This part of the Twin Cities is pretty darn great, isn’t it? We live in a place where it’s no big thing to get the perfect haircut, run a couple errands, take a boat ride on gorgeous Lake Minnetonka, and enjoy a delicious dinner where people actually know our names—all in one day, within minutes of home. We have amazing eats and beautiful brews, stellar shops and top-notch professionals, right here in our lakeside communities.
Here at Lake Minnetonka Magazine, we’re all about highlighting those people who are doing and making interesting things, contributing to our communities and improving this place we all call home. We do that in every interview, every word, every story, every post…all year long. But once a year, we set aside an entire issue to pay special attention to the crème de la crème.
Who knows our community better than our readers? We think that answer is obvious, so each year we ask you. And you come out in record numbers to cast your votes and rally behind your favorites. And we must say, this list is a stellar one! It’s chock-full of people and businesses that help us look our best, feel our best, and put our best foot forward. Without further ado, hats off to the 2017 Best of Lake Minnetonka winners.
FOOD & RESTAURANTS
Whether you need a classy spot for a celebratory night out, delicious take-out to ease the crazy on a Tuesday night, or a summer happy hour that will help your work squad decompress, look no further than these dining destinations.
Best Tavern / Bar
Excelsior Brewing Co.
Every booming main street needs its own brewery, don’t you think? Excelsior Brewing has made a name for itself with its bustling taproom, regular live music and a rotating lineup of delicious brews made onsite. In community-centric fashion, in March it even released a Girl Scout cookie beer—as in, with cookies in the beer—to help sell some boxes for the co-owner’s daughter and resident Girl Scout Gracie. Cheers to that!
Runners up: Maynard’s, Jake O’Connor’s Public House
The wharf at Maynard’s is a Lake Minnetonka institution. It seats 500, with spots for 65 boats, so it’s no wonder you picked it as your go-to local patio. “On the first warm weekend of the year, when there’s a good 80-degree Saturday—that’s my favorite day of the year,” says general manager Jack Stevens. “The energy of the boaters coming off the lake, you can’t really describe it. There’s a certain happiness—the place is just buzzing.”
Runners up: Lord Fletcher’s Old Lake Lodge, CōV
Original Pancake House (Minnetonka)
This is the quintessential breakfast spot with a menu that hasn’t budged since 1953. “We literally make everything from scratch,” says owner Tom Bruins, who says the house-made syrups are a crowd favorite. Another is the bottomless coffee served in generously sized, locally made Deneen Pottery mugs. Real cream with your coffee? “We could go with half and half and save like $20,000 per year, but we don’t skimp!” says Bruins. Look them up on the NoWait app to plan your visit and get your name on the list—it’s often long, but worth it.
Runners up: Hazellewood Grill and Tap Room, Maggie’s Family Restaurant
It’s hard to get past the signature waffle fries (check out the recipe in our May issue). But Maynard’s has menus—yeah, plural—that cover every culinary whim. From the famous Franny’s Chicken Salad—with its decadent coconut-crusted chicken breast, tomato, egg, avocado, artichokes, cheese and honey mustard—to summery walleye in sandwich or full-out entree form. Invite a few friends and zero in on your choice of a breezy lakeside perch or a cozy corner of the dining room.
Runners up: CōV, Coalition
Editor's Pick: Best Lakefront Dining
Birch’s on the Lake
Birch’s on the Lake Brewhouse & Supper Club is our go-to when we’re looking for a beautiful view (courtesy of Long Lake) and a relaxed night on the town. Perfect for date night or family time, Birch’s features the upstairs Supper Club, where you can get your surf & turf fix, and the downstairs Brewhouse, with more casual fare, including the pork schnitzel sandwich, served with fries and a savory side of Birch’s slaw. Don’t forget to try the Birch’s Brewhouse beer, made on their 10 barrel system and available only at Birch’s. Find your new favorite during their happy hour from 2-6 p.m., Sunday-Friday; just one of many reasons we think this Long Lake treasure is so special.
