The Best of Alameda

Our 107 Island Favorites


Published:



You've waited all year for this—our Best of Alameda issue in which we celebrate Island institutions and upstarts in 50 categories. From good and services to food and drink, Alameda is filled with gems well worth toasting, so pop that champagne cork and raisee your flute to honor these Best of Alameda winners.

 

 

Best Overall Restaurant

Angela’s Restaurant

Don’t let the West End strip shopping center location fool you: Angela’s Restaurant is one of Alameda’s best restaurants, plating up Mediterranean-inspired dishes—creamy risotto, flaky duck strudel and expertly grilled meats—from the kitchen of chef Saboor Zafari, an Afghan immigrant who brings a multicultural palate to Alameda in his upscale bistro named for his daughter.
Angela’s Restaurant, 807 Marina Village Parkway, (510) 522-5822, www.angelasrestaurant.com. —JG
Runner-up: C’era Una Volta

Deli Sandwich

Dimitra’s Sandwiches To Go

Dimitra’s Sandwiches To Go has known the secret to success on the Island since 1978—great food at great prices and lots of it. Try any of the avocado specials, like the Tijuana, and order it full size, and you may just have taken care of lunch and dinner. The Park Street location is for to-go orders only; the Central Avenue shop does offer some indoor seating, but these sandwiches are at their best on the run.
Dimitra’s Sandwiches To Go: No. 1, 1251 Park St., (510) 521-3737; No. 4, 714 Central Ave., (510) 749-6700. —DJ
Runner-up: Sandwich Board
Honorable mention: Jonathan’s Sandwich House

 

 

Breakfast

Jim’s Coffee Shop

Alamedans love their breakfasts, as lines out the doors of local establishments prove every weekend. Jim’s Coffee Shop soars to the top again this year, despite some stiff competition from Ole’s Waffle Shop and Marti’s Place. Jim’s offers absolutely huge portions of traditional diner-style breakfast items such as eggs, omelets and pancakes. But what am I telling you for; you just took my place in line!
Jim’s Coffee Shop, 2333 Lincoln Ave., (510) 523-5368; Jim’s on the Course, 1 Clubhouse Memorial Drive, (510) 337-9950; www.jimscoffeeshop.com. —DJ

Runner-up: Ole’s Waffle Shop
Honorable mention: Marti’s Place

Burrito

Taqueria Ramiro & Sons

A huge vote-getter, Taqueria Ramiro & Sons eclipses the competition for the fourth year running. What’s the appeal? There’s a no-brainer answer: big, fat, two-fisted, football-sized burritos stuffed with beans, cheese and practically whatever else your little heart desires—at rock-bottom prices. Follow the line of kids at lunchtime and have your order ready before approaching the counter.
Taqueria Ramiro & Sons, 2321 Alameda Ave., (510) 523-5071.—JG
Runner-up: La Piñata Mexican Restaurant No. 3
Honorable mention: Alameda Taqueria

Mexican

La Piñata Mexican Restaurant No. 3

It may be No. 3 in the six-city Bay Area chain, but Alameda’s La Piñata Mexican Restaurant
ranks No. 1 when Alamedans want any Mexican meal more elaborate than a Ramiro burrito. And, holy mole, this Park Street institution offers so many choices on its six-page menu that it overwhelms its competition by sheer volume. An adjacent top-flight tequila bar boosts La Piñata’s popularity, but we suspect it’s the giant platters of carne asada, layered enchiladas, carnitas, fajitas, chimichangas, pollo a la diablo, tamales, shrimp, whole fish, crab legs and more that stuffed our balloters’ bellies and put LP3 over the top.
La Piñata Mexican Restaurant, 1440 Park St., (510) 769-9110, www.lapinata.com. —DR

Runner-up: Otaez Mexican Restaurant
Honorable mention: Acapulco Restaurant

Hamburger

Nation’s Giant Hamburgers

OK, maybe they aren’t really good for you, but when serious hunger strikes, it is impossible to resist Nation’s Giant Hamburgers. This chain has been serving up great burgers and breakfasts since 1952 and now even offers veggie burgers (where’s the fun in that?). Make mine a double with a side of Nation’s amazing pie. And don’t forget the napkins. Nation’s Giant Hamburgers, 1432 Webster St., (510) 521-8888, www.nationsrestaurants.com. —DJ
Runner-up: Alameda Grill
Honorable mention: Bip’s Broiler

