2015 Best of the Southwest Metro

We’ve brought together the top businesses, people and places in the southwest metro.

Click here to view photos from the 2015 Best of the Southwest Metro celebration at the Lafayette Club. Photos by Marissa Martinson.

We all have our favorites. So it’s no surprise that when we asked our readers to pick the best shops, restaurants and service providers in almost 50 different categories, they had strong opinions. Tallying up the results was like creating a list to an exclusive party—a who’s who of notable businesses, people and places that make our region special.

But this is a party that anyone can join.

Just invite yourself by checking out any of the outstanding nominees and winners highlighted on the following pages. We divided the results into six categories, including food, homes, wellness, retail, family life and services.

Some of the winners you might recognize from years past (Mackmiller Design + Build and Lions Tap—we’re looking at you), while others are relatively new to the scene (Have you had a chance to check out Unearthed Arts, The Social or The Smiling Olive, yet?), but they all earned a place at this party thanks to our readers.

Southwest Metro Magazine
editor Liz Potasek couldn’t help sharing a few of her personal preferences, too. Watch for her Editor’s Picks as well. After all, we all have our favorites.

Photo by Tate Carlson

Food & Restaurants

There are plenty of places—new and old—to celebrate this year.

It’s easy to experience the flavor of the southwest metro—it’s on the tables of local restaurants, in the vineyards of local wineries, on tap at local breweries and even at the bottom of a shot glass in the area’s first distillery. Whether you’re planning a birthday bash or an intimate evening for two, there are plenty of local dining establishments to toast.

Best Dessert Spot
Redstone American Grill   8000 Eden Road, Eden Prairie    952.903.9500 
Too full for dessert? Perish the thought. The dessert creations at Redstone are way too good to pass up. There’s a sinfully-rich, almost-dark-as-night chocolate mousse cake with a chocolate sauce drizzle and clouds of vanilla bean ice cream and whipped cream. Still not convinced? Try the banana cream pie with a toasted walnut graham cracker crust, banana custard, fresh sliced bananas and real whipped cream.
Runners up: The Social, Wildfire

Best Bakery
Nothing Bundt Cakes    8435 Joiner Way, Eden Prairie     952.512.2500
Baked goods are beautiful and Bundt-iful at Nothing Bundt Cakes in Eden Prairie. Expect a warm, welcoming atmosphere from friendly bakers eager to make your day more special. Every Bundt cake has a moist crumb and a decorative piping of luscious creamy-sweet frosting—white chocolate raspberry and peanut butter chocolate chip are favorite flavors.
Runners up: Byerly’s, Mackenthun’s Fine Foods

Best Tavern/Bar
Tavern 4&5    16396 Wagner Way, Eden Prairie    952.934.4545 
For great comfort food with a twist, take a seat at Tavern 4&5. Think apple and hickory wood-fired rotisserie chicken presented in a polished casual setting—all with exceptional service and strong community spirit. In less than two years, this modern American tavern has gained a big following.
Runners up: Floyd’s Bar, Hoppers Bar & Grill

Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant
Cuzzy’s Brick House    2880 Chaska Blvd., Chaska    952.448.5594;
A family-friendly culture makes the dining experience a pleasurable one, especially for the younger set. The entire team at Cuzzy’s Brick House in Chaska makes kids feel welcome, but it’s Elaine Cleveland, the social director, who really rolls out the red carpet for them. “Elaine loves the kids,” says general manager Matt White. “She has the energy of a 25-year-old and will stop at every table to make sure they are having a great time. They actually call her Grandma.” In a long-running special, kids eat free on Mondays—that’s a deal parents will enjoy, too.
Runners up: Buffalo Wild Wings, Houlihan’s

Photo courtesy of Lion's Tap

Best Burgers
Lions Tap     16180 Flying Cloud Drive, Eden Prairie   952.934.5299
The Lions Tap serves up burgers in a proud tradition that goes back to 1958. Burgers are always fresh—never frozen—and hand-pattied. A special seasoning with a famous blend of salt, herbs and spices seals in the flavor. Consistently delicious food served by long-time staff keeps hungry patrons coming back for more. “Price, quality and service is our motto,” says Matt Notermann, general manager and partner. Thirsty? Ask about the fun line of craft beers, including a special Lions Tap brew.
Runners up: Hoppers Bar and Grill, Vic’s Bar and Grill

