The Best of Alameda 2006

Editor's Choices for Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall


Published:

Winter, spring, summer and fall-there's always something worth celebrating in Alameda.
That's why we, the editors of Alameda Magazine, decided to take a peek at the Island throughout the year to highlight some of our favorite things, from festivals and hometown phenomena to food and drink. Coming up with this short list of seasonal bests in our own quirky categories was a cinch, because every time of year has some defining element that shouts Alameda!
Our Best Of list purposefully spans the year: Christmas, New Year's, romance, St. Paddy's Day, Cinco de Mayo, antique shopping, patriotism, summer fun, whatnots, Oktoberfest, Skippy peanut butter and the Raiders-they all play a part. What defines each season in Alameda for you?
Since 2004, our Best Of coverage has focused on what you, the readers, say is the Best of Alameda. And so we wouldn't dare complete our Best Of package without publishing the results or our annual readers' poll. Is your favorite chef still No. 1? Which restaurant has a wine list that's unsurpassed? Where's the best storefront window display? And what's the best reason to live in Alameda?
Start flipping the pages to find out what we think and what readers say in 65 Best Of categories.
-Editor

 

Best Tinseled Two-Steppers: The Tap Dancing Christmas Trees


For the Alameda Tap Dancing Christmas Trees, Christmas comes a lot more than once a year. Holiday cheer sprouts early with rehearsals for the 30-odd leafy dancers and then snowballs into 40 yuletide performances. These fleet-footed Douglas firs, ranging from a 16-year-old sapling to full-grown (55-plus) foliage, tap at seasonal tree lighting ceremonies, private parties and holiday parades. It's hard work, but the tireless trees have swiveled and ball-changed their way into two Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parades and a Coca-Cola commercial. The hardest working trees in the business-commuting (roped to the top of minivans, of course) from as far as Marin County-practice at Pamm Drake's Dance/10 Studios. Only a few performances happen in Alameda, but these shining Christmas stars cruise meet-and-greets to branch out to fans across the Bay Area. The group's main goal, dancer Ryan Justus says, is just to "keep it upbeat, so everybody wants to dance with us." Dance/10 Studios, 900 Santa Clara Ave., (510) 339-3345, www.dance10.org.
-Christopher Danzig

 

Best Way to Invent a New You: Harbor Bay Club


Every January, we make the pledge to get up, get out and lose the winter weight in time for bathing suit season. Getting fit and fabulous is no easy task, but Habor Bay Club makes keeping that New Year's resolution a little easier with a luxurious athletic facility that includes a full gym, 19 tennis courts, a 25-meter pool and loads of aerobic and fitness classes. Whether it's yoga, Pilates, cycling, swimming or just some good old-fashioned cardio that you're craving, Harbor Bay has the ticket to a healthier you. The club also has the perfect reward for all your hard work-a facial, massage or body treatment at the swank day spa. Getting in shape has never been easier! 200 Packet Landing Road, (510) 521-5414, www.harborbayclub.com
-Amanda Cherrin

 

Best Place to Dine with Your Darlin': Pappo Restaurant


Romantic Valentine's Day dining, take your sweetie to Pappo, Alameda's favorite new restaurant, for an intimate candlelit feast. Chef/owner John Thiel, an Alamedan and Bay Wolf alum, set up shop on Central Avenue in fall 2005 after growing tired of leaving the Island in search of five-star food and wine. Since then, Pappo has quickly become the go-to Island eatery, luring local diners with classic California and Mediterranean cuisine and a homey yet elegant atmosphere. "We hear from a lot of customers, 'We love your restaurant; thank you for being here-don't leave,' " says Thiel. Now that's amore!" 2320 Central Ave., (510) 337-9100, www.papporestaurant.com.
-A.C.

 

