Best of the Southwest Metro 2018

Readers weigh in on their top-tips and go-tos.

You Spoke, We Listened!

There’s a reason we love calling this area home. Eden Prairie, Chanhassen, Chaska, Victoria and Waconia—all support retail and recreational opportunities, emerging and much-loved dining venues, homegrown breweries, distilleries and wineries, top-notch professionals and residents living their best lives in the Southwest Metro. It’s a pleasure each month to fill our pages with so many of the places and people that give our towns cause for applause.

Like we do each year, readers are invited to vote for their go-to businesses as the best of the year. The crème de la crème. The best in the bunch. And you rallied behind your favorites.

In addition to the list of winners and runners up, this issue also aims the spotlight on some other noteworthy folks and places. Why not? We have a lot to be proud of in this neck of the woods!

Without further ado, we’re proud to announce your Best of the Southwest Metro 2018 winners.


Editor's Pick: Favorite Breakfast Guilty Pleasure
Pangea Cafe’s Eggs Benedict

I could read it on their faces. Their furtive glances said it all as the server delivered my breakfast order—my dining partners were serving up a healthy dose of order envy. Before me sat a plate of glorious eggs Benedict, which I rarely order—anywhere—because either cooks get it right or they fail miserably. The team at Pangea Cafe gets it spot on. Every bite offered the perfect trifecta of salty Canadian bacon, creamy hollandaise sauce and perfectly poached eggs nesting in an English muffin with crispy hashed browns, even down to the final swoop of the fork around my plate to capture the last glorious remnants.

Feeling the need to go beyond the traditional eggs Benny? Pangea offers other incarnations of the traditional fare. Consider the Lolo with Canadian bacon, goat chèvre, avocado and hollandaise sauce; Smaug’s Inferno offers chorizo stuffed with ghost pepper cheese, jalapeno and Sriracha hollandaise sauce; the Crab features a fresh homemade lump crab cake, asparagus and hollandaise sauce; the Turkey Tomato serves up turkey, seared tomato, spinach, goat chèvre, avocado and hollandaise sauce; the Two Towers incorporates sausage patties, hash browns, cheddar cheese, bell peppers, onions and hollandaise sauce; and the Salmon kicks in Nova lox, dill cream cheese spread, asparagus, sun-dried tomato and hollandaise sauce.

To note: My dining companions’ envy quickly melted away once their orders arrived. They happily greeted Wally’s French Toast with Mackenthun’s chunky cinnamon bread; blueberry pancakes with fresh Maine blueberries; the Kitchen Sink omelet with bacon, sausage, ham and more, and the Veggie Delight omelet. We'll all be back for more!

Lola’s Lakehouse
Runners up: Redstone American Grill, Floyd’s Bar

Crooked Pint Ale House
Runners up: Crave American Kitchen & Sushi Bar, Victoria House

Tavern 4&5
Runners up: Floyd’s Bar, Lions Tap

Have a Seat at Lions Tap
Longtime employee shares her recipe for success.

Mary Rein has been a server at this Eden Prairie restaurant and watering hole for over 36 years. The place has some serious history, and who better to tell it than someone who’s had a front row seat?

How did you wind up at Lions Tap?
My previous company closed, and someone told me there was an opening here. I never looked back! Bert said I had “honest eyes,” and hired me on the spot.

If you could enjoy one meal at Lions Tap, what would it be?
The Mushroom and Swiss, with fries. Medium is good. And this place is usually busy—so I’d sit somewhere quiet!

What’s changed in 36 years?
Tons—and also nothing at all. We added bacon and the Mushroom and Swiss Burger to the menu. We went from 3.2 beer to craft ones. Lots of remodeling. When we got computers—that was a big deal!

Why do you think it’s been so successful?
Well, the product is good. The burgers are just fantastic. Good meat, that special seasoning. There’s good service and a fun atmosphere—and tons and tons of regulars, who come in all the time. I’ve seen kids grow up and turn into parents themselves! It’s a really fun place to be.

The Original Pancake House
Runners up: Pangea Cafe, Tavern 4&5


Good & Twisted Yoga
Runners up: Shape It Up Fitness, The Transformation Club

Get to the Point
Let’s do a deep dive into acupuncture, learning must-know terms.
Live Well Chiropractic Spa & Acupuncture Center is a serene, spa-like atmosphere, where all the senses are engaged to give guests the most comfortable experience possible. Though it has an extensive list of services, it’s well-known for acupuncture—which is said to treat allergies, migraines, anxiety, nausea and a myriad of other conditions.

