Best Of 2015: The Winners!


The best live on as Fargo-­Moorhead’s food, entertainment, sports and business scenes continue to thrive and grow.

For the past nine years, The Forum’s “Best of the Red River Valley” contest has offered readers the chance to vote on everything from their choice brewery to their favorite sporting event. This year’s results show a mix of perennial favorites battling it out with strong newcomers. Here’s how it works: Forum and readers submit their nominations in the various categories. The top five nominees from each category then advance to the finals, where readers vote to decide the winners.

This year, almost 8,000 ballots were cast. You voted; we amassed and reported. Special thanks to Forum photographers Michael Vosburg, Carrie Snyder, David Samson and Dave Wallis for providing the photos for this section. Heidi Shaffer, Forum deputy editor.

Shotgun Sally’s was named 2015 Best Outdoor Dining Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Shotgun Sally’s was named 2015 Best Outdoor Dining
Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Location: 1515 42nd St. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 241­-4386

What makes your patio great?
“I think what sets us apart is our full­-service outdoor patio bar and the Vegas-­style lounge seating we have
around our customized firepits. Also, it’s encased in transparent glass so there is protection from the wind, but
you can still look out and see,” said general manager Ryan Beckman.

How many people can you seat outside?
“At one time, you can fit about 175 people out there.”

What are your most popular menu items?
“I would say our French dip, our Six­Shooter burger and our steak and salmon are all awesome.”

— Angie Wieck

Best Auto Shop, Matt's Automotive David Samson / The Forum
Best Auto Shop, Matt’s Automotive David Samson / The Forum

Locations: 3007 Main Ave., Fargo; 1234 1st Ave. N., Moorhead.
Phone numbers: (701) 478­-3838; (218) 477­-0696

What are your most popular services?
“Oil services, general maintenance, AstroStart remote starters, diesel repair, and transmission service and rebuilding,” said Best Auto Care owner Matt Lachowitzer.

Is there a service you provide that not many people know about?
“We can service and repair all makes and models of cars, SUVs and light trucks, and are equipped with dealership ­level equipment and tooling for nearly every brand,” he said. “The majority of our technicians are factory trained and very skilled.”

What’s the secret to keeping customers happy?
“Always do the right thing, never put money ahead of people, hire superstars of the FMWF area and provide exceptional customer service,” he said.

— Tu­Uyen Tran

Locations: 301 Main Ave. W., West Fargo, (701) 281-­0430;
300 Broadway N., Fargo, (701) 478-­1155

This is your seventh year in a row winning. Are you even surprised?
“I’m still surprised. I’m still honored,” said owner Mark Ostlund. “It’s awesome.”

What makes your doughnuts special?
“We use good filling, good product,” Ostlund said. “We don’t use frozen dough. Every night, we make the dough, we make the doughnuts. We don’t cut corners.”

What is your favorite doughnut?
“Maple fried cinnamon roll.”

What can eaters look forward to at Sandy’s?
A 2,000-square-foot kitchen expansion will be finished in November, meaning Sandy’s will soon be able to make more than the current 9,000 doughnuts a day,” Ostlund said. “I must have a list two pages long of new doughnut ideas,” including mango, chocolate caramel and caramel apple.”

— Grace Lyden

Location: JD Legal Planning, 902 28th St. S., Suite 2, Fargo
Phone number: (701) 356­-3827

What have you done in your career to warrant the popularity?
“I do a lot of speaking to public groups and do a lot of public education about elder law, Medicaid and special needs trusts,” Johnson­Drenth said.

With so many firms and lawyers, what does it take to make it in the business these days?
“To earn the respect of clients,” she said. “I work in estate planning and elder law in an aging demographic, so staying busy has never been an issue.”

— Jeff Kolpack

The Bulldog Tap is located at 4265 45th St. S. in Fargo. David Samson / The Forum
The Bulldog Tap is located at 4265 45th St. S. in Fargo. David Samson / The Forum

Location: 4265 45th St. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 356­-3827

What makes Bulldog Tap the place to be?
“I would say the friendly staff along with the casual atmosphere,” said Jon Eiynck, manager. “It’s kind of like the ‘Cheers’ bar of south Fargo is how I would describe it.”

Has success been overnight or has it been steady growth?
“It started off hot and heavy right away, kind of as the only bar in this neck of the woods,” Eiynck said. “As we learned the tricks of the trade to the business, we’ve steadily gotten better as a group and sales have increased as well. It started off as an overnight sensation, but we’ve put in the hard work to maintain that success.”

— Jeff Kolpack

Location: 1231 27th St. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 235-­1261

Reaction to winning:
“I’m grateful for what I do every day. I work with wonderful people and I have amazing patients,” Stephanie Gruchalla said. “Dentistry is what I do, but why I do it is because of the people I see everyday. It’s about the relationships you build with your patients.”

Novocaine or laughing gas?
“Novocaine. Lots of people have had experiences in the past that may not have been positive. I think one of
the things we do really well is we listen to people and talk them through procedures. No gas.”

— Angie Wieck

Chris Hanson, left, John Austin and Jane Alexander of Bob95. Dave Wallis / The Forum
Chris Hanson, left, John Austin and Jane Alexander of Bob95
Dave Wallis / The Forum

Location: Bob 95 FM
Phone number: (701) 232-4262

What makes “Chris, John and Jane” different from other morning shows?
“We are who we are. We don’t try to be someone we’re not and I think people can relate to that,” says Chris Hanson. “There’s nothing phony about what we have going on and through all these years, people seem to gravitate towards that.”

How would you explain your roles?
“Jane (Alexander) is definitely the favorite,” he said. “People always stick up for Jane. John (Austin) is the little voice on your shoulder or in the back of your head. Those things you want to say? He says them. I’m just the guy trying to keep the plates in the air and keep the show moving.”

How long have you been together?
“In May it was 14 years. It is the longest running show in town. That’s kind of unusual.”