Readers' Choice Winners Food & Drink

CHEF: John Thiel of Pappo,
2320 Central Ave.,
(510) 337-9100
DELI SANDWICHES:
Dimitra's Sandwiches To Go,
1251 Park St., (510) 521-3737,
and 714 Central Ave.,
(510) 749-6700
BAKERY:
Boniere Bakery, 1417 Park St., (510) 522-0110
BARTENDER:
Brian Blewer
of McGee's Bar & Grill,
1645 Park St.,
(510) 522-3470
BURRITO:
Taqueria Ramiro and Sons, 2321 Alameda Ave.,
(510) 523-5071
COCKTAILS:
Z's Cocktail Lounge,
1403 Encinal Ave.,
(510) 749-9900
BREAKFAST:
Jim's Coffee Shop, 2333 Lincoln Ave.,
(510) 523-5368
MEXICAN:
La Piñata No. 3,
1440 Park St., (510) 769-9110
COFFEE SHOP:
Jim's Coffee Shop, 2333 Lincoln Ave.,
(510) 523-5368
DESSERT:
Tucker's Super-Creamed Ice Cream, 1349 Park St., (510) 522-4960
HAMBURGER:
Nation's Giant Hamburgers,
1432 Webster St., (510) 521-8888
MARGARITA:
La Piñata No. 3,
1440 Park St., (510) 769-9110
BEER SELECTION:
Speisekammer, 2424 Lincoln Ave.,
(510) 522-1300
NEW RESTAURANT:
Pappo, 2320 Central Ave.,
(510) 337-9100

 

Best Venue for Spotting Leprechauns: McGees Bar & Grill


If you can't make it to that other Island this spring, McGee's may be the second best place to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Last year McGee's served up the obligatory green beer and more than 150 pounds of corned beef, throwing in bagpipes and Irish dance performances for good measure. Manager Tim Goodman says the Irish dancer wasn't even scheduled to perform, "she just showed up with her own music and set up in the corner." Goodman adds that this is the spirit of the event and, to this end, the bar does not spend much time planning the event. "We just open the door and hold down the hatches," he says. 1645 Park St., (510) 522-3470.
-Daniel Jewett

 

Best Way to Hang with Jose (Cuervo): La Pinata No. 3


On Cinco de Mayo, there's no livelier place in Alameda to sport sombreros, wave Mexican flags and sip margaritas than La Piñata No. 3. Friendly regulars, able wait staff and colorful south-of-the-border decor plus an extensive selection of authentic Mexican dishes make this the place to be on May 5. Top-shelf margs and high-end shots for smooth sipping are in equal demand at La Piñata, an Alameda institution for 19 years that offers more than 800 different kinds of tequila. "People love to come here and taste and learn about tequila," says manager Galdina Guzman. "We teach people where tequila comes from and try to steer them towards 100 percent agave." She says the best tequila is made from the distilled and fermented juice of agave (a spiky-leafed member of the lily family that is not a cactus) plants found in Mexico. We think the best tequila is combined with margarita mix and served over ice. Olé! 1440 Park St., (510) 769-9110, www.lapinata.com.
-D.J.

 

Best Pack Rat Paradise: The Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Faire


Since its inception in 1998, the Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Faire has grown by leaps and bounds to become the largest antique fair in Northern California. The event started with 250 booths and about 3,300 shoppers and now boasts a record-breaking 1,700 booths and 10,000 customers per event. A favorite weekend pastime each spring (and year-round, for that matter), the massive event covers more than 50 acres on the first Sunday of every month (weather permitting) at the former Alameda Point Naval Air Station. As for the antiquity of items for sale, nothing younger than 20 years old is allowed. "It never fails-people never leave here empty handed," says Alameda resident and co-owner Jerry Goldman. "We truly have something for everyone." Ferry Point and Atlantic Avenue, (510) 522-7500, www.antiquesbybay.com.
-D.J.

 

Readers' Choice Winners Food & Drink

ESTABLISHED RESTAURANT
(OPERATING MORE THAN  5 YEARS):
Asena Restaurant,
2508 Santa Clara Ave.,
(510) 521-4100
CHEAP EATS:
Kobe-Ya,
2300 Encinal Ave.,
(510) 337-1966
OVERALL RESTAURANT:
Asena Restaurant,
2508 Santa Clara Ave.,
(510) 521-4100
PIZZA:
LaVal's Pizza,
891 Island Drive, (510) 521-7711
SUSHI: Sushi House,
2375 Shoreline Drive,
(510) 865-0999
WINE LIST:
TIE: C'era Una Volta,
1332 Park St.,
(510) 769-4828,
and Pappo, 2320 Central Ave.,
(510) 337-9100
ASIAN:
Harbor View Chinese Restaurant,
891 Island Drive, (510) 521-1911
LUNCH SPOT:
Tomatina,
1338 Park St.,
(510) 521-1000
MOST KID-FRIENDLY RES-TAURANT:
Chevy's Fresh Mex Restaurant,
2400 Mariner Square Drive,
(510) 521-3768
 

