Alameda’s BEST of 2011

Raise the Roof for the Finest the Island Offers


By Dawn Adams, Linda Childers, Kimberly Chun, Ann Leslie Davis, Susan E. Davis, Karen Granados, Keith Gleason, Gina Jaber,
Anna Mindess, Renee Macalino Rutledge and Nate Seltenrich

Edited by Judith M. Gallman

Photography by Chris Duffey, Lori Eanes and Al Wright

     The best. The cat’s meow. The bee’s knees. The dog’s bollocks. La Crème de la crème. A cut above the rest. A-1. Second to none. Top shelf. Most excellent. Number one. Leader of the pack.
     No matter how you put it, the winners of the Best of Alameda 2011 poll rock!
     They are the Cadillacs of their classes, the Rolls-Royces of their industries. They reign supreme and are without equal, nonpareil, unsurpassed. They are first-class, first-rate examples of what Alameda has going for it — incomparable goods and services, the finest food and restaurants, primo drink and nightlife options, unequaled lifestyle choices and superstar residents.
     The votes are in, the tallies completed. The results: something akin to 103 Readers’ Choices winners in six categories and 25 Editors’ Choices. Wow, that’s a lot of Bests!
     So without further ado, here’s mud in your eye to all the outstanding winners.

Most Earth-Friendly Nursery

Ploughshares Nursery

     Gardening would seem inherently earth-friendly. But of course there’s a big difference between pesticide-laden, water-hungry English gardens and the sort of drought-tolerant, Bay-friendly, native landscaping that has taken root in the East Bay. Alameda’s Ploughshares Nursery has made its name promoting the latter. The nonprofit nursery runs its 3-acre site at Alameda Point on solar power, uses recycled potting and construction materials whenever possible, accepts and reuses donations of yard waste, mulches with tree trimmings from local companies, and grows everything organically. Ploughshares also provides job training, educational gardening workshops and features a helpful native-plant demonstration garden. Obliging staff will aid you in deciding from among the choices from an eco-conscious standpoint so you can’t go wrong. — Nate Seltenrich
Ploughshares Nursery, 2701 Main St., (510) 755-1102,

Best Play Date for Your Inner Artist

Frank Bette Center for the Arts

     Tired of the everyday grind? Take a well-deserved break and dust off that sketchbook, start scribbling poetry, unbox that novel manuscript and let your inner artist out at the Frank Bette Center for the Arts. The center offers something for everyone — from life drawing sessions every Tuesday evening, to the youth poetry slam once a month, to more structured classes that run the gamut from writing to painting to photography. What sounds like more fun than taking “Visual Storytelling—Ancestral Roots,” “Drawing Dynamics,” or “Swag 101”? You can also just browse the gallery and get inspired by works from local and not-so-local artists. The exhibits are continually changing, and the center is always seeking new artists with interesting perspectives in all media from paintings to textiles to metalwork. Check out the Endless Call for Art and take the opportunity to submit your own work for one of the upcoming exhibits like “The Circle” (Oct. 7–Dec. 23), or handmade gifts for the Holiday Boutique. — Dawn Adams
Frank Bette Center for the Arts, 1601 Paru St., (510) 523-6957,

Best Place to Get a Fab Outfit Cheap

All the More to Love

This stylish consignment store used to carry only plus sizes. But a few years back, former owner Jenny Matteucci moved the store to Encinal Avenue and expanded the selection to include sizes 6, 8 and 10. Janie Chew, the current owner, bought the shop in 2008 and still maintains a boutique where women of all shapes and sizes can find high-quality, gently-used clothing, shoes, bags, scarves and jewelry at consignment-store prices. The dressing rooms are ample and the mood is always friendly. Extra bonus: If you’re not sure what to wear to an event or what kind of shirt to wear with those pale green silk pants you picked up, either Chew or her staffers are happy to weigh in. — Susan E. Davis
All the More to Love, 1910 A Encinal Ave., (510) 521-6206,

Best Alameda Women’s Golf Phenom

Grace Na

     Alameda has a long tradition of golf and men’s golf champions, but a relatively short history when it comes to women’s golf champions. Grace Na, 18, a freshman at Pepperdine University in Malibu, is a golf champion and a pioneer. The former Alameda High School Hornet, who graduated early in January 2011 to take a full golf scholarship at Pepperdine, had a stellar record in junior golf and during her four years at Alameda High, as a founding member of the first girls’ high school team on the Island. In 2009, she led Alameda to a fourth-place team finish in California, the best in school history, and its first Northern California Division I team title. As a senior, Na won the girls individual state high school golf title at the CIF California State Golf Championship in 2010. In her first semester at Pepperdine in spring 2011, Na earned honors as the West Coast Conference Player and Freshman of the Year and all-WCC first team honors as she helped the Waves win their 10th consecutive WCC title and secure a birth into the NCAA tournament.  — Keith Gleason

