Best Of

Best of Sandpoint

click to enlarge Best of Sandpoint
Carrie Scozzaro photo
The 219 is Sandpoint's favorite place to hang, drink in hand.

For several years, Sandpoint area businesses consistently snagged top spots in the North Idaho category of the Inlander's Best Of readers poll. Best brewery? Laughing Dog Brewing. Best outdoor music festival? Festival at Sandpoint. Best radio station? KPND.

In 2015, however, we decided to carve out a separate category for Sandpoint, highlighting places to eat, shop and explore in one of our readers' favorite North Idaho towns.

That same year, TRINITY AT CITY BEACH won for best outdoor/patio dining, a feat the lakeside eatery repeated again in 2017 and 2023.

"We've got four walls, and 50 percent of those are made of glass," says Trinity owner Justin Dick. "You get almost a 180-degree view of the beach."

Although the summer is the busiest season, says Dick, Trinity's view is a year-round favorite, especially for locals. During summer, Dick likes to walk the beach in the early morning but in colder months, including when it snows, "it looks like a picturesque Christmastime in Sandpoint."

"The City Beach is the most underutilized asset that Sandpoint has," Dick says.

The most over-utilized asset in Sandpoint is, perhaps, THE 219 LOUNGE, the town's oldest bar. Generations of Sandpoint residents have sidled up to the bar for a cold one. The 219 has it all: a hefty list of draft beer, live music and a great outdoor patio for when the weather's right.

If you're looking for a dose of creative arts, look no further than the ART WORKS GALLERY and HALLANS GALLERY. Art Works is a regional artists' cooperative, and its gallery is currently celebrating the turning of spring. Hallans is the epicenter of Sandpoint history, and tends to the collection of photographer Ross Hall, who captured the town's history for decades.

Maybe beer and art isn't your thing. In that case, check out FINAN McDONALD CLOTHING CO., which will outfit you for any purpose: outdoors, travel and even for the comfy indoors. The store has a particular focus on environmentally-friendly brands, as well as reducing waste.

How about a big woo-hoo for HOOT OWL CAFE, which has won for the best breakfast in 2017, 2020 and again this year?

"The Hoot Owl is known for being a place to get a home-style meal at a fair price," says new owner Joshua Butler, who is partial to the green eggs and ham breakfast with spinach, basil pesto and melted Asiago cheese. Customer favorites include the hash browns smothered in ham, onions, peppers, eggs and cheese with a side of gravy or salsa and toast, he notes.

Butler bought "the Hoot," as some people call it, from Wendy Sater, who ran it for more than 25 years before retiring last year. Sater purchased the place from her uncle, who had run the popular spot along Highway 200 since 1972.

Besides the food, the eatery's signature collection of owls is still in roost, with only a few additions and subtractions, says Butler.

Service is important, he adds, noting that the Hoot Owls' secret to its longevity is "putting community and your people ahead of profit margins. We are a family at the Hoot, from the crew to our regulars we are a tightknit bunch always willing to help, or listen, or just be there to have a cup of coffee."

Although he's been looking at expanding catering and some meal options, Butler doesn't see any reason to change much else.

"It is a community institution, and we intend to keep it that way."

1st PLACE: 219 Lounge
2nd PLACE: MickDuff's Brewing Co.
3rd PLACE: Eichardt's Pub and Grill

Art Works Gallery, Hallans Gallery (tie)

1st PLACE: Hoot Owl Cafe
2nd PLACE: Connie's Café & Lounge
3rd PLACE: Bluebird Bakery

1st PLACE: Finan McDonald Clothing Co.
2nd PLACE: Campfire Couture
3rd PLACE (tie): Eve's Leaves, La Chic Boutique

1st PLACE: Trinity at City Beach
2nd PLACE: Matchwood Brewing Company
3rd PLACE: Spuds Waterfront Grill

It Happened Here: Expo '74 Fifty Years Later @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Jan. 26
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