The Manual Awards: 2017 Edition

The Manual Awards 2017

Detroit | New Orleans | Asheville | Salt Lake City
Santa Fe | Denver | Glendale | Portland

Every week it seems there’s a new ‘hot city’ in the media. From Portland, Maine to Santa Fe, New Mexico,  America’s urban areas are experiencing a rebirth and revitalization in arts, food, and culture that only a decade ago would have been unimaginable. With flourishing social scenes and growing economies, each of these cities is a proper destination in its own right. For this year’s Manual Awards, we highlight the best restaurants, coffee shops, local brands, beers, and more  for each of these eight great up-and-coming cities. So pay these places a visit and be sure to check out the businesses and brands that we believe are doing it right–whatever ‘it’ may be.  

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Detroit, Michigan

Written by Beau Hayhoe


Although plenty of cities have taken their fair share of hard knocks, perhaps none has done so quite in the manner of Detroit, Michigan. It has been down on its luck and then back up … and then back down. Lately, things are turning the corner. From development downtown to a burgeoning arts scene, you’ll find a city that’s driven, ingenious in its approach to fine dining and craftsmanship, and quickly on the rise when it comes to high-quality food, drink and menswear. If you know where to look, you’ll certainly be able to experience the best of Detroit — and it won’t be hard to see why the below locations made The Manual Awards list this year. Read on, shop away, and start planning your next trip.

Best Restaurant – Selden Standard

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When a restaurant like Selden Standard is widely celebrated locally, it’s worth another look — right? With James Beard semi-finalist Andy Hollyday serving as executive chef, the restaurant has captured a host of local accolades while serving what they describe as “New American small plates.” With a focus on produce and ingredients from local farms, menu offerings run the gamut from an eggplant & prosciutto sandwich for lunch to smoked lamb ribs and grilled pork belly for dinner. For dessert? Surely, you can’t go amiss with the brown butter pear sundae — right?

Best Bar – Cornerstone Barrel House

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Just a stone’s throw away from the rock-ready Detroit John Varvatos outpost, you’ll find Cornerstone Barrel House. It’s the sort of refined place you might find in Brooklyn or Portland, yet the local beer on tap gives it a distinctly Detroit feel. Oh, and did we mention the whiskey? The Cornerstone whiskey list is extensive, and features carefully considered offerings from both in-state distillers (Traverse City Whiskey’s cherry iteration comes to mind) and classics like Pappy Van Winkle’s Special Reserve Bourbon. A stellar gourmet menu rounds things out.

Best Shop – Hugh Detroit

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In terms of stylish menswear, the devil is often in the details. As soon as you discover the nuances of great home design and accessories, that much is clear. And it’s equally clear that the folks at Hugh Detroit have nailed the delicate balance between classic style and contemporary looks in terms of all manner of home goods for guys (and hey, gals too). From refined bar accessories to classic grooming products and a range of furniture befitting the modern gent, the crisp, simple shop is worth the trip — and a purchase or two.

Best Coffee Shop – Astro Coffee

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Ask locals where to go for coffee in Detroit, and you get quite a few answers. One comes up time and again though — Astro Coffee. With an organic and natural approach to its pastries and sandwiches, plus a rotation of coffee from roasters across the country and state, it’s the total package. In fact, picking up a coffee made with beans from Detroit’s own Anthology Coffee might just be the most meta way to experience your morning jolt of caffeine in a way that’s wholly unique to Detroit.

Best Local Brand – Shinola

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Yes, Shinola really is a global brand nowadays, with shops from London to Los Angeles. But across the past few years, the brand has brought a distinctly, well, “Detroit” approach to designing and manufacturing everything from beautiful watches to notebooks to wool bomber jackets. That means they’re using premium materials, attention to detail and old-fashioned elbow grease. With a premium bike shop in their lovely Detroit outpost and a focus on revitalizing the city’s economy one watch at a time, they’re bringing more than just great style back to Detroit.

Best Local Beer – Atwater Brewing

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Explore Detroit on a busy day for long enough, and you’ll start to get thirsty. Look no further than Atwater Brewing. Built in an up-and-coming area of the city with plenty of space to spread out, Atwater’s beer selection is nuanced, considered and spreading across the state (they recently opened a location to the north in Grand Rapids, in fact). While Atwater’s Vanilla Java Porter draws praise for its rich flavor and hearty cold-weather appeal, the Dirty Blonde and Detroit Pale Ale are more moderate but just as crisp — and more than ready to pair with any delicious dinner combo at the brewery.

