So maybe we're not exactly the peppy types. But regardless of the pithy slogan that now festoons shop windows and hotel signs all over town, we do kinda like it here, sure. We're not ashamed to say it. And it stands to reason that you must like it, too. After all, one of the cool things about Missoula is that there's lots of different stuff to entertain, amuse and frustrate you-which is probably why our town has become the weird welter that it is today, a confluence of hill-folk, artists, rednecks, professors, cowboys, students, millennial doomsdayers and various other hangers-on.
To tally up all those different tastes, we at the Indy give you, the readers, a chance every year to tell us what you think is best about Missoula, whether it's in politics, the arts, nightlife, sports, food, you name it. This time around, we offered you a slimmed-down, toned-up "Best of Missoula" ballot with a load of categories for you to choose from, and you responded in force. With the number of respondents reaching a record high, we feel gratified that you take as much interest in rating (and in some cases, berating) this place as we do. So without further ado, we present the winners of our fifth annual "Best of Missoula" readers poll. And yeah, we like it here. Gotta problem with that?
People and Media
Best Elected Official Judging by his utter dominance of this category, perhaps Mayor Mike Kadas should consider running for King of Missoula next election season. Hizzoner rolled over the competition like a Panzer division, although Governor Marc Racicot, County Commish Bill Carey and Muni Court Judge Don Louden all had partisans.
Best Official to Remove from Office Wow, what timing! Only a week after Senator Conrad Burns announces that he basically wants to represent Montana in DC for the rest of his freakin' life, an overwhelming majority of our voters name our bucolic junior senator as the pol most worthy of a kick to the curb. County Commissioner Barbara Evans, a past champ, showed well again, as did her colleague Mike Kennedy, Racicot, and various yahoo legislators. Congrats to all-see you in November!
Best DJ The culture clash at work: While almost everyone voted for a radio personality in this category, a few hipsters chose their favorite hip-hop, house or techno wax master. Maybe next time, big-panted comrades. Meanwhile, let us now praise Craig and Al, undisputed champions of this category and of quizzical drive-time antics. They're not players, they just crush a lot.
Best TV News Anchor Either Jill Valley of KPAX has an inordinate number of friends and family in the ranks of Indy readers, or she rules. Probably the latter. Although Buddy Blankenfeld put up a spirited challenge, Valley blew through this category like a NASCAR driver taking a budget tour of Florence (not the one in Italy). Cheers, Jill.
Best TV Weathercaster KECI's professorial Jim Harmon, the long-standing king of climatic prognostication, retained his throne this year-but only barely. KPAX's Todd Yakoubian vaulted a serious attack on Jim's position, losing only by a handful of votes. Could this have the makings of a grudge match?
Best Radio Station A razor's edge separated the two contenders, but local public radio outlet KUFM managed to eke out a victory over KBGA as lord of Missoula's airwaves.
Best Journalist The Indy's own Zach Dundas is the anointed one in this hotly contested category-and we're so excited, we might consider posting his bond next time. All we know is, whether the story is gay sheep, TubaChristmas or a good old-fashioned execution, Dundas is yer guy. Also showing well: Indy freelancer, Shat Upon publisher and nascent TV personality Andy Smetanka.
Best Public Park What mere greensward can compete with Greenough Park, the roughly mile-long tongue of leaf and bloom that girds Rattlesnake Creek a mere stone's throw from downtown? Bonner and Caras made decent showings at second and third, respectively, but nothing could match the verdant majesty of Greenough.
Best Playground A sizable contingent of cavorters, gambolers and body expression enthusiasts put Bonner at the top of their lists. Northside Park came in second, barely edging out the beautifully overhauled Lowell.
Best Festival Several local events put in strong showings this year. Pagan ancestor worship (Day of the Dead), earnest appreciation of philandering Scottish poets (Robert Burns Dinner) and a holiday of taurine testes (Testicle Festival) all advanced on this year's ballot. How multicultural is that? Topping the list, however, is the International Wildlife Film Festival, which bounced last year's winner First Night back to second place. Third place goes to the venerable Micro B.R.I.W festival.
