Best of 2013

Victors, champs, conquerors: They’re all winners in the 2013 Best Of poll.


Lori Eanes

Alameda is the kind of place movie location scouts probably dream about as the setting for a film about the quintessential American town. And it’s the sort of community where generation upon generation thrive; where little kids swim in San Francisco Bay in the morning and play indoor mini-golf in the afternoon. Heck, we’ve even got two Jack in the Boxes. Neither too big nor too small, Alameda manages to hold on to its charm while still offering everything—from shopping to restaurants to recreation—that the most discerning resident and astute Alameda Magazine reader could possibly want. Here, without further ado, is what those discriminating readers love most, by category, about Alameda according to the 2013 Best of Alameda readers’ choice poll.

jump to: Food & Restaurant | Drinks | Lifestyle | Goods & Services | Kids | Pets

Food & Restaurant

Best Barbecue

Looney’s Southern Bar-B-Q
Ken Looney’s Texan dad liked to cook the state’s signature dish, beef brisket. But, Looney wasn’t a big fan of the results—too dry. Looney, who holds a master’s degree in nuclear engineering and is a former Navy nuclear submarine officer, has taken a decidedly more scientific approach to ’cueing than his dear, old dad. The centerpiece of these efforts? His high-tech Friedrich electric smoker that uses wood chips. This allows Looney to have the best of both worlds: smoke and heat control. Looney cooks his brisket for 14 hours at 190 degrees, well below the 250 degrees of most wood-fired smokers. Looney’s slow method produces not just succulent brisket, but equally stellar pulled pork, chicken, and beef ribs. Looney’s offers 10 different sauces, including an ever popular sweet and smoky Kansas City sauce, Looney’s default choice for those not sure what they want. One sauce for more adventurous palates is Looney’s extra spicy featuring the mighty ghost pepper. Located inside Scobies Sports Bar and Grill, Looney’s Alameda location does not have its own smoker—they get all their ’cue from the Oakland outlet—but it travels well. A third location, in a former Round Table Pizza in San Leandro, also
is now open, and they’re serving—
what else?—barbecue pizza.
2430 Central Ave., 510-263-9589,

Best Brunch

The Hobnob
1313 Park St., 510-769-1011,

Best Food Truck

Scolari’s Good Eats
Mike Boyd, the mastermind behind the sought-after Scolari’s Good Eats, didn’t set out to buy a food truck—he was just along for the ride with business partner Dan Nichols, owner of the Lucky 13 bar, in his quest for a vintage Airstream trailer. Visiting an Airstream collector’s spread in far Northern California, they set their eyes on a gleaming 1964 stainless-steel beauty that had been converted into a kitchen. It was almost love at first sight. For the past year it has served as Scolari’s on wheels (although since it doesn’t have its own motor; it’s more of a lunch wagon). Pulling the wagon is an equally impressive 1988 Jeep Wagoneer with two-tone faux wood paneling. It is essentially a rolling version of the ever-changing Scolari’s blackboard special menu with only-at-Scolari’s items like the chicken and waffle taco, a fried-chicken breast nestled into a folded waffle drizzled with syrup. Another Scolari’s food truck first is the pastrami Reuben taco—just substitute a taco for rye bread. But perhaps the pièce de résistance is lobster-butter popcorn. Just puree some lobster shells, throw in some butter, strain, and then trickle over popcorn. Look for the Scolari’s food wagon every Friday at Harbor Bay and at Alameda’s monthly antique fair. The wagon is also available for catering and weddings. 1303 Park St., 510-521-2400.

Best French Fries

Scolari’s Good Eats
1303 Park St., 510-521-2400.

Best Chef

John Theil, Pappo
2320 Central Ave., 510-337-9100,

Best New Restaurant

Spice I Am
Thai food has been wowing the Bay Area since the ’80s, but often the ambiance can leave a little something to be desired. Alameda’s new gem, Spice I Am, solves that problem quite admirably. Sleek and sophisticated, the clean lines and modern decor of this restaurant are the perfect complement to the food—a combination of traditional Thai cuisine as well as tasty items such as deep-fried chicken tossed with cashew nuts, mushrooms, bell pepper, fresh onions, roasted chilis, and sweet chili sauce. If that doesn’t sound yummy, you don’t know what yummy is. And, if you’re just interested in a little lunch, Spice I Am can satisfy that craving with one of the lunch specials that cost a mere $7.
1353 Park St., 510-522-8679,

Best Bakery

Feel Good Bakery
1650 Park St., Suite 1, 510-864-2733,

Best Breakfast (Sitdown)

Jim’s Coffee Shop
2333 Lincoln Ave., 510-523-5368, (Also Jim’s On the Course, 1 Club House Memorial Road, Alameda,


Scolari’s Good Eats
1303 Park St., 510-521-2400.