Best Patio Dining
Redstone American Grill    8000 Eden Road, Eden Prairie    952.903.9500
Enjoy a meal with a view on the Redstone patio—weather permitting, of course. The season usually begins in April or May and continues as long as Mother Nature permits. But diehards delight in braving the harshest of elements to enjoy the two tables centered with fireplaces. A full menu of tasty temptations and full bar selections is yours for the asking, so kick back and experience the good life in a lovely outdoor dining setting.
Runners up: Floyd’s Bar, Lola’s Lakehouse

Best Bartender
Brian Semira, Buffalo Wild Wings   550 W. 79th St., Chanhassen     952.934.9453
Brian Semira is at home behind the bar at the Buffalo Wild Wings in Chanhassen. He loves “every aspect of bartending: pouring drinks, laid-back conversation,” he says. A lot of the talk is about football and hockey at the sports bar, and the customer interaction makes his job a joy. Semira enjoys pouring a tall tap beer, a “quick, straight-forward drink.”
Runners up: Jon DeMell, Wildfire; Tiffany Kroening, Floyd’s Bar

Best Date Night Spot

Wildfire    8251 Flying Cloud Drive, Eden Prairie   952.914.9100  
A comfy, cozy atmosphere sets the stage for date night at Wildfire in Eden Prairie. “We know our regulars pretty well, so it makes it feel kind of homey,” says Liv Gorman, manager. The 1940s-style steakhouse has lots of snug booths perfect for dining for two. Expertly prepared steaks, chops and seafood also make a good impression.
Runners up: Lola’s Lakehouse, Terra Waconia

Best Place for Craft Beer on Tap
Enki Brewing    7929 Victoria Drive, Victoria    952.300.8408  
Good times are plenty in this brewery’s tap room perfectly situated in a 100-year-old creamery built of brick. And the fun comes at a good price: all taps are $5. A changing selection of artisan-quality craft beers might even inspire another round.
Runners up: Prairie Tap House, Tavern 4&5

Best Coffee Shop
Mocha Monkey    Downtown: 115 S. Olive St.; Waconia; 952.442.2853       HomeTown Bank: 641 Marketplace Drive, Waconia; 952.442.0452
“We are way more than just a coffee shop,” says Mocha Monkey owner Jon Schmidt. And he’s not kidding. The coffee shop’s first location in downtown Waconia is a community gathering space and the home to many a meeting. Settle in and try a specialty drink, like the innovative chocolate-peanut butter Rhesus Monkey Mocha, or go for something more traditional. Either way, your hand-crafted concoction comes in a hand-thrown coffee cup made by Schmidt, who is also a potter (he keeps his pottery wheel in a studio in the basement of the shop). A newer location at HomeTown Bank spreads the coffeehouse joy with the convenience of a drive-through and wide seating. Come for the coffee, community or conversation.

Runners up: Dunn Bros. Coffee, JJ’s Coffee+Wine Bistro
Photo by Tate Carlson


Set the scene for your life with help from these professionals.

It’s the details that make a house into a home—from the peonies next to the front door to the throw pillows on the couch. Local gardeners, interior designers, remodelers and shops help us make—and remake—our houses into homes.

Best Interior Designer
Jane-Marie Bloomberg, Embellishments Design Studio     6766 Woodland Drive, Eden Prairie     612.251.6512   
Design challenges are transformed into creative solutions at Embellishments Design Studio in Eden Prairie. Jane-Marie Bloomberg, owner of Embellishments Design Studio, has a 13-year history of achievement in interior design. The secret to her creative success? “Just being very pragmatic, that’s what people are drawn towards, and we really have fun,” Bloomberg says. “Both form and function come into play—more than a look, it’s practicality.” Her full-service studio “makes the design happen” down to the finest decorative detail for every scale of project.
Runners up: Jessica Cook, JLC Remodel Consulting & Interior Design; Sandi Guilfoil, Romens

Best Home Retail / Furnishings
Yetzer’s Home Furnishings & Floor Coverings       33 W. First St., Waconia    952.442.4242
With a wide range of styles, Yetzer’s Home Furnishings & Floor Coverings delivers high-quality furniture designed to last a lifetime. The friendly, well-trained team only sells what is best for its customers. But the personalized customer service doesn’t necessarily come with a higher price. “Our prices are very comparable to big box sale prices,” says Steve Yetzer, owner.
Runners up: Carver Junk Company, HOM Furniture

Best Landscape Designer/Architect
The Mustard Seed     10000 Great Plains Blvd. Chaska     952.445.6555 
Rooted in integrity and founded in Christian faith, The Mustard Seed strives to bring out God’s creation in every project, according to owner Mark Halla. Each project is designed to reflect the client’s lifestyle, while also taking into account the natural landscape.
Runners up: By the Woods, Southview Design

Photo courtesy of Mackmiller

Best Builder/Remodeler
Mackmiller Design + Build     15694 Village Woods Drive, Eden Prairie    952.949.8600  

Breathe new life into your home with Mackmiller Design + Build in Eden Prairie. Mark and Mary Mackmiller are a husband-and-wife-team who have spent more than 11 years helping clients make their dream homes come true. A client-focused approach makes every project unique to the individual, and ensures that beautiful spaces reflect each client’s inner essence. “We try to create visual excitement in everything that we do,” says Mary Mackmiller.
Runners up: John Kraemer & Sons, Lecy Bros.

