The votes are in, the ballots are counted, the results are tallied. Coast Weekend's readers have chosen their favorite restaurants, businesses, professionals and activities in the Columbia-Pacific region.

Maybe last month's presidential election put readers in the voting mood: We received 211 ballots this year, decidedly more than last year's results, even with our new "no photocopied entry forms" rule. Thirty-eight people put pen to newspaper and mailed or dropped off their ballots; the rest of the entries came in over www.coastweekend.com

And though we had online readers who listed home towns as far away as Mason, Mich., and Corinth, Miss., 202 respondents hailed from Oregon or Washington. Which side of the Columbia River is the most vocal when it comes to the Readers' Choice? This year, the results were close, with 83 ballots from Oregon readers and 75 from Washington.

While not everyone filled out their favorites in every category, "Best Fine Dining" saw the most activity, with 181 votes for 28 different restaurants, and The Depot in Seaview, Wash., coming out on top with 39 votes. Readers also elected The Depot the winner for "Best Dessert," "Best Clam Chowder," "Best Burger" and "Best Customer Service Anywhere" - the latter probably aided by Depot server Don Porter, who won in the "Best Waitperson" category.

"Best Lunch Spot" had the widest range of responses. Fifty-six different eateries were nominated, and 42nd Street Cafe in Seaview took top honors - and won "Best Breakfast" as well.

Fort George Brewery and Public House was one of the most resounding winners, with more than half of the total votes in the "Best Brewpub" category. The Rio Cafe also claimed a big win for "Best Latin Food," with 33 out of the 66 votes cast. With only six businesses nominated in the "Best Car Dealership" category, Lum's swept it by a landslide. Columbia River Day Spa also retained its title as "Best Spa" with a clear majority of votes, as did the Columbia River Maritime Museum, named "Best Museum" two years in a row.

The Great Wall Restaurant in Gearhart was deemed the place to dine for the best Asian food by Coast Weekend readers.Harder to pin down were winners in the "People" categories. Larry Goza and the staff at Columbia Veterinary Hospital remained the readers' favorite animal doctors, and Astoria mayor Willis Van Dusen stayed on top as "Best Elected Official." The race for "Best Dentist" was a close one, with 24 dentists nominated and only a handful receiving multiple votes. David Carneiro took the honors, but he might want to suggest the new dental sedatives for the reader who wrote "oxymoron." (Get it? "Best" and "dentist" - for someone, that's a contradiction in terms.)

Fish 'n' chips at the Bowpicker won out as the best in the region.We hope Coast Weekend readers are working out at home - only 37 of you wrote in a vote for "Best Gym." (OBJJ kicked butt in that category.) Golf, thrift shops and teachers apparently have a smaller voter pool as well. (And two of the "Best Golf" votes went for putt-putt courses!)

It was fun to watch some of the leads change as the votes came in. Pig 'N Pancake edged out McDonald's for the "Best Restaurant for Kids," and the Cannery Pier Hotel nearly lost its title as last year's "Best Hotel" to the Hotel Elliott. Box K Auto Repair in Seaview, Wash., won the category of "Best Automotive Repair" once again, but was given a run for its money by Jim Varner Auto Repair.

Some of our readers like to think - or shop - creatively. The "Best Home Improvement Store" results included votes for retailers Ambiance and Mise en Place Kitchenware. For "Best Nursery," one reader nominated day care center Coryell's Crossing. And my admiration goes to the reader who gave his vote for "Best Customer Service Anywhere" to ... are you ready for this? The DMV.

The Astoria Golf & Country Club was voted home to the best golf on the North Coast.Frank Lehn of Long Beach, Wash., said, "There is so much great stuff both in Astoria and on the Peninsula that it's hard to narrow down what's the best in each category." Alice Best of Everett, Wash., echoed the sentiment. "Long Beach and Seaside have so many wonderful places ... it was hard to choose just one in each category. How about first, second and third choices?"

We love hearing from our readers, not just at the Readers' Choice time of year. If you have suggestions for categories to add to next year's ballot, drop us a line at kstrecker@coastweekend.com or P.O. Box 210, Astoria, OR 97103. Have a wonderful holiday season!

The RiverSea Gallery takes home the title of Best Art Gallery for 2008, according to Coast Weekend readers.DINING

Best Bakery: Cottage Bakery in Long Beach, Wash.

Best Breakfast Spot: 42nd Street Cafe in Seaview, Wash.

Best Lunch Spot: 42nd Street Cafe

Best Fine Dining: The Depot Restaurant in Seaview

The Astoria Riverwalk has been chosen by Coast Weekend readers as the best place to walk.Best Desserts: The Depot

Best Wine Shop: Raven & Finch Wine Bar Café in Ilwaco, Wash.

Best Restaurant for Kids: Pig 'N Pancake (several locations)

Best Brewpub: Fort George Brewery and Public House in Astoria

Best Clam Chowder: The Depot

Best Coffee: Long Beach Coffee Roaster in Long Beach, Wash.

Best Latin Food: Rio Café in Astoria

Best Asian Food: Great Wall Restaurant in Gearhart

Best Waitperson: Don Porter at The Depot

Best Fish 'n' Chips: Bowpicker in Astoria

Best Burger: The Depot

Best Pizza: Fultano's (several locations)

PEOPLE

Best Veterinarian: Larry Goza, Columbia Veterinary Hospital, Astoria

Best Doctor: Dr. David Friedman, Ocean Beach Medical Clinic, Ilwaco, Wash.

Best Dentist: David Carneiro, Astoria

Best Realtor: Jackie Sheldon, Lighthouse Realty, Long Beach, Wash.

Best Contractor: Dick Schroeder, Olequah Inc., Long Beach, Wash.

Best Teacher: Debbie Twombly, John Jacob Astor Elementary, Astoria

Best Local Elected Official: Willis Van Dusen, mayor of Astoria

Best Local Musician/Band: Brownsmead Flats, Brownsmead

MERCHANTS

Best Art Gallery: RiverSea Gallery, Astoria

Best Thrift Shop: Deja Vu Thrift Shop, Astoria

Best Bookstore: Lucy's Books, Astoria

Best Nursery: Brim's Farm & Garden, Astoria

Best Car Dealership: Lum's Auto Center, Warrenton

Best Hotel: Cannery Pier Hotel, Astoria

Best Spa: Columbia River Day Spa, Astoria

Best Hair Salon: Salon Verve, Astoria

Best Gym: OBJJ, Astoria

Best Automotive Shop: Box K Auto Repair, Seaview, Wash.

Best Home Improvement Store: Home Depot, Warrenton

Best Customer Service Anywhere: The Depot Restaurant

ACTIVITIES

Best Tourist Attraction: Astoria Column

Best Museum: Columbia River Maritime Museum

Best Local Festival: Washington State International Kite Festival, Long Beach, Wash.

Best Movie Theater: Columbian Theater, Astoria

Best Beach: Long Beach, Wash.

Best Place to Walk: Astoria Riverwalk

Best Golf: Astoria Golf & Country Club, Warrenton

Best Cheap Date: The beach!

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