Best of White Bear Lake 2017

A star-spangled salute to the Readers’ Choice Best of White Bear Lake 2017.

Light the sparklers, cue the orchestra and prep the parade, it’s time for our fifth annual Best of White Bear Lake!

In our biggest response yet—and with a slight change in the voting process—you chose your favorite people, places and things in our fabulous neck of the woods.
From the best specialty food store, The Meet Market (where after procuring a delicious sandwich for a quick lunch, you can also pick up fabulous food for dinner…or the perfect picnic, perhaps?) to best apparel boutique, Goodthings/GoodStyle (how about some snazzy red, white or blue pieces), to best hairstylist, florist, chiropractic clinic and more, meet your winners and finalists in the Best of White Bear Lake 2017.

Editor Nancy Eike, with her curated picks, also shines the light on a few fabulous people and organizations who deserve a little bit of love.

So, don your red, white and blue, pack yourself a picnic, practice your oohs and aahs, and listen closely…you can almost hear John Philip Sousa’s stirring rendition of Stars and Stripes.

FOOD & RESTAURANTS

Best Breakfast
Keys Café & Bakery

Imagine delicious omelets with your choice of fillings, hearty hash, light and fluffy pancakes (with strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream for some Fourth of July festive fare, perhaps?), cinnamon French toast or sky-high Belgian waffles, and you’ve only imagined some of the breakfast options at Keys Café &  Bakery. Owner Celine Carlson, who loves providing fresh, high-quality food, also really loves the work she does. “Geez, every day I have many opportunities to make a positive difference in the lives of my employees and customers,” she says. “I’m blessed daily by their impact on me as well.”
Runners-up: Cobblestone Café, Washington Square Bar & Grill

Best Patio Dining
Rudy’s Redeye Grill

With superb craft cocktails—including the ever-popular Rudytini—delicious food and friendly staff, Rudy’s Redeye Grill is your top pick for patio dining. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention this patio paradise with a bird’s-eye view includes a fireplace, couch seating, dining tables and a full bar, which only add to the overall out-of-the-box experience. “We are unique because we are not the norm patio—we are on the rooftop,” says owner Bill Foussard. “When you get out on the rooftop, you feel like you are in the Caribbean.”
Runners-up: Washington Square Bar & Grill, Acqua

Best Tavern/Bar
Washington Square Bar & Grill

If ice-cold tap beer is what you’re looking for, look no further than Washington Square Bar & Grill. At any given time, you’ll find 20 beers on tap, including a nitro tap, a cider tap and a long list of lagers, IPAs, stouts and ales. And with great foods on which to nosh, a welcoming patio and friendly staff, it’s little wonder Washington Square is once again your top pick for best tavern/bar. “I believe the staff at The Square exhibits a passion for what they do, and they aim for every single customer to leave happy,” says manager Susie Bishop. “Everyone knows everyone here; but so many strong friendships have been made over the years because we truly care about our customers. The term ‘regular’ here pretty much applies to 75 percent of our clientele.”
Runners-up: Big Wood Brewery, Rudy’s Redeye Grill

Best Restaurant
Acqua

Since Acqua’s doors opened in 2009, it has become known for its delicious Italian dishes, impeccable service and cozy seating with delightful lakeside views. And folks have been known to happily wait for extended periods of time to get the much sought-after tables, located just steps away from the lake. Romantic dinner date, a family get-together, girls’ night out; whatever the occasion, Acqua is the go-to place for upscale dining in White Bear Lake.
Runners-up: Washington Square, Rudy’s Redeye Grill

Editor's Pick:Best Welcome
[email protected] and 5th

If you’re old enough to remember the television show Cheers, where the theme lyrics included the words, “Where everybody knows your name,” you have a taste of what it’s like when you walk into EAT! Shawn Smith, who owns the eatery with his wife, Barbara, makes everyone feel like family, with warm greetings, lively banter and the feeling he truly cares for his customers who walk through the door. And their food is fresh, made in-house and delish!