— John Lamb

Two customers compare their new fingernail designs they received at Polished Nail Spa in downtown Fargo. Dave Wallis / The Forum
Two customers compare their new fingernail designs they received at Polished Nail Spa in downtown Fargo. Dave Wallis / The Forum

Location: 102 Broadway N. and 4265 45th St. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 365­-8112

What sets Polished salons apart?
“I think a lot of clients enjoy that every single one of our employees grew up in this area. … They’re from here and we train them here to do the best work possible. I think that’s one of the things that separates from our competition,” said owner Tom Huynh.

What are the most popular services?
“Gel polish is still a big draw. We still do a lot of acrylics, too. Either way, our goal is to preserve the strength and integrity of a client’s natural nails no matter what we put on top,” he said.

— Angie Wieck

We believe in recognizing a job well done and working in a place that feels like home, said Heidi Haaven, communications director for Sundog. Dave Wallis / The Forum
We believe in recognizing a job well done and working in a place that feels like home,” said Heidi Haaven, communications director for Sundog. Dave Wallis / The Forum

Location: 2000 44th St. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 235-­5525

What’s your secret to creating a good place for your employees to work?
“We believe in recognizing a job well done and working in a place that feels like home,” said Heidi Haaven, communications director for Sundog. “But it’s not really about the fun events, free snacks or the comfy couches. It’s about showing that we value our people – their time, their talents. At the end of the day, we believe in building a place and people that inspire imagination and innovation.”

What’s one Sundog perk that makes people jealous?
“I could give a standard answer like, ‘We’re employee ­owned’ (which is awesome), or ‘We get our birthdays off’ (which is also pretty great). But one perk that continually surprises people is that every winter we load up a charter bus, drive four hours, get dropped off at a lodge in the middle of nowhere, and enjoy an all­-expenses-­paid weekend of ice fishing and fun.”

— Kris Kerzman

Location: Fargodome, 1800 N. University Drive
Phone number: (701) 241­-9100

What makes NDSU football game days special?
“I think it is a combination of a couple things and the first is the passion of our fan base,” North Dakota State athletic director Matt Larsen said. “Our fans know their college football. The fans and the atmosphere make the Fargodome an electric environment to watch a football game.”

What is one thing fans shouldn’t miss taking part in attending a game?
“Our staff does a great job with the pregame,” Larsen said. “The Gold Star marching band always puts on a great performance and the tunnel walk­-up video always gives me goosebumps. To me, that’s the can’t­ miss part of each game day other than the game itself.”

— Tom Mix


Why do you think Roger Maris has such staying power?
“I think his image is brighter now than it has ever been,” said Larry Scott, who is on the Roger Maris Celebrity Golf Tournament board of directors. “For a lot of us we just seem to think he was kind of the guy next door, even though he was a star.”

What do you think is his lasting legacy?
“To us, he’s already in our Hall of Fame,” Scott said of Maris, who hit 61 home runs in 1961. “I think he is one of the real treasures to come out of the Red River Valley. I think everybody is very proud when they see the Maris name somewhere and it still pops up a lot.”

— Eric Peterson

Location: 4301 17th Ave. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 551­-0013

What makes your bloody mary special?
“We make our mix in-­house,” said General Manager Tonya Barbeau, with ingredients including clamato, Worcestershire, Pickapeppa, Tabasco and raw horseradish. A quarter BLT is served on top on the weekends.

Best food to complement the drink:
“It’s really good with our steak and eggs, our omelettes and one of my favorites is our Cajun Walleye Benedict,” she said.

Best time to get one:
“Sundays because it’s happy hour all day long from 11 a.m. till close, so on Sundays they are $5.50,” Barbeau said.

— Ryan Johnson

Location: 3215 N. Broadway, Fargo
Phone number: (701) 356-­2211

What keeps people coming for breakfast?
“Probably because it’s our homemade buttermilk pancakes, fresh hash browns, wholesome ingredients,” owner Tanya Bale said. “We just have the whole package. We have wonderful servers. We try to get to know our customers.”

How are you able to serve breakfast all day?
“We have a great layout of our kitchen to supply it all day long. It’s making sure we have the room on the line. It’s all about having a good, organized kitchen.”

What’s your choice for breakfast?
“If they’ve never eaten here before, they definitely need to get homemade buttermilk pancakes.”

— Chris Murphy

Location: 610 N. University Drive, Fargo
Phone number: (701) 478-­2337

What makes your beer special?
“For us, I think it’s just that you can find us everywhere,” said co­-founder Jared Hardy. Sales in three states allow the brewery to tackle bigger projects, like an anniversary beer released in October – “a dark ale that we aged in red wine barrels for 20 months.” Wood Chipper, Sodbuster.

How do you come up with your beer names?
“Naming beers is the hardest part of the job,” Hardy said. “You end up coming up with a really great name, you’re ready to use it, and then you find out that another brewery or maybe six other breweries have used the name and you’re not able to.” Take “Kenny Lagers,” which goes by that in the brewhouse, but “a name like that probably wouldn’t have been able to sell.”

— Grace Lyden

Location: 1801 45th St. S., Fargo.
Phone number: (701) 281­-2300

What keeps people coming back?
“I think it’s customer service,” co­-owner Jason Aamodt said. “Explanations of everything. How to cook something. What would be good on the grill. We don’t just shy away and give you a simple answer. There’s seven of us and we all grill and it’s easy to throw out seven ways of grilling something.”

What’s your meat of choice?
“You’re not going to find the quality and age in the same category that we have here. So our steaks are aged and of a high quality. Those are two things that are hard to find.”

— Chris Murphy

Location: 400 1st Ave. S., Fargo, and 30 other locations in Fargo, Moorhead, Dilworth, West Fargo, Horace and Harwood
Phone number: (701) 293-­9622

Why do more families choose the Y for child care?
“We have many sites that are accredited, and we meet higher licensing standards,” said Lorrie Thoemke, vice president of YMCA Child Care and Youth Development. Thoemke said they aim for an instructor/child ratio of 1 to 14.

How many kids are enrolled and what do they like about the Y programs?
“We serve 2,600 children in the F­-M area,” Thoemke said. “We spend a lot of money on our facilities, materials and equipment, and kids love our staff because they’re fun and interactive.”

