How cool is it that for every Sandpoint category, there were three amazing entries? There are plenty of similar towns — larger even — that might not be able to boast such a thing. Not only great restaurants that voters recognized over three distinct types of eateries, but live music venues, and top-notch ski shops to go with over-the-top outdoor options, like hikes with Instagram-worthy views.
Lake or mountain, take your pick in Sandpoint. Or have both when you enjoy SCHWEITZER MOUNTAIN, voter's choice for Best Hike. With nearly 3,000 acres of terrain, it's a year-round destination for winter skiers and summer explorers alike. During warmer months, the mountain is alive with flora and fauna. Explore 40 miles of maintained trails, many with lake views, or make the climb to the mountain's Lake Colburn, a hidden gem.
Voters selected the ALPINE SHOP for their favorite mountain outfitter, which has two locations: one in town and the other in Schweitzer Village. When it comes to tuning bindings or recommending gear, generations have counted on the Alpine Shop, which dates to 1966, for sales, rental equipment and maintenance. Since then, they've added support for summer sports, from boating and wakeboarding to kayaking and paddleboarding.
It isn't just outdoor activities that make Sandpoint such a draw; the arts are alive in this charming town, especially music. Almost any night of the week you can catch live performances, ranging from an acoustic guitar duo to full-fledged mini concerts, especially at voter's choice for Best Live Music venue, THE HIVE. Its first iteration was as a place for after-Festival at Sandpoint events. When it finally debuted in 2014, after years of renovation, this First Avenue fave earned rave reviews for its small-club feel and big-time acoustics.
Dining in Sandpoint might mean a stroll to any number of downtown eateries, or an easy drive out of town. That's where the HOOT OWL CAFE has been serving up big platters of hearty food and endless cups of coffee for more than 25 years. A repeat Best Breakfast winner — they won in 2017 — the Hoot Owl is a folksy place full of owl-themed décor where everything on the menu is cooked to order and abundant like the biscuits and gravy or the vegan potatoes, crispy hash browns topped with just about every vegetable you can think of.
Another local favorite, SECOND AVENUE PIZZA, earned the Best Pizza vote, with pies that pay tribute to the best of Sandpoint: the Schweitzer Ski Flake, the Second Avenue Chunky Supreme and, of course, the Carolyn Special in honor of longtime owner Carolyn Gleason — the woman who also created Sandpoint's annual Lost in the '50s weekend more than 30 years ago, which is only slightly longer than she's had Second Avenue Pizza.
MICKDUFF'S BREWING COMPANY was a labor of love for two brothers who started with a modest dream of brewing great beer 14 years ago, added food, became the hub for live music and other events, then added a community gathering place known as the Beer Hall. They've since embarked on refurbishing a treasured historic building into a newer, larger facility and restaurant. So look for more beer, of course, but also a bigger place to enjoy their fresh-cut fries, juicy burgers, tasty salads and appetizers, and most of it featuring local vendors.
Add that to your list of one more reason to visit Sandpoint.
BEST LOCAL HIKE
1st PLACE: Schweitzer Mountain; 2nd PLACE: Scotchman Peaks; 3rd PLACE: Gold Hill
BEST SKI SHOP
1st PLACE: Alpine Shop; 2nd PLACE: 7B Board; 3rd PLACE: Schweitzer Mountain Resort
BEST LIVE MUSIC CLUB
1st PLACE: The Hive; 2nd PLACE: 219 Lounge; 3rd PLACE: (tie) Eichardt's Pub, MickDuff's Brewing Company
1st PLACE: Hoot Owl Cafe; 2nd PLACE: Joel's; 3rd PLACE: Connie's Café
1st PLACE: Second Avenue Pizza; 2nd PLACE: Powder Hound Pizza at Schweitzer; 3rd PLACE: Bab's Pizzeria
1st PLACE: MickDuff's Brewing Company; 2nd PLACE: Joel's; 3rd PLACE: Beet and Basil