Boy, when we say bigger and better, we’re not joking. This year’s Best of Missoula issue includes more categories than ever before—a robust 157—and roughly 12,000 words celebrating the winners. Toss in a few our of own “Staff Picks,” and you’ve got the heftiest Best of Missoula in history. Enjoy.

People And Media

Best Local Politician: John Engen
In a bitterly divided election year, our voters at least seem to agree on one thing: Mayor John Engen’s consensus-driven style continues to bode well for the city. We like Engen because he brings a self-effacing humor to otherwise dry meetings and plays a mayor-as-mediator role that’s helped cast aside once-constant City Council bickering. It’s no wonder Obama cherished his endorsement so bad.

Best TV Newscast: KPAX
Whether you’re a devoted nightly watcher or simply waiting for David Letterman to grace your television set, the KPAX newscast holds a special place in our voters’ hearts. We think we know the secret: Ryan Coleman. The cherubic weather anchor may not get the face time of network stalwarts like anchors Jill Valley and Mark Holyoak, or chief meteorologist Jeff Kelly, but solid cogs like Coleman are what help make the KPAX news team tops in this town.

Best TV Personality: Jill Valley
When it comes to choosing your nightly news, personality matters. Just ask the still-uncomfortable Katie Couric or the not-quite-Tom Brokaw Brian Williams. Luckily for us, KPAX’s Jill Valley doesn’t suffer from such awkward growing pains. With her dry humor, incisive take on fast-moving news and award-winning reporting, she remains Missoula’s best.

Best Radio Station: 103.3, “The Trail”
There’s a large segment of our readership that’s just a touch too old for angry boy thrash music, yet not quite resigned to spending the remainder of their lives listening to morning classics. For these people, “The Trail” (KDTR at 103.3), which plays a seamless blend of erratically sourced rock while also focusing on promoting local musicians, provides the perfect soundtrack for life in our little mountain town. Hell, if the Indy production crew can craft this fine fish-wrap on a steady diet of little else, isn’t it about time you switched?

Best Kids’ Clothing: Blackbird Kid Shop
Being the new kid on the block is never easy, but the immensely charming Blackbird quickly endeared itself to locals after opening on the Hip Strip this past holiday season. Stocking a full array of adorably hip organic clothing, handmade furniture, alternative children’s books and hard-to-find BPA-free canteens, the locally owned and operated store is a must-shop stop for parents—and especially spendthrift grandparents.

Best Thrift Store: Goodwill
The best things in life are free. Then again, it you know where to look, five bucks can get you a Nintendo 64, an RC car, or a 3-iron for smashing apples on the lawn. Goodwill won’t only be nice to your wallet, but will also help you give back to your community when you bring them clothes, toys, furniture or whatever else you can spare. Your toss-away just might turn into somebody else’s treasure.

Best Jewelry: Rockin Rudy’s
Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but for Missoula dudes desperately searching for last-second girlfriend gifts, Rockin Rudy’s will be your unequivocal BFF. From Hands of the Hills to Holly Yashi, Liz Palacios to LaVie Parisienne, the Missoula landmark stocks enough downhome designer bling to satisfy even the most finicky female tastes.

Best Cosmetics: Skin Chic
Whether you’ve developed your own science of skin care or can’t tell lipstick from eyeliner, Skin Chic is where you’ll find the supplies and expertise essential to your cosmetic beautification. And if you can’t tell lipstick from eyeliner, please go see these experts a little sooner than later.

Best Intimate Items: Victoria’s Secret
Some say it’s the wrapping that makes the gift. And when it comes to spicing up the gift of yourself, a majority of our readers say you should stop first at Victoria’s Secret. Needless to say, this store’s lingerie makes opening a personal present more than half the fun.

Best Shoe Store: Hide & Sole
They take you to work. They take you to the market. They take you into the mountains, and they take you back home. But when they need replacing, most Missoulians head to Hide & Sole for everything from Docs to Crocs, and all the Dansko’s in between. Walk by, walk in and walk out with something your feet will thank you for.

Best Day Spa: Sorella’s
Missoulians wake up 3,200 feet closer to the sun than our sea level peers, meaning we get that much extra solar abuse on our skin, hair and sandaled feet. As such we’ve long looked to the pros to tend to our exfoliating earthly vessels, and nowhere more so than at Sorella’s Salon & Day Spa. Hydrotubs, mineral baths and massages are the elegant options, but non-do-it-yourselfers prefer to pay the pros to pull unsightly pelts from brows ($20), backs ($50) and bikini zones ($30 –$50).