“Acupuncture is among the oldest healing practices in the world—and part of traditional Chinese medicine,” says Jo Becker-Puklich, D.C. “It’s the stimulation of specific points on the body, by various techniques—including the insertion of thin, disposable needles through the skin—to remove energy blockages and restore and maintain health.”

Talk the Talk
How about reviewing a glossary of terms you’ll need to know before heading to your first acupuncture appointment? (We promise; there’s no test.)

Meridians: “Roadways” of energy that flow through different areas of the body, corresponding to different complaints within the body.

Qi (pronounced “chee”): The energy that flows through your body within the meridians.

Needles: Extremely thin, sterile, stainless steel needles used for acupuncture. “Some new patients worry that acupuncture will hurt. Most of the time, you will feel a tiny ‘pinch’ when the needle is placed, but it calms down right away,” Becker-Puklich says. “Patients emerge from the acupuncture room feeling very relaxed afterwards.”

Twist the needles: Halfway through a treatment, a therapist will gently rotate the needles a little bit. “This is to re-activate the energy movement in the body, as it can become stagnant after a while,” Becker-Puklich says.

Pull the needles: After 20 minutes, the needles are removed. They’re thin enough that there is usually no bleeding.

Electro-stim: Small prongs are attached the end of the needles, sending a slight electrical stimulation into the acupuncture point. It makes the treatment more effective.

Heat lamp: Gentle heat over the treatment area increases relaxation and improves the effectiveness of the acupuncture.

Tweet Pediatric Dentistry
Runners up: Relaxation Dentistry, Chaska Dental Center

Ovation! Orthodontics - Eden Prairie
Runners up: Chaska Orthodontic Specialists, Eden Prairie Orthodontic Associates

Neubauer Chiropractic Health Center
Runners up: Waconia Family Chiropractic, Live Well Chiropractic Spa & Acupuncture Center – Chanhassen

Lakeview Clinic – Waconia
Runners up: Southdale Pediatric Associates- Eden Prairie, Wayzata Children’s Clinic – Chaska

Southwest Eye Care – Chaska
Runners up: Lakeview Clinic – Waconia, Wink Family Eye Care

Dermatology Specialists - Eden Prairie
Runners up: Ridgeview Clinic – Waconia, Associated Skin Care Specialists – Eden Prairie

Skin Deep
A decade-by-decade guide to healthier skin.

The skincare options out there seem endless, and the weight of it all seems to increase as we get older, as does the risk of skin-related issues. Erika Reid, M.D., at Dermatology Specialists in Eden Prairie, shares the top things to keep in mind each decade.

20s Prevention, prevention, prevention. Over the past four decades, melanoma incidences have increased by nearly 200 percent, Dr. Reid says. So skip the tanning bed and limit sun exposure. If you’re outside, wear SPF 30+ sunscreen—preferably with zinc or titanium, which provides physical barriers to
UV rays.

30s By this point, every adult should schedule a full-body skin exam with a board-certified dermatologist. They’re not usually part of a general physical but are the best way to catch skin cancers or other issues before they spread. Get them annually if you have increased risk factors like blond or red hair, lots of moles or skin cancer in your family. “Be proactive. Taking care of your skin is an important element of your overall health,” Dr. Reid says.

40s Luckily, there are lots of options for warding off fine lines and wrinkles and minimizing sun damage. Patients may consider cosmetic interventions like topical retinoids or Botox. “It’s still important to be vigilant about avoiding sun exposure,

but it’s also time to address the damage that may already be done,” Dr. Reid says.

50s “We see many non-melanoma skin cancers in fair-skinned individuals. While these are rarely deadly, it’s important that they be caught early to avoid major surgeries, infections or the remote risk of the cancer spreading internally,” Dr. Reid says. “Non-melanoma skin cancers can look like blemishes or seemingly innocuous rough patches of skin, but your dermatologist will know if it needs a biopsy. Tell your dermatologist about any new or changing spots that arise.”

60s+ Your dermatologist will be able to create a tailored treatment plan that will keep you healthy and looking natural and youthful. Continue to check in with your doctor about any new or changing spots. “And be informed shoppers,” Dr. Reid says. “There are a lot of products and service providers out there—but only a board-certified dermatologist is specifically trained in providing medical interventions.”

