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Best of the West 2020

By Dana Kroll, Uptown Marketing and Communications Specialist

The Revue West Michigan Best of the West annual competition, announced each August, is one of our very favorite contests here in Uptown. Each year, the readers of this awesome (and free!) publication can vote for their very favorite West Michigan locally owned businesses, in a gigantic range of categories. Uptown is proud to say that our businesses have earned bragging rights to various categories in every competition since its inception, but this year, they’ve kind of outdone themselves.  Our businesses account for an impressive fifty-six finalists and fifteen first place winners this time around! Best of the West recently celebrated its fifth anniversary since its inception, and we thought it would be fun to learn a little bit more about how the competition came to be, and where Revue sees it heading in the future. For this, we reached to Josh Veal, the managing editor at Revue, who was kind enough to play Q&A with us.

Uptown: Let’s start at the top. Tell us about how Revue WM’s Best of the West began. What was the idea behind it?

J: It all started in 2016, which feels like five lifetimes ago. Our managing editor at the time, Rich Tupica, had previously run Top of the Town for Lansing Pulse — it did well for them, so why couldn’t it do well for us! We felt a little disconnected from the community and wanted something super interactive to act as a bridge between us, our readers, and local businesses.

Uptown: Nice. How about some stats. How many categories did it begin with, and how many are there today? What has participation grown from over the years?

J: The first year, we had more than 4,000 nominees across 127 categories, with around 2,500 people voting. That wasn’t quite enough for us, so we kind of kept the numbers under our hat, but we’re now at over 5,000 voters per year. That’s probably less than MLive gets, but it’s great for a publication of our size.  

This year, we dropped the number of categories to 100 in order to accommodate a big, fun live event revealing the winners at 20 Monroe Live! That’s been postponed to 2021 for obvious reasons.

Uptown: Has it always been shared via the mag and website, and now social? To what do you attribute its growth in popularity and participation?

J: Yes, but we also spread the word with physical assets! If you look around restaurants, salons, venues, etc., you’ll see winners’ window clings and certificates all over. We give those out, but some places even make their own posters to hang up, bragging about their wins! Brewery Vivant has it on their menu. In other words, we rely on other businesses and people to spread the word. That’s where a big majority of our votes come from — people vote because they want to support their favorite businesses.

Uptown: We love to hear that! How about from the business’s sides. Why is it important for businesses to be nominated, or win? What have you heard if anything, about what the prestige of being nominated/winning, has done for those businesses awarded?

J: We do have some businesses giving us huge thanks when they win, but it’s really our readers who make those wins happen, and that’s why this all matters. A Best of the West win tells you that you have a loyal fanbase — hundreds of people decided you provide the best IPA, burger, haircut, whatever, in like a 60-mile radius. The voters technically get nothing out of this; they take the time to do it because they want to show their support.

On top of all that, winning very likely means you’ll get new customers who want to see what all the hype is about. And let’s be honest, that might be the biggest reward of all.

As a side note, we have had arts organizations share with us that winning Best of the West can help them apply for grants, so we deeply regret removing those categories this year! They’ll be back in 2021.

Uptown: Cool. How about you, Josh; as managing editor, what are your personal favorite things about this contest?

J: My absolute favorite part is seeing people celebrate their wins, and then reading all the congratulatory comments to them. We’re always sharing those celebration posts internally because it’s so fun. My second favorite part is seeing who won and then talking with my friends about how much we agree or disagree. Of course, the lucky part of my job is that I can just write a Staff Pick if I think someone was snubbed.

Uptown: That sounds gratifying! OK, One more. What do you see for the future of Best of the West?

J: After five years of doing this, it might be time to shake things up a bit.

One goal I’d really love to achieve is letting some new people in the spotlight, without chasing off our longtime winners. There’s a sort of chicken and egg scenario where businesses that are the most well-known can become considered the “best,” but it would be nice to see more small guys on the pedestal. How do we achieve that? Not sure yet, but we’re working on it.

