One of the best things about being part of a community is knowing that your neighbors are there for you: to shore you up in hard times, to celebrate with you and to work together to improve the neighborhood for everyone. Fred Rogers, the public television pioneer and child development expert, inspired us to think more about what being part of a neighborhood means, the theme for this year’s special Best of Lake Minnetonka edition of the magazine. “We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility,” Rogers said. “It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”
As we continue to celebrate local heroes in Lake Minnetonka Magazine in 2018, please send us a note about a hero you’d like us to get to know.
You can always reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So what’s your neighborhood? Is it the literal neighborhood where your house is located? Is it the families at your child’s middle school? The coffee shop you walk to every Saturday morning? Maybe it’s your “neighborhood” of coworkers, or your volleyball league, or some other group or place where you belong.
In this issue, we’re celebrating the Lake Minnetonka “neighborhood”—the businesses you voted for, all around those pure waters, that represent the best of the best. Congratulations to the winners of this year’s Best of Lake Minnetonka awards! We’re happy to be your neighbors.
FOOD & RESTAURANTS
BEST PATIO DINING
Social media offers the chance for businesses to stay in close touch with customers—and it offers customers the chance to gush in real-time. Our 2018 best restaurant, CōV, has plenty of fans on the world wide web. You don’t have to take our word for it—here’s what a few of them (and their pooches, who are welcome on CōV’s patio) had to say on Facebook.
Spent Sunday evening on the patio with my Coton
de Tulear 10-month-old puppy. The people here were fabulous! The food is very good. My little Monet had the best time! Silver water bowl and yummy treats. We will be there often. My new favorite on Lake Minnetonka. Beautifully frames the lake. Great job on the design and menu! The best!
- Connie Sass
Fabulous dinner and even better service from our wonderful waiter, Faysil. Our birthday party of 6 had an amazing time and enjoyed everything from the calamari appetizer to the BBQ ribs and grilled fish tacos. The scallops and the shrimp salad were amazing! And the smile on the birthday girl’s face when her sparkler dessert came was priceless—the strawberry shortcake was to die for! And my bootlegger was the bomb. We will be back!
- MaryPat McNeil
The holiday atmosphere was beautiful. The live piano music was delightful. Service was excellent. The food was great. We really enjoyed the walleye sandwich and mahi fish tacos. Hope to go back over and over.
- Tom Barce
Visiting from Austin, Texas and had a wonderful time….Halibut piccata was lightly pan fried and the gnocchi soaked up that delicious lemon/butter/caper sauce. Wow—such an awesome meal in a charming location. Thank you!
- Kimberly Koschemann Harmon
Lobster mac’n’cheese......That’s it, that’s all.
- John Phillips
EDITOR'S PICK: BEST PLACE TO ESCAPE
The courtyard at Bellecour
When star chef Gavin Kaysen opened his Wayzata bistro Bellecour at the end of 2016, people were buzzing. It was difficult to get a table, and even typically well-organized magazine editors weren’t always on the ball (ahem). So the first time I visited Bellecour was last summer, to interview Kaysen for our September cover story. The pastries and coffee from the bakery counter were out of this world (thanks to pastry chef Diane Yang), and Kaysen was as interesting and charming as you might expect.
What really struck me, though, out of all the beauty and deliciousness, was the gorgeous courtyard. It’s a relatively small space, a walled-in patio with marble-top tables and traditional bistro chairs. The walls are dark gray, making the space feel intimate, and adorned with vines and colorful planters. The whole effect is utterly transporting—if Bellecour feels like Paris, the courtyard feels precisely like sitting in a café on =the Île de la Cité. If I looked over the high wall, I might see the spires of Notre-Dame. I couldn’t wait to go back, so I invited a colleague to have a coffee meeting with me there the next week. We lingered over our cappuccinos and croissants, and watched the stylish denizens of Lake Street at the tables around us. (If you visit during the quieter morning hours, when the courtyard is open to bakery-counter visitors, it’s also fun to watch the restaurant team through the kitchen windows, getting ready for dinner service.)
