Best of The Rogue Valley 2015

Back in July 1986, when I started the Sneak Preview, I modeled it after a free, alternative newspaper in Denver called Westword. I had been dividing my time between Denver and Grants Pass since 1976 and felt it was time to settle down and do something productive. Back in the day, Westword had an annual readers' survey, "The Best of Denver," that was extremely popular, and in September 1987, I decided to introduce the concept to the Rogue Valley. It was a big hit, and today our sister publications, the Ashland and Medford Sneak Previews, and the Talent News & Review, also include readers' surveys.

The concept is so popular that I have counted four other publications in the valley that have attempted the same thing. I'm not complaining, mind you. Since I borrowed the idea from Westword, it's not like I had a patent on it. I do take comfort in the fact that we were the first, the trendsetters, and all the other publications are mere copycats (smiley face).

What I have noticed is that all of the other publications allow readers to vote online. I'm just not comfortable with that. Yes, it's easier, but it opens the whole thing up to rampant ballot stuffing. As an individual, I have received emails from people with links to particular readers' surveys, telling me to vote for them. All I had to do was click on the link and make the vote. That's way too easy. Sure, it's easier to count—you just let the computer do the work—but people can have all their relatives and friends vote for them simply by sending them a link.

Granted, making everyone fill out ballots and mail them in doesn't eliminate ballot stuffing, but it accomplishes two purposes: 1.) It makes people at least put a little effort into it, and 2.) It makes it a lot easier to catch. And we take ballot stuffing into consideration when counting all the votes.

That being said, let's take a stroll down memory lane and see what happened in the Rogue Valley since the last "Best Of."

  • Our October 2014 issue covered the race for county commissioner between Simon Hare and Mark Gatlin. At the last second Toni Webb entered the race as a write-in candidate. Hare still won comfortably, but in December he'd get in a little hot water after pulling a prank in the Cedarwood Tavern by surreptitiously sending texts on a friend's cell phone. Turns out it was someone else's cell phone, and her family didn't think the joke was funny. Some called for Hare's resignation, but if we didn't allow public officials to attempt practical jokes, we'd be setting them up for an impossible standard. That's just my opinion, of course.
  • Then in November we covered the race for sheriff. You could also almost see in the lines of Gil Gilbertson's face that he was a little stressed out over his job, and the voters decided to give him a rest as they elected challenger Dave Daniel the new sheriff.
  • Our December issue featured an interview with former TV weatherman and meteorologist Leon Hunsaker, who reminisced about the infamous Flood of 1964.
  • In February, we reported on a local group that was determined to get a public safety levy passed. This time they paid for a scientific survey to be conducted to see exactly how much the public was willing to pay and exactly what they expected to get for it. So the measure went to the voters in May and was rejected decisively. Sigh. I've told everyone for years that a small, supplemental levy earmarked for specific items will pass easily, but no one will listen to me (see our "Best of the Rogue Valley" question on page 22 for more information).
  • In March 2015, our cover story featured county commissioner Cherryl Walker and political activist Toni Webb arguing over economic development. I tried not to pitch it as a catfight, but that's basically what it boiled down to. Now Webb has filed an ethics complaint against Walker (and Simon Hare) for promoting a hemp farm that they had invested in.
  • The brouhaha over a 6-year-old boy at Lincoln Elementary being punished for tardiness by having to sit behind a divider at lunch made national and international headlines. Our reporting in April tried to put everything in perspective and calm down the hysteria.
  • In May and June we featured some Gonzo journalism from yours truly, as I reported on jury duty and also an interview with a homeless man.

It was definitely a fun year, but let's move on to the 2015 "Best of the Rogue Valley," our 29th annual readers' survey. In categories that were too close to call, we awarded multiple winners.


To gauge exactly what kind of people were answering this survey, we asked the question "favorite TV show." Again, we received multiple responses but only recorded shows that received at least two answers. And the top six were:

  • NCIS.
  • Game of Thrones.
  • Criminal Minds.
  • Walking Dead.
  • Downton Abbey.
  • Modern Family.
  • Jeopardy.



The Arc of Music runs from classical to pop, with a lot of iterations in between. There's not a radio station alive that can appeal to everyone because human variation in musical preferences is just too broad. There aren't many country fans who appreciate a good Snoop Doggy Dogg recording, and very few Big Band aficionados care much for the latest gig from Judas Priest. But when it comes to providing the greatest number of listeners with music to their ears, KAJO (1270AM) won this category over its sister station KLDR (98.3 FM).
They were followed in the balloting by:

  • KCMD (99.3).
  • KROG (96.9).
  • KBOY (95.7).
  • KCMX (Lite 101).
  • KDOV (91.7).
  • KZZE (106.3).


Winning this category hands down was the Tuesday Morning Talk Show at KAJO, which "brings interesting topics and guests to talk about the issues important to Grants Pass." The guests can range from the county commissioners and the Grants Pass City Council to the Constitution Study Group.
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Don Monette at KCMD.
  • Perry Atkinson at KDOV.


I just went through the online headlines of a local TV station and it included "Police search for suspects in white truck," "Prison escape caught on camera," "Fatal crash on Highway 46," "Shooting investigation in Grants Pass," and "Police report details from Springfield double murder." Pretty uplifting stuff, huh? To their credit, our local news teams do report on positive events in the community and keep us informed on political and social issues. It's just that crime and mayhem appeal to our rubbernecking natures.
For the umpteenth time in a row, our readers chose NewsWatch 12 (KDRV), with "Brian, Ashley, Brian and Kate" leading the way, followed by KTVL (Channel 10) and KOBI/Channel 5.
Also receiving votes were Fox 26 and Southern Oregon Public Television.


Last December we did a story on former weatherman/meteorologist Leon Hunsaker, who regaled us with stories about the Flood of 1964, which he accurately predicted 50 years ago based on a theory of movements in the jet stream that he had developed. It was fascinating stuff, and you can hear that and more almost every night from many talented meteorologists on our local TV news stations, starting with Kate McKenna, who is the Chief Meteorologist at KDRV, which she joined in June 2014. A native of Kentucky, she became interested in weather at age nine while witnessing a historic hailstorm in Bowling Green, Kentucky, that resulted in $500 million in damage.
Also making the list were:

  • Kevin Lollis of KTVL.
  • Jeff Heaton of KOBI.
  • Seth Philipps of KDRV.
  • Milt Radford of KTVL.


While the Sneak Preview recently celebrated its 29th birthday, the Courier has been around since 1885, which makes it 130 years old. It started off as the Grant's Pass Courier (complete with a misspelling of the name), changed to the Rogue River Courier in 1886, and then became the Grants Pass Daily Courier in 1919 after the city of Woodville changed its name to Rogue River. Its claim to fame? When the Courier became a daily in 1910, Grants Pass was the smallest city in the world to have leased wire service from the United Press. (Thank you, Wikipedia!)
One hundred and thirty years is a tough act to follow, but the faithful crew at our favorite almost-daily newspaper is up to the challenge. Taking down the top spot was sports editor Ben Maki, who has been with the Courier since 2011. Ben grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, received his degree in journalism from Texas Tech, and his favorite major league baseball team is the Texas Rangers.
Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Edith Decker, entertainment editor.
  • Jeff Duewel, natural resources.
  • Jim Moore, city beat.
  • Shaun Hall, business reporter.
  • Ruth Kingsland, education reporter.
  • Kevin Widdison, editor.
  • Kathleen Alaks, features reporter.


We had three contestants this year (actually four, but someone didn't label the photo, and it got lost in the shuffle). It was a tough, tough race for the top spot, but in the end Wesley Harmon emerged as cutest.
The list also included:

  • Lylan Renée Brown.
  • Reid Jacoby.


For everyone who wrote in "all," we (and our advertisers) thank you. And while a lot of people mentioned restaurant coupons, we were actually looking for ads that showed a little zip and creativity. And in that regard, many of our readers mentioned the back page, public service ad that Steve Roe at Roe Motors GM offers every month.
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Club Northwest.
  • Human Bean.
  • AesthetiSpa.
  • Caveman Heating.
  • Evergreen Federal.


The Grants Pass Sneak Preview is actually in the process of developing a Facebook page, so for all of you wringing your hands over our absence, you can rest easy. A number of local Facebook pages were mentioned, and landed on top. It's a local compendium of forecasts and current conditions.
Others receiving some notice were:

  • Jo Co Scanner Group.
  • Grants Pass Happenings.
  • Glass Forge.
  • Broad Adventures.



You have to admire anyone who takes the initiative to start a new business. Despite what Rand Paul says, nine out of ten new businesses do not fail. The true statistic is that within four or five years, 50% of all businesses fail, but even that may be overstated depending on the definition of "failure." Either way, it's not easy running a business, and our hats are off to those who give it a try.
Taking down the number one spot this year was The Haul, a new restaurant/bar/social space in Grants Pass at 121 SW H Street.
Also mentioned were:

  • Ready Ride, a non-emergency transportation service for AllCare members in Southern Oregon.
  • Climate City Brewing (509 SW G), the area's newest addition to the craft beer scene, serving beer and upscale pub food.
  • Oregon Mattress Authority at 424 SW 6th.
  • Tommi's Ice Cream at 101 SW 4th.


Not everyone is cut out to be a businessperson. It entails a certain amount of responsibility, risk, and stress, and usually only the strong (and even tempered) survive. Quite a few local businesspeople were mentioned in this survey, but in the end Travis Boersma of Dutch Brothers landed on top. Travis made the news recently when he decided to claim some thoroughbreds at Grants Pass Downs. Hopefully, his enthusiasm will inject some new energy into local horse racing.
The list also included:

  • Scott and Annette Draper at Club Northwest and Spa at Club Northwest.
  • Frank Wright and Roy Heinzle of the Kitchen Company.
  • Steve Roe of Roe Motors GM.
  • Virginia Kramer of Thrive Wellness.
  • Giff Gates of Gates Furniture.
  • Dave Thomason of Taprock (and other restaurants).
  • Carl and Mimi Raskin of Elegance.


Giving back to the community is the credo of quite a few local businesses, and topping the charts in this category was Evergreen Federal Savings (we miss you, Brady!) and Roe Motors GM. They were followed by:

  • Dutch Brothers.
  • Greenleaf Industries.
  • Human Bean.
  • Club Northwest.
  • Three Rivers Community Hospital.