Bakery

Feel Good Bakery

Key words like “artisan,” “natural” and “organic” are bound to buoy your spirits. And baker Rick Kellner’s title on his business card, “Dough Dude,” brings a smile as well. But wordplay takes a back burner to the scrumptious goodies that pop out of the on-site oven in Feel Good Bakery’s little corner of the Alameda Marketplace. From olive bread, ciabatta, baguettes, levain and crunchy, seed-encrusted cheese sticks to tarts, tortes, cheesecake, cookies, Danishes, sticky buns and bread pudding, Feel Good rises to every baked-goods occasion.
Feel Good Bakery, 1650 Park St., (510) 864-2733, www.feelgoodbakery.com. —DR
Runner-up: Boniere Bakery

Dessert

 

Tucker’s Ice Cream

An Alameda institution for a good reason, Tucker’s Ice Cream again takes the cake for its “super-creamed” ice cream. Is it the fresh waffle cones? The ice cream sandwiches made right before your eyes? The special seasonal flavors (like Cabernet-chocolate chip and lemon custard)? Whatever the secret to success is, nothing beats indulging in a scoop or two of the best ice cream in town.
Tucker’s, 1349 Park St., (510) 522-4960, www.tuckersicecream.com. —SS

Runner-up: C’era Una Volta
Honorable mention (tie): Angela’s Restaurant and Asena

Pizza

Bowzer’s Pizza

New Kid on the block Bowzer’s Pizza, a spunky Park Street pizzeria with two S.F. littermates that draw their name from the owners’ pug, upsets three-peater La Val’s Pizza in this hotly contested heat. Bowzer’s breed of pizza is New York–style pie, with these hand-tossed pups boasting thin cornmeal crusts. Pick of the litter includes dog-themed specialty pies—among them the Bow Wow, the Good Boy, the Bad Boy, the Underdog, the Unleashed and the Bark.
Bowzer’s Pizza, 1330 Park St., (510) 523-7500, www.ast-pos.com/bowzers. —JG

Runner-up (tie): Tomatina and La Val’s Pizza

Sushi

Kamakura

The first Japanese restaurant to open in Alameda is the still the best. Kamakura is as famous for its sushi, prepared by experienced chefs trained in Japan, as it is for its well-known matriarch and proprietor, Akiko “Faith” Yamato. Both the sushi and the restaurateur are institutions on the Island. Sample amazingly fresh sushi or sashimi—it’s all good here. The business is family-run, and you’ll feel like family by the time you leave when the entire waitstaff holds the door for you and waves goodbye. Wave back; you’ll be seeing them again soon.
Kamakura, 2549 Santa Clara Ave., (510) 521-9121, www.kamakurarestaurant.com. —DJ
Runner-up: Sushi House
Honorable mention: Yellow Tail
Japanese Bistro

Caterer

Grand Catering

Need a few box lunches for an in-office strategy session or an elegant spread for a wedding party of 2,500? Our readers turn to Grand Catering for their catering needs. Grand, an Alameda-based enterprise for some 25 years with a can-do reputation, does it all, from business lunches and backyard garden parties to full-service weddings and formal corporate events. Grand Catering, 300 Island Drive, 845 Central Ave.,
(510)
865-3131, www.cateringfood.com. —JG
Runner-up: C’era Una Volta
Honorable mention: Grace Street Catering

New Restaurant

Ching Hua on Park

Anchoring the northeast corner of the Alameda Marketplace, Ching Hua’s sleek, modern interior—high ceiling, tall windows, polished hardwood floor, granite bar and oversized box chandeliers—fed Alamedans’ appetite for the new. And the crisply appointed bistro’s extensive and eclectic menu caters to their craving for Chinese cuisine that ventures away from the tried-and-true toward updated variations on the court meals of Imperial China. Ching Hua on Park, 1650 Park St., (510) 522-8777, www.chinghuaonpark.com. —DR