Best Place for a Hair Cut: Tangles
You’d better have your chops if you are going to call your car dealership “Dents,” your ice cream shop “Melties,” or your University “Slackers,” but this kind of bold marketing continues to do the ’do for the hair stylists at Tangles. From cornrows to comb-overs, french braids to feathers, and perms to pompadours, the crack team of ’do-gooders will snip and dye your strands of dead cells into something completely unrepresentative of their namesake.

Best Tanning Salon: Brown Sugar
If the Avantgarde 600’s neon blue lights aren’t enough to suck you in, the machine’s sculpted plexi-glass surface will surely appeal to a seasoned tanner. With rounded bulbs for a more natural-looking glow, this articulately constructed tanning bed is just one of the many reasons to experience Brown Sugar. Rest assured, this premier tanning parlor brings something new to the table with each distinct bed.

Best Hairstylist: Kim DeAnda
She might be able to fit you in for a nine o’clock tomorrow morning, if it’s just a haircut you need. Otherwise you’ll be waiting until at least next week if you want Tangles owner and stylist Kim DeAnda to tame your wavy mop top. She’s the best, after all, and appointments don’t necessarily come easy.

STAFF PICK: Best Boogie-Friendly Renovation
There used to be a time when live music at the historic Wilma was something of a drag. Great musicians would sell out the intimate venue and play inspiring sets, but dedicated fans had little room to enjoy the happening. Take the Queens of the Stone Age concert a year ago, when unsuspecting fans could only stand amongst the other crushed sardines before some He-man looking for room to shake his tail feather happened to pick us up and hurl us over his shoulder into a pile of chairs. Most Wilma shows were a spine-splitting experience in the most literal sense.
But not anymore.

When Rocky Mountain Development Group purchased the building and decided to renovate both the interior and exterior—at a cost of approximately $1.5 million—one item on their list of improvements included taking out the first four rows of seating inside the Wilma Theatre. Eureka—a dance floor/mosh pit was born.
For anybody fortunate enough to catch May’s NOFX show, you undoubtedly noticed the benefit of extra elbowroom—a great show made even greater by more room to thrash about. And if the hardcore fans are pleased, we can only imagine how happy this makes the twirling hippies when Ben Harper next rolls into town.
Best Tattoo Parlor: Painless Steel

You told your bros you wouldn’t wuss out, but suddenly the idea of a dolphin smoking a water-pipe in a recliner doesn’t sound like the best tattoo for your neck. Luckily, you’re at Painless Steel, where approachable and talented artists can pull off anything, no matter how random your body art vision may be.

Best Optometrist: Sandy Sheppard
If you can’t read this blurb, it’s because you got your ocular aids from someone besides Sandy Sheppard, Missoula’s best tester of vision and prescriber of corrective lenses. Even if you can read this, you could probably do better, and starting with Missoula’s top optometrist might just be the way to go.

Best Optician: Rocky Mountain Eye Center
“This one?” Click. “Or this one?” Click. It’s that time of year again—those same two questions, the same blurred eye chart, and that same puff of air bursting into your pupil. Sounds like a good time, right? Well, at Rocky Mountain Eye Center, the pain of having to upgrade your already less-than-perfect vision to a stronger prescription is quick and painless. And with high-fashion lenses to spruce up that vision correction, it’s worth a look.

Best Doctor
Best Health Clinic: Eric Ravitz, Blue Mountain Clinic
There may be no more important decision for an individual or family than the choice of a doctor, and our readers rest easy in choosing Eric Ravitz and his team at Blue Mountain Clinic. Ravitz leads the BMC family practice staff with equal parts experience—30 years worth—and approachable style. What we like most is that, despite being trained in traditional Western medicine, he’s open to alternative approaches of health care—key in an open-minded town like Missoula. Pair Ravitz with the likes of physician assistants Mindy Opper and Kelly Polus, and nurse practitioner Laura Marx, and BMC offers a veritable health care all-star team to locals.

Best Dentist: Ike Heaphy
In this heat, you’re better off forsaking the toothache than the ice cream. And since Missoulians have registered their affection for dentist Ike Heaphy, you can fearlessly commend your gums and chompers to the attentions of an expert. Freezing treats are just a few periodontal ministrations away.

Best Chiropractor: Anthony Lambert
Although leery of back-crackers, you’ve been waking up every morning since going over the handlebars feeling like there’s a meat hook holding your spine to the mattress. Take our readers’ advice and get over to Anthony Lambert for an adjustment of your alignment and a little relief.

Best Massage Therapist: Andrea Utick
Andrea Utick of Lotus Light Massage Therapy may have earned your votes for her healing touch, but there’s more to this masseuse than working out the kinks. With a history major and women’s and gender studies minor, this former Montana youth government secretary of state aspires to a law degree and ending oppression. That is, when she’s not being feted for her sure hands.

Best of Missoula Part 2

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