The 'Best Of' 2000

Publication Date: Wednesday, August 30, 2000

The 'Best Of' 2000

EPICUREAN DELIGHTS

Bagel
Unlike many copycat bagel shops, Izzy's Brooklyn Bagels boils their bagels the authentic way, and is a true Jewish deli. The kosher establishment is closed on all Jewish holidays, including Passover week. From smoked whitefish to fresh bialys, Izzy's has it all, with an ambience to boot, featuring old photos of Brooklyn. In second place was Noah's , and House of Bagels was third.
Izzy's Brooklyn Bagels, 477 California Ave., Palo Alto, (650) 329-0700

Barbecue
The Armadillo may be a burrowing animal, but Armadillo Willy' s certainly has no reason to hide its head in the sand. The restaurant, opened by Peninsula natives John Berwald and John Carroll in 1983, boasts a "real Texas BBQ." For anyone who hasn't been deep in the heart, Texas style is smoky and shellacked with a sweet tomato-like sauce. Seasonings a little different in the Carolinas--barbecue from there is smoked and then bathed in a vinegary, mustardy sauce--and from soul food barbecue, which is marinated, smoked, and brown sauced. You may not be able to hoedown, but you can definitely chow down on favorites that include Willy's Famous Baby Back Pork Ribs and the award-winning St. Louis cut spareribs. With its aluminum-siding walls, big stone hearth, and Southwestern scenes on the wall, the Los Altos location is a place even a cowboy would feel like hanging up his stirrups. Things didn't heat up much in this category, with Armadillo Willy's winning easily for the fifth year in a row. The upscale Macarthur Park pulled in second, with Bander a coming third.
Armadillo Willy's, 1031 N. San Antonio Road, Los Altos, (650) 941-2922

Bread
Just like the baker's dozen, Harmony Bakery offers a little bit more. Four years in a new and bigger location, right across the street from the site of the old store, meant there was room for a juice bar. So now you can sip your smoothie or wheatgrass juice while picking up baguettes, batards, or some focaccia from Palo Alto native Phil Nasr's Midtown bakery. And here, the little bit extra comes with a little bit less--the bakery uses no preservatives and no artificial colors in its all-natural loaves. Le Boulanger was a close second, with third place taken by Whole Foods .
Harmony Bakery, 2750 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, (650) 323-1815

Breakfast/Brunch
Thank Marie Antoinette. Voters seem to have taken their cue from her and voted Hobee's , the place with the scrumptious blueberry coffee cake, a nine-time winner in the category of best breakfast and a sixth-year topper for best brunch. But for those that think you can't have your cake and eat it too, there are all the usual breakfast options available. There's eggs of the omelet kind--the Stanford "Cardinal" omelet mixes chicken, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, spinach, and cheese, all topped with tomatillo sauce--and delicious "scrambles" as well. You can also try pancakes or chicken and turkey sausages. Runner-up for best breakfast was Ann's Coffee Shop in Menlo Park, followed by Joanie's on California Avenue. Coming in second in the best brunch category was Sheraton Palo Alto Hotel , with the Peninsula Creamery taking the second spot.
Hobee's, 4224 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, (650) 856-6124; 67 Town and Country Village, Palo Alto, (650) 327-4111

Burger
There's a whole lot of shaking--milk shaking, that is--going on at Kirk's Steakburgers , but it's the flipping that voters really like. They again picked the place with more than 50 years of grilling experience number one in the best burger category. But loyalty is not hard to come by at Kirk's, where several employees have been wielding spatulas for more than 40 years. So what's its secret for keeping both its customers and staff so faithful? Could be the pineapple burger, one of the most popular offerings. Then again, it may be the vinyl booths. Oasis in Menlo Park took second, with the Alpine Inn in third place.
Kirk's Steakburgers, 361 California Ave., Palo Alto, (650) 326-6159

Burrito
This year's Best Burrito comes from a sleeper--readers pegged Una Mas as having the most delectable tortilla-wrapped delights. The chain, which boasts three operations in the Weekly's circulation area, offers a fast food approach to Mexican fare without Americanizing to Taco Bell's extent. The best thing about their heaping mounds of burrito, which often top the pound mark, may be the marinade. The marinade and the tortillas are made in a process unique to Una Mas restaurants, and all the salsas are made fresh daily. The chain prides itself on having fresh ingredients despite the fact that they are growing in number. La Castena took runner up, while three-year winner Andale Taqueria slipped to third.
Una Mas, 1023 El Camino Real, Redwood City, (650) 363-8226; 683 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park, (650) 853-1200; 244 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, (650) 323-8226

Cafe
From their fresh blueberry scones and scrambled-egg combos for breakfast, to luscious sandwiches, Cafe Borrone in Menlo Park next to Kepler's books was readers' favorite cafe. The bustling cafe has a full wine list, alongside a range of espresso drinks from cafe borgia to a frosted mocha (a decadent "milkshake" made with Haagen-Dazs ice cream.) Whether it's Saturday morning and time to curl up with the paper, or a weekday lunch with a friend, Cafe Borrone's indoor-outdoor atmosphere fits the bill. Palo Alto's Caffe Verona came in second, with Printers Inc. coming in third.
Cafe Borrone, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, (650) 327-0830