Back in my substitute teaching days, I concentrated mainly on high school and middle school. One day at a morning assignment in Denver, I was asked if I wanted to fill in at an elementary school for the afternoon. No problema. If I can handle teenagers, 7 and 8-year-olds will be a snap. Well, I was certainly wrong. After about four hours of herding the young'uns around and dealing constantly with their needs, I was so spent I drove straight home and took a 2-hour nap. My admiration for elementary school teachers increased dramatically.
Quite a few teachers were mentioned in this survey, starting with the number one choice, Heidi Sembach, a second grade teacher at Riverside Elementary.
She was followed in the balloting by:

  • Jennifer Seymour, 4th grade at Highland.
  • Michelle Kunst, 5th grade at Redwood.
  • Janis Morgan, Kindergarten at Parkside.
  • Steve Fuller, 5th grade at Redwood.
  • Angie Kassab, Kindergarten at Riverside.


On the Three Rivers School District's side of the ledger, 3rd grade teacher Carrie Simpson of Madrona Elementary won this category.


As principal of a school—elementary, middle, or high—you're faced with the age-old conundrum of not having enough hours in the day to get everything done. Not only do you have to cater to every little whim of the darlings under your care, but there are teachers, janitors, cafeteria staff, and of course, parents. Oh, and if you make one little mistake, the press (and Facebook) will be all over your case. So coming up with that 25th hour in the day shouldn't be too hard an assignment.
Working his way through the new, improved 25-hour day is this year's winner, Jake Musser, principal of Allen Dale Elementary, followed by:

  • Dennis Misner, North Valley High School.
  • Dave Stone, Hidden Valley High School.
  • Ryan Thompson of Grants Pass High School.
  • Jeff Weiss, South Middle School.
  • Jessica Durant, Riverside Elementary.


It's a labor of love to put in a full 8-hour day as a teacher, then help guide athletes through the rigors of training and game-day. Our local sports coaches do a great job, and nowhere is that more evident than with Jenner Yriarte, track coach at Grants Pass High School, who was voted this year's favorite. Jenner led the Caveman to a 2015 state championship.
Also in the running were:

  • John Musser, GPHS football coach.
  • Lowell Anderson, GPHS soccer coach.
  • Maria Kilborn, GPHS volleyball coach.
  • Todd Willaman, North Valley High School football.


As an alumnus of RCC (I took Biology, Botany and Chemistry in the fall of 1980, and Anatomy & Physiology Summer 1981), this is always a fun category for me. I also taught a Community Ed class there from 1980-82 but didn't quality for a retirement watch. The college has definitely grown leaps and bounds since my days as a student/"professor." Winning this category among our readers this year was Pat Enos in the Art Department, followed by:

  • Mike Strickler, Science.
  • Randy Wade, Business.
  • Steve Carlino, Health/PE.
  • Karl Brake, Art.


So a woman and her husband interrupted their vacation to go to the dentist. "I want a tooth pulled, and I don't want Novacaine because I'm in a big hurry," the woman said. "Just extract the tooth as quickly as possible, and we'll be on our way." The dentist was quite impressed. "You're certainly a courageous woman," he said. "Which tooth is it?" The woman turned to her husband and said, "Show him your tooth, dear."
Favorite Dentist is always one of our more popular categories, and this year was no exception, as almost everyone had an opinion (when it comes to your teeth, there's no middle ground). The competition was stiff, but landing at the top this year was Darren Huddleston and Sara Riechers.
The Top Six were:

  • Steven Rogers.
  • Matthew Hill.
  • Greg Bigelow.
  • Mart Erickson.

Also receiving lots of votes were:

  • Richard Miller.
  • Paul Anderson.
  • Ray Sutton.
  • Jim Hales.
  • Peter Pastrell.


A man goes to his doctor and says, "I don't think my wife's hearing is as good as it used to be. What should I do?" The doctor replies, "Try this test to find out for sure. When your wife is in the kitchen doing dishes, stand fifteen feet behind her and ask her a question. If she doesn't respond, keep moving closer asking the question until she hears you." The man goes home and sees his wife preparing dinner. He stands fifteen feet behind her and says, "What's for dinner, honey?" He gets no response, so he moves to ten feet behind her and asks again. Still no response, so he moves to five feet. Still no answer. Finally he stands directly behind her and says, "Honey, what's for dinner?" She replies, "For the fourth time, I SAID CHICKEN!"
Thirty-one different MDs were mentioned in this year's survey, and the top featured a tie between Heather Kahn (Rogue Medicine), Steven Foutz and Donna Givens (Grants Pass Family Medicine).
The list also included:

  • Felicia Cohen (Women's Health Center).
  • Andrew Luther (Grants Pass Clinic).
  • Angela Mount (Asante Physician Partners).
  • Mark Rondeau, family practitioner.
  • Kristin Miller, Siskiyou Community Health Center.
  • Andrew Pitsak.
  • David Abdun-Nur, Mountainview Family Practice.
  • Tamara Medley (Women's Health Center).


I couldn't really find any good pediatrician jokes, so we'll just move right into the voting. And winning this category, with strong support from the 6-18 month voting bloc, was Dr. Steven Marshak, D.O., of the Siskiyou Pediatric Clinic.
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Judy Black, Grants Pass Clinic.
  • Salma Yahya, Siskiyou Pediatric Clinic.
  • Yung K. Kho.
  • William Kohn.


A physician's assistant "is a nationally certified and state-licensed medical professional who practices medicine on healthcare teams with physicians and other providers." Most programs are approximately three years in length and require the same prerequisite courses as medical schools. There are subtle differences between them and nurse practitioners, and to try and explain them all would take more space than is available.
Many of our readers, however, know the difference and they named a few local PAs in this survey. Topping the list was Brett Rasmussen at Wellspring Family Practice, followed by:

  • Shanna McGowan at Grants Pass Clinic.
  • Chelsea Burchette at Mountainview Family Practice.
  • Scott Swindells, Siskiyou Community Health Center.
  • Esther Moore at Grants Pass Clinic.


Don't let the "alternative" part of this nomenclature fool you—naturopathic doctors and acupuncturists know their stuff, and while they'll attempt to cure your current aches and pains, they'll also try to lead you down a path of optimal health that could cut future health care costs.
Our readers mentioned quite a few alternative medicine practitioners in this survey, reserving the number one spot for naturopathic doctor Ellen Heinitz at the Naturopathic Clinic.
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Acupuncturist Janet Moret.
  • Acupuncturist Gregory Doss of the Acupuncture & Herbal Medical Center.
  • Kristin Plunkett of the Naturopathic Clinic.
  • Acupuncturist Raven Sara.


It all started in 1895 when D.D. Palmer performed the first chiropractic adjustment on a partially deaf janitor. Later that year, he helped another patient who had heart troubles, and he made the pronouncement that "spinal manipulation is the cure for all diseases for the human race." He might have been exaggerating, but there's no disputing the fact that the spine, and the nerves encased within them, work a lot more efficiently when everything is lined up correctly. Which is why a lot of us swear by our chiropractors.
Where to go when the spine is starting to get all kattywampus? Our readers most often mentioned Scott Thorsen, followed closely by:

  • David Krauss.
  • Owen Martin.
  • Kevin Teagle.
  • Ryan Baker.
  • David Willing.
  • Glen Litwiller.
  • Edward Welch.


The biggest difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist is that no one in the Western world can spell ophthalmologist. Just kidding, the latter is actually an MD who can do operations on the eye, while an optometrist "provides primary vision care ranging from sight testing and correction to the diagnosis, treatment and management of vision changes."
Topping the charts in this category was Dan Vidlak of the Eye Care Group.
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Michael Schwartz.
  • Jeff Pelson of the Eye Care Group.
  • Scott Walters of the Eye Care Group.

And we promise that next year we'll include the category "Favorite Ophthalmologist." Just be ready to spell it!


You know, if you put the root of a hair cell under a microscope, it's beyond butt ugly, but once everything grows out and gets cut and buffed and combed, it's one of the most beautiful parts of the human body. Who do you go to when you want those hair cells to cooperate? Many of our readers this year chose Holly Knoll and Amy Taradash, both of whom work at the Spa at Club Northwest.
This is another one of those favorite categories with readers, and 28 different hair stylists were mentioned.
The Top Eight included:

  • Jackie McConnell of Salon Vanusto.
  • Carol Oyler at Carol's Image Connection.
  • Kathy Johnson.
  • Erin Camacho at Salon Venusto.
  • Janie Peters.
  • Kelcie Easter of Serendipity—Studio 201.


Well, I spent about two hours weeding in the garden last week, and my nails looked like something out of Creature from the Black Lagoon. I literally spent an hour trying to pick dirt and grime out of the nails, and I'll admit I felt a lot better when they were clean. Then I had this interesting thought: "Maybe, just maybe, I should visit a manicurist!" My wife, of course, thinks I'm insane for not visiting them on a monthly basis, but that's a story for another day.
Anyway, where to go when those nails need a little extra work? Many of our readers mentioned the talented staff at Forever Nails, followed by:

  • Katrina Lorentz of Spa at Club Northwest.
  • Kelsey Collins.
  • The staff at Blue Door Salon.
  • The staff at Get Nailed.


Yeah, we know, it wasn't your fault. What idiot placed those metal bars in the parking lot, anyway? Oh, they were there to protect a gas meter? That makes sense, but it still wasn't your fault! That scenario actually happened to me a couple of years ago as I was backing out of a restaurant parking lot. It cost a pretty penny to get fixed.
Where to go when that happens in Grants Pass? The top dog in this category turned out to be DJ's Bump & Paint Parlor, located at 325 SW G.
The list also included:

  • Apland's Auto Body.
  • Star Body Works.
  • Ham's Body Shop.
  • Valle's Auto Body.


You're spewing black smoke from the muffler, the car suddenly lurches when you're driving down the highway, and sometimes it takes 37 times turning the ignition just to get it started. You also suddenly went from getting 32 miles a gallon to eight. Something's wrong, right? If you start with the simplest solution, the car's probably due for a tune-up. And when that happens, our readers suggest visiting Tom's Auto Service, followed by:

  • Best Auto Service Center.
  • Autosmith.
  • Wheeler Toyota.
  • Star Automotive.
  • Huck's Garage.
  • Roe Motors GM.
  • Smerdon Automotive.
  • Xtreme Auto Repair.
  • Bridge Street Auto.