HEALTH & WELLNESS

Best Orthodontic Clinic
Signature Orthodontics

As an orthodontist and a medical doctor, Dr. Wendy Sydlewski is uniquely qualified to treat the whole gamut of orthodontic issues, from straightforward to the most complex. And she and her talented staff love providing this quality orthodontic care, which creates dazzling smiles, in White Bear Lake. “We love the small town feel, and White Bear Lake is filled with warm, friendly families,” she says. “We love that we are able to be involved in many youth activities and youth sports, and are able to volunteer and work with many of the surrounding schools.”
Runners-up: Dr. Kent C. Gulden, Orthodontic Care Specialists

Best Fitness/Yoga Studio
White Bear Area YMCA

With more than 100 group classes every week, from swimming to line dancing to Body Pump, Zumba and more, the White Bear Area YMCA is a fitness force with which to be reckoned. “Regardless of age or ability, the Y truly offers something for everyone,” says executive director Shane Hoefer. “Whether you are a swimmer, or prefer the fitness center and group exercise classes, our highly-trained, friendly and passionate team will support you in reaching your healthy living goals.”
Runners-up: Life Time Athletic, LifeCore Yoga

Best Chiropractic Clinic
The Carlson Clinic of White Bear Lake

Whether you have an aching back from an auto accident, are looking for a healthy golf swing, or something in between, The Carlson Clinic of White Bear Lake will have you feeling fit as a fiddle and playing your best game in no time. And with a decidedly philanthropic bent, it’s little wonder Drs. Carlson, Stodola and Green are your top picks for all things chiropractic.
Runners-up: HealthSource of White Bear Lake, Wildwood Chiropractic Center

Best Pediatric Clinic
HealthPartners White Bear Lake Clinic

From tiny boo-boos to serious illnesses, the top-notch pediatricians at HealthPartners are there to make your littles feel healthy and happy.
Runners-up: Children’s Hugo Clinic, Entira Family Clinics – White Bear Lake

Best Eye Clinic
White Bear Eye Clinic & Optical

Since 1963, White Bear Eye Clinic & Optical has been helping its patients see more clearly. “We offer small-town customer service with big city technology,” says Dr. David Perry, who has owned the clinic for almost 10 years. In addition to a wide selection of high-quality lenses and frames, the clinic also offers in-depth testing to diagnose and treat many eye diseases and conditions. 
Runners-up: Associated Eye Care, Birch Lake Eye Clinic

Best Dental Clinic
White Bear Lake Dental

“I love the relationships that I have built with my patients; it’s like they are an extended family to me,” says Joy M. Johnson D.D.S., owner of White Bear Lake Dental. In addition to offering top-notch general dentistry for patients young and old, White Bear Lake Dental also offers same-day crowns and All-on-4 dental implants. 
Runners-up: Lakeshore Family Dentistry, Sarah Boo D.D.S. Dental Center

Best Dermatology Clinic
Advanced Dermatology Care

Striving to give patients excellence in medical, surgical or cosmetic needs, Dr. O.J. and Dr. Ruth Rustad use the latest therapies and treatments in performing thousands of skin cancer exams, Mohs surgeries, cosmetic Botox injections and skin rejuvenation.
Runner-up: Dermatology Consultants

Best Medspa
Sunbear Salon & Medspa

Fireworks won’t be the only thing dazzling your friends and family this month. A visit to Sunbear Salon & Medspa will get you looking and feeling your best. “We’re very busy with our Botox and juvederm, a cosmetic filler to soften deep folds,” says general manager Debbie Swenson. The staff “is so great,” she adds. “They’re always taking training classes to keep up with the latest techniques.”
Runners-up: LifeSpa at Lifetime Athletic, Contour Clinic

Editor's Pick:Best Friends of Seniors
Bear Boating

Taking a boat ride or fishing excursion on White Bear Lake is one of the highlights of any summer day. And Bear Boating, a nonprofit organization that offers free boating and fishing excursions for seniors, active duty military, veterans and the disabled members in our community, aims to give that highlight to all.
 
We chatted with Peg Black, who is the director of community development at Cerenity Senior Care and also sits on the board of directors for Bear Boating, about this fabulous group and how folks can help.