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New Orleans, Louisiana

Written by Sam Slaughter


There’s nothing that can be said about New Orleans that hasn’t already been said. It’s a place of excess—of amazing food, of strong drink, of clothes-soaking heat—and yet it’s also a place of strong character and resilience, of people who value family and love and their connections to the place itself. All of these things come together so often in the bars, the restaurants—everywhere in New Orleans—and it’s because of this convergence that there is so much damn good stuff in the Crescent City. Read on to see our favorites.

Best Restaurant – Cochon

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You can’t have a best restaurant in New Orleans without having one that taps into the Creole heritage of the place. Widely regarded as one of the most important restaurants in the Post-Katrina Era, Cochon is the epitome of that style. Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski, the minds behind Cochon offer some of the best Southern Creole cuisine in the Big Easy. You can get everything from fried boudin to smoked pork ribs to one of our favorites, an oyster and bacon sandwich. No matter you choose, you can’t go wrong at Cochon.

Best Bar – Twelve Mile Limit

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Sometimes, you want a really great cocktail, yet at the same time, you don’t necessarily want the atmosphere that usually accompanies a high-class, well-made cocktail. Twelve Mile Limit splits the difference, offering amazing drinks with a dive bar atmosphere. Better than that, though, is the fact that the cocktails are some of the best deals in the city for what you’re getting. Most drinks hover between six and eight bucks, and there are also happy hour specials that knock the price down a little bit. New Orleans is a melting pot of culture and Twelve Mile Limit is the perfect, boozy epitome of that.

Best Shop – Meyer the Hatter

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Everyone loves a good hat, especially in New Orleans, and Meyer the Hatter knows better than most how to make a good one. Started by Sam H. Meyer in 1894 in downtown New Orleans, Meyer the Hatter has been crafting stylish, well-made hats for over a century. Aside from decades of practice in hat-making, the store also claims to have the South’s largest selection of hats.

Best Coffee Shop – Mojo Coffee Roasters

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Coffee has, increasingly over the past decade, become a much, much more important thing in New Orleans (which makes perfect sense, considering how much alcohol is consumed on a daily basis there). Many of the coffee roasters and coffee shops that have popped up have begun to embrace what some native New Orleanians might consider a heresy—non-chicory coffee. Mojo Coffee Roasters is one of those, and they’re doing an amazing job with a wide variety of beans from all over the world. The shop itself, located on Magazine Street, is a great location for a cup and, as an added bonus, it’s open late—for those nights that you don’t want ending at midnight or before.

Best Local Brand – Tales of the Cocktail

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With a city so steeped in booze, it’d be hard not to go with a spirits-related brand for this one. For anyone not in the industry, Tales of the Cocktail started out as an annual festival to bring spirits professionals and enthusiasts together once a year for education, camaraderie, and a fair enough of drinking. Since its inception in 2002, though, ToTC has grown into much more—increasing the overall knowledge of and about spirits while helping to develop the community at large. As the spirits industry and general knowledge of cocktails and spirits continue to grow, it’s important to have groups like ToTC and others around to aid in the growth of knowledge for everyone, from the freshest amateur mixologist to the veteran bartender or distiller.

Best Local Beer – NOLA Brewing Company

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New Orleans may not necessarily be known for their beer, but NOLA Brewing Company is doing a damn good job of making a name for themselves. With year-round offerings like Rebirth Pale Ale and Irish Channel Stout, and seasonal offerings like the Mardi Gras beer Muses (a Belgian Pale Ale), there are enough different varieties to allow everyone to let the good times roll.

Best Barbershop – Magazine Street Barbershop

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Open since 2008, Magazine Street Barber Shop offers all of the trappings of a classic barber shop with an updated atmosphere. The atmosphere is laid back and the aesthetics manage to give you the feel of going to the barber shops of years past, but there’s no reason to worry as the barbers who work there are able to do everything from the shop’s signature, half-hour-long hot towel shaves to beard trims and standard haircuts, just like in the old days. It isn’t a big shop, but that adds to the atmosphere of the place. You may have to wait, but it’ll more than be worth it by the time you’re done.

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Asheville, North Carolina

Written by Sam Slaughter


Known as Beer City USA, Asheville, North Carolina is an outdoorsy, boozy haven tucked away in the Appalachian (pronounced App-a-latch-an, not App-a-lay-shen) Mountains. While the town is anchored by the seemingly endless amount of breweries, there is enough good food, outdoor activities, and cultural goings-on to bring not just hop heads up into the mountains. From the weekly drum circle to concerts at the Orange Peel and more, Asheville is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of any major city. The people are friendly, the vistas are beautiful, and the weather is damn near perfect. There really isn’t much more that needs to be said.