Best TGIF Cocktail

$1 Orange Margaritas at Ching Hua

     Careful! Classy Ching Hua’s glowing orange $1 margaritas available all-day Fridays may tempt you to start your weekend a tad early. Perch at the shiny granite bar or ensconce yourself on orange and green banquettes. You might be staying for a while. The sleek, cozy dining room feels spacious thanks to the high ceiling and wall of windows. Ching Hua’s luscious citrus margarita and the other smooth libations from the impressive bar beg for a little accompaniment, easily obtained from the tempting list of appetizers, especially between 5–7 p.m., at the happy hour price of $4. On the light side: steamed scallop and spinach dumplings. Another light favorite is crisp lettuce cups with sautéed black mushrooms and water chestnuts in your choice of chicken, seafood or vegetarian options. Or for a heartier bite: wontons stuffed with cream cheese, crabmeat and green onions, pan-fried to a golden crunch. All dishes are cooked to order and the flexible chefs are happy to substitute for any food sensitivities. So go ahead and order another $1 margarita. It’s been such a hard week … — Anna Mindess
Ching Hua, 1650 Park St., Alameda, (510) 522-8777,

Easiest Store to Find a Treasure

Urban Island Home Furnishings

     Tucked away in many of the Island’s secondhand stores are gems of family history. However, if you don’t have the time or patience to sort through piles of dusty framed posters or wander through rows of porcelain dinnerware, head to Urban Island Home Furnishings. Claustrophobes can rejoice, for finding collectibles, furniture, rugs and artwork couldn’t be easier. The bright warehouse space is large and airy, yet seems cozy at the same time because of the well-thought-out vignettes of furniture and decorative accessories that would typically be found in areas around the home. In one area you’ll feel like you’re lounging in a ’60 s mod-style family room complete with Eames-era modern Danish chairs and colorful glass vases while 15 feet away is an Asian-inspired dining room dotted with wooden Balinese masks and elaborately carved wooden candlesticks. Since Alameda contains several types of residential architecture, the store makes sure to represent many different styles of home furnishings that are high quality, built to last and, hopefully, will find a new home in yours. — Karen Granados
Urban Island Home Furnishings, 1901 Broadway, (510) 227-5473,

Best Million Dollar Facelift on the Island

Bay Farm Island Library Branch

     Most people keep mum when it comes to getting a nip and tuck. However, Alameda Free Library is proud to show off the cosmetic renovations to its Bay Farm Island branch that would make even Joan Rivers envious. The six-month renovation included knocking down walls, removing ceiling crossbeams and installing new skylights to allow in more natural light. Though no new square footage was added, the architecture firm of Noll & Tam Architects was able to reconfigure it to feel and look larger. Hardwood and new carpeting in neutral colors cover the floors, while comfortable lounge chairs in the new teen area encourage small-group collaborating. A new countertop station, made of granite and recycled glass, allows users to plug in electronics while studying. Technology abounds with new computer terminals, sleek light fixtures and a more efficient cooling and heating system. Look up when you’re in the children’s section and artist Kana Tanaka’s art installation makes it seem like colored glass balls are floating overhead. The imaginative world that the library opens has never looked so good. — Karen Granados
Bay Farm Island Branch of the Alameda Free Library, 3221 Mecartney Road, (510) 747-7787,

Best Place to Get a Ping-Pong Education

Alameda Table Tennis Club

     Have a yen to re-create the key, hilarious scene in the ping-pong comedy Balls of Fury when Randy Daytona faces off against Chinatown’s greatest weapon, the Dragon (née a little pony-tailed girl in pink)? Intrigued by table tennis’ sudden rise on cool barometers (witness last year’s London-wide streetside ping-pong challenge as socialites and hipsters faced off at the Serpentine Gallery)? Or simply dying to revisit the sport of carefree youth? This unsung gem of a table tennis club is just the place to do it, and to get some serious practice with vets, aficionados or rising young stars on the regional circuit. Housed in a well-lit gym with pro tables, the club gives you the chance, for the low door price of $5, to get trounced by a 10-year-old — or a 70-year-old. That’s the beauty of the game. And when you get the fire in your belly to start winning, there’s plenty of expert coaching, as well as training camps led by internationally recognized players, on hand to hone that killer backhand. — Kimberly Chun
Alameda Table Tennis Club, 2050 Lincoln Ave., (415) 287-0352,

