final Four. Will there be a two-peat in 2015?
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • The Grizzlies football team's march to the playoffs.
  • The SOU volleyball team.
  • AHS boys soccer.
  • AHS girls soccer.
  • The 4th of July 10K race.

BEST PLACE TO GET
A "WORKOUT"

Want to stay healthy? The main ingredients are eating the right kinds of food, avoiding risky lifestyles (smoking, excessive drinking, driving race cars, etc.), reducing your stress levels, taking vitamins and supplements, and exercising. If you can pay attention to all of that, your doctors' bills will go down dramatically and will more than pay for your club membership.
And when it comes to that, our readers most often mentioned the Ashland Family YMCA, followed by:

  • Snap Fitness.
  • Anytime Fitness.
  • Ashland Tennis & Fitness.
  • Ashland Crossfit.
  • Lithia Park.
  • Mountain bike trails.
  • The Pacific Crest Trail.
  • Karolina's kick boxing class.

BEST PLACE TO
PLAY TENNIS

While quite a few people mentioned Lithia Park, it is fairly dependent on the weather, which is why Ashland Tennis & Fitness, located at 735 Jefferson, won this category.
Other locales receiving votes were:

  • Hunter Park.
  • Wimbledon ... yeah, right.

BEST PLACE TO
GO DANCING

You want to find an exercise program that is both fun and rewarding? Try dancing. Instead of waking up at 6am to hit the fitness center, you could go to a local bar every night where music is playing and dance for 30-40 minutes. It combines physical fitness, coordination and mental clarity, in addition to being loads of fun. Sooo, where to go? The number one spot mentioned by our readers was Tabu (76 N. Pioneer), which has salsa dancing every Saturday night.
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Granite Taphouse.
  • Live at the Armory.
  • YMCA.
  • Vinyl Club.
  • Hersey Street Dance Space.
  • Monthly Contra Dances.
  • Elk's Club.

BEST PLAY (OFF-BARDWAY)

There's Oregon Cabaret Theatre, Camelot Theatre, Ashland Contemporary Theatre, Thanks for the Memories, SOU, AHS ... did I miss anyone? We obviously live in a theater-oriented town, and many of our readers attend local plays and have their own opinions. What did they think was the best play last year? Many of them chose Camelot Theatre's Les Miserables, which played to sold-out audiences last summer.
The list of favorites included:

  • Backwards in High Heels at Oregon Cabaret Theatre (OCT).
  • Driving Miss Daisy at Camelot.
  • The Producers at Camelot.
  • Ain't Misbehavin' at OCT.
  • Little Shop of Horrors at SOU.
  • Freud's Last Session by Ashland Contemporary Theatre (ACT).
  • It's a Wonderful Life at OCT.
  • Lion in Winter at Camelot.
  • Cabaret at Ashland High School.
  • Almost Maine by Thanks for the Memories.

BEST THEATER PERFORMANCE (MALE) – OFF BARDWAY

All of the guys turned in excellent performances last year, but our readers reserved their number one accolades for David King-Gabriel for his role as Jean Valjean in Camelot Theatre's production of Les Miserables. He was also mentioned for his work in Camelot's The Producers.
Others high on list were:

  • John Stadelman in OCT's It's a Wonderful Life.
  • Bob Jackson Miner at Camelot's Pump Boys & Dinettes.
  • Joe Charter in ACT's Freud's Last Session.
  • Christopher George Patterson in OCT's Ain't Misbehavin'.
  • John Ramsey in OCT's Backwards in High Heels.
  • Don Matthews for Camelot's Lion in Winter.
  • Roy Von Rains, Jr., in Camelot's Driving Miss Daisy.
  • Jonathan Connolly in AHS's Cabaret.
  • Peter Wycliffe in Camelot's The Producers.

BEST THEATER PERFORMANCE (FEMALE) – OFF BARDWAY

There were equally strong performances from the female actors, particularly the work done by Kelsey Stalter as Ginger Rogers in OCT's Backwards in High Heels, who tied with Shirley Patton in Camelot's Driving Miss Daisy.
Also mentioned were:

  • Kelly Hammond in Camelot's The Producers.
  • Kendra Taylor in Camelot's Les Miserables.
  • Audra Cramer in OCT's Caps and Gowns.
  • Abena Mensah-Bonsu in OCT's Ain't Misbehavin'.
  • Livia Genise for Camelot's Lion in Winter.

BEST PLAY (OSF)

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival was founded in 1935 by Angus L. Bowmer, and 80 years later it's still going strong. Every year eleven different plays are offered, from Shakespeare to the latest world premiere. All eleven were mentioned in this year's survey with the top nod going to The Great Society, the sequel to the Tony Award-winning All the Way two years ago.
The Top Five included:

  • The Cocoanuts.
  • Water by the Spoonful.
  • A Wrinkle in Time.
  • Into the Woods.

