The Best of Alameda 2008
And the Winners are...
Alameda may be a tiny island city, but it is chock full of great restaurants, nightlife, goods and services that are worthy of high praise. That’s exactly what this Best of Alameda 2008 issue sets out to celebrate. The annual readers’ poll spotlights the best in Alameda food, drink and amenities in 49 categories. At the same time, the editors get to weigh in with a few of our favorites. Read on to see what’s the latest and greatest in this year’s survey.
Food and Restaurants
C’era Una Volta
It’s not just the great food. Alamedans seem to love the affable owners, wine events and bright atmosphere that make this Italian restaurant really shine. Chef Rudy Duran serves up traditional Italian tastes as well as delicious panini, salads and desserts, all accented by more than 50 Italian wine varieties. To experience all the restaurant has to offer, stop by one of its winemaker dinners, Essence of Italy events or first Tuesday wine club meetings.
1332 Park St., (510) 769-4828, www.ceraunavolta.us. —DJ
(Open Less Than a Year)
The mojitos—more than a dozen variations, by the glass and by the pitcher—might have been enough to capture Islanders’ imaginations and transport them to old Cuba on a daily basis. But owner Zachary Scott and crew, already successful with the concept in Walnut Creek, throw in an ultra-hip ambience and pack the menu with sturdy, slightly upscale spins on tapas, classic Cuban sandwiches and such main dishes as chicken adobo, paella and plantain-crusted halibut.
1518 Park St., (510) 521-0130, www.havanarestaurant.net. —DR
The Hob Nob
Drinks, tapas and board games may be the big draw in the evening hours, but this relative new kid on the block scored big with Alamedans scouring Park Street for Sunday brunch. The menu includes everything from custom omelets and scrambles to eggs Benedict, ginger pancakes and buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy, plus such signature small plates as truffle fries, grilled cheese sandwiches and mini burgers. The build-your-own-Bloody-Mary bar probably didn’t chase away any votes.
1313 Park St., (510) 769-1011, www.thehobnobalameda.com. —DR
Ching Hua on Park
The 2007 winner in the Best Asian and Best New Restaurant categories, this spin-off of Berkeley’s Shen Hua takes its name from proprietor Edward Chu’s mother, Jane Ching Hua Chu, and parlays the indigenous cuisine of her northern Chinese heritage into a higher-concept but still homey Beijing- and Sichuan-inspired menu. Alamedans adore Ching Hua’s use of fresh ingredients, signature lettuce cups and house-made noodles and its stylish modern interior capped by a full bar.
1650 Park St., (510) 522-8777, www.chinghuaonpark.com. —DR
Toomie’s Thai Cuisine
Located right on Park Street close to movies at the new theater, shopping and places to grab an after-dinner drink, Toomie’s is an Alameda favorite, voted the No. 1 place for Thai food on the Island in Alameda Magazine’s new category. Famous for its numerous curries, the stir-fries, papaya salad, sticky rice and tom yum soup are also worth investigating. Readers agree that a great night out (or in—Toomie’s takes phone orders as well) starts with Thai from Toomie’s.
1433 Park St., (510) 865-8008. —DJ
Local brothers Jimmy and Scott Luu along with their cousin, Dan Nguyen, plate up inspired and eclectic Vietnamese dishes in their tony, cardinal red–walled space, using authentic recipes from their mothers’ homeland to create armies of new fans. Tracing family roots to Oakland’s famed Le Cheval, these hip restaurateurs use nuoc-nam, hoisin, lemongrass, cilantro and mint plus tangy sauces to recreate many of the dishes they grew up eating. Sure to please are their versions of classic rice paper rolls, crêpes, phò, beef carpaccio, bouncing beef and clay pot dishes.