LifeSpa at Life Time Fitness
Runners up: Envy Skin Clinic - Eden Prairie, Contour Clinic – Chanhassen

Spalon Montage
Runners up: Salon SPAtoria, Salon Trendé


Iron River Construction
Runners up: John Kraemer & Sons, Lecy Bros Homes & Remodeling

John Kraemer & Sons
Runners up: Iron River Construction, Lecy Bros Homes & Remodeling

Yetzer’s Home Furnishings
Runners up: Jessica Cook (JLC Remodel Consulting & Interior Design), Martha O’Hara (Martha O’Hara Interiors)

Effortlessly On-trend
Designer lifts the shades on keeping home décor current and affordable.

If our Instagram feeds, Pinterest boards and coffee table magazines are any indication, home décor trends are changing faster than ever. Heck, it can be a full-time job to stay on top of trending colors and designs. Enter Jessica Cook, owner of Waconia-based JLC Remodel Consulting & Interior Design. We asked her to share a few tricks for staying effortlessly and affordably on-trend this season. (You’re welcome.)

Get to the Root
Find the underlying design principle behind a trend, and dip a toe in that pool. “For customers who mention white and gray kitchens—but don’t have a home that will accommodate that look—we talk about limited color palettes with classic tiles like subway or herringbone,” she says.

A Flavor of a Fashion
Invest in a few less-committal items you can afford to switch out as trends change. “Think a classic sofa, but switch out the pillows. Or swap in new pulls, lights or mirrors,” Cook says. “Lighting can be the jewelry of a space, but it doesn’t have to be expensive.”

Color Wave
What about trending colors? Do we really have to paint every four months? “While I have yet to see Pantone’s Greenery color in a home, I think we are seeing splashes of bolder color choices,” Cook says. “But painting an accent piece of furniture in a fun, on-trend color is an easy and inexpensive way to update your space.”

Surface Style
“Metals of all varieties are a hot ticket right now. Brass resurfaced a couple of years ago, but copper, rose gold and iron have joined the market, as well,” Cook says. Mix woods and cabinet colors—on purpose. Layer modern pieces with antique elements. Incorporate the items you love without feeling like you have to stick to one look throughout. “It has allowed for a lot more expression and affordability, quite frankly, because it isn’t an all-or-nothing approach to your house anymore,” she says.

The Mustard Seed Landscaping & Garden Center
Runners up: Bachman’s Landscaping & Garden Services, Superior Lawn and Landscape

Auburn Manor – Chaska
Runners up: SummerWood of Chanhassen, Good Samaritan Society – Waconia

The Mustard Seed Landscaping & Garden Center
Runners up: Bachman’s - Eden Prairie, Hartman Tree Farm and Garden Center

Fireside Hearth & Home
Runners up: Hirshfield’s, Warners’ Stellian


Favorite Tech-Savy Teen: Luke Igel

When it comes to technology problems and questions, are there any better sources than teenagers, who most likely can explain the issue or fix the kerfuffle in a flash? Luke Igel, who just graduated from Providence Academy and is the founder of the Advice for Your Device initiative, was featured in Southwest Metro Magazine in March 2018. Igel, who often serves as his family’s “tech guy,” decided to help out the 55+ crowd at various venues by bridging the digital divide between generations. Here’s a kid who is willing to unplug and plug into others’ tech needs.

Southwest Metro: When did you first become interested in technology?
I’ve been wrapped up in technology for as long as I could remember. I have a vivid memory of my mom walking into her office to find a 4-year-old me browsing the internet. That was definitely the first clue.

SWM: Why did you decide to help seniors with their tech issues?
Helping my grandparents solve their device problems has always been invigorating, so doing it at a larger scale seemed like a perfect fit. There’s a sense of accomplishment you get from finally solving the puzzle that’s been driving everyone crazy, and being able to teach along the way has been incredibly useful in learning to more effectively communicate.

SWM: What are the most common issues you address?
A majority of guests have issues with securely storing all of their passwords and understanding how to share photos with their family. It mostly comes down to better understanding the strange language that all smartphones and computers expect everyone to intuitively understand.

SWM: How many hours do you devote to this a week?
During the summer when the program’s in full swing, I usually spend upwards of 12 hours or so per week. It includes the volunteering itself, coordinating with all the volunteers and locations, raising funds for new printers and equipment and building the program as a recognizable brand. The hours throughout the school year tend to be less intensive.

SWM: What programs or apps are great for seniors?
I always highly recommend 1Password and Google Photos to our guests. 1Password lets you easily and securely store all of your passwords and sign-in credentials, and Google Photos backs up an unlimited number of pictures from your phones, tablets and computers. It also organizes them by the faces it recognizes and generates albums for you. I’ve seen both of these apps significantly relieve the pain points that a lot of seniors previously faced.

