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By David Gregory, Megan Malugani, Steve Lange

BEST VETERINARIAN
Laura Toddie of Heritage Pet Hospital (2117 Highway 52 N, 288-2050) was surprised to find she had been voted best veterinarian: she thought her partner at Heritage, Travis Einertson, was more deserving. When told the numbers had been double-checked, she was quick to deflect praise. Toddie says her secret is “my staff. I have an incredible staff. It’s because of them that I shine.”
They treat a variety of animals at Heritage, from the typical domesticated cats and dogs to exotic birds. Toddie says, “I really love treating the exotics—the little birds are probably the toughest, though.” No matter what type of pet Toddie has treated in the six years she has owned Heritage, she says the interesting part is finding a balance interacting with people and animals.
“It’s 50/50,” she says. “The animals can’t talk for us, so it’s important to listen to the owners!”

BEST PLACE TO GET A MASSAGE
You don’t just get a massage at City Looks (Apache Mall, 289-0123). You take a “sensory journey,” according to City Looks manager Jessica Curran. The half dozen or so varieties of massages (from the mini massage to the new Chakra energy balancing massage) and dozen varieties of body treatments (from the Rosemary mint awakening body wrap to the seaweed body wrap) are all based on the Aveda process. You’ll leave feeling rejuvenated, relaxed, and de-stressed (or take your pick of any other state of bliss). “Our main focus is to try to give clients a little something extra and to create an experience for them,” Curran says.

BEST BAR FOR FREE POKER
They have a new name (the former Sand Trap became Billy Mac’s in October of  ‘07) and a new focus (the golf simulators—which manager Brad Peterson described as “black holes for ten months per year”—are gone).
The poker, thankfully, hasn’t changed much since the Sand Trap days. Six times per week, Billy Mac’s (3342 19th St. NW, 536-7768) holds free No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em tourneys with anywhere from 20 to 140 Doyle Brunson wannabes (and a few Phil Hellmuth types thrown in). With a total payout based on $2 per player, the average prizes for a 50-person tourney run in the $70 for first, $30 for second range.
“We’ve really worked on keeping the games moving along,” says Billy Mac’s manager Brad Peterson. “And we typically offer some type of food special during poker tourneys [which currently run Saturdays at 3 p.m.; Sundays at 1, 4, and 7 p.m; and Mondays at 7 and 10 p.m.].”

BEST PLACE TO THROW DARTS
With five dart boards (two downstairs and three upstairs), Kathy’s Pub (307 South Broadway, 252-8355) is a popular spot for everyone from the casual darters to Kathy’s home team (“one of the best dart teams in Minnesota,” according to bar co-owner Matt Teal). While the boards are usually booked solid from 7-10 p.m. during the Tuesday through Thursday leagues (which run from September through March), Teal says the bar gets a steady stream of darters—everyone from the plaster-denters to ‘ton twenty’ throwers. “We’re a friendly, neighborhood bar with a lot of energy,” says Teal. “We’ve got a great location for the two boards right when you walk in, and we’ll be building a new platform for the upstairs boards in the next few months.”

BEST PLACE TO SHOOT POOL
With a new setup (the horseshoe configuration of the bar’s eight pool tables has opened up more shooting space) and less competition (the town’s two true pool halls—37th Street Billiards and TD Billiards are long gone), Billy Mac’s (3342 19th St. NW, 536-7768) has risen to the top of the city’s pool-playing scene. Formerly the Sand Trap, Billy Mac’s (named for owner Billy McBurney) uses the standard D&R Star-supplied tables—top-of-the-line Valleys that get recovered and reconditioned twice a year and run $1.50 per game or $10 per hour. “On Friday and Saturday nights, the tables fill up by 9,” says Billy Mac’s manager Brad Peterson. “Sometimes you have to play your way on during the weekends.” Don’t expect to get on a table between 7 and 10 p.m. on league nights (Tuesday through Thursdays from September through April), but if you want a close-up view of masse and jumps and three-rail banks, check out the Men’s Wednesday Night League—Master’s Division—at places like Shar’s, the North Star, and Billy Mac’s. Here, 8-ball breaks and table runs are commonplace. The Masters in the Women’s League play on Thursday nights (many husband and wife players switch nights of babysitting duties).