— Robin Huebner

Location: 1905 Roger Maris Drive, Fargo
Phone number: (701) 499-­6060

What’s the best feature Lindenwood offers to the public?
“Whether you go into the park or not, there is a great entrance to Lindenwood with so many beautiful flowers,” said Fargo Parks District Executive Director Roger Gress. “There is also a universal playground that every child can enjoy at the park, which has become very popular.”

What is one thing about Lindenwood that people may not know about?
“Over the years, the playground, large shelter, campgrounds and picnic areas have become more popular than the athletic fields there, and I see that continuing,” Gress said. “Every Friday night you can see many families using the shelter areas for picnics and playing on the playground.”

— Tom Mix

Locations & Phone numbers:
25th Street Marketplace, 1450 25th St. SW, Fargo, (701) 298-7745;
Hornbacher’s Village West, 4101 13th Ave. S., Fargo, (701) 282-­9431;
Hornbacher’s Express, 1433 S. University Drive, Fargo, (701) 237-­9481;
Family Fare Fargo, 3175 25th St. S., Fargo, (218) 291­-9340;
Hornbacher’s Southgate, 1532 32nd Ave. S., Fargo, (701) 293-­2636;
1625 13th Ave. E., West Fargo, (701) 277­-0783;
Family Fare West Fargo, 1100 13th Ave E., West Fargo, (701) 277­-5566;
Family Fare Moorhead, 2605 8th St. S., (701) 237­-3007;
Hornbacher’s Osgood, 4151 45th St. S., Fargo, (701) 281­-1872;
Hornbacher’s, 101 11th St. S., Moorhead, (218) 236­-6333;
Hornbacher’s Northport, 2510 Broadway, Fargo, (701) 293-­5444.

Reaction to winning?
“It’s super cool,” said Melissa Doyle, who manages Caribou Coffee at 1625 13th Ave. E. in West Fargo. “We work really hard to be connected to the community. We do a lot of donations throughout the year.”

What sets Caribou apart?
“No. 1 is the quality of the product. It’s roasted right in Brooklyn Center, Minn., so it’s fresh,” Doyle said. “We have high standards of quality. The second part is the atmosphere. We really do believe in that community place where people love to come and we strive every day to create that.”

What is your favorite coffee?
“My favorite coffee is our mahogany coffee,” she said. “It is a dark roast and it is a blend of coffees.”

— Tracy Frank

Location: 1638 32nd Ave. S., Fargo; new location to open soon in south Fargo.
Phone number: (701) 232-­9383

What do you think about winning this category?
“We’re very very honored,” said Jill Krahn, who owns Hair Success with twin sister Jodi Ellingson. “I’m absolutely flabbergasted.”

What sets you apart in this category?
“We do have our training center, the Salon Professional Academy, which is unique,” Krahn said. “Education is very important to us. Nobody else in town has an education center.” The Academy has a skin program and trains students in massage, nails and hair as well, she said.

You’re planning a new, large location in south Fargo, what can clients expect?
“It’s not about having grandness, it’s about having quality service and personal attention,” she said.

— Wendy Reuer

Location: 1551 45th St. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 298-­2918

What makes Scheels stand out as a sporting goods store option for the Fargo-­Moorhead area?
“Having our corporate officer here in town, I can tell you that we have a great group of people that are responsible for the buying and picking the lines that we have, so we got access to some of the best brands out there,” said Jason McDonald, Scheels Fargo assistant store leader. “On the products within in the store, we just have people who love what they do. They love the sports they participate in, so it makes it really easy of having that interaction of other people that enjoy those same things, just kind of building some common ground.”

— Josh Francis

Location: 1551 45th St. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 298­-2918

How does Scheels maintain its good customer service?
“I guess it starts with training,” said Jason McDonald, Scheels Fargo assistant store leader. “We take our training very seriously. We really try to start from day one of setting the example of what we expect of how our customers get taken care of.”

— Josh Francis

Location: 13 8th St. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 232­-6430

What are your most popular desserts?
“I could say the feuilletine, lemon tart and fruit tart. But I think people come back because the product tastes as good as it looks,” said owner Nichole Hensen. “We have a little of everything. We don’t want an elitist feel here.”

Which pastries involve the most skill and what’s the first thing you ever baked?
“Petit fours and kransakaka require skill – I’m very exact. When I graduated pastry school, my gag gift was a yard stick,” Hensen said. “The first thing I ever baked? I remember a photo of me rolling cookie dough with a Norwegian lady. We made doughnuts and lefse at home, too.”

— Anna G. Larson

Locations: 1900 Main Ave., Fargo, and 1620 1st Ave. N., Moorhead
Phone number: (701) 277­-0080

What makes your drive-­thru the best?
“It’s the people that have set us apart. We have great employees, and we have great customers. And we’re proud to be part of the Fargo area,” said Don Insley, Burger Time’s manager of operations.

What’s something that people may not know about Burger Time?
“All of our french fries are grown from potatoes in the Red River Valley and processed right down the street from our Grand Forks store,” Insley said. “Our beef is all Midwestern beef, and it’s processed just a few miles from our St. Cloud store.”

— Archie Ingersoll

Location: 2960 Seter Parkway, Fargo
Phone number: (701) 234­-2400

What separates you from other fitness places?
“Having 135 fitness classes under one roof gives you a lot to choose from,” director Jenna Johnson said. “We really want to help our individual members and their families to inspire wellness in their life.”

What is the process with selecting and positioning equipment?
“When we selected the equipment we got advice from a lot of people who work out regularly. Part of it is safety. Part of it is flow and leaving space for workouts. The light and space has been a huge feature. Just making you feel like you’re almost outside.”

— Chris Murphy

Location: 311 Broadway, Fargo
Phone number: (701) 356­-3937

Reaction to winning:
“It is an honor and privilege to accept this award,” Dr. Mark Tufte said.

Do you wear glasses? How’s your vision?
“I do not need to wear glasses to pass my driver’s test, but I want the absolute sharpest vision possible for every activity so I personally wear Shamir High Definition Autograph 3 Transition Extra Active Multifocal lenses with Crizal anti­glare coating for normal wear, Shamir Digital Computer lenses with Crizal anti­glare coating for work, Shamir Gold High Definition Solex lenses with Crizal anti­glare coating for sport, and Polarized Shamir Attitude Sunlenses for outdoor activities.”