SWM: What do you personally get out of meeting with the seniors? What have you learned about that generation?
As I help our guests with whatever issue they have, I get the privilege of hearing some truly remarkable stories from their past. I’ve gained so much perspective by hearing what life was like when they were my age, as well as how far we’ve truly come as a society. Hearing how they learned to cope with such a massive technological shift throughout the decades is worthy of writing a book about, as each senior has a unique perspective as to how we got here. I realized we have a generation that faced earth-shattering changes throughout their lives, and that we ought to understand how they came out of it.

SWM: You mentioned wanting to study computer science and entrepreneurship in college, do you plan to keep your program up and running once you leave for college?
I’ve always intended to ensure the program runs after I graduate, as the demand for this kind of service has been sorely unmet. All of my volunteers will still be in high school once I leave, and the current goal is to have a self-sustaining structure once I’m out of the state.

For more information and scheduling, visit the website here.

It’s Golden
Chanhassen Dinner Theatres celebrates its 50th anniversary.

It was 1968, and while there were tragic moments in the nation, it was also the year of Hey Jude, The Graduate and Valley of the Dolls. Star Trek aired the first interracial kiss seen on television. Apollo 8 orbited the moon, and a gallon of gas cost 34 cents. In the Twin Cities, the year marked another milestone—the opening of Chanhassen Dinner Theatres (CDT). The CDT is planning an all-out celebration this fall, but get in the spirit now with a few facts and figures about the theater’s storied past.

They’re Invited
Don’t forget to include your pets in on all the fun!

Summer’s here, and with it comes fireworks, cookouts and road trips. Those fun items filling our calendars can send pets running for cover. Some of the area’s top experts share tips and tricks for navigating stressful situations with pets.

Taking the furry family member along on an outing? Alyssa Rudloff, DVM, at Chaska Valley Vet Clinic says to try calming, anti-anxiety products—Cerenia, Dramamine, Composure or Adaptil/Feliway pheromones—before scary situations actually happen. That’s the best way to find out what will work for your pets—and how they’ll react.
“Anti-anxiety products range from more natural products to prescription medications,” says Rudloff, who urges patients to discuss options with their veterinarians long before a trip or stressful situation. “And make sure you have all your required travel documents, their health certificate and proper carry-on or car enclosures that can expand enough for the pet to be able to stand up, turn around and lay down comfortably.”

When it comes to fireworks or thunderstorms, “It’s best to keep pets inside with the windows shut. And have background noise—such as the radio or television—on for them,” Rudloff says.

When the weather gets warm—at home or on the road—don’t leave pets in the car. “Make sure they always have access to water. Bring water with you on walks, take breaks and don’t over-do it,” Rudloff says. On boats, pets need life-jackets just like the rest of us—and be sure to clean their ears after swimming to avoid infections.

Leaving the pet at a kennel instead? Hound Dog Pet Hotel and Spa is all about creating safe, fun environments for pets. “If pets are new to our facility, we suggest owners try a day of day care first. Pets’ initial impression is that we’re a vet,” manager Danielle Weiss says. “But once they realize that this is a fun place where they’re going to have fun, they want to come back.”

Trial runs of just about any new experience is a good idea, Weiss says. Dogs can be hesitant about getting in cars—and some even get car sick. Bring Fido on a few errands prior to a kennel drop-off, and make sure he gets some love and a treat afterwards, so he learns to associate cars with positive things. (DQ and Starbucks both serve pet-friendly options at the drive-through, FYI.)

Top Dog Country Club
Runners up: Adogo Pet Hotel, Hound Dog Pet Hotel

Melchert Hubert Sjodin
Runners up: Hellmuth & Johnson, Reitan Law Office

New Horizon Academy
Runners up: Children of Tomorrow Learning Center, Eastern Carver County Schools Early Childhood Family Education

Waconia Veterinary Clinic
Runners up: ValueCare Veterinary Clinic, Chaska Valley Veterinary Clinic

Sylvan Learning Center
Runners up: LearningRx, Mathnasium

Chaska Community Center
Runners up: Pinwheel Play, Laketown Gymnastics

Editor's Pick: Favorite Winner
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Everybody loves a winner, and I certainly love our very own piece of heaven/nirvana—the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, which was named the 2017 Best Botanical Garden in the country by USA Today’s Reader Choice Awards. Second- and third-place nods went to the New York Botanical Garden and Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis (which is a Midwestern must see).

How well do you know our botanical playground? Meet the Arboretum by the numbers.

