by Ted S. McGregor Jr. & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & f you are a marginally talented singer with a train-wreck of a personal life, and you shave your head, the media won't be able to look away. If, however, you're a normal person who leads a solid life, helping others and generally doing all the things they taught you in kindergarten, you will be invisible to the media. Being part of the problem, it seems, makes better headlines than being part of the solution, and that's totally screwed up.

So once a year, like other weekly newspapers around the country, we shine a light on all those normal, solid citizens who own businesses or otherwise toil at making the Inland Northwest a better place to live. Sorry, no Anna Nicole Smith updates this week: This is the Best of issue.

One of our most endearing human traits is that we seek perfection -- a lofty goal to be sure, but even getting close is a way to achieve excellence. And excellence should be recognized, celebrated and never taken for granted. People seek excellence in a million little ways -- in everything from keeping a prized public park beautiful to shooting a ball through a hoop to creating an unforgettably tasty slice of pizza. When everyone does their part, and does it very well, you've got yourself a highly functioning, well-cultured society.

& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & R & lt;/span & emember, these are not The Inlander's picks -- the results are entirely based on votes cast by you, the reader. But we are always proud to convene the discussion and publish this issue -- it's our way of showing we see the hard work and appreciate it. And now that we've been at it for 14 years, something occurred to us. It's always fun to see the new faces among the winners (this year including P.F. Chang's, Finders Keepers and the Coaches vs. Cancer charity event), but it's the ones that keep winning that are the most impressive. These are the restaurants, shops and people you love most of all.

In baseball, it's cool to put together a great season. But only those players who put together many great seasons make it to Cooperstown. In that spirit, we've created the Best of Hall of Fame. This year's entering class is 18 members strong; to qualify, they have had to win a Best of first-place award for 10 years -- an impressive accomplishment. And we'll add new members in future years whenever they hit that 10-year mark. (Arbor Crest, the Breakfast Boys and Jaazz are all sitting at nine wins after this year.)

Everyone who wins, places or shows in this or any year is contributing to our region's quality of life, but our Hall of Famers are the best of the best. Read their stories in this year's Best of section so that next time you see them, you'll realize their excellence doesn't happen by chance. They work hard to make this a great place to live, and our annual Best of the Inland Northwest issue is a tribute to that spirit. But do feel free to thank them yourself -- they deserve the attention.

Remember Them?

Here are some of the Best of the Inland Northwest winners from our first readers poll back in 1994.


(Best Jazz Club)

Espresso Delizioso

(Best Late-Night Hangout)

Tom Foley

(Best Public Official)

Steve Mumm

(Best Weathercaster)

The Magic Lantern

(Best Movie Theater)

Black Happy

(Best Local Band)

Harry O's

(Best Grocery Store)


(Best Singles Bar)

Staying Power

These Hall of Famers started their runs in our very first year, and they haven't slowed down yet.

Value Village

(Best Used Clothing)


(Best Men's and Women's Clothing)


(Best Cheap Eats)


(Best Bookstore)


(Best Records, CDs and Videos)


(Best Coffee)


(Best Outdoor Gear)


(Best Place to Ski)

Spokane Folklore Society's Valentine's Dance @ East Spokane Grange

Sat., Feb. 11, 7-10 p.m.
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