Best Restaurant – Cúrate

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Tapas. So many things can go wrong with tapas here in the US, but thankfully, at Cúrate, none of them do. Tapping into the Spanish tradition, Chef Katie Button does amazing things with small plates at the restaurant. Amazing cocktails, craft beer, and the traditional Sherry and vermouth are all available to complement dishes like fried marcona almonds with sea salt, mouth-watering cured hams (a must on any visit), and an array of Spanish cheeses.

Best Bar – The Thirsty Monk

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This is Asheville, (aforementioned Beer City, USA), so it would only be appropriate that the best bar is a beer bar. That isn’t to say anything against the cocktail bars that populate the city (many of them are amazing), but when your city’s identity is based on hops and malt, the decision is easy. The Thirsty Monk offers around 1,000 different beers every year, ensuring that you can literally have a beer for lunch and dinner there every day of the year and never repeat yourself.

Best Shop – Moog Music Factory

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Even if you don’t like electronic music as a category, chances are you’ve heard a Moog music synthesizer at some point. For those that love music and love making music, Moog machines are integral to so much when it comes to modulation, you might even call them the standard for music modulation. The Moog Music Factory in Asheville allows you to play with and buy every Moog device in production. At the factory, you can also see how the devices are made.

Best Coffee Shop – Trade & Lore Coffee

The Manual Awards 2017

Only open for a couple of months, Trade & Lore is already making its name on the Asheville coffee scene. The shop works with a local roaster as well as local bakers and other goods purveyors to source about 90-percent of their stock locally. This, combined with work with local nonprofits to promote inclusivity across the community all make Trade & Lore a wonderful coffee shop to patronize. Oh yeah, and the coffee and lattés (and coffee sodas)? Kick ass.

Best Local Brand – Lusty Monk Mustard

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Making something local and making it delicious? That’s the epitome of Asheville. And Lusty Monk embodies that idea. Pretzels, brats, everything that goes well with beer is made better by mustard, and these mustards are top-of-the line. Fresh-ground and coming in a variety of flavors, Lusty Monk is the perfect complement to the drink of choice in Asheville. In addition, it’s not hard to find Lusty Monk mustard on menus across the city and the entire region because of their quality.

Best Local Beer – Burial Beer Company

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Burial Beer Company is one of the most innovative breweries in a city that boasts close to 40 of them, which is why it wins out here. Burial started out as a one-barrel system on the South Slope and has not-so-slowly ramped up production, expanding to a 10-barrel system after a year. Next up for Burial is their second location, named Forestry Camp, which will have a 20-barrel production facility, urban farm, two-story tasting room, and a locally-sourced restaurant in South Asheville. Many of their beers utilize local ingredients and you can often find special bottle releases of collaborations with many of the other Asheville breweries.

Best Barbershop – The Local Barber & Tap

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While fairly new to the barbershop scene of Asheville, The Local Barber & Tap has, as you might guess from the name, booze. In a beer town, this makes utterly perfect sense. Not only can you head in for a straight blade shave or a haircut, but you can indulge in local craft beer while you’re there. Looking good and feeling good, the perfect combination.

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Salt Lake City, Utah

Written by Austin Parker


Best Restaurant – Tin Angel Cafe

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Since they opened in 2007, the Tin Angel has been our favorite culinary stop whenever we’re in Salt Lake. Chef and Co-Owner Jerry Liedtke Jr. grew up around the bar and restaurant scene in downtown Salt Lake – his father Jerry Sr. founded the first Tin Angel bar in 1967. Like his father, Jerry is committed to local ingredients, and his menu reflects the best Salt Lake has to offer. We recommend starting out with the excellent fried Brussels Sprouts, and chasing it with one of their signature cocktails, the Old Fashioned Purgatory.

Best Bar –Beer Bar/Bar X

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Beer Bar is a collaboration between Ty Burrel, of Modern Family fame, and Chef Viet Pham. Burrel and his brother Duncan, fresh off their re-opening of famed Bar X in Salt Lake, approached Pham to craft a simple menu to complement their focus on local craft beers and comfort food. The result is a call back to Bar X’s humble beginnings as Salt Lake’s first bar to open the year prohibition was repealed. If you’re in the mood for meticulously crafted cocktails, Bar X should be your first stop. Local beer and brats are more your taste? Step through the door to Beer Bar next door and indulge.

