THE SEVENTH ANNUAL
BEST OF KAWEAH COUNTRY ...
Best of Kaweah Country 2006 will begin in May with the release of the
annual readers' poll (visitors and residents are welcome to participate)..
The results will be published in August.
When deciding the
BEST OF KAWEAH COUNTRY each year, it can truly be said that every vote
counts. Now that's democracy in action.
Voters may not be deciding a hotly-contested political issue,
new school bond or property tax, but finding the right restaurant, place
to get married, or getaway campground can definitely improve the quality
of day-to-day life and is, thus, just as important.
For the past seven years, The Kaweah Commonwealth has devoted
one issue each summer to the BEST OF KAWEAH COUNTRY. It is meant as a
break from the serious and made up of a consensus arrived at by polling;
which, this year, included nearly 700 submitted ballots.
Visitors are invited to play along since Kaweah Country loves
its out-of-town guests and insists they leave content, so their input
But it's the locals who require that area destinations maintain
a certain standard of excellence, and once that reputation is attained,
the votes are sure to follow.
Here at the Commonwealth, we have come to greatly enjoy the
annual opportunity to devote an issue solely to our local businesses,
attractions, and recreation destinations.
So, herein, the Commonwealth presents its 75 categories and
the resulting people's-choice awards made by individuals who, to us, are
exercising a basic right — freedom of choice.
For three-quarters of a century and in the same scenic location,
the Gateway Restaurant is thriving today due to its current enthusiastic
and attentive owners, Glenn and Karen McIntyre. Built shortly after the
Generals Highway opened in 1926, the restaurant's strategic location just
outside the entrance to California's first national park was meant to
lure Sequoia visitors from the road and cater to their every need, from
food and drink to lodging.
Consisting of a riverside setting, outdoor seating, banquet
room, bar, dinner and drink specials, special events, Sunday brunch, and
adjoining lodging facilities, it's clear why this would be the favorite
restaurant of so many.
Close behind in this race was the Main Fork Bistro, River
View, and Serrano's.
Gateway customers rave about the restaurant's atmosphere
and ambience. That's why this dining establishment has become renowned
throughout the Central Valley as the place to come for romantic dining
— whether it's a first date, a high school prom, a proposal of marriage,
a wedding celebration, a kiss-and-make-up dinner, a clandestine meeting,
a passionate power lunch, or the commemoration of a milestone anniversary,
this picture-perfect site where the East Fork meets the Middle Fork of
the Kaweah River has played host to it all.
For a river town, we have a paucity of restaurants bordering
right on the rolling river.
But every table at the Gateway has a view of the water, and
Kaweah Country residents will agree that, whether under a big umbrella
or under the stars, the view from the deck overlooking the Kaweah River
at the Gateway Restaurant is one of the most beautiful in all the world.
The River View Restaurant received an honorable mention in
And, inventing his own category, visitor Kevin Ready submitted
a poll that claimed the Gateway is the best “place to be rescued.” Ready
is the New York City resident who, on June 29, waded into the water just
upriver from Gateway and was quickly swept off his feet and down the rapids.
Deck diners and Gateway staff witnessed the man struggling in the strong
In a place where many have lost their lives, Ready, 43, somehow
was able to get a handhold on a rock mid-river and climb onto it until
help arrived (“3R visitor survives river tumble,” The Kaweah Commonwealth,
July 1, 2005).
Pizza Factory took this category by a narrow margin, followed
closely by Taqueria Super Taco (Woodlake), Cider Mill, Serrano's Mexican,
and River View, a testimony that you can get a lot of chow for your buck
in Kaweah Country.
It's a rare occurrence these days, but at Pizza Factory,
a family of four can still eat a hearty, balanced dinner for under $35,
and that includes salads, an extra-large four-topping pizza, and beverages.
And the menu isn't limited to pizza. Diners can choose spaghetti,
ravioli, lasagna, calzone, or from a variety of toasted sandwiches.
