Best of the Best in St. Louis Park

Meet the winners in our inaugural Best of St. Louis Park competition.
Best Burger - Park Tavern

It’s our pleasure to introduce the finalists in our first-ever “Best of St. Louis Park” readers’ choice poll.  Earlier this year, we asked for your favorites in 30 categories and the time has come to reveal the results—we think you’ll like what you see.  

BEST BAKERY Yum! Kitchen and Bakery
Perhaps it’s the menu updates every four weeks, the fact that everything is made from scratch in-house or just the delicious simplicity of the chocolate Patticake at Yum! Kitchen and Bakery. “We are in the service business, and we want to be sure we take care of people,” says owner Patti Soskin. 4000 Minnetonka Blvd.; 952.922.4000; Runners-up: Byerly’s, Muddy Paws Cheesecake  

A favorite of St. Louis Park for more than a decade, Thanh Do specializes in pan-Asian cuisine. “We have a very positive energy here. We like to make the guests part of our family as well,” says manager Tony Le. In response to customer requests and a demonstration of loyalty to the Park, Thanh Do is pleased to announce they now deliver. 8028 Minnetonka Blvd.; 952.935.5005; Runners-up: Rojo Mexican Grill, Wok in the Park    
At Pei Wei, customer satisfaction is definitely a key ingredient. Pei Wei offers a variety of Asian cuisine options. General manager Tim Johnson believes the menu diversity keeps customers coming back. If cooking seems like too much work, make it a Pei Wei day and bring a flavorful assortment home to your table. 5330 Cedar Lake Rd. S; 952.656.9480; Runners-up: Thanh Do, Wok in the Park  

BEST HAPPY HOUR McCoy’s Public House
Readers have determined that McCoy’s Public House is the best place to grab a pint no matter what time they want to stop in for happy hour. “We know our guests really well. We know 75 to 80 percent of our customers by name,” says general manager John Ryan. Happy hour is from 3- 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, with a late-night happy hour from 10 p.m. - midnight Monday through Thursday; happy hour specials are offered all day Sunday. 3801 Grand Way; 952.224.9494; Runners-up: Bunny’s Bar & Grill, Cooper Irish Pub  

BEST LIVE MUSIC Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill
Who knew there were so many country fans in the Park? Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill two-steps away with this year’s honor for Best Live Music. Assistant manager Jason Sisk says it’s just a great place to sit down, enjoy a meal and hear some tunes. Stay tuned for their summer lineup: Toby Keith himself makes the occasional appearance. 1623 Park Place Blvd.; 763.450.9999; Runners-up: Wolfe Park, Kip’s Pub  

BEST PET GROOMING Bubbly Paws Dog Wash
“Anybody can be a groomer. It’s more how you treat clients,” says Keith Miller, co-owner of Bubbly Paws. In this case, the clients can’t speak for themselves, so being attentive to their needs is essential. Bubbly Paws accepts no more than 10 clients a day to assure great service and special attention for each dog. The owners’ styling requirements for their dogs are taken into account with each grooming session. “If you’re a poodle, you don’t have to look like a poodle,” says Miller. 3730 Grand Way; 952.657.5300; Runners-up: Lulu & Luigi, PetSmart  

Lulu & Luigi is a family-owned business with three Twin Cities locations and everything your pet desires. Fashionable harnesses, leashes and even a doggie bakery are available to keep your pampered pooch smiling. According to Liz Sand, director of marketing and former owner, the comfort, safety and well-being of the pet are top priorities. Lulu & Luigi, always health-conscious, also carries natural and holistic dog food and products. Sand says items that are “functional as well as fashionable” are what keep pets and owners satisfied. 3699 Joppa Ave. S.; 952.929.1200; Runners-up: PetSmart, Bubbly Paws 

With design experts who specialize in analyzing your existing home to help determine design solutions, Sicora Design Build has the creativity to make your dreams a reality. The process at Sicora is all-inclusive from design to project completion. 5016 W. Lake St.; 952.929.0098; Runners-up: Choice Wood Company, Kuhl Design Build