Best Shop – Wasatch Touring

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Salt Lake is one of Mountain West’s premier adventure hubs, so it’s only natural that our favorite place to shop reflects that. Founders Charlie and Dwight Butler got their start in Utah thanks to a major snowstorm in 1968. They came to Salt Lake from Minnesota to chase deep powder skiing, and then never really left. Since then, Wasatch Touring has become synonymous with Utah’s growing ski, mountain bike, and paddling communities. Whether you’re looking to rent a bike for an afternoon of pedaling, or need the latest backcountry ski gear to explore Salt Lake’s Wasatch Mountains, this shop should be your first stop.

Best Coffee Shop – The Rose Establishment

the manual awards 2017 salt lake city  ut best coffee shop 760pxThe Rose Establishment’s quiet pledge to community and coffee began when they opened their doors in 2010. Without much fanfare they eschewed trendy flavors, syrupy drinks, and even forewent wireless internet for customers. With a focus on custom blended teas and nitro coffee, they built up an almost rabidly loyal customer base. When we’re in town for the Outdoor Retailer Show, we stop in every morning for a signature Yerba Mate Latte. Take our advice on this one, The Rose Establishment serves Salt Lake’s best coffee and tea.

Best Local Brand – Cotopaxi

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Gear For Good is Cotopaxi’s mantra, and every product lives up to that goal. From packs that are built from fabric scraps, to sustainable llama wool apparel, Every piece of gear that Cotopaxi designs is built to both help fuel your adventure, and give back to global communities. Each year, their team works with non-profit organizations to give back time and money to help make the world a better place. We were already huge fans after testing their latest tents and travel packs. Knowing that each purchase is having an impact around the world? We have a feeling our favorite llamas are going to be in business for a long time.

Best Local Beer – Uinta Brewing

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Salt Lake is not as well known for its craft brews as it should be (no thanks to the weird Utah liquor laws). We’d be remiss not to recommend a visit to Uinta Brewing during your stay though. Uinta began brewing in 1993 in a repurposed mechanic’s garage. It took a few months for people to stop knocking on the door for car service back then. Now though, their pale ales and IPAs are brewed in a state of the art 26,000 square foot brewery, completely powered by sustainable wind and solar energy. Dubhe is our favorite beer from Uinta. Brewed with hemp seed, vanilla, and coffee, it is the perfect apres ski beer.

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Santa Fe, New Mexico

Written by Megan Freshley


We often look to the arid, exotic West as some otherworldly magical place with its unique cuisine and near-alien architecture. This is why we find Santa Fe such a great getaway. While it is not only drastically different than so much of the U.S., it is full of artists, creative, and set in an explorer’s paradise.

The capital of New Mexico was originally founded in 1610 as a Spanish colony and has been designated a UNESCO Creative City. The Navajo, Pueblo, and Apache peoples call this city home and their heritage can be seen everywhere from the Bandelier National Monument to local crafts and awe-inspiring ceremonial dances. While we have found plenty to do in Santa Fe, Taos is its cool little brother an hour north and makes for a great day trip for further Western indulgences.

Fun Fact: The state was named New Mexico by the Spanish and the country of Mexico, formerly New Spain, adopted the name in 1821 after gaining independence.

Best Restaurant – State Capital Kitchen

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Mark Connell has brought Santa Fe the farm-to-table experience that is sweeping the nation and the locals are raving. Working with farmers, ranchers, and foragers close by, he has given the theme his own twist with a tapas angle so diners can feast for hours as the carts of tenderloin, scallops, rabbit, and risotto roll by. The drinks are pretty great, too.

Best Bar – Secreto Lounge

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Rolling right along with the local theme, Secreto prides itself in ‘garden-to-glass’ cocktails using fruits, vegetables, and herbs freshly picked for their prize-winning seasonal drinks, along with 27 flavors of bitters and house-made syrups. Located in the Hotel St. Francis one block away from the historic Santa Fe plaza, this is our favorite spot to wind down after a day of exploring. If it is a chilly evening, guests are welcome to cozy up next to the fireplace in the lobby with drinks and apps from the hotel restaurant, Tabla de Los Santos. Added bonus: If you are traveling with your dog, the patio is pet-friendly.

Best Shop – Santa Fe Vintage

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Nothing feels more Southwest than donning a broken-in pair of cowboy boots with some work-ready denim. Santa Fe vintage is a dream destination for authentic Americana. Man up your aesthetic with pieces that’ll carry the air of stoicism and romance so particular to desert landscapes. The best part is you only have to wander two blocks from the historic downtown plaza to start your Santa Fe wardrobe refresh.