— Adrian Glass-­Moore

Location: 2112 25th St., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 478­-2200

Why do you think Doolittles continues to be a favorite?
“We offer high quality items, but we do it at a value level that’s good enough for everyday,” said John Sheehan, owner and COO. “We have a great management team that hires great employees,” he added. “They deliver our vision to the table as if it’s their own.”

What does the woodfire grill add to the dining experience?
“It cultivates a number of the senses,” he said. “You’ve got the smell, you’ve got the taste, you walk by it and feel that it’s warm. I think it breeds curiosity.”

— Meredith Holt

Location: 3100 13th Ave. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 298-1500

What’s new?
“Bell will continue to expand, adding new banking and financial services as well as markets,” Solberg said. “When we grow, we add jobs in the Red River Valley. One thing that will never change: Fargo­-Moorhead being our home and our headquarters.”

— Dave Olson

Location: 3100 13th Ave. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 298-­1500

What’s behind your success?
“Our success centers around our employees. You hear that from many organizations, but our teams have created a great place to work and do business. We hire people who are the best at what they do, who care about each other and our customers,” said Michael Solberg, president and CEO.

— Dave Olson

Location: 300 45th St. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 893-­7873

You’ve won before, how does it feel to win again?
“We’ve been in the top five for the last five years, ever since this clinic has been open, so that’s been fun,” said Brad Feldner.

What do you think accounts for your popularity?
“I feel we treat people right. We focus on short­-term treatment plans and long­-term results.”

Any tips for avoiding issues?
“Exercise; think before you lift; understand how to stretch; warm up properly,” Feldner said.

— Dave Olson

Location: 3202 13th Ave. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 232-­8903

Why do you think readers picked your hardware store for this honor?
“We have a lot of good people and they work really hard at what they do. I’m pleased for them that they would be recognized this way,” said Mark Hulbert, store manager.

Scheels workers seem knowledgeable about products and primed to answer questions.
“Both of those things, we feel, are really important to build relationships with customers,” he said. “We do that by engaging them and by knowing what we’re talking about so they trust us. That’s important not just at this store but all Scheels stores.”

— Dave Olson

Location: 700 1st Ave. N., Moorhead
Phone number: (218) 287­-0080

What makes Usher’s special to Moorhead?
“I feel what makes Usher’s special to Moorhead is the historical charm of the restaurant and view from our beautiful dining room of Davy Memorial Park and the Red River,” said Jennifer Benzick, general manager. “We of course have amazing food prepared from our ‘made from scratch kitchen’ and the service and management staff are very friendly and welcoming.”

If someone is visiting for the first time, what should they order?
“I would suggest to order for an appetizer our scallops or our unique and yummy hog wings,” Benzick said. “For an entrée I would suggest the filet, which is currently prepared with purple Peruvian potatoes and asparagus, or the Fish of the Moment, which is ever­changing and ordered and flown in specially for Ushers. The hot beef sandwich is really yummy, too.”

— Kris Kerzman

Location: 309 Roberts St., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 364-­9479

What are your thoughts on winning the most votes for best fine dining restaurant?
“This mean a lot to our entire team at Mezzaluna,” said owner Eric Watson. “The fact that we can hold onto this recognition for multiple years means that we are doing what we set out to do.”

How has the Fargo dining scene changed since you’ve been in business?
“The Fargo food scene has changed tremendously in the last 3­5 years. As our population grows, so does the demand to have quality food and beverage. The average consumer in Fargo­-Moorhead is not so average anymore.”

What dish will you prepare to celebrate your winning the contest?
“We create chef-­inspired dishes on a daily basis at Mezzaluna. So, I suppose we’ll keep doing business as usual. We’ll simply set our sites on ‘Best Fine Dining’ for next year.”

— Rick Abbott

Locations: 2510 N. Broadway, Fargo, (701) 293-­5444;
1532 32nd Ave. S., Fargo, (701) 280­-1999;
4151 45th St. S., Fargo, (701) 281­-8111;
4101 13th Ave. S., (701) 282­-6363;
101 11th St. S., Moorhead, (218) 236-­6333;
950 40th Ave. S., Moorhead, (218) 359­-4000

What does it feel like to win seven years in a row?
“It’s really overwhelming,” said President Matt Leiseth. “It’s certainly nice to know that we’ve continued to stay at the level that customers expect. To win it a couple times and then lose it would be a signal that we stopped doing something they enjoy.”

What makes your floral shops special?
“Since it’s inside the store, it’s so approachable,” Leiseth said. “We’ve just got some wonderful people, really creative, and they can really bring customers’ ideas to life.”

Do you use the Hornbacher’s floral shops?
“I used them for my wedding when I got married 16 years ago,” Leiseth said. “My wife loves tiger lilies. It’s her absolute favorite flower, so she had those mixed in just about everywhere.”

— Grace Lyden

Location: 1500 East Rose Creek Parkway S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 235-­5100

What makes Rose Creek enjoyable to play?
“For one, it’s a very golfer­-friendly golf course,” said head professional Matt Cook. “It’s pretty generous off the tee, the length is moderate and there is some diversity there with water features and natural areas as far as the number of trees. And the course has been in fantastic shape so we’ve been very fortunate there.”

How has the course grown up over the years:
“I think the course has matured greatly,” Cook said. “We do have a lot of trees that are finally starting to become more sizable and have an impact both visually and playable-­wise.”

— Jeff Kolpack

Location: 1111 19th Ave. N., Fargo;
126 11th St. S., Moorhead; 3101 13th Ave. S., Fargo;
2790 University Drive # B, Fargo; 4370 13th Ave. SW, Fargo
Phone number: (701) 232­-7452, (218) 236-­4857, (701) 280­-2884, (701) 280­-9629, (701) 364­-3667

What are some of the current trends in hair?
“Pastels and fun colors. Ombre, sombre,” said General Manager Sue Cote. “As far as cuts, there’s such a variety. That’s what’s beautiful about this time that we’re in right now.”

How do your stylists keep up with trends?
“We send staff to outside education, to big hair shows, and they bring back information and share it with the rest of the staff,” she said.