Best Nonburger

Scolari’s Good Eats
1303 Park St., 510-521-2400.

Best California Cuisine

2320 Central Ave., 510-337-9100,

Best Chinese Restaurant

East Ocean Seafood Restaurant
1713 Webster St., 510-865-3381,

Best Chef, Best California Cuisine, Best Date Night Spot, Best Overall Restaurant,
Best Restaurant With Staying Power, best Restaurant With Best Service, Best Wine List.

7 Wins for John Thiel and Pappo

John Thiel’s Summer Wine Faves

After undergoing an eco-friendly remodel and revamping the menu to include more affordable items, Pappo’s John Thiel has managed to keep his casual, high-quality eatery a local fave. One significant change is the addition of a wine bar where guests can savor a large selection of wines by the glass and tasty small plates. Special events to keep an eye out for (join the email list) include: the winemaker dinners; the ever-popular Thursday night market dinners; the summer barbecue series; as well as live music in July and August. For home chefs, Thiel offers these suggestions for wine to serve with your best grilled entrees, and a few are from his own winery. 2320 Central Ave., 510-337-9100,

Best Date Night Restaurant

2320 Central Ave., 510-337-9100,

Best Dim Sum

East Ocean Seafood Restaurant
1713 Webster St., 510-865-3381,

Best Food Truck

Scolari’s Good Eats
1303 Park St., 510-521-2400.

Best Italian Restaurant

C’era Una Volta
1332 Park St., Suite D,

Best Late-Night Munchies

Scolari’s Good Eats
1303 Park St., 510-521-2400.

Best Greek / Mediterranean Restaurant

Troy Greek Cuisine
If the old palate is ready for something a little different, then the Greek fries at Troy are a must. Topped with parsley, shredded Parmesan, salt, and pepper, the Troy’s take on the Greek version of fries makes ordinary fries want to curl up in the fetal position. Greek fries are traditionally topped with feta cheese, but Troy co-owner Firas Masarweh says feta’s too expensive and he’d have to charge too much so he substitutes with Parmesan. And, at $1.95 a pop, they are a steal. “Everything we get is high quality without the high price,” says Masarweh.
2318 A Central Ave., 510-522-2800,

Best Mexican Restaurant

La Penca Azul
1440 Park St., 510-769-9110;
891-B Island Drive, 510-814-0560;

Best Overall Restaurant

2320 Central Ave., 510-337-9100,

Best Outdoor Restaurant

2424 Lincoln Ave., 510-522-1300,

Best Restaurant With a View

Dragon Rouge Restaurant
2337 Blanding Ave., 510-521-1800,

Best Restaurant With Staying Power (5-plus years in business)

2320 Central Ave., 510-337-9100,

Restaurant With the Best Service

2320 Central Ave., 510-337-9100,

Best Thin-Crust Pizza

East End Pizza Co.
1650 Park St., 510-263-9630,

Best Thick-Crust Pizza

La Val’s
Pizza crusts, like accents, are regional. Chicago is famous for its deep-dish style. New Yorkers crave their thin-crust pies. And Alameda has its own go-to crust, La Val’s “homestyle thick crust.” Letting the dough rise for 48 hours before being subjected to a rolling pin, La Val’s thick crust is the kind of substantial base that can withstand extra toppings. And, that’s a good thing considering these pizzas are made with extra sauce and cheese. La Val’s doesn’t scrimp on the toppings, which range from the traditional pepperoni and mushrooms to the exotic, like shrimp and artichoke hearts. I take it easy and order a classic La Val’s creation like the seriously meaty LaVal’s Special that includes salami, pepperoni, linguica, sausage, and beef.
891 Island Drive, 510-521-7711,