Best Coffee Shop – Iconik Coffee

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Santa Fe has really gone deep on the coffee front. Iconik’s all about ‘seed to cup.’ Founded in 2013, Iconik prides itself in its dedication to buying direct-trade coffee and supporting farmers and their communities. Aspiring home brewers can also pick up equipment like a Chemex, AeroPress, or Hario Siphon.

Best Local Brand – Santa Fe Spirits

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Santa Fe Spirits doesn’t just make incredible hooch. They also offer recipes, tastings, and even an academy that’ll help you learn all about being a top-notch connoisseur. Owner Colin Keegan landed in Santa Fe after traveling across the pond in 1990, and an overabundance of apples on his homestead caused a chain reaction that led him to open this killer company. Try their signature apple brandy or Atapino — a small-batch liqueur made with pinon, ponderosa, and oak that’s about at Santa Fe as you can get.

Best Local Beer – Santa Fe Brewing

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When people think of Santa Fe, beer isn’t the first thing that generally comes to mind. But Santa Fe Brewing might just change that. You can hit up both the Santa Fe Brewing Co. and Tasting Room and their El Dorado Taphouse location for twice the local watering hole revelry. From barrel-aged sours to flagship brews like the Happy Camper IPA, there’s something for every beer enthusiast here.

Best Barbershop- Nick’s

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This is an old-school, no frills, down-to-earth barbershop run by two ladies who know their way around a head of hair. Word on the dusty streets of Santa Fe is that this is the place to go for the perfect cut to compliment your Southwestern style. And, like any good barbershop, they offer one helluva relaxing straight-razor shave.

Special Shout-Out to the Best Hotel – The Inn of the Five Graces

After all that shopping, eating, and drinking, any good trip can leave you looking a little more rugged than you’d like. That means it’s time to stop and get some quality R&R within the adobe walls of Five Graces. Its sumptuous, more-is-more interiors are enough to make anyone swoon after a long day in the heat, which is the perfect time to book your in-room massage.

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Denver, Colorado

Written by Jahla Seppanen


Denver has quickly become the holy land of craft beer, fitness, and budding men’s lifestyle brands. With the Rocky Mountains to its shoulder, weed legalization under its belt, and a mindset of health and happiness, the city is now the cultural hub of the southwest, attracting a flood of new residents and visitors to its chill metropolis.

And despite the echoing local complaint of “why is everyone moving here!?” all it takes is a walk from Union Station to the Highlands to fall in love with the flourishing city. In fact, the overgrowth of new bars, restaurants, and brands, along with young spuds that are finally becoming acclaimed local favorites, made awarding The Manual’s Denver’s Bests a Sophie’s choice of killer craft brew vs. stupefying craft brew. Needless to say, here are the cafes, eateries, barbers, and more that took us to new highs.

Best Restaurant – Linger

The Manual Awards 2017

You’ll see the neon cursive sign of Linger’s rooftop lounge lighting the Highlands skyline, acting as a beacon for foodies looking to bite into a spread of insanely good international tapas— from Devils on Horseback (Applewood Smoked Bacon, Medjool Dates, Herbed Goat, Cheese & Sambal Gastrique) to Honey-Sriracha Duck Wings. The site of this upscale eatery has an eerie history, being the old location of Olinger’s Mortuary. The “O” in its iconic sign was darkened, lending to its new identity “Linger,” and the spot has taken on new life as one of the best restaurants ever to set up stove in Mile High. (If you ask a self-proclaimed Denverite where to eat and they don’t mention Linger, I suggest never taking their advice again and cutting all communication.)

Best Bar – Terminal Bar

The Manual Awards 2017

It’s hard to outdo Terminal Bar in terms of modern cocktails and Denver-feels… since after all, this upscale gastro-pub takes tenancy in the historic ticketing office of the still-operating Union Station (Denver’s first train station, built in 1868). And despite its modern cocktail presentation, the mood is tinted with a vintage opulence circa 1920s Great Gatsby. Instead of stepping up to the heritage ticketing windows for a ride, tell the bartender which draught or crafted beer you’d like (all exclusively from Colorado) or order from the signature cocktail list that’s so inventive it’ll have you coming back to sample one of each. Start with the King K. Rool made with Michter’s Rye, Ramazotti Amaro, Strongwater Native Floral Bitters, and Laphroaig 10-year.