Readers' Choice Winners Goods & Services

SALON:
Spank Salon,
1912 Clement Ave.,
(510) 521-9100
SCHOOL:
Alameda High School,
2201 Encinal Ave.,
(510) 337-7022
ARTIST:
Charmaine Pearson
DRY CLEANER:
TIE: One Hour Martinizing,
2210 Alameda Towne Centre,
(510) 523-6033,
and Revelations Cleaners,
2309 Encinal Ave., Suite A,
(510) 522-9131
HAIRSTYLIST:
TIE: Angela Scott from Spank Salon,
1912 Clement Ave., (510) 521-9100,
and Michele O'Brien formerly with Spank, now with InStyle, (510) 521-0265
PHYSICIAN:
TIE: B. Anne Parker, MD,
1332 Park Ave., (510) 523-3417;
Robert J. Butts, MD,
1332 Park Ave., (510) 523-3417;
Peter Candell, MD,
2433 Central Ave., (510) 521-2300
DENTIST:
Richard Tabor, DDS,
1821 Santa Clara Ave.,
(510) 865-2900
VETERINARIAN:
Providence Veterinary Hospital,
2304 Pacific Ave., (510) 521-6608,
1409 Webster St., (510) 521-5775
AUTO SHOP:
Alameda Auto Lab,
631 Buena Vista Ave., (510) 522-0510
REAL ESTATE AGENT:
Sherrie Pagones from Harbor Bay Realty
GYM/HEALTH CLUB:
Harbor Bay Club,
200 Packet Landing Road,
(510) 521-5535
INTERIOR DESIGNER:
Barbara Kruse,
345 Taylor Ave., (510) 521-3300
 

Readers' Choice Winners Retail

ANTIQUE STORE:
Pauline's Antiques,
1427 Park St., (510) 523-9941
BOUTIQUE:
3 Wishes,
1428 Park St., (510) 523-4438
GIFT SHOP:
Vignettes of Alameda,
1201 Park St., (510) 521-5900
WINE RETAILER:
TIE: Trader Joe's,
2217 Alameda Towne Centre,
(510) 769-5450, and
Du Vin Wines,
2526 Santa Clara Ave.,
(510) 769-9463
FLORIST:
Olympic Florist,
2544 Santa Clara Ave.,
(510) 523-4210
SHOE STORE:
Scott's Shoes,
1330 Park St., (510) 865-5565
JEWELRY STORE:
Seelenbacher Jewelers,
1507 Webster St., (510) 522-8300
GROCERY STORE:
Trader Joe's,
2217 Alameda Towne Centre,
(510) 769-5450
HOME & GARDEN ACCESSORIES STORE:
Pagano's,
1100 Lincoln Ave.,
(510) 522-1345
BEST STORE FRONT WINDOW:
Vignettes of Alameda,
1201 Park St., (510) 521-5900
NEW RETAIL STORE:

Doumitt Shoes,
1501 Park St.
(510) 523-7463

 

Readers Choice Winners Miscellaneous

BEST COMPANY TO WORK FOR:
Harbor Bay Realty,
885 Island Drive,
(510) 523-1144
 
BEST REASON TO LIVE IN ALAMEDA:
 
Small-town atmosphere
 
BEST EVENT:
Park Street Art and Wine Faire
BEST COMMUNITY FIGURE:
Frederica von Stade,
Nick Cabral
and George Phillips
MOST KID-FRIENDLY PARK:
Franklin Park
BEST STREET TO LIVE ON:
Grand Street
BEST PLACE TO MEET SINGLES:
Scobie's Sports Bar & Grill,
2431 Central Ave.,
(510) 865-2344

 

Best Place to Stand United: The Mayor s Fourth of July Parade


If you don't watch the Alameda Fourth of July parade, you're probably in it. Each year, 20,000 patriots-parents, punks, bikers, young 'uns and old-timers-cram Park Street and the rest of the route to honor our country's Independence Day. To see the three-plus-mile, 150-float parade, Alamedans (and their loyally dressed dogs) stake their territory with lawn chairs long before the cavalcade's 10 a.m. start. The parade itself, one of the longest July 4 processions in California, boasts superior floats-the 2006 event included the front end of a fighter jet, a Coast Guard cruiser, sparring martial artists, a funk ensemble and an eight-piece mariachi band. With thousands of families clapping, children shouting and senior citizens waving handheld flags, the Fourth of July offers a rare chance for the whole Island to unite not only as Alamedans but also as Americans.
-C.D.