Most Courageous Families to Fight for Public Education Funding Equality

Robles-Wong, et al. Plaintiffs

     In May 2010, four Alameda families took center stage in a historic lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of state education funding. Robles-Wong, et al. v. State of California pits the four — Michael and Martha Robles-Wong, Robert and Mialisa Bonta, Susan Davis and Peter Brand and Robert Siltanen and Beth Meyer — against a state funding system that has sunk to 49th in the nation, with low test scores to match. If the suit, which includes a total of 27 families as plaintiffs, is victorious, the Legislature would be forced to devise a new way to pay for schools. Encinal High School civics teacher and plaintiff Rob Siltanen would like nothing better. “The system is so bad it deprives students of their constitutional right to an education,” he says. All four families believe it is their responsibility to work for better schools for all children. “It’s important to be an active citizen, help others and try to fix what’s broken,” Siltanen says. — Ann Leslie Davis

Best Place to Observe the Real Pecking Order in Alameda

Alameda Point Collaborative

     Forget City Council meetings or various functions involving Old Alameda. If you want to observe blatant power structures, check out the chicken coop at Alameda Point Collaborative. Part of the Growing Youth Project, which is teaching low-income teens the skills needed to grow and advocate for healthy food in their community, the coop (which was built with the help of volunteers from Clif Bar) currently houses 40 hens, who produce eggs that APC uses for its weekly breakfasts as well as sells to local restaurants. Hens aren’t kidding about their hierarchies — they really do peck, scratch and screech at each other to create and maintain power structures. But when it shifts (as when a new hen is introduced or an established one dies), feathers get ruffled, dust flies and then they figure out a new way to live together. Kind of like politics on our dear sweet island. You can watch the show on Saturdays when the APC farm is open to the public. Or call ahead to request a tour. — Susan E. Davis
Alameda Point Collaborative, 677 W. Ranger Ave., (510) 898-7800,

Best Tennis Great to Party as Hard as He Dropped, Lobbed and Sliced

Whitney Reed

     Born in Oakland in 1932, Whitney Reed grew up playing tennis on the courts of Washington Park in Alameda with his mother and father after the family moved to the Island when he was 4. Forced to sit on the sidelines if he lost to them, both avid players, Reed learned how to win at an early age with an arsenal of skillful shots, including a drop, lob and slice, which served him well throughout his career. A tennis star at Alameda High School, he won junior tournaments and a National Junior doubles title in 1950. Reed won the 1959 NCAA Intercollegiate singles tennis championship while a college student, the Canadian National Championship in 1961 and 1963, was ranked the No. 1 tennis player in the United States in 1961, and was named a member of the U.S. Davis Cup team in 1958, 1961 and 1962. A tennis vagabond with a penchant for partying and pretty girls, Reed often played for travel expenses and hotel rooms in the pre–Open Era of wood rackets. He didn’t get rich but enjoyed rubbing elbows with celebrities and socialites around the globe. In his later years, he toured the senior tennis circuit and became a teaching pro in Alameda and is a member of the Alameda Sports Hall of Fame. Read colorful stories about his adventurous life in his 2006 biography, Unflappable, The Life and Times of Whitney Reed. — Keith Gleason
Learn more at

Best Way to Get Your Heart Pumping in the Morning

G-O Fitness

     Six a.m. may seem a daunting hour to focus on your goal, especially if it involves exercise, but imagine watching the sun rise in a spacious, grassy park with a community of supportive individuals while you work together on strength training, cardio endurance, flexibility and balance? Suzanne Fong, a certified personal trainer and group exercise instructor, leads G-O (an acronym for goal-oriented) Fitness sessions 6–7 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in Krusi Park. Her goal for her classes is the opposite of suffering through barked orders from an intimidating jock during arduous boot-camp torture inside a stuffy gym. Fong combines an individualized plan for exercisers with a social motivational program, harnessing the power of the early morning risers to inspire each other to establish healthy habits. Participants alternate walking, jogging or running laps around the baseball diamond with structured exercises that use park equipment and playground structures: step-ups on the dugout benches, heel raises on the sandbox edge, tricep-dips on the picnic tables. Greet the morning while you attain your goals with Fong’s help and her emphasis on the achieving the SWEET (Sleep, Water, Eating, Exercise and Tranquility) life. — Anna Mindess
G-O Fitness, Suzanne Fong, (510) 333-8753,