Best Yard Service
Beniek Property Services Inc.     8229 Upland Circle, Chanhassen     952.361.3399  
In any kind of weather, you can count on the dependable, reliable crew at Beniek Property Services. The company’s experts take care of everything from yard work to snow removal with the same responsive customer service that began when Brian Beniek started the business as a teenager in 1978. Full-service outdoor management includes residential and commercial properties—all done to a polished look.
Runners up: Green Meadows, Superior Lawn & Landscape

Best Heating/AC Company
Peak Heating & Cooling Inc.     7801 Park Drive, Suite B, Chanhassen    952.401.1195   
Peak Heating & Cooling protects air quality and safety for your home and business. “We do good work and strive for good customer service,” says Perry Leiter, co-owner. As Peak proudly proclaims, their services “are welcome in more homes in the Chanhassen-Eden Prairie area than any other heating and air conditioning contractor.” A great team of professionals does its best to keep you comfortable with properly controlled air. “We’ve been here a long time doing the same thing for many years,” Leiter says. “You don’t see that so much anymore.”
Runners up: Lake Air Heating and Cooling, Pronto Heating + Air Conditioning

Photo courtesy of Park Dental

Health & Wellness

Maintain a healthy glow—and you’ll be the life of the party.

From infancy to “the golden years,” these professionals help us look good and feel good on the inside and out.

Best Dental Clinic
Park Dental     18315 Cascade Drive, Suite 120, Eden Prairie; 952.949.2536       1150 Hazeltine Blvd., Chaska; 952.952.0777
The teams at Park Dental understand that preventative dental care is the foundation for overall good dental health. In addition, services include teeth whitening, cosmetic dentistry, dental implants, sedation dentistry and other specialty dental care. “Our doctors and team members are dedicated professionals who contribute their unique strengths, interests, experiences, education and love for dentistry so that you have confidence in the care you receive,” Michael Johnson, Chaska practice manager, says.  
“Our teams have fun while working hard to provide outstanding care,” adds John Gulon, a dentist at Park Dental Eden Prairie, noting that Park Dental Eden Prairie has been part of the community for more than 26 years. “We work very hard to distinguish ourselves as a full-service family dentistry practice with oral health, patient care and service being front and center,” Gulon says. “We truly appreciate the trust and confidence our patients have in our dentists and team members.”
Runners up: Chaska Dental Center, Prairie Dental Group

Best Chiropractic Clinic
Neubauer Chiropractic Health Center     20 W. Main St., Waconia     952.442.9876  
Of his clinic, open for more than 25 years, Dan Neubauer says customer loyalty is the key to success. The full-service center offers chiropractic care, corrective exercise, lifestyle advice, nutritional counseling and spinal and postural screenings. The “total health” approach is offered for infants through senior citizens.
Runners up: Live Well Chiropractic Spa & Wellness Center, Soltis Family Chiropractic

Best Orthodontic Clinic

Hultgren, Hoxie & Waki Orthodontics   7825 Terrey Pine Ct., #101, Eden Prairie      952.937.0111
The doctors at Hultgren, Hoxie & Waki Orthodontics are dedicated to bringing out the best smiles. The clinic, which has served the area for 34 years, offers a wide variety of treatment options, ranging from traditional braces to Invisalign, along with the latest innovative orthodontic advancements.
Runners up: Veil Orthodontics, Chaska Dental

Best Pediatric Clinic

Southdale Pediatric Associates     18315 Cascade Drive, Suite 170, Eden Prairie    952.949.0399  
With a team of pediatricians devoted to providing consistent medical care for patients from birth to 22 years old, Southdale Pediatrics is an easy choice. The clinic offers health care services, including well-child visits that evaluate children’s physical, developmental and emotional growth; diagnosis and treatment of pediatric illnesses; and referrals to specialists when needed. Rare is the child who gets ill during regular business hours, so Southdale Pediatric provides a 24-hours nurse line and walk-in strep, allergy and after-hours clinics.
Runners up: South Lake Pediatrics, New Kingdom Pediatrics