BEST THEATER PER-FORMANCE (MALE) OSF

Once again, Jack Willis won this for his captivating performance of President Lyndon B. Johnson in last year's production of The Great Society.
Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Dan Donohue as Richard III.
  • Mark Bedard as Groucho in The Cocoanuts.
  • John Tufts as Chico in The Cocoanuts.
  • Daniel José Molina in Water by the Spoonful.

BEST THEATER PERFORMANCE (FEMALE) – OSF

On the female side of the ledger, our readers were most impressed with the work of Miriam Laube as a witch in the musical Into the Woods, followed by:

  • Vilma Silva in Water by the Spoonful.
  • K.T. Vogt in The Cocoanuts.
  • Erica Sullivan in Two Gentlewomen of Verona.
  • Kate Hurster in The Tempest.

BEST DIRECTOR (LOCAL THEATER)

A number of local directors were named by our readers in this category, and they reserved their number one nod for Jim Giancarlo, who was the founder and Artistic Director for Oregon Cabaret Theatre before he passed away unexpectedly last summer. Our hats are off to Jimmy!
Others receiving a lot of votes were:

  • Bill Rauch at OSF.
  • Livia Genise at Camelot.
  • Renee Hewitt at Camelot.
  • Jeannine Grizzard at Ashland Contemporary Theatre.
  • Christopher George Patterson at OCT.

BEST LOCAL
MUSICIAN/SINGER

This category featured some of the Rogue Valley's most talented musicians, and singing her way to the top was Shae Johnson, the lead singer for the rock band, the Rogue Suspects,
Also making the short list were:

  • Jazz bassist Ed Dunsavage.
  • Rocker Robbie DaCosta.
  • Singer/songwriter Alice DiMicele.
  • Guitarist Jeff Koetzel.
  • Guitarist Grant Ruiz.

BEST LOCAL ROCK 'N' ROLL BAND

Just for fun, I went to YouTube and played Starship's "We Built This City on Rock 'n' Roll." It was a classic song for the 80s and pretty much sums up the influence of rock 'n' roll on popular culture.
Anyway, winning this category for 2015 was the Rogue Suspects, followed by:

  • 100 Watt Mind.
  • Robbie DaCosta Band.
  • St. Cinder.
  • David Pinsky Band.
  • Lovebite.

BEST JAZZ BAND

We were in Martino's a few nights ago, and bartender Paul Schmeling was regaling us with stories about the Ashland music scene from 30 years ago. And yet here he is still plugging away, as the Paul Schmeling Trio, which plays every Monday night at Martino's, was voted number one this year.
Also receiving a lot of votes were:

  • The Ed Dunsavage Trio.
  • The Mackay Project.

BAR WITH BEST SELECTION OF MIXED DRINKS

When you want to get that special drink with exotic names like "Monte Carlo" and "Galapagos" and "Caipirinha" (I cheated just now and went through a book called Art of the Bar and gleaned those names), where do you go? According to our readers, they most prefer the selections at both Thai Pepper (and the Satay Bar), located at 84 N. Main, and the Brickroom, upstairs on the Plaza, where Alex's used to be.
Others high on the list were:

  • Liquid Assets.
  • Alchemy Restaurant.
  • Tabu.
  • Granite Taphouse.
  • Martino's.
  • Harvey's Place.
  • Peerless.
  • Taroko.
  • Black Sheep.
  • Kobe.

BAR WITH BEST SELECTION OF MICROBREWED BEERS

Back in the day, Bud, Miller and Schlitz made up 95% of the offerings at bars. Today, with the proliferation of microbreweries, especially in the Pacific Northwest, the selection is endless. Where to go for the widest selection of beers? Number one on our readers' taste buds was Caldera Brewing & Restaurant (590 Clover Lane) and its sister establishment, Caldera Taphouse, downtown at 31 Water Street.
Others high on the list were:

  • Standing Stone.
  • Granite Taphouse.
  • Martino's.
  • Oberon's.
  • Black Sheep.
  • Brickroom.
  • Omar's.
  • Playwright.

BAR WITH FRIENDLIEST BARTENDERS

Okay, more bartender jokes: What did the bartender say when two jumper cables walked into a bar? "You guys better not start anything in here!" Or ... What does a termite say when he walks into a bar? "Is the bar tender here?" Or: "So a dyslexic walks into a bra..."
Yeah, I know, semi-juvenile, but at least I was having fun! Where to go when you want to commiserate with bartenders who know how to have a good time? The winner in this category was Martino's, located at 58 E. Main, followed by:

  • Tabu.
  • Omar's.
  • Wild Goose.
  • Oak Tree.
  • Playwright.
  • Louie's.
  • Red Zone.