Best Place to Shake Your Hips

Halau Makana Hula School

     Perhaps your idea of the perfect island involves something more exotic than Victorian-lined streets: an unspoiled beach lined by swaying palms, the scent of tropical flowers on the breeze, a juicy pineapple and the mesmerizing undulation of a line of brightly clad dancers.
If so, you can transport yourself to those islands, right here on our island at Halau Makana Hula School, the Lincoln Avenue storefront where Lani Cid-Iulio offers classes for all ages. Hula’s graceful moves always tell a story; Tahitian-style dances often feature fast swirling hips to the accompaniment of drums.
     This teacher doesn’t stop with just the moves: Students who are 5 to 12 years old learn culture as well as dance steps. Hawaiian language is taught through the words for numbers, the parts of the body and the names for costume pieces. The girls and boys gain social and memory skills, plus the joy of performing.
     Adults (anywhere from 13 to 80-plus years old) who take hula or Tahitian dance “don’t need to be svelte ballerinas,” says Cid-Iulio. “Anyone can do it, no matter what your size; you just need the desire.”
Her center is also home to a Polynesian performing company, ukulele classes, monthly free Hawaiian musical jam sessions and summer camps. Cid-Iulio’s family is from the big island of Hawai’i. “I’ve had the passion for hula forever,” she says. “My grandmother taught me to dance before I could walk.” — Anna Mindess
Halau Makana Hula School, 1122 Lincoln Ave., (510) 995-8746,

Most Artful Sandwich Maker

Michele Santoro

     When you consider masters of Italian art, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci immediately spring to mind. One more name should be added to the list: Michele Santoro, master of the art of the Italian sandwich. His canvas is Semifreddi’s freshest sourdough, Dutch crunch or French roll, gently prepped with a splash of olive oil and a sprinkle of vinegar. Santoro then applies the color with slices of imported prosciutto, pastrami, pancetta, sopressata and mortadella, adorned with provolone, smoked Gouda, horseradish cheddar or fresh mozzarella. The finishing touch to the composition: a scatter of thinly sliced vegetables. Born in Rome and trained at his mother’s knee as she prepared meals for her eight children, Santoro carries on a centuries-old Italian artistic tradition, but in a medium that can be devoured daily. As with any artist, the creative process takes time. Santoro’s secret is slicing the meat and cheese fresh for every sandwich. (Shhh, don’t tell; just go taste the artwork). — Anna Mindess
Santoro’s Italian Market and Deli, 475 Santa Clara Ave., (510) 217-8710

Best C&W Believers

Kit and the Branded Men

     Keeping the faith amid the pop gloss of mainstream C&W and clichéd cinematic snapshots like Country Strong, Alameda foursome Kit and the Branded Men aren’t afraid to hew to tradition and cut close to the bone with their spare, traditional hillbilly songcraft. Judging from the spunky soprano of frontwoman Kit Lopez, the band’s love of Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn and Rose Maddox is true, and scoping out guitarist Darryl Pretto’s frisky licks, their roots are dug deep into the classic California country of Merle Haggard (hence the name Branded Men, natch) and Buck Owens. The sweet streets of Alameda may seem a far cry from Haggard’s and Owens’ Bakersfield and its dusty honky-tonks, but Kit and the Branded Men sound like they’re well-acquainted with the stuff of tears, beers and heartbreak. Witness twangy tunes like “I Don’t Wanna Drink Everyday” and “Mean Old City.” — Kimberly Chun

Most Souped Up West End Dish

Little Joe’s Express’ Sizzling Rice Soup

     Looking for hot love in the soup department? Look no more. Little Joe’s Express makes one of the best sizzling rice soups out there. I don’t know if their secret is in the broth, the fresh vegetables and shrimp or what, but it works. Whether you have a tummy ache or just a craving for soup that is steaming hot, healthy and delicious, Little Joe’s is the go-to spot. Other popular dishes include string bean chicken, orange chicken, filet mignon steak and won ton soup. These folks at Little Joe’s also cater and will deliver these lip-smacking dishes anytime. The food is predictably good and priced right, and the people are sizzlingly nice. This no frills (but lots of thrills) family-owned business has Chinese food figured out — especially in the soup department. — Gina Jaber
Little Joe’s Express, 1410 Encinal Ave., (510) 769-9787

Best Local Food Maven

Weezie Mott

     Spreading the gospel of French cooking in Alameda, octogenarian Weezie Mott has rightfully earned her rep as the town’s Julia Child with her passion for education and her deep love of great food. Mott nurtured her passion during her studies at Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School in London, while her travels with husband Howard fanned those flames into a career in food education that has seen her teaching tons of students, young and old, in her home kitchen. Not for nothing did the San Francisco Professional Food Society give its first Lifetime Achievement Award to Mott, who accepted the trophy with the quip, “If you don’t want to get old, then don’t stop working!”  — Kimberly Chun
Weezie Mott Cooking School, 1630 Dayton Ave., (510) 521-4069