Best Sushi Restaurant

Kamakura Restaurant
2549 Santa Clara Ave., 510-521-9121,

Best Thai Restaurant

Toomie’s Thai Cuisine
1433 Park St., 510-865-8008,

Best Vietnamese Restaurant

Dragon Rouge Restaurant
2337 Blanding Ave., 510-521-1800,

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Best Coffee

Peet’s Coffee & Tea
1365 Park St., 510-473-0136,
(Also 2531 Blanding Ave.,

Best Beer Selection

Lucky 13
1301 Park St., 510-523-2119,

Best Cocktails

Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge
1304 Lincoln Ave., 510-749-0332,

Best Artisanal Cocktails

Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge
Forbidden Island general manager Michael Thanos prides himself on running an authentic tiki bar. It’s as if you’re back in Oakland in the 1950s at the original Trader Vic’s where the mai tai was born. All juices are fresh squeezed, syrups are housemade, and there are more than 99 rum choices on hand. Like any tiki bar worth its salt, many drinks have distinctive names such as The Virgin Sacrifice. It’s served complete with pyrotechnics. Imagine a 40-ounce bowl of mango, cinnamon, and several rums with a rum-fueled fire in the middle. All you need are five other imbibers and six long straws to enjoy this mini volcano. Drinking alone? Then a Suffering Bastard is definitely in order: lime, ginger ale, bourbon, and gin—yes, bourbon and gin together in the same drink. No wonder he’s suffering. Or there’s always the tribute to the king of tiki-themed music, Martin Denny, called the Exotica after one of Denny’s albums. It features Hangar One Firelit Coffee Liqueur, gold rum, and brandy. This one’s guaranteed to give and cure a hangover. When in doubt at a tiki bar, though, always opt for the Zombie—after just one, you’ll be padding around on all fours and, with any luck, immortalized on Instagram.
1304 Lincoln Ave., 510-749-0332,

Best Happy Hour

La Penca Azul
Best happy hour is a pretty competitive category in any reader’s poll, just because of the sheer volume of the category. No bar worth its margarita salt doesn’t have a happy hour. But happy hours at both La Pencas are, well, just a little more joyous. Sure, there are the drink specials including top-shelf margaritas and a very cool tequila sampler of Espolon, Cabo Wabo, and Tequila 1921, both for a mere $7. LP even has Mexican beer samplers for folks who can’t make up their minds—line ’em up, padre. Or should I call you amigo? But, as true diners know, happy hour is also where the killer appetizer deals can be found, and La Penca is no slouch here either with items like chicharrones de pollo, moist, crispy fried-chicken chunks, red cabbage, whole beans, and cilantro house dressing. Olé! Even nondrinkers like Alameda lifer Michael Wilke rave about the happy hour at La Penca, especially the service. “Even when it’s packed, it’s fast. And, they’re open late.”
1440 Park St., 510-769-9110;
891-B Island Drive, 510-814-0560;

Best Margaritas

La Penca Azul
1440 Park St., 510-769-9110;
891-B Island Drive, 510-814-0560;

Best Martini

The Hobnob
1313 Park St., 510-769-1011,

Best Neighborhood Bar

Lucky 13
1301 Park St., 510-523-2119,

Best Wine Bar

Alameda Wine Co.
2315 Central Ave., 510-523-9463,

Best Wine List

2320 Central Ave., 510-337-9100,

Best Local Winery

Rock Wall Wine Company
2301 Monarch St., 510-522-5700,

Best Place to Drink Cheap

Lucky 13
1301 Park St., 510-523-2119,

Best Selection of Whiskeys/Bourbons/Hard Liquors

St. George Spirits
Over the years St. George Spirits, makers of the ultra-smooth Hangar One Vodka, have accumulated many firsts, including crafting the first eau de vie stateside as well as absinthe after the U.S. ban on that spirit was lifted in 2007. Of course, now St. George also blends some mighty fine corn liquor, as my grandpappy would call it, including the most excellent Breaking & Entering Bourbon.
2601 Monarch St., 510-769-1601,