BEST JUKEBOX
We’ve told you before it’s the best. Now you’ve told us. Sure, it would be nice if one of the city’s bars sported a classic jukebox—maybe a 1956 Wurlitzer Model 1900 with 50 forty-fives (12 plays for a dollar) in its polished chrome case. But at least O’Neill’s Pizza Pub (1201 South Broadway, 529-1200) still houses one of the last of the classics—the early 1980s AMI-Rowe juke (Model R86). With its orange blinking lights and 100 forty-fives, O’Neills jukebox features everything from UB40 (“Red Red Wine”) to Gladys Knight and the Pips (“Midnight Train to Georgia”) to Hank Williams (one of the all-time best ‘A’ and ‘B’ sides of “Hey, Good Lookin’”/“Your Cheatin’ Heart”). Where else can you hear “Theme of the Pink Panther” by Henry Mancini? And here’s the clincher: it’s 12 plays for a dollar.

BEST BAR FOR LIVE MUSIC
Mix a full bar, a variety of entertainment and some blues, rock and jazz—you’ll get Whiskey Bone’s Roadhouse, (3820 N. Broadway, 287-8017) the bar our readers voted best for live music. A stomping ground for many up-and-coming local bands as well as national acts, Whiskey Bone’s covers different genres of music based on the night of the week, from rock to R&B to (no kidding) polka.
Open until 2 a.m. every night, the bar has live entertainment on Friday and Saturday. It knows how to keep the noise cranked, too: it has been subject to complaints from the neighbors for being loud late into the night. Still, if you want to hear some of the best southern rock and blues in the city, Whiskey Bone’s is it.

BEST DAY TRIP (MORE THAN ONE HOUR)
We’ve made our pitch for the Dells before. Now you’ve chosen it as the best day trip more than an hour away.
Here’s our standard spiel.
It all started, innocently enough, about 15,000 years ago, when glacial meltwater carved into the area’s soft sandstone and left behind deep caverns and towering cliffs. (Dells is from the French word ‘dalles,’ which means “slab-like rock.”) In the mid-1800s, the area’s first tourist guide, river pilot Leroy Gates, began rowboat tours of the unique views of the Wisconsin River. Today, the Wisconsin Dells have become a year-round mix of natural beauty and crass commercialism. The Dells is home to 3 million annual visitors, 8,000 hotel rooms (some in waterpark hotels, some not), 90 attractions, and 9,000 seasonal workers (2,500 of them lured from overseas).
Dells kitsch includes all of the basics of roadside tourist trappery. Like The Wonder Spot (“where gravity has gone awry”), Robot World (“see the Russian space station Mir”), Wax World of the Stars (“see a wax likeness of Bill Cosby!”). The list goes on and on. But you get the picture. And, if you don’t, here’s one more example. The Dells has something called Dick Clark’s Ultimate Rush, which is some sort of bungee jumping device.
One more fact: Area shops sell two tons of fudge. Per day. And maybe that, after all, is all you really need to know.