 

Best Quick Trip to Tahiti: Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge


Need a vacation? At Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge, the tropics are just a few blocks away. Although this sip of the South Pacific only opened in April, co-owner Martin Cate needs a doorman to control the crowds that pack the summer hideaway each weekend. The former Trader Vic's bartender offers a superlative drink list, including 55 different rums and seven drinks invented at the small island cabana. Cate takes care only to serve the highest-quality fruit juices, which he squeezes himself, and he makes fresh grenadine with real pomegranate. "A tiki bar is an imaginary thing," Cate says. "It's mysterious and exotic." When you look at the fishing nets and bamboo adorning the walls, the multicolored lights glowing through puffer fish lamps and listen to the low-key Hawaiian music flowing through the bar's permanent dusk, he's right. 1304 Lincoln Ave., (510) 746-0332,
www.forbiddenislandalameda.com.
-C.D.

 

Best One-Stop Shop for Summer Fix-Its: Pagano's


An old window-display effigy of Rudy Giuliani dangles, Muppet-like, from one of Dave Giovannoli's crowded shelves in his Pagano's hardware store office. "We like to have fun with those," says Giovannoli, who has co-owned the hardware store since 1994. Crammed onto two wood-paneled floors and 10-foot high shelves, the massive and eclectic inventory includes welcome mats, Radio Flyer wagons, an entire aisle devoted to light bulbs and more. Come summer, it's jamming with Alameda's best summer home improvement selection: gas and charcoal grills, garden supplies and sprinkler systems. Local handymen are regulars for big undertakings as well as little tasks, like summer paint projects, new light fixtures or, Giovannoli chuckles, Betty Boop collectibles. "Two 300-pound construction guys get their stuff for the job," he says, "and get all excited about the Betty Boop salt shaker. 'Oooh! We don't have one of those!' " 1100 Lincoln Ave., (510) 522-1345,
www.paganoshardware.com.
-C.D.

 

Best Setting to Raise a Stein: Oktoberfest at Speisekammer


Can't make it to Munich? Well, the best celebration of the 1810 wedding of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen, also known as Oktoberfest, may take place in Alameda. Join beer fans from all over the bay as they take over Speisekammer and neighboring Lincoln Avenue for one of the most colorful of fall celebrations. The restaurant was opened in 2002 by Peter and Cindy Kahl, the people respectively behind San Francisco's Suppenküche and Café DuNord, and features traditional German food and beer and a large biergarten. "It's a German take on Alameda," says special event coordinator Kate Meade. To get the complete experience, visit the restaurant on Sept. 30 or Oct. 1, when Spiesekammer celebrates Oktoberfest in style, complete with waitstaff in authentic dress, an oompah band and, of course, lots and lots of beer. 2424 Lincoln Ave., (510) 522-1300, www.speisekammer.com.
-D.J.

 

Best Excuse to Unleash your Inner Outlaw: Oakland Raiders


Every fall brings a new season. And every season, it's the same drill: The Raider Nation suits up in its finest outlaw attire and storms the Coliseum with swords, axes and any and all Medieval torture tools in tow to cheer and/or maim for their beloved team. And the on-field Raiders respond accordingly: Since Al Davis took over the organization in 1963, the Silver and Black have won three Super Bowls, four AFC Championships and 17 division titles, posting the best overall record in professional football. Though they've struggled in recent years, the Raiders-with Alameda-based headquarters on Harbor Bay Parkway, by the way-remain committed to excellence, looking to get back to greatness in 2006 with a new head coach and a revamped squad of Oakland outlaws. 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway, (510) 864-5000, (800) RAIDERS, www.raiders.com.
-A.C.

 

Best Chance to Spread your Enthusiasm: Peanut Butter Jam


In honor of Skippy Peanut Butter's Alameda birthplace and original production center, upward of 20,000 people pack Webster Street each year for the Peanut Butter Jam, a celebration of Skippy's star-studded history-including one-time ads by Norman Rockwell and shilling from the likes of Derek Jeter and Bonnie Blair. Look for peanut butter-themed snacks, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, mini Skippy jars and a peanut butter recipe bake-off. Peanut butter aside, West End restaurants sell delicious cuisine in street-side booths. The jam aspect means music-swing, Caribbean, blues, zydeco, oldies, jazz and acoustic rock bands-on one stage, and there's a second stage where the nimble-footed teach dance moves smoother than Skippy's creamy spread. So head west to celebrate Alameda's claim to sandwich-spread fame. (510) 523-5955, westalamedabusiness.com.
-C.D.