2304 Encinal Ave., (510) 521-1800, www.dragonrougerestaurant.com. —JG
Overall Restaurant Pappo 2320 Central Ave., (510) 337-9100, www.papporestaurant.com
Bakery Feel Good Bakery 1650 Park St., (510) 864-2733, www.feelgoodbakery.com
Burrito Taqueria Ramiro & Sons 2321 Alameda Ave., (510) 523-5071
Breakfast Jim’s Coffee Shop 2333 Lincoln Ave., (510) 523-5368, www.jimscoffeeshop.com
Chef Saboor Zafari, Angela’s Restaurant, 807 Marina Village Parkway, (510) 522-5822, www.angelasrestaurant.com
Coffee Shop Peet’s Coffee & Tea 1365 Park St., (510) 473-0136, www.peets.com
Deli Sandwich Sandwich Board 2412 Webb Ave., (510) 521-3366
Dessert Tucker’s Ice Cream 1349 Park St., (510) 522-4960, www.tuckersicecream.com
Hamburger Nation’s 1432 Webster St., (510) 521-8888, www.nationsrestaurants.com
Mexican Food La Piñata No. 3 1440 Park St., (510) 769-9110, www.lapinata.com
Pizza Bowser’s Pizza 1330 Park St., (510) 523-7500, www.ast-pos.com/bowzers
Sushi/Japanese Kamakura 2549 Santa Clara Ave., (510) 521-9121, www.kamakurarestaurant.com
Kid-Friendly Restaurant Tomatina 1338 Park St., (510) 521-1000, www.tomatina.com
Drink and Nightlife
Beer Selection Lucky 13 1301 Park St., (510) 523-2118, lucky13alameda.com
Cocktails Lucky 13 1301 Park St., (510) 523-2118, lucky13alameda.com
Happy Hour Lucky 13 1301 Park St., (510) 523-2118, lucky13alameda.com
Live Music Venue Rooster’s Roadhouse 1700 Clement Ave., (510) 337-9190, groups.msn.com/roostersroadhouse
Margarita La Piñata No. 3 1440 Park St., (510) 769-9110, www.lapinata.com
Overall Bar Lucky 13 1301 Park St., (510) 523-2118, lucky13alameda.com
Theatrical Performance Group (TIE)
Alameda Civic Light Opera 523 South Shore Center West, (510) 864-2256, www.aclo.com
Altarena Playhouse 1409 High St., (510) 523-1553, www.altarena.org
Wine List Pappo 2320 Central Ave., (510) 337.9100, www.papporestaurant.com
Wine Retailer Farmstead Cheeses & Wine 1650 Park St., (510) 864-9463, farmsteadcheesesandwines.com
Wine/Spirits Maker/Producer Rosenblum Cellars 2900 Main St., Suite 1100, (510) 995-4100, www.rosenblumcellars.com
Alameda Yoga Station
Given their first chance to bring downward facing dog into their voting ruminations, Alamedans didn’t find it a stretch to single out Alameda Yoga Station, since 1995 a cornerstone of Island hatha yoga practice in the Iyengar tradition. In addition to beginning, intermediate and advanced classes in asana that heighten body awareness and flexibility, Yoga Station teachers offer special workshops and series in Buddhist meditation, Feldenkrais, stress reduction, prenatal yoga and more.
2414 A Central Ave., (510) 523-9642, www.alamedayogastation.com. —DR
Barbershop Razor’s Edge 2516 Santa Clara Ave., (510) 521-9070
Dentist Richard Tabor, DDS 1821 Santa Clara Ave., (510) 865-2900, www.alamedadentist.com
Event Park Street Art & Wine Faire www.shopparkstreet.com
Gym/Health Club Harbor Bay Club 200 Packet Landing Road, (510) 521-5414, www.harborbayclub.com
Hair Salon Spank 1912 Clement Ave., (510) 521-9100
Massage Sumbody & Sumtime Spa 1350 Park St., (510) 523-2639, www.sumbody.com
M Zoe Couture
Haute couture comes to Alameda at this sleek, high-end, San Francisco–esque boutique where the best-dressed women come for arresting special occasion wear and stylish everyday separates. The great dresses, jeans, suits, sunglasses, shoes, suits, jewelry and more come from the likes of LinQ, Voom, Lacoste, Joe’s Jeans, Nicole Miller, Via Spiga, Prada, Nora Horan and other chic designers. Tagalong spouses can get their sports fix from the big-screen TV while kids watch cartoons in the front of the store, which is owned by longtime Alamedan Rafael Perez and named for his daughter.