When you think of famous lawyers, a few come to mind—Clarence Darrow, F. Lee Bailey, Johnnie Cochrane, William Kunstler. All of those guys achieved notoriety by defending controversial cases or causes. The vast majority of attorneys, however, work cases that never make the front page. They work hard, and they come in handy whenever you get entangled in the legal system.
This is another popular category with our readers, and they named quite a few attorneys, including this year's number one, Kathi Holmbeck.
She was followed in the balloting by:

  • Chris Mecca.
  • Lynn Myrick.
  • Richard Adams.
  • Jim Dole.
  • Jack Davis.
  • Duane Schultz.
  • Dennis James.
  • Dan Simcoe.


I talked with a police officer a few years ago who told me that even he got nervous on the highway if a police car appeared in his rear view mirror. That's what happened to a friend and me while driving to Reno last week. We got pulled over, and my buddy, who was driving, was so nervous that the cop probably thought we had a dead body in the trunk. It turned out to be a false alarm, but we lost about five pounds sweating out the ordeal.
We're hoping this isn't just a honeymoon period, but newly elected Sheriff Dave Daniel was the runaway winner in the category for 2015. He is, unfortunately, facing even more budget cuts and if something isn't done soon, public safety in Josephine County will really become problematic.
Moving onto more positive things, our readers also recognized:

  • Grants Pass Police Chief Bill Landis.
  • Sheriff's Deputy Joel Heller.
  • Grants Pass Detective Pete Jenesta.
  • Grants Pass Deputy Police Chief Jim Hamilton.
  • Grants Pass Officer Jason Peil.
  • Grants Pass Officer John Moore.


My wife and I did all of our taxes—both personal and business—for twenty years until one day we had an epiphany: "Why don't we let a professional do this?" It turned out to be a wise decision. Not only did it save us time, but it was done right, and we actually ended up saving money.
On that front, our readers named quite a few local accountants and CPAs. The final tally ended up as a tie between Randy Jentzsch and Brenda Patton, followed by:

  • Bobbie Winters.
  • Cynthia Harelson.
  • Ken Behymer.
  • Karen Doyle.
  • David Raskin.
  • Stu Watson.
  • Linda Lemmons.


There are a lot of things more important than money—health, love and the Chicago Cubs come to mind—but being financially secure certainly helps jumpstart the whole circle of life. And whenever you have a little left over, it's always good to invest it for rainy days. Sure, you could go out and buy that 60-foot yacht or have a putting green installed in the back yard, but getting a little return on your money is the smart thing to do.
Where to go when you need some advice? Our readers first mentioned Chris Isabell of Rogue Advisors. He was followed by:

  • Nelson Maler of Morgan Stanley.
  • Danny Sawyer of Securities America.
  • Todd Thompson of Rogue Advisors.
  • Ken Guerra of Investment Resources.
  • Jeff Voigt of Primerica.
  • Paul Hart of Edward Jones.


There are about a thousand and one things to keep track of every day when running a restaurant—food, employees, utilities, bathrooms, billing, fussy chefs, public health inspections, advertising salespeople, the list goes on. Our hats are off to the many restaurant owners out there who give it 100% every day.
Quite a few owners were mentioned by our readers, and landing at the top was Manuel Flores, owner of Flores Family Restaurants in Grants Pass, which include Si Casa Flores, Taqueria Mexico, Flores Tacos Locos and Si Casa Xpress.
Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Dave Thomason of Taprock and Elmer's.
  • Bob and Darla Feil of the Train Depot and River's Edge.
  • Tina Gotchall of the Powderhorn.
  • Mike and Beth Forshay of Twisted Cork.
  • Bret Musselman of 115 Broiler.
  • Jose Palomino of Casa Amiga.
  • Nancy Bowers of Goldminer Restaurant.


You're about ready to call it a day, when a group of twenty people walk in the door wanting to be served. They're loud and semi-rude, but you get the table prepared, put on your best smiley face, and start taking orders. It turns out that they're all movie stars who are in town to shoot a scene for the next segment of Game of Thrones. While Tyrion would keep you busy by continually ordering more wine and Daenerys was a little haughty, that Jon Snow guy sure was cute, and Jamie Lannister actually grew his hand back.
Anyway, 26 different waiters and waitresses were mentioned in this survey, and topping the charts this year was Katie Roselle of the Train Depot.
The list also featured:

  • Jessica Pardue of Taprock.
  • Tricia Walker of Elmer's.
  • Dotti Kochis at 115 Broiler.
  • Rachel Geiger of River's Edge.
  • Debbie Hamblin at the Powderhorn.
  • Joe Gomez of G Street Bar & Grill.
  • Frank Arturi of 115 Broiler.
  • Lupita at Taqueria Mexico.
  • Tina Gotchall at the Powderhorn.


Why didn't the bartender serve the snake? Because he couldn't hold his drink. Or: So a dyslexic walks into a bra ... Or: What does a termite say when he walks into a bar? "Is the bar tender here?" Or: What did the bartender say when two jumper cables walked into the bar? "You guys better not start anything in here."
So ... moving right along. Winning this year's category for Favorite Bartender was Bob Lewis of the Cedarwood, followed by:

  • Willie Evans at the Wonder Bur.
  • Danielle Brooks at the Alibi.
  • Butch at the Wonder Bur.
  • Perry Selkner at the Taprock.


When we moved into our house in 1992, we planted 35 trees on the property. As you can imagine, some of them are gigantic now ... and some of them have died. Just within the last year, we've had to have five huge trees removed. It was kind of sad, but life goes on. There are lots of tree pruners in the valley, and our readers named almost all of them, reserving their top spot for Eric's Tree Service.
Also landing high on the list were:

  • Southern Oregon Tree Care.
  • Tree Servicing Pros.
  • A-Z Tree Service.
  • Reliable Tree Service.
  • Jeff Dean's Tree Service.


Back in the day, I practically lived on the Rogue River, floating down in Tahitis or tackling the Lower Rogue in drift boats. We were fearless back then (too much alcohol, perhaps), but every time I read about someone drowning in the Rogue River, I realize how lucky I was. If I ever decide on another whitewater trip, it will definitely be in the hands of a competent professional.
And in that regard, our readers gave top nod to Orange Torpedo Trips, based out of Merlin.
They were followed by:

  • Rogue Wilderness Adventures.
  • Ferron's Fun Trips.
  • Alternative Whitewater Adventures.
  • Hellgate Jetboat Excursions.


I went to a wedding a couple of years ago at a private residence, and while the guests were in the backyard waiting for the ceremony, we all looked up to see a plumber on the roof inserting a "snake" into a pipe. It turns out that right before the ceremony was to start, all of the plumbing in the house backed up! That's what I call unlucky. Thankfully, the plumber saved the day, and the ceremony, reception and party afterward went off without a hitch.
Whom to turn to when the wedding is on the line? Our readers first mentioned Rich at Aristocrat Plumbing, followed by:

  • Michael's Plumbing.
  • Frank Rauch Plumbing.
  • Al's Plumbing Service.
  • Heritage Plumbing.
  • Grants Pass Plumbing.
  • Mr. Rooter.


They say that a bolt of lightning can have 100 million to one billion volts and contains billions of watts. When I was golfing in Tahoe last month, we encountered lightning late in the afternoon on all three days. On the third day, it got so bad that they actually shut the course down. But I guess when you're talking about one billion volts, it's probably not something to mess with, especially when you consider that the typical DC current carries anywhere from 48 to 120 volts.
There's a certain amount of risk being an electrician. You definitely want to make sure the power is turned off before you start sticking screwdrivers into mysterious places. And when it comes to that, our readers were able to name quite a few. Leading the charge this year was Norm Sky of Sky Electric.
He was followed in the balloting by:

  • Advanced Electrical Services.
  • Brownell's Electric.
  • Bormuth Electric.
  • Michael Gatt.
  • Darrin Fowler.


This was a total landslide as Mikey, the greeter at Thrive Wellness, won this contest.


While the city of Grants Pass wasn't incorporated until 1887, the first post office was established in 1865, and the town was named after Gen. U.S. Grant's victory at Vicksburg. At that time, the downtown area consisted of a couple of blocks on Sixth Street, and a few buildings on Historic G Street. Today, the downtown core has shown a revival that is unmatched in most cities in Oregon. And we can thank our loyal, downtown merchants for helping with that rejuvenation.
Winning this category in a landslide once again was The Kitchen Company, a kitchen appliance store at 301 SE 6th Street.
They edged out Grants Pass Pharmacy in the balloting, while the Top Twelve included:

  • Fiona Bean.
  • Never a Bum Steer.
  • Shop River Rock.
  • La Bella Casa.
  • Blind George's.
  • Oregon Outpost.
  • Tierra del Sol.
  • Bead Merchant.
  • Herb Shop.
  • Violet Continued.


Fred Meyer was the top dog in this contest, followed by:

  • Wal-Mart.
  • Fields Home Center.
  • Cartwright's.
  • Rogue River Florist.
  • J.C. Penney.
  • Maurice's.
  • Cary's of Oregon.
  • Bi-Mart.
  • Home Depot.
  • an's Hallmark Store.


If you look carefully at one of those special, gift-giving calendars, you can find reasons to buy gifts for almost every day of the month. I almost have to draw the line at Groundhog Day and National Dairy Day, but most of the others deserve gifts, especially if I'm the recipient. Where to go when you want to buy the editor of the Sneak Preview a gift?
Our readers most often named Hellgate's Shop River Rock, although the vote was close at the top with Jan's Hallmark receiving a lot of support.
Others high on the list were:

  • Never a Bum Steer.
  • Oregon Outpost.
  • Kitchen Company.
  • Grants Pass Pharmacy.
  • Rogue River Florist.
  • Violet Continued.
  • La Bella Casa.
  • Fiona Bean.
  • Sandi's Candies.