How important is continuing education?
“If you’re not learning, you’re not growing,” she said. “That’s what our company is built on ­­- education.”

— Meredith Holt

Location: 801 38th St. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 282­-5747

Reaction to winning?
“That is a wonderful honor,” said Neil Clouse, manager at Paradiso. “I think we do have the best happy hour, so it’s a long time coming.”

What makes your happy hour special?
“We run a free taco bar Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. It’s mostly college kids who have to eat on a dime. Hard shells, soft shells, ground beef, lettuce, cheese, salsas and extra hot sauce, all made fresh every day.”

Is it tough to get a table?
“Even on a slower day, happy hour is always full,” Clouse said.

— Robin Huebner

Location: 1815 38th St. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 281­-7184

How does it feel to win for the fifth time in a row?
“It is an unbelievable honor,” said Tyrone Leslie, owner and president. “I am beyond grateful for our customers and team; without them, this wouldn’t be possible.”

How do you keep up with the demand for new homes?
“Our team is incredible! We work together daily to keep fine ­tuning our processes and creating a homebuilding journey like no other,” he said.

What are some of the current trends in homebuilding?
“Homeowners are into mixing textures and patterns and blending the old (repurposed) with the new,” he said.

— Meredith Holt

Location: 4351 17th Ave. S., Fargo.
Phone number: (701) 499­-6000

How does Hilton Garden Inn separate itself from the other hotel competition in the area?
“Our teammates, every one of our teammates is important and they do a great job taking care of our guests,” said Josh Erickson, Hilton Garden Inn Fargo general manager. “We empower them to do so, to take care of our guests and that’s what they do best.”

What is the best way to build a good reputation with guests?
“Relationships are very important,” Erickson said. “We’ve done a great job formulating relationships with businesses and guests who stay with us week­to­week, and we believe in a 100-percent satisfaction guarantee. We believe each one of our guests should be happy, and we do our best to make that happen.”
— Josh Francis

Location: 4410 17th Ave. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 282-­2922

What sets Johnny Carino’s apart?
“I think it’s our homemade products,” said Brad McKinnon, general manager. “A lot of our stuff is made from scratch.”

What are customers’ favorite menu items?
“Our spicy chicken and shrimp is a fan favorite. Our lemon chicken dinner is really, really good. Our homemade lasagna is another fan favorite.”

Is the restaurant busy most nights?
“Yes, we have some great specials. On Monday nights our family platters are half ­price. And on Wednesday we have half-off all our wine bottles. That brings a lot of people in.”

— Tracy Frank

Location: 11 Minnesota locations: Detroit Lakes, Little Pine Lake (Perham), Pelican Lake, Ottertail Lake, Cross Lake, Gull Lake, Zhateau (Park Rapids), Pokegama Lake (Grand Rapids), Big Sandy, Green Lake, Alexandria

What makes a restaurant a great lakeside destination?
“Lakez, in general, are a great place for people to get together,” Kelsey Miller, Marketing & HR Director at Lake Life Hospitality Group, which owns Zorbaz, said in an email exchange. “And a reztaurant providez a fun place to hang out, relax and enjoy food, cocktailz and the lake life!”

What makes Zorbaz customers great?
“Everything. Our gueztz are incredible and make each location their own. They are a major part of what makez our culture zo fun and our ztaff excited to go to work each day!”

What’s the weirdest pizza topping ever made at a Zorbaz location?
“We have had people azk to put M&M’z on a Thai Pie before!”

What’z with all the Zzzz’s?
“We are all about the Z life!”

— Rick Abbott

Location: 117 N. Broadway, Fargo
Phone number: (701) 478­-7933

What is your reaction to winning both awards?
“We’ve worked pretty hard,” said Louie Hernandez, general manager for Sweeto Burrito in Fargo. “A lot of our crew is pretty dedicated.”

What is the key to your success?
“All of our sauces are freshly made,” Hernandez said. “Our meats are prepared in­-house.”

What other things to you do that you think is important?
“I think the biggest thing is we provide a place for people to go for a variety of hours, which the community I believe appreciates,” Hernandez said. “Us being open for breakfast, there’s not really a whole lot of options downtown at 7 a.m. or late nights midnight to 3 a.m.”

— Eric Peterson

Location: 117 N. Broadway, Fargo
Phone number: (701) 478­-7933

What is your reaction to winning both awards?
“We’ve worked pretty hard,” said Louie Hernandez, general manager for Sweeto Burrito in Fargo. “A lot of our crew is pretty dedicated.”

What is the key to your success?
“All of our sauces are freshly made,” Hernandez said. “Our meats are prepared in­-house.”

What other things to you do that you think is important?
“I think the biggest thing is we provide a place for people to go for a variety of hours, which the community I believe appreciates,” Hernandez said. “Us being open for breakfast, there’s not really a whole lot of options downtown at 7 a.m. or late nights midnight to 3 a.m.”

— Eric Peterson

Location: 801 50th Ave. SW, Moorhead

Reaction to winning:
“We’ve worked really hard to get it to where it is today and had a lot of partners that have worked with us,” said Kathy Anderson, executive director for the venue and Trollwood Performing Arts School.

On fitting Trollwood programs, Jade Presents concerts and more into our short summers:
“We basically have things on top of things,” Anderson said.

Future goals:
“More of the same, really,” she said, adding that partners are starting to plan concerts, plays and more for the 2016 season. “We’ve become a destination as much as just an awesome thing for our own community.”

— Ryan Johnson

Location: Based in Fargo
More information:

Reaction to winning:
“I’m excited!” said bassist Tyler Waslien. “It always is a surprise.”

You’ve won this several times. Could you take a break so another band can win?
“It wouldn’t be because of that,” Waslien said, laughing. “Probably to pursue our loves of fantasy football and fishing and family time, but that wasn’t one of the things that we considered.”

About the band:
“It’s a country and rock­focused group, but there’s a lot of variety within it,” he said. “There’s just something that can appeal to everyone.”