1. How many seniors do you take out per summer? Last season, we offered over 100 boating excursions to more than 1,000 people.

2. How many volunteers are involved? We currently have about 80 volunteers, because we often provide three trips of passengers each day, Monday through Friday, mid-June through September.
Each outing has three trained volunteers: a boat captain and two mates. They escort each person onto and off the pontoon from our boat landing area, next to the VFW at the city dock.

3. How do you raise funds for your program?  We hold an annual fund raising event, Bear Boating FUN-draiser and Dance.

4. How can folks help? Donations are always gladly accepted and help pay for our pontoon boat, motor and trailer, insurance, gasoline for the motor, fishing poles, bait, life jackets, shirts and hats for the volunteers, and a bit of advertising and website costs.

HOMES

Best Builder
Pratt Homes

Brothers Len and Lowell Pratt know about creating a legacy. Since 1973, Pratt Homes has been building quality homes for White Bear Lake residents and the surrounding communities. “It’s our 44th year of serving the White Bear Lake area, where quality finds a home,” says co-owner Len Pratt. “The thing that means the most to me is how endearing our customers have been; many of them have come back to us a second and third time.”
Runners-up: Bald Eagle Construction, Cox Contracting

Best Remodeler
Bald Eagle Construction

When it comes to home remodeling projects, White Bear Lake residents fly their flag high for Bald Eagle Construction. Owner Ryan Schuette has been in the business since 1996 and is up for your remodeling request, no matter the challenge. He’ll warm things up by installing Jacuzzis, steam rooms or heated floors in bathrooms; brighten your home with skylights and solar tubes; and of course, sleek granite and quartz countertops round out popular kitchen remodel requests.
Runners-up: Pratt Homes, Cox Contracting

Best Interior Designer
Abbott Paint & Carpet

There’s a reason Abbott Paint & Carpet has been a lasting name in the home improvement business for more than 70 years. Using perfectly selected paints, wallpaper and window treatments, they can turn a drab home into a dream home. What sets them apart from the box stores is “definitely our customer service,” says store manager Barry Peterson. ”We take the time to go through everything with our customers and make sure they leave with a good experience.” It’s their quality products and expertise that will ensure your home improvement project is nothing less than, well, revolutionary.
Runners-up: Christina Lynn Interiors, Deb Walczak at Nesting Inc.

Best Landscape Designer
Letourneau Landscaping

There’s no better way to appreciate the Land of the Free than by beautifying your own. Letourneau Landscaping will show your lawn some love by planting trees, shrubs and perennials, creating natural stone retaining walls or a garden bed, installing a patio, or if you like, tranquil water falls, ponds and rain gardens. “The creation is what we love best,” say owners Mark and Barbara Letourneau, who have been in the landscape business since 1989.
Runner-up: Landscape Design Studio

Best Senior Living Residence
Waverly Gardens, North Oaks

With rose gardens and beautiful pristine fountains, a regal, manicured courtyard, and nearby grassy fields around Wilkinson Lake, a tour of Waverly Gardens will leave you with a majestic view. And with Senior Apartments, Assisted Living, Memory Care and a Care Center, and dozens of community features, the senior living residence can fit any family member’s needs. “Everything is pleasant and lovely, but the most important thing is the staff and the residents, that's what I love the most,” says resident Julia Christensen. Of course, the charming English estate-like surroundings aren’t too bad either.
Runners-up: St. Andrew’s Village, Cerenity Senior Care

KIDS, FAMILIES & PETS

Best Preschool/Childcare
St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church Preschool

Parents couldn’t be happier with this community preschool that incorporates curriculum and activities that greatly enrich their child’s most formative years. Caring teachers developing lesson plans in creative arts, science and sensory learning, and plenty of large-motor movement during daily indoor and outdoor activities, will leave your preschooler hitting the pillow with a good night’s sleep.
Runners-up: Frassati Catholic Academy, Lake Area Discovery Center