BEST DAY TRIP (LESS THAN ONE HOUR)
Tucked away in the sinewy hills of Fillmore County, Lanesboro is the kind of place you don’t find unless you go looking for it. For those who do, a bevy of Amish culture, art and activities awaits. A mere 45 minutes away from Rochester, Lanesboro sits beside the Root River, which sweeps parallel along much of the town’s famous downtown.
The town has an organic feel, with a main street that seems to have been there as long as the river. It won the Great American Main Street Award from the National Trust in 1998 and still maintains a mixture of arts and crafts, restaurants and parks.
Downtown serves as a launching pad for most of Lanesboro’s varied activities. Interested in the Amish? Lanesboro provides close access to many Amish farms, including guided tours available to those wondering about life without electricity. Want to get away from the big city but still prefer a car to a buggy? The Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center is located about five miles northwest of Lanesboro, and offers overnight outdoor getaways (just don’t fall in a sinkhole—Fillmore County calls itself “The Sink Hole Capital of the U.S.A.”). Looking for art outside of the ordinary? Several galleries dot the main drag, featuring artists from Lanesboro and the surrounding area. The Commonweal Theatre Company also performs from April through December in an intimate, old-time venue.
A tantalizing lineup, but incomplete without the real attraction: the Root River itself. One of the best inner-tubing locations in the state, the river’s coil around Lanesboro is trimmed with a moderate current and scenic vistas on all sides. Local businesses have tubes and canoes for rent to lure the unprepared. And speaking of lures, the fishing is renowned. The trout bite, with the added bonus of casting in a landscape that looks straight out of A River Runs Through It. And if going in the water’s not your thing, the Root River Trail runs paved alongside the river and its bluffs for 60 miles.
After a day on or near the Root, visitors can enjoy tours, either horse-drawn or by trolley (make sure to call and make reservations first). Though there are a number of places to picnic—check out the waterfall on the edge of the commercial end of town—a variety of restaurants are located downtown for those with curious tastebuds.
There’s also a number of quaint bed-and-breakfasts for those who want to enjoy more than a day in Lanesboro. Prices range seasonly from as little as $60 to as much as $300 a night. Despite its proximity to the Med City, many find themselves wanting to stay the night, and the day after, and the day after that. And therein lies the catch: the only concern about finding a place like Lanesboro is being tempted to find it again and again.
For info, call 800-944-2670 or check out www.lanesboro.com.

BEST LOCAL BAND
In only two years together as a band, Ten Cent Biscuit (tencentbiscuit.com) has ascended to become your favorite local music group. A self-described energetic fusion of covers and original material, the country quintet plays across Southern Minnesota, including in the Med City. They took the stage at Down by the Riverside last year, opening for Nashville artist Jason Michael Carroll, and play frequently at the winner for best bar for live music, Whiskey Bone’s.
Bass player and songwriter Mike Archer attributes the band’s success to hard work and a blending of several different southern and country styles. “We bring our own niche to country music. We bring our own brand to whatever we play,” says Archer. “To be successful, you’ve gotta be willing to work hard. In my view as a band leader, if you’re not willing to work hard, you’re not going to be around long.”

BEST BUSINESS WAITING AREA
It’s never fun to sit in a waiting room when sick, but if it has to happen, the Mayo Clinic’s Gonda Landow Atrium waiting area is a pleasant option. The area—which connects the Mayo and Gonda buildings—comes complete with a spacious, three-floor lobby, more appropriate for an art museum than a doctor’s office (the marble comes from six different countries). And there is art: A 28-foot, three-ton bronze statue of the human form, entitled “Man and Freedom” by famed sculptor Ivan Mestrovic, spreads across the far wall, lit by full-length windows (with 150 glass panels) that cover 8,000 square feet and span the exterior of the lobby with a view of the terraced gardens and the Plummer Building.
For the musically inclined, there is also a piano to accompany the wait (one of our favorite local personalities, Jane Belau, plays the grand piano from 10 a.m. to noon most Mondays and Thursdays—feel free to make requests and sing along), as well as several shops within walking distance in the tunnels connecting downtown. Look closely enough and there might be an issue of Rochester Magazine to read, too.