Best Medspa/ Rejuvenation Clinic
Beyond Beauty Aesthetic Clinic     7770 Dell Road #120, Chanhassen     952.955.7850 
Everything from age, stress, diet, genetics and weather affects our skin. The team at Beyond Beauty Aesthetic Clinic provides advanced skin care services, including Sciton Laser Skin Rejuvenation, Botox, dermal fillers, Forever Young BBL, Laser Hair Removal, microderms, chemical peels, HydroWand Facial and medical grade products. “We thrive on building compassionate and caring relationships with the individuals we serve and the community around us,” says April Thomes, owner. “We strive to not only improve your skin concerns, but enhance your self-image and confidence.”
Runners up: Envy Skin Clinic, Refine Laser & Skin Care

Best Fitness/Yoga Studio
Bring It! Studios     2963 Water Tower Place, Chanhassen      952.361.3575  
On its website, Bring It! Studios describes itself as “fitness for the forgotten. A place where you can feel comfortable the way you are—ready to work out and ready to be transformed.” There are classes and programs for any fitness aptitude or attitude—CrossFit, family and youth, mind-body, athletic fusion and cardio—to name a few. Even tykes as young as 3 years old can get fit at CrossFit Mini.
Runners up: Good & Twisted Yoga, CorePower Yoga

Best Eye Clinic
Southwest Eye Care    1464 White Oak Drive, Chaska       952.466.3937 
The full-service optometry practice offers the most up-to-date instrumentation, well-trained and friendly technicians and staff and the latest in high quality eyeglass frame and lens designs. In an effort to meet the most comprehensive patient needs, Southwest Eye Care offers full eye examinations, pre-testing and a hearing program, established to offer patients a full wellness check of how their eyes and ears function together as a part of the comprehensive eye exam. “We make our patients No. 1,” says DeLynn Barta, office coordinator, and the healthcare of patients’ eyes is the primary concern. Various hours Monday-Saturday.
Runners up: Lakeview Clinic, Precision Eye Care

Best Senior Living Residence
Summit Place Senior Community     8501 Flying Cloud Drive, Eden Prairie     952.995.1000  
Situated in the heart of Eden Prairie, Summit Place offers townhome, apartment, assisted living and memory care living options for seniors age 62 and up. Summit Place’s location is ideal for shopping, dining and participating in any number of community events offered to seniors. Amenities include organized social activities, cultural events and community outings; a fully-staffed wellness program, including aerobics; evening meals in the elegant dining room; general store and banking services; scheduled transportation to local area religious services; on-site chapel with services; and a 24-hour emergency response system. The Health and Fitness Center features a warm-water pool, an aquatic therapy pool, fitness stations and additional programs.
Runners up: SummerWood of Chanhassen, Lighthouse of Waconia

Best Dermatology Clinic
Dermatology Specialists     775 Prairie Center Drive, Suite 370, Eden Prairie     952.920.3808   
Featuring 12 board-certified dermatologists, the staff is trained to evaluate skin, hair and nails to locate problems and diagnose a host of conditions that range from minor to life-threatening. Cosmetic dermatology is also available, and patients should note that Botox, Juvederm, Radiesse, Fraxel Restore, Leg Vein and Vbeam Laser treatments are performed by dermatologists only, and additional cosmetic procedures, such as microdermabrasion, chemical peels, laser hair removal, BBL (Broad Band Light) and facials are performed by a licensed practical nurse. Finally, the clinic offers Mohs Micrographic Surgery, an advanced treatment procedure for skin cancer.
Runners up: Associated Skin Care Specialists, Park Nicollet Clinic – Chanhassen

Photo courtesy of Jim Gilbert’s Wild bird Store


Local shops provide a personalized shopping experience.

Sure, we can get pretty much anything imaginable delivered to our door in a few days by ordering something online—it’s convenient, but it’s also a bit hollow. There’s something special about walking into the same jewelry store where your dad bought your mom’s engagement ring. And isn’t it nice when you trust the person selling you the sweater to tell you the truth about whether it’s flattering? For these and a million other reasons (local art! local gossip! a strong local economy!), we love these shops.