Alameda’s Go-to Girls of Flower Creations

Molly Hollis and Melanie Medulan-Perez of La Flor Floral Creations

     Little did Molly Hollis and Melanie Medulan-Perez know when they volunteered to make floral arrangements for friends’ weddings four years ago that they would eventually launch La Flor Floral Creations, their very own independent floral business, and be such a hit to boot. Talk about artistically talented women who are super easy to work with and whose work will knock your socks off. These women can do everything — from weddings, school events and private parties to big or little business and residential requests. Whether you want a dainty arrangement, a gorgeous orchid display or a large, elegant display of floral extravaganza, La Flor can do it. And get this: La Flor will work within your budget and, no matter what, perform some definite floral magic. A fresh approach to floral design and the collaborative individual talents make this dynamic duo the go-to girls when it comes to flower creations. If you loved the floral displays at the openings of the Alameda West End Library and The Bay Farm Island Library, guess why? Hollis and Medulan-Perez were also one of four Bay Area floral designers chosen to display a nativity scene during the Crèche Festival at The Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland during Christmastime. And oh, one more great thing about Hollis and Medulan-Perez: They deliver for free. — Gina Jaber
La Flor Floral Creations, (510) 414-7862,

Best Inspiration to Finish That Craft Project

Craft Night at Julie’s Coffee & Tea Garden
     Admit it — we crafters always enjoy the start of a project more than the end and inevitably have more in progress than we can handle. If you’ve got a closet full of unfinished knitting, crocheting or other crafty stuff, run, don’t walk, to Craft Night at Julie’s. Around 7 o’clock every Thursday evening, signs “Reserved for Crafters” appear on the larger tables. Crafters descend, toting their sacks of yarn, fabric quilting squares, beads and occasionally even a spinning wheel, to share tables and form a creative community. The atmosphere ranges from low-key and pleasantly companionable to wildly creative and energizing. The regulars are always willing to help with a complicated pattern — and to sincerely ooh and aah over others’ works-in-progress. It’s just the kick in the pants you need to finish up that lacy mohair shawl, complicated wedding-ring quilt or knotted necklace that you started five years ago. Julie’s kitchen is open later on Craft Nights, so you can sip your chai latte and enjoy a slice of pizza when you need a break from crafting. — Dawn Adams
Julie’s Coffee & Tea Garden, 1223 Park St. (510) 865-2385,

Best Place to Dine Out with the Entire Family (Including the Fur Kids)


     Date nights are great, but sometimes you want to enjoy a family meal with the kids, and OK, even Fido. Wescafe understands this, and welcomes you to dine on the outdoor patio (seating 40 to 50). This family-owned restaurant features delicious culinary creations including breakfast sandwiches, lunch wraps, salads and smoothies. Alameda residents Monica and Miguel Trejo run the business with the help of their 15-year-old daughter and Monica’s sister and brother-in-law. “We pride ourselves on having a family-friendly atmosphere that offers good quality affordable meals,” Monica Trejo says. “We can greet most of our customers on a first-name basis and know when their birthdays are. We want this to be a home away from home for families.” The Trejos managed a café in Oakland for 14 years before opening Wescafe in July 2009. They frequent the Alameda Farmers Market for their fresh organic fruits and vegetables. With free Wi-Fi, homemade delicacies and a welcoming ambiance, a visit to Wescafe is like a visit to a cherished friend’s home. — Linda Childers
Wescafe, 1536 Webster St., (510) 522-7200,

Best Locally Made Snack

Jenny’s Jerky

Alameda resident Jenny Ma is proof that necessity is the mother of invention. When she couldn’t find a healthy, tasty snack for her two young daughters, Lauren and Corine, on their frequent road trips to Los Angeles, she and husband Tyrone Tan made their own. After three years of experimenting, the couple launched Jenny’s Jerky. The convenient snacks are sold in three flavors: original, spicy and honey teriyaki, and they have become a favorite among families. With zero trans fat, Jenny’s Jerky is low in sugar and cholesterol and high in protein. Ma and Tan hope to expand their line and are offering a Jenny’s Jerky Fund-raising Kit as a way of helping local schools and sports teams raise much-needed funds. Jenny’s Jerky is sold locally in stores including Alameda Bicycle, Alameda Natural Grocery, Encinal Market, Encinal Hardware, 76 Gasoline, Metro Golf in Oakland and online, — Linda Childers

Best Throwback Old-Time Sounds

Frisky Frolics

And you shall know Rick Quisol by the stylish silhouette he cuts, coffee cup in hand, at Peet’s every morn. You might even suspect that Quisol harbors fascinating obsessions to go with his natty vintage threads. And you’re correct, hep cat: the vocalist, kazoo blower and uke player is the driving force behind the fiercely throwback, proudly old-timey Frisky Frolics. The Alameda fivesome’s intent on reviving Tin Pan Alley treasures, certain their adoration for Jazz Age chestnuts will rub off with a little craft, chops and sheer charisma. Quisol, a.k.a., the straw boater–sporting Dimestore Dandy, knows of what he sings as a a vet of the swing combo Atomic Cocktail. The other Frolics are no chumps, either: guitarist Craig Ventresco has lent his ragtime fingerpicking to the soundtracks of Crumb and Ghost World. FF has cred up the kazoo. So you might agree, as you join in on a sassy sing-along, that “obsolescence never sounded so good!” — Kimberly Chun

