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The annual quest for the BEST
The 2004 Readers' Poll will be published in the May 28, 2004, edition.
Results will be published in the August 6 visitor issue.
Here are the 2003 Readers' Poll results...
FOR THE FIFTH YEAR, The Kaweah Commonwealth proudly presents the results of the Best of Kaweah Country readers poll. Practically a summer season institution, new this year was the opportunity for readers to vote online.
And vote they did, by the hundreds. In fact, the several thousand total votes that were tallied from both print ballots and online votes represented the most response since the poll began in 1999.
So let the fun begin all over again and celebrate with us the winners the very best that Kaweah Country has to offer.
Like the long
lost prodigal son, Noisy Water Café, the famed Home
of the Hummingbirds, returned to its former prominence by winning
this category going away. Last years top two finishers, Gateway
Restaurant and River View Restaurant, finished second and third
Evidently, going out to an elegant dinner can be very comforting because Gateway scored in this category by an impressive margin. Reimers Candies, Noisy Water Café, and River View received the majority of the rest of the votes.
This was one of the closer races of the poll as We Three Bakery edged out Noisy Water Café. The Cabin, newcomer to Three Rivers and opening midway through the polling season, grabbed third with its scrumptious scones and baked goods. Best of the B&B breakfasts is reigning champion Plantation, with Wicky-up Ranch a solid second.
BEST for happy meals
Whether its Are you ready to order?, Is everything OK?, or Will that be all?, the Gateway Restaurant family says it BEST, according to voters in the 2003 Best of Kaweah Country readers poll. In photo, owners Glenn and Karen McIntyre (front and center) with their BEST WAITSTAFF.
Gateway and River View finished one-two in this category. Loyal guests commented that the morning meal at Plantation B&B was as good or better than any brunch or breakfast they could find anywhere.
Without question, Kaweah Country romantics want to dine at rivers edge. Gateway and River View finished one-two again; no other establishment was even a factor when it comes to a special dinner with that special someone.
Again, the river is where its at for outdoor dining. Gateway and River View finished first and second with impressive numbers. Honorable mention goes to Cider Mill with its patio tables where locals can watch whos coming and going.
From the comments in this category, readers would like to see more vegetarian menu choices. Serranos, Wuksachi, and Anne Langs finished as the top vote-getters for their efforts at providing meatless alternatives.
BEST South of the Border
Serranos Mexican Restaurant, a focal point of the Village Shopping Center, is the BEST MEX and readers also applauded their vegetarian menu choices.
Serranos Mexican Restaurant has, in its two years of existence, become the local favorite. Its the salsa and the whole beans that tell the story here.
Cider Mill retains second place with Super Taco in Woodlake receiving honorable mention for their fresh-made, affordable, takeout creations.
Who will be the first to introduce an egg burrito made with the Naugles secret buttermilk recipe for breakfast?
Remember Naugles? Del Taco shelled out millions to buy Naugles and launched the drive-thru breakfast binge. Now a nephew of Dick Naugle is operating BTs in Visalia and that famous egg burrito lives on.
Whether its Three Rivers or Woodlake, readers say nobody does it better than Pizza Factory. Most visitors, especially Europeans, will eat at least one meal out when theyre in Three Rivers and chances are it will be pizza.
River View finished second for its fresh-from-the oven creations.
Anne Langs Emporium has a faithful whats-for-lunch bunch and they all voted her place as number one for another year. Gateway finished a distant second; River View received an honorable mention.
Fresh says it all according to our readers when it comes to salad. Pizza Factorys salad bar is not fancy, but several voters remarked that its always fresh. Voters in this category expressed a preference for salad bars and one mentioned that they missed the salad-cart service at the White Horse Inn most of all.Gateway and River View finished a close second and third respectively for their greens.
Gateways rich and decadent choices proved too tempting to resist. Noisy Water Café, River View, and Wuksachi, with tempting delights of their own, made up the rest of the top vote-getters.