Best Gift Shop
Jim Gilbert’s Wild Bird Store     48 W. Main St., Waconia     952.442.2120 
There must be something in the water at 48 W. Main Street. The Waconia fixture has served the needs of residents since the 1800s, beginning when it was a shoemaker’s shop and family home. Today, it’s home to Jim Gilbert’s Wild Bird Store, purchased in 2004 from the Gilberts by Chuck and Pat Anderson, pictured above. Pat handpicks every item in the store, blending her “love of nature, keen eye for color, texture, and presentation in a welcoming shop filled with the things I enjoy— quality bird supplies, unique gifts and home accents.” The store also supports the endeavors of local artisans, showcasing their items for view and sale.
Runners up: Seedlings, Unearthed Arts

Best Boutique
The Stash       544 S. Elm St., Waconia    612.805.0130  
The owners of The Stash believe that “looking fabulous should not cost a fortune”—no truer words were ever spoken to shoppers, sizes S to XL. Open since 2010, the shop offers clothes and accessories for any woman who wants her wardrobe to be fashionable and on trend. “The key is that we sell at an affordable price,” Summer Jensen, co-owner, says. Featuring clothing for all shapes and sizes, Jensen and co-founder Rebekah Melchert wanted to create a store atmosphere that reads more “girlfriend’s closet” than typical retail shop. With staff ready to assist shoppers in finding the best fit and style, the store definitely has that friendly feel.
Runners up: Tazzie Baby And Child, Clearwater Clothing

Best Liquor Store
Haskell’s     19900 W. 78th St., Chanhassen     952.345.1115   
A vast selection of wines, spirits and beers makes shopping at Haskell’s an international experience. Outstanding finds come from the far corners of the globe. A yearly schedule of 15 to 20 major tastings permits customers to try before they buy. Haskell’s has a national reputation for excellence in wine. As the company likes to tout, “Is it any wonder that Haskell’s on wine is like sterling on silver?”
Runners up: Dolce Vita Wine Shop, Legacy Wine & Spirits

Best Car Dealership
Lenzen Chevrolet Buick Dealership     2860 Chaska Blvd., Chaska; 952.314.8562 sales      952.314.8567 service 
A high customer retention rate and old-school style of service sets Lenzen apart. “The biggest thing is treating the customer with respect,” says Jeff Lenzen, executive manager. This exemplary treatment comes at a reasonable price. At the Chaska location, the company’s motto is, “drive a little, save a lot.” Great service reigns supreme. “Our service department is our best asset,” Lenzen says. “We do what Chevrolet says times 400 percent.”
Runners up: Metropolitan Ford of Eden Prairie, Waconia Ford

Best Florist
Victoria Rose Floral     7974 Victoria Drive, Victoria      952.443.4774
“I handle it all,” says Marta Christianson, owner. “I’m a full service florist.” For the past 10 years, Victoria Rose Floral has been a go-to place for residents’ weddings, funerals, home events, special occasions and business/corporate events. While it’s clear Christianson has a love for floral décor, her priority is customer service. She instructs her employees to “welcome customers like you’re welcoming them into your home.”
Runners up: Chanhassen Floral, Bella Donna Florist

Best Small Business Customer Service
Higher Power Training      10360 W. 70th St., Eden Prairie    952.942.6320   
The team at Higher Power offers a hybrid approach to clients—the personalized customer service of a small studio and the facilities of a large training center. The 14,500-square-foot center offers personal training, sport performance training, nutrition guidance, metabolic detoxification coaching and massage therapy. An infra-red sauna assists with detoxification, weight loss, immune system enhancement, stress relief and pain reduction. “At Higher Power Training, our focus is individual client needs, so we work together to make a plan to help each client achieve their fitness goals,” Ruth Ivesdal, co-owner, says.
Runners up: Tazzie Baby and Child, Carver Junk Company

Best Jewelry Store
Weinzierl Jewelry      8 W. First St., Waconia     952.442.2885 
When it comes to choosing a gift for a special or meaningful event, trust and confidence are important. Since 1894, Weinzierl Jewelry has served the southwest metro community. The store offers certified diamonds, precision-cut colored gems, as well as classic to cutting-edge jewelry designs. In addition to gift items, the store provides fine jewelry repair, custom jewelry and a state-of-the-art computer program to record customers’ purchases. “As a fourth generation jeweler, it’s been an honor to serve the Waconia and surrounding communities with our products and services,” Dick Weinzierl says. “The faith that is put in us is not taken lightly.”
Runners up: Becklund Jewelers, Wedding Day Diamonds

Best New Shop

Unearthed Arts     44 Main St. W., Waconia     952.442.4499  
You might call Unearthed Arts a living art space. It’s constantly evolving as customers, students and local artists discover and create new art avenues. The space offers plenty of reasons to visit: purchase original works of art and unique gifts, meet local artists, tour the two-level studio and sign up for classes for ages 6 and older. (Multigenerational classes are offered, too.) “I think we felt the community was ready for an art center,” says Cathy Menssen, who helped open the shop in May 2014. “We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the support of the community.”
During its first summer alone, Unearthed Arts hosted 300 students, ages 6 to 78 years old. Menssen says many customers come in looking for a gift and leave inspired to sign up for a class, and vice versa.
Runners up: The Smiling Olive, The Social

