Ah, the winds of change blew and those winds brought in a new category for 2013 - coffee instead of lattes. The inaugural winner of the coffee contest is Starbucks. The Seattle-based coffee company is the Grande of the industry and apparently number one in Whistler as well. The Mount Currie Coffee Co. polled number two just 20 votes behind Starbucks. The Lift picked up third spot in this new category.
Best Hot Chocolate:
This category blew in with changes made last year and in 2013 Blenz returns to the top of the podium. Walking by the coffee shop at Whistler Marketplace the aroma of Belgian chocolate chips melting in steamed milk creates an almost irresistible pull into the store. Many other hot chocolate sellers settle for syrups. Blenz sets itself apart as all its stores use real chocolate in their dark, milk and white chocolate drinks.
Starbucks and Moguls were second and third respectively in the hot chocolate polling.
The Wildwood and Elements
As if choosing where to get a good start to the day wasn't hard enough, voters are evenly split over Whistler's best breakfast. The Wildwood is back on top but last year's second place finisher, Elements, pulled up and tied with Wildwood for the top spot.
"Perfect!" says Brian Dixon, reached at the Wildwood. "This is just brilliant."
Dixon manages both locations so there is no better result for him.
The Wildwood is located In Function Junction and at the Whistler Tennis Club on Northlands Boulevard. A little difficult to find the first time but easily enjoyed. Elements Urban Tapas Parlour is located in the Summit Lodge on Main Street.
Creekside's Southside Diner placed second in the voting and the Alpine Café finished in third spot.
Best Quick Lunch:
For the second year in a row Ingrid's Village Café topped the voting for lunch. Co-owner Fiona Minton says residents know the food produced at the shop she runs with Nancy MacConnachie is as a place where you get what you want. Customers get made-to order fresh food instead of pre-prepared offerings that were made hours or days ago.
"We just have a product that we believe in and we have great staff," says Minton by phone with the busy sounds of late afternoon lunch service audible in the background.
"The local people come in and they know what they like."
Gone Bakery and Samurai Sushi tied for second place and Alpine Café was third.
Elements Urban Tapas Parlour is back on top in this category. Voters gave Elements the top nod in 2011 then in 2012 the tapas bar dropped into second place. The news of a return to first place was greeted enthusiastically by manager Brian Dixon. He called the rebound "sweet news" after 21 Steps bumped Elements off the top in 2012.
"That's all we do for dinner — shared small plates," says Dixon of the tapas offerings at Elements.
The second place votes went to 21 Steps and The Mix took third place.
Purebread and Araxi
The winds of change have blown again and this category represents a major shift. Purebread and Araxi Restaurant + Bar share the award this year.
"I am in sugar shock," says Paula Lamming from Purebread upon learning the news. "Proud to be in with such great company."
Aaron Heath has been with the Toptable restaurants for 17 years. He got his start with the company at Araxi. As pastry chef he takes credit for what he says is his first award for the work he does.
"You always have to save room for dessert," says Heath.
He says it's too difficult to single out and recommend only one dessert choice at Araxi but he mentions a new and popular item on the menu is Araxi's own unique take on black forest cake.
The dessert winner last year was Rimrock Café and in 2013 the Rimrock slips in just under Purebread and Araxi.
Best Wine List:
This has been quite a year for Sommelier Samantha Rahn. The Araxi superstar took this honour last year and keeps it in 2013.
"This is really important and it is almost as special as anything I've won in the last year," says Rahn. "It's really important to me that the locals want to come and drink with us and that they recognize my hard work and all the great things going on here in the restaurant."
Rahn's peers named her Sommelier of the Year earlier this year during the Vancouver International Wine Festival.
With a huge selection of wines to choose from there's no fear of running out of adventurous new wines to try at Araxi and Rahn points out there are many wines in her selection that offer great value.
"The list is just nicely over 1,000 selections and I don't want to get too much bigger," says Rahn.
The Bearfoot Bistro with its inventory of more than 10,000 bottles in the cellar below the restaurant finished second in the wine list race. The Rimrock was voted into third position.
Splitz Grill. Do we need to say more? This icon in the burger business was way out in front in votes! Paul and Cathy McGeough own and operate the burger market in Whistler, while original owners Trevor and Miriam Jackson own the Splitz outlet in Vancouver.
"It means a lot to Paul and myself that we are continuing the tradition that Trevor and Miriam started," says Cathy.
"We think it is the best burger and we're happy that everyone else thinks so as well."
At Splitz, seasoning is put into the meat, which Cathy believes is one of the key ways a Splitz burger is different from other burgers out there.
Citta's placed second and Earl's followed in third place. A few voters tried to test our geography knowledge by casting votes for Fat Burger, A&W and Pemberton's Mile One Eating House. We're smarter than you think around here.
Creekside's Creekbread won this hands down. The oven in the cozy space just off Highway 99 is heated using wood and kitchen manager Martin Broza starts his workday splitting the wood needed to heat the large fireplace. Apparently Creekbread is becoming known for more than just pizza. The restaurant picked up a second award. Keep reading to find out the other surprising award Creekbread voters have bestowed on their favourite pizza place.
