Best of JH 2018: Hall of Fame

By on April 11, 2018


JACKSON HOLE, WY – We fancy seeing new faces and fledgling businesses rise to the top in our Best of Jackson Hole Readers’ Poll, but it is some of our steadfast gold medal winners that deserve recognition in this our 10th Best of. Winning the honor year after year, these folks invest tireless dedication in their work. They have cultivated business models that retain loyal employees and draw fans from East Jackson to east of the Mississippi. When asked the secret to their success, each cited at least one similar factor: you. Because even as Jackson Hole grows, its sense of community, of supporting neighbors like family, has endured.

– Robyn Vincent


The Healing Hands of Rena Trail

Gold: Best Massage Therapist

Usually when receiving a massage, one chooses a specific type—Swedish, Thai, sport. When you stretch out on Rena Trail’s massage table, expect a little bit of everything. She likes to customize the massages she gives using a variety of modalities.

“It’s more like a potluck with me,” she said. Perhaps this is one of the secrets to her unwavering success in the Best of Jackson Hole Readers’ Poll. Trail has won gold for Best Massage Therapist since the poll’s inception a decade ago. A single mom, she needed a job with a flexible schedule where she could make more money than she was bringing in from retail work.

The hall of fame winner does house calls and works out of the Teton Valley Health Clinic. About 95 percent of her clients come to her because they are athletes in pain. Few Jackson residents book her for a basic “relaxing” massage.

Some of Trail’s clients have worked with her for all 15 years she’s been in business. But Trail doesn’t ask for loyalty, and in fact encourages people to try other therapists and types of massage in Jackson.

Trail tries to heal beyond the massage table too with Art for Orphans. With the help of local artists, she launched the project 14 years ago to raise money for orphans and orphanage projects around the world.

– Kelsey Dayton

The Secret Ingredient at Snake River Grill

Gold: Best Restaurant and Best Waitstaff

Once again, Snake River Grill has won the golden ticket for the Best Restaurant and Best Waitstaff in Jackson Hole.  

“We don’t take this for granted,” Executive Chef Jeff Drew said. “With the continually growing restaurant scene here, there’s a lot of competition, mostly from old employees who I’m very proud of. It definitely continues to raise the bar for us.” 

In the past 10 years, the restaurant scene in Jackson has indeed exploded, delivering an array of flavor, ambiance and culinary experiences. With new restaurants opening all the time and want ads for service workers piling up, one thing has remained consistent: The Snake River Grill.  

How?  “It’s 100 percent due to the staff,” Drew said. “They take so much pride in what they do, and it shines through to the customers.”  

Dining at The Snake River Grill—we’re drooling for the Steak Tartare Pizza with black Angus New York steak, garlic aioli, caper, parsley and red onions and the Cast Iron Seared Elk Chop—is as much about the customer service as the quality of the food. The staff is attentive, polite and well-educated about the wine and the food. Service like this is earned and takes ardent training, something that is not always possible in transient towns like Jackson.

This consistency is equally as important in the kitchen, where having perfect meat temps and well-executed ticket-times is paramount to the experience. 

“We count on our veterans to lead by example and pass on what we call, ‘the Snake River Grill way,’” Drew said.  

– Helen Goelet

Rock ‘n’ Roll Dentist: Larsen Family Dentistry

Gold: Best Dentist

Dr. Scott Larsen and his grinning soldiers dismantle every notion of the dreaded dentist. Larsen’s wooden-beamed office, a former coffee shop in Rafter J, is adorned in Beatles memorabilia. The good doctor learned to play the guitar to The Beatles, after all. A portrait of the band by dental hygienist/artist Nicolette Gdontakis Maw sits above a turntable.

“I hung up a picture one day and so many people could relate to it,” Larsen said. “People started bringing me dolls and pictures; patients were cleaning out their mom’s houses and bringing me boxes of Beatles stuff.”

The Beatles are indeed a bridge between all sorts of folks. But rock ‘n’ roll dentistry aside, Larsen has created an atmosphere that puts patients at ease. The focus is on prevention, which means many of Larsen’s patients rarely see the man himself. Though if you do, Larsen’s calming, warm demeanor softens the whole experience. Larsen, however, does not rely solely on warm and fuzzy feelings to get you through.

Inside each room, patients can kick back in one of the self-massaging chairs and take a journey to Maui or the Alps via the television screens mounted to the ceiling. Real nature—Teton views fill every window—is close by too.

