FROM BURGERS TO BREAD,
MUSIC TO MUSEUMS,
DINING TO DRIVING,
BEER TO BIKING,
the 2004 readers'
For the sixth
year, The Kaweah Commonwealth is presenting the results of the “Best
of Kaweah Country” readers’ poll. Some fine-tuning is always
necessary; certain categories were omitted while new ones have been added.
These changes are in direct response to input that we received
from you, our readers. You rule!
The best competition in this year’s poll was the tale of
two restaurants. Both of these fine establishments are old favorites under
relatively new and highly innovative owners.
The Gateway and the upstart Main Fork Bistro deserve plenty of
recognition because as these restaurants strive for excellence within
their own style and unique niche, the real winner is the visitor and the
throng of locals who enjoy eating out.
We regret that we could not accommodate online voting in 2004.
Last year, we noted more quantity, but not necessarily more quality, in
the votes that were submitted via the website.
Thanks and a tip of the hat to the hundreds of voters who took
the time and made the effort to help once again in proving that the Best
of Kaweah Country is a solid favorite with the TKC readership.
And now, the drum rolls please… Let’s have fun all
over again and celebrate the winners in 2004’s Best of Kaweah Country.
This race was a dead heat with the Main Fork Bistro edging out Gateway
by only five votes.
Cider Mill garnered an honorable mention.
How does anyplace compete with elegant service in the epitome of Three
Rivers ambiance? According to TKC readers, it’s Gateway for romantic
and memorable dining. There’s something magical at the riverside
where the Kaweah’s East Fork meets the Middle Fork.
Although 11 different restaurants received votes in this category, signaling
a positive trend in Three Rivers, again Gateway scored a win with its
unmatched locale and scenery. The Bistro finished second with its inviting
But all the restaurants that provide outdoor seating are appreciated.
Visitors and residents alike come to Three Rivers to enjoy the great outdoors.
They want to have their cake and eat it outside, too!
It’s long established, but under new ownership: the Red Barn in
Lemon Cove scored an impressive win in this new category. That tri-tip
burrito is a real heavyweight and a bargain, too.
The Bistro with
its reasonable lunch menu was second, and Woodlake’s Super Taco,
where a family of four can eat dinner for about 10 bucks, received honorable
PLACE TO GO
WHEN SOMEONE ELSE PAYS
There is no doubt that when someone else is picking up the tab for eating
out, Gateway is the mark of excellence. The lodging packages at Wuksachi
Lodge and the Plantation B&B finished second and third, respectively,
in this category.
We Three, perennial winner among the restaurants, pulled a Lance Armstrong
and finished breakfast of champions for the sixth consecutive year.
And for second and third place, apparently restaurants will be
hard-pressed to compete with the fare at the local B&Bs — Plantation
and Wicky-Up. In fact, voters faithfully describe Marie Munger’s
creations at the Plantation, as “the best ever.”
Among all the quirky things about Three Rivers is that it has a large
number of vegetarians. In fact, some parents have admitted moving to Three
Rivers so that their children could take advantage of the optional vegetarian
menu in the school cafeteria.
Among local restaurants, Main Fork Bistro scores another win with
crowd-pleasing favorites like braised tofu and portabello ravioli. Gateway
finished a close second, and honorable mention goes to chef Marie at the
Mexican food in Three Rivers has become synonymous with Serrano’s,
the 2004 winner by a landslide. Don’t forget to ask for the scrumptious
whole beans for a healthier alternative.
Second place goes to the venerable Cider Mill; an honorable mention
to Super Taco in Woodlake for authentic, fresh-made, affordable fast food.
Here was a tight race at the start of voting, but Pizza Factory won going
away over its closest competitor — River View.
At least one visitor mentioned that it’s important to have
something for the kids to do while mom and dad enjoy their meal. America
loves pizza and spends more than a billion dollars annually proving it.
In fact, so much cheese is used for pizza that it is partially blamed
for the spike in the price of milk to over $4 a gallon.
Thirteen establishments received votes for their sandwiches, but it was
the crew at Anne Lang’s Emporium that does it best… again
and again. Main Fork and Gateway scored second and third, respectively.
The art of making a salad is simple, yet so complex. Main Fork Bistro
edged out Gateway. Both do a great job in providing a healthy alternative
for those diners who choose to make salad the main course.
Here’s yet another category where upstart Main Fork edged out perennial
favorite Gateway. The secret to attracting those who are craving a special
sweet treat is delectable tiramisu and decadent Haagen Dazs ice cream,
a favorite of the vacationing set.