Best Coffee Beans and Ground Coffee to Go

The Beanery

The Beanery has been roasting 18 different kinds of coffee for 21 years, all of it locally. The family-owned business has an advantage over big chain cafes because the roasting plant is located just minutes away in El Cerrito. Translation: fresher coffee. “Our coffee arrives from roasting to our store the same day or the next day. The closer to the roasting you get it, the more flavor you’ll have in the coffee. We offer much fresher coffee all the time,” owner Rouin Rahmani says. In addition, the Beanery can offer high-quality coffee at lower prices than the big chains by reducing the costs required to run the business. You’ll often find Rahmani taking orders behind the register. The Beanery’s coffees come from all over the world, including Sumatra, Guatemala, Columbia and Kenya, but the best-selling bag is the organic house blend of four different coffees. The Beanery roasts medium to dark blends, each with a distinct strength and aroma that even the most discriminating coffee snob can appreciate. — Renee Macalino Rutledge
The Beanery, 1650 Park St., (510) 521-8800

Best Place to Dream a Little Dream

Vines Café and Thomsen Garden Center

If you’re looking for a little slice of heaven — and some great big gardening inspiration — there’s no better spot than the Vine’s Café and Thomsen’s Garden Center combo on Lincoln Avenue. Owned by John and Iris Watson (he’s upstairs in the cafe; she’s downstairs in the nursery), the spot gives you the opportunity to pick up a drink and a pastry at the café and sit out on the back deck overlooking the nursery, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The garden center isn’t “a supermarket of plants,” Iris Watson says, but instead features a variety of unique and colorful plants, all artfully arranged on the property. Added bonuses: the sound of trickling fountains, a bird named Jojo and Vine’s small gift shop/gallery, which features Asian jewelry, wall hangings and tchotchkes. — Susan E. Davis
Vines Café and Thomsen Garden Center, 1113 Lincoln Ave., (510) 522-8489 (café), (510) 522-3265 (nursery)

Best Place to Get Your Dog an Extreme Makeover

Seiji Morikawa Groomers

This teeny-tiny grooming shop can take the dirtiest, mattiest, smelliest pooch and create a king (or queen) of beasts in a matter of hours. Owned by Seiji Morikawa and staffed with a merry band of groomers, the shop offers everything from toenail trims and ear cleanings to full-fledged bath-plus-grooming-and-blowout services for dogs of all sizes. (And yes, they cater to the feline set as well.) There used to be a weeks-long waiting list for appointments, but it’s now possible to get in within a few days — excellent news for dogs who get invited to a fancy function at the last minute. Need another reason to love this canine coiffeur? Last November he gifted Helen Bignone, the 80-year-old owner of the stolen Yorkshire terrier Deuce, with a free grooming session when he was returned. — Susan E. Davis
Seiji Morikawa Groomers, 647 Central Ave., (510) 523-3224

Best Place to Get Pampered on a Budget

Alameda Beauty College

With $10 haircuts, $8 manicures and $35 facials, this beauty school gives residents the opportunity to indulge without breaking the bank. While students learn how to channel their inner John Frieda, customers reap the benefits of having beauty services performed at a fraction of the price they would normally pay in a salon. All services are done by students under the supervision of an instructor. Services include waxing, haircuts, coloring, perms and relaxers and makeup. While you may find yourself in the beauty chair for a longer period than you’d spend at a professional salon, the beauty school offers high-quality work for a reasonable price. Chances are the student giving you a $10 haircut today may be working in a high-end salon two months down the line and charging five times more for the same services. And for less than $100, you can leave the salon with a mani/pedi, snazzy haircut, makeup and whole new look. — Linda Childers
Alameda Beauty College, 2318 Central Avenue, (510) 523-1050,

Best Coast Guard Cutter in, Like, the Whole World

USCGC Waesche

If you’re into big boats and big guns, you should be pleased as punch that the
USCGC Waesche is in service right over on Coast Guard Island. Officially commissioned in May 2010, the cutter is the second of eight National Security Cutters that the Coast Guard plans to build and boasts super-sophisticated command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems. Weapons enthusiasts will like this part: The Waesche carries a Mk110 57mm gun that fires 220 rounds per minute and creates a wall of bullets in front of the ship to protect it. Cool, huh? The ship’s mission is to execute maritime security operations, including for the joint U.S. combatant commanders. But it does peacetime work, too, such as patrolling for drugs and performing maritime rescues. —Susan E. Davis

Food & Restaurants

Shop With the Freshest Doughnuts
Lee’s Donuts
660 Central Ave., Ste. B • (510) 521-8019