Then, as mentioned, we hope to host Best of the West Live next year and see even more voters than ever before. The goal of Best of the West will always remain the same: To celebrate and support local businesses and people. We just want to keep finding new and exciting ways to do that, and as always, we’re incredibly open to suggestions.

So, my request for readers is: Vote, and do so thoughtfully.


Wasn’t that cool? We are so grateful to Josh for taking the time to share such fun stuff. For those of you that have participated in the past – thanks to you too. For those of you who haven’t, well, there’s always next year. You can count on Uptown to let you know when it’s time to send those votes when the competition comes ‘round again. 

Let’s end with a celebration! Without further ado, here are this year’s list of Uptown’s winners, in their respective categories:

Dining + Drinking
      Bakery: The Cakabakery -3rd
      Breakfast: Wolfgang’s -3rd
      Brewery: Brewery Vivant -3rd
      Burgers: Brewery Vivant -3rd
      Coffee: Madcap Coffee Company -2nd
      Craft Cocktails: Buffalo Traders Lounge -2nd
      Desserts: The Cakabakery -2nd
      Diner: Matchbox Diner & Drinks -3rd
      Fried Chicken: Hancock -1st
      Fried Chicken: Forty Acres -3rd
      Fries: Brewery Vivant -3rd
      Hot Dogs: Yesterdog -1st
      Ice Cream/Frozen Treats: Furniture City Creamery -2nd
      Indian: Bombay Cuisine -1st
      Indian: Curry Kitchen -2nd
      Margarita: Donkey Taqueria -1st
      Mexican: Donkey Taqueria -1st
      Most Innovative Cuisine: Forty Acres Soul Kitchen -2nd
      New Restaurant (past 12 months): Kingfisher Restaurant and Deli -3rd
      Pizza: Brick Road Pizza -2nd (tie)
      Pizza: Harmony Brewing Eastown -2nd (tie)
      Sandwich/Deli: Cherry Street Deli -2nd
      Sandwich/Deli: Schnitz Deli -3rd
      Seafood: Wikiwiki Poke Shop -3rd
      Soup: Electric Cheetah -2nd
      Soup: Uncle Cheetah’s Soup Shop -1st
      Sour Beer: Brewery Vivant – Blood Orange & Cranberry -2nd
      Sushi: Maru Sushi -1st
      Thai: Erb Thai -2nd
      Vegetarian/Vegan Menu: Brick Road Pizza -1st
Nightlife & Activities
      Bar/Pub/Tavern: Buffalo Traders Lounge -3rd
      Bloody Mary: The Winchester -2nd (tie)
Services & People
      Dog Groomer: Leah Bell – Eastown Veterinary -3rd
      Fitness Club/Gum: Allegro -2nd
      Interior Designer: Jean Stoffer – Stoffer Design -2nd
      Spa: Wanderlux Beauty & Wellness Co. -3rd
      Tattoo Shop: Sovereign Arms Tattoo Co. -1st
      Vet/Animal Clinic: Eastown Vet Clinic -3rd
      Wellness Centers: Wanderlux Beauty & Wellness Spa -1st
      Wellness Centers: Urban You -2nd
      Yoga Studio: Funky Buddha Yoga Hothouse -2nd
      Yoga Studio: Kula Yoga -3rd
      Antique Shop: Eastown Antiques -1st
      Antique Shop: Bluedoor: A Home Collective -3rd
      Bicycle Shop: Grand Rapids Bicycle Company -3rd
      Book Store: Books & Mortar -2nd
      Butcher: Louise Earl Butcher -3rd
      Gift Shop: Rebel -1st
      Gift Shop: Art of the Table -2nd
      Men’s Clothing: Woosah Outfitters -3rd
      Shopping District/Destination: Wealthy Street -1st
      Thrift/Consignment: Rock Paper Scissors Consignment Boutique –1st
      Thrift/Consignment: Urban Exchange -3rd
      Women’s Clothing: Lee & Birch -1st

We hope it inspires you to check them out, (or check them out again!). You can find more information abut any of the businesses listed on their own channels, or on our interactive Business Directory.