Sometimes, a little escapism is good for the soul. Bon voyage!
Excelsior Brewing Co.
Original Pancake House (Minnetonka)
BEST INTERIOR DESIGNER
The Sitting Room
Trendy, indeed: for the second year in a row, Excelsior’s The Sitting Room has been named the best lake-area interior design firm by our readers. The tight-knit group of four design experts provides personalized service to help clients create spaces that are beautiful, functional and inviting. We spoke with designer Megan Jackson Meder to find out more about the design process and what’s new for 2018.
What design trends or colors are hot this spring?
“We’re starting to warm things up again after ten years of gray walls. Think creams and warmer woods, with darker trim and lighter walls for contrast. Bold gem-tones, like deeply saturated greens, blues and ruby, are in. Succulents have been all the rage the last couple of years, but now we’re seeing cacti everywhere.”
How can someone incorporate these looks into an existing space?
“Your safest bet is a neutral palette with pops of color. Swap out your reclaimed-wood cocktail table for a velvet, deep green ottoman. Painted furniture, statement artwork or pillows are not as much of a commitment, but they still add those vibrant colors.”
Do you have any advice for hiring a designer?
“If you’re hiring a designer, my best advice is to trust them and see the process through. Trust the process; we have the finished product in mind, down to the accessories. Take a photo of your space and bring it in; tell the designer the pieces you love, and don’t try to work around pieces you hate. Pinterest is great; we love it when clients come in with Pinterest pages showing what you like and why you like it.”
What are your favorite spaces to design?
“I love doing sitting rooms. So many people have rooms they never use, like an office they don’t need or a formal dining room that only gets used once a year. You can extend your living space by turning an unused room in to a den, family space or library that maximizes your everyday living.”
BEST LANDSCAPE DESIGNER
Otten Bros. Garden
BEST SENIOR LIVING RESIDENCE
Lake Minnetonka Shores
BEST NURSERY/GARDEN CENTER
BEST HOME FURNISHINGS STORE
The Sitting Room
EDITOR'S PICK: BEST WALK IN THE WOODS
The Big Woods Preserve
In the metro area, which we now mostly think of in terms of urban downtowns, suburban developments, retail strips and malls, and carefully engineered green space, there’s an incredible remnant of a time long past. In Wayzata, 14 beautiful and carefully kept acres make up the Big Woods Preserve—one of the last regional vestiges of the hardwood forest (the “Big Woods”) that once covered all of central Minnesota and much of the upper Midwest.
The acreage was preserved in 2004 by Wayzata residents, in partnership with private donors and The Retreat, a recovery organization that occupies the building on the site. In the spring, visitors can see native wildflowers and, depending on the year, the sugar maple trees tapped for sap. In the fall, the stately canopy (much of which is sugar maple and basswood) comes alive with color.
Believe it or not, the preserve is located just east of the Colonial Square shopping center off Wayzata Boulevard (south of 394). There are a few parking spots and a trail that invites visitors to wander back in time. Lace up your sneakers—we’ll see you there.
HEALTH & WELLNESS
BEST FITNESS STUDIO/YOGA STUDIO/GYM
Spirit of the Lake Yoga & Wellness Center
Studio owner, life coach and yoga instructor Nicole Lovald knows firsthand the transformative power of yoga. Every day, she sees stressed-out clients walk in to Spirit of the Lake Yoga and, one hour later, they leave class visibly relaxed and centered. “It’s so fulfilling to see that physical transition happen,” she says. If you can’t make it to a class at the Excelsior studio, Lovald still has you covered; here, she shares with us three simple yoga poses that can be done anytime, anywhere. Namaste.
Best for: improved focus
Stand tall, balancing your weight equally on both feet, with arms at your sides. Engage your leg muscles and lengthen your spine towards the sky. Find a focal point in front of you and concentrate on it fully, then bring your right heel to the inside of your left ankle. If you feel stable, you can bring the right foot to the inside of your calf or inner thigh. Reach your arms up towards the sky. Repeat on the other side.