Most Sumptuous Starters
2319 Santa Clara Ave. • (510) 521-LUNA

Best Asian Restaurant
Dragon Rouge
2304 Encinal Ave. • (510) 521-1800

Baddest Barbecue Joint
Great American Barbecue
2009 High St. • (510) 865-3133

Best Breakfast (7 a.m.–9 a.m.)
Jim’s Coffeeshop
2333 Lincoln Ave. • (510) 523-5368

TIE: Best Brunch (10 a.m.–2 p.m.)
Blue Dot Cafe & Coffee Bar
1910 Encinal Ave. • (510) 523-BLUE (2583)
The Hobnob
1313 Park St. • (510) 769-1011

Most Quintessential California Roll
2549 Santa Clara Ave. • (510) 521-9121

Hardest-to-Resist Outlet for Cookie-holics
Feel Good Bakery
1650 Park St. • (510) 864-2733

Quaintest Coffee Shop
Julie’s Coffee & Tea Garden
1223 Park St. • (510) 865-2385

To-Die-For Chicken Curry
Toomie’s Thai Restaurant
1433 Park St. • (510) 865-8008

Most Decadent Dessert
Tucker’s Ice Cream
1349 Park St. • (510) 522-4960

Best Established Restaurant (5 years or older)
2508 Santa Clara Ave. • (510) 521-4100

The Ultimate Greasy Spoon
Jim’s Coffeeshop
2333 Lincoln Ave. • (510) 523-5368

Best Two-Fisted Hamburger
2319 Central Ave. • (510) 865-3032

Best Italian Restaurant
C’era Una Volta
1332 Park St., Ste. D • (510) 769-4828

Most Satisfying Site for Late-night Munchies
Scolari’s Good Eats
1303 Park St. • (510) 521-2400

Best Mediterranean Restaurant
2508 Santa Clara Ave. • (510) 521-4100

Best Mexican Restaurant
La Penca Azul
1440 Park St. • (510) 769-9110
(also Bay Farm Island)

Best New Restaurant (open less than a year)
Scolari’s Good Eats
1303 Park St. • (510) 521-2400

Best Overall Restaurant
2320 Central Ave. • (510) 337-9100

Most Perfect Pie
Feel Good Bakery
1650 Park St. • (510) 864-2733

Best Produce Market
Dan’s Fresh Produce
2300 Central Ave. • (510) 523-1777

Pizzazziest Pizza
1330 Park St. • (510) 523-7500

Best Slow-Food Restaurant
2320 Central Ave. • (510) 337-9100

Spiciest Menu
Toomie’s Thai Restaurant
1433 Park St. • (510) 865-8008

Best Sushi
2549 Santa Clara Ave. • (510) 521-9121

Where to Get Gourmet Food on the Run
1650 Park St. • (510) 864-1044

Most Delicious West End Establishment
1536 Webster St. • (510) 522-7200

Best Park Street Restaurant
Burma Superstar
1345 Park St. • (510) 522-6200

Drink & Nightlife

Best Wine List
2320 Central Ave. • (510) 337-9100

Best Place for an Office Lunch
Kai’s Japanese Restaurant
1245 Park St. • (510) 523-4332

Best Coffee
Peet’s Coffee & Tea
various locations

Best Early Bird Special
Angela’s Bistro and Bar
2301 Central Ave. • (510) 522-5822

Where to Drink Beer With the Guys
Lucky 13
1301 Park St. • (510) 523-2118

Where to Sip Wine With the Gals
Angela’s Bistro and Bar
2301 Central Ave. • (510) 522-5822

Best Place to Get a Hangover
Lucky 13
1301 Park St. • (510) 523-2118

Best Place to Get Over a Hangover
The Hobnob
1313 Park St. • (510) 769-1011

Kickingest Cocktails
Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge
1304 Lincoln Ave. • (510) 749-0332

Happeningest Happy Hour
The Hobnob
1313 Park St. • (510) 769-1011

Most Dangerous Margaritas
La Penca Azul
1440 Park St. • (510) 769-9110
(also Bay Farm Island)

Bar With the Most Creative Bartenders
Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge
1304 Lincoln Ave. • (510) 749-0332

Most Amazing Wine Retailer
Farmstead Cheeses and Wines
1650 Park St. • (510) 864-9463

Best Wine/Spirits Maker/Producer
St. George Spirits
makers of Hangar One Vodka (and other distilled products)
2601 Monarch St., Alameda, (510) 769-1601 (St. George main line), (510) 864-0635 (St. George Tasting Room),,

Where to Party Down
Lucky 13
1301 Park St. • (510) 523-2118

Where to Get Your Groove On
The Churchward Pub
1515 Park St. • (510) 521-4800

Best Neon Sign
Alameda Theatre

Best Place to Get Dolled Up
Salon One
1327 Park St. • (510) 523-5555

Salon with the Hottest Styles
Salon One
1327 Park St. • (510) 523-5555

Best Local Crab Feed
St. Philip Neri School
1335 High St. • (510) 521-0787

Best Gym/Health Club for Working up a Sweat
Harbor Bay Club
200 Packet Landing Road
(510) 521-5414

