The time has finally come.
Forget Christmas, New Year’s Eve, the Fourth of July and your birthday – the best day of the year is here: It’s Cappies Day.
That’s right, at long last, all your votes have been tabulated and winners chosen. You, readers, have decided which businesses are the best of the best, and since you put in so much effort, we figured we would, too.
While we certainly trust the judgment of our faithful readership, this is our opportunity to go out and see what all the fuss is about when it comes to the winners. In the second year of what will hopefully become a long, storied tradition, we took a look at the full list of winners and tried to pick out some businesses we weren’t that familiar with to try to experience what each has to offer. Though you might think we’ve hit every business a few times over by now, there are still dozens upon dozens of places we’ve never been to, and given the rate of development around here – and the fact that we’re just a two-man staff – it’s quite likely we never really catch up, which is just fine with us.
Last week we took a tour of four businesses that we either had never been to or never fully experienced the way they’re meant to be. After going through the whole week, it was easy to see how you picked who you did, and we had a lot of fun in the process.
And don’t worry – this won’t really spoil anything for you. We’re only featuring four businesses here, but the full list of winners from every category begins on page 35, so just keep reading until you run out of pages!
Turbo Tan was named the best tanning salon in the city for the fourth year in a row. It may be shocking to hear, but neither Tim nor I had ever gone tanning before, so this seemed like the perfect place to start our journey. Plus, with all the time we spend indoors cranking out papers, getting a little vitamin D and some color wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
Turbo Tan offers nine full-body tanning beds/booths, plus a leg tanner and a Mystic spray tan booth. Each one varies slightly in terms of power, the types of rays emitted, the amount of UV and features. The shop also has all kinds of accessories for sale such as lotions and eye protection.
Owner Dana Pierce said about 70 percent of the customers go in for situational tanning – they’re about to go on vacation and want a solid base tan, they’re going to prom, they’re about to graduate, they’re getting married, etc. I went in out of pure curiosity.
The first step was filling out a two-page form detailing my complexion and tanning history. The staff – certified tanning consultants – then took the sheet and made an evaluation based on my scores.
“Sometimes I know people’s skin better than they do,” said Ashley Holland, the consultant who helped me last week.
She recommended I try the Saturn High Pressure Booth. It’s a stand-up machine with 20 200-watt bulbs with a high spectrum UVB and an adjustable face plate. It’s a powerful machine that provides 360-degree coverage, with a max session time of 12 minutes.
Since I had never gone tanning before and didn’t have too much of a base, Holland recommended I try it for just 7 minutes. Once I was in the room, I changed into a bathing suit (a lot of people go nude, she said, but God knows I wasn’t about to try that) and applied some tanning lotion, a critical step in the process to avoid burning and maximize tanning potential. I also grabbed a sticker from a jar at the desk – I chose a star – and stuck it on my chest to gauge how much color I got. I was given a pair of stick-on eye protectors (75 cents) that block the UV rays but can still be seen through (vaguely).
Then it was on.
Once the machine turned on, I stepped inside and was immediately bathed in blacklight, the white of my shorts glowing a bright bluish purple. It was way hotter than I expected (even though I was warned it would be hot), and also way louder thanks to all the fans blowing full blast. It was almost comical to see a boom box sitting in there – hearing any music would have surely required absolutely blasting that thing.
I found the face tanner incredibly intense, and I had to rotate myself a quarter turn every 15 to 20 seconds or so for some relief. I also had to roll my lips in to keep them from burning because I failed to apply a protective lip balm first. After a few minutes, though, I figured out a nice little rotation pattern and made the experience doable.
For a quick second there, I thought to myself, “You know, I might be able to get into this.” Then a second later I realized, “Wait a minute, it’s like 120 degrees in here and all I can see is bright purple lights and sweat dripping off my forehead.” This isn’t to say it’s a terrible experience, just not one I was prepared for in any way.
Once the machine shut down, it was like a literal breath of fresh air as the temperature immediately dropped and the fans lowered but stayed on. I peeled the stickies off my eyes, then the star off my chest, to reveal the slightest hint of a white star print. After I got home I actually did notice a tan line at my waist, so I guess it did work – usually it takes multiple sessions, gradually working your way up, to get any real color, Holland said.
When the whole experience was done, I felt like I had just worked out in the sun for a few hours, even though it was just a few minutes. If you’re into very intense physical experiences that don’t require you to do anything but stand there and take it, the Saturn is definitely for you. If not, you might want to opt for the spray, or just stay in your basement all summer.
Beaver Meadow Golf Course
Beaver Meadow is actually one place we know fairly well, but oddly enough, neither of us had ever actually played on the course. We tried out the indoor simulators when those were introduced, and we’ve tried our hands on the driving range and putting greens, but not the real course. Since “The Beav” won the award for Best Golf Course again, we felt it was time to get out there and give it a shot (or many).