Best Shop – Armitage & McMillan

The Manual Awards 2017
Co-Founders Daniel Armitage and Darin Combs

Co-Founders Daniel Armitage and Darin Combs worked in NYC for over a decade before heading west to open their own men’s retail boutique in the trendy Lo-Hi neighborhood. The inspiration for their shelves comes from the natural rustic beauty of the Centennial state, bringing an eclectic yet relaxed assortment of clothes, kicks, and accessories that toe the line between mountain and urban. Their brand repertoire includes Unis New York (where Armitage was previously Head Buyer in NYC), A.P.C., Steven Alan, Save Khaki, Saturdays Surf NYC, Mt. Rainier, BillyKirk, and the list goes on. If we could pick one store in Denver to buy our clothes from for the rest of time, it would be Armitage & McMillan.

Best Coffee Shop – Aviano Coffee Cherry Creek

The Manual Awards 2017

In this lux Cherry Creek-neighborhood café, baristas wearing lavish bowties and suspenders— mustaches freshly waxed— brew the best coffee mile high has to offer. (They expertly serve the award-winning intelligentsia beans.) Soak up the sun on the front patio or sip indoors while overhearing a hushed conversation on Nietzsche’s Death of God and nihilism. The modern interior and architectural design is a direct reflection of the sharp and clean espresso drinks, and creates the perfect café environment to ruminate and intellectualize. On a more bestial point, their butter croissants are doughy heaven.

Best Local Brand – Feral Mountain Company

The Manual Awards 2017

Denver is the mecca of unadulterated outdoorists, so it’s no surprise the mountain men and women of Feral Mountain Company set up their apparel/gear rental operation in Mile High. With a stunning shop on Tennyson that looks like a neighborhood house occupied by misfit hikers (expect to see tents and hammocks on the front lawn), every piece of gear and advice touted by Feral is highly curated and backed by real-life experience in the wild. We start and end every Colorado adventure with a trip to Feral (either in-person or to its blog), because the hybrid retailer-brand-outdoor consultant is reteaching us how to escape from domestication.

Best Local Beer- Joyride Brewing

The Manual Awards 2017

This small Edgewater craft brewery (small considering it’s got Budweiser only a city away), opened its 10-barrel brewhouse in 2014 and is now a local hotspot thanks to the magic that goes on behind its taproom. Head to the northwest corner of Sloan’s Lake and grab a seat at the opened garage doors directly overlooking the water (and a stellar view of the city). Order an Ice Cutter Kölsch, Bear Paw Oatmeal Milk Stout, or Double IPA, grab a board game from the back, bring your dog, and plan to be there all day. There’s always a food truck outside if you get a hankering for fried oysters or burgers the size of your face.

Best Barbershop – Steel + Lather

The Manual Awards 2017

Hidden down 15th street between Wewatta and Wynkoop is the fresh-to-death barber shop Steel + Lather. If you blink for a second walking by, you’ll miss it. But those who are in on the secret know these guys will give you the best haircut or shave in the state. We’re talking grooming artistry… and with a baller straight razor. Plus, their prices are great (about $30 for a consultation, tailored cut, straight razor warm lathered neck shave and style). The space itself is intimate, while the atmosphere projects a cool and calm masculinity, without any frou-frou or pretense. In fact, entering Steel + Lather feels like stepping into a music/arts studio, hanging with an old friend, and getting a top-notch trim. You don’t zone out on your phone to a TV mounted to the wall. You talk with your barber the right way, dammit. Could you ask for anything more?

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Glendale, California

Written by Steven John


Glendale, California is finally getting its due. Once an afterthought among the many neighborhoods and cities of the Greater Los Angles area, the Jewel City is fast becoming a superlative destination for dining, shopping, culture, and more.

Largely surrounded by the city of LA itself — also sandwiched between the cities of Burbank and Pasadena on its west and eastern borders, respectively — for many decades The Dale (yes, some people call it that, myself included) was generally overlooked when people considered the many neighborhoods of LA. It lacked the quirkiness of Venice, the glamour of Beverly Hills, and the filthy charm of Hollywood, and was fairly seen as a bedroom community. Then, not long after the turn of the century (are we already saying that?) things started to change. LA has experienced a large eastward migration of its younger denizens. 20- and 30-somethings whom might in the past have set up camp nearer to the coast are these days flocking to neighborhoods like Eagle Rock and Echo Park. And what’s right next to those hip spots? Glendale. It was only a matter of time before someone noticed.