PLACE TO GO WHEN
SOMEONE ELSE PAYS
Not to say that this winning restaurant shouldn't be patronized
even if you have to buy your own meal, but sometimes it's nice to pass
the bill across the table. If this happens, folks would most like to be
indulging in the haute cuisine at Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National Park,
where the dining is so fine — Trout Piccata, Chicken Marsala, Filet Au
Poive, Gourmet Kobe Burger, and more — but the atmosphere is casual with
a taste of the great outdoors.
It's the bed-and-breakfast establishments that tipped the
scales in this category. For this most important meal of the day, the
Plantation Bed & Breakfast received the win in this category, receiving
several comments, such as “Fantastic food!”
In second place was the Wicky-Up Ranch Bed & Breakfast,
located east of Woodlake.
As for the restaurant that used to be the perennial winner
in this category — We Three Bakery — one voter wrote: “Sniff! Sniff! Please
Wuksachi Lodge won this category and with good reason. Even
a meat-eater will be satisfied after indulging in a meal of Baked Eggplant,
stuffed with ricotta, spinach, shallots, and a wild mushroom ragout; the
Mediterranean Pasta, a spinach penne pasta topped with fresh herbs, roasted
red peppers, and feta; or the Portabello Napolean, a meaty mushroom stuffed
with tomatoes, provolone, and fresh basil.
For a light meal, order a bowl of sweet and spicy Sweet Potato
Ancho Soup, a Tomatoes & Mozzarella appetizer, or a Spinach Salad
with the citrus-chile vinaigrette.
“We try to
use as much organics as possible,” said Jaime Rigau, Wuksachi's Chef de
For those who can't get to this mountaintop eatery quite
enough, a couple of comments for the foothills establishments said, “More
options needed” in this category.
Second place was the Gateway, which has its standbys — Eggplant
Parmigiana and the seasonal Vegetable Plate — and a new addition to the
menu — Marsala Pasta.
It could be the reasonable prices for satisfying fare, the
convenient location within walking distance of lodging and shops, the
shaded patio in which to watch the goings on of a town center, or all
of the above that readers voted Serrano's Mexican Restaurant in the Village
Shopping Center in Three Rivers the winner.
Diners can select from a variety of entrees from the popular
— Enchiladas Supreme or Chicken Fajitas — to the traditional — Machaca,
Milanesa de Res, or Bistek a la Mexicana. Combination plates, burritos
that are a meal or two themselves, a variety of tostadas and salads, and
Albondigas Soup are also on the menu. And there's vegetarian selections,
For Mexican food-lovers, it's good news that this category
has a lot of competition. Tying for second place is the Cider Mill Restaurant
in Three Rivers, which features Hector's muy grande south-of-the-border
specialties like Taco Titanic and Macho Bean Burrito; and Taqueria Super
Taco in Woodlake, where you get a grilled-steak taco for a buck.
Pizza Factory is really the only game in town, in fact, they're
the only food franchise in town, and they satisfy anybody's pizza craving
with traditional toppings such as pepperoni, salami, and fresh mushrooms
or some more acquired tastes such as cashews, anchovies, and linguica.
Then there's the delectable gourmet pizzas. Step out of your
pepperoni-and-sausage box and try the White, Pesto and Sun-dried Tomato,
Spinach and Garlic, or Seafood pizzas. That's Italian... with Californian
freshness on the side.
River View's fresh-baked pizza received second place.
More than 20 years ago, Anne Lang's Emporium found a niche
in Three Rivers by supplying health foods, supplements, and dried herbs
to a discriminating Three Rivers clientele. The establishment has since
evolved into a favorite lunch hangout with mouthwatering sandwiches that
can be eaten in, out on the river deck, or packed in a picnic to go.
There's a choice of rye, whole wheat, sourdough, French roll,
or croissant as the base and jack, cheddar, Swiss, or provolone cheese
to go with the fillings. When accompanied by the always-homemade soups
and salads and a specialty coffee drink or Italian soda, it's easy to
see why readers like their sandwich made fresh here.