The Pacific Northwest is famous for its outdoor activities, from whitewater rafting and hiking to fishing, hunting, camping, golf, baseball, softball, tennis and lake kayaking. There are plenty of stores catering to the outdoor needs, with Big 5 topping the charts with our readers.
The list also included:

  • Bi-Mart.
  • Fred Meyer.
  • Bradbury's Gun-N-Tackle.
  • Competitive Athletics.
  • U-Save Gas & Tackle.
  • Club Northwest Pro Shop.


Now that I have grandkids, there's something I never noticed about little kids—they grow out of their clothes real quickly. Just kidding ... I noticed it as a parent, also, but it just didn't seem to happen so fast!
Where to go when the kids outgrow their clothes and need more? Most of our readers mentioned Fred Meyer and Wal-Mart, but when you want a little more personal service, they chose:

  • Chesi Jo's Baby Boutique.
  • Eco Tots Boutique.
  • Kids Corner.
  • It's a Small World.
  • Baby Connection.


For some reason, you wake up in the morning and it feels as if a band of wild monkeys had been jumping on your back all night. Then you turn on your computer, and your daily tip of the day reads, "A mattress that has been in use for 7-10 years is no longer providing you with the best comfort and support and should be replaced." Well, duh, and you thought they lasted forever ... or was it the wild monkeys?
Our readers were able to name most of the local mattress dealers in this survey, reserving their number one spot for Gates Home Furnishings, located downtown at 700 SW 6th.
Others high on the list were:

  • Oregon Mattress Authority.
  • Active Home Furnishings.
  • Mattress Land.
  • Quality Mattress.
  • Mattress Experts.
  • Bed Store.


Keeping up with the Jones' really doesn't apply when it comes to kitchen appliances. How many neighbors peek through the window and tell everyone, "Did you see the 20-year-old refrigerator they have?" "I know," another busybody says, "and that stove; I think it was used in the Civil War." No, that kind of stuff doesn't happen, but having the engine go out in the frig or the stove malfunction—well, now there's a reason to buy a new one.
Taking down top honors in this category for 2015 was Sears Hometown Store, located at 1533 NE F. They were followed closely by:

  • Home Depot.
  • Active Appliance.
  • Appliance & Mower Center.
  • Household Furniture & Appli-ances.
  • T&N Appliance.


I've only tried scuba once. It was on the Illinois River back in the Summer of 1979, and my "instructor" gave me about two minutes of instruction, then threw me into the deep end. I floundered for about a minute, then decided that maybe I should have received a little more instruction and preparation.
Where would I go? This ended up in a tie between Coral Sea Scuba, located at 1680 Williams Highway, and Sundance Divers, at 543 NE E.
Gary Bluhm's Northwest Scuba School was also mentioned as a great place to take scuba classes.


One of the greatest inventions in the history of mankind was Gutenberg's printing press in 1440. The mechanization of bookmaking led to the first mass production of books in Europe, allowing authors like Martin Luther to distribute hundreds of thousands of books in their lifetimes. Will the Kindle make books obsolete? It will be a sad day when you can't sit in front of a fire with a good book in your hand, not a piece of technological metal.
Anyway, there are still a few good bookstores left to cater to the Gutenberg crowd, including this year's winner, Oregon Books & Games at 150 NE E, followed by:

  • My Bookstore.
  • Magazine Exchange.
  • Evangel Books.
  • Iguana Comics & Gifts.
  • Heartsong, Inc.


There are essentially three things to consider when buying blinds and curtains: 1.) How well do they modulate the sunlight? 2.) How well do they provide privacy? And 3.) How good do they look? I mean, you can always just nail some aluminum siding over the window if all you wanted to do was keep out the sun. And when it comes to blinds and curtains, our readers were a little discerning, picking Draperies N Things (547 NE E) as their favorite.
Others mentioned were:

  • Mr. Mini Blind.
  • Budget Blinds.
  • Home Depot.
  • Michelle Jueden Custom Drapery & Design.


As a spectator sport, shopping isn't that exciting. Every year my daughter and I take an annual 3-day road trip, which always ends with her shopping at a mall somewhere. I do my best to keep up, but I always take a book with me and invariably will fall asleep, like in a comfy sofa at H&M or Forever Young, despite rock music playing at ear-splitting levels.
Here in Grants Pass, there are a number of places to shop for women's clothes, and while the big three of JC Penney's, Fred Meyer and Ross received a lot of attention, so did:

  • Maurice's.
  • Violet Continued.
  • Tierra del Sol
  • Fiona Bean.
  • Emilia's Closet.
  • Never a Bum Steer.


Every year or so I go shopping for a couple of new pairs of pants, some new shorts and shirts, and, uh, socks. Then I rely on my wife and daughters to supplement the wardrobe at Christmas and on my birthday. They have my back ... literally.
And where should they go to shop? Most readers picked Fred Meyer, although JC Penney came in a close second, followed by:

  • Ross.
  • Wal-Mart.
  • Roley's Pacific Supply.
  • Goodwill.


If anything, you need a place to buy a hat when the Kentucky Derby rolls around. Where to go when you want to cheer American Pharaoh onto a win, or just generally want to look good? A lot of people mentioned Ross Dress for Less.
Also topping the list were:

  • Tierra del Sol.
  • Never a Bum Steer.
  • Fred Meyer.
  • The pro shop at the golf course.
  • Roley's Pacific Supply.


It's amazing that mere sound waves in the ear canal move tiny bones in the middle ear, which create a fluid movement in the cochlea, triggering a response in the hearing nerve. And that's how you hear everything from a whisper to a sonic boom. It's extraordinary that hearing lasts as long as it does, but when things do go south, you want to take care of them right away.
There are a number of great hearing aid specialists in town, and our readers named all of them, including their first choice, the Audiology Associates of Southern Oregon.
Also high on the list were:

  • Beltone Hearing Center.
  • Quality Hearing Care.
  • My Hearing Centers.
  • Miracle-Ear Hearing Aid Center.
  • American Hearing Aid Systems.


Flowers are perfect for almost every occasion, from births and weddings to birthdays and funerals. They brighten up every room, and many restaurants even feature fresh flowers at the table. Because they are surrounded by so much beauty 24/7, florists have a natural tendency to be happy about their jobs, and our readers appreciate their efforts.
Taking down the number one spot this year was Probst Flower Shop, located in the Williams Highway Plaza.
The vote was close, however, as both Rogue River Florist and Judy's received a lot of votes.


Back in June, I didn't think we were going to have enough water to get our flowers through the summer. Then the big deluge in July came, and I think we're going to be all right. Late summer and fall is actually a good time to do some planting, as the roots will get established before winter sets in and they'll be ready to go at spring time.
With Chet's shutting down and moving to Brookings, we thought it would be interesting to see how this category played out, since Chet's had won it for the last ten years. And as the last precincts were reported, Redwood Nursery, located at 1303 Redwood Avenue, was the winner, followed by:

  • Penniesworth Acres Nursery.
  • The Grange Co-Op.
  • Home Depot.
  • Fred Meyer.
  • Sandy's Nursery.
  • Diamond Home Improvement.
  • Greenleaf Greenhouse.
  • Bi-Mart.


They're definitely ubiquitous and worse than that, they're everywhere (that's a joke, by the way). They're also like little kids—every night that have to be plugged into bed and recharged (I almost feel like reading Good Night Moon to them). And then they make weird little noises right in the middle of your backswing at the golf course. And ... oh never mind; no matter how much we complain about cell phones, life would be unbearable without them, so let's just enjoy the moment.
There are a number of places to buy cell phones locally, and our readers named U.S. Cellular at 1610 Allen Creek Road and 220 NE Beacon as their favorite.
The list also included:

  • Verizon.
  • AT&T.
  • Sprint.
  • Chat Cat.


They move a lot of food in the course of one day, and they know the price of every item down to the nearest penny (or at least the code scanner does, but who's counting?). Through all that, they still have time to chat and get to know you, commenting on the weather and how the Seahawks are doing, and what did the price of Microsoft look like this morning, etc.
Winning the hearts and minds of our customers this year were the friendly checkers at Safeway
Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Fred Meyer.
  • Albertson's, which is now Haggens.
  • Cartwright's.
  • Gooseberries.
  • Ray's Food Place.
  • Grocery Outlet.


Your neighbor just unloaded 34 pounds of zucchinis from the garden on you, and you've got to get them cut for that Mother of All Salads that you promised your church group for the Summer Social. You'll be going through knives like crazy, and you're going to need the best and the brightest. Where to go? Our readers strongly recommended the selection at The Kitchen Company, located at 301 SE 6th, where every kitchen item under the known sun is available.
Also receiving votes were:

  • Bi-Mart.
  • Cartwright's.
  • Wal-Mart.


Now that the deal with Iran has been brokered, our former enemies will be opening up their oil spigots to the global market. And I guess y'all know what that means, right? When supply goes up, the price goes down. Yay, free market system!
And when it comes to anticipating lower gas prices, our readers once again named Fred Meyer, at the corner of the Parkway and Beacon Drive, as their favorite gas station, followed by:

  • Lonnie's Texaco at 7th & Morgan.
  • Larry Henderson's "A" Street Chevron.
  • Towne Pump.
  • The ARCO Station at 7th & "M."
  • Union 75 South.
  • U Save.
  • Fireball.


Going to shop in Medford and Ashland is our own little version of a global economy. Despite the fact that everything we buy is from China or Bangladesh, it seems as if we're keeping all the money in Southern Oregon. And when it comes to that, our readers once again named both CostCo and Trader Joe's as their number one.
Other favorite destinations are:

  • Macy's at the Mall.
  • TJ Maxx.
  • Sportsmen's Warehouse.
  • Kohl's.
  • REI.
  • Paddington Station in Ashland.
  • Winco.
  • Renaissance Rose in Ashland.



It was another uneventful year on the City Council, although I suppose that's a good thing. We really don't want to see fistfights break out, or audience members screaming for recalls, or earthquakes destroying the Council chambers. There are good things to being uneventful.
Once again, all eight City Councilors received votes, with the number one spot going to Lily Morgan, followed closely by Dennis Roler and Dan DeYoung.


"Uneventful" is not the word to describe the county commissioners. First, Simon Hare got in a little hot water for a prank he pulled in a local bar. After that died down, there was another attempt to get a public safety levy passed. Then local activist Toni Webb filed an ethics complaint against Commissioners Simon Hare and Cherryl Walker, claiming they had a conflict of interest while lobbying for a hemp farm when they actually were investors in said farm. Just another day at the office in Josephine County.
All three of the commissioners have their supporters, but once again Cherryl Walker won this category, followed by Keith Heck and Simon Hare.