Runner-up: Bowzer’s Pizza

Asian

Ching Hua on Park

In recent years, creative Thai cooks and deft sushi chefs have reigned supreme on the Asian dining front. But by tapping the royal dining traditions of historic Beijing and Sichuan, and expanding beyond conventional sweet-and-sours and stir-fries to include myriad dumplings, “lettuce cups,” spicy seafood with novel sauces and original house-made noodle dishes, Ching Hua has restored China’s premier position, at least for Alameda diners. Ching Hua on Park, 1650 Park St., (510) 522-8777, www.chinghuaonpark.com. —DR
Runner-up: Toomie’s Thai Cuisine
Honorable mention: East Ocean Seafood

 

Cocktails

Forbidden Island

Trader Vic‘s got the tropical cocktail trend rolling in Oakland, and alumnus bartender Martin Cate kicked it into high gear in Alameda, transcending the overripe umbrella-drink cliché by bringing fresh-squeezed fruit juices, house-made grenadine and top-shelf spirits (including nearly five dozen rums) into the mix at Forbidden Island. Passionate Islanders continue to elbow into the eternal sunset glow of this fantasy theme bar for reinvented classics (daiquiris, mai tais, fog cutters and hurricanes), resurrected grogs and such exotic originals as the Neptune’s Garden, China Clipper and Fugu for Two.
Forbidden Island, 1304 Lincoln Ave., (510) 749-0332, www.forbiddenislandalameda.com. —DR
Runner up: Lucky 13

Coffee Shop

Peet’s Coffee & Tea

Peet’s Coffee & Tea not only has a store in Alameda, it just opened a new $17 million roasting plant on the Island as well. All over California the only complaint about Peet’s is that there aren’t enough of them; maybe the new roastery can change that. But what really sets Peet’s apart is, surprise, the amazing taste of its coffee, and that is available to anyone taking a walk down Park Street. Be sure to sample the great tea selection or order some beans to go; at least you’ll know they didn’t travel far to reach you.
Peet’s Coffee & Tea, 1365 Park St., (510) 473-0136,
www.peets.com.—DJ
Runner-up: Java Rama
Honorable mention: Starbucks

Beer Selection

Speisekammer

Whether they’re washing down sauerbraten and spaetzle or dropping in for an after-work brew in the front-patio biergarten, Speisekammer klientschaft can choose from more than two-dozen bottled and draft beers. The latter are pulled into appropriately shaped glasses (but don’t attempt “the boot” without a designated driver) and are available in 3-ounce sampler flights. The wide range of auswahlen at Speisekammer includes alkoholfreies bier, and whether or not they can pronounce Allgäuer Teutsch and Franziskaner Hefeweisen or opt for the easier-to-order Trumer Pils, Alameda quaffers agree with the sentiment, “Ja sehr gut!”
Speisekammer Restaurant, 2424 Lincoln Ave., (510) 522-1300, www.speisekammer.com. —DR
Runner-up: Lucky 13

Wine/Spirits Producer

Rosenblum Cellars

The legendary winemaker has been making wine since 1978, first at his family home, then at an old particle-accelerator building in Emeryville and finally at a massive Alameda Po int warehouse. Veterinarian Kent Rosenblum made the last move in 1987 and, in doing so, put Alameda on the winemaking map. Rosenblum Cellars is now hailed as one of the top American wineries, with grapes from all over California being shipped to the urban Island winery. Drop by for special seminars, events and tastings to see what all the fuss is about.
Rosenblum Cellars, 2900 Main St., Suite 1100, (510) 995-4100, www.rosenblumcellars.com. —DJ

Runner up: Hangar One/St. George Spirits

Wine List

C’era Una Volta

The popular Italian restaurant’s wine list (“novella” is more like it) is an entertaining lesson in geography and viticulture. Each of the more than 50 featured wines, offered from a dozen of Italy’s winegrowing regions, gets a paragraph or two describing its area of origin, the grapes and the character of the wine. Even more than good reading, the Dolcetto, Barbera, Barolo, Chianti, Montepulciano, Aglianico and other varieties (at $6–$7 a glass, and $25–$80 per bottle) at C’era Una Volta make for good drinking.
 C’era Una Volta, 1332 Park St., (510) 769-4828, www.ceraunavolta.us. —DR
Runner-up: Pappo
Honorable mention: Angela’s Restaurant