This eating establishment is on the very boundary of our
“Kaweah Country” selections, but readers say the salads at the Orange
Blossom restaurant (just east of Highway 65 on 198) are worth the trip
to the flatlands.
River View came in second; Gateway took third as the place
to eat your greens.
It's useless to try to resist when the dessert cart at the
Wuksachi Lodge dining room arrives at your table .
All willpower melts away upon seeing the Chocolate Decadence
triple-fudge cake with strawberry sauce that, at 2,500 calories per slice,
Chef Jaime Rigau calls “death by chocolate.” Also savor the homemade Crème
Brulee, Coconut Mango Bread Pudding, or everybody's favorite, New York
Cheesecake. Every morsel is guaranteed to bring sheer gastronomic joy.
In these Atkins-troubled times, when eating a carbohydrate
is considered a mortal sin, it's nice to see that voters will still sample
these comestibles. Main Fork Bistro took this category for their pre-dinner
breads and rolls baked fresh by Lisa McGinnis. However, Nataliya
Dixon at Village Market has fired up the oven to supply the store with
baked goods, which garnered her a second place in this category.
And another reminiscent vote was received for the former
We Three Bakery, pleading: “We Three, please open.”
New China in Woodlake is the place to partake in Chinese
food that is thoughtfully and expertly prepared, and there's total pleasure
in every bite.
Gateway Restaurant came in second for their special Chinese-food
River View Restaurant flips ‘em best; they're a perennial
favorite in this category. The hefty helping of patty comes on a homemade
bun with fresh lettuce, tomato, and red onion. Have it their way, which
apparently is the best way!
Steak-lovers voted the Gateway into the lead spot and there's
a herd of mouthwatering entrees from which to choose — Steak (petite filet
mignon) and Australian Lobster Tail, Steak and Scampi, Filet Mignon (large
cut or petite), New York Steak (choose from large cut or larger cut),
and the newest additions to the menu, Top Sirloin Champignon Royale and
New York Pepper Steak.
Readers love to vamonos with Serrano's Mexican food. And
there's two “Family Packs,” from which to choose, both of which are under
$25 and include the diner's choice of 10 tacos, enchiladas, burritos,
tamales, or chile rellenos; beans; rice; and chips and salsa.
For an even larger gathering, pick up a party tray, filled
with quesadillas, taquitos, tostadas, tacos, chimichangas, and more. The
small will feed 10 to 15 hungry friends; the large, up to 30.
Gateway swims to the surface in this category for their valiant
efforts to bring the ocean inland to Three Rivers. When in a seafaring
mood, start with an appetizer — Seafood Crepes, Smoked Salmon, Shrimp
Cocktail, or Deep-fried Calamari — then dive into an entree like lobster
tail, scampi, or always-fresh salmon. The seafood lover in you will be
When the Village Market fires up the grill on the weekends,
the aroma wafts all through town. This weekend barbecue has become a summertime
tradition in Three Rivers.
Village won this category over the restaurants in town most likely because
readers enjoy bellying up to the barby and watching the food being charred,
then selecting their own cuts for the picnic table or the dinner table
hot off the grill.
It's the bed-and-breakfast visitors that tipped the scale
in this category. Plantation Bed & Breakfast's co-owner/cook, Marie
Munger, who has published a cookbook in recent years, has quite a following.
One patron summed it up with just one word: “WOW!” Need we say more?
Wicky-Up Ranch B&B in Woodlake received honorable mention.
Perhaps it's time for Monica Pizura to publish a cookbook so locals can
create her original recipes at home as well (but you can check out her
“French Toast Naranjo” recipe at www.wickyup.com/naranjo-oranges.html).
Kaweah Country folks are so happy that Three Rivers has become
an active participant in the whole coffeehouse explosion by having its
very own independently-owned place to sip a latte.