Editor's Pick: Best Place for a Birthday Lunch
Birthday lunches are among those special occasions characterized by giggles, sparkles and perfect pastries. Best friends, college roommates, mothers and sisters—those in our innermost circles of laughter and love—are often on the guest list for these joyful dining adventures. One of the best places to gather for a friend-time celebration is the Country Cupboard in Long Lake.
The charming café offers cold and hot sandwiches made with fresh ingredients and served on a variety of tasty breads. We are especially intrigued by the Jack Russell curried chicken salad sammie as well as the Buddy’s veggie served on wheat berry bread. Homemade soup options change daily. But it’s the specialty cakes and desserts that make Country Cupboard diners swoon. There are pies and cheesecakes, of course. But there is also Mountain Berry Flan and a selection of cupcakes and cake pops that are sure to induce indulgence appropriate of a celebratory get-together.
Planning a larger shindig elsewhere? Then you’ll want to order a specialty cake or cupcakes for your occasion. A wide variety of cake sizes and flavors can be ordered by calling, emailing or just stopping by.
“There’s no place like home.” While we might not wear ruby red slippers as we say that, we all owe some love to the professionals who help us bring the magic of “home” to life. Here’s to the dreamers, the DIYers, and the weekend warriors…and to the top-shelf professionals who are just a click of the heels away.
This is lake country! Lecy Brothers’ entire focus is on embracing the natural beauty of lakeside living with designs that maximize stunning views in a sustainable and creative way. Whether you’re building a year-round spot on Lake Minnetonka or plotting a vacation home in outstate Minnesota or Wisconsin, Lecy Brothers has you covered with high-quality construction, attention to detail, and an experienced, professional staff.
Runners up: Stonewood, Christian Builders & Remodelers
While a move or a brand-new build is always appealing, sometimes it just takes some dreaming (and a little demolition) to refresh a space and make it feel like you have a whole new home without the hassle of changing an address. Call in Lecy Brothers for a whole home remodel, a kitchen or bath update, or any project in between. Right now, they’re getting lots of requests for outdoor living spaces, bigger windows that maximize lake views, and natural stone inside and outside of the home.
Runners up: Arbor Haus, Christian Builders & Remodelers
Best Interior Designer
The Sitting Room
Looking for lighting? In the mood for new accessories? The perfect pop of colorful upholstery to update a drab room? The Sitting Room has it, with an experienced design staff that understands exactly what you’re looking for—even if you can’t quite define it yourself. Enlist them for help picking the perfect throw pillow or to tackle a whole room or home overhaul. “We like to consider ourselves more of a boutique than a showroom…a great shopping experience begins with inspiration,” says owner Kate Regan.
Runners up: Lakeshore Interiors, Chazin Interiors
Best Senior Living Residence
Lake Minnetonka Shores
Nestled lakeside in Spring Park, Lake Minnetonka Shores by Presbyterian Homes has many housing options with stunning views. Residents can take advantage of an on-site hair and nail salon, café, outdoor space with yard games and a fire pit, resident garden, and other modern amenities. It’s truly a home-like environment featuring a full line-up of events to keep residents active and loving life, whether they’re living independently or need a little extra support.
Runners up: Beehive Homes of Excelsior, Folkestone
Best Landscape Designer
Otten Bros. Garden Center & Landscaping
The staff at Otten Bros. has an incredible amount of experience. Peruse their 12-acre retail facility featuring a variety of B&B (that’s "balled and burlaped," ready to plant) trees, plants, mulches, rock varieties, and accent pieces to inspire your next DIY job. Or take some notes and entrust the whole project to their team of designers and installation crews. Want to add something practical to your plant mix? “Edibles are a big part of landscaping now—people want to eat healthy, organic and naturally,” says vice president John O’Reilly. “The kales and Swiss chards are beautiful.”
Runners up: Outdoor Excapes, Gray Gardens Landscaping
HEALTH & WELLNESS
Our community takes wellbeing seriously all year, taking advantage of every opportunity to get outside, eat right and practice some good self-care. These are the professionals who support us in our endeavors to feel our best.