Happy Hour

La Piñata Mexican Restaurant No. 3

Forbidden Island gave it a run for its money, but La Piñata Mexican Restaurant No. 3 is just too hard to beat when it comes to happy hour. Delicious margaritas at a great price are always a recipe for success, and La Piñata offers the best of both. Get there early to get a seat at the small bar and order the house margarita as you crunch the delicious chips and chipotle salsa. For the more adventurous, there is an extensive tequila list to sample. Stay long enough to work up an appetite and ask for a dinner menu; the food is as good as the dinks.
La Piñata Mexican Restaurant, 1440 Park St., (510) 769-9110, www.lapinata.com. —DJ


Runner-up: Forbidden Island
 

Margarita

La Piñata Mexican Restaurant No. 3

There’s no contest for where to get the best margarita—La Piñata Mexican Restaurant No. 3, the biggest single vote-getter in this years readers’ choice poll. We got so many votes we needed a couple of pitchers of margaritas to count them all. LP3’s chilly tequila-based marg concoctions come in too-many-to-count fruity varieties. Finish one (or two, if you dare), and you’ll be doing the Mexican hat dance and shouting “ole” in no time. La Piñata Mexican Restaurant No. 3, 1440 Park St., (510) 769-9110, www.lapinata.com. —JG

Antique Store

Pauline’s Antiques

Pauline’s Antiques, readers’ must-visit antique-hunting spot, is one huge place—a whopping 7,000 square feet, so it’s no wonder Pauline Kelley, who has bee n in the biz more than half a century and also keeps a 20,000-square-foot warehouse, usually has or can put her hands on exactly the hard-to-find items treasure hunters are looking for.
Pauline’s Antiques, 1427 Park St., (510) 523-3561. —JG

Grocery Store

Trader Joe’s

Everybody has a favorite Trader Joe’s product, from flaxseed chips and hummus to free-range meats and shade-grown coffee to microbrews and “Two Buck Chuck.” A burgeoning empire occupying a niche between local farmers markets and upscale grocery stores, TJ’s parlays folksiness, humor, savvy marketing and good taste into a mandatory once-a-week shopping destination … and you’ve got to love those floral-print shirts.
Trader Joe’s, 2217 South Shore Center, (510) 769-5450, www.traderjoes.com. —DR

Runner-up: Nob Hill Foods
Honorable mention: Safeway

Gift Shop

Three Wishes

Chelsea O’Hara’s well-appointed gift shop, Three Wishes, has goods at affordable prices for everyone on your list: jewelry for yourself, handbags for your best friend, picture frames for your mother, hand soap for your sister, booties for the new baby, toys for the toddler and gag gifts galore (Cat Butt Gum, anyone?) for your weird brother—you get the idea.
Three Wishes, 1428 Park St., (510) 523-4438. —JG

Runner-up (tie): Whales & Friends and The Wolf and the Hare
Honorable Mention: Urban Forest

Wine Retailer

Farmstead Cheeses and Wines

The cheese hardly stands alone in Jeff Diamond’s Marketplace enclave, which has inspired three pages of reviews on yelp.com, almost all of them five-star. Kudos accumulate of course for the bounty of handmade and hand-cut cheeses from the United States, Canada, France, Holland, Ireland, Italy and England, but the faithful flock to Farmstead Cheeses and Wines for an equally fantastic selection of local, small-producer, international and reasonably priced vino, as well as olives, oils, books and accessories.
Farmstead Cheeses and Wines, 1650 Park St., (510) 864-9463, www.farmsteadcheesesandwines.com. —DR

Runner-up: Du Vin Fine Wines

Auto Shop

Engine Works

Tired of the high prices dealers charge for repairs but weary of unknown and untested repair shops? Well, Engine Works may just be the answer. An Island favorite for 15 years, these guys, led by Eric and Kathleen Quan, get it right the first time, and as a result have become Alamedans’ go-to garage. If you don’t believe us, go to their Web site (yes, a garage with a Web site), and see what they are doing with their 2007 Toyota Prius project car—it’s quick and efficient, just like the shop.
Engine Works, 1923 Minturn St., (510) 523-6779, www.engine-works.com. —DJ