The Cabin switched owners recently, but did not skip a beat
when keeping its patrons revved up. From a commuter's cup of Joe that
can actually make you feel like a morning person to pure indulgences with
chocolate and whipped cream, The Cabin is where bean dreams come true.
Also under new ownership, Reimer's ice cream is still a glacial
hit as churns out homemade flavors, considered the best by residents and
visitors. And its obvious this is the frozen treat to eat — try the Three
Rivers Wild Blackberry — when the mercury climbs to astronomical levels.
On a recent midweek day, the line of customers waiting for a rich and
generous scoop to chill out with was out the door and onto the porch.
This is a secret that's just too good to keep as outdoor
enthusiasts this year ruled this category and voted the Bearpaw High Sierra
Camp in Sequoia National Park as the number-one best-kept secret. It's
a bit pricey to stay there — but worth every penny of backcountry comfort
— and it's not easy to get there (11.5 miles from Crescent Meadow on foot
via the High Sierra Trail), but the challenge of getting a reservation
during the high-country camp's operating season of mid-June to mid-September
proves that everyone needs to experience Bearpaw once in their lifetime,
but most come back again and again.
This category is deserving of being split in two mostly because
all of the establishments that received votes deserve recognition for
keeping customers happy.
Locals voted Chump's Videos and DVDs as number one in customer
service. The staff really knows movies — from old to new — and what they
don't know, they'll research. Gateway came in a close second for their
friendly, oh-so-local staff.
Visitors said Plantation B&B provided their always-barefoot
service with a smile. Voted second place by out-of-towners was Wicky-up
Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National Park proved that it's
what's inside that counts. The Lodge's décor is where elite meets
au naturel — a high-class collection of pine and leather, framed art and
creative craftsmanship — all arranged around ceiling-high windows that
bring the outdoors in.
The rustic, outdoor theme continues in this category with
The Cabin being the winner for having the most attractive façade
that is best described by saying, well, The Cabin.
PLACE TO BUY SOUVENIRS
For the curio side in everybody's personality, stop by Three
Rivers Drug to pick up a lasting memory of Three Rivers and Sequoia National
Park. From T-shirts to cedar boxes, souvenir-hunters will find something
that will always remind them of their Kaweah Country excursion.
PLACE TO BUY GROCERIES
If you spend more time in the kitchen than in a restaurant,
then readers recommend that the best place to go to keep the shelves stocked
is Village Market, locally owned and operated by the Dixon family for
more than 40 years.
PLACE TO BUY
Anne Lang's Emporium was the readers' choice for guilt-reduced
Mountain View Fruit Stand, located on Highway 198 just east
of the Woodlake turnoff, was voted second.
And, the same as every year, several voters mourned the lack
of a Trader Joe's in the county.
PLACE TO BUY
If you're too busy to hunt down authentic ingredients at ethnic markets,
but need your curry in a hurry, then voters say come to Village Market,
the place where real people shop to stock the fruit basket and fill the
Mountain View Fruit Stand came in second.
PLACE TO BUY
There are a lot of voters out there who would just as soon
catch their own fresh food. And they say the best place to buy the bait
and hooks is still the Kaweah General Store. Stop by soon or someone else
might catch the Lake Kaweah granddaddy of a large-mouth bass.
It's the year-round bargain-hunter's paradise that wins this
category year after year. The Thingerie opened its doors several decades
ago as the one and only fundraising vehicle of the Three Rivers Woman's
Club. It remains popular today as Three Rivers folks cast off their old
and patrons recycle them to score a new outfit, home furnishing, and other
obviously durable goods.
PLACE TO BUY
It's under new ownership, totally revamped, and more of a
favorite than it has ever been, according to readers. So, if you haven't
been to Whitewater Contemporary Arts and Crafts recently, you really have
never been to Whitewater.
These days, the exhibits feature the works of living artists
— most who reside in Three Rivers — in all their colorful, talented, and
The Redbud Festival, the once-a-year show and sale held each
spring, garnered second place.