BEST MECHANIC SHOP
Cars have changed a lot since 1952. Treating people right hasn’t. That’s the secret of Virgil’s Auto Clinic and Towing (1101 Second St. SW, 288-3600), according to mechanic Bruce Nelson. On the corner of 11th Avenue and Second Street SW since its inception, the shop prides itself on “telling it like it is,” which results in many regular customers. Nelson estimates the shop works on 40-45 cars a day in its nine service bays.
Business also comes from glowing referrals and a willingness to put the customer service above basic car care, something Nelson believes helps in an industry that doesn’t always have a reputation of honesty. He says, “You’re still dealing with people, and peoples’ problems. You want to be a solution to the peoples’ problems, not another problem to deal with.” And they know a few things about cars, too.

BEST PLACE FOR KARAOKE
One of the joys of friendship is being able to embarrass yourself and others without consequence. The Viking Lounge (1630 S. Broadway, 288-1844) karaoke nights are apparently a very good place to do it. According to bartender Tim Lipsky, the Lounge gets about 20-30 participants every karaoke night (Wednesdays through Saturdays from 9 p.m. to close), with lots of country music on the docket.
And yes, it’s the bad singers that make it special. “We get about five bad singers for every good one,” says Lipsky. “A lot of the fun comes from the bad singers, but when there’s a good singer singing, it makes it even better.”
Lipsky says the fun is in getting to embarrass yourself with a crowd of people about to do likewise. So go ahead, belt out that key change in “I Will Always Love You” like no one’s listening.

BEST PLACE FOR A KIDS BIRTHDAY PARTY
A crowd of hungry, rambunctious kids in need of entertainment invading your quiet, clean home? Or, the same crowd of hungry, rambunctious kids eating pizza, playing arcade games, and chasing each other through a climber at Leo’s Pizza Palace (2280 Superior Dr. NW, 424-3711)? You and your birthday kid will agree: Leo’s is a no-brainer. Big kids will love redeeming the tickets they win playing the Skee Ball and squirt-the-target games for prizes, while smaller partiers will enjoy the plucky mascot Leo, who comes out in the evenings to high-five his fans, perform the chicken dance, and pose for pictures. Note to birthday party planners: It’s BYOC (bring your own cake).

BEST PLACE TO HOLD A WEDDING
The best place to say “I do” in town is the Plummer House, (1091 Plummer Lane SW, 328-2525), a 49-room English Tudor Mansion that was built by Dr. Henry S. Plummer and his wife Daisy between 1917 and 1924. Now the location of approximately 60 weddings and receptions per year, the Plummer House appeals to contemporary brides and grooms for its “uniqueness, history, and intimacy,” says Kelly Evans, an office coordinator for the Rochester Park & Recreation Department, which now maintains the house and surrounding gardens. In the summer, the beautifully manicured garden area “is what every bride hopes to be able to be married in,” Evans says. In the colder months, “people love that they’re at a big mansion-type house.” The house boasts a usable fireplace, baby grand piano, and winding staircase, perfect for a bride’s grand entrance.

BEST PLACE FOR A REHEARSAL DINNER
It’s the evening before your wedding and you’ve got a lot on your mind. (Where are those darn wedding rings, anyway?) But if you’re holding your rehearsal dinner at the Rochester Golf & Country Club (3100 Country Club Road SW, 282-2708), you’ll have one less thing to worry about. It’s a slam-dunk that your family and wedding party will enjoy themselves (even if you’re a little stressed yourself) from the moment they drive down the gorgeous tree-lined drive to enter the club until they have their coats handed to them on their way out. “The level of personalized service we deliver to clients is a hallmark of our club,” says general manager Eric Dietz, who notes that the club’s executive chef, David Tater, can customize a menu that will suit even the pickiest bride and groom. And you do not have to be a member of the club to hold a rehearsal dinner—or any event—there. “It’s a welcome atmosphere, not a place where there’s any pretense,” Dietz says.