Runner-up (tie): German Auto Service and Alameda Auto Lab

Florist

Mints

Mints may not be world’s tiniest flower shop, but it’s close, just a little sliver of a store brimming with beautiful plants, exotic flowers, lovely vases and pots and gifty goods. The Alamedans behind Mints—Joyce Ng and sisters Canna, Mei and Dorothy Teng—have a definite eye and flair for design and marketing, and they easily convey, from their closet-sized full-service floral boutique, their deep-seated love and respect for all things green and growing. Mints, 1336 A Park St., (510) 749-0683, www.mintsworkshop.com. —JG
Runner-up: Olympic Florist
Honorable mention: John S. Towata Flowers

Home Furnishings

Pillow Park Plaza

Not surprisingly, Pillow Park Plaza started more than 35 years ago as a manufacturer of pillows. But all that has changed as the ever-popular store has expanded to include almost every item for the home—furniture, mattresses, rugs and more. The store also carries thousands of handmade cigars and cigar accessories. It is not just smoke and mirrors; this store is a local fixture for a reason. Pillow Park Plaza, 1419 Park St., (510) 521-6227, www.pillowpark.com. —DJ

Eyeglasses

Alameda Eyes

Michael Britt, D.O., a graduate of the School of Optometry at the University of California, Berkeley, guides this Park Street and Harbor Bay business with his, well, vision of what it takes to improve his Alameda neighbors’ eyesight. In addition to a focus on children’s vision and patient education (on the info-rich Web site, for instance), Alameda Eyes has become Islanders’ favorite place to have spectacles made for themselves, thanks to a wide and stylish selection of eyeglasses. Alameda Eyes, 1432 Park St., (510) 769-2020, 887 A Island Drive, (510) 814-7268, www.eyedocs.com. —DR
Runner-up (tie): Eyes on Webster and Daniel Chin Optometry

Shoe Store

Scott’s Shoes

New shoe trends come and go, but Scott’s Shoes was one of the first to introduce one of the hottest. That’s right, Scott’s helped launch the Keen shoe craze, which also got its start in Alameda, so you can’t go wrong with this kind of shoe store (now promoting yet another local hybrid footwear line, Ahnu). Even more amazing, some patrons claim that the owner, Scott Erwen, can remember customer shoe sizes from visit to visit. Scott’s Shoes, 1330 Park St., (510) 865-5565. —DJ
Runner-up: Doumitt Shoes’s
Honorable mention: Brown Brothers Shoes

Shopping Center/District

Park Street

When Alamedans shop, they spend their money on Park Street, home to shoe stores, gift shops, feminine boutiques, antiques, coffee shops and more. From the foot of the Park Street Bridge to Otis Drive, Park Street shopaholics can pick up pet supplies and books, goofy gifts and stationery, jewelry and eyeglasses, toys and T-shirts, and refresh along the way with a massage, ice cream, meal or cocktail. As if that isn’t enough, Park Street plays host to numerous public events and parades.
Park Street Business Association, 2447 Santa Clara Ave., Suite 302, (510) 523-1392, www.shopparkstreet.com. —JG
Runner-up: Alameda Towne Centre

Home and Garden Accessories Store

Pagano’s

Pagano’s is like the Winchester Mystery House of stores: a seemingly never-ending collection of stuff
you need and stuff you never knew you needed, all in one place. Have keys made while perusing a quick-study reference guide to French grammar or the New Testament. Buy your kid a Batman alarm clock pick up and a set of Nigella Lawson measuring cups. Get a cake decorating kit and stash it in your new Betty Boop handbag. Even your dog can supply himself with necessities, like a plush porcupine. If you walk there, you can buy an electric scooter and drive it home, or you can choose from an assortment of carved walking sticks to help you amble on back—if you ever want to leave, that is. Pagano’s, 1100 Lincoln Ave., (510) 522-1345, www.paganoshardware.com. —SS
Runner-up: Thomsen’s Nursery
Honorable mention: Encinal Nursery

Bike Shop

Alameda Bicycle

The Island has a lot of bike shops, but Alameda Bicycle is clearly the readers’ favorite. Maybe it’s the lifetime free adjustments, maybe it’s the forever guarantee, maybe it’s the knowledgeable staff and price protection or maybe it’s the free kids’trade-ups. It could be all of these things, but most readers tell us it is the selection of really cool bikes that makes their wheels turn.
Alameda Bicycle, 1522 Park St., (510) 522-9861, www.alamedabicycle.com —DJ