Best Tourist Attraction Chuck Kaparich's A Carousel for Missoula takes the brass ring for tourism once again. While there were no strong finishers for second or third place, readers responded with an impromptu cross-section of all that rocks about the Garden City, including the Farmer's Market, the Oxford, the University of Montana and our right honorable Reverend Red Bex.
Best Place to Read the Independent Okay, listing "in the crapper" and less appropriate euphemisms as the bomb spot to clock the Independent ceased to be even the scantest bit clever at least five years ago. Granted, the cozily non-committal home comes in a distant second, but for all we know "home" is just another nice way of saying the water closet. Third most popular place to read us was Friends, followed by a slew of coffeehouses and eateries.
Best Place to Hear Gossip "So, um, then she like totally goes, 'um, like, what-ever,' you know? And I was all like, 'um, hell-o, okay?!'" Actual dialogue overheard in the University Center, voted best place to hear gossip for the second year in a row. Honors for second go to Charlie B's, the Bar Where Everybody Knows Your Name But Forgets It After Eight Shots of Jaegermeister and where the ruddy and mottled sexual underbelly of Missoula's dating scene is perpetually exposed.
Best Spot for People Watching To no one's surprise Southgate Mall walks away with the honors for the second year in a row. My friend Noriko has this weird conspiracy theory about pheromonal additives in the mall's climate-control system that make people get the munchies, buy lots of clothes, unexpectedly break into show tunes, and so on. Out To Lunch and the Farmers' Market also display Missoula's human trail-mix to magnificent advantage, finding just a little more room in your hearts than the predictable assortment of bars and cafes.
Arts & Entertainment
Best Local Actor/Actress Well, the fact that there's one winner for both the actor and actress categories should tell you something right off the bat. Know what we're sayin'? The laurels this year go, once again, to the unsinkable Severt Philleo, whose classy drag has entertained Garden City theater goers for years. Jim Caron took second in the boy's category, by the way, with Liz Jacobsen close on Severt's stiletto heels for the best actress nod.
Best Local Writer Western Montana is home to more than its share of excellent scribes, as you know. But since we lumped the poet, novelist and nonfiction categories together this year, competition was especially stiff. After the dust settled, it was the gritty crime novelist James Lee Burke who ran away with the top honors, with Jim Crumley close behind. Also, just about everyone on staff at the Independent got votes. Aww.
Best Movie Theater Some anonymous Internet crank recently complained that Montana is plagued with "movie geeks." We're not really sure what that means. But most of you celluloid addicts out there voted for volume, 'cause you gave the first-place ranking to Missoula's new, mighty Carmike 10 multiplex. Let the record state, though, that it was a narrow win over the artsy New Crystal. Plus, The Wilma made a decent showing in third. Take that, web geek.
Best Art Gallery A fiber-thin advantage worked for the Monte Dolack Gallery in the end, as Dolack's outdoorsy paintings barely edged out The Art Museum of Missoula for the Garden City's best atelier. Wise asses had their say as usual, though, giving plenty of votes for places like The Vatican. Haw haw.
Best Local Band Behold-a new day has dawned for Garden City rock. In a narrow upset, the incumbent standard-bearers of local bar-rock, The Moonlighters, were deposed this year by the roadhouse sounds of Bob Wire and the Fencemenders. We can only be grateful that it was a peaceful transfer of power.
Best Video Rental In the words of Homer Simpson, television gives so much and asks so little-teacher, mother ... secret lover. Mmmmm. Television. When it came to where you like to go to get fodder for your tiny tube, Crystal Video was far and away your favorite choice. Omnipresent media chain Hastings got its slice of the pie with a distant second. Mmmm. Pie.