BEST PLACE TO MEET SINGLE MEN
We all knew that dog parks are a good place for girl dogs to size up boy dogs (and vice versa). Apparently, though, dog parks are also a great place for human females to size up the males of their own species. Rochester’s dog parks (one is located at Pinewood Road Southeast, north of Pinewood Elementary School; another is located on the west side of West Circle Drive at Members Parkway) are mostly wholesome, G-rated places frequented (in theory) by kind, gentle, animal-lovers and their pets. (See Fido. See Fluffy. See Fido and Fluffy romp contentedly as their proud people strike up dog-centric conversation.) But it’s the smattering of X-rated moments (Whoa! Fido and Fluffy do the bump-n-grind!) that reveal the true character (strength, affability, sense of humor) of dog owners. And how better to size up a potential mate (and get a glimpse of his parenting potential) than to see him deal with a frisky canine or two?

BEST PLACE TO MEET SINGLE WOMEN
Rochester Magazine readers voted Rookies Sports Grill & Bar (1517 16th St. SW, 252-5161) the best place to meet single women, and Rookies owner Scott Schneider knows why: “It must be our Wednesday Ladies Night.” Ladies Night is popular year-round, Schneider says, but especially during the summer months (“the college students are home”), when 500 to 600 women (and men) pack the place for inside fun (on the dance floor) and outside fun (at the cabana bar and on a volleyball court). Megan Kennedy from KROC 106.9 hosts the Ladies Nights, and women can drink “just about anything in the house” for $1.06 on those nights. Rookies owner Schneider can himself attest that his bar is a great place to meet women: He met his wife there eight years ago, when her softball team stopped at the bar after a game.

BEST PLACE TO GET A MANICURE/PEDICURE
Want a treat for your feet or a vacation for your hands?  Head to City Looks (Apache Mall, 289-0123) for a manicure or pedicure. There’s a lot more to it than just slapping on some nail polish. Here’s a partial description of a “spa pedicure” on the City Looks website: “In complete comfort you will soak your tired feet in a whirlpool tub with massaging jets while our massaging chair vibrates along your back. After you’ve enjoyed soaking, one of our nail technicians will trim and shape your toe nails and treat your cuticles as needed ... your feet are then completely relaxed by a soothing foot and lower leg massage...” Not surprisingly, the popularity of the manis and pedis is immense, and the reason is simple, according to City Looks manager Jessica Curran: “Everybody loves to be pampered.”

BEST LOCAL AM PERSONALITY
Tracy McCray’s colleagues call her spunky. Sassy. Full of moxie. They also say she’s fair. Rochester radio listeners must like those traits in a radio show host, since they voted McCray best local AM radio personality. The Tracy McCray Show—which airs each weekday from 9:30 to 11 a.m. on News Talk 1340 KROC AM and features an array of regular guests, from the mayor to the “Legal Eagle”—is as popular for McCray’s likable personality as for the content of her show, which is “local, local, local,” she says. According to McCray, radio listeners like to hear from “someone who actually lives in the area code and can talk about that corner of Broadway that drives you nuts. That’s what we’ve got going for us.” McCray has worked in radio since 1991, and switched over from FM to AM radio in 2000. When she transitioned to AM, she noticed that callers became “much more passionate about their views. The pleasant comments are even more pleasant and the criticisms are much more severe ...you have to have a pretty tough skin.” The thick-skinned mom of a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old, McCray tries to avoid wrapping her entire identity up in her work. Off-air, she loves “being a taxi driver for my family. I try to think that this time will be over before I know it.”

BEST PUBLIC RESTROOM
We’re not sure how many people actually took the time to scope out all the public restrooms in Rochester, but for those who did, Apache Mall’s “Family Restrooms” flushed away the competition. The biggest shopping complex in the area, Apache Mall services about 12 million customers a year, many of whom are families with kids in tow.
Located off the mall’s Food Court, the two Family Restrooms are spacious enough for the whole clan. The bathrooms include an adult-sized toilet, child-sized toilet and a small booster seat where toddlers can wait for everyone else to finish their business. Outside the restrooms is a diaper-changing counter, lounge, and two rooms for nursing mothers. Comfortable chairs included.
“Our secret is between our housekeeping and our public safety officers,” says Apache Mall general manager Kim Bradley. “We really try hard to make sure they [the restrooms] are checked every 30 minutes. When you have the amount of people we do go through, about 12 million every year, it’s very important. There’s a slogan our company has: clean safe secure operating standards. We try to do our best to maintain those standards.”