Best Consignment Shop
The Hanger     858 W. 78th St., Chanhassen    952.934.6008  
Kate (Spade) is there. Michael (Kors) hangs out, too. Ralph (Lauren) makes appearances. “There’s something for everyone,” says Tina Healy, owner. “We have things for all ages.” With 8,000-10,000 items in store, women and girls can find great deals on consignment clothing and new accessories, including jewelry and scarves. During peak season, 150-250 items arrive daily. The merchandise is beautifully arranged, and the store has a boutique feel. For those interested in selling their goods, the store will either buy outright or consign the items. Consigners can view their sales online. Hint for spring: New and consigned prom dresses will make a colorful splash at The Hanger.
Runners up: Turn Style Consignment Store, Encore Consignment Boutique

Best Shoe Store
Von Maur     400 Prairie Center Drive, Eden Prairie    952.829.0200  
Behind every great shoe store is—the sale room. The Von Maur shoe department is chock-full of about 300 brands of men’s, women’s and children’s shoes, boots and even slippers, but the best guilty pleasure may be a visit to the store’s infamous sale room, which features women’s (sorry fellas) shoes that are high on style and deep on discount. The sales staff knows footwear and is readily available to tend to customers’ needs. “Customers love to shop in the Von Maur shoe department because of the excellent customer service they receive and high quality shoes that we carry,” store manager Elizabeth Kuebler says. Don’t forget: Von Maur offers free gift wrapping and shipping all year long.
Runners up: Schuler Shoes, DSW

Best Foodie Shop
Lakewinds Food Co-op   435 Pond Promenade, Chanhassen     952.697.3366
Lakewinds Food Co-op specializes in natural, organic, sustainable and local foods. “We are the only co-op in the Twin Cities with three locations, we’ve been in business for 40 years and we’re a leader in the organic and local food movement,” says Jill Krantz, event and community relations coordinator. Look for environmentally responsible and humane products in every department: produce, packaged food, cheese, baked goods, meat and seafood, deli, and wellness. Lakewinds sells “the very best local and organic foods to promote a healthy and vibrant community,” says Krantz.
Runners up: Kowalski’s, The Smiling Olive

Photo by Alyssa Kristine

Kids & Family

Where do you turn when you’re looking for dance lessons or child care or a place to drop off your dog during a vacation? Look no further—our readers pick their favorites.

These places take good care of our children and pets.

Best Dance Studio

The Dance Warehouse    2471 Galpin Court, Chanhassen    952.361.3660   
A passion for the art of dance knows no age. Classes run for ages 3 through adult, although much of the instruction is for children. “We build good dancers at our Dance Warehouse, share the love of dance with kids, and they take it to the next level,” says Tracy Standal, owner. “We are like one big family. We have over 650 kids.” Dance is so fun it “is hard to call it work sometimes,” she says.
Runners up: Dance Arts Centre, Prairie School of Dance

Best Preschool/Childcare
Children of Tomorrow     1490 Lake Drive W., Chanhassen     952.448.7829
With a company motto of “educating your future,” Children of Tomorrow truly provides a strong foundation for children. “We’re blessed to get to work with so many children and families every day,” says Aleta Mechtel, owner and president. “We get to have an impact on their future.” Children ages 6 weeks through 9 years old benefit from this solid program of preschool excellence.
Runners up: Especially for Children, Step by Step Montessori

Doggy Daycare/Kennel
The Canine Club and Spa    2910 82nd St., Chanhassen    952.361.9663  
Dogs and cats “rest, relax and have fun” at The Canine Club and Spa. Pleasures are many at this deluxe short and extended-stay pet boarding facility. A spacious three-acre setting gives your furry friends plenty of leg room, plus large indoor suites, three swimming pools, wellness center and other pet-pampering amenities. Classical music selections, TVs, exercise breaks and caring staff members make your family pet feel loved during your absence. All-breed grooming by seasoned pros keeps your pet looking good, too.
Runners up: Adogo Pet Hotel, Top Dog Country Club

Place to Spoil Your Pet
Mutts on Main     128 West Main St, Waconia    952.442.5919 
Big dogs, little dogs—they are all welcome at Mutts on Main. “The dogs really enjoy coming here,” says Ross Meuffels, owner. A safe and comfortable environment where every dog is treated like family makes the grooming experience a better one for your dog. Facials, pawdicures, teeth brushings and other grooming routines pamper pooches to perfection.
Runners up: Chuck & Don’s, The Canine Club and Spa