BEST CLINIC Park Nicollet 
The Park Nicollet Clinic in St. Louis Park believes outstanding health care happens when the science of medicine is merged with compassion. This initiative is called “Head + Heart, Together,” which Park Nicollet achieves by partnering with patients and families and putting them at the center of everything they do. 3800 Park Nicollet Blvd.; 952.993.1000; Runners-up: West End Chiropractic, Health Partners West  

BEST PEDIATRICIAN Pediatric Services
With almost 80 years of experience, Pediatric Services knows kids. The mission of Pediatric Services is to provide quality health care for patients from birth through college with an understanding of the needs of children and their families. All Pediatric Services physicians are board-certified and have families of their own. 5111 Minnetonka Blvd; 952.922.4200; Runner-up: Park Nicollet Pediatrics  

Park Nicollet Optical in St. Louis Park provides a unique eye-care experience and offers a full range of corrective lenses, from designer frames and sunglasses to safety eyewear and specialized lenses. They partner with your ophthalmologist or optometrist to make your life easier, healthier and more enjoyable while wearing glasses. 3800 Park Nicollet Blvd.; 952.993.1940; Runners-up: Pearle Vision, Whiting Clinic  

BEST HAIRSTYLIST/BARBER Darrin Miernicki, owner of Darrin James Salon
Darrin Miernicki has had a varied career in the hair industry. He was an educator in men’s cutting and also worked as a stylist at a local health club. In April, the Darrin James Salon celebrated its sixth anniversary. Half of Miernicki’s clients are men but he specializes in taking care of everybody. “I love the people. I love this community. I love this job,” he says. 5105 Minnetonka Blvd; 952.922.3100 Runners-up: Tim Hawkins at Spa Blu, Jenny Rizer at the Hair District  

BEST CHIROPRACTIC West End Chiropractic
Dr. Paul Williams and his staff say the first year in their St. Louis Park office has been amazing and they have enjoyed the opportunity to meet and help so many clients. “We are very excited for the future. We want to be leaders in health and wellness not only in St. Louis Park, but in surrounding communities as well,” he says.  1660 Hwy. 100 S., Suite 146, Parkdale Plaza; 952.500.8477;  

BEST PLACE TO WORK St. Louis Park City Hall
Mayor Jeff Jacobs says St. Louis Park is and always will be his community of choice. It is a place that brings out the very best in people, which is reflected at City Hall. “This is the kind of environment that allows ordinary people to do extraordinary things,” says Jacobs. 5005 Minnetonka Blvd; 952.924.2500; Runners-up: Citizens Independent Bank, St. Louis Park school district  

BEST NONPROFIT St. Louis Park Emergency Program (STEP)
Services provided by STEP affect myriad aspects of the St. Louis Park community, covering children’s and family issues as well as employment and housing. “The community recognizes the importance of having an agency like STEP in place in order to foster a healthier place to live for everyone,” says STEP program manager Julie Lapointe. 6812 W. Lake St.; 952.925.4899; Runners-up: Meadowbrook Collaborative, Children First  

BEST CHILDREN’S SHOP Creative Kidstuff
For more than 31 years, Creative Kidstuff has been delighting parents and charming children with their fun and unique variety of toys, books, games and more. Enter the next generation: new grandparents. “I’ve had customers tell me they used to bring their kids in to shop at our store and now they are picking out gifts for their grandchildren,” says Maryann Walker, manager at the Shops at West End location. 1665 West End Blvd.; 952.540.0022; Runners-up: Kiddywampus, Once Upon A Child  

BEST BANK TELLER Steve Tharaldson, Citizens Independent Bank
After nine years working as a bank teller, Steve Tharaldson was recently promoted to personal banking representative. “Citizens is a smaller, family-owned bank and the people in the community are great,” he says. Recently, Tharaldson had the chance to work with a new customer who was also familiar. “It was a young man starting a business who used to ride over here on his bike when he was a kid,” he says with a laugh. 5000 W. 36th St.; 952.926.6561; Runners-up: Jana Letendre and Katie Sands, both from Citizens Independent Bank  