Best Doggy Daycare/Kennel
Birch Lake Animal Hospital

Even though this welcoming veterinary clinic doesn’t offer doggy daycare, they do offer boarding—and their anthem is about treating your furry family member to a fantastic stay while you’re away. “We’re not as large as some of the other boarding places around, but we think that is a benefit,” says owner and veterinarian Dr. David Howe, who adds that the smaller number of pet guests allows for greater, more individualized care. So, pack your bags, and rest easy knowing your pup will be pampered and protected.
Runners-up: Goldwood Kennels, Oneka Pet Resort

Best Veterinary Clinic
White Bear Animal Hospital

Dr. Stuart B. Dalton and his veterinarian associates share quite a few things in common with their love for nature, animals, medicine and helping families and their four-legged members in the White Bear community. With combined experience in preventative medicine, pain management, vaccinations, surgery, dentistry and ultrasound diagnostics, you can be sure your dog, cat, birds, ferrets, rabbits or rodents will receive the quality treatment they need. "My favorite aspects of my job are building long-term relationships with my patients, clients, and fellow team members, formulating detailed diagnostic and treatment plans for my patients, and looking for ways to continually improve our level of service," says Dr. Dalton.
Runners-up: Birch Lake Animal Hospital, Lake Animal Hospital

Best Learning/Tutoring Center
Mathnasium

At White Bear Lake’s math-only learning center, “the most rewarding moment for our Mathnasium instructors is when a student unravels and solves a non-routine problem,” director Peter Atakpu says. “This is an aha! moment for the student, as well as for the instructor.” The global franchise of over 700 locations continues to help students over the math hurdle and onto much needed recreation.
Runners-up: Tutor Time, LearningRx

Best Place for Kids’ Activities
Tamarack Nature Center

Tamarack Nature Center is a place where young ones can assert their independence by learning and playing all year round. The center offers activities like apple cider-making in the fall, snowshoeing in winter, maple syrup and sap collecting in the spring, and summer adventures in cliff climbing, gardening and fort-making.  The Ramsey County facility is open to all ages. “We have a great opportunity here because kids can start coming in preschool, then summer camp, and then they can become volunteers and eventually become paid staff—and we’ve had kids go through the entire cycle,” says director Marcie Oltman.
Runners-up: White Bear Area YMCA, The Wishing Tree Play Café

Editor's Pick: Best Doggie Devotees
Indulge

Besides offering top-notch hair, makeup and spa services, it appears Indulge in White Bear Lake also does a lot for local pups. A note from Mike Brooks alerted me to the fact that Kim Schoonover and her staff really, really love dogs, so we thought we’d give them a little love.

“The salon keeps a large glass container with dog biscuits locally baked by Grandma’s Bakery one street over on Fourth; obviously, McGee [Mike’s dog] is not the only dog that has learned to stop in front of Indulge,” says Brooks. “For the past two Christmas seasons, the folks at Indulge have hung small Christmas stockings filled with treats for a handful of dogs, which they have come to know well.”

So, our hats are off to Kim and her staff at Indulge for their dedication to our canine companions. And to Grandma’s Bakery for baking up such delicious pet-friendly treats. And thanks to Mike for alerting me to the good deeds.

SERVICES

Best Hairstylist
Samantha Fritze // Sunbear Salon & MedSpa

Stylist Samantha Fritze has been at Sunbear Salon for more than eight years. “It’s such an awesome place to work,” the stylist says. Her winsome personality and skill with shears will keep you as a returning visitor to her chair. Fritze takes all kinds of hair requests, but does specialize “in short hair and men’s hair,” she says. One thing is certain, whether you’re sporting luxurious waves or a cropped look, visiting Fritze will make your look great.
Runners-up: Danica Duran: Revive Salon, Kylie Reibel: Indulge

Best Salon/Spa
Sunbear Salon & Medspa

In the spirit of celebrations this month, treat yourself to a day of pampering at Sunbear Salon & Medspa. “Our Blissful Spa Day features a 60 minute signature Red Flower Body Ritual or massage,” says general manager Debbie Swenson. “It also includes an organic facial, shampoo and style, an hour manicure and pedicure, a makeup touch-up, with a light lunch and drink.” Cheers to that.
Runners-up: Indulge, beKIND Salon & Spa