PLACE TO BUY
The corner set aside at Lodgepole Market — strategically
located at the entrance to Sequoia National Park's largest campground
(211 sites) — is convenient for all campers, hikers, and backpackers who
may have left something at home — from water bottle to sleeping bag. And
whether you're a first-time camper or an accomplished mountaineer, the
Lodgepole Market staff will help you find everything you need to survive
a day or a week in the mountains.
PLACE TO BUY JEWELRY
Whitewater Contemporary Arts and Crafts swept this category,
too, which means finding the perfect bling bling to complement an outfit
or purchasing a bracelet, necklace, earrings, or ring (for that special
someone, perhaps?) can be done conveniently, affordably, and locally.
Tina St. John Designs (www.tinastjohndesigns.com) came in
second, but since she doesn't have a storefront of her own, buyers can
find her handmade creations at Whitewater, and she's a regular at this
year's third-place finisher, Kaweah Artisans boutiques.
PLACE TO BUY GIFTS
Whitewater didn't miss a beat this year as they took this
category, too, in all their trendy glory. Reimer's and Heart's Desire
came in second and third, respectively. At all these local outlets, the
gifts are as much fun to discover as they are to give.
PLACE TO BUY ANTIQUES
From funky to fabulous, stop in at Rosemary's Remembrances
in Three Rivers. Whether shopping for a rustic retreat or your Malibu
mansion, you'll find something new that's old here.
The Antique Shop in Lemon Cove crossed the finish line in
PLACE TO BUY T-SHIRTS
It's Three Rivers Drug, year after year. There's a Three
Rivers T-shirt for everyone, from newborns to grownups in a rainbow of
colors and a variety of graphic designs, but they've all got three things
in common — they're comfortable, they're versatile, and they all give
a shout-out to “Three Rivers, California.”
PLACE TO BUY BOOKS
The Cabin may not yet have J.K. Rowling's latest 650-page
mega-creation, but their used-book selection continues to evolve. Grab
an iced mocha, scout out a chair on the riverside deck, then take a browse
to select your latest read. Every subject has crossed these shelves, from
mystery and romance to motorcycle repair and yoga. Used books never die,
they just start a new chapter.
PLACE TO RENT MOVIES
At Chump's Videos and DVDS, it's the tastefulness of the
blend — from contemporary to classics, Hollywood to foreign, independent
to documentary, and the odd to the wonderful — all assembled under one
user-friendly roof. They're the only rental location in town, but they
are the best in the entire county. And when they thin the ranks of the
hot titles, they go on sale at great prices, so your favorite movie can
be yours forever.
PLACE TO BUY
For the best in blossoms, Anne Lang's Emporium gives Three
Rivers patrons access to sending well-wishes to the world — from Avenal
to Zimbabwe. For weddings, graduations, funerals, births, or if just in
the mood to be absolutely romantic, Three Rivers's one and only cut-flower
store has an arrangement for any occasion. So take some time to stop and
buy the roses.
This is an interesting category because there is a new winner
every year and it receives the most listings (24 this year). This year's
favorite day-hiking trail for everyone to discover is the Ladybug Trail.
Located at the end of South Fork Drive in Sequoia National Park, make
note that it's a foothills hike, so plan the exploration in one of the
other three seasons.
By perusing the polls, it's obvious that Kaweah Country has
abundant hiking opportunities (see above), but the bike-riding choices
are more limited. This year's winner for a two-wheeling tour is South
Fork Drive, and well-deserved. The traffic is light, the route is riverside,
the scenery is beautiful, and because of its proximity to the South Fork
of the Kaweah, the riparian vegetation keeps things as cool and shady
as it's gonna get.
Three Rivers Golf Course is the place to swing, whether you're
the boss of the moss or a novice hacker. Most likely, voters appreciate
the year-round good weather, but there are nine other reasons, too, each
one with a hole in it.