Second place in the pizza race went to Fat Tony's. The Brewhouse placed third.
Hy's Steakhouse has a perfect record. This category was introduced three years ago and this is the third year the upscale steakhouse has been given the nod by Whistler voters.
The Main Street location concentrates on steak. When a craving develops for a 22 ounce Porterhouse steak, Hy's can deliver. Cheese lovers enjoy the Gorgonzola filet mignon and while steak is the focus the menu also includes lamb, seafood and buttermilk fried chicken.
The Four Seasons pulled in enough votes for second place and The Keg placed third this category.
Thank you to the cheeky reader who voted for "medium rare." We put a steak on for you. We'll call you when it's ready for pick up.
Whistler's top sushi outlets engage in a tight battle for votes every year. The top two this year were Sachi Sushi and Sushi Village.
Sachi Sushi took the honour this year with chef Toshiyuki Kobayashi and his team picking up more votes than Sushi Village for the first time in a few years. Sachi Sushi is open for dinner seven nights a week and lunch is served from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
Nagomi Sushi took third place this year.
Best Vegetarian Food:
Ingrid's Village Café returns this year as Whistler's favourite for vegetarian food.
Co-owner Fiona Minton says café customers appreciate the variety offered at Ingrid's.
"We have a lot of vegetarians coming in because we offer many vegetarian and gluten-free dishes," says Minton.
The second and third place finishers in the voting were Mongolie Grill, with its unique food by weight program and extensive choice of options, and the Royal Taste of India.
Part of the story with this category became political thanks to comments made by voters who oppose the takeout concept — many resent the waste generated by the takeout process.
But winner Samurai Sushi is part of the solution. The takeout winner offers up compostable packaging and customers are encouraged to bring their own takeout bag.
Owner Wendy Gabelhouse had time to provide a quick quote while a line of takeout customers were waiting for their food when we called.
"We appreciate our customers ongoing support," she says.
Pasta Lupino placed second this year. Sachi Sushi scored third place.
Best Overall Experience:
This is the food and drink award that really counts as the most prestigious in this section.
The results are quite a shake up from last year with Araxi coming out on top over the Rimrock Café, which was second.
Neil Henderson, Araxi's general manager, says consistency is one of the things he strives for. The staff offers the same solid service with each, and every, customer.
"I have very, very, very high expectations of the staff," he says.
His push for servers who are engaged, accommodating, hospitable and professional is working.
The Bearfoot Bistro with its vodka room and underground cellar finished in third place.
El Furniture Warehouse
For the second year in a row El Furniture Warehouse wins over our readers. There are so many things that work for this eatery. Great location is one. Another is the great pricing. The menu is based on a $5 concept. Almost everything on offer is $5.
Voters also find great value at Pasta Lupino and Samurai Sushi.
James Walt, Araxi
There's a new favourite chef in Whistler. James Walt of Araxi got the votes needed to take this honour. He takes the award from last year's winner and this year's second place finisher, Melissa Craig of the Bearfoot Bistro.
"We really value the local clients," says Walt after pointing out that he's quiet and shy. He doesn't seek out acknowledgement of this kind, but he appreciates that people made the effort to express their appreciation for the good work done at Araxi.
The third place finisher in this race was Nick Cassettari from Alta Bistro.
Aurelien Duflot, Araxi
Aurelien Duflot at Araxi really ran away with this one. He started working at Araxi in the winter of 2011 and he says he works hard to make all his customers feel welcomed.
"You are in a resort town so you have to make people feel welcome," he says.
Jamie May at Sachi Sushi placed second and the third place finisher this year was Maddie McLeash from Earl's.
It's fitting that the best server works at the restaurant voted to have the best overall service. This is the sixth 2013 Best of Whistler award for Araxi.
GM Neil Henderson has high expectations of the Araxi staff and he says he's very proud of the restaurant team.
"The manner in which we do things every single time is done the same way by every single member of the team," says Henderson.
The consistency starts at the front door and continues through to service at the table.
The Rimrock polled second and the GLC was third.
After a full day of skiing or boarding, climbing all those steps up to the GLC (Garibaldi Lift Co.) is a right of passage in Whistler.
At the top is an oasis of what mountain adventurers are looking for after a day on the slopes. There are beverages, places to sit, beautiful people to view, scenery to absorb and great music.
"Having the ability to ski-in and ski-out in the winter is key," says GLC manager Mike Wilson. "Being front row to the Whistler Mountain Bike Park and witnessing all the action in the summer sets us apart from all other patios."
Just across the plaza the Longhorn picked up second place in the voting, while Citta finished third.
The patio Whistlerites prefer is also the preferred place to grab an après ski drink. Kids are welcome at the GLC for après, so the whole family can partake in snacks and drinks while recalling all the massive drops conquered over the course of the day, along with stories of the deep powder encountered and the radical tricks laid down in the terrain park.
"With a strong local customer base and a great reputation among the tourists, everyone always seems to have a great time here," says GLC manager Mike Wilson.
The GLC takes this category over Dusty's down at Whistler's Creekside. Merlin's took third place honours at the Upper Village base of Blackcomb.