New Business

Nob Hill Foods

The high-toned grocery alternative made its spring debut in Alameda, revitalizing the Bridgeside Center with nearly 60,000 square feet of glossy floors, gleaming cases of meat and produce and a natural foods department boasting a bounty of organic products and bulk nuts, grains and flour. The inclusion of a reading center, post office, bank, pharmacy, coffee shop and deli, as well as the spacious parking lot, made this market an instant Island favorite. Nob Hill Foods, 2531 Blanding Ave., (510) 814-8800, www.nobhill.com. —DR

Chef

Saboor Zafari (Angela’s Restaurant)

With his personal culinary outpost dominating fine dining on the Island’s west side, Saboor Zafari regains his title (which he won in 2005) as Alameda’s favorite chef. Drawing on his experience cooking in Afghan, Italian and French restaurants, Zafari crafts his eclectic pan-Mediterranean menu from these influences and adds the California touch of local, organic and seasonal ingredients. His creativity and consistency have turned a shopping center storefront into a destination for duck strudel, grilled lamb, lobster ravioli and sure-fire risotto. Angela’s Restaurant, 807 Marina Village Parkway, (510) 522-5822, www.angelasrestaurant.com. —DR
Runner-up: Rudy Duran (C’era Una Volta)
Honorable mention: John Thiel (Pappo)

Hair Salon

Spank

Alamedans don’t have to leave the Island anymore to get a hipster hairdo; Angela Scott and her team of cutting-edge stylists bring San Francisco style across the Bay. At Spank’s new sleek and airy location on Clement Avenue, relax on the back patio with little snacks and a glass of wine while your color develops. Your new ’do will look as modern as the place where you got it. Spank, 1912 Clement Ave., (510) 521-9100. —SS

Gym

Bladium

Bladium is more than a gym; it’s a massive sports complex center with two roller hockey rinks, an indoor soccer and lacrosse field, volleyball and basketball court, a full boxing ring and a rock climbing wall. Available fitness classes range from turbo kick to tap. Parking is plentiful and locker rooms are clean. Best of all, there’s a sports bar that overlooks the entire playing area, for those of you whose workout consists of hoisting a beer mug to your lips. Bladium, 800 W. Tower Ave., (510) 814-4999, www.bladium.com. —SS
Runner-up: Harbor Bay Club

Dentist

Richard H. Tabor, D.D.S.

Richard H. Tabor, D.D.S., nabs the title as Alameda’s best dentist, earning his fourth annual win in a row. What makes this healthcare professional so popular? Patients say his friendly-but-authoritative demeanor makes them feel comfortable, and they praise him for his deft dental work. Tabor is always enthusiastic to talk about his calling, one he came to after a career in genetic engineering. Richard H. Tabor, D.D.S.,
1821 Santa Clara Ave., (510) 865-2900, www.alamedadentist.com. —JG

Runner-up: Barbara Galera, D.D.S.

Local Celebrity

Frederica Von Stade

Opera diva Frederica Von Stade—Flicka to Alamedans who know her—lands a victory in the local celebrity category and a standing ovation. The world-famous mezzo-soprano, with six Grammy nominations and a distinguished career with the Metropolitan Opera, tours often, and just wrapped up the summer with performances in Napa, San Antonio, Norfolk, Conn.; Methow Valley, Wash.; and Medford, Ore. Bravissima! Frederica von Stade, www.fredericavonstade.com. —JG

Chiropractor

Cynthia Boyd, D.C.,
Symmetry Chiropractic

Alamedans know they’ve put themselves in good hands when they visit Cynthia Boyd, one of the few certified East Bay practitioners of Clinical Biomechanics of Posture. The Boonton, N.J., native, who earned her doctorate in chiropractic from Life Chiropractic College West in 2005, has garnered the respect and friendship of Island residents through her neighborly approach to family practice and the expert treatment that makes her patients’ lives that much more comfortable. Now, sit up straight!
Symmetry Chriopractic, 2329 A Eagle Ave., (510) 769-0125, www.symmetrychiropractic.com. —DR