The backcountry bakers at Bearpaw High Sierra Camp received an
honorable mention. They work with basic ingredients to create spectacular
desserts, and they’re known throughout the Sierra for their brownies-and-lemonade
The baked goods, piping hot from the oven, are tough to beat at We Three
Bakery. Main Fork and the Gateway finished second and third, respectively.
Admittedly, the choices are limited, but for the sixth consecutive year,
New China of Woodlake is the winner. The bountiful and affordable luncheon
buffet keeps diners coming back for more.
Congrats to Glenn at the Gateway for making excellent Chinese choices
available on Wednesday. It’s an exotic change of pace.
The contest in this category was once again Kaweah Country’s version
of the burger wars. In the tightest of all the races, Main Fork and the
Gateway finished in a tie with the River View in second place by mere
Several readers specifically mentioned the Bistro’s Yaki
Burger as their favorite, a mouthwatering steal at $6.75.
This race had lots of voters who love a choice cut of beef at its very
best. The Gateway and its ferocious Grizzly Bear show no signs of becoming
extinct since it won by a landslide.
can’t beat their steak,” commented one voter about the Gateway.
What counts in this category is how good the food tastes when you get
it home. According to those who don’t feel like cooking, Gateway
does it best, followed closely by Main Fork Bistro and Pizza Factory.
Although it’s been tried, to date it has not yet proven practical
to offer home delivery in Three Rivers.
Fresh is everything when it comes to this all-important dinner alternative.
Main Fork edged out over Gateway by a narrow margin and, interestingly,
each eatery employs a different supplier. Thus, the consumer wins big
Plantation B&B visitors, who traditionally get quite involved in this
readers’ poll, voted Red Barn the overwhelming favorite. Village
Market, who sends mouth-watering barbecue aromas wafting through town
each weekend, was a not-too-distant second.
Who can compete? After all, they’ve published their own cookbook...
Plantation B&B was the big winner in this category. Chef Marie
garnered votes from guests and locals — all big fans of her original
The Cabin, now in its second year, has no peer when it comes to brewing
the exotic and flavorful bean. Drop in and see why friends don’t
let friends drink Starbucks.
When you think of ice cream in Kaweah Country, what comes to mind? If
it’s Reimer’s and licking a cone on the deck outside their
trademark red and white chalet, then you concur with the overwhelming
choice of voters in the TKC readers’ poll.
Got huckleberry in Three Rivers? You bet, and it’s a local
Mineral King received the most votes in this category, followed by the
bed-and-breakfast crowd, who think they’re the only ones that know
about the Gentry’s Cinnamon Creek Ranch, Plantation’s Gone-With-the-Wind
theme, or the historic Wicky-Up and its working citrus ranch.
Like most secrets in this town, all the above won’t be secrets
for too much longer.
And one voter laid a bombshell on us… “I’m pregnant!”
she anonymously wrote. But that, too, won’t be a secret for long.
In a restaurant, motel, or any business, the ability to smile and be enthusiastic
about your customers’ needs can make it or break it. Sequoia Motel
caters to every whim of their clientele, which garnered them the win.
Plantation came in a close second, with Gateway receiving honorable mention.
This category garnered votes for 13 different businesses. Gone with the
Wind-inspired Plantation B&B was the top vote-getter, followed by
the Gateway and Sequoia Motel.
All three of these exemplary establishments have a homey décor
that makes even first-time customers feel right at home.
Newcomer Heart’s Desire Gift Shop received honorable mention for
their indoor ambiance.
With all the site improvements and works in progress, Naturedome won this
category by an impressive margin.
Reimer’s Candy Store finished a close second.
PLACE TO BUY SOUVENIRS
This race was a real dogfight between the eventual winner, Naturedome,
and Three Rivers Drug. John Bryant and Steve Bennett, the respective owners,
have gone to great lengths to keep local stuff affordable so everyone
can take home a souvenir to remember one of the most special places on
PLACE TO BUY GROCERIES
Once again, Village Market is the local winner, but Sam and Sookie, who
work tirelessly to fill an indispensible niche by keeping Three Rivers
Market open till 10 p.m., came in second. Trader Joe’s, although
75 miles away in Fresno, came in third for their affordable, healthy food
PLACE TO BUY
Products may come and go in local stores, but Flora Bella Farm remains
committed to supplying the best in organic produce. Owner Bettina Birch
even recently set up a weekend stand on Sierra Drive, making seasonal
organic fruits and veggies even more accessible.
Watson’s Health Foods in Visalia received an honorable mention.