— Ryan Johnson


When Josh Duhamel made his triumphant tour across North Dakota this summer to help promote the state’s tourism industry, he had us hanging on his every social media utterance. And Josh had no problem playing along, tweeting photos from Medora, catching fish on Devils Lake and mugging with what seemed like anybody who asked for a photo along the way. The highest profile stop was in downtown Fargo, when Broadway was shut down outside the iconic Fargo Theatre for the taping of a North Dakota Tourism commercial. But it’s no wonder Duhamel was picked for Best Local Celebrity. He seems like a genuinely nice guy who hasn’t forgotten his home state. During the commercial shoot, he spoke with onlookers like just another North Dakotan, danced with little kids and posed for what must have been dozens of selfies, all without the high maintenance behavior some might expect from a Hollywood star.

— Rick Abbott

Location: 814 Main Ave. and 3155 45th St. S., Fargo.
Phone number: (701) 293­-0120

What stands out at Mexican Village?
“I think it’s just the consistency, and I think we have wonderful customers that come in. They’re super people and it’s an honor to get (this award),” said Mexican Village General Manager Carol Zetocha.

What does it mean to get this recognition from your customers?
“It’s an honor we’ve been around this long and that we can achieve that,” she said. “It’s just an honor to achieve that goal.”

— Josh Francis

Location: 606 Main Ave., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 540­-4534

What does Rhombus Guys offer that other pizza places don’t?
“It’s the love that goes into the pizza that makes it so great,” says co-­founder Matt Winjum. “We offer unique pizzas you can’t find anywhere else. Creative combinations. We really care about exceeding people’s expectations, not just meeting them.”

And you like doing limited­-edition pizzas?
“Every single month we have a new, creative and innovative pizza. Many times it’s from people on the staff, allowing them to have fun and experiment. We also take ideas from guests and regulars.”

— John Lamb

Location: 940 40th St. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 478-­8484

Reaction to winning:
“From what I hear at Sky Zone when parents are in with their kids is it’s something that has been long overdue,” said Kendall Railing, Sky Zone manager.

How busy is Sky Zone, generally?
“It’s been very popular. Our weekends are our busy days. In our winter months, we were seeing 1,000 to 1,300 kids on a Saturday. The birthday parties have been very popular as well.”

Is it just for kids?
“It’s for everybody. If you can walk, you can jump. We have a lot of adults who jump with their kids and we have a lot of adults who will just come in and jump.”

— Tracy Frank

Location: 1515 15th Ave. N, Fargo
Phone number: (701) 235­-6161

What is your reaction to winning?
“It’s always humbling to be recognized by the residents of the Red River Valley,” RedHawks General Manager Josh Buchholz said. “We pride ourselves on being a great place for families to come out and enjoy the summers. It’s nice that after 20 years we’re still going strong.”

What do you think you provide that makes it a place that families want to come to in the summer?
“I think we’ve established that it’s more than just baseball,” he said. “It’s entertainment. It’s a great place to socialize. … We feel like we’ve become the fabric of the community in the summertime.”

— Eric Peterson

Location: 1800 N. University Drive
Phone number: (701) 241-9100

What makes the Fargodome a special place for fans to watch a game?
“The design of the facility helps create a very loud atmosphere when 19,000 fans show up for an NDSU Bison football game,” Fargodome General Manager Rob Sobolik said. “Between our staff and NDSU we do a phenomenal job whether it is the tailgating before the game, the pregame video or the game itself.”

How many workers does it take to host an NDSU football game?
“It takes between 475 to 525 people from the Fargodome to host a NDSU football game which includes traffic, security, ushers, cleaning, food and beverage and other workers,” Sobolik said. “Add NDSU’s game­day staff and you are probably talking over 600 people working at those events.”

— Tom Mix

Location: 28 10th St. N., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 237-­5031

Why do you think the readers chose Park Co. Realtors as the best?
“I think a lot of it has to do with familiarity with Park Company and the fact that we’ve been in the community for over, well, it’ll be 60 years next year,” said Dawn Lahlum, president of Park Co. Realtors. “We’re a very client­-driven business. Everything we do is centered around our clients and their satisfaction.”

How have you been able to build your brand in this area?
“It goes back to that customer focus, taking care of our clients, being good members of the community and giving back, and just bringing the right people into the company that fit our culture and really, they fit our brand and create our brand that way,” Lahlum said.

— Josh Francis

Location: 1205 16th Ave. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 212-­1572

What do you enjoy most about your job?
“I’m in the job of helping people every day, I just happen to sell real estate,” Erik Hatch said. “I get to work with, lead and coach my team, which is my primary focus now. So I get the recognition but my team deserves all the credit.”

What’s the secret to keeping clients happy?
“Real estate is the biggest thing going on in that person’s life when it happens so I make sure our team treats it that way,” Hatch said. “A lot of times people say in the business world that you have to have the right script when, realistically, it’s our job to simply ask the right question, be good listeners and direct them to get what they want.”

— Tu­Uyen Tran

Location and phone number: 1100 19th Ave. N., Fargo, (701) 234­-1999; 5050 13th Ave. S., Fargo, (701)
373-­0064; 3051 25th St. S. Suite J2, Fargo, (701) 364-­9421; 435 Main Ave., Moorhead, (218) 287­-5651

What makes your sandwiches so popular?
“The fresh ingredients. We take extra special care in our meats and veggies,” said John Finneseth, manager of the 13th Avenue South store in Fargo.

What’s your most popular sandwich?
“The Chicken Cordon Bleu, which has chicken, of course, and ham, and mayo and special honey mustard,” he said.

Is there a sandwich that you feel is underappreciated?
“We sell a lot of the Cajun Ranches, but the sandwich I think is underappreciated is the Chicken Junction,” Finneseth said. “It’s a lot like the Cajun Ranch. It has a little different taste and it’s really good.”

— Tu­Uyen Tran

Location: 4971 13th Ave. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 282-8590

What does this recognition mean?
“Thanks to our customers. We do our best to serve legendary meals with legendary service,” said managing partner Brandon Goebel.

What’s your secret?
“All of our steaks are hand­cut, in house,” in a room controlled at 32 degrees, which keeps the beef fresh, Goebel said. “We can give better quality than the competition.”