Massage

SumBody

Hidden just behind the curtains at the back of the SumBody store is a tranquil escape from everyday life. Enjoy a spot of tea and a pre-treatment neck-warming “beanie” before heading into your own high-ceilinged canvas cabana for a massage. Choose from an assortment of house-made aromatherapy oils (try the “sumclarity” blend with rosemary, sage and peppermint) and bliss out.
SumBody, 1350 Park St., (510) 523-2639, www.sumbody.com. —SS

Runner-up: Harbor Bay Club

Day Spa

O Spa Salon

As its solitary “O” sign on the storefront indicates, O Spa Salon is where you take a long exhale and relax. Here you can get any state-of-the-art treatment, from haircuts to facials. Inside, the salon is shaped like an outstretched hand; the main room houses the gift shop and hair salon while smaller rooms reach in all directions. You can have a room to yourself for pedicures or manicures or take the rear door out to the wet room to soak in an aromatherapy bath. Between treatments, put your feet up on the patio, replete with overstuffed chairs, freshly brewed tea and a gurgling water fountain. Word is out that this is the place to rejuvenate—so book at least a week in advance. As of Father’s Day, male-suited packages like the “Men’s Fitness Facial” are available. Whether you’re of the masculine or feminine persuasion, this salon provides lots to ahhh about.
O Spa Salon, 2525 Santa Clara Ave., (510) 522-0772, www.ospasalon.com. —PK
Runner-up: Sumbody

Best Reason to Live in Alameda

Small-Town Feel

Why do you live in Alameda? The single-most often stated reason our readers offer is Alameda’s small-town feel. Simply put, the Island is one of those places where residents know their neighbors, can call shopkeepers by name and don’t have much crime to fear. Other often-cited factors include near-perfect weather, the friendly people and the quiet atmosphere. What’s not to love? —JG

Theatrical Performance Group

Alameda Civic Light Opera

The Alameda Civic Light Opera, the little community musical theater bringing a bit of Broadway to the East Bay, earns top kudos as readers’ favorite theatrical performance group, a new category. Now under the able direction of Jeff Teague, ACLO wraps up its 11th season this month with Kiss Me Kate, and tickets just may be available. Alameda Civic Light Opera, Box Office: 523 South Shore Center West, (510) 864-2256; Mailing address: 875 A Island Drive, Suite 292; www.aclo.com. —JG
Runner-up: Altarena Playhouse

Best Event in Alameda

Park Street Art & Wine Faire

Alameda has tons of great summer events but nothing quite tops the Park Street Art & Wine Faire, readers say. The 23rd annual event transformed Park Street in July with a mix of beer, food, arts, crafts, music and kids’ activities as well as, you guessed it, wine. Year after year, readers agree that there is no better place to spend the last weekend in July. www.shopparkstreet.com. —DJ
Runner-up: Fourth of July Parade

EDITOR'S CHOICE

Best Diet Detour Into Decadence

Amarin Thai’s Fried Banana With Coconut Ice Cream

When your sweet tooth is begging you to make an entire meal of dessert, ignore the calorie-conscious angel on your shoulder and sneak into Amarin Thai for the archetypal rendering of the seemingly simple combo of fried banana with coconut ice cream. Balance and contrast are just as pivotal to this ambrosial indulgence as they are to Thai soups and curries. In this version, four slices of banana have been fried quickly in a light, black sesame seed–specked batter that presents a crispy contrast to the firm but velvety fruit. Two huge scoops of coconut ice cream—drizzled with honey and sprinkled with chopped peanuts—provide yet more creamy/crunchy contrast as well as a cold counterbalance to the warm bananas. Surely, following a dietary middle way allows for the occasional detour to the alleyway off Park Street for this sensuous Siamese sundae. Amarin Thai, 1332 C Park St., (510) 748-0276, www.amarinalameda.com. —DR