Its difficult to imagine anyone beating out Pete Chavezs We Three Bakery. Try the fresh fruit cobbler, sticky buns, or croon over a macaroon.
Plantations fresh-baked breakfast goodies finished in second place. Gateway received an honorable mention.
Woodlakes New China won this category and deservedly so. Chef Johnny and wife Mary have worked tirelessly the last decade to improve the premises and the menu with freshly-made entrees and no MSG.
Kowloons, Visalias best celestial-inspired eatery, received an honorable mention.
For the second consecutive year, River View claimed top spot in this category of nearly everyones favorite food group. Its tough to beat em when theyre big, juicy, and served with a cold brew. You gotta eat!
Gateway, Cider Mill, and Noisy Water Café also have their burger fans, finishing nearly in a three-way tie for second and third respectively.
No big surprise here as Gateway and their excellent selection of only the choicest cuts won this all-important category. Wuksachi, with its artistic presentations, and River View finished second and third respectively.
This was a two-horse race between River View, the eventual winner, and Pizza Factory. Serranos received an honorable mention.
There isnt even a race when it comes to seafood entrees. Gateway won by a landslide. And, deservedly so, because serving fresh three-pound Maine lobster in Californias heartland takes some doing.
The salmon at Bullene Vineyards received a the second-highest amount of votes and rightfully so. Dan and Sharon Bullene, who have owned and operated Bullene Vineyards in Three Rivers since 1996, were honored this month with the prestigious Hall of Fame award by the Central Valley chapter of the California Restaurant Association during the eighth annual Diamond Cuisine banquet.
Too hot for soup, you say? Not according to River View and Gateway fans.
The restaurants finished in a dead heat for first place. Cider Mill and Anne Langs have the best according to all the rest.
Voters focused here on the entire presentation, not a single dish. Marie Mungers gourmet fare at the Plantation B&B is quite simply as good as it gets, homemade and fresh-squeezed, according to her satisfied and satiated guests.
Could anyone seriously challenge Kaweah Country newcomer The Cabin and its Uncommon Grounds? Evidently not, and one pollster stated simply, Yahoo! when voting The Cabin for best coffee. Could a link to the Internet be far behind for the riverside used-bookstore and coffee klatch?
Three Rivers has always had great ice cream for as long as anyone can remember. Nobody does it better than the hand-packed, homemade creations at Reimers. Anne Langs received an honorable mention for her offerings of frozen treats on the hottest of days.
Gateway won this critical customer-service category. In a tourism economy, with so many first-time visitors, a smile says it best: Welcome to Three Rivers.
River View and Noisy Water Café finished as the runners-up.
Place we wish
was still open
Shoshone Inn is the readers choice in this category. If all goes according to plan, this elegant eatery and conference center just might reopen by next year.
Place to buy souvenirs
John Bryant has done an excellent job of finding nature-inspired gifts at affordable prices that keeps his customers coming back time and again to the Naturedome. Three Rivers Drug and the Lodgepole-Wuksachi gift shops in Sequoia National Park were voted as viable alternatives.
Still the reigning champion, Village Market proves that when it comes to local groceries, bigger is better. Friendly and inviting Three Rivers Market scored second, while First Choice in Woodlake received an honorable mention.
BEST of Earths bounty...
These pesticide-free watermelons in the fields are just one of the many reasons that Flora Bella Farm was voted as having the BEST ORGANIC selection in Kaweah Country.
Anne Lang’s Emporium was the top vote-getter, as readers recall and reminisce her humble beginnings as the Staff of Life health food store. The farm-fresh organic produce of Flora Bella Farm came in a close second. Gateway received an honorable mention for providing some healthy menu choices. Once again this year, several voters commented that people would eat healthier if the healthy choices were available.
Flora Bella Farm and its certified organic produce scored a big pat on the back in this category. “Three Rivers is truly blessed to have Flora Bella,” wrote one enthusiastic patron.
Fred Tafti of Kaweah General Store has a number of dreams for Three Rivers business, but his passion is fishing. The selection of fishing tackle just keeps on growing.