BEST PLACE TO PEOPLE WATCH
Guess which of the following wasn’t spotted at the
Apache Mall on a recent Saturday morning?
A) a toddler pushing a bag of popcorn in a stroller
B) a middle-aged guy with a Mohawk
C) a family that appeared to include seven kids
D) two varieties of blue hair (on a hipster and a senior)
(Answer: B. The guy couldn’t have been more than 35. Note: The people listed were spotted in or near our favorite Apache Mall vantage points: the food court and the kiddie play area.

BEST LOCALLY GENERATED WEBSITE
If you’ve looked at RochesterFamilies.com for something family-related in Rochester, and still can’t find anything to do, we can’t help you. The winner for the best locally generated website is a self-described clearinghouse for all things family. With a list of classes, things to do, special resources and even parties, RochesterFamilies.com covers the bases for families of all shapes and sizes.
“We average around 4,000 visitors every month,” says site founder Lindy Lange [Full disclosure: Lindy is the wife of Rochester Magazine Editor Steve Lange]. “In addition to the website, we have an online weekly newsletter. It highlights everything that’s going on that weekend and into the following week.”
Lange says she started the site to ensure families could always find something to do in the Med City. Now, there are over 1,000 subscribers to the newsletter. We know you’re reading it, so no excuses ... go on, get out there.

BEST LOCAL FM PERSONALITY
Every weekday, Alan Reed’s alarm goes off at 2:45 (a.m.!) and he leaves his Plainview home by 3:30 in order to arrive at his job at Quick Country 96.5 KWWK well before the 5 a.m. start of his Alan Reed & the Quick Country Morning Show. Then, from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m., Reed is on air, with a vigor and enthusiasm that doesn’t seem possible when the sun hasn’t yet risen. Reed can’t imagine doing anything else. “I like getting paid to goof off for a living,” says Reed, whose time on-air is spent chatting with co-host Mary McPhee (“it’s like people are eavesdropping on the fun we have every day”), interacting with listeners (“we love when they take the time to call us and say ‘hi’”), facilitating listener-friendly activities like the Game of the Day (Tuesday’s ‘Battle of the Sexes’ is popular), and playing country tunes, from Brooks & Dunn to Alan Jackson to Reba. Reed started out in radio more than 30 years ago, and has worked at “pretty much every radio station in town except the Christian one and NPR.” He’s been at Quick Country since April Fools day, 2005. “I’m the April Fools joke that just keeps joking,” Reed says.

BEST FM RADIO STATION
In Rochester, country is king. It makes sense, then, that Quick Country 96.5 ruled the voting for best FM radio station. Playing the biggest country stars of today, the station is also the employer of the best local FM radio personality, Alan Reed, and a member of the best local band, Ten Cent Biscuit’s Jas Caffrey.
Operations Manager Brent Ackerman attributes the station’s success to a mix of good music and good personalities. “It’s a little bit of everything—the great music, the talent we have on the air,” says Ackerman. “It starts with our morning show and it works its way right through Julie Jones and Jas Caffrey.”

BEST AM RADIO STATION
On the air since 1935, KROC-AM 1340 serves as a quintessential example of what modern AM radio provides: news, news, news. From happenings around the Med City to Twins baseball and Gopher sports, the station strives to keep Rochester informed on, well, everything. That lineup includes the best local AM radio personality as voted by readers, Tracy McCray.
Brent Ackerman, the operations manager for Cumulus Radio, which owns KROC, says, “Our whole objective is to serve the community with local news, local talk and the best syndicated shows. Our demographic certainly is adults over the age of 35, but it’s anybody with an interest in local news ... We try to create a station that is listenable, top to bottom.”
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