Locally, a lot of people were ecstatic over recreational marijuana being legalized. On the statewide level, Gov. Kitzhaker resigning was also a good thing. And on the national level, a lot of people were happy that the Affordable Care Act was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court.


A lot of people were upset over the failure to pass a public safety levy. For the fourth time in five years, a levy went down to defeat, as the supporters just can't seem to find the right arguments for its passage.
Also making the list were:

  • The new, unimproved logo for the City of Grants Pass.
  • Legalizing marijuana.
  • The Supreme Court's affirmation of Obamacare.
  • Suggesting a city sales tax.


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 outdoor growing of marijuana in the city limits of Grants Pass be banned? Okay, here's the thing: we all passed Measure 91, which made recreational marijuana legal. It also allowed everyone to grow four plants at their home, similar to making home-brewed beer or wine. The only thing is some marijuana plants can get stinky (think skunk) and for a few people it's unpleasant, especially if they voted no on Measure 91. The City Council is planning to vote on an ordinance that would not allow those four plants to be grown outside. Is that within the letter of the law? What about people who hate the smell of lavender? Should it be moved inside? Or cilantro? I hate cilantro. Anyway, I digress, and our readers disagree with me.

  • Yes, ban outside growing: 62%
  • No, it's fine outside: 38%

2. Would you vote for a small, supplemental county levy to fund the jail? This is a plan that I have been pushing for five years, and I'm desperately waiting for someone on the Board of County Commissioners to take some leadership. The commissioners could put something on the ballot today asking for a mere 50¢ per $100,000 assessed evaluation as a supplemental, one-year levy just to get us through the year. Then next year the Budget Committee will look at what we have and decide how much the supplemental levy would need to be for the next year. It sounds like a hassle doing this every year, but what else are we going to do? My readers, by the way, agree with me on this one.

  • Yes, would vote for: 75%
  • No, would not vote for: 25%

3. Do you like the new City of Grants Pass logo? I really haven't stayed on top of this issue very well, but apparently the City paid a local tourism-related firm to come up with a new logo, and the final result is not sitting well with a lot of people.

  • Yes, looks great: 24%
  • No, it's butt ugly: 76%

4. Do you think cell phones cause brain tumors? This is one of those things that sounds logical. When you ask someone if placing a small device next to your brain for long periods of time as it emits strong electro-magnetic radiation would be harmful to your health, the vast majority would say yes. It sounds gruesome. Few studies, however, have shown any negative health effects. Do cell phones really cause brain tumors? Our readers aren't buying it.

  • Yes, cell phones are bad: 41%
  • No, they're completely safe: 59%

* * * * *
Well, let's just break open that bottle of Basil Hayden bourbon that I placed on top of my computer two days ago as a motivation to finish this. I'll see you next month for Part II of the "Best of the Rogue Valley." May Basil Hayden be with you (he's my great-great-great granduncle, by the way).


Turn off that Reality TV show you've been watching and settle in for the Rogue Valley's next best thing: Part II of the Sneak Preview's annual readers' survey, "The Best of the Rogue Valley." It was a painstaking job counting all the ballots, but with the support of friends and family (and a case of Red Bull), I was able to make it through unscathed. Recognizing that any readers' poll is extremely subjective, we awarded multiple ties whenever the top vote-getters were only separated by a couple of votes. Enjoy!



A handful of restaurants bit the dust last year, but taking up the stack were six new additions to the scene. Topping the charts was a tie between two new establishments specializing in microbrews and good food: Climate City Brewing Company, located at 509 SW G in the old Brewery building; and The Haul, a pub/brewery at 121 SW H.
Also mentioned a lot were:
• Gtano's Nuevo Latin Cuisine at 218 SW G.
• Griess Family Brews & Taproom (220 SW H).
• Uptown Bar & Grill, located at 2030 NW Vine.
• Asian Persuasion at 1887 NE 7th.


You were having a dream about being cornered by relatives of Cecil the Lion and just as they're growling and ready to pounce, you wake up. Then you realize it was your stomach that was making the growling noise. Nothing to do but get up and head out to your favorite breakfast haunt to load up on carbs and protein. Where to go? This ended up as a tie between perennial favorite Elmer's (175 NE Agness) and MaMosa's at 118 NW E.
The Top Five, however, were extremely close, and they included:
• The Powderhorn.
• Black Bear Diner.
• Train Depot.
Rounding out the Top Ten were:
• Goldminer.
• Shari's.
• Herb's.
• Black Forest.


There's no official rule that you have to eat three times a day, but whenever noon rolls around there's some kind of biological imperative that emerges from the midbrain saying, "Dude, we need to do lunch!" And our readers certainly agree, as they named 27 different restaurants in this survey as their favorites.
Taking down the number one spot this year was a 3-way tie between Taprock Northwest Grill (971 SE 6th); the Powderhorn (321 NE 6th); and Circle J at 241 SW G Street.
The Top Ten also featured:
• Twisted Cork.
• Laughing Clam.
• Goodness Gracious.
• MaMosa's.
• The Vine.
• River's Edge.
• Bohemian.


The best pancakes I ever experienced were in Yellowstone National Park, Summer of 1968. I worked there on a road crew, and our bosses hired a woman to cook for us every morning. Bessie was a large Montana woman, and in her previous life she must've cooked for lumberjacks. She presented breakfasts you wouldn't believe, and the pancakes were addicting. Where would I go to recreate Bessie's joie de pancakes? Many of our readers pointed me in the direction of Black Bear Diner, which is located at 1900 NW 6th Street, followed by:
• Elmer's.
• Powderhorn.
• Train Depot.
• Denny's.
• Goldminer.
• Shari's.
• Avenue Diner.


According to Google, the Bacon-Lettuce-Tomato sandwich didn't become popular until after World War II with the rapid expansion of supermarkets "which allowed ingredients to be available year-round." Today, it's on almost everyone's list of favorite sandwiches, and our readers can choose between a number of places that offer particularly good ones.
Slicing its way to the top were both Laughing Clam (121 SW G) and Wild River Brewing Co. at 595 NE E.
Also mentioned a lot were:
• Circle J.
• Black Bear Diner.
• Taprock.
• Sixth Street Deli.
• Wonder Bur Café.


Your in-laws insisted on a late breakfast, then your co-workers wanted to have an early lunch. You walk into the restaurant not feeling especially hungry, but a good ½-sandwich and soup special could be just what the doctor ordered. There are a lot of places to choose from, but according to our readers, they love the specials at Rosso's Trattoria (225 SE 6th) and Babe's Bakery (1701 NE 6th), followed by:
• Bluestone Bakery & Coffee Café.
• Black Forest.
• Applebee's.
• Circle J.
• Elmer's.
• Goldminer.


A recent New York Times article revealed that Americans are actually cutting back on their calories and concerned about what they eat. Took you long enough (smiley face)! One way to accomplish that is by including a green salad with every meal (well, maybe not with pancakes). If you want, you can always splurge with one of those fancy salads with all kinds of meat and cheeses added to it.
Taking down the top spot in this category for 2015 was Roux 26, located at the corner of 5th and H. Others in the running were:
• Taprock.
• The Vine.
• Blondie's.
• Laughing Clam.
• 115 Broiler.
• River's Edge.
• R-Haus.


If breakfast can be characterized as "on the run," and lunch as "leisurely commingling," then dinner is a "major production." Eating at home may follow a certain laid-back routine, but at restaurants, you're treated like kings and queens. The waitstaff is attentive, you can order anything you want, and best of all, they clean up after you! There have been an explosion of great restaurants lately, and the Rogue Valley is starting to gain a reputation.
Taking down top honors this year was a 3-way tie between 115 Broiler (at 115 D Street); River's Edge, located at 1936 Rogue River Highway; and Taprock.
It was a tough battle at the top, though, and the Top Six featured:
• Roux 26.
• Twisted Cork.
• The Vine.
Also mentioned a lot were:
• R-Haus.
• Blondie's.
• Matsukaze.
• Bohemian.


You're ready to pop the question, so you take your coworker to lunch just to practice your pitch. Unexpectedly, your intended walks in and sees you opening a small box in front of Ms. X. She confronts you and is ready to start throwing plates and steak knives, when you suddenly get down on one knee and propose. The entire restaurant applauds, and all is well, although it will probably go down in the Guinness Book of World Records as "Weirdest Marriage Proposal Ever."
Where to go when you want to set a world record? Most of our readers picked the friendly confines of River's Edge for lunch proposals, followed by:
• The Vine.
• Rosso's.
• Taprock.
• Twisted Cork.
• Galice Resort.


It's your 25th wedding anniversary, and you just don't feel like going to Taco Bell as you did the year before. You want to feel as if you've been whisked off to some remote Caribbean island where everyone in the restaurant is ready to help celebrate. Locally, our readers named quite a few romantic spots, starting with Roux 26, and followed by:
• River's Edge.
• 115 Broiler.
• Taprock.
• The Vine.
• R-Haus.
• Morrison's Lodge.
• Twisted Cork.


The domestication of cattle goes back a good 12,000 years so good luck on trying to get everyone to become vegetarians overnight. It's pretty much ingrained in our DNA, plus it tastes so darn good. Once again this category was won decisively by 115 Broiler.
Others in the hunt were:
• Blondie's.
• Roux 26.
• Train Depot.
• Taprock.
• Shari's.
• G Street Bar & Grill.


My father-in-law (Edsel Colvin of Gold Beach) fished the Rogue River since he was five years old, and he knew how to track down salmon. Whenever we visited Gold Beach, Edsel would invariably have a salmon that he pulled out of the river that day, and it was exquisite. It kind of makes you spoiled, but it's always fun to find a restaurant that can replicate that experience.
Where to go when you want that perfect Edsel Colvin moment? Most of our readers picked the selections at Taprock and Roux 26, followed by:
• River's Edge.
• The Vine.
• R-Haus.
• 115 Broiler.