Best Dance Studio for Adults
West Coast Dance Theatre
1701 Lincoln Ave. • (510) 523-2828

Most Relaxing Massage Option
1350 Park St. • (510) 523-2639

TIE: Most Civic-Minded Civic Club
Alameda Elks Lodge
Rotary Club of Alameda

Most Motivational Personal Trainer
Erin Kreitz-Shirey
Power Fitness PDX

Spa with the Highest “Ah!” Factor
Harbor Bay Club
200 Packet Landing Road
(510) 521-5414

Best Event in Alameda
Park Street Art & Wine Faire

Goods & Services

Best Antique Store
Pauline’s Antiques
1427 Park St. • (510) 523-9941

Most Dependable Auto Repair Shop
Engine Works
1923 Minturn St. • (510) 523-6779

Best Book Store
Books Inc.
1344 Park St. • (510) 522-2226

A-Cut-Above-the-Rest Butcher Shop
Baron’s Meat & Poultry
1650 Park St. Ste. D • (510) 864-1915

Tie: Trendiest Eyeglasses/Eyewear Outlet
Eyewise Optometry
2651 Blanding Ave., Ste. B
(510) 748-9749
Alameda Eyes
1432 Park St. • (510) 769-2020

Where to Pick up a Memorable Gift
Whales & Friends
2060 Lincoln Ave. • (510) 769-8500

Best Grocery Store
Alameda Natural Grocery
1650 Park St., Ste. L
(510) 865-1500

Unbeatable Manicure/Pedicure Palace
We Are Nails and More
1317 Park St. • (510) 864-7303

Best New Business
Scolari’s Good Eats
1303 Park St. • (510) 521-2400

Best Place to Rejuvenate
1350 Park St. • (510) 523-2639

Where to Treat Your Feet
Scott’s Shoes
1330 Park St. • (510) 865-5565

Best Shopping Center/District
Park Street

Best Supplied Stocker of Bags, Baubles, Belts and Bangles
1350 Park St., Ste. A • (510) 864-0244 ‎

Best Hired Wheels for Chauffeur Service
Guru Cab Service
1102 1/2 Lincoln Ave. • (510) 521-3671

Best Renovation (Home)
Buestad Construction Inc.
2533 Clement Ave. • (510) 523-1925

Best Renovation (Commercial)
Carroll Construction
1504 Park St. • (510) 523-1968


Best After-School Program
Girls Inc. of the Island City
1724 Santa Clara Ave. • (510) 521-1743

Best Venue to Celebrate Birthdays
1710 Lincoln Ave. • (510) 522-6600

Best Place to Deck out Kids
Tot Tank
1413 Park St. • (510) 865-8265

Best Place to Get a Birthday Cake
Tucker’s Ice Cream
1349 Park St. • (510) 522-4960

Most Kid-Friendly Dance Studio
Dance/10 Performing Arts Center
900 Santa Clara Ave. • (510) 339-3345

Best Place for Kids Haircuts
Salon One
1327 Park St. • (510) 523-5555

Most Kid-Friendly Restaurant
1338 Park St. • (510) 521-1000

Best Private School
St. Philip Neri School
1335 High St. • (510) 521-0787

Best Public School
Edison Elementary School
2700 Buena Vista Ave. • (510) 748-4002

Most Fun Summer Camp
Alameda Recreation and Park Department’s Hidden Cove
Trail’s End and Trailblazers Programs

Best Musical Instruction for Kids
Starland Music Center
1631 Park St. • (510) 523-4797

Best Sports/Martial Arts Program (Non-school)
USA Kung Fu
1828 Park St. • (510) 769-8018
(also Castro Valley)


Best Chef
John Thiel, Pappo
2320 Central Ave. • (510) 337-9100

Best Chiropractor
Cynthia Boyd
Symmetry Chiropractic
2329A Eagle Ave. • (510) 769-0125

Best Acupuncturist
John Nieters
2258 Santa Clara Ave., Ste. 1
(510) 814-6900

Best Dentist
Douglas S. Mitchell
2145 Central Ave. • (510) 865-4551

Best Veterinarian
Park Centre Animal Hospital
2501 Central Ave.
(510) 521-1700

Most Passionate Pet Sitter
Island Pets
(510) 502-3999

Most Gregarious Shopkeeper
Jasmin Thon
Salon One
1327 Park St. • (510) 523-5555

Most Legendary Legal Eagle
Bev Johnson


Add your comment:

Please visit our Privacy Policy for information regarding how we use this information.