Cake
Maybe its the chocoholics that swayed the vote, but there's no doubt that The Prolific Oven is the place to get cake--whether chocolate or otherwise. But the bestsellers at the bakery, owned by GHS Champion Inc., are certainly the chocolate cakes, whether with rum cream cheese frosting, coffee cream cheese frosting, orange almond, or just more chocolate. There are also muffins, breads, and cookies to be had. More than the everyday treats, the shop offers specialty wedding cakes, decorated with fresh flowers, and cakes for Passover, including the newly introduced Passover Decadence, made with matzoh meal. Second place went to Palo Alto Baking Company , with the third spot given to Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors .
The Prolific Oven, 550 Waverley St., Palo Alto, (650) 326-8485

Chinese restaurant
Old time favorite, but also long time runner-up, Mandarin Gourmet finally got the nod from our readers this year. It's hard to say why the established eatery hasn't won in a while, because its upscale dining room is only classy in its elegance. The food is well seasoned, and the service is accomodating and speedy. Perhaps it is because the menu is a bit of a bore--except for scintillating eggplant dishes, it approaches the stock chinese food menu that can be found at much cheaper restaurants. Mandarin Gourmet is perfect for that business lunch meeting, as it has a separate dining section that most easily seats one large group. Last year's winner Su Hong came in second while Jing Jing went third.
Mandarin Gourmet, 420 Ramona Str., Palo Alto, (650) 328-8898

Family restaurant
Maybe it's because the thick milkshakes and mountainous helpings could please even your mother-in-law, or maybe it's because children think the '50s style decor is fun and like the mashed potatoes that come with extra gravy. Either way, Peninsula Creamery, the better-known name for Peninsula Fountain and Grill , is the favorite place to take the whole family. You can have any meal--breakfast, lunch, or dinner--on the marbled Formica tabletops and sip a freshly-made milkshake served in a cold metal cup. The restaurant beat out last year's winner, Fresh Choice , which came in second, and third place was Beppo's .
Peninsula Fountain and Grill, 566 Emerson St., Palo Alto, (650) 323-3131

Frozen delights
Made right on the premises, Rick's Rather Rich Ice Cream makes readers scream for more. From vanilla to chocolate chip, the shop, located at the Charleston Center, draws customers young and old for frozen treats. The creamy ice cream company has more than a cult following it seems, based on some--rather--unique flavors: try "computer chip," a chocolate, chocolate chip ice cream with orange flavoring, or "kulfi," an Indian ice cream with rose, saffron and cardomon flavorings and three kinds of nuts. If you like just plain vanilla, the word most commonly used to describe it is "decadent." Gelato Classico on Emerson Avenue in Palo Alto took second, while the Peninsula Creamery came in third.
Rick's Rather Rich, 3946 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, (650) 493-6553

Grocery store
It's big, has a bakery, deli, floral department and now an oversized pharmacy. Menlo Park's mega- Safeway won first place in the grocery store category. Readers seem to value the large selection, reasonable prices, and expansive parking lot at the store, located on the corner of El Camino Real and Middle Avenue. Draeger's in Menlo Park placed second, followed by Piazza's Fine Foods in Palo Alto.
Safeway, 525 El Camino Real, Menlo Park (650) 324-8630; 325 Sharon Park Drive (Sharon Heights Shopping Center), Menlo Park, (650) 854-3056

Juice bar
Spirulina, vitamins, protein powder and other nutrition boosters are standard fare at Jamba Juice , along with fruity treats like Strawberries Wild and Iron Woman. Frozen fruit is shoveled into blenders before your eyes, along with frozen yogurt and other add-ons. The din of blenders is loud, but the results are big styrofoam cups full of healthy juice drinks. In second place was Juice Patch in Menlo Park and in third, Whole Foods Market's juice bar.
Jamba Juice, 1007 El Camino Real, Redwood City, (650) 261-2130; Tressider Union Hall, Stanford University, (650) 833-6845

Indian restaurant
There's something to be said for starting from scratch. That's how Janta India Cuisine cooks everything, and it has made them a six-time winner in this category. Open seven days a week, the tiny restaurant pleases the palate with such popular Indian dishes as shrimp biryani and rice pilaf with shrimp and cashew nuts. Looking to heat things up? There's also lots of fiery Northern Indian tandoori, soothed by cooling yogurt raita for those with not the bravest of buds. Vegetarians can also find a passage to India here, with many meat-free options in the menu. Amber came in second, and in third place was Swagat .
Janta Indian Cuisine, 369 Lytton Ave., Palo Alto, (650) 462-5903

Italian restaurant
Weekly readers this year have given the nod to stalwart Osteria . Tables are tightly packed. Would-be diners crowd in a clogged foyer at the door. Large canvases of tributes to abstract expressionist art loom on the walls. Slick waiters zoom around like parts of a well-oiled machine, making you feel like just so many more cogs sitting on chairs. These are not bad things according to voters, as Palo Alto's love for the corner trattoria remains unabated. While the surrounding dining scene has exploded, fans still return for the convival atmosphere, sense of festivity and fairly priced unfussy Italian staples. Il Fornaio Cucina Italiana was runner up, while Menlo Park's Carpaccio took third.
Osteria, 247 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, