Food & Drink
How do you find a good local place for a steak, a margarita,a pizza? Ask a friend, of course.Well, consider the entire population of Alameda as your friends, and consider that we asked all your friends where they like to eat. Here, then, are their answers to our Best of 2005 readers’ poll for favorite food and beverages.You’ll soon find where Alamedans like to go for happy hour, where they like to take their kids to eat and what is the Island’s favorite spot for dessert, among other local secrets. No, this isn’t rocket science; it’s just a neighborly way of determining where locals like to nosh and slosh.We’ve added our staff favorites, too. Enjoy these local eateries and watering holes by day and by night. Bon appétit,mangia and cheers!
La Val’s takes the cake this year—or the pie, as the case may be. La Val’s Pizza (891 Island Drive) is a favorite for local families and sports teams,with its variety of pizza toppings and cheerful, down-home atmosphere. Get your pizza, garlic bread, Buffalo wings and salad delivered at home, or dine in for crisp-crust pizza, a selection of steaming hot pastas and sauces, the salad bar and a choice of oven-fresh hot sandwiches (such as meatball,“The Torpedo,”“The Submarine,” and more).
STAFF PICK: A-Town Pizza (1231 Park St.), for its choice of 26 toppings, yummy kabobs and free delivery for orders of more than $10.
Favorite Lunch Spot
Asena (2508 Santa Clara Ave.) earns top marks in this restaurant category, and their bustling dining
room is living proof. Enjoy daily specials or satisfying salads, pastas, signature sandwiches and luscious entrees, served with personal attention and care by a dedicated wait-staff. STAFF PICK: We’re partial to Tomatina (1338 Park St.), with its delicious piadines and daily pizza or pasta specials.
Perennial favorite Gold Coast Grill (1901 Park St.) gets props for the best cuts of beef: the grilled New York steak for lunch or dinner, or the pan-seared filet mignon on the dinner menu inspires our readers to vote with their forks and knives. Next time you’re wondering what’s for dinner, try theirs. STAFF PICK: Luciano’s (2319 Santa Clara Ave.) is a fave, offering three juicy steaks for our dining pleasure: New York steak with sautéed onion and Gorgonzola; New York pepper steak; or New York steak with roasted garlic and feta. Can we say “yum?”
Most Kid-Friendly Restaurant
Chevys (2400 Mariner Square Drive), an Alameda original, is the top pick here.No wonder—with estuary views, sailboats and seagulls, there’s a lot to watch outside for restless tykes. Inside, there’s El Machino, the tortillaproducing contraption that offers a kid’s-eye view of the process.Your server will give the kids dough balls to nibble or play with, along with a handful of crayons and a menu to color. Want more? How about king-sized Shirley Temples with extra maraschino cherries, or kid-sized ones with a lid? Did we mention baskets of warm tortilla chips on every table (that never happens at our house) and salsa for the braver big kids; plus, if it’s your birthday (or you pretend it’s your special day), the wait-staff brings on the sombrero, dessert and a lively song for everyone to enjoy. Need we say more?
Whether you like waffles, French toast or pancakes best, both Jim’s Coffee Shop (2333 Lincoln Ave.) and Ole’s Waffle Shop (1507 Park St.) have ‘em for you. How can both these shops be the favorite? Well, Alamedans love both institutions so much there was a tie. So flip a coin and try either of these local wonders for a plate of bacon and eggs and a hot cup of joe any day of the week.
STAFF PICK: We couldn’t choose, either. Our tie was between Jim’s Coffee Shop (which we love for breakfast or lunch) and West End-favorite Albert’s Café (1541 Webster St.), where the Ro-Day-O and Huevos Gillermo rank tops with us.
Best Asian Restaurant
Kamakura (2549 Santa Clara Ave.) takes the honor in this category, showing off a variety of delicious Japanese entrees and sushi, highlighted by the attentions of owner Faith Yamato and her dedicated staff of servers. The sushi chefs have been trained in Japan and can roll up the sweetest, most succulent sushi in no time.Yamato’s personal touch makes dining here a pleasure, day and night.
STAFF PICK: When we get a hankering for Thai, we head over to Toomie’s (1433 Park St.) for a steaming plateful of Pad Thai, the sizzle of prawns and lime and those exquisite curries.
Alameda has spoken: the Island’s favorite chef is Saboor Zafari of Angela’s (807 Marina Village Parkway). Known for his fine Mediterranean fare, the award-winning Zafari knows how to blend the flavors of Italy, France and Greece to bring out the best of these fine regions. Give him extra virgin olive oil, Parmesan cheese, fresh herbs and farmers’market produce and he’ll whip up a lunch or supper to savor.
STAFF PICK: Our opinion? Kiss the cook!
Best Wine List
Asena (2508 Santa Clara Ave.) pops our cork with their stellar wine list, featuring an array of reds and whites from California’s wine regions, as well as Argentina, Australia, France, Italy and beyond. Alameda’s own Rosenblum Cellars is on the list, including their Russian River Valley Chardonnay, the Paso Robles Zin and Vintner’s Cuvée XXVI Zinfandel. Sparkling wines are also on the menu, with Henry Abele Champagne and splits of Kriter sparkling wine. While you’re flipping through the wine list, pause to enjoy the list of Asena’s signature cocktails, the martini menu, the classic cocktails and Asena’s specialty vodka and whiskey offerings. There’s something to please every adult palate, however discerning.
STAFF PICK: Varietals are the spice of life.