McCoy’s Mini Mart and Three Rivers Market are excellent alternatives, readers said.
When it comes to art with a local flair, the place to shop is Whitewater Contemporary Art & Crafts in Three Rivers for their wide selection, pleasant atmosphere, and friendly service.
Preserving the tradition of featuring local art, Whitewater Contemporary Art and Crafts scored an impressive win in this category. Their third anniversary celebration during the July 4th weekend was their hospitable way of saying, “Thanks, Three Rivers!”
Naturedome received an honorable mention.
The pickings are slim for a community that has some of the best outdoors to be experienced anywhere. Kaweah General Store garnered the most votes while the Delaware North Parks Services-Sequoia shop at Lodgepole finished in second place.
In one of the closest races in the poll, Naturedome edged out Whitewater Contemporary Art and Crafts. Tina St. John Designs receives an honorable mention for making her exquisite pieces available locally.
Naturedome is synonymous with gifts for giving and getting. Kids can even get into the act and it won’t cost you a fortune. Whitewater came in a close second, according to voters.
Barby’s won this race by the narrowest of margins, just two votes over newcomer Rosemary’s Remembrances.
This antique shop, which just opened last month, garnered a surprising amount of votes. Watch for more people to remember Rosemary even more in 2004.
BEST to look at
Naturedome in Three Rivers is pleasing to the eye, which garnered them a top spot in the BEST STOREFRONT category.
An attractive façade is an integral part of a successful walk-in business. Just ask what it means to this year’s top three finishers (in this order) — Naturedome, Reimer’s, and Gateway.
In this category, Naturedome has no peer, but the second place finisher, Reimer’s Candies, Gifts and Ice Cream also brings lots of holiday cheer.
This all-important category extends to every business, regardless of the goods delivered or services rendered. The barefoot bunch at Plantation B&B offer service that has no parallel and set the Kaweah Country standard.
In this all-important category, nine different establishments received a significant number of votes. Winner Sequoia Motel edged out the runner-up Holiday Inn Express.
Honorable mention goes to Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National Park.
Sequoia Motel waged a very effective Internet campaign, but really didnt have to twist any tails to get their loyal customers to make comments like this:
If what youre looking for is a home away from home where you can relax and renew yourself in a setting that is all pleasure and no pretense, look no further than Sequoia Motel Chris and Tom [Schlossin] will make you feel like prodigal guests, even if its your first time in town.
BEST place to store the luggage
Owners/innkeepers/hosts Scott and Marie Munger of Plantation Bed & Breakfast keep their guests coming back again and again with temptations of scrumptious breakfast treats, Gone with the Wind-themed rooms, a 24-hour swimming pool and romantic hot tub, and old-fashioned, barefoot hospitality.
Bed and Breakfast
For the first time in the five-year history of the readers poll, Plantation B&B, the perennial winner, had some serious competition from its neighbor to the north, Wicky-Up Ranch. Plantation simply has too much customer base, many who swear by the barefoot hospitality of the place in Lemon Cove with the Gone with the Wind theme. Cinnamon Creek on the South Fork received honorable mention.
Chalk up a win for Holiday Inn Express in this category. Its neat, clean, has a nice pool and Jacuzzi, and a breakfast bar that kids really like.
Sequoia Motel and Silver City Resort finished in second and third place respectively for their kid-friendly facilities that pleased the parents most.
Again, with its passionately red Scarlet OHara suite, Plantation B&B is the perennial winner in this category. Gateway received honorable mention for the riverfront house that can boast Robert Blake slept here.
Cinnamon Creek is the perennial peoples choice in this category. On this unique South Fork property all kids, pets, and guests are encouraged to roam free and theres river access, too!
Silver City Resort was the runner-up; Lake Elowin Resort received enough votes to wrap up third place.
Nobody does it better than Plantation B&B. They offer their guests a variety of features that provide comfort, convenience, pleasure, and some extremely satisfied customers. Wicky-Up and Holiday Inn Express were the best of the rest.