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Best Bay Area Day trip

San Francisco

Best Weekend Getaway


Best Girls’ Getaway

Napa / Sonoma

Best Guys’ Getaway

Las Vegas

Best Health Club / Gym

Harbor Bay Club
200 Packet Landing Road,

Best Local Fest or Annual Event

Park Street Art & Wine Faire

Best Local Tourist Attraction

USS Hornet
The aircraft carrier USS Hornet, a true hero of World War II, has made Alameda her home since 1998. Not every warship gets its own museum, but the Hornet is especially deserving. Starting in 1943, the Hornet served in the war’s Pacific Theater. One notable battle she participated in was the Marianas Turkey Shoot. During the battle, fighter pilots from the Hornet and other U.S. ships shot down nearly every Japanese plane headed for American carriers. The Hornet also ferried U.S servicemen back to the states after the war ended and served in the Korean and Vietnam wars. The ship even played a role in the space program retrieving Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr., and Michael Collins after they fell into the Pacific on their return from the moon in 1969. The Hornet was decommissioned in 1970 but still is a sight to see. Weighing in at 41,200 tons fully loaded, she is 894 feet long and can hit top speeds of 15 knots in her cruising days—that’s booking, especially for a battleship that was once home for more than 3,500 officers and troops on the high seas. Aye aye, matey.
707 W. Hornet Ave., Pier 3,

Best Live Music Venue

2424 Lincoln Ave.,

Best Museum in the East Bay

Oakland Museum of California
1000 Oak St., Oakland,

Best Museum in San Francisco

de Young Museum

Best Local/Regional Park

Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach
Bay Area beachcombers rightly view Santa Cruz as the closest place for a boardwalk-style fix, but that wasn’t always the case. From the 1880s up until the start of World War II, what is now Alameda’s Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach was known as the Coney Island of the West, thanks to the amusement park Neptune Beach. Sunbathers were dazzled by prizefights, baseball games, concerts, and balloon rides. Today’s Crown beachgoer is drawn by simpler pleasures like the 2½ miles of warm sandy beach, mild Bay water temps perfect for swimming, sand dunes, a dog park, and a bird sanctuary. Events held throughout the year include the sand castle contest and the Concerts at the Cove—bring your best beach chair and groove to the tunes while gazing out at the Bay. Who needs Santa Cruz?

Best East Bay Golf Course

Chuck Corica Golf Complex
Alameda’s golf scene has long been centered on the Chuck Corica Golf Complex named after the legendary former mayor. Featuring two 18-hole layouts—the Earl Fry North Course and the Jack Clark South Course—as well as a challenging nine-holer, the Mif Albright, Alameda’s links addicts have plenty of options. Despite the fact that the complex is being upgraded—including a state-of-the-art grass driving range—it is still quite popular as evidenced by the 115,000 rounds played a year. Some of those players are pretty big deals. There is Alameda native and Cal grad James Hahn, now on the PGA tour, and female phenoms Grace Na, the 2011 state champ from Alameda High, now on a full ride golf scholarship at Pepperdine University, and the Childs sisters, Carly and Emily, both standouts on the Cal women’s golf team. But even the average duffer can shine—especially if he scores a hole-in-one, which wins one a place on the clubhouse’s prestigious honor board. Tradition has it that those who “hole out” have to buy everyone in their playing group a drink.
1 Clubhouse Memorial Road, 510-747-7800,

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Best Antique Store

Pauline’s Antiques
1427 Park St., 510-523-9941,

Best Bookstore

Books Inc.
1344 Park St., 510-522-2226,

Best Butcher Shop

Joe Scalise Jr. and Sons Butcher Shop
3211 Encinal Ave.,

Best Consignment/Retail Shop

Second Home
Consignment shops usually are associated with people wanting to offload dresses, suits, and other clothing for a bit of cash. But as the aptly named Second Home in Alameda has shown, the concept works for furniture and other household goods as well. An ever changing array of items, such as chairs, vases, tables, shelves, and even some jewelry can be found at Second Home—anyone in the market for a Richard “I’m Not A Crook” Nixon wristwatch? While the website has all the pertinent information on consigning items, photos of merchandise are not available, because the goods fly out the door so quickly.
2534 Santa Clara Ave.,

Best Gift Shop

Modern Mouse
2228 South Shore Center,
Suite A, 510-814-8830,

Best Grocery Store (Nonchain)

Alameda Natural

1650 Park St., 510-865-1500,

Best Home Decor / Home Furnishings Store

Daisy’s, Alameda’s must-haves emporium, is named after Daisy Buchanan, the heroine of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Obviously, Daisy, with her “full of money” voice, has everything she could possibly ever desire in terms of home décor. Then again, maybe she still needs a few things. Daisy’s owner Barbara Mooney lists the items missing in Daisy’s life. Feel free to pick them up for her.