Best Fitness / Yoga Studio
Life Time Athletic (Minnetonka)
While getting in a workout doesn’t require a posh setting, it sure helps to love the place you go to sweat it out. With luxe locker rooms, a stellar staff of coaches and trainers, plus dining and relaxation spaces to help you recover or unwind, you might want to just go ahead and spend the rest of your day here.
Runners up: The Marsh, CorePower Yoga (Minnetonka)
Best Orthodontic Clinic
Lake Minnetonka Orthodontics (Minnetonka)
Whether getting braces is a normal part of growing up or a cosmetic investment made later in life, Lake Minnetonka Orthodontics makes the experience as fun and social as possible. They’ve created a Snapchat filter and encourage patients to share their straight-teeth selfies, they’re launching an app-based rewards system, and stepping up their game on Facebook to keep patients connected and informed between visits. But it’s great service—and lots of straight teeth—that gave them the win. “We go above and beyond in the quality of care we provide,” says marketing coordinator Ryan Oldham.
Runners up: Kotteman Orthodontics (Orono), Ovation! Orthodontics (Minnetonka)
Best Pediatric Clinic
Wayzata Children’s Clinic (Minnetonka)
When it comes to finding medical care for kids, the right professionals should treat patients like family. Wayzata Children’s Clinic has been independently operated—and physician-owned—for 46 years. “We make our own decisions—it’s a very entrepreneurial approach,” says administrator Corinne Abdou. “And we might not be a blood family, but we do treat each other like family.” The clinic is expanding locations and adding a patient care coordinator to its staff. Part social-worker, part-nurse, the added service is intended to help families navigate their healthcare options and build the best mix of services.
Runners up: South Lake Pediatrics (Minnetonka), Park Nicollet Clinic (Carlson Parkway)
Livskin medspa (Minnetonka)
Nine-time “Best of” favorite Lili Salon & Spa threw open the doors of its neighboring sister spa, LivSkin, this spring. So there’s now a fresh and gorgeous space to get the massages, facials, peels, and skin-centric services that make you feel, well, fresh and gorgeous. “It’s all brand-new, medical grade. It’s a really beautiful space,” says spa coordinator Emily Louricas. Lash extensions and educational seminars are next on the list as the new business rounds out its menu of client services and resources.
Runners up: InnerBeauty Med Spa (Minnetonka), Wayzata Cosmetic Surgery & Spa
Best Eye Clinic
Northwest Eye (Minnetonka)
When you live near a beautiful lake, it’s good to be able to see it well. With 45 years of experience and a staff of 16 doctors serving seven locations, Northwest Eye offers regular eye exams and corrective lenses plus advanced surgeries from LASIK to Dry Eye treatments, femtosecond laser cataract surgery to intraocular lenses. They’re also offering the new Raindrop INLAY procedure, which is like LASIK but with more complete results. “Northwest Eye is where people of all ages and conditions go to understand and improve their eye health,” says Chad Rasmussen.
Runners up: Excelsior Eye Care, Art of Optiks (Wayzata)
Best Dermatology Clinic
Park Nicollet Clinic (Carlson Parkway)
Your skin is the biggest organ in your body, and it gives the first impression to those you meet. Park Nicollet dermatologists can evaluate and treat a range of skin, hair and nail conditions—all in a convenient, modern location near a plethora of other medical experts. Put your mind at ease so you can love your skin.
Runners up: Zel Skin & Laser Specialists (Plymouth), Ridgeview Clinic (Excelsior)
Best Dental Clinic
Wayzata Family Dentistry
Celebrating 15 years as a clinic, Wayzata Family Dentistry takes a professional yet realistic approach to supporting patients’ dental health. From providing complimentary athletic mouth guards to offering same-day crowns, they’re about meeting patients where they’re at. “We understand that every individual has their own perception of what they need and want from their dentist, and we try to respect that and put together a plan that meets their needs and wants,” says Dr. David Fligge. He says that laid-back summers can sometimes wreak havoc on good dental habits, so he urges patients “to keep consistent with brushing and flossing, and keep healthy snacks available for a healthy mouth and body.”