This year, the majority of votes went to “The River” as making
a splash with the teen set. Just to put a few other ideas out there when
your teen says, “There's nothing to do,” reply with these other vote-getting
answers: summer school, men's softball, Kaweah River Drum Circle, mountain-biking,
Three Rivers Library, church, tennis, and Lake Kaweah.
This is another category that everyone likes to answer. This
year, with a seemingly eternal springtime in May and June, the visitors
voted Slick Rock as the best place to spread the blanket. Locals voted
Kings Canyon and/or the Kings River as the picnic-perfect spot.
Finding the perfect campsite is sheer bliss. And not finding
it can mean the difference between a great vacation and a bust.
Good thing Kaweah Country has dozens of campgrounds from which to choose.
From about 500 feet in elevation (Lemon Cove-Sequoia Campground) to 8,000
feet (Mineral King), there is a wide selection and pollsters usually name
them all collectively.
For several years, the winner has been a Sequoia National
Park campground. This year, a private Three Rivers campground grabbed
the most votes — Kaweah Park Resort.
And why shouldn't they? It's clean, comfortable, and well-maintained,
and there are tent and RV sites, a swimming pool, river beach, and a national
park mere minutes away.
Just as the river itself never stays the same, this category
has had some ebbs and flows in the vote pattern this year since the public-access
area at Slick Rock was underwater as the poll was ongoing, the BLM-North
Fork areas have become overrun with flatlanders, and the river has been
running pretty high thus far this season at Sequoia's swimming holes.
But it didn't change the outcome of the winner because locals know where
they like to go to keep cool — Slicky. Nowhere else even came close this
PLACE TO TAKE THE KIDS
Pollsters had three dozen suggestions for this category,
including a couple of votes for “babysitter.” There's a thought. However,
Sequoia National Park was once again the winner.
HOTEL / MOTEL
The Holiday Inn Express won this category. Perhaps it's the
chain's new advertising campaign that touts a “Simply Smart” showerhead.
Maybe it's the “Express Start” breakfast bar.
But, most likely, for visitors, it's the pool and the fact
that kids stay free. What locals like is the management's active participation
in the Three Rivers community and the always-accessible conference room.
BED AND BREAKFAST
Plantation Bed and Breakfast is the best thing to happen
in Lemon Cove since the Pogue Hotel. And, today, it's the only lodging
in the small citrus town.
It's common practice that the Plantation provides readers'
polls to their clientele each May and June, which is testimony to the
marketing acumen of co-owner Scott Munger.
Beyond that, however, there is no need for the Mungers to
coerce a guest to complete a poll on behalf of this Lemon Cove lodging
facility. In seven years of receiving polls from Plantation, there have
only been raves from their clientele, who have visited from all corners
of the world, and Plantation wins this category every year.
A few of this year's accolades include “Excellent,” “Superb,”
“So Fine,” “Very Nice,” “Absolutely Fantastic,” and “Five Stars!”
With a Gone With the Wind theme, the inside of the historic home exudes
Southern charm, elegance, and grace. Stepping outside, visitors enter
an antebellum garden oasis.
Wicky-up Ranch Bed and Breakfast, a historic residence on
a working organic orange ranch just this side of Woodlake, garnered second
place for its turn-of-the-century architecture, fairy-tale rooms, candlelight
breakfast, and colorful gardens filled with fountains, sculptures, and
The Holiday Inn Express pulled ahead in this category. It's
a kid-friendly place with breakfast available as soon as the ravenous
rugrats arise and a pool to immerse them in when they start bouncing off
the walls of the room. But what Mom and Dad like most of all: the chain's
policy that kids under 19 stay free in their parents' room.
Lazy J, with its family-friendly grounds, took second place.
Gateway Lodge, a stone's throw away from the river, a restaurant, and
Sequoia Park, came in third.