Want your martini on the rocks? Did you mean a Gibson or a gimlet? Do you prefer a Harvey Wallbanger or an Auburn Headbanger? Whether you want one of those outrageously named cocktails, something sleek and classic or just a tall draft beer that’s not too foamy, you want the best bartender. Our readers say that the gang at Z’s Cocktail Lounge (1403 Encinal Ave.) are the best of the bunch. Check ‘em out any night of the week.
STAFF: What can we say? We’re smitten by the funky-retro vibe at Lost Weekend Lounge (2320 1/2 Santa Clara Ave.), with white-noise TVs and lava lamps, not to mention the smooth shaker action of the bar-belles and blokes.
Fave Food to Go
Taqueria Ramiro & Sons (2321 Alameda Ave.) is the place to grab a carnitas burrito (regular or super-size) or any of several combination plates, tacos or quesadillas. The Student Special (a bean and cheese burrito and a soda for $3.50) is a lunchtime hit for local students. The folks at Ramiro & Sons are fast, and the food is inexpensive and good—what more could you want?
Island carnivores have spoken: Nation’s Giant Hamburgers (1432 Webster St.) are the best in the bun. Is it their two-fisted size that makes you stretch for your first bite? Is it the fresh-grilled flavor? Is it the old-fashioned appeal of the restaurant? Maybe it’s the pies that await in the refrigerator case. Whatever it is, burger-lovers love Nation’s best of all.
Favorite Coffee Shop
Peet’s Coffee and Tea (1365 Park St.) is the local favorite for you Peetniks and your daily cup of latte macchiato, your Masala chai latte or your loose-leaf Yin Hao jasmine tea, brewed in the pot to perfection. Peet’s is a Bay Area original; the first store opened in Berkeley in 1966. Have yours to go, enjoy a seat indoors or outside on the benches and watch the world go by.
You can have your cake, but wouldn’t you rather have your ice cream instead? Readers voted overwhelmingly in “flavor” of Tucker’s (1349 Park St.) as their choice for cho-chos,Grandaddy sundaes, double scoops in a chocolate-dipped waffle cone or The Kitchen Sink (12 scoops of your favorite flavors. Bring friends.). This Park Street institution has been operating in Alameda for decades and shows no sign of slowing down yet. The sweetest place to celebrate a birthday, a team win or a starring role onstage, kids and parents alike love Tucker’s.
STAFF PICK: We’re not contrarians, but we like the European flair of Speisekammer’s (2424 Lincoln Ave.) apfel struedel, Black Forest cake or even the appetizer reibekuchen (potato pancakes with housemade applesauce) for dessert; Asena’s tiramisu, panna cotta and crème brulee also rank high with the sweet-teeth here.
Best Happy Hour
Where can you go for half-priced appetizers and house margaritas for two indulgent hours a day? Only the happening-est Mexican joint in town: La Piñata #3 (1440 Park St.). Happy hour is from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. daily, so every day is a great day for a tasty beverage. And it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.
STAFF PICK: We’re happy to enjoy our happy hour here.
If you want a margarita, blended or on the rocks, in a frosty glass, served up with a basket of tortilla chips and a festive atmosphere, you can go just about anywhere. But if you want the best margarita in town, readers say La Piñata #3 serves ‘em up right, all night long. It must be the house recipe,a jealously guarded secret, or maybe it’s the perfect blending of tequila, lime juice and triple sec—or any of the myriad fruit-flavored margs available on the menu. Maybe it’s that dusting of coarse salt on the rim, or the fresh fruit garnish. It could be any of these, but all we know is, if you want a margarita, La Piñata’s are the bomb.
STAFF PICK: We couldn’t agree more.
Best Beer Selection
Bier ist gut, as they say in Deutschland, and the more bier, the merrier. Where else would you go, then, for the best selection of beer but Speisekammer (2424 Lincoln Ave.), Alameda’s own little taste of Germany? With 11 German beers on draft and many more in bottles, Speisekammer offers the tastes of Central Europe in hops and grains, in golden elixir form. Bier ist gut,we say again. Prost!
STAFF PICK: How about another round at Speis’?
Favorite New Restaurant
Not to be picky, but these guys have been here for more than a year! However, our readers picked Tomatina (1338 Park St.) as their favorite new restaurant. Must be the patio dining, the savory garlic rolls, the robust meat sauces and the family-friendly atmosphere. Lunch or dinner, Tomatina rocks your world.
STAFF PICK: Great minds think alike.
Favorite Established Restaurant
What makes the Gold Coast Grill (1901 Park St.) the Best Established Restaurant? How about a menu that shines with culinary treats like veal Champagne, lamb shanks and the authentic Greek sampler (spanokopita—yum). Owner Christos Marras offers Old World charm and excellent service to his customers, as well as food that shows off his origins.And the strawberry shortcake is a decadent ending,made in America.
STAFF PICK: We can’t decide. Our three-way tie among Linguini’s, Kamakura and the Gold Coast Grill shows off our good taste and refined palates.
Favorite Overall Restaurant
Alameda Magazine readers have spoken. For the second year in a row, their favorite restaurant is Asena, featuring California- Mediterranean cuisine, an extensive wine list and full bar, plus personal attention for each customer. Sit inside and enjoy the mural and your friends and neighbors passing by, or sit outside and revel in the cool shade and cloud of bougainvillea overhead.
STAFF PICK: Hey, give us a biergarten and some potato pancakes and we’re golden. Speisekammer is our pick for best overall restaurant, with delicious braised meats, gravies and tender spätzle, and the pleasure of live “musik” Thursdays and many weekends. And the beer. Did we mention the beer?