Monitor sports reporter Nick Stoico joined me for a 10:18 a.m. tee time last Thursday, an overcast but pleasant day. He had played the course many times before, so I was confident he’d tell me all the secrets – and that he’d win.
We set out to play four holes, just enough to get a feel for the course and see some nice holes. We were recommended to at least check out the 14th, which is picturesque with a big pond between the tee box and the green. We started at 11 and would finish at 14.
My first shot went wayward – a hard slice to the right and destined for a pack of tall pines, but somehow it evaded the trunks and landed in a decent lie about 120 yards from the hole. From there, a mis-hit 7 iron sent the ball a whopping 15 yards at best – a pathetic distance, but at least it was on the fairway. The next shot went directly into the center of the bunker to the right of the hole. Stoico, meanwhile, was going tee to fairway effortlessly.
My first attempt to get out of the sand was a poor one – the ball traveled a foot or two and was still squarely in the pit. A second shot from the bunker, this one with more mustard on it, clipped the knoll at the edge of the trap, but at least the ball made it out to the green. Two putts later, it was in the cup and in the scorecard with a triple-bogey 7 on the par 4. Stoico, after some jitters on the green, carded a 6 for double bogey.
Hole 12 saw much of the same – I found the rough stuff again after some shanks into the woods (that nobody saw) on the left, and we each recorded the same scores as on the previous hole.
We were both excited for 13, a short par 3 (130 yards from the white tees, which we were playing from) with the hole right in front of us.
After a not-terrible tee shot, for once, I was sitting on the fairway with eyes for the flagstick. Therefore, I immediately put the next shot in the bunker again – didn’t want to make things too easy out there. This time I made a clean out from the bunker, landing about 15 feet from the hole. Then, in a remarkable turn of events, I actually sank the putt on my first attempt, notching a feel-good bogey. Stoico also did well on this hole, missing par by about an inch when his putt just refused to drop in the hole despite teetering on the edge.
Then came the grand finale hole for us, the ever-popular 14th. It’s a beautiful par 4 with a large water hazard about 20 yards ahead of the tee box extending lengthwise toward the hole for a couple hundred feet or more. Stoico alerted me that he often spends a lot of time in that pond, so I made sure to really load up on my drive.
I cleared the water, but ended up way right of where I wanted to be in a muddy lie. From there I launched one with a 5 iron into another bad lie, this one among trees, sticks and various debris. Stocio, meanwhile, was nailing this hole, clearing the pond and landing in the center of the fairway off the tee.
I shot from the rough on the right side to the rough on the left – there was a definite theme throughout the day, if you haven’t noticed by now.
From the rough on the left, I gingerly punched it out to the fairway in the direction of the hole, but fell well short of the green. I was able to knock the next one up to the green, which had a tricky break. Two putts later and I had myself another triple-bogey 7 to call it a day. Stoico played this hole well, another theme of the day, and carded a bogey 5 on it.
When all was said and done, I had a 25 (10 over par) through four holes, an average of 6.25 strokes per hole. Stoico, the avid golfer and Beaver Meadow aficionado, recorded a 20 (six over) for an average of five strokes per hole.
Even though I was a disaster out there, to put it mildly, it was still a good time with scenic views of a beautifully maintained course. We didn’t even hold up anybody’s game, and I never fired a single club into the lagoon, so it was a pretty good day all around.
Uno’s Car Wash
I figured that since I was in the mood for trying things for the first time in my life, such as a tanning salon, I thought I might as well indulge in a car wash, too. For as long as I’ve been driving, I’ve either been too cheap, lazy or apathetic to ever pay to have my car washed – isn’t it just going to rain for free anyway?
But once I saw that Uno’s Car Wash on Loudon Road was named the Best Car Wash for what feels like the zillionth time in a row, I had to get down there. Plus, I thought it would be nice to treat the ol’ battle ax – a 2002 Nissan Maxima – to a good cleaning.
Uno’s offers automatic and self-serve washes, with the self-serve portion open 24/7, perfect for those 3:30 a.m. boredom spells. They also offer four levels of detailing, with set prices no matter the type of vehicle.
One of the big features at Uno’s is the wheel and tire washing. Those parts are the closest to the ground, and between regular road filth and the accumulation of brake dust, mine were in pretty rough shape. Uno’s has developed its own special wheel cleaner, which is sprayed on by hand by two associates – one on each side of the car.
There are several options for the automated wash – Basic, Special, Top of the Line and The Works – ranging in price from $9 to $18 (the big sign above the entrance still says the old price of $16 for The Works).
Since I do have a great fondness for my ride, I decided to opt for the Special wash, which includes the wheel wash, a foamy bath and a polyglaze of the undercarriage. The wash ends with a rinse and super-powered blow-dry.
To begin, I inched my way toward the entrance, aligning my left front tire with the conveyor belt on the left side of the bay. This system allows your car to be pulled through nice and slowly. It’s important – and they have big signs letting you know – to put the vehicle into neutral and to take your feet off the pedals and your hands off the wheel. Failure to do so could result in catastrophic failure at worst and extreme embarrassment at best.