Visitors to the grounds: 465,787
Number of volunteers, documented hours and value: 897; 45,390; and $1,101,212.00
Collections of trees, roses, grasses and herbaceous perennials: 45
Gardens: 28, including six herb gardens, three rose gardens and the Harrison Sculpture Garden
Artwork: 174 pieces, including 63 sculptures (26 in the Harrison Sculpture Garden) and 111 indoors
Taxa displayed through the gardens and collections: 5,100
Gallons of maple syrup made from Arboretum trees: 130
Number of pancakes made at the MapleFest Brunch: 4,500
Number of children who visited for field trips: 36,311
Number of adults who took classes: 12,819
Biggest fundraiser: Gala in the Garden, $300,000
Most popular months for visiting: October, then May
Seed and nursery catalogs in Andersen Horticultural Library: 73,667, dating back to 1614
Invasive species found: 3 - Lythrum, Rhamnus and Phalaris (reed canary grass)
Average temperature: Summer 79.9 degrees, winter 10.4 degrees
Elevation average: 950’ above sea level
Total University of Minnesota plant introductions: 161, including Honeycrisp and Sweet Tango apples, Northern Sun forsythia, Northwood and Autumn Spire red maple, Northern Lights and Candy Lights azaleas and Itasca grapes.
Couples married on site: 158
Votes cast for Arboretum in Best Botanical Garden Contest: More than a million!!!


Editor's Pick: Favorite Place to Fill a Shopping Bag in 30 Minutes or Less

If you haven’t had a chance to pop into Patina, waste no time. Easy to swing into (it’s just off of Highway 5 in Eden Prairie), the store is brimming with a full selection of products “that are constantly evolving, an art project in progress,” notes Jewelry, candles, purses, home décor, the best greeting card selection this side of Highway 494, gifty items and so much more grace the space.

During a recent visit, I gave myself a half an hour to pull together a theme package. Since it’s July and the Southwest Metro is teeming with great outdoor spaces, I picked out several Patina items that are perfect sidekicks for a day spent outside.

Editor's Pick: Favorite Cozy Accoutrement
Merino Chunky Wool Blankets at Winnie Lu

It doesn’t have to be chilly outside to get cozy anywhere. Whether I’m reading, catching some winks or steeping in another episode of a show on Netflix (Australia’s Network 10’s Offspring or BBC One’s Last Tango in Halifax are my current favs!), anytime is the best time to snuggle up with a Merino chunky wool blanket from ArtizenHome, owned by Diane Bogart. Snap up a lap- or throw-sized blanket from Victoria’s Winnie Lu, which opened September 2017. “These are a customer favorite,” says Patricia Sjulson, owner. Colors vary, and prices range from $250-$300. “I love them because they go with any style home,” she says.

Winnie Lu offers many handmade and locally designed, Minnesota-made products. “I think it’s so important to support people right in our area,” Sjulson says, noting she values developing the community and discovering new artists, “community over commerce.”

In Their Words
The reviews are in for Mainstream Boutique.

Social media can serve as an indicator for how a business is viewed by its customers. A quick peek at Mainstream Boutique’s Facebook closet revealed a full wardrobe of happy shoppers.

“I had the best day shopping at Mainstream Boutique! We tried on so many outfits and really played ‘dress up.’ We ended up with several cute outfits—highly recommend shopping there!” —Betsy H.

“The staff was incredible! They gave great suggestions and helped me find the perfect outfit.” —Michele B.

“Honestly, I could (and probably should) toss out everything in my closet other than the items I’ve purchased at Mainstream, because these are the clothes I live in, love and get compliments on constantly. Some things that I’d never have considered on my own have become my most treasured wardrobe basics based solely on [their] recommendations.” —Valerie A.

“I just left the store after a wonderful chat with the shop owner. Great, high-quality clothes to choose from, and a nice selection of shoes and purses. I’ll definitely be back!”
—Jung L.

“Amazing! I had a great experience finding cute tops and really appreciated the honest input. Will definitely be back!” —Molly G.

“I love the personalized service and the variety of the colors and styles to fit all types of women.” —Renee Q.

“Love this store! I love the styles, variety and friendly service. It’s fun to be in a store that’s more age-appropriate for a mom of four adult children in their 20s. Yes, I still can have it going on!” —Loralee A.

Mainstream Boutique – Chanhassen
Runners up: The Stash of Waconia, Evereve

Jim Gilbert’s Wild Bird Store
Runners up: Kowalski’s Market, Seedlings Gifts & Books

Bachman’s - Eden Prairie
Runners up: Curly Willow, Victoria Rose Floral

Kowalski’s Market
Runners up: Lakewinds Food Co-op – Chanhassen, Lunds & Byerlys

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