Runners up: Excelsior Family Dental, Lake Minnetonka Dental
Best Chiropractic Clinic
The Brost Clinic
The Brost Clinic celebrated 30 years of business in 2016, and with six doctors, it’s one of the largest chiropractic clinics in the country. It takes a natural and holistic approach within a polished, modern setting, and the team can treat a variety of ailments, from sports injuries to colicky babies. “People have brought in babies who are days old—practically on their way home from hospital,” says Dr. Caroline Brost-Sailer, whose own parents started the business. “We can do very gentle manipulations and make parents very happy.”
Runners up: Knewtson Health Group, Excelsior Chiropractic
SHOPS & RETAIL
When a party invitation turns up at the bottom of your mail stack, and you’re in dire need of a perfect last-minute appetizer, outfit, or hostess gift, these shops hit the mark with great selections and impeccable customer service—all within a few minutes of home. Deep breath. You’ve (ahem—they’ve) got this under control.
Best Apparel Boutique
General Store of Minnetonka
The General Store has been a go-to spot for gifts and fun finds for decades, and it’s a mainstay of our “Best of” list. If you’ve never made it to the second level, you’re missing out on a huge selection of airy staples and on-trend statement pieces, plus layer-able jewelry and accessories to fit every style and whim. So next time you’re in the neighborhood for housewares or eclectic accents for your home, you can snap up a few options for your next day on the lake, too.
Runners up: Evereve (Wayzata), Primp (Excelsior)
Best Gift Shop
General Store of Minnetonka
So what’s big at our go-to gift shop right now? Stately things that scream out our love for the Land of 10,000 Lakes, of course. “Lately we’ve been very excited to share our love of local artisans with all of you—from T-shirts and hats to cabin signs, we love to show our Minnesota pride,” says owner Jenny Putnam. “It’s safe to say we have the best selection in town.” Need a bite? The on-site coffee, pastries, and lunches are to die for, but check out Girls Night Out every Thursday for the General Store’s only dinner hours. Flatbreads, soups and salads pair nicely with the half-price wine—but what doesn’t, really? Meet up with some friends for a night of mid-week shopping and sipping and to get a few gifts checked off your list.
Runners up: Five Swans, Ooh La La
Best Specialty Foods Store
Kowalski’s Market (Excelsior)
Where else can you get tomorrow’s breakfast staples, a hot dinner for tonight, an appetizer for your finicky friend’s next soiree, and a stellar gift or two—all in one cart? The go-to neighborhood grocer also offers a line-up of fun events and classes that celebrate local vendors and empower home cooks and budding sommeliers.
Runners up: Lakewinds Food Co-op (Minnetonka), Lunds & Byerlys (Wayzata)
Tonkadale is not just a greenhouse. It’s a destination shopping experience with tons of plants for every area of your home, plus a bevy of classes, special events, and resources to help you DIY with style (macramé, anyone?). In March, the Tonkadale team pulled out all the stops with their first-ever Edibles Expo featuring an epic lineup of seminars, food samples (and food truck), planting project how-tos, and more. There’s even a resident cat, Tiger, who can help coach you through picking the perfect petunias—or at the very least give you the stink eye from between the shrubs.
Runners up: Excelsior Florist, Bayside Floral & Gifts
KIDS, FAMILY & PETS
Something inside of us changes when we add a tiny—or furry—family member to the squad. We love a little deeper, our priorities change a bit, and our expectations go up ten-fold for those we entrust with all of our loved ones. Only the best will do. Here are the businesses you trust with your kiddos and four-legged family members.
Best Place for Kids’ Activities
Big Thrill Factory
Kids (and adults) can eat, play and celebrate at Big Thrill Factory. Take a spin in a go kart, hit a few bowling pins, hang out on a ropes course, jump on a trampoline—or even race against the clock (and zombies) during an escape challenge. Book a birthday party, stop by for discounted apps and taps during happy hour, or try a less-conventional and much more fun take on your next corporate outing.