Before I entered, I told the associate which wash I wanted, which he then went and punched into the computer, ensuring that my car would get the exact treatment I paid for (the Special wash was $12).
I was also given a punch card, where after five washes you get the next one free, and even if you got five of the cheapest washes, you can use that free one on any kind you want, including The Works package, which includes the foamy bath, an undercarriage wash with rust inhibitor, triple foam polish, long-lasting clear coat protective shield and the wheel cleaner.
And, as if that wasn’t enough, I also got a highlighter-yellow T-shirt that says “I keep it clean at Uno’s Car Wash” in red letters. I hadn’t even gone through the car wash yet and I already felt like I had won something.
After the gifts were handed out, I pulled in, put my windows up and the guys got to work spraying away at all four corners. By the way, props to those brave souls who stand in a dark garage bay all day getting sprayed with soapy water and road gunk.
After that, the ride continued through a series of spinning brushes and floppy strand things that doused Ol’ Blue in a soapy lather – this part used to scare me when my mom would take me to the car wash with her as a kid. I could almost hear the car crying tears of joy as it got its first wash since I’ve owned it – maybe ever.
The last phase was the industrial strength blow-dryer, which I was actually afraid might force water through the edges of my sunroof because of its sheer power. Luckily, there were no breaches and the Maxima rolled out of there all shiny and sparkly.
The biggest difference I noticed was definitely the wheels – they had significant gunk deposits between the spokes when it went in and a general haze of gray coating them. After the wash, they looked like a completely different color, and if not for the curb rash which I inherited from the previous owner(s), they’d look like a brand new set of wheels, and as we all know, the wheels make the car.
If you haven’t gotten your car washed in a little while, you’d be well-served taking it to Uno’s any day of the week. Your automobile will love you forever for it.
Makris Lobster & Steak House
Despite being a huge seafood lover, I’d only ever been to Makris Lobster & Steak House once and, oddly enough, I had a burger when I was there (it was for the Burgers Issue). That’s why, when I saw that they were named winners of the Best Seafood award, I knew this was my chance to get over there and try something from the ocean.
While Makris specializes in providing the best lobsters around, living on a journalist’s salary, I knew before going in that I was going to have to try something else. This isn’t to say Makris has obscene prices – the market dictates the price of most seafood anywhere you go, and lobster is always among the more expensive items on any restaurant’s menu.
I wanted everything on the menu, to be honest, even the non-seafood stuff, but I was there for a reason and I couldn’t lose sight of my mission. After quite a few minutes of browsing, I settled on the Baked Seafood Platter.
The meal is available in small or large portions, and I went with small because of the attractive price of $13.99. (The prices listed on the menu online are outdated, by the way, so don’t go by those if you’re looking at home.) That seemed like a great deal for shrimp, scallops, haddock and swordfish with a baked crumb topping and two sides. Those are four of my favorite seafood items, too.
I chose mashed potatoes and coleslaw as my sides, and the slaw came out before the meal along with a hot, crispy dinner roll. The slaw was very good – I measure all coleslaw against KFC’s, and this stuff was about as good as it gets, with plenty of crunchy, thin strands and not too much mayo.
I finished the roll and slaw in about a minute and couldn’t wait for my late-afternoon lunch.
After a few minutes it was served, and I was surprised at just how small the “small” portion was – the dish containing the seafood was about half the size of the plate bearing the scoop of mashed potatoes. Nonetheless, it looked and smelled fantastic.
I started with a piece of shrimp. The whole dish was very hot, so I had to blow on it for a minute first. That first bite of shrimp was juicy, plump and buttery sweet. The only downside was that the tail was still on, so I ate it by hand holding the tail.
Next I went for the one hunk of haddock. It was tender and flaky and pure white, and the crumbs added a nice, different texture to it. It had that classic ocean taste and it seemed very fresh.
Then I went for the swordfish, a pricier fish I don’t often get. It was pleasantly firm like it should be, but wasn’t rubbery or remotely overcooked. This, too, had a good sea taste, telling me it was pretty fresh.
I saved the scallop (singular) for last, as scallops are among my favorite foods of any type. I love all fried seafood, but with scallops I prefer the baked-stuffed variety, like the one I got.
It was still piping hot, even being the last thing to go, and it was a pretty big one, enough to last a few bites. As I bit into it, I got plenty of sand, which happens when you eat shellfish. It wasn’t like big pebbles or anything, but it was certainly there – not that I minded, of course, because it added even more sea flavor.
By the time I was done, I didn’t mind the portion size at all, as I was perfectly satisfied. I wasn’t incapacitated with an overfilled belly, but I definitely wasn’t hungry anymore, either.
If you’re in the mood for a taste of the sea, make sure Makris is on your radar.