Glendale, California has a population of around 210,000 people, making it a more populous city than more than 30 state capitals. (Pierre, South Dakota? There are about 14,000 people there. Yeah, that’s small.) There have always been lots of people living in Glendale, and people who move there tend to stay put. The excellent schools, police and fire departments, the general cleanliness and the easy access to multiple freeways all contribute to that. But until the past decade or so, not many people came to visit. That’s all changing now, and here are a few of the reasons why.

Best Restaurant – Tep Thai

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Listen, there are a lot of great restaurants in Glendale. Frida offers peerless gourmet Mexican food. Eat Well is one of the finest diners in the land. And if you want Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cuisine, you’re in the right town. But for a delightful meal that’s priced in range for anyone, step off of Wilson Avenue and into the unassuming little restaurant that is Tep Thai.

The restaurant serves Thai food, as you likely guessed from its name. And their tagline of “Angelic Cuisine” is not far from accurate. Everything you order will be made fresh and served to you for about half the price you would gladly pay. Consider one of the Tep Thai Specials as evidence, an example of which is the Panang Special. That comes with chicken in a delicious spicy coconut milk sauce, a pile of rice, a fresh salad, a spring roll, and a scoop of ice cream at the meal’s end. Angelic indeed.

Best Burger – The Great White Hut

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If you want to eat a simple, delicious burger, you’re going to want to pay a visit to one of Glendale’s oldest institutions: The Great White Hut.

This burger shack, which is about the same size as a short school bus, has stood on the corner of Orange Street and California Avenue since 1947. It’s an absolute throwback to mid 20th Century America, right down to the walk-up window and stools. You can get a burger for less than four bucks ($4.15 if you want cheese) and, on Tuesdays, the tacos are 99 cents. The Great White Hut keeps the grill going from 9 AM to 9 PM daily and is not to be missed, unless you hate delicious, affordable eats.

Best BBQ – Damon’s Steakhouse

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If you want to eat some amazing barbecued food in Glendale, then you’ll need to head to a steakhouse. That’s Damon’s Steakhouse on Brand Boulevard, to be precise. This tiki-themed restaurant has been serving cocktails and steaks since 1937, and you can be forgiven for stopping in with a Mai Thai and a porterhouse on the mind. But don’t overlook the pulled pork, the smoked brisket, the ribs, and the rest of the amazing slow-smoked eats on the menu.

Why is the barbecued grub at Damon’s so damned good? Go out back. See that massive black drum shaped thing there? Yep, that’s a smoker that’s about the same size as a car. That’s why. Also by the time you start eating you’ll be pretty well drunk thanks to the octane of the cocktails, so enjoy that also.

Best Bar – Sidebar

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The nightlife in Glendale is still coming into its own. If you want a long, crazy night out, you might need to look elsewhere, to be honest. If you want an exceptional cocktail served in a handsome bar, then go to Sidebar on Pacific Avenue.

Sidebar is the kind of spot where you can order anything from a Brandy and Benedictine to a martini to a beer and be met with the same knowing nod from the barman. The drinks are carefully crafted and sure to please and the clientele are generally a relaxed, welcoming bunch as excited to swap stories as they are to sit and leaf through the pages of a book. Except on karaoke night, then it’s all about rocking out.

Best Local Beer – Golden Road Brewing

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There are actually two fine breweries located a hop, skip, and a jump from Glendale, though lamentably neither of them is technically in the city’s limits. First you have Golden Road Brewing, which is literally located across the street from Glendale. You cross the road (San Fernando Road, to be precise) and you are in the Jewel City. But the place is located in the City Los Angeles. Oh well. Golden Road has a large restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating and it’s a great spot for families. And for people who like beer.

Just outside town in the other direction (and actually again just off San Fernando. It’s a long road) we have the Eagle Rock Brewery. This fine family-run operation has a small, intimate tap room (though they have plans to expand) and a parking lot frequently filled with superlative food trucks. You can enjoy a flight or pint at the brewery or fill your growler for later enjoyment. You can also find many Eagle Rock Brewery beers on tap at local bars or for sale in stores around Southern California.

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Portland, Maine

Written by Chase McPeak


Often overlooked in the media in favor of its “trendier” west-coast counterpart, Portland, Maine is New England’s sleeper hit among the in-the-know travel crowd. Smaller, quieter, but just as food-oriented and far more historic, this seaside town boasts can’t-miss restaurants, some of the East Coast’s best loved beers and breweries, unique local shops, and of course, that, sweet, succulent, insect of the sea: lobster or “lahb-sta” as the locals call it.