Legs Up the Wall
Best for: better sleep
Set a pillow or folded blanket next to the wall. Sit sideways with your right hip against the wall. Swing your legs up the wall, bringing your hips as close to the wall as possible. Let your back rest on the floor and your legs rest against the wall. Close your eyes, breathe deeply and relax for 10 minutes or longer.
Best for: stress relief
Start in a tabletop position with hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Bring your big toes together until they touch and take your knees wider than your hips. Draw your hips back towards your heels, letting your belly rest and your head release down towards the floor. Extend your arms forward or rest them at your sides.
Check out Spirit of the Lake Yoga’s website for free guided mediations.
BEST DENTAL PRACTICE
Lake Minnetonka Dental
BEST ORTHODONTIC PRACTICE
Lake Minnetonka Orthodontics (Minnetonka)
BEST CHIROPRACTIC PRACTICE
The Brost Clinic
BEST PEDIATRIC PRACTICE
Wayzata Children’s Clinic – Minnetonka
BEST EYE PRACTICE
Northwest Eye (Minnetonka)
BEST DERMATOLOGY PRACTICE
Park Nicollet Clinic (Carlson Parkway)
Juut SalonSpa (Wayzata)
SHOPS & RETAIL
BEST APPAREL BOUTIQUE
General Store of
BEST GIFT SHOP
General Store of Minnetonka
Since 1984, the family-owned General Store of Minnetonka has been a local treasure trove of unique gifts and goods. The two-story shop is the perfect place to spend an afternoon searching for handmade home accents or that one-of-a-kind vintage gem. Buyer Jenny Putnam is always on the hunt for new items to add to the store’s eclectic mix, and here she shares with us some of her favorite picks for fresh spring gifts.
Rustic reader board
A modern take on the old-fashioned reader board, these charming wood boards are the perfect addition to a kitchen, gallery wall or anywhere an inspirational quote is needed. The crisp white-and-black block letters can be arranged on the board’s wooden shelves to spell out anything your heart desires. Available in two sizes, this simple yet bold accent is self-expression at its chicest. Prices vary based on size; $150 and $195.
Custom lake art
Crafted by a local artist, these beautiful signs feature steel cutouts of your favorite lake, perfect for hanging at the cabin or boathouse. The same artist also creates custom stemless wine glasses with a frosted etching of the shape and name of any lake you choose. “They’re classic and fun,” says Putnam. Paired with a bottle of wine, these make an ideal housewarming gift that will be enjoyed for years to come. Signs start at $80, glasses $10 each.
This delightful baseball-style tee is as comfortable as it is fashionable. Three-quarter length sleeves and soft, breathable fabric are great for early spring, and the combo of floral patterns and stripes give this old favorite an unexpected, trend-forward twist. “This is one of my favorite pieces for spring,” says Putnam. “Mixing patterns is so fresh, the fabric is absolutely yummy and you can pair it with a pair of distressed white jeans and look effortless.” Available in sizes small–large. $29.
BEST SPECIALTY FOODS/KITCHEN STORE
Kowalski’s Market (Excelsior)
EDITOR'S PICK: BEST STRETCH OF SHOPPING
Excelsior's Water Street
For an Instagram “native” like me, it’s impossible to miss—or to resist—the pull of Excelsior’s main drag Water Street, which is chock full of beautiful boutiques and an incredible concentration of local, independent businesses. Most of the shops share mouthwatering photos on Insta (and elsewhere), of artfully arranged candles and throws, hip arrangements of succulents in macramé planters, rugged notebooks and boots for guys, chic clothing, handmade baby gear ... I could go on and on. As if that’s not great enough, many of the shops and businesses on Water Street are owned and operated by women, and women are leaders in the local business community via the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Chamber of Commerce and other groups. Over the past few years, we’ve spent quite a few pages of the magazine sharing the stories of these wonderful bizes, like Erin-Kate Duininck’s Golden Rule (one of the first shops to start drawing a younger, more socially conscious crowd of shoppers to the city), the quaint Bird House Inn bed and breakfast, Edina-transplant stationery shop Epitome Papers, Excelsior Bay Books and many more.