It's actually "a type of dumpling composed of a filling sealed between two layers of thin pasta dough." It's what goes inside, though, that makes it so irresistible. They're a staple at all Italian restaurants and are now as American as apple pie. When our readers want to sample some particularly good raviolis, they first mentioned The Vine, located at 1610 SW Allen Creek Road in the Allen Creek Shopping Center.
Other raviolis mentioned were:
• Rosso's.
• Roux 26.
• Paisano's in Rogue River.


They're probably the most popular dishes in America. They have great taste and texture, and the mark-up from the seller doesn't make you take out a second mortgage on the home. There are a number of places in town offering great chicken dishes, and this ended up being a tie between Applebee's (250 NE Agness) and River's Edge.


I don't understand the big deal about this immigration thing. The Spanish-American culture has been a part of this country since 1836, when the Republic of Texas seceded from Mexico (think Battle of the Alamo, etc.). What we should really do is open the borders and let everyone move freely whenever and wherever they wish. It would help both economies, and it would save billions with border patrol. That's what Europe does. The anti-immigration people are way too OCD over this thing.
Phew, it was good to get that off my chest. But let's move onto more important things, like "Favorite Mexican Restaurant." Topping the list for 2015 was Si Casa Flores (202 NE Beacon), followed closely by Casa Amiga, located at 200 McDonald Lane.
The list also included:
• El Patron.
• Tacos Locos.
• Taqueria Mexico.
• El Paraiso.
• Gtano's Neuvo Latin Cuisine.
• La Burrita.
• Lupita's.


This dish originated in the city of Puebla and normally uses a fresh poblano chili pepper (named after Puebla) stuffed with all kinds of goodies. Where do our readers like to go in lieu of flying down to central Mexico? Many of our readers chose the selection at El Patron, located at 799 Rogue River Highway, followed by:
• El Paraiso.
• Si Casa Flores.
• Casa Amiga.
• La Burrita.
• Tacos Locos.
• Gtano's.


Found these quotes on Pinterest: "The only thing better than a margarita is two margaritas." "I'm no doctor but I'm pretty sure a Nyquil margarita will solve all your problems." "I'll be happy to listen to your complaints about work if margaritas are involved." "This margarita tastes like I don't even have kids." Pretty funny.
And when you're ready to relax with a good margarita, our readers most often mentioned the concoctions at Gtano's Nuevo Latin Cuisine, located at 218 SW G Street.
Also receiving lots of votes were:
• Casa Amiga.
• Si Casa Flores.
• Tacos Locos.
• El Patron.
• Taqueria Mexico.
• El Paraiso.


They say tribes from Asia crossed the Bering Sea 25,000 years ago to start colonizing the American continents. The second wave occurred in the 19th century via steamships; now here we are in the 21st century and 747s are the way to go. Thankfully, they brought all their cookbooks with them, because Asian restaurants, from Japanese and Chinese to Thai and Vietnamese, are extremely popular here in the Rogue Valley.
Our readers were able to name 15 in this survey, starting with their number one choice, which was Pongsri's Thai Restaurant, located at 323 NE E.
The Top Ten included:
• Royal Barge.
• Matsukaze.
• Thai BBQ.
• Hunan Garden.
• Saigon Xich Lo.
• Tokyo Grill.
• Hong Kong.
• Musashi.
• Kobe Sushi Buffet.


Back in my bachelor days, I could serve up some mean stir-fry dishes, but they were nothing compared to Phad Thai. It's made with soaked, dried, rice noodles, stir-fried with eggs and chock full of all kinds of nutritious stuff. Where to go when I want to relive the bachelor days? Many of our readers chose the Phad Thai dishes at Thai BBQ, located at 428 SW 6th Street, followed by:
• Pongsri's.
• Royal Barge.
• Sunflower.


t's always fun to sit at the sushi bar and bond with the chef, but in this case they're not serving alcohol but cooked vinegared rice combined with other ingredients, a.k.a. sushi. There are a number of great sushi places in the Rogue Valley, and our readers loved the talented chefs at all of them, including this year's number one, Musashi, located at 314 SE H Street.
Also mentioned a lot were:
• Umi Sushi.
• Shiki (at G Street Bar & Grill).
• Tokyo Grill.


If you're on a tight budget, the first thing you do when the Sneak Preview comes in the mail is check out the restaurant coupons. And in this case, Elmer's won hands down, followed by:
• Arby's.
• El Paraiso.
• Carl's Jr.
• Shari's.


Forget all the mob movies; they're a poor representation about what Italy is all about. Italy is actually about romance—movies like Roman Holiday, Under the Tuscan Sun and Enchanted April. And where do our readers go when they want to experience the true taste of Italy? This was pretty much a runaway as The Vine was once again the top choice, followed by:
• Rosso's.
• Paisano's in Rogue River.
• The Olive Garden in Medford.


According to Wikipedia, modern pizza evolved from flatbread dishes in Naples, Italy, in the 18th or early 19th century. The first pizzeria in the United States was at Lombardi's in New York City in 1905. Following World War II, the whole pizza scene exploded and it is now more American than apple pie. Hmm ... an apple pie pizza doesn't sound bad.
This category is always popular with our readers, and this year ended in a tie between Wild River Brewing Co. (523 NE F) and Abby's Pizza (205 NE Beacon and 1560 Williams Highway).
Also mentioned a lot were:
• Climate City.
• Papa Murphy's.
• Figaro's.
• Domino's.
• Papa John's.


It's always important to arrive hungry to a buffet line. I'm not saying you have to fast for forty days and forty nights, but at least hold off on those Twinkies right before heading out the door, because when you get to the buffet, there will be a dazzling array of food items from which to choose. And when it comes to that, our readers were most impressed with the buffet at Kobe Sushi Buffet (1550 NE E in the Shopping Center) and the salad bar at Sizzler (1871 NE 7th).
The list also included:
• Abby's.
• Wild River.
• Seven Feathers.


There's something to be said for a vegetarian diet. When you consider how much food is grown just to feed animals, you have to wonder what's going to happen when the population on earth starts to reach 10 billion people. And did you know that a cow releases as much methane every day as a car? And it's not coming from where you think—cows actually burp methane, which can't do much for their love life. I'll bet that's a fun fact that might help turn you vegetarian.
Anyway, our readers mentioned a few places that serve some good vegetarian fare, including this year's winner, which was a tie between MaMosa's, located at 118 NW E St, and Sunshine Natural Foods at 128 SW H.
Others receiving votes were:
• Pongsri's.
• The Vine.
• Casablanca Coffee & Grill.
• Thai BBQ.


Barbecue always reminds me of summertime in Evansville, Indiana, especially when my parents used Wolf's Barbecue, which was generally regarded as the best barbecue sauce in the land. I checked online and you can actually still get Wolf's delivered to your door. In lieu of that, you can also visit some local restaurants that serve up some particularly good BBQ dishes.
Topping the list was Papa's Café & BBQ at 1720 Redwood Avenue, followed by:
• Cartwright's Deli.
• Casa Amiga.
• Leo's BBQ (now closed).
• Applebee's.
• Thai BBQ.
• The Haul.
• Wild River.


You take a look at the menu and your mouth starts watering. To avoid any embarrassing drool incidents, you decide to immediately order an appetizer and forestall disaster. What restaurants would our readers recommend to find some great appetizers? According to them, both River's Edge at 1936 Rogue River Highway and Bohemian Bar & Bistro (233 SW G) are their favorites.
The list also included:
• Applebee's.
• Taprock.
• Twisted Cork.
• Laughing Clam.
• Blondie's.
• 115 Broiler.


We weren't looking for places with menus straight out of Bali or Zimbabwe—just restaurants that offered some interesting dishes that you don't find anywhere else. We were looking for those chefs who like to push the envelope and break out a new dish or present an interesting twist on an old standard. And when it comes to that, our readers were most impressed with the work at Twisted Cork, located at 210 SW 6th Street, followed by:
• Gtano's Nuevo Latin Cuisine.
• MaMosa's.
• Taprock.
• Tokyo Grill.
• Musashi.


Even if you're a teetotaler, it's still fun to read the descriptions of wild and crazy cocktails offered up at some of our local restaurants. The ones that stand out most in our readers' minds were those at Bohemian Bar & Grill and Blondie's, conveniently located across the street from each other on G Street just in case you wanted to bar hop.
Others mentioned a lot were:
• Roux 26.
• Taprock.
• Applebee's.
• River's Edge.


I grew up in a family of nine kids, and for breakfast my mom was a short-order cook. She got to relax for lunch, but dinner was total chaos (did I mention we're a loud family?) and she handled it with beauty and aplomb. Amazingly, she made sure there was dessert every night, and we kids certainly appreciated that.
Our readers also appreciate restaurants with great desserts, and tops on their list this year were both Twisted Cork and Shari's (190 NE Agness), followed by:
• Powderhorn Café.
• Taprock.
• 115 Broiler.
• The Haul.
• Bohemian.
• Black Forest.


You're walking down the street minding your own business when all of a sudden you get a craving for a bear claw ... or an apple strudel ... or a scone ... and there's nothing you can do but make a beeline to the nearest pastry store. It's either that or have a complete meltdown in public, and that hasn't happened for a good three weeks.
Where to go? Many of our readers mentioned the delicacies at Babe's Bakery (1701 NE 6th), although Bluestone Bakery & Coffee Café also received a lot of votes, as did:
• Daash Bakery & Deli.
• Chocolate Affair.
• 4th Street Bakery/Deli.
• Donut Land.


The Rogue River pretty much defines Grants Pass, and riverfront property is a valued possession. Having an entire restaurant on the river is even better, both for customers and staff. Having a view of the majestic Rogue River only adds to the experience.
And when it comes to that, our readers were a little torn as they gave an equal number of votes to River's Edge, about two miles upriver, and Taprock, which not only has views of the river but also Riverside Park and the historic Caveman Bridge.
Other favorite locales include:
• Morrison's Lodge.
• Galice Resort.
• R-Haus.
• O.K. Corral.


It's not the easiest job on earth. Everything has to be done with precision, from setting the table and taking orders to making sure the cooks get the food out quickly and efficiently. At any time, something can go wrong and you're back to Square One. None of the customers are allowed to know, though, that disaster was averted only because of a quick-thinking busboy. Which waitstaff is most capable of smiling and joking their way through the ups and downs of restaurant life? Our readers most often picked the friendly folks at Elmer's Restaurant, followed by:
• Black Forest.
• El Patron.
• Train Depot.
• Black Bear Diner.
• Laughing Clam.
• 115 Broiler.