Swimming Pool/Hot Tub
Ditto for Plantation B&B. See above. Its tough to top a pool thats open 24 hours and a hot tub surrounded by orange trees.
Holiday Inn Express finished in second place.
As in past years, dozens of individual hiking trails received votes, but it was again the visitors preference to see the Big Trees in Sequoia National Park via the Congress Trail that makes this special Giant Forest route number one. The biggest in the world, the General Sherman Tree is at the trailhead; two more of the top five largest the Lincoln Tree and the President Tree are among the attractions. The Ladybug Trail in the South Fork area of Sequoia National Park received an honorable mention.
Kaweah Country has numerous options, especially for those hearty souls willing to venture off-road. Those who dont expressed a decided preference for riding along North Fork Drive. Favorite among rides in Sequoia National Park is the Shepherd Saddle fire road.
Three Rivers won out over the more affordable Woodlake Ranch Golf Course. Several voters mentioned that they longed for the bar/restaurant to reopen as something that at least resembles the former Ard Farkles eatery of the 1970s.
The best place to take a horseback ride, especially for riding lessons, is with Christy Wood at Wood N Horse Stables on North Fork Drive. The undisputed top vote-getter among the remaining pack stations is Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon National Park. Honorable mention goes to Charley and Judy Mills at
Horse Corral Pack Station between the parks in Giant Sequoia National Monument.
In the last year, Kaweah Country has lost two of its oldest and favorite pack stations. There are no longer any pack stations open in Sequoia National Park with the closure of the Wolverton Pack Station and Mineral King Pack Station.
Place to jog
Kaweah River Drive with its gorgeous river frontage and anywhere along North Fork Drive were the choices of local runners. Honorable mention goes to Lake Kaweah, especially when the water is low and the old roads in the lake bottom are accessible.
Cross-country skiing in Sequoia National Park was the overwhelming choice of Kaweah Country voters. The annual Polar Dip, held for the past two years in the chilly Kaweah River on New Years Day, finished in second place.
Picnic spots are like hiking trails everybody has a favorite. The top vote-getters are all in Sequoia National Park. Here are the crowd-pleasers Giant Forest, Mineral King, and on the Ladybug Trail, especially by the falls, explained one voter.
Twelve different campgrounds received votes, underscoring Kaweah Countrys diversity. For the second consecutive year, Kaweah Park Resort was the top vote-getter, demonstrating once again if you provide first-class amenities for the camper they will come, again and again.
Its truly remarkable the popularity of Slicky, the undisputed best of all Kaweah River swimming holes. Its not for those seeking solitude. It is for those who want to river surf on slippery granite into a chilly pool with lots of bubbles.
Slick Rock at Lake Kaweah finished a distant second.
Its no secret that 99 percent of area fisherman never fish Kaweah Countrys pristine fishing. That really wild fishing is superlative because you have to work to get there. For the best of the rest, voters who would reveal their favorite fishing spots said try your luck at Lake Kaweah or any of the deeper holes in the Kaweah River, or for a guaranteed catch Sierra View Catfish Farm, a perennial favorite because anglers can reel em in, but the Sierra View folks will clean and fillet your catch.
Place to Take the Kids
The undisputed winner in this category is nearby Sequoia National Park by more than 5-to-1 over any other place. Why?
Because of the
diversity, the wholesome entertainment possibilities are endless: camping,
hiking, climbing, swimming, fishing, visiting the museum and attending
campfire programs, wildlife-watching, cross-country skiing, picnicking,
and so much more. A day in the park is an opportunity for kid to be a
real kid, so pry them from the TV and video games and visit natures
Paul Bischoff of Sequoia Sightseeing Tours, in photo with local celebrity Petit Pinson of Global Extremes fame during a late-winter visit to Sequoia National Park, was voted BEST PROFESSIONAL GUIDE for his extensive knowledge of the Kaweah Country region.
OUT AND ABOUT
Paul Bischoffs Sequoia Sightseeing Tours is growing in popularity with tourists and TKC voters, indicative of the companys first-place finish in the 2003 poll. For their safety record and excellent on-the-water customer service, Aaron Root and his famous dad, Frank, of Kaweah Whitewater Adventures were clearly the best of the rest.