Best Insurance Agent
Jan Johnson // State Farm Insurance

Dedicated, personable and insurance-savvy, Johnson is also a huge champion of the White Bear Lake community. “Being able to sit and work face-to-face with my policy holders, uncovering their needs and finding out how we can assist them is rewarding,” the State Farm agent says. “It is a joy, and I am fortunate to be here in this community.”
Runners-up: Chris Ahles: State Farm Insurance, Will Anderson: American Family Insurance

Best Law Firm
Sheila J. Kelly Law Firm

A White Bear Lake native, Kelly specializes in estate planning, elder law and estate administration. With her careful guidance, this compassionate and caring lawyer will make the task of managing wills, trusts, powers of attorney and beneficiary designations considerably less daunting. Now that’s something you can put your John Hancock on.
Runners-up: Galena Law Firm, GDO Firm

Editor's Pick: Best Go-Getter
Ling Becker, Vadnais Heights Economic Development Corporation 

There’s a saying that if you want to get something done, give it to a busy person. And as a very busy person, that definitely holds true for Ling Becker, executive director of the Vadnais Heights Economic Development Corporation. A tornado of energy, Becker’s schedule is packed, running from one meeting to the next, but when I asked her to be on my editorial advisory board (EAB) for White Bear Lake Magazine, she didn’t hesitate. She’s always offering story ideas, giving me updates/heads-up on Vadnais Heights businesses, providing feedback on the magazine, etc. And she has volunteered to take on the task of finding the venue and food for our meetings. She is a wonderful asset to the VHEDC, the community, our magazine and EAB, and I’m ever so grateful.

SHOPS & RETAIL
 
Best Apparel Boutique
Goodthings/Goodstyle

Holy stars and stripes. Or should we say plaid, calico and cashmere? The stylish associates at GoodStyle, one of Goodthings’ shops, know a thing or two about dressing you tastefully with the latest trends in women’s clothing and accessories. “The Karen Kane, the Liverpool, Parker Smith, those designers are all great,” store associate Kari Knapp says. “You can leave here wearing a full outfit and not see it down the street.”
Runners-up: Primp, Mainstream Boutique

Best Florist
White Bear Floral Shop and Greenhouse

If your perennials are looking more faded glory than bright and shiny, stop into White Bear Floral Shop and Greenhouse for a bouquet bursting with color. Try a ruby-red vase overflowing with miniature red carnations and white daisy chrysanthemums in “Red and White Delight,” or “Beautiful in Blue,” full of blue hydrangea, white lilies, chrysanthemums and eucalyptus in a stunning blue vase.
Runners-up: Lakeside Floral, Willernie; Kowalski’s Market

Best Specialty Foods Store
Meet Market

You’ll be the hit of any Fourth of July picnic if you pack selections from White Bear Lake’s specialty sandwich shop. Since opening in 2014, “we’ve been doing phenomenal,” store manager Schalana Gajeski says. Whether your sandwich preference is hot or cold, they’ve got you covered with both. Try the poutine burger, a 5-oz. hand-patted all beef dandy, topped with pulled pork, homemade onion-bacon gravy, cheese curds and French fries. “It’s definitely a need-to-go-to-the-gym-the-next-day burger,” says Gajeski with a laugh. But, hey, sounds absolutely worth it.
Runners-up: The Olive Branch Oil & Spice Company, Uptown Girl Cupcakes & Dessert

Best Gift Shop
Goodthings

A staple in White Bear Lake for 44 years, your eyes will light up at the one-of-a-kind gifts at Goodthings. The gift shop sells everything from lanterns, candles, kitchen and barware to pancake mixes, maple syrups and jams. Store manager Nancy Mason loves the Faribault Woolen Mill blankets they carry, still produced from the mill with roots going back to 1865. “They’re machine washable,” she says. “They make a classy gift for a wedding or special occasion, and they last forever.”
Runners-up: The Farmer’s Daughter, Kowalski’s Market

 

*Are you one of this year's winners? Find information on how to order a plaque and other materials HERE.