BEST BAR TO WATCH SPORTS ON TV

Five years ago I got talked into joining a Fantasy Football League, and now my wife wants to send me to rehab. It is definitely addicting, and I even bought a 53-inch flat screen TV primarily to watch obscure football games between bottom-feeding NFL teams only because I needed a tight end in that game to score one TD to put me over the top.
Or I could go to my favorite bar and watch the games with my buddies. Where to go? This was a landslide victory for the Red Zone at the corner of E. Main and 2nd, where they have, like, 730 TV's mounted along the wall. :)
The list also included:

  • Louie's.
  • Omar's.
  • Granite Taphouse.
  • Oak Tree.
  • NW Pizza & Pasta.
  • Caldera.
  • Salame.
  • Paddy Brannan's.

BAR WITH BEST LATE-NIGHT MENU

You were having so much fun doing shots that you forgot to have dinner. Finally, around ten or eleven the ol' small intestine starts complaining, and you search frantically for the late-night menu. Where's the best place to do that? Our readers most often mentioned both the Oak Tree and Black Sheep, followed by:

  • Omar's.
  • Wild Goose.
  • Taroko.
  • Martino's.
  • Tabu.
  • Liquid Assets.
  • Granite Taphouse.

FAVORITE VENDORS AT GROWERS MARKET

It's one of the biggest, most popular Grower's Markets in Southern Oregon, and the management and vendors have cultivated (excuse the pun) the marketing (again, excuse the pun) of this venture beautifully over the last couple of decades. It is the place to be on Tuesday mornings at the Old Ashland Armory and Saturday mornings downtown ... a virtual social hour and venue to pick up your fresh, organic groceries for the week.
Our readers named quite a few vendors on this list, starting with Fry Family Farms, which also won this category in 2013. They were followed by:

  • Pennington Farms.
  • Coquette Bakery.
  • Barking Moon Farm.
  • Willow Witt Farm.
  • Plant Connection.

FAVORITE PART OF THE COUNTY FAIR

Yep, in an average year, the temperature at the County Fair is about 104° in the shade, yet somehow we all make it out to the Expo. The County Fair is about as American as you can get. And when it comes to that, our readers are most appreciative of the live music, followed by:

  • The animals.
  • Carnival rides.
  • The food.
  • Horses.

FAVORITE CITY PARK (OTHER THAN LITHIA)

Ashland is known for its parks. From the crown jewel of Lithia Park to even tiny, little Triangle Park, almost every neighborhood is within walking distance of some kind of park. In fact, I went onto the website of the Parks & Recs Commission and learned that there are actually seventeen parks in the system. Taking down the number one spot with our readers was North Mountain Park, which has three soccer fields, two softball fields, two baseball fields, a playground, a covered picnic area, and a nature center.
The Top Five included:

  • Garfield Park.
  • Triangle Park.
  • The Dog Park.

BEST LOCAL HIKE

It's a great way to commune with nature, but it should be mandatory that all cell phones be turned off when taking a walk in the woods. Sure, you can power up if an emergency occurs, but is it really necessary to keep in touch with your Twitter feed just to see if your next door neighbor is enjoying her BBQ in the back yard?
Where to go to avoid cell phone texts, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and all the other privacy invaders that make the NSA look like schoolchildren? The most popular hike turned out to be the White Rabbit Trail, which starts at the end of the Ashland Loop Road and traverses the ridge visible to the south of town. With its easy access and great views, White Rabbit is a classic hike of the area.
Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Grizzly Peak.
  • Oredson-Todd Woods.
  • The T.I.D. trail.
  • Pacific Crest Trail.
  • Lithia Park.
  • Toothpick.

FAVORITE WINERY

Southern Oregon is becoming world famous for its wines, so look out Napa Valley! Our readers were able to name eighteen of them as their favorites, starting with Weisinger's Family Winery, which is located on Siskiyou Boulevard just down from Crowson Road toward the Interstate.
The Top Ten featured:

  • Belle Fiore (off Dead Indian Memorial Road).
  • Roxy Ann (in Medford).
  • Grizzly Peak (on East Nevada, across the Interstate).
  • Paschal, outside Talent.
  • Pebblestone, just west of Medford.
  • Dana Campbell, on N. Mountain, other side of Interstate.
  • Edenvale, outside Medford.
  • Troon, near Grants Pass.
  • 2 Hawk, in Phoenix, near Centennial Golf Course.

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Well, there you have it ... another 72 categories of sheer fun. 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.