Best Veterinary Clinic
Waconia Veterinary Clinic    113 Minnesota Hwy. 5, Waconia    952.442.2119  

Equine, bovine, ovine, oh my! The Waconia Veterinary Clinic treats much more of the animal kingdom than just cats and dogs. The full service veterinary practice gives compassionate and meticulous care to every creature, whether large or small. “We have the ability to support the life-long bond that exists between pets and people,” says Kathy Shanahan, practice manager. Professional dedicated care is the hallmark of this animal practice that dates back to 1971. 
Runners up: Chanhassen Veterinary Clinic, Chaska Valley Veterinary Clinic

Best Learning/Tutoring Center
LearningRx Center     600 Market St., Suite 120, Chanhassen    952.949.6900
“Train the brain. Get smarter.” The LearningRx Center motto is an attainable goal for students, or anyone, at any age. “Instead of teaching subject matter, we seek a permanent change in learning ability,” says Baird Johnson, executive director. Brain training is a way to improve IQ by an average of 15 points, according to Johnson. Very intense mental exercises conducted in a one-on-one setting work on the root causes of learning struggles.‒LO
Runners up: Sylvan Learning Center, Tutor Doctor

Photo by Tate Carlson


Finding a new house or a new hairstyle? We all need some help getting the party started.

They’re here to help us. From managing our money to advising us on a new hair color, these are the people we turn to for answers to all of life’s difficult questions.

Best Hairstylist/Barber
Ann Eldridge, The Parlour  
7924 Victoria Drive, Suite 206, Victoria     952.212.1922

With more than 25 years of experience with scissors and blow dryers in hand, Ann Eldridge still finds pleasure in her work as a hair stylist. “It’s a fun job,” she says. “You really get to know your clients.”
Her mission with every style: Giving clients a positive outlook about themselves. “People leave happy, and they feel better,” she says.
While Eldridge tends to the hairstyling end of the beauty treatment menu, The Parlour also offers hair coloring, permanents, manicures and pedicures, waxing, facials, peels, massages and eye lash extensions.
Runners up: Maddie Johnson, LifeSpa; Sommer Eveslage, Salon Trende

Best Financial Advisor
Mark Sanda, Principal Financial Group     11100 Wayzata Blvd, Suite 161, Minnetonka    952.277.4283
As a financial advisor with the Minnesota Business Center of Principal Financial Group, Mark Sanda focuses on individual and family financial planning, as well as corporate executive benefits. The Chaska resident values his clients and provides them with honesty, confidentiality and excellent follow-up skills. With experience on his side, Sanda is a 35-year veteran in technology and financial services.
Runners up: Jamie Pederson, Edward Jones; Stephen Soderstrom, Ameriprise Financial                      

Best Massage Therapist
Bonnie Kimble, BodyWork Ultra    10360 W. 70th St., Eden Prairie    952.374.8886 
Bottom line—the body shouldn’t be in pain, and Bonnie Kimble, a licensed massage therapist, strives to listen to each client to determine how she can find the source of their pain and relieve it through various techniques, including neuromuscular and craniosacral therapies, active isolated stretching, sports massage, Swedish/relaxation massage, chair massage and Kinesio taping (with all sorts of fun colors!). In business since 2009, Kimble’s massage mission includes: “Having people tell me that they feel good and helping people feel like they should feel.”
Runners up: Cathy Stahlke, Balance Life; Darci Rothstein, Waterfront Therapeutic Massage & Wellness

Best Nail Salon
Turbo Nails  844 W. 78th St., Chanhassen; 952.474.9191
With daily extended hours, there’s always time for a visit to Turbo Nails. The salon offers a host of services including manicures and pedicures (standard, French, shellac and UV gel), polish changes, paraffin treatments, artificial nails, and eyelash extensions and tints. Whether you’re prepping for a special occasion or just want to look your best running errands, Turbo Nails has you covered.
Runners up: Bella Nails, Spalon Montage

Best Salon/Spa
Spalon Montage     600 Market St., Suite 270, Chanhassen    952.915.2900
Walking into Spalon Montage is like stepping into an oasis of relaxation and respite, even if it’s only for a bang trim or nail color change. Offering a full complement of services, including hair styling and coloring, manicures and pedicures, a host of massage options and skin care treatments for every skin type, the salon staff is quick to tend to clients’ needs. Citing their “legendary customer service,” owner Mitchell Wherley says the team strives to “meet or exceed customers’ expectations” for customers at their locations in Edina, Woodbury and Chanhassen.
Runners up: Sanctuary Salonspa, The Parlour