PLACE TO BUY
Fresh and natural are similar, but there is a distinction. Are products
on shelves rotated and perishables consistent?
Village Market received the majority of the votes. Two area fruit
stands, Flora Bella and Laro’s, received the rest of the best.
PLACE TO BUY
The tackle sections of the local markets are a far cry from WalMart, and
thank goodness for that. All you’ll need to catch that trophy trout
or bass is available right here locally.
Kaweah General Store finished first in this category, but area
anglers are also thankful for McCoy’s Mini-Mart in Lemon Cove and
the Totem Market, near the Sequoia Park entrance.
Who could challenge the Thingerie, a fixture in Three Rivers for 30 years?
The chances of finding something useful at a fraction of what it’s
worth are very likely — and the icing on the cake is that all proceeds
go to the Three Rivers Woman’s Club.
Naturedome was voted best of the retailers.
PLACE TO BUY LOCAL ART
For several years running, since they arrived from the Central Coast,
Marcos and Candy Guzman’s Whitewater Contemporary Art and Crafts
has furnished the gallery space to show and sell local art. Through thick
and thin, they say, in Three Rivers they are here to stay.
Naturedome finished a not-too-distant second in this category.
PLACE TO BUY
OUTDOOR / CAMPING GEAR
Nothing is more mind-boggling than why, in this town, one of the great
outdoor destinations, there is not a single camping/hiking store. With
the right mix of new and rental gear, an outdoors store would be a goldmine,
especially if the sign on the road read “Tourist Information”
and/or “Clean Restrooms.”
For the bare essentials, TKC readers voted for Kaweah General Store
first, followed by the outdoor section at Lodgepole Market, where you
can find what you need for a spontaneous day hike and more.
PLACE TO BUY JEWELRY
Naturedome won out in a close race over the Whitewater gallery. Teens
said they especially love the hip, affordable products at the ‘Dome.
Several voters agreed in their comments that the work of Tina St.
John, local artist, is the best craftsmanship available for the price
and is a good fit with the Three Rivers lifestyle.
PLACE TO BUY GIFTS
The shopping section of the 2004 poll is starting to sound like a broken
record. Naturedome was again the people’s choice for gifts.
John Bryant, after more than a decade, really knows the local scene
and says currently his best selling line is clothing. Watch for some expansion
in this area.
PLACE TO BUY ANTIQUES
This category wasn’t even a contest. Rosemary’s Remembrances
received all but a handful of votes. She’s a really hardworking
mom and has been very accommodating to local consigners.
The store, she says, has always been a dream and is a great place
to keep and display all her treasured antiques.
PLACE TO BUY T-SHIRTS
Three Rivers Drug scored a big win in this category with Naturedome finishing
second. Have you seen the latest Three Rivers T-shirts — long-sleeve,
short-sleeve, tanks, kids’, women’s crew? You don’t
have to be a tourist to love these.
PLACE TO BUY BOOKS
Bette Bardeen is the bookworm of The Cabin’s dynamic-duo ownership.
Books and coffee — what a concept. Congrats to the one-year-old
coffee house and bookstore for a big win in this category. Thingerie was
also honorably mentioned.
PLACE TO RENT MOVIES
Chump’s, this year’s winner that opened its custom doors and
renovated building less than a year ago, has been a breath of fresh air.
The owner’s commitment to investing in a Three Rivers business and
making it successful within its first year has been very impressive.
Voters like the huge selection that is growing by leaps and bounds
each week. A loyal following at Silver Spur helped this store with its
movie section to finish second.
PLACE TO BUY
FLOWERS AND PLANTS
This was a two-horse race where both mounts ran well on different courses.
Anne Lang’s was most often mentioned for flowers; ditto for Sierra
Garden Center when it came to plants.
More than a dozen places to hike or specific trails were mentioned by
voters in this category. It was unanimous; the best place to hike in these
parts is just about anywhere in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Mineral King and its myriad trails were the favorite place among
locals; visitors most often mentioned the trails in and around the Giant
When it comes to biking, Three Rivers has some amazing possibilities.
What it does not have is a local trail map so visitors can come to Kaweah
Country specifically for the biking.
Among local off-road favorites is the BLM-Salt Creek area. Mineral
King also received plenty of votes, especially riding down the Mineral
For the less extreme rider, Kaweah River Drive is an excellent
workout with little traffic.
Three Rivers Golf Course, as was expected, garnered nearly every vote
in this category. Most local linksters seem to have forgiven the ownership
for closing the restaurant, which once was a picturesque eatery and relaxing
The disc-golf course at the Bearpaw High Sierra Camp received honorable
mention for its high-altitude challenges.