1424 Park St., (510) 814-6950. —JG
This cute, little, filled-to-the-brim consignment shop has what Alameda parents need for growing kids—socks, clothes, shoes, accessories, toys, etc.—at affordable prices. Gap, Old Navy, Naartjie and Gymboree are usually among the brands hanging around, and the merchandise is consistently good quality. There’s often a mix of used and new clothes, so shopping here means not forking over top dollar for new stuff little ones won’t be wearing for long. From babies to kids to adolescents, Lauren’s Closet (with a closet-sized playroom) probably has something that will work.
1420 Park St., (510) 865-2219. —JG
Antique Store Pauline’s Antiques 1427 Park St., (510) 523-9941, www.paulinesantiques.com
Auto Shop Alameda Auto Lab 631 Buena Vista Ave., (510) 522-0510, www.alamedaautolab.com
Bike Shop Alameda Bicycle 1522 Park St., (510) 522-0070, www.alamedabicycle.com
Eyeglasses Alameda Eyes Optometry 1432 Park St., (510) 769-2020, www.eyedocs.com
Florist Mints 1336 A Park St., (510) 749-0683, www.mintsflower.com
Gift Shop Three Wishes 1428 Park St., (510) 523-4438
Grocery Store Trader Joe’s 2217 South Shore Center, (510) 769-5450, www.traderjoes.com
Home and Garden Accessories Store Pagano’s 1100 Lincoln Ave., (510) 522.1345, www.paganoshardware.com
Home Furnishings Pillow Park Plaza 1419 Park St., (510) 521-6227, www.pillowpark.com
Shoe Store Scott’s Shoes 1330 Park St., (510) 865-5565
Shopping Center/District Park Street www.shopparkstreet.com
Best Way to Go Green
St. George Spirits
What can you do with fine brandy, star anise, mint, wormwood, lemon balm, hyssop, meadowsweet, basil, fennel, tarragon and stinging nettles? Well, if you are distiller Lance Winters, you make absinthe, of course. Yes, the little green fairy is back, and Alameda’s St. George Spirits is the first American company to make and sell absinthe in almost a century. So grab your sugar cubes, spoons and cold water and give it a try—it worked for Vincent van Gogh and Ernest Hemingway.
2601 Monarch St., (510) 769-1601, www.stgeorgespirits.com. —DJ
Best Music at the Water’s Edge
Concerts at the Cove
When summer comes around, Alamedans love to grab a picnic basket and their lawn chairs or blanket and head to Crab Cove for the annual free concert series. Crowds are huge at this family-friendly event, and the best part is that the series of three summertime shows usually features local acts. Expect to hear such great local bands as House of Floyd and the Sun Kings as well as Bay Area favorites such as Herb (playing the music of Herb Alpert), the swing sounds of the New Morty show or the Steely Dan–inspired licks of Aja Vu.
1252 McKay Ave., (510) 523-5955, www.westalamedabusiness.com. —DJ
Best Snack Food That’s a Meal in Itself
Bread Sticks from Feel Good Bakery
The savory alterative to cookies and scones, these crunchy, cheesy, seed-encrusted mini-loaves provide the fatty satisfaction of various cheeses (cheddar, pepper Jack, smoked gouda—they change daily) melted into the dough and baked all crispy on the outside, plus the crackle and nutrition of oats, coarse corn meal and myriad seeds (pumpkin, poppy, sunflower, sesame, caraway) that stud the exterior. A different wow factor explodes in the mouth depending on the bite and the day of the week—for only $2.