Keith Miller, who owns Bubbly Paws with wife Patrycia, is a firm believer that good customer service is not a thing of the past, which is why it is so important to him that his staff “goes the extra mile” to make a good impression on clients, two-legged and otherwise. “We never want to just go through the motions, because great customer service is what can really set a small business apart,” says Miller. 3730 Grand Way; 952.657.5300; Runners-up: The Four Firkins, Cedar Lake Wine and Spirits  

Whether you like your water frozen, as in an ice rink, or fluid, as in the 20,000 square feet of splashing fun in the aquatic park, the Rec Center is the perfect place for families whether they are packing skates or swimsuits. There are also rooms available for everything from a birthday party to a reunion. 3700 Monterey Dr.; 952.924.2540; Runners-up: Westwood Hills Nature Center, Shops at West End  

Owner Amy Saldanha and her staff like to treat every kid’s birthday party as if it were a party for their own child. The secret to their success? “I think it’s the energy level that happens here,” she says. Although they have several party theme options, Saldanha estimates that at least 60 percent of customers choose the Action Jackson party, which celebrates the free-wheeling talents of artist Jackson Pollock, complete with paint-throwing that parents do not have to clean up—probably another reason kiddywampus parties are a hit with parents. 4400 Excelsior Blvd.; 952.926.7871; Runners-up: Westwood Hills Nature Center, Park Tavern  

BEST HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER Alison Frank, Benilde-St. Margaret’s
Alison Frank has spent her entire four-year career at BSM, where she teaches religion. Frank likes that she can grow as a teacher in an environment that has such a strong sense of community among faculty and students. “There is a thread that runs deeper, in which people realize we have inherited something special that we must care for and pass on to those who come after,” she says. Runners-up:  Greg Goddard and Lori Keekley, both from St. Louis Park High School  

For generations, kids have been spending rainy afternoons at their local library, and the tradition continues for many St. Louis Park families. “Families are one of our top priorities, so it’s wonderful to see them here,” says senior librarian Kelly Stade. As to how the weather affects attendance, Stade says she and staff members do keep an eye on the skies to try to predict if it will be a busy day. “We’ll talk about whether we think it’s too sunny or too rainy, but really, it never seems to make a difference,” she says. 3240 Library Ln.; 612.543.6125; Runners-up: Park Tavern, Roller Garden

BEST ORTHODONTIST r. Angela Ross, Family Orthodontics, P.A.
Originally from the East Coast, with a DDS from Boston University, Dr. Ross has called Minnesota home since 1986 and has 25 years of experience creating beautiful smiles and improving the self-esteem of patients of all ages. 5804 Excelsior Blvd.; 952.922.7117;

Claudia Johnston-Madison, co-chair with Erica Gibbons of the neighborhood association, calls Minikahda Vista a diverse group of young families, people in middle age and retirees who enjoy living in a convenient neighborhood  close to schools, parks, shopping and more. Every year the neighborhood association hosts a plant swap and sale with the Browndale neighborhood. There’s also the spring potluck at Wolfe Park, the annual neighborhood garage sale and a National Night Out event in August that draws more than 300 residents. The association also publishes a quarterly online newsletter as well as biweekly City news and neighborhood alerts. Runners-up: West End, Browndale  

Whether you enjoy taking Rusty for a walk or it’s the other way around, Wolfe Park has big- time pet and pet owner appeal, according to our readers. Conveniently located between Excelsior and Grand and the Rec Center, the nearly one and a half miles of paved trails have plenty of sights, sounds and smells to keep everyone happy. And keep your fellow dog owners happy: Don’t forget to pick up after your pooch and remember to keep your pet on a leash. Runners-up: Dakota Dog Park, Cedar Lake Trail