Attracting teens to hang out somewhere other than the river is near impossible.
Slicky received the most votes, but now even the sanctity of that swimming
hole is once again threatened by too many flatlanders.
is a little like a skate park where you get really wet,” said one
Another voter said they would like to see local churches organize
more activities for youth.
One of the beauties of Kaweah Country is that you are never very far from
a good picnic spot. Voters mentioned dozens in this category with the
Giant Forest receiving the most votes among all the favorites in the national
parks. The best local spot; anywhere on the South Fork.
The Potholes (Squirrel Creek proper), near Lake Canyon on the Mineral
King Road, received honorable mention.
More than a dozen campgrounds received votes in this category. The biggest
vote-getter of all the area’s places to camp is once again Cold
Springs in Mineral King. This campground is very limited on amenities,
but has all the qualities of what’s best about car camping.
The best local place to camp in lower elevation: Kaweah Park Resort.
Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon received honorable mention.
Again, Slicky was the favorite among voters, but Slick Rock Recreation
Area also received plenty of mentions, especially enjoyed during the off-season.
Lake Kaweah rangers report that by summer 2005, new facilities
above the present parking lot at Slick Rock should be a nice attraction
for even more swimmers seeking river access. Hopefully, the new Slick
Rock will be able to take some pressure off Slicky.
The “Toilet Bowl” near Potwisha Campground received
honorable mention for its flush hole.
PLACE TO TAKE THE KIDS
Voters responded with more than a dozen favorite places. Generally speaking,
Sequoia National Park and Mineral King garnered the most votes. Cinnamon
Creek B&B received several mentions because they cater to families
with kids — ranch setting, river access, farm animals, and more.
One voter said that Three Rivers could really use a new playground/park
where parents could feel secure to just let the little ones run.
For the second consecutive year, Sequoia Motel was the top vote-getter
in this all-important category. Comments like the following one were typical
of what TKC received from satisfied Sequoia Motel guests:
ever so much. We had a blast. What a great place — we felt so welcome.
We’ll be back.” (Lynde and Larry Farmer.)
Eleven different properties received a significant number of votes.
The best of the rest were Gateway Lodge and Holiday Inn Express.
BED AND BREAKFAST
Year after year, nobody does it better than barefoot hosts Scott and Marie
Munger. Guests rave about their visit and the wonderful hospitality of
the Plantation B&B in Lemon Cove.
And also going the extra mile for their guests, but on a smaller
scale, are the Pizuras — Monica and Jack — at the Wicky-Up
B&B on the outskirts of Woodlake. The Wicky-Up is the perennial runner-up
in this category, followed by the Gentry’s Cinnamon Creek B&B
up South Fork.
When it comes to catering to families with kids, it’s not even a
contest. Cinnamon Creek B&B on the South Fork does it best by providing
a safe and comfortable environment where a kid can really be a country
The Gateway Lodge and Wicky-Up finished second and third, respectively.
The owners of these tourist attractions work diligently to help their
guests find just the right activities for the kids, because then the adults
get to enjoy a well-deserved vacation.
It’s the Scarlett O’Hara suite at the Plantation B&B by
another landslide. In the six years of the TKC poll, no other property
has even come close.
An honorable mention goes to Cinnamon Creek B&B.
Cinnamon Creek B&B and their growing legion of fans made certain that
the South Fork property scored a repeat win. Silver City Resort in Mineral
King and Lake Elowin of Three Rivers finished second and third, respectfully.
SWIMMING POOL/HOT TUB
When you cater to guests where the busy season includes days with triple-digit
temperatures, a refreshing swimming pool is essential.
Plantation B&B again won best swimming pool and hot tub with
guests mentioning that they appreciate that the facilities are open 24
Cinnamon Creek and Holiday Inn Express finished second and third
PLACE TO MEET PEOPLE
With all that’s happening on the local music scene to a casual neighborhood
watering hole, the River View Restaurant and Lounge is Kaweah Country’s
best place to meet people.
For the traveler, the Plantation B&B attracts the most interesting
bunch of folks you might want to meet while on vacation.
PLACE TO GO ON A DATE
Voters say it’s gotta be riverside romance at the Gateway. It was
a toss up among the rest as River View and Wuksachi finished second and
PLACE TO GET MARRIED
Voters were divided on how they interpreted this category. The majority
were thinking setting and said they would want to tie the knot in Mineral
Best among the full-service matrimonial masters are the White Horse
Inn and the Gateway, who equally split the remaining votes.