The visitors overwhelmingly vote for Generals Highway (first place); the locals consistently choose Mineral King Road (second place). Hwy. 180 into Kings Canyon bucked the trend of the past four years by finishing a very formidable third.
Ditto for the first two finishers. See above. Some voters, at least enough to garner third place, prefer the beauty of South Fork Drive to spark romance a little closer to home.
Theres nothing scarier than meeting an inexperienced driver coming around one of the hundreds of blind curves on the Mineral King Road. Generals Highway has its share of scary places too, voters said, but just not as many.
Place to take a tourist
Its got to be somewhere in Sequoia National Park like Sherman Tree, Moro Rock, or Mineral King.
National Park Attraction
For most visitors, especially first-timers, its got to be somewhere in Giant Forest Sherman Tree, Crystal Cave, Moro Rock Congress Trail, Crescent Meadow.
Locals voted more often for off-the-beaten path places like Kern Hot Springs in Sequoia National Park and Bubbs Creek and Windy Cliff in Kings Canyon.
For high-country history, Mineral King (first place) has a lot to see. In Giant Forest, visitors had glowing comments about the new Giant Forest Museum. Kaweah Post Office received honorable mention.
Its a sad commentary when the top vote-getter is a pit toilet at Slick Rock. But this strategic placement of the facilities is a welcome relief to those coming and going.
Come on, Three Rivers. Visitors shouldnt have to hurry and leave town just cause they gotta go.
The Cabin, celebrating its first season in business in Three Rivers, has become one of the BEST local hangouts, tempting customers with two of their favorite things coffee and books.
Place to meet people
This category was a two-horse race between the eventual winner, Gateway and the River View, the best of the areas eateries and waterholes. Honorable mention goes to newcomer The Cabin, the morning hotspot and hangout to sip a cup while browsing books... and people.
The top-vote getter for two years running is Stillwater, known last year as Deja Blue. Newly-formed Two Ton Mama and traditional jazz giant High Sierra garnered the majority of the rest of the votes.
Heres a category with yet another perennial champion Rex and Dorlettas River View. The new stage at the east end of the riverside patio with refreshing misters is a cool place to experience live music. The dance floor is great and the place really rocks.
BEST Band in the Land
For the second year, fans of Stillwater, a Three Rivers-based band, have voted the musical entourage as the BEST in Kaweah Country. Pictured above, Stillwater (formerly Deja Blue) performs at Kaweah Countrys BEST live music venue, the riverside patio at River View Restaurant and Lounge in Three Rivers. Bands perform live here every Sunday afternoon throughout the summer.
Whos the top draw of the house? Its Shival with their own brand of reggae, mon.
This was a two-horse race as River View bested Gateway by a narrow margin. Brewbakers in Visalia, the only brewpub with a Three Rivers connection, received an honorable mention.
Seven different bartenders in this socially-skilled profession received votes. Greg Mendoza of the Gateway was this years top vote-getter. Dave Hardin and Krista Campbell of the River View finished second and third respectively. Errol at Wuksachi is a favorite with those who party with altitude.
According to voter comments, Kaweah Country beer drinkers like their suds best with food, especially dinner. The top three finishers for best selection were Gateway, River View and Noisy Water Café.
When it comes to fine wine, Gateway has no peer. Owner Glenn McIntyre searches diligently to find the best vintners to bring out all the flavor of his fine dining menu. Wuksachi and Bullene Vineyards serve up the second and third best varietals respectively.
Gateway and River View finished one-two in this the most popular of the blended concoctions. Harley Slate, formerly of Gateway, received a mention as knowing how best to blend one.
Place to shoot pool
River View will win this category unopposed until the Indian reopens to offer some friendly competition.
Place to play video games
The Pizza Factory is currently the only game in town. Will Chumps, scheduled to reopen at the site of the former Loose Change, house an arcade hangout?