Best Insurance Agent

Lorie Treff, State Farm     542 Bavaria Lane, Chaska     952.368.4440
Since 2001, Lorie Treff has served as a State Farm agent and is a longtime Chaska resident. She offers insurance and financial services to clients. “My highest priority is tending to clients,” she says.
Runners up: B. Craig Thalacker, American Family Insurance; Greg Scheff

Best Real Estate Agent
Colleen Larson, ReMax Results      11200 W. 78th St., Eden Prairie     952.829.3832 or 612.719.6940
Experience as a real estate agent since 1995 isn’t Larson’s only advantage. “Because this is also my neighborhood, I can provide you with detailed information about our communities, cities and state,” she says. “I have a clear understanding of the local market.” In addition to providing clients with in-person attention to their needs as buyers or sellers, Larson also writes a blog, where topics include: staging a home, housing predictions, “What Real Estate Agents Wish You Knew,” updates on local community living awards and information about following an agent’s advice.  “Our team goal is to exceed your expectations and make you a lifelong client,” she says.
Runners up: Bill Bloomberg, Bloomberg Real Estate; Karen Hansen, ReMax Results

Photo by Amanda Gahler

Editor's Picks

Best Hidden Gem
Kai’s Sushi Grill      586 W. 78th St., Chanhassen     952.923.2456    
When I asked each member of my editorial advisory board to tell me about one of the region’s best-kept secrets, more than one member mentioned Kai’s Sushi Grill in Chanhassen. And it’s no surprise: Owner Kai Tho has designed an extensive (and delicious) menu of Japanese food. Sushi-lovers can find much to love with a wide variety of standard and specialty rolls—including options for vegetarians. And even diners intimidated by sushi will find plenty to munch on, including soups, tempura, noodles, Hibachi meats and vegetables and so much more. Excellent lunch specials also make this a great stop for your midday meal.

Best Shop for Up-cycled Home Décor
PROP Shop     15195 Martin Drive, Eden Prairie     952.934.2323
There are at least two benefits to shopping the Prop Shop in Eden Prairie: You’ll save some money investing in second-hand finds and you’ll help raise money for a worthy cause. The non-profit resale shop uses the proceeds from its store to help local families in need by providing them with necessities—everything from bed linens to warm coats and dishes to dining room tables. But it’s hard to remember you’re doing “good,” while you’re enjoying the thrill of the hunt. Depending on the day, shoppers can score fine crystal or a set of dishes. There is also seasonal home décor, books, figurines and more.

Best Reason to Eat Salad
The Smiling Olive      210 N. Chestnut St., Chaska      952.361.9939
If you’re sick of eating salad, maybe it’s not the vegetables’ fault—it might be how you’re dressing them. Enter The Smiling Olive in Chaska. The gourmet olive oil and vinegar shop features a huge, rotating selection of flavored olive oils and vinegars. Customers can try any vinegar or oil before they buy, and shop owner Elizabeth Contreras is more than willing to provide inspiration for combining flavors and using them in recipes. My personal favorite: Espresso Balsamic Vinegar—I use it to dress everything from strawberries to green beans. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring—or bland.

Best Place to Shop with Friends
Yellow Brick Trading Company     208 N. Chestnut St., Chaska      952.452.6265
Thank goodness the owner of Yellow Brick Trading Company in Chaska allows customers to take pictures in her store, because I always find something quirky and Instagram-worthy while shopping there. (Like this hand-painted sign: “Wash Your Hands and Say Your Prayers because Jesus and Germs are Everywhere.”)
But do you know what’s more fun than snapping pictures for Instagram? Having an in-person giggle with your real-life bestie. This fabulous shop, owned by Cara Hobbs, carries a wide-variety of home décor items, gifts and furniture made by local crafters and artisans. It’s perfect for browsing while chatting with a friend, and since it features products at a variety of price points, it’s not too painful to treat yourself—or your bestie.

Best Destination for a Family Excursion
Lowry Nature Center    7025 Victoria Drive, Victoria    763.694.7650  
Looking for a compelling reason to get your teen to put down her phone? Wishing your toddler would stop begging to watch Dinosaur Train? Children of all ages will find something to love at the Lowry Nature Center at the Carver Park Reserve in Victoria. Part of the Three Rivers Park District, the Lowry Nature Center was the first public nature center built in the Twin Cities. In addition to interpretive displays, the center offers a variety of events, from bird banding to a popular preschool drop-off program. The center is nestled in 250 acres of park land, featuring hiking trails, play areas and plenty of wild life. The center also offers birthday parties and summer camps.