Plantation B&B walks away with this category year after
year for its glam Scarlet O'Hara room. The suite is elegant yet intimate
and will make one hesitant to arise in the morning. But, then again, Marie's
breakfasts can convince anyone to get up, no matter how luxurious the
When it comes to rustic, Silver City Resort in the Mineral
King area of Sequoia National Park will soothe your city-savaged soul
with ease. And for those who need to work down to authentic rustic-ness
gradually, there are several levels from which to choose.
Starting at ritzy rustic are Silver City's Swiss chalets.
They have two stories, sleep eight, and come with a well-equipped kitchen
and full bath. There are currently four of these high-class cabins, the
newest of which was just completed last month.
Then there's the middle-of-the-road rustic “Comfy Cabins,”
with kitchen and half-bath. The honest-to-goodness, down-to-earth “Rustic
Cabins” were built in the 1930s and include a basic “camp kitchen” and
no bathroom (there is a clean and comfortable men's and a women's bathhouse
within easy walking distance).
SWIMMING POOL/HOT TUB
It's the visitors who are the experts on the local swimming
pool and spa options around town. And if you've ever dipped a toe in Plantation
Bed and Breakfast's pool (heated when necessary) or seen the stars from
the oh-so-private Jacuzzi hot tub, you'll know why guests vote it the
best place to take a dip year after year.
Year after year, voters say that the best place to make new
friends is at the River View Restaurant and Lounge. A river setting, good
food, live music, pool tables, bar service, gracious hosts, and friendly
staff is what lures you in the door, but it's the small-town family atmosphere
that makes you want to stay.
PLACE TO GO ON A DATE
It's easy to make a quick trip to Three Rivers and, thus,
make a really good first impression. And readers say the best place to
get to know someone is the Gateway Restaurant. Not surprising that they
won Best Romantic Dining then, is it?
PLACE TO GET MARRIED
If all those romantic Kaweah Country dates work out, then
it only makes sense to get married here, too. Well, book in to the White
Horse Inn River Terrace for this special occasion, where Gary and Jeanne
White will do everything to ensure the most memorable of events, from
performing the ceremony to catering the meal to providing a special honeymoon
For 32 years, Jazzaffair has jumpstarted springtime in Three
Rivers. Usually held the first or second weekend in April, the three-day
jazz festival has three stages and hosts eight or more bands, including
Three Rivers's own High Sierra Jazz Band. Sponsored by the Sierra Traditional
Jazz Club, the event is organized solely by volunteers.
Year after year, the River View Restaurant and Lounge is
the readers' pick for the place to be for entertainment. And, since the
inception of the Best of Kaweah Country, they've even stepped the entertainment
up a notch. In the early years, it was a live band every Saturday night.
Then owners Rex and Dorletta Hildebrand began taking advantage of the
restaurant's namesake by hosting bands on summer Sunday afternoons on
the “river view” patio, which was then enlarged to accommodate the ever-growing
crowds. Now, there's Monday's open-mike night and other impromptu events,
fundraisers, and celebrations.
PLACE TO DANCE
Where there's live music, there's dancing. And the mainstay
of places to cruise the room and dance around with your friends is the
River View Restaurant and Lounge. Jazzaffair, the annual jazz fest, came
In recent years, it's been the local rock bands that have
come out ahead in this category. This year, the High Sierra Jazz Band
was once again the top vote-getter. High Sierra was founded in 1976 and,
since that time, they have traveled the world as ambassadors of traditional
jazz and Three Rivers. Even with such world-renown, the boys in the band
share their music with Three Rivers residents, too, by performing regularly
at the monthly Sierra Traditional Jazz Club concerts.
The Gateway Restaurant is the happiest place to be for an
hour, according to pollsters. This place will celebrate anything by way
of cocktail and free munchies — from a soldier returning home from war
to a Monday Night Football game. Get things rolling by sipping (responsibly)
embalmer-strength, high-octane, cold, slushy, or just plain refreshing
concoctions. And the lounge is small and cozy, so it's more like being
in someone's family room than in a bar.