The first McDonald's opened in 1940 in San Bernardino, California, and they now serve 68 million customers a day in 119 countries. Just think, when the Sneak Preview goes public and we become famous in 120 countries, you can tell everyone you knew us when. Anyway, "quick service" has become fairly de rigeur now in this country, as we have all accepted the fast-paced lifestyle of the 21st century and sometimes need fast food service so that we can keep pace with the Joneses.
Anyway, this category for 2015 was a 3-way tie between Arby's (140 NE Terry Lane); Carl's Jr. (220 NE Terry Lane and 1700 NW 6th); and Wendy's, located at 1829 NE 6th.
Rounding out the Top Ten were:
• Casablanca Coffee & Grill.
• McDonald's.
• Taco Bell.
• Jimmy's.


This is about as American as you can get, although it is named after a town in northern Germany. I would imagine that the average American has eaten 17 million hamburgers in his or her lifetime, but I could be exaggerating. Either way, we love our burgers, and in that regard our readers once again named Jimmy's Classic Drive-in at 515 NE E as their favorite this year, followed by:
• Carl's Jr.
• Circle J.
• Johnny's.
• Wild River.
• Eddy's.
• Wendy's.


I should probably have a bumper sticker on my car that says "I Brake for Milkshakes." I love 'em, even though I do have a very slight lactose intolerance problem. I've learned to limit my milkshakes to only 45 a month, and that solved the problem ... just kidding, by the way.
Where to go when you want to shake (excuse the pun) your lactose intolerance problem? Our readers gave the top nod to both Grants Pass Pharmacy (414 SE 6th) and Jimmy's Classic Drive-in.
Others in the running were:
• Sonic Drive-In.
• Dairy Queen.
• Baskin-Robbins.
• Arby's.
• McDonald's.
• Johnny's.


When I was a teenager, I used to bribe my 10-year-old sister Anita to make fried baloney sandwiches for me. In return, I agreed to play games of Canasta and Monopoly with her. So I'd be sitting on the living room couch watching TV and I'd yell, "Nita, make me a fried baloney sandwich!" and she'd hop to it. Then I'd let her win at Canasta.
Where to go when you want something a little more upscale than that? The favorite with our readers was the masterpieces at Cartwright's Deli, located at 162 Beacon Drive.
Other favorites included:
• Circle J.
• Goodness Gracious.
• Millie's.
• Climate City.
• Johnny's.
• Wild River.


For all you screenwriters from Hollywood, here's a great pitch for a Reality TV Show: It would be set in a restaurant where every week a different large family would come in for dinner. Each of the families would have their own set of problems and issues which the staff would have to deal with. We could call it Restaurant Wars or something like that.
Anyway, our readers definitely know where to go when they want to take their entire family out, and it turned out to be a tie between Black Bear Diner and Wild River, followed by:
• Taprock.
• Si Casa Flores.
• Elmer's.
• River's Edge.
• Train Depot.
• Abby's.


If Hollywood doesn't like the restaurant script, we can move on to coffee baristas. They serve people stimulating drinks all day when they're in a hurry, and if they don't have any hair-raising tales to tell, no one will. We could call it Coffee Wives of Grants Pass. My people will talk to your people.
Our readers named quite a few baristas in this category, but taking down the number one spot was Chad Sweeley of Dutch Brothers. Chad also won this category back in 2012, and he also plays in the local band Funktional Fusion.
Others mentioned a lot were:
• Emily Gill of Human Bean.
• Danielle Andrade of Rogue Roasters.
• Renee Johnson of Dutch Brothers.


Little did the Ethiopian goatherder Kaldi realize back in the 10th century that his discovery of coffee would spawn one of the largest agricultural pursuits in the history of mankind. Ol' Kaldi was out tending his goats one day when he noticed that his charges wouldn't sleep at night after munching on berries from certain trees. He reported his findings to the abbot of a local monastery, who made a drink from the berries that made him alert enough to write Nobel-Prize winning sermons. And the rest is history.
There are quite a few places in the Rogue Valley to get your coffee fix, but once again our readers chose Dutch Brothers, with their main location at 6th & D, as their favorite, followed by:
• Rogue Coffee Roasters.
• Bluestone Bakery & Coffee.
• Human Bean.
• 6th Street Coffee & Deli.
• Black Forest.


I know it's hard to believe, Virginia, but there's actually a whole 'nother world out there to discover and enjoy. It's tough to extricate yourself from the beauty and wonder of Grants Pass, but when you do, here are some restaurants that our readers recommend you visit, starting with their number one choice, the Olive Garden in Medford, followed by:
• Kaleidoscope Pizza in Medford.
• Morrison's Lodge past Galice.
• Texas Roadhouse in Medford.
• Bella Union in Jacksonville.
• Smithfield's in Ashland.
• Porter's in Medford.
• Paisano's in Rogue River.



The Rogue Valley is starting to become a hot spot for local rock/blues bands, and this year our readers were most impressed with Lovebite's performance at the annual Black, White & the Blues fundraiser in February.


Our readers were impressed with the performance turned in last February by the Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon, which presented a special "Winter Concert Series" at the Grants Pass Performing Arts Center.
And of course, the Rogue Valley Symphony, under the direction of Martin Majkut, received a lot of mentions, especially their April concert which featured a special appearance by Portland band 3 Leg Torso, a violin, cello and accordion trio.


It always fun to stock up the picnic basket with an array of goodies and head out to the Britt Festival with a group of friends. My introduction to the world-famous festival was in August 1979 when a bunch of us went to see jazz pianist Dave Brubeck. Fun times.
Our readers were able to name quite a few entertainers last year, with Michael Franti and Spearhead topping the charts. Franti's 2009 song "Say Hey (I Love You)" reached #1 on Billboard's R&B songs that year.
Others mentioned a lot were:
• Peter Frampton.
• Robert Plant.
• Tribute to the Beatles


It's organized every year by the Chamber of Commerce, and local businesses and organizations put up the sponsorship money. It has become extremely popular over the last ten years, as every Tuesday night during the summer another local musician or band takes the stage in beautiful Riverside Park for a night of music and dancing.
Winning this category was the appearance in July by Sound Stage Revue, which kicked off the Back to the 50s celebration.
Also receiving votes were:
• Funktional Fusion.
• The Matt Hill Band.
• Broadway Phil & the Shouters.


They're celebrating their 21st year as an event, and it has grown beyond the wildest dreams of original founders Tommi Drake, Cisco Cunningham and "the world famous artist Linda." Every month on First Friday, art galleries throughout the downtown area (and the RCC campus) open their doors to art, food, music and fun, and it attracts hundreds of people each month. Where do people like to congregate the most? This year ended up a tie between the Grants Pass Museum of Art on G Street and The Glass Forge at 501 SW G.
The list also included:
• The Kitchen Company.
• Firehouse Gallery.
• Blondie's.
• Gallery One.
• Twisted Cork.
• Bohemian.


It is extremely ironic that Vincent Van Gogh lived his entire life in abject poverty (the classic "starving artist"), and in 2013 his "Portrait of Dr. Gachet" sold for $149 million. Here in the Rogue Valley, our readers recognized quite a few budding millionaires, reserving their number one admiration for Cheri Van Syoc, whose work "is similar to a musician, using jazz rhythms to manipulate watercolor across Yupo paper."
Others on the list featured:
• Donna Walsh.
• Bob Edding.
• Del Hearn.
• Julie Bickle.
• Jeff Gogue.
• Jon Peterman.
• Vicki Magallon.


Back by popular demand, the "Bears" infiltrated downtown Grants Pass this year to great public acclaim. This is an especially notable Bearfest, as it's the first one since its founder, Evergreen Federal's Brady Adams, died in April. We'll miss you, Brady, and this Bearfest is for you!
Topping the list of favorite bears for 2015 was the Inner Tube Bear, a.k.a., "Root Bearly Afloat," featuring the artwork of Jon Peterman, located in front of Hellgate Excursions and Shop River Rock.
The list of favorites also included:
• The Tahiti river rafting bear in front of Evergreen Federal (artist Eric Wonsyld).
• The backpacking bears in front of Gates Furniture (artists VacieAnna Berry and Kel Letvinchuck).
• One-bear band at Riverside Park, the work of artist Kyle Eding.


It began as a nonprofit back in 1981 by Dave Siddon, Sr., "to provide for the care and treatment of sick, injured and orphaned wildlife." It has since expanded to "provide educational programs on wildlife, conservation, and the environment to schools, organizations and the general public." Today it's under the direction of Dave's son, Dave Siddon, Jr., and the great work continues. Wildlife Images is proud of its release rate of intakes of 50%, which is far above the national average of 33%. It's not a zoo, but the general public is invited to take tours at any time. For those who do, they say their favorites are Kodi and Yak, two grizzly bears who were orphaned in Alaska in 1992 when their mother was killed by a territorial male. According to Wildlife Images, they could not be released "because of concerns that they may have been more inclined to get close to people." Instead, they have "become important ambassadors for bears worldwide and have taught many people about conservation."
Other favorites include:
• Ms. Jefferson, a bald eagle.
• "Nubs" the badger.
• The cougars.
• The wolves.


Brady Adams and Evergreen Federal Bank have always been big supporters of the local art scene, and about ten years ago, they built a permanent facility on Spalding Avenue "to house artwork, artist studios and unique meeting rooms." It's almost like a giant storage room for public art, and it is also available for personal tours at any time. It has been said "that you can't experience Grants Pass without a visit to the Bear Hotel."
Topping the list of favorite things about this unique facility was Winterfest, an annual fundraising event every December which includes four days of festivities and a dazzling display of Christmas trees.
Also mentioned a lot were:
• The Christmas on Mars display.
• All of the bears from previous Bearfests.
• The Magical Musical Christmas Murals.


I have a friend who recently took some out-of-town visitors to the O.K. Corral for dinner. The ride down, of course, was fun since the jetboat drivers took their time and pointed out wildlife and local history. Then there was dinner at the O.K. Corral, with ample carafes of beer and wine. It was 98° in the shade that day, and the boat drivers decided to cool everyone off by doing 10-15 360s on the way back. "We were totally soaked," my friend said, "and it was so hot that within a minute we were dry already."
And that's why we love our jetboat drivers. They're willing to go the extra loop-de-loop to cool us off. Topping the list of favorite drivers this year was Rick Olsen, followed by:
• Donny Brent.
• Bo Dunson.
• Craig Lawless.