1.Luxurious linen bedding from Pom Pom at Home. “Daisy loves the feeling of soft linen on those warm Long Island mornings. They also remind her of her dapper Jay and his crisp linen suits.”
2.Corksicles, BPA-free plastic wine chillers. “If only these had been invented in time for the wild parties
of the ’20s.”
3.Copies of the book, Cupcakes and Cashmere: The Book. If blogs were around when Daisy was a debutante, she would have had one as utterly popular as the one that inspired this best-selling book. “It is always one of our go-to gifts and such a big hit.”
4.Butter nail polish is the perfect gift for her and pals like Jordan Baker—high fashion colors and just
a bit daring.
5.Chinese potting stools: “They were the height of fashion then, and they are today, too.” 
6.Candles made of soy and beeswax with fragrances of the garden and the Far East. “After all, importing goods was a trend made possible by the Industrial Age.”
7.A velvet settee. “The perfect place to lounge and sip a cold beverage.”
8.Whimsical cocktail tables to finish off small seating areas in any room of your house.
9.Wool Deco-inspired rugs. “They set the tone for any room and make your guests’ feet so comfortable.”
10.Lovely French perfumes.

“They make perfect hostess gifts. Indeed, they do.”
1347 Park St., 510-522-6443,

Best Jewelry Store

Seelenbacher Jewelers
Second-generation Alameda jeweler Chris Seelenbacher, like his father, Anton, who started the business in 1966, says he’s in the “customer-service business. I try to do the best I can for everyone.” This approach is especially evident in Seelenbacher’s custom jewelry design work. Not long ago, a woman brought in 12 pages of ring images she liked. Unfazed and using CAD, or computer-aided design, software, Seelenbacher was able to design a ring incorporating design aspects of the rings depicted on all 12 pages. Working with customers to come up with designs for rings, pendants, or earrings is “what I do best,” says Seelenbacher. In addition to replacing watch batteries and restringing necklaces, Seelenbacher also finds the time to carry his own line of watches. How timely.
1507 Webster St.,

Best Beauty Salon

Spank Salon
The peeps at Spank Salon are plugged into the fashion zeitgeist, especially from the neck up. They know what’s trending now, and five minutes from now. As evidence of this clairvoyance, check out Spank manager Gabi Cascio as she deftly handles questions about the most important of all follicles, hair.

Alameda Magazine: What are four hair trends that are on the horizon? Shaving heads? Reverse mohawks?

Gabi Cascio: For men, a hard part on the side (actually cut in with a clipper) with some length to comb over. It’s super polished and a favorite on the runway. For women, move over bobs; pixies are coming in with a roar. Other future faves include perfectly paired natural tones and dusty pastels, effortless waves, with the help of a layered haircut and scrunching with a nonaerosol hair spray. Look for low-maintenance hair. It wears well and grows out gracefully. Remember, don’t force the hairstyle. You wear the hair; it doesn’t wear you.
AM: Good to know. What does Spank do most at prom time?
GC: It really depends on what the client is seeking. We could go the way of classic Hollywood with some beautiful waves and flowing locks, to vintage pin-up or modern, by incorporating some braiding into a modified French twist.
AM: Somehow I like the idea of a French twist. What are the favorite celeb hairstyles of the stylists at Spank?
GC: Gina Lowe says Jennifer Lawrence has immaculate blond beach waves, and Khalila Wolfe loves anything on Rihanna.
AM: Well, who doesn’t? Finally, why is it called Spank?
GC: It was named after a French baby shampoo, or was it? We’ll never tell.