This race was one of the closest calls in all the voting. The no-longer-only-traditional
Jazzaffair edged out the rejuvenated Redbud Festival.
The Lions Roping rode away with third place. And the biannual Artists’
Studio Tour, which features dozens of Three Rivers artists in their home
studios, received an honorable mention.
The River View, with its commitment to an ever-changing menu of live music,
won this category, and it wasn’t even a contest. The Cabin with
its Friday night Poetry and Music series and the Gateway finished second
and third, respectively.
PLACE TO DANCE
Nobody does it better than the River View. Jazzaffair finished a distant
second. And the annual Girl Scouts Father-Daughter Dance received a mention.
Yes, it’s true. There are two well-known local bands in Three Rivers.
One is Still Water and, for the past two years, their boisterous followers
have submitted enough votes in this category to edge out the other guys
— the High Sierra Jazz Band.
There are no hard feelings among these second-place finishers,
who were recently voted among the top three jazz bands of all time in
another poll .
Incidentally, Still Water, who played Jazzaffair in 2003, proved
that they deserve a return engagement. Their recently-released CD, Dive
Into It, is worth a listen and may be heard all around Kaweah Country
wherever car and truck windows are rolled down.
Faena Brava, a family affair, received honorable mention.
A good happy hour is synonymous with building a regular clientele. TKC
voters say the Gateway does it best, especially because Glenn will celebrate
just about anything, from birthdays to laundry day. The River View Lounge
finished second and, between the two, received almost all the votes.
We had to ask, but there’s really just one open-mike night around
here. The sessions on Monday nights have filled the house for the River
View, winners in this category.
The Cabin and the Gateway each received votes because they offer
similar formats at varying intervals that give everyone a chance to be
BEER ON TAP
Nobody does it better than the Dyer boys, formerly of Three Rivers, but
they’re making and serving their brew at Brewbakers in Visalia.
The River View was voted the next best place to sip the foam.
For the best wine list at a restaurant, the top vote-getter was the Gateway,
followed very closely by the Main Fork Bistro.
Voters expressed plenty of support for the Bullene Vineyards tasting
room and also the great local selection at Silver Spur.
OUT AND ABOUT
Kaweah Country is most fortunate to have Paul Bischoff of Sequoia Sightseeing
Tours to show them around. Paul has won this category for two years running,
both times just edging out Frank Root, the hometown whitewater-rafting
Monica Pizura, hostess with the mostest information at Wicky-Up
finished third for always pointing her guests in the right direction.
Boosted by the visitor votes, the Generals Highway through the local national
parks won an impressive victory in this category.
Locals voted Sierra
Drive and the Mineral King Road to second and third places, respectively.
Kaweah Country is known as dog heaven — ask any of our four-footed
best friends. The best places to walk a dog: Mineral King (on-leash only
in this national park locale), along the Kaweah River, and in Cherokee
In the recent past, two quality museums have opened their doors to an
appreciative public. The story of the Big Trees is presented at the Giant
Forest Museum, this year’s top vote-getter for best museum.
The Three Rivers Historical Museum, with emphasis on Kaweah Country’s
people and places of days gone by, finished in second place.
PLACE TO TAKE AN
This one was an obvious choice: Sequoia National Park, the main reason
why most folks come to these parts in the first place. Locals also expressed
a preference to take their guest to see Mineral King.
The happening place that locals want their visitors to be
certain to experience is the Gateway. The riverside setting is difficult
NATIONAL PARK ATTRACTION
Moro Rock, General Sherman, and the Giant Forest are what TKC voters say
are the most popular attractions.
Evidently, the attraction is “big,” whether it’s
the expansive view of the Great Western Divide or the biggest trees on
Recently, more folks than ever are discovering the fascinating history
of Kaweah Country. Visitors to the Wicky-Up raved so much about the enthralling
history of that property and its old house that it easily won this prestigious
The General Sherman Tree, (can’t get more ancient than that)
was tops with visitor voters and finished second. The Mineral King cabins
received the nod for third place.
PLACE TO BE AT
When it comes to Kaweah Country, the expression “so many places,
so little time” would certainly be appropriate.
Moro Rock, especially at sundown was clearly the winner. Second
place was a virtual lock for TKC’S innovative Kaweah Kam. which
is conveniently located on this website. The cyber-set especially likes
the always-on image at sunrise, and capturing an alpenglow on Moro Rock
or Alta Peak is always a thrill, whether in Cherokee Oaks or overseas.