BEST NEW SHOP Cedar Lake Wine & Spirits
Owner Rich Bowles strives to run Cedar Lake as more of a “retail life experience” and operates his business with a keen ear for his customers’ requests. Cedar Lake Wine & Spirits has been among the first to launch new local microbrews, and is always selling new kinds of bourbon and taking wine orders. 5330 Cedar Lake Rd., Suite 500; 952.224.9463; Runners-up: Primp, House of Sport  

“We’re not going to be the ones to stop someone from doing something outside today,” says Hoigaard’s president Todd Brewer of their speedy and professional service. A sports and apparel store for every athlete and adventurer, Hoigaard’s also offers many classes and seminars in biking, paddling and Nordic walking to help everyone get outside. Besides providing the equipment we need to do the things we love to do outdoors, Hoigaard’s is committed to helping people become enthusiasts in their recreational activities, Brewer says. 5425 Excelsior Blvd.; 952.929.1351; Runners-up: House of Sport, Lululemon Athletica  

“We strive to be more than just a gym,” says Amy Henderson of Life Time Fitness. The goal is to get members to do more than just come in and run on a treadmill. Membership offers opportunities like group fitness classes and yoga; free health screenings are also available for non-members. The St. Louis Park facility also offers a pool, Ultimate Hoops basketball league, squash and racquetball courts, and a chiropractic clinic. 5525 Cedar Lake Rd; 952.546.5474; Runners-up: L.A. Fitness, CorePower Yoga  

Picking a “best burger” is like picking a favorite sports team; but fans of the 50-year-old Park Tavern definitely agree on their burger prowess. Co-owner Diane Weber says she has a hard time choosing between the Guinness burger and the Amsterdam burger, a spicy affair with Gouda, jalapeños, and house Amsterdam sauce. Stop in and find your own favorite. 3401 Louisiana Ave. S; 952.929.6810; Runners-up: McCoy’s Public House, Bunny’s Bar & Grill  

Shoppers go to Guild Collective looking for gifts that are unexpected and make recipients wonder, “Where in the world did you get this?” At Guild Collective, you can find a cool variety of unique, fun and functional art, as well as many interesting vintage and repurposed pieces—the selection changes frequently. “Gift givers who put effort into selecting just the right gift will find something at Guild Collective that no one else can give,” says partner Pam Mondale. 4414 Excelsior Blvd.; 952.378.1815; Runners-up: Max’s, Anthropologie  

BEST LANDSCAPER McChesney Landscape Design
Owner Wayne McChesney has been in the landscaping business for more than 30 years. From concept to completion, McChesney Landscape Design can do everything from softscape to hardscape. “We design lots backyards in St. Louis Park,” says McChesney. “We can design beautiful patios, add fountains or enhance entries.” Available year-round, McChesney can design your outdoor space during fall or winter so it’s ready to go in the spring. 952.927.5764; Runner-up: Green Horizons  

BEST INTERIOR DESIGNER Allison Landers, Sicora Design/Build
Landers started in the design field in 2004, working her way up from filing and faxing to designing exquisite spaces for Sicora Design/Build. She recently designed an entire home in St. Louis Park for the Parade of Homes 2013 Spring Remodelers Showcase (#R51). “I try to keep the process simple for active working families,” says Landers. “Everybody has a budget. But so much can be done even in small spaces to make life more functional and beautiful.” 5016 W. Lake St.; 952.929.0098; Runner-up: Martha O’Hara Interiors  

Locally owned and operated, Park Tavern is an iconic eatery in St. Louis Park. It’s also extremely kid-friendly, with classic American food favorites like burgers, grilled cheese and pizza at reasonable prices. You can also enjoy a side order of fun with games and bowling for the entire family or for special events and kid parties. 3401 Louisiana Ave.; 952.929.6810; Runners-up: Yum! Kitchen and Bakery, Noodles & Company  

Whether you’re biking to the office in downtown Minneapolis or just enjoying a leisurely ride, the Cedar Lake Trail is the best place to pedal. Following the old railroad lines of the Great Northern Railway and Minneapolis & St. Louis railway, the multi-use paved trail is 10 feet wide and easily shared. Check out for more trail information. Runners-up: the Greenway, North Cedar Lake Trail