Runners up: Mini-Hops Gymnastics, Wazyata Community Sailing Center
Best Doggy Daycare / Kennel
Adogo Pet Hotel (Minnetonka)
Ever wish you could see what your dog does when you’re away? The password-protected ADOGO-cam gives owners a real-time glimpse of all the tail-wagging happening during doggy daycare or at the plush pet hotel during extended stays. They might see dogs running through the fountains, hanging out on the specialized Canine Grass with newfound furry friends, or getting called in for grooming treatments. The signature ADOGO groom includes a warm bath, hair trim, nail trim and filing, ear cleaning, blowout, brushing and styling. Add Pucker Up teeth brushing, deep conditioning or a Butter Balm paw treatment for the ultimate in canine indulgence provided by die-hard animal lovers. “We hire people with great attitudes—they love animals, of course, but they really love people, too,” says owner John Sturgess. Be sure to check out the new MSP Airport location.
Runners up: Top Dog Country Club, The Canine Club & Spa
Best Learning / Tutoring Center
Sylvan Learning Center (Minnetonka)
With 1,000 locations across the country, Sylvan is practically a household name in the world of tutoring and test prep. New clients take a standardized test to make sure they’re starting at exactly the right level, and they’ll have a two- or three-to-one student-teacher ratio. Every student gets plenty of personalized attention so they can learn efficiently and have fun, too. Teachers are highly qualified and use iPads to deliver math and reading lessons. “It really engages the kids,” says owner Gail Bregi. Sessions focus on studying and homework skills, reading and math, as well as SAT and ACT prep—no long-term contract required.
Runners up: College Nannies & Tutors (Excelsior), College Nannies & Tutors (Wayzata)
Best Preschool / Childcare
St. David’s Center
“There really is no preschool like ours,” says Maureen Walsh, lead advancement and strategy officer at St. David’s Center. The facility is completely renovated, kid-friendly and fun, plus it’s located on ten acres with two playgrounds and access to Minnehaha Creek. There’s an on-site autism treatment program, a mental health clinic, and a pediatric therapy clinic. And for 50 years, the highly educated teaching team has been approaching early childhood learning with an inclusive, Reggio Emelia-based philosophy, meaning that kids explore at their own pace and initiate learning in their own unique ways. “We really give the classroom to the kids and value the learning process more than the end result. It’s curiosity- and experience-based instead of just focusing on knowledge.”
Runners up: Mount Calvary Preschool, Wayzata Community Church Nursery School
Editor's Pick: Best Way to Do Good on A Summer Day
The John Randle Tee Up for Tomorrow Charity Tournament
Through the generosity of former Minnesota Viking John Randle and his wife Candace, along with other committed partners, the John Randle Tee Up for Tomorrow Charity Tournament, hosted by the Randles, once again encourages folks to hit the links on July 10 to raise funds for St. David’s Center. In 2016, the event at Hazeltine Golf Club raised more than $100,000. Celebrating its fifth year, this is a Minnesota summer event that brightens the lives not only of those who participate, but also the lives of the young people who will ultimately benefit from a summer day on the golf course.
Best Veterinary Clinic
Excelsior Animal Hospital
“We pledge to give all our patients the highest quality medical and surgical care, treating each pet as if it were our own. We are your partner in pet care,” says practice manager Jessy Halverson. From regular check-ups to spays/neuters, there’s a full team of veterinary professionals delivering top-level care for every stage of pet ownership, with an in-house lab, pharmacy and radiology system. “Good communication between doctor and owner is a very important part of pet care. We promise to give you the information you need to make well-informed decisions regarding your pet’s health, and to set your mind at ease,” says Halverson.