Admittedly, there's not much competition in this event, but
River View's weekly talent show is so innovative by providing local acts
a venue and an audience that it deserves a category. But it is the word-of-mouth
accolades that get it all the votes. Held every Monday evening, it has
become a regular gig for musicians, singers, and other talent to perform
in front of an audience. You never know what could happen on a given night
as musicians get caught up in the moment and combine their talents for
one-of-a-kind impromptu jams.
BEER ON TAP
Proving that things go better with beer, River View — the
winner of Best Burger, Best Place to Meet People, Best Entertainment Venue,
and Best Place to Dance — received the nod this year for their ice-cold
brewskies in a neighborhood-bar atmosphere. This was an upset as there
was once two guys who made their own beer in Three Rivers, then opened
a successful brewpub in Visalia who would always win this category from
Here's another category with a new winner since Three Rivers's
local winery and tasting room closed its doors last year. Now readers
say that the Gateway Restaurant has the best selection of vino. So sniff,
swirl, smell, taste, and savor with Kaweah Country style.
OUT AND ABOUT
The tourists may begin the trip with Sequoia Sightseeing
Tours, but they end it on a first-name basis with “Paul.” Most voters
mentioned owner Paul Bischoff by name when penciling in their vote for
the one they'd most like to pay to show them around.
Guided tours save gas, ease traffic congestion, and can teach
visitors so much more about the place they are visiting than they could
learn on their own. With Sequoia Sightseeing, tourists will be amused,
thrilled, and absolutely amazed by the wealth of knowledge of Paul, who
has spent nearly two decades living, working, hiking, climbing, swimming,
and skiing in Sequoia National Park.
Around these parts, there are a lot of scenic roads from
which to choose. This year, the Generals Highway was the overall winner.
One voter wrote, “Fantastic!” about their experience on this road.
Built in 1926, the road is not for those in a hurry. It begins
winding and curving its way up the mountain at 1,500 feet elevation at
the Sequoia National Park entrance and, in 19 miles and about an hour,
arrives at the General Sherman Tree, the world's largest living tree and
the most-visited attraction in the park. About 30 miles beyond the Sherman
Tree, the road hooks up with the General Grant Tree in Kings Canyon National
Park, thus the name “Generals Highway.”
This year, Mineral King takes the honors of being the best
place to take Fido for a stroll. Since the area is in Sequoia National
Park, you better not forget the leash.
The Giant Forest Museum, which tells the tale of the ancient
giant sequoias from prehistoric to contemporary times, is the readers'
favorite place to take in an exhibit or two.
PLACE TO TAKE AN
In past years, a certain national park attraction was voted
to the fore, such as the Sherman Tree, Moro Rock, or Crystal Cave. This
year, the winner is all of the above as all of Sequoia National Park received
the most votes.
The Paul Bunyan statue in its new home in front of the Three
Rivers Historical Museum was the readers' choice. Carved from one solid
section of giant sequoia by the late Carroll Barnes of Three Rivers in
1941 to 1942, the sculpture is 17 feet high, nine feet across, and weighs
PLACE TO BE AT
SUNSET / MOONRISE
And as the sun sets on yet another readers' poll, picture
these parting shots that, amazingly, tied for top day-end locations:
Relaxing on Lake Kaweah, wet and sun-soaked, listening to
the water lap against your boat, gazing skyward, and watching the sun
set in a blaze of orange, red, and pink beneath the rolling foothills
on the western horizon.
Or perhaps you'd rather be atop Moro Rock at dusk after a
fulfilling day of hiking amidst the giant sequoias, breathing in the pine-scented
mountain air, and pointing out the peaks of the Great Western Divide awash
in alpenglow. Life slows to a standstill as you watch the full moon inch
its way over the ridgeline, turning the gray granite cream-colored and
illuminating the trail for your descent.
One voter commented: “Spellbinding”… which sums up yet another
day in Kaweah Country.