Best Entrée-Worthy Appetizer

Speisekammer Kartoffelplätzchen mit Apfelkompott

Sure, Speisekammer, the Bay Area’s best German restaurant, does great schnitzel, bratwurst, sauerbraten and spaetzle, but this frequent lunch customer joneses most for (and sups solely on) an ample appetizer, kartoffelplätzchen mit apfelkompott (or reibekuchen mit hausgemachten apfelmus on the dinner menu). In English, that’s potato pancakes with apple compote (or applesauce). Makes a nice dish for the table, but order your own; trust us. Spread some sweet sauce on a forkful of the golden-brown, crunchy-crisp patties of deep-fried savory goodness to see what we mean. Speisekammer, 2424 Lincoln Ave., (510) 522-1300, www.speisekammer.com. —JG

Best Way to Find a Lost Weekend

Lost Weekend Lounge

Stay too long at the hip Lost Weekend Lounge and you just may discover how it got its name. But for a great after-work cocktail or beer, there isn’t a better place with a friendlier staff, and after just a few visits, they will know you and your drink by name. While you’re there, enjoy a game of pool, music from the well-stocked jukebox (unless it is DJ night) or the outdoor patio, and be sure to sample the famous Alameda cocktail, a real taste of the Island. Lost Weekend Lounge, 2320 Santa Clara Ave., (510) 523-4700. —DJ

Best Treat to Relieve Summer Heat

Tapioca Express Snow Bubble

Imagine drinking a frosty, frozen fruit smoothie.
Throw in some fat, chewy tapioca balls, also known as boba (think oversized gummi bears), and you’ve
got yourself a snow bubble. A frozen cousin to “bubble tea,” this treat combines fruit or flavored syrup with shaved ice and milk and comes served in a cup with a scoop of translucent brown boba nestled at the bottom for easy wide-straw slurping. Tapioca Express creates many flavor choices, including avocado and chocolate mint. Try a fresh honeydew or watermelon snow bubble for a cool summer treat. Tapioca Express, 2306 Encinal Ave., (510) 865-2968, www.tapiocaexpress.ws. —SS

Best One-Stop Personalized Print Shop

Daisy’s

Whether you’re throwing a party, celebrating a new baby or warming someone’s home, this Park Street boutique fits the bill. Daisy’s stocks bird-inspired art, bric-a-brac, luxurious bedding and tableware perfect for an outdoor brunch, but its printing services make for the best value. Daisy’s can compose and engrave invitations and announcements to fit anyone’s personality. The staff works with clients to design the look they want and then takes the template to the basement, where the order gets stamped and embossed in a printing press. Turn around for printing orders—five or 500—is only one day. And the cost? Just the market price of the card stock. Can’t beat those prices. Daisy’s, 1347 Park St., (510) 522-6443, www.daisysonpark.com. —PE

Best Place to Experience Blind Love

Alameda Shade Shop

If you need window shades, the Alameda Shade Shop has got you covered. Many an Alameda homeowner finds the solution to her window woes here, with assistance from Dan and Diane Hayes. This curtain-crazy couple bills its store, in the drapery business for 50 years, as a specialist in Victorian window treatments, but this shop’s screens, blinds and valances hang in all the best homes on every street in town, from the casual Craftsman and the colorful Colonial to the vintage Victorian. Chances are these guys hung those Hunter Douglas sheers you so admire in your neighbor’s kitchen. Alameda Shade Shop, 914 Central Ave., (510) 522-0633, www.shadeshop.com. —JG

 

Best Place to Float Your Boat

Yacht Clubs

Only Newport Beach has a higher ratio of boats to people in California, so getting
out on Alameda’s waterways is an essential activity. The Island City has no fewer than six yacht clubs, so choosing one that that fits your style is easy. Many clubs offer special activities like races, potluck dinners and classes—whatever floats your boat. So pick up your anchor and hit the waterways for some real high-seas adventure. www.yachtclub.com. —DJ

Best Electrifying Experience

Lam’s Acupuncture

If you’ve ever dreamed of starring in your own version of Frankenstein, Marvin and Kay Lam of Lam’s Acupuncture will happily stick needles all over your body and wire you up to a machine that pulses micro currents of electricity to key acupressure points, stimulating circulation and endorphins. The Lams have been practicing acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine at their unassuming storefront for 35 years. Sufferers of chronic pain, headaches and depression often notice a dramatic reduction in symptoms after this sort of treatment. Oh, and you look cool while you are getting treated too. Lam’s Acupuncture, 2303 Buena Vista Ave., (510) 522-8482. —SS