Runners up: Westonka Animal Hospital, Long Lake Veterinary Clinic
Editor's Pick: Best Place to inspire the Kids
Tiny Natural History Museum
Last fall, we featured Orono Middle School students Maria and Miller Williams and their Tiny Natural History Museum. These student scholars’ interest in natural history and science has led to quite a collection of rocks, fossils, shells and bones. The siblings have been guest scientists at Bell Museum’s Saturday with a Scientist event in Minneapolis, and have had their collection on display for visitors at Southshore Center in Shorewood.
On its Facebook page, the Tiny Natural History Museum calls itself a traveling mini-museum, meant to intrigue kids of all ages. This social media outlet allows followers to check out photos and videos featuring all the cool stuff these kids are up to. There are also interesting posts on science-related topics, including spotlights on the future generation of museum workers.
Your science-loving kids are sure to enjoy meeting Maria and Miller as much as we did. They’ll also surely love seeing their amazing collection. Check out the Tiny Natural History Museum on Facebook for more info about exhibits and events.
Is there anything more powerful than a good hair day, an age-defying facial treatment, or a solid back-up plan in case things go awry? These professionals will give you an extra boost of confidence so you can take on tomorrow (or adulting) with panache.
Best Law Firm
Wayzata Law Group
Wayzata Law Group offers a full collection of business and family legal services. They’re community-oriented and firmly anchored in the neighborhood, with an amazing track record that puts clients at ease. “We win, we are accessible, we’ve had a consistent presence in this market for decades, and we care about our clients and their legal concerns,” says commercial litigator Dustin Fossey, who’s one of a three-man legal team. “We are lean, mean, efficient, and client-oriented.”
Runners up: Excelsior Law Firm; Sanford, Pierson, Thone & Strean
Best Salon / Spa
Bella on the Bay
Bella on the Bay is an evergreen on the “Best Of” list, and it’s celebrating a decade of business with expanded hours in its historic home digs. The main-floor salon space is “vibrant, energetic, and full of laughter,” says general manager Kim Richard. “But upstairs? The spa is calm and serene.” Turn to Bella for a great haircut, dermaplaning, Eminence skin care products from Hungary, or the new cold stone eye treatment, which is great for treating sinus pressure and headaches.
Runners up: Juut SalonSpa (Wayzata), Excelsior Nails & Day Spa
Best Hairstylist / Barber
Heather Mackenzie, Bella on the Bay
Heather Mackenzie launched her career in New York City and has styled for the runway during Fashion Week. Now she calls Minnesota home, but brings the same level of professionalism and attention to detail, making clients feel runway-worthy every day. “I’m committed to leaving it all on the table every day at the salon,” says Mackenzie. “I have found that listening is truly the strongest skill a hairdresser can have. Listening, continued education and the pure joy of my craft allow me to deliver my best artistry.”
Runners up: Jon Charles (Jon Charles Salon), Jason Brezee (Lili Salon Spa)
Best Insurance Agent
Chad Babcock, State Farm
Chad Babcock is a veteran of the insurance industry—and of the Lake Minnetonka community. He’s an Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Chamber of Commerce member, a major donor for the Firecracker 5K and Fun Run, and he supports community events and people every time he has the opportunity. “I live by the motto of the community: be local, buy local, have fun locally,” says Babcock. “There’s so much more to this business than just insurance.”
Runners up: Janet Symons (State Farm), Anne Rothstein (American Family)
Editor's Pick: Best Imaginations
Calling themselves “quite possibly the best small ad agency in all of Excelsior, Minnesota,” Ostrom Creative knows its place, and they fill that place with creative ideas and commitment to top-notch collaboration with clients (including Fabcon, Best Buy, Portobello Road Gin and many more) on a variety of projects. Husband-and-wife team Tom Ostrom and Cara Albrecht-Ostrom are the masterminds behind Ostrom Creative. In a feature story on the agency in our August 2016 issue, Cara says, “We called it Ostrom Creative because, truly, the word ‘creative’ encompasses everything we do…and everything we do has the thread of creativity, so we have a very big wheelhouse.”
*Are you one of this year's winners? Find information on how to order a plaque and other materials HERE.