A look back at 16 years of the BEST of Kaweah Country

BEST SANDWICH: Participants in the Best of Kaweah Country readers’ poll said Sierra Subs makes the BEST heroes (aka sandwiches). We didn’t have the heart to tell the gang at Sierra Subs they misunderstood. (Click arrows to view additional poll winners.)
The crew from Sierra Subs and Salads

In looking back since 1999 when the The Kaweah Commonwealth first began its annual readers’ poll, it has become the one issue where all the amenities and the best-kept-secret places to recreate and sightsee have been revealed and celebrated. Along the way, businesses have come and gone, and even the poll itself has changed, as well as who participates and seizes the opportunity for some good-natured free publicity and well-deserved accolades.

Some of the early categories and votes reveal two important trends: (1) Among many who have tried to launch businesses here, only the hardest-working fortunate few have succeeded, and (2) When it comes to the enduring attractions of Kaweah Country no matter how much the times have changed amenities like General Sherman Tree, Moro Rock, Crescent Meadow, Giant Forest, and the Mineral King Road remain timeless sights to behold and experience.

In fact, in a digital world where so many only see these wonders as images on a flat screen, experiencing these scenic wonders in person is arguably better than ever. So celebrate the Best of Kaweah Country in 2014 and make a promise to yourself to enjoy more of all that’s BEST right here in Kaweah Country – the place we all live, work, or visit.

The results of the early years’ polls are chock full of compelling information that one day will make an interesting read on at least one thing we’ve been doing in this town since 1890 when Sequoia National Park was created: What essential services are needed to serve the tourists who visit here in a steady stream from all over the world? 

In the inaugural poll (1999), among the winners in at least one category of those are still in business here are Anne Lang’s Emporium, Gateway Restaurant and Lodge, River View, Sequoia Cider Mill Restaurant, Serrano’s (now Casa Mendoza), Pizza Factory, We Three Restaurant and Bakery, Plantation Bed and Breakfast, Reimer’s Candies, Village Market, The Thingerie, Lazy J Ranch Motel, Sequoia Motel, and Three Rivers Drug. 

No longer here from 1999: Naturedome (romantic dining), Main Fork Bistro (seafood), Café Raven (salad), The Cabin (coffee), Whitewater Contemporary Arts and Gallery 198 (local art), Bullene Vineyards (wine), the Indian Pizza and Family Restaurant (place to shoot pool), and  Three Rivers Golf Course.

And in the category of BEST Place to Close That Shouldn’t Have (1999): Shoshone Inn. 

Come on, all you entrepreneurs out there. It’s time to reopen the Shoshone Inn, Three Rivers Golf Course, and The Indian. Or hasn’t anybody noticed that the 2014 season is setting new records for the local tourist-driven economy?

Now add to the mix new favorites like Sierra Subs and Salads, Colors, Antoinette’s, Rio Sierra, Three Rivers Mercantile, Sequoia RV Ranch, Village Antiques, River’s Edge Boutique, Subway,  and Ol’ Buckaroo. This group represents a substantial reinvestment in the future of Kaweah Country — one of the last BEST places on the planet.      

Here are all the 2014 winners:


Family Dining: Pizza Factory

Romantic Dining: The Gateway Restaurant

Outdoor Dining: River View

Best Bang For Your Buck: Subway

Place to Go When Someone Else Pays: Gateway

Breakfast: We Three Restaurant and Bakery

Vegetarian/Vegan: Sierra Subs

Mexican Food: Casa Mendoza

Pizza: Pizza Factory

Sandwich: Sierra Subs & Salads

Salad: Sierra Subs

Baked Goods: We Three Bakery

Burger: Ol’ Buckaroo

Steak: Sequoia Cider Mill

Takeout: Sierra Subs

Barbecue: Sequoia Cider Mill

Coffee: Antoinette’s

Ice Cream: Reimer’s

Creative Menu: Sierra Subs


Souvenirs: Three Rivers Drug & Gifts

Outdoor Gear: Three Rivers Mercantile

Locally Grown Food: Flora Bella Farm

Bargain Buy: The Thingerie

Art: Colors Gallery

Gifts: The Art Co-Op / Colors Gallery

Antiques: Village Antiques

Clothing: River’s Edge Boutique

Jewelry: The Art Co-Op / Colors Gallery

Home Goods: Three Rivers Mercantile


Community Activist / Volunteer: Dennis Villavicencio

Business That Gives Back: Sequoia Village Inn 

Environmentally Conscious Business: Buckeye Tree Lodge


Family Lodging: Buckeye Tree Lodge

Bed & Breakfast: Plantation Bed & Breakfast

Vacation Home: River Villa

Rustic Cabin: Silver City

Room With a View: Rio Sierra Riverhouse

Amenities: Buckeye Tree Lodge


Place to Meet People: Sequoia National Park

Local Band: High Sierra Jazz Band

Local Event: 1st Saturday

Indoor Entertainment Venue:  River View

Outdoor Entertainment Venue: Lions Roping Arena

Place to Be on a Saturday Night: River View

Day Trip For a Tourist: Giant Forest

Jaw-Dropping Drive: Mineral King Road

National Park Must-See: Big Trees / General Sherman Tree

Three Rivers Can’t Miss: 1st Saturday


Hiking Trail: Moro Rock

Bike Ride: BLM-Salt Creek

Picnic Spot: Crescent Meadow

Campground: Sequoia RV Ranch

Place to Take the Kids: Kaweah River

Way to Tour Without Your Car: Sequoia Sightseeing Tours       

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