Best Cowboy Bar Rocket science determines the outcome of this category, because the winner is ... The Cowboy Bar! Given this joint's catchy name, the other competitors were left in the dust, but Who Cares, Cappuccino Cowboy and the Stumble In all received votes.
Best Sports Bar Another race with a predictable winner, but given the staggering array of TVs, it's hardly a surprise the Press Box won. My personal favorite, Red's, came in third, edged out by Paradise Falls. Bonus NCAA playoff tip: Put your ducats on the Michigan State Spartans.
Best Dance Bar Ah, the perennial question in this apparently rhythmless town: where to dance? Old favorite AmVets maintained dominance, but young upstart Feruqi's is poised to conquer next. While you'll hear standard dance music at AmVet's, Feruqi's features rotating DJs who once spun "Electric Kingdom," one of the greatest songs ever recorded.
Best Dive Bar I'm not sure what makes an establishment a "dive," but if it's plenty of smoke hanging in the air, at least one wall containing the framed photos of its regulars and drinks so strong they'll break your mind, then the winning Charlie B's, a.k.a. the Indy's "downtown office," has it in spades. Genuine dives Trail's End and The 10th Street Tavern managed to get a few votes also.
Best Juke Box The Silver Dollar and Al & Vic's battled it out in this category, but "Alcoholics" finally won out, probably due to sheer variety. If you want to boogie to "Shakedown Street," head to the Dollar. But if you're in a hard livin' Johnny Cash kind of mood, Al & Vic's is your place.
Best Pool Table The clean, well-lit Palace takes the cake, to the surprise of very few. The tables there are nicely groomed and balanced. Sean Kelly's came in second, with Flipper's a close third. "Flip's," by the way, shows both episodes of The Simpsons every day if you prefer a little humor with your billiards.
Best Place to Hear Jazz The Old Post triumphs, and you really can't beat its cozy atmosphere and friendly personnel. Sean Kelly's is gaining on them, though, so let the "O.P.P" be warned. Montana's Lounge also made a decent showing, thanks to their swingin' house band the Jodi Marshall Quartet.
Best Place to Hear Blues A few nights each week, you're likely to hear low down sounds at the Top Hat, which is why this local institution won. Once again, Sean Kelly's made a good showing, along with the Old Post.
Best Place to Hear Rock 'n' Roll The totally dank Jay's whipped ass here, and I'd wager mostly because of its bread and butter-talented local bands. It is the only place in town I've ever seen fire, blood and marshmallow creme appear on stage. One mental midget voted for the Radio. Isn't that hilarious?!
Best Place to Mosh In all honesty, Jay's is probably the only place to mosh properly. How to mosh the bitch-ass way: Stand right on the edge of the pit and when the colliding moshers get close to you, shove them back into the melee. I fear a certain segment of our readership doesn't know what the meaning of the word "mosh" means, as they voted for Second Thought, the Mo Club and the Dinosaur Cafe.
Best Martini Hmmmm. Call me cynical, but I wonder if Feruqi's won because they have a neon martini on their sign? Maybe not, since they received 44 votes compared to the runner up Depot's 11. Do you people around here even know what a good martini tastes like? Me neither.
Best Bloody Mary What do you do when you're battling a hangover but it's, like, dumping powder and you haven't skied all week? Head to the winning Last Run Inn at Snowbowl, bro. Called by many "The Best Kept Secret in Missoula," the mix is dark red, full of pulverized garlic and things that "float." The Old Post, which came in second, has been trying to duplicate the formula.
Best Beer Selection I take my "beeritos" in a glass tortilla, which is to say, I ain't picky. But some of you folks have to have that organic, hand-crafted mess, which is why you voted for The Rhino, which has no less than 50 beers on tap and they change all the time. Other senseless answers included Bud Lite and my house.
Best Happy Hour Ritz wins! Ritz wins! Readers once again demonstrated smarts by voting for Charlie's, which has no happy hour, and Food for Thought and Bernice's. (This isn't Berkeley, and our staff agrees coffee happy hours don't count.)