Larsen and his team genuinely like people. That helps explain why his almost 20-year practice has won gold in Best of Jackson Hole since the poll’s inception a decade ago.

“I love being a dentist and working with people,” Larsen said. “I like figuring out how to give my patients the best experience possible and I like the variety of people I see. If people were not different, this town would be boring.”

– Robyn Vincent

Sweaty Renewal With Ariel Mann

Gold: Best Yoga/Fitness Instructor

Eight years ago on a snowy day in June, Ariel Mann was forced to cancel her mountain biking plans. Instead she tried something new: yoga.

Even then she protested when her friend suggested hot yoga at Inversion. “I thought I might die, but I walked out feeling really great and thought, ‘Maybe there is something to this,’” Mann said.

Mann kept going to classes and within a few months signed up for instructor training. In the seven years she’s been teaching, she’s won gold for Best Yoga Instructor each year.

Mann is known for her Maui yoga classes inspired by her time living on the island. Maui yoga combines therapeutic, alignment-based Iyengar yoga with strength-building Ashtanga yoga.

“In my classes, you are getting both the exercise element that people in Jackson crave and need, along with the alignment-based therapeutic yoga designed to treat and prevent injuries,” she said.

Yoga student Jenelle Johnson described Mann as “patient and warm with her instruction and very knowledgeable.”

“You can tell she genuinely loves teaching and her enthusiasm makes classes fly by even when they’re kicking your butt,” Johnson said.

When Mann isn’t teaching, she works as a private chef and coaches volleyball. She is the assistant coach for a club team and will lead the team at Jackson Hole Middle School in the fall.

In December, she married Richard Grove, whom she met at Inversion a few years ago—another way yoga changed her life.

– Kelsey Dayton

Teton Thai’s Enduring Family Affair

Gold: Best Thai Restaurant

One of the last holdouts of authentic ski culture in Teton Village, Teton Thai has secured gold for Best Thai Restaurant for 10 years.

While the Pineapple Fried Rice, Ka-Nom Jean, Roasted Duck Curry, Thai Iced Tea and Spicy Margs beckon to beanie-donned locals, it is the ambiance that sets the spice haven apart. 

Tucked near the Rancher Lot, the small eatery has an authentic Teton vibe. Artwork from icons of the snowboard sphere like Bryan Iguchi and Scott Lenhardt adorn the walls, and the staff, always having a good time no matter how many customers are stacked in the den waiting for tables or carry out, keep the mood light.  

“It really is a family operation,” owner Sam Johnson said. “Both figuratively and literally.” 

Johnson’s wife Suchada and her mother Boonlua Comchomnon are the restaurant’s matriarchs and founders. They remain actively involved in Teton Thai’s success, which means they’re often in the kitchen cooking up traditional Thai dishes. (It’s known among regulars that Boonlua’s spice level 3 is a 5 for most people.)

“We’re all just happy to be doing what we’re doing,” Johnson said. “We’ve got such a great staff, both front and back-of-house. I’m so grateful for them all.” 

When the line is out the door, the little kitchen pumps out to-go orders with stunning speed. Still, the laughter and banter between staffers continue into the busiest hours. It is testament to the type of leadership and environment the Johnson family has created. 

– Helen Goelet

Pizza is Pinky G’s Religion

Gold: Best Pizza

When Tom Fay launched Pinky G’s in June 2011, there were zero late-night food options. Nor were there Town Square restaurants serving pizza by the slice. Today Pinky G’s has managed to do both in a part of town locals can now claim as their own.

The pizzeria, which readers have voted Best Pizza in Jackson Hole since it opened seven years ago, has not only perfected its New York style slices, specialty pizzas, calzones and strombolis,  it has carved an authentic place among a sea of tourist shops and expensive eateries.

“I was trying to fill a niche, to create something here in town,” Fay said. “It has grown beyond my expectations and imagination.”

Fay opened Pinky’s as part of the Pink Garter Plaza with his business partner Dom Gagliardi. It has evolved into a family-friendly spot in the daytime and a buzzing late-night haven in the evening, especially after shows at the Garter. Together the two venues serve an important function as some of downtown’s most approachable neighborhood hubs.

Fay’s favorite pie? The Abe Froman, made with sausage, buffalo mozzarella, marinara and fresh basil. Opt for the balsamic glaze if you know what’s good for ya.

Across cultures and across the world, “pizza can bring people together. That’s pretty amazing,” Fay said.

Amen, to the pizza prophet.

– Robyn Vincent

About Various Authors

Sometimes it takes a village.

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