2011 Best of Grants Pass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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



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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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

  • Wal-Mart.
  • Fred Meyer’s.


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

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


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


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

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


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

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



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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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

  • Musashi.
  • Shiki’s.
  • Aja.


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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

Others receiving a lot of votes were:

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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



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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

  • The Language Archive.
  • August: Osage County.


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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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