Besides steak, what are your signature dishes?
“We’re pretty happy with our ribs,” and also the prime rib, which is slow­-roasted overnight for tenderness. “All of our side dishes are made from scratch, same day.” Fresh­baked bread also is very popular, served with its trademark cinnamon butter. “I think people just come for that,” Goebel said.

— Patrick Springer

Location: 4228 15th Ave. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 282­-8888

Why do you think people keep coming back to Kobe’s?
“We have the best service and fresh fish,” said owner Barry Wong. “We go out of our way for service. Fargo has so many sushi restaurants now, I’m glad they voted for us.”

How long does it take to become a sushi chef in Fargo?
“To be a sushi helper, it takes a month and a half. And then to be a sushi chef, three more months of training,” Wong said. “There’s a lot to learn.”

— Anna G. Larson

Location: 308 University Drive N., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 364­-0820

What do you hear from clients about their tattoo experiences?
“Everyone has a smile on their face when they walk out of here,” said Libby Tossey, tattoo artist. “We get a lot of recommendations from clients telling new clients to come in. Recommendations tell us we’re doing our job right. We get lots of follow up and good feedback. That’s when we know people are having a good time.”

What’s the best reason you’ve ever heard for getting a tattoo?
“This is kinda cheesy, but realistically any reason is good. It could be something that will boost your confidence, shares a memory or paints a memorial for someone. It could be a passion you may have. Sometimes you get people who just say, ‘Why not?’ As long as they’re happy with it, that’s the best reason.”

— Kris Kerzman

Location: 1601 32nd Ave. S., Fargo;
1001 4th Ave N., Fargo; 619 13 Ave E., West Fargo;
1500 Center Ave./Highway 10, Dilworth

What makes your thrift stores so popular?
“It’s the donations we receive from our communities. We get quality items to sell at reasonable prices,” said Lisa Olson, vice president for retail operations.

How is the nonprofit’s mission evident in the way the stores are run?
“Our mission is to help at­-risk children and families succeed in the name of Christ. All proceeds go to help programs in the state of North Dakota,” Olson said.

— Robin Huebner

Location: 1801 45th St. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 478­-4688

What sets HuHot’s vegetarian menu apart?
“There’s just so many options,” said Heidi Thurlby, HuHot’s general manager. “The variety ­— I think that’s why people come here.”

— Archie Ingersoll

Location: 1801 45th St. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 478-­4688

What is HuHot’s approach to gluten­-free cuisine?
“We recently switched all of our sauces over to gluten­-free, and we also carry gluten­-free noodles,” Thurlby said. “The majority of our food is vegetables, and obviously those are all gluten­-free.”

— Archie Ingersoll

Location: 1660 13th Ave. E., West Fargo
Phone number: (701) 478­-8667

What makes Spitfire’s ribs the best?
General Manager Gordy Ferkul said Spitfire co­-owner, Tim Olson, heads a competitive barbecue team that travels the country and was recently invited back to a national competition for the seventh year in a row. “His barbecue is some of the best in the world,” Ferkul said. Spitfire uses Olson’s own unique rub and specialized method of smoking, a recipe that consistently brings the flavor for customers.

— Wendy Reuer

Location: 1660 13th Ave. E., West Fargo
Phone number: (701) 478­-8667

The restaurant population is growing in West Fargo yet Spitfire wins best West Fargo restaurant again this year. Why do you think that is?
“I think a big thing is we are locally owned and we use local products,” General Manager Gordy Ferkul said. “We’re very much involved in all of the West Fargo activities, and we have a very good following, which we’ve had for the last eight years, since we opened.”

— Wendy Reuer

Location: 518 1st Ave. N., Fargo; 4240 32nd Ave. S., Fargo; 810 13th Ave. E., West Fargo; 2902 Hwy 10, E.,Moorhead
Phone number: (701) 492-­3377

What about the fries?
“It’s a fun thing to watch, people trying to see how that works. They see that pressurized fry­cutter and every time they hear that noise they look over and say, ‘Oh cool. That’s how they do it.’ It’s kind of entertaining to them. It gives them a show. They can see everything that’s being made for them. There’s no curtain.”

How many potatoes do you go through in a day?
“It depends on the day, but we can go through 250 pounds.”

— John Lamb

Location: 518 1st Ave. N., Fargo; 4240 32nd Ave. S., Fargo; 810 13th Ave. E., West Fargo; 2902 Hwy. 10, E., Moorhead
Phone number: (701) 492-­3377

What’s the appeal of the JL burgers?
“Honestly, it’s the simplicity. We don’t over­complicate it. It’s straight­forward. Because we keep our menu simple, we keep our products fresh,” says Lane Johnson, assistant manager at the downtown Fargo location.

— John Lamb

Location: 610 Main Ave., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 936-­0608

What’s changed since Kittsona opened?
“Kittsona opened in July 2013 as Kittson. We made an update to our name for a more unique and feminine sound,” said Manager Samantha Meske. “In March of 2014 we completely remodeled and now carry lifestyle products.”

Can you share a fun fact about Kittsona?
“Our owners, Nicole Johnson and Tessa Hiney, met at a farmers market in Grand Forks. After a coffee date, their vision of Kittsona started to develop,” Meske said. “Since 2011 Kittsona has grown to five locations: Three throughout North Dakota (Grand Forks, Fargo and Bismarck) and Kittsona Lifestyle and Kittsona Creative Studio in Grand Forks.”

— Anna G. Larson

Location: 3003 32nd Ave. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 356­-5100

Why do people like Lucy’s?
“Everything’s fresh, it’s healthy, it’s low salt,” said owner Lucy Penney.

What do you enjoy about running the restaurant?
“I like the customers,” she said. “I enjoy my restaurant because I make good food for everybody.”

What’s the most difficult part of running Lucy’s?
“It’s long hours. I work hard.”

How did you learn to cook?
“I was a little girl. I just learned to cook from my grandma,” Penney said.

— Adrian Glass­-Moore

Location: Sanford Health Southpointe Clinic, Fargo
Phone number: (701) 234-­8830

What do you think of the honor?
“Humbling. I’d just like to thank my staff for providing competent, friendly care, and the patients for their kindness,” Dr. Randy Kenninger said.