Not only can you shop till you drop, but Water Street offers a great selection of spots for eating and drinking, too. Grab breakfast at 318 Café; a fancy dinner at Coalition; a post-meal beer or cocktail at Jake O’Connor’s; dessert at Patisserie Margo … mmm. We’re hungry already.
And hey—it’s May, so don’t forget one of our favorite excuses to meander down Water Street and make your way (pastry in hand) toward the lakeshore: the Excelsior farmers market starts this month.
FAMILY, KIDS & PETS
St. David’s Center
St. David’s Center (stdavidscenter.org) has come a long way since it was founded in a church basement in 1961. The nonprofit has grown into a leading provider of children and family services that include a stellar preschool, autism treatment programs, mental health services, social services and a pediatric therapy clinic. The staff is passionate about encouraging preschoolers’ curiosity while developing their social and emotional skills and cognitive abilities.
“Our teachers are so creative, and they think deeply about how to set up the environment to nurture that natural desire to learn,” says CEO Julie Sjordal, who is celebrating her 30th year with St. David’s Center. Here are some other fun behind-the-scenes numbers:
amount raised in one night at the annual Make Them Shine Gala to support St. David’s services for children
preschoolers per day (Minnetonka campus)
on-site and 12 off-campus fieldtrips (on average) per year, per class, including visits from Choo Choo Bob and Mike the Baker
children and families served annually
years in operation
million annual revenue
average number of slugs found during outdoor play
nutritious snacks served daily (on average)
2018 fundraising goal for the new 10,000-square-foot downtown campus that will serve an additional 265 families per year
child and family development programs offered
DNR-certified school forest and 2 outdoor classrooms on 10 acres of land adjacent to Minnetonka Creek
individual and group volunteers annually
lifelong friends and memories made
BEST LAW FIRM
Wayzata Law Group
BEST VETERINARY PRACTICE
Westonka Animal Hospital
BEST LEARNING/TUTORING CENTER
Sylvan Learning of Minnetonka
BEST PLACE FOR KIDS ACTIVITIES
Big Thrill Factory Minnetonka
BEST DOGGY DAYCARE/KENNEL
ADOGO Pet Hotels (Minnetonka)
EDITOR'S PICK: BEST YOUTH ARTS PROGRAM
Thinking back to my own (very brief) high school theater career, it was pretty unremarkable: I played Marmee in a production of Little Women, mostly as a favor to my friends, who were directing the show as part of their senior theater project. I bet many of our readers can relate. But if the words “high school theater” just conjure up halfhearted, hokey, amateurish stagings of the big Broadway classics, think again.
Minnetonka High School kids have access to one of the Midwest’s best high school theater programs. Nothing is done by the half-measure; program developer R. Kent Knutson helped ensure that theater isn’t just a way to perform—but that the program prepares “our cast and crews to be creative and critical thinkers, successful scholars and advocates for the arts,” as stated on the group’s website.
Minnetonka Theatre is headed today by artistic director Trent Boyum, and they produce four (four!) large-scale musicals, a non-musical show and a one-act play (ready for competition) each year. That’s an incredible scale. And not only are the students in the footlights, but they’re behind the scenes, too, learning about stage direction, lighting, costumes and all of the other elements that make live theater tick.
The program is fortunate to have its own space (the Arts Center on 7), along with a staff that includes a marketing coordinator, a facilities coordinator, and resident costumers, lighting designers and others. There’s even an arm of the program to organize an annual musical performed by students from each elementary school in the district, forming a talented pipeline of actors and crew members who grow up with Minnetonka Theatre.
Want to see for yourself? Catch Minnetonka Theatre’s summer stock production of Merrily We Roll Along this month.
*Are you one of this year's winners? Find information on how to order a plaque and other materials HERE.