A recent article in the New York Times reported that even Coca-Cola was jumping on the fitness bandwagon. They hired a public relations firm to convince people that as long as they worked out, they could drink all the sugary, empty-calorie drinks they wanted! Unfortunately, that's not entirely true. For optimal fitness, you will want to do two things—work out and watch what you eat and drink (sorry, Coca-Cola). Where to go when you want to maintain a fitness program? Many of readers first named Club Northwest, located at 2160 NW Vine Street.
It was extremely close at the top, though, as Thrive Wellness, at 1550 Nebraska Avenue, also received a lot of votes, as did:
• Grants Pass Family YMCA.
• Eternia Athletics.
• The Zoo Health Club.


Just walking into a fitness club expecting to lose weight immediately and/or start looking like Arnie, is not very realistic. This is a situation where you really want to put your trust in a professional, someone who can guide you through a program tailor made to your needs and capabilities. It may not sound like rocket science, but it's close.
And when it comes to that, our readers most often mentioned Virginia Kramer at Thrive Wellness.
Others high on the list were:
• Amanda Valle at Club Northwest.
• Lisa Keesee at Thrive Wellness.
• Scotty Lookabaugh at Eternia Athletics.
• Bear Perrin.
• Jesse Sallas at Club Northwest.


As I write this, the U.S. Open tennis tournament will start tomorrow, and Serena Williams will attempt to become the first grand slam winner (Australia, French, Wimbledon and U.S. Opens) in tennis since Steffi Graf did it in 1988. It's been a crazy year in sports. First, we had American Pharaoh win the triple crown in horse racing—the first in 37 years. Then Jordan Spieth gave the grand slam in golf a good shot, something that was only achieved once by Bobby Jones in 1930. And now it's Serena's turn. Should be fun.
Locally, our tennis players most often prefer the friendly confines of Club Northwest, followed by:
• Gilbert Creek.
• All Sports Park.
• Morrison's Park.
• Lawnridge Park.


There was a full lineup of plays last year, from the Barnstormers and Rogue Music Theatre to 111 Evelyn, Stillpoint and Heartland. Topping the list for last year (2014/15) was the Barnstormers' production of the Shakespeare classic Macbeth, which played to full houses last October.
The list also included:
• Young Frankenstein by Rogue Music Theatre.
• A Day in Hollywood, A Night in the Ukraine by the Barnstormers.
• Little Women by the Barnstormers.
• Mary Poppins by 111 Evelyn Theatre Company.
• True West by the Barnstormers.
• The Nutcracker Ballet by Stillpoint Ballet Studio.
• The Steadfast Tin Soldier by Heartland Dance Studio.


It's not always easy to portray a semi-crazed king of Scotland consumed by ambition, spurred to action by a devious wife ("Hear it not, Duncan, for it is a knell, that summons thee to heaven ... or to hell"), then consumed with paranoia and guilt after killing an opponent. But Frankie Craig, who was voted number one by our readers, pulled it off effortlessly. According to Craig, he was practicing lines for the play two months before the audition.
Others high in the running were:
• Shane Skinner for 111 Evelyn's Mary Poppins.
• Dylan O'Hara and Stewart Towie in the Barnstormers' True West.
• Michael Meyers in the Barnstormers' Death Trap.
• Davey Kashuba-Reum in Rogue Music Theatre's Young Frankenstein.
• Patrick Dolan in the Barnstormers' Love List.


On the female side of the ledger, there were quite a few nominations. Topping the list was Melissa Christensen, who played the lead role in 111 Evelyn's Mary Poppins.
Rounding out the favorites were:
• Margaret Sundin-McCann for Rogue Music Theatre's Young Frankenstein.
• Margaret Goodwin as Lady Macbeth in the Barnstormers' Macbeth.
• Darcy Schmeider in the Barnstormers' A Day in Hollywood, a Night in the Ukraine.
• Bryony Bowman for Stillpoint's Nutcracker.


Their fingerprints can be found all over any production, and our readers appreciate their efforts, as they named seven different directors in this survey, reserving their number one accolade for Russell Lloyd and his work with the Barnstormers' Macbeth.
Also mentioned a lot were:
• Susan Russell for RMT's Young Frankenstein.
• Penny King for Stillpoint's Nutcracker.
• Wayd Drake for the Barnstormers' Love List.
• Tricia Drevets for the Barnstormers' Little Women.


Thanks to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Oregon Cabaret Theatre and Camelot Theatre Company, there are tons of plays to see year round in southern Oregon. This was an extensive list, but our readers were most impressed with Guys and Dolls, currently playing at OSF.
Other plays mentioned were:
• Ain't Misbehavin' at Oregon Cabaret Theatre.
• Into the Woods at OSF.
• Les Miserables at Camelot Theatre.


Where would be without musicians to soothe our souls? This was a popular category with our readers, and this year they named Megan Baker, lead singer for the popular band Funktional Fusion, as their number one, followed by:
• Matt Hill Band.
• Phil King, singer/songwriter.
• Josie Holman, singer.
• Jazz singer Donna Tennaro.
• Mike Brons, singer/guitarist.


There were a number of local rock bands mentioned in this survey, but rocking their way to the top for 2015 was Hot Gossip, a group that plays at various venues throughout the valley, including G Street Bar & Grill and JDs.
Others receiving lots of votes were:
• Funktional Fusion.
• Broadway Phil and the Shouters.
• Lavender Blue.
• The Roadsters.


We received a request to add this category to our list this year, and the overwhelming winner was Salsa Brava, a 7-piece salsa band that plays at various venues throughout the Rogue Valley. Olé!


There's nothing like the energy and camaraderie of hearing a live band. It's almost like a symbiotic relationship. They get the crowd worked up, then feed off that energy to take it all to another level. After a while, you'd almost think that the guy on the dance floor playing air guitar was part of the band.
Where to go when you want to hear some great live music and dance like crazy? Our readers again named "G" Street Bar & Grill as their favorite, followed by:
• JD's Sports Pub.
• Laughing Clam.
• Herb's Shenanigans.
• Cedarwood Saloon.
• The Haul.


It's probably one of the largest parades in southern Oregon, and thousands of people line 6th Street every Memorial Day to catch all the fun, from floats and marching bands to politicians and local organizations. Our readers certainly love it, and they voted the Grants Pass High School Marching Band as their favorite.
Others mentioned a lot were:
• The "Cavemen."
• The jets' flyover.
• The middle school bands.
• Wildlife Images.


It was a long day at the cubicle, putting together work orders to sell 840,000 widgets to an eager Chinese audience. Not only that, but the water cooler broke down, your boss's dog died, and the Cubs (who you were watching surreptitiously on your smart phone) lost to the Phillies. You need to unwind and what better place to do that than at Bohemian Bar & Bistro (233 SW G) and The Haul (121 SW), which tied in this category.
Other favorites with our readers were:
• Cedarwood Saloon.
• Taprock.
• Twisted Cork.
• Laughing Clam.
• Climate City.
• Wonder Bur.
• River's Edge.
• Wild River.


If you're safely in bed by 9:30 or 10:00 at night, these results might not mean anything, but for a sizeable portion of the younger audience, this was probably the most popular category in the entire Best of the Rogue Valley. And taking top honors was a tie between the Wonder Bur Lounge & Café (116 SW H) and JDs Sports Bar & Brewery (690 Redwood Highway), followed by:
• Cedarwood Saloon.
• G Street Bar & Grill.
• Herb's LaCasita.
• River's Edge.
• The Haul.
• Laughing Clam.


We're not talking about places with pinball machines and pool tables (although those bars are definitely fun), but a more intimate, relaxed setting where you can discuss important social issues without having to shout, and can play footsy with your significant other under the table. And with regard to that, our readers most often named Blondie's Bistro (226 SW G) and Roux 26 (corner of 5th and H) as their favorites.
Also high on the list were:
• Twisted Cork.
• G Street Bar & Grill.
• Applebee's.
• River's Edge.
• 115 Broiler.


You're not going to be getting a filet mignon sent to your table, but you can still order some great appetizers and sandwiches at most places (in fact, legally they have to be able to serve you something). Which ones have the best late-night menu? According to our readers it was a tie between The Haul and Bohemian, followed by:
• Cedarwood Saloon.
• JDs.
• Wonder Bur.


The Growers' Market is all part of the farm-to-table movement, and it's a good thing. Why would you want to eat lettuce that was grown two weeks ago in Ecuador, using who knows what kind of fertilizer and pesticides, when you can buy the same stuff locally and actually talk to the guy who grew it?
Our readers agree, and they were effusive with their praise for a number of local growers, including this year's winner, Fry Family Farms.
The list also included:
• Pennington Farms.
• Rosie's pizzas.
• Sweet Water Farm in Hugo.
• The egg man from Cave Junction.
• Tracy's kale chips.
• Wild Bee Honey Farm.


It's definitely the jewel of Grants Pass, and it has turned into a multi-use garden spot for everyone to enjoy, both locals and out-of-town visitors. Our readers gave special kudos to the new playground that was installed, followed by:
• Proximity to the river.
• The beautiful trees.
• Ducks and geese.
• The rose garden.
• The gazebo.
• The baseball field.


Look out Napa and Willamette valley! Twenty-two years ago, when I did an article on local wineries, there were about five of them in the entire valley. Today, there are 47. And with all that competition, it means each individual winery is working harder to come up with a superior product. There's nothing more fun than to join a local wine tour and visit some of the area's finest.
Which would our readers place at the top of that list? Many of them listed Schmidt Family Vineyards outside Grants Pass as their favorite, followed by:
• Bridgeview Vineyards in Cave Junction.
• Toon Vineyard in Grants Pass.
• Red Lily Vineyards (Jacksonville).
• Del Rio Vineyards (Gold Hill).
• Wooldridge Creek Vineyard (Grants Pass).

* * * * *

Phew ... 144 categories. It was fun, but now I can concentrate on more important things, like my upcoming Fantasy Football draft. 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.