What’s your philosophy as a family doctor?
“Always try to listen is the biggest thing, and do the best that I possibly can to take what they (patients) tell me and help them,” he said.

What would you like to see doctors do more often?
“Be more flexible in the way that they do things and listen better and explain things in common terms,” Kenninger said.

Any tips for patients to make doctors’ jobs easier?
“Stop smoking. Try to exercise at least 20 to 30 minutes a day. Lose weight.”

— Helmut Schmidt

Location: Scheels Arena, 5225 31st Ave. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 364­-3672

What makes the Force experience the best for winter fun?
“We feel it’s the focus on the off-­ice entertainment as well as the on­-ice,” said Jon Kram, president of the Fargo Force. “Hockey itself is a fast­-paced, exciting game to watch. … But also creating that family atmosphere and the fun atmosphere for the fans that aren’t die­hard hockey fans. … It’s a great opportunity to step out of the cold, get into somewhere a little warmer, and have a nice night for a pretty reasonable price.”

What’s new this year?
“We brought in a couple more arcade games. We also created what we call our parade Zamboni (which allows 10 to 12 people to ride during intermission),” Kram said. “We can take a birthday party, a group out, and they can hop on this and ride in the front part of the Zamboni. … It seems like that’s on everyone’s bucket list.”

— Helmut Schmidt

Location: 1126 43rd St. S.W., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 281-­0010

What’s the key to your success?
“We do have a very experienced grooming staff with our salon. They’re all pet lovers,” said David Morse, inventory manager. “They take great pride in grooming the animals entrusted to them. They all have cats and dogs, too.”

What’s new in pet care?
“Pet owners are using more natural products,” a trend that has really escalated in recent years, fueled by concerns a few years ago about additives from China, Morse said. “Since then we’ve definitely seen a response to go to more natural or holistic or organic products.”

— Patrick Springer

Location: 5 p.m., WDAY­-TV Fargo

How does the honor make you feel?
“It’s gratifying. It makes me feel happy,” Robin Huebner said.

Why television news?
“I got into it because of sports. I was going to be a sportscaster. I just got into news by accident. Somebody said, ‘I don’t have a sports job open, but I have news.’ ”

To what do you attribute your appeal?
“I feel like I’ve worked hard to gain people’s trust over the years. In general, I feel people trust me. I am who I am. I try to stay true to what I believe and who I am as a person, and I’d like to think that comes across.”

— Helmut Schmidt

Location: 3 Fargo locations: 1125 19th Ave. N., 1621 45th St. S.W., 4001 53rd Ave. S.
Phone number: (701) 235­-4661

Reaction to winning:
“We’re absolutely thrilled, and we couldn’t do this without our wonderful staff,” said Dustin Mitzel, general manager for the Fargo and Grand Forks stores. “Our employees really help ensure that customers are taken care of and make sure that we can continue to offer great
selection and great pricing.”

Why do people like to shop at Happy Harry’s?
“I think people will enjoy the experience when they come in, our vast selection of beer, wine, spirits.”

— Adrian Glass-­Moore

Location: 3 Fargo locations: 1125 19th Ave. N., 1621 45th St. S.W., 4001 53rd Ave. S.
Phone number: (701) 235-­4661

Reaction to winning:
“We’re absolutely thrilled, and we couldn’t do this without our wonderful staff,” said Dustin Mitzel, general manager for the Fargo and Grand Forks stores. “Our employees really help ensure that customers are taken care of and make sure that we can continue to offer great
selection and great pricing.”

Why do people like to shop at Happy Harry’s?
“I think people will enjoy the experience when they come in, our vast selection of beer, wine, spirits.”

— Adrian Glass-­Moore

Location: 3 Fargo locations: 1125 19th Ave. N., 1621 45th St. S.W., 4001 53rd Ave. S.
Phone number: (701) 235-­4661

Reaction to winning:
“We’re absolutely thrilled, and we couldn’t do this without our wonderful staff,” said Dustin Mitzel, general manager for the Fargo and Grand Forks stores. “Our employees really help ensure that customers are taken care of and make sure that we can continue to offer great
selection and great pricing.”

Why do people like to shop at Happy Harry’s?
“I think people will enjoy the experience when they come in, our vast selection of beer, wine, spirits.”

— Adrian Glass­-Moore

Location: Fargo: 101 N. University Drive, 3040 25th St. S., 1902 45th St. S.W., 1020 19th Ave. N., 1510 32nd Ave. S., 2755 Brandt Drive S., 4377 45th St. S.; West Fargo: 1210 13th Ave. E.; Moorhead: 1501 11th St. N., 3475 28th Ave. S.
Phone number: (800) 745­-7411

What makes Holiday gas stations different?
“We receive countless comments on the helpfulness and sincerity our team members offer to our customers,” said Bob Nye, Holiday spokesman. “And our salads, sandwiches, and the like stand out from our competitors.”

What kind of work goes into running a gas station our readers may not know about?
“We are continually investing in technologies that speed our customers’ transactions and make a team member’s job easier to do well,” Nye said. “It is a far more complex job than most people would imagine.”

— Emily Welker

Location: 704 1st Ave. N., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 551-­6100

Reaction to winning:
“We’re obviously proud to be part of this community,” said Mark Henze, the museum’s interim director and CEO. “We thank the community for the opportunity to bring local regional and national programs to the area, and to be part of this.”

Who goes to the museum, anyway?
“We served over 6,000 kids last year, and thousands of adults,” said Henze.

— Emily Welker

Location: 201 S. University Drive, Fargo; 4255 30th Ave. S., Fargo
Phone number: (701) 239­-3000; (701) 478-­8900

How have the expansion projects on your campuses affected operations?
“It’s created some challenges in terms of parking and traffic flow,” said Grant Benjamin, Bethany’s executive director. “But it shows people we’re staying on top of things; modern, fresh.”

How did you guys get around those challenges to win for the fifth year in a row?
“What really matters is who’s taking care of them (clients),” Benjamin said. “Our employees are caring, loving. It’s a family. Our staff are always mentioned.”

— Emily Welker