1650 Park St., (510) 864-2733, www.feelgoodbakery.com. —DR
Best Little Gourmet Lunch Place
Little House Cafe
In this restored century-old craftsman bungalow next to software giant Perforce, manager-chef Donna Meadows exercises her well-traveled culinary touch and crafts a menu full of enticing breakfast goodies and remarkable lunch choices. From chicken Caesar salads and the quiche of the day to sandwiches assembled with high-end ingredients (grilled steak, truffle oil, brie, Lombardi peppers, sheep’s milk pecorino) on premium breads and rolls, this tiny parlor-like charmer sets lofty standards for noon-hour meals.
2300 Blanding Ave., (510) 864-4044, www.littlehousecafe.com. —DR
Best Reinvented Webster Street Bar
The Fireside Lounge
The Fireside used to be a dive bar full of ill-tempered rowdies whose alcohol-induced brawls were legendary. But thanks to owner Patrick Brown, a Renaissance guy who has mostly recently reinvented himself as a barkeep after having been a paramedic and a pastry chef, The Fireside is the west side’s most stylish and clubby hangout, high ceilings and all. Brown has added a great selection of wine and international and local beers, including brew from pals at Linden Street Brewery and Trummer Pils. Bartender Cristi Hegranes, a talented mixologist, adds a touch of class with scrumptious seasonal cocktails.
1453 A Webster St., (510) 522-7400, www.thefiresidelounge.com. —JG
Best Online Town Meeting
Blogging Bayport Alameda
For the last two years, housewife, mother and relatively new Alameda resident Lauren Do has produced one of the most prolific, educational and entertaining blogs on the Island. With new posts every day and comments that lead to more comments, this is a must read for new and old Alameda residents alike, covering crucial topics such as education funding, the theater, Measure A and base redevelopment. Nothing goes better with your morning cup of coffee than a few minutes with Lauren.
Best After Dinner Treat
Vietnamese Coffee Float at Dragon Rouge
Stylish Dragon Rouge has invented quite a taste treat in its Vietnamese coffee float. This simple and yummy dessert is a tumbler-size frosty glass of vanilla ice cream swimming in sea of Vietnamese coffee and syrupy sweetened condensed milk. As the hot coffee slowly drips, it melts the ice cream, creating an icy coffee-flavored milkshake. Use the spoon until the lumps smooth out, then pick up the glass and down the rest. Restaurateur Jimmy Luu issues a warning about the caffeine-sugar bombs to those who partake: “It’ll make you shake.”
2304 Encinal Ave., (510) 521-1800, www.dragonrougerestaurant.com. —JG
Best Place to Play Connect 4 With a Bloody Mary
The Hob Nob
The gaming in this hip and popular Park Street joint is neither casino-style slots and craps nor high-tech video war-making but rather old-school board and table games that involve rolling dice, moving tokens or, in the case of the Milton Bradley classic, dropping checkers down shoots to line up four in a row. A beer or a cocktail from the Bloody Mary bar may grease the moves in Sorry! or Careers in a nonetheless family-friendly atmosphere.
1313 Park St., (510) 769-1011, www.thehobnobalameda.com. —DR
Best Reason to Don Lederhosen
True Alamedans know that the best time to grab their favorite pair of lederhosen and head to the streets is in September. That’s when Alameda’s favorite German restaurant, Speisekammer, throws open its doors and closes down part of Lincoln Avenue for drinking, drinking games, songs about drinking and a little more drinking—and pretty good food, too. One of the best Oktoberfest celebrations in the East Bay (Sept. 6-7) is right in here in Alameda, and locals wouldn’t have it any other way.
2424 Lincoln Ave., (510) 522-1300, www.speisekammer.com. —DJ
Best Law Protecting Kids
25 mph Speed Limit
Keep Kids Alive—Drive 25. It’s the Alameda mantra, and locals are serious about it. Islanders embrace it, convinced the slower pace makes for a safer environment, one of the many great things about Alameda. Outsiders may be irked by those patrol officers who ruthlessly, unerringly and unfailingly enforce the 25 mph speed limit, but not the Islanders who learned long ago to keep an eye on the speedometer needle and their autos at near putt-putt speed in the name of pedestrian safety. —JG