1912 Clement Ave., 510-521-9100,

Best Manicure/Pedicure

The Nail Shop
1351 Park St., 510-522-1401,

Best Place to Book a Shower / Party

Color Me Mine
Given the sheer number of birthday parties many of today’s kids have attended, planning one that involves an experience they haven’t already experienced can be a bit of a challenge. That’s where Color Me Mine comes to the rescue. Even if the children in question have already been there, they most certainly have not painted every ceramic mold in the joint. Not even close. The possibilities are endless. The results are also timeless, including a plate commemorating the experience. How cool is that?
2205 South Shore Center,

Best Place to Get Married

Alameda City Hall
2263 Santa Clara Ave.,

Best Spa

1350 Park St., 510-523-2639,

Best Shoe Store

Scott’s Shoes
Featuring a wide array of comfy to casual dress styles from reliable makers such as Clarks, Ecco, Merrell, Børn, and others, Scott’s has developed a well-deserved reputation for relaxed, informed service—kind of mirrors the shoes sold there. In fact, stepping into the store is a little like slipping on some dogs with gel inserts. Maybe hard-sell tactics just don’t work with comfortable shoes. What does seem to be working is owner Scott Erwen’s connection with his local clientele. After 18 years he’s gotten to know shoppers’ wants and desires, not to mention their widths. Just who are the island’s most shoe-obsessed residents? We went straight to Erwen for answers.

Alameda Magazine: Who is the ultimate Alameda shoe maven?
Scott Erwen: Let’s just call her Jane.
AM: OK. Presumably she’ll recognize herself when this comes out. If so, we want a tour of your closet, madame. What loyal customer has purchased the most pairs of shoes from you?
SE: There’s one lady who’s purchased 300 to 400 pairs.
AM: That’s pretty impressive, although not quite up there with Imelda Marcos. Still, it seems like she’d need an air-conditioned storage space for that many shoes. How do you feel about Alameda?
SE: I love Alameda. I love my customers. Only 30 to 40 percent of my customers come from out of town.

1330 Park St., 510-865-5565,

Shopping Shopping District

Park Street

Best Women’s Boutique

Lilac Dress Boutique
Whether shopping for a wedding dress or a new frock for the do this weekend, Lilac Dress Boutique has you covered, quite literally. With the largest selection of Nicole Miller wedding gowns in the entire Bay Area, future brides may have to bring along more than one trusted BFF to choose the dress. Lilac also carries evening gowns and other attire suitable for any gala event—even your preschooler’s graduation—as well as more casual wear for hanging out. It even has a men’s department for the guy who’s advanced sartorially beyond only jeans and tees.

1918 Encinal Ave., 510-865-2544,

Best Chiropractor

Symmetry Spine & Wellness
2329A Eagle Ave., 510-769-0125,

Best Dentist

Douglas S. Mitchell, D.M.D.
2145 Central Ave., Suite 1,

Best Wine Shop

Du Vin Fine Wines
2526 Santa Clara Ave.,
Suite A, 510-769-9463,

Best Acupuncturist

John Robert Nieters, L.Ac.
2258 Santa Clara Avenue,
Suite 1, 510-814-6900,

Best Place for a Facial

NoFu Skincare
1912 Clement Ave.,

Best Auto Repair

Alameda Collision Repair
1911 Park St., 510-523-4836,

Best Shop for Fashionable Eyewear

Eyewise Optometry
2651 Blanding Ave., 510-748-9749,

Best Real Estate Company

Harbor Bay Realty
885 Island Drive, 510-523-1144,

Best Real Estate Agent

John-Michael Kyono

Best Plastic Surgery Practice

Togba Plastic Surgery

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Best New Kid’s Clothes

Tot Tank
1413 Park St., 510-865-8265,

Best Gently Used Kids’ Clothes

Lauren’s Closet
The next best thing to having a relative who kicks down all their offspring’s used clothes is a consignment store specializing in such items. Fortunately, Alamedans have Lauren’s Closet. Need some colorful Velcro-strapped Mary Janes for a girl by See Kai Run? Lauren’s got ’em. Tweener dancewear? Check. Stuffed animals? Of course. The store also carries items that would appeal to the older set. Suffice it to say that Lauren’s Closet is probably the most organized closet this side of Berkeley.
1420 Park St., 510-865-2219,