So, if you every find yourself in Maine’s beloved “Forest City,” check out some of Portland’s best bars, restaurants, and businesses—and you’ll understand why this East Coast city is on the up-and-up. After all, the city’s motto is “I will rise again.” Maybe it will even overtake its sister city and become the Portland once more.

Best Restaurant – Palace Diner

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Okay, so the Palace Diner isn’t technically in Portland, Maine, but the fact that it’s in an original 1927 Pollard train car gives it a pass. Located just a half-hour south in Biddeford, the Palace Diner serves up breakfast and lunch every day from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm. Known locally as the best place to brunch, the buttermilk flapjacks with Maine maple syrup are light enough and fluffy enough, that it will require only one bite to make you a believer. Add in the Lumberjack breakfast of eggs, potatoes, and a choice of breakfast meat (ham, bacon, or sausage) and you’ve got yourself the quintessential American breakfast in one of the country’s quintessential small towns. If lunch is more of your thing, the Palace Diner offers up juicy medium-rare cheeseburgers, tuna melts, and fried chicken. And, while the brevity of the menu might be a deal-breaker for many, we think the reduced dishes only serve to make the few the Palace Diner does cook as absolutely exceptional. And did we mention it’s in a 90 year old train car?!

Best Bar – Novare Res Bier Café

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Novare Res means “to start a revolution” in Latin and this bar wants to start their own when it comes to craft beer drinking. Their stated goal is to bring the “best beer legally available in Maine” to the people of Portland. And boy do they bring it. With 25-30 beers on draught at any moment, we guarantee even the most discerning beer drinker will find something to please their palate. Novare Res, while not a beer garden per se, does offer beer-garden like seating and is completely family friendly—which makes this the best bar in Portland for not only the variety of drinks available, but also for its homey, welcoming, atmosphere. (It’s got great food, too!)

Best Shop – Portland Dry Goods

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With rustic brick walls, shelves constructed of whole logs, antique goods cases, and the occasional touch of industrial metal piping, Portland Dry Goods emits a trendy, but down-to earth vibe. Offering some of The Manual’s favorite brands, (such as Danner, Filson, Battenwear, Canada Down, Apolis, Seavees, and Woolrich, to name a few) this local shop is every stylish Mainer’s idea of perfection. From outerwear to sock to accessories, Portrland Dry Goods offers up the best of almost everything, including the classic cable knit fisherman’s sweater, which you should definitely get before setting sail on a skiff to one of Portland’s many outlying islands.

Best Coffee Shop – Tandem Coffee

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Coffeeshops: they’re literally on every corner, so it’s no surprise that in Portland there were more than a few that could take the top slot of best coffee shop in the city. However, Tandem Coffee stood out above the others with its free public cuppings every Friday at noon. As Tandem Coffee puts it themselves, “You can witness the sample roasting and cupping of new coffees…and finally drink that coffee yourself in our cafe. That which you cannot see – all that happens at origin until the coffee reaches our roastery – we’d happily discuss with you in our café or at one of our weekly public cuppings.” It’s that feeling of not being rushed and of having a full-on curated coffee experience that invigorates and energizes Portland’s café scene.

Best Local Brand – Portland General Store

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Portland General Store is perhaps best known among those at The Manual for its beard oil, which has an almost eternal presence on our Best Beard Oils round-up. And for good reason, just like all products at Portland General Store, it is made in small batches with all-natural ingredients and smells amazing. Along with beardcare, PGS offers skincare, shaving care, colognes, and aromatherapy—it’s a true testament to the current state of artisan craftsmen and women in Maine and across America. If you get a chance to stop by, we recommend the Skincare Kit.

Best Local Beer – Allagash Brewery

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Just on the outskirts of the city, the beer lover will find the best brewery and beer in Portland. Allagash Brewery, which prides itself on brewing Belgian-style beers, is most famous for it’s Allagash White beer, a wheat beer brewed with oats, malted wheat, and unmalted raw wheat for that “hazy, white” look. But, the best thing about Allagash is that they’re open for tours and tasting seven days a week between 11:00 am and 6:00 pm. Did we mention it’s free?

Best Barbershop – Blind Pig Barber

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Dark wood, rich, leather chairs, and stone and brick walls ensconce all those who enter Blind Pig Barber in a world that shouts masculine luxury. Founded in 2015, Blind Pig Barber offers a full range of grooming services for Maine’s men. From haircuts to hot lather shaves to back-waxing to “hand-detailing” (AKA a manicure), Blind Pig Barber offers up the most luxurious and attentive care a gentleman could ask for. And, the best part? Have a drink and play darts, while you wait. But don’t worry, it won’t be long.

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