Best New Toys

Toy Safari
1410 Park St., 510-522-1723,

Best Used Toys

Toy Safari
1410 Park St., 510-522-1723,

Best Children’s Birthday Cakes

Tucker’s Ice Cream
1349 Park St., 510-522-4960,

Best Kid-Friendly Vacation Destination


Most Kid-Friendly Restaurant

1338 Park St., 510-521-1000,

Best kids’ Birthday Venue

Color Me Mine
2205 South Shore Center,

Best Preschool

The Child Unique Montessori School
2226 Encinal Ave., 510-521-9227,

Best K–8 Public School

Bay Farm Elementary School
200 Aughinbaugh Way,

Best K–8 Private School

St. Joseph Elementary School
1910 San Antonio Ave.,

Best 9–12 Public High School

Alameda High School
2201 Encinal Ave., 510-337-7022,

Best 9–12 Private High School

Saint Joseph Notre Dame High School
1011 Chestnut St., 510-523-1526,

Best Summer Camp for Ages 3–7

Tie: Alameda Recreation and Parks Department and Harbor Bay Club

Best Summer Camp for Ages 8–12

Harbor Bay Club
Summertime, and the living is easy—provided the kids are not sitting on their duffs all day watching endless re-runs of Gossip Girl on Netflix. Kids need to be out of the house warding off Vitamin D deficiencies by soaking up rays. For that there’s no better place than the Harbor Bay Club. It offers camps specializing in tennis, swimming, as well cool activities like ultimate Frisbee, kickball, and martial arts, all in a noncompetitive atmosphere because let’s face it, 8-year-olds have plenty of time to learn how to become cutthroat competitors.
200 Packet Landing Road,

Best Summer Camp for Teens

Summer Shakespeare Conservancy at Cal Shakes

Best Overnight Camp

Young Actors’ Theatre Camp

Best Kids’ Haircuts

Happy Cuts
As the name implies, Happy Cuts is a frown-free zone. Getting ears lowered at a young age can be a traumatic event, but not at Happy Cuts. That’s because the stylists do a bang-up job of distracting kids with videos, and the salon even has mini-cars to sit in. For first-timers, a First Haircut Certificate, suitable for framing, is awarded along with a post-haircut Polaroid and a lock of the shorn hair for safekeeping. Sure beats a lollipop.

2306 Central Ave., 510-521-6954.

Best Music Instruction for Kids

Starland School of Music
At Starland School of Music, students don’t just show up and start jamming. First, they have a consultation with one of the center’s instructors to determine their musical training needs. Then a program is tailored for them. For 4- to 6-year-olds, Starland incorporates the Yamaha method developed by, yes, the very same Japanese company that makes everything from motorcycles to musical instruments. The method involves ear training, note reading, and music theory. Starland also sells all kinds of instruments, ranging from finger cymbals to electric organs and, of course, guitars. Starland even has its own guitar-learning system developed by owner Tomas Michaud. The step-by-step program is intended to teach kids (and adults) the techniques, skills, and theory to plunk out some radical blues, pop, rock, folk—even country. Yahoo! Once a year, Starland’s students also hold a marathon concert at the nearby Rhythmix Cultural Works.
1631 Park St., 510-523-4797,

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Best Place to Buy Things for Your Pet

Dog Bone Alley
1342 Park St., 510-521-5800,

Best Veterinarian or Clinic

Providence Veterinary Hospital & Clinic
Hospital/East, 2304 Pacific Ave., 510-521-6608;
Clinic/West, 1409 Webster St., 510-865-3153,

Best Dog-Friendly Restaurant

Some might say the world has gone to the dogs. Back in the day, they had to be chained up outside while you went into a restaurant to dine. But as more and more establishments have gone dog friendly, some restaurants have followed suit. Alameda’s best example is Speisekammer, where well-behaved dogs are welcome in the spacious beer garden. It’s even listed on the pet-friendly travel site No doubt, canines watching their waistlines appreciate the lighter-than-usual German fare like smoked pork chops with sauerkraut or red cabbage. Just don’t offer them a bite of sausage; it might remind them of the dreaded hot dog. Speisekammer also features a world-class selection of Central European suds, expertly made cocktails, and live music Thursday through Sunday. Also winner of Best Live Music Venue and Best Outdoor Restaurant.
2424 Lincoln Ave., 510-522-1300,

Best Place to Go Overnight with Fido


Best Place to Board Pets

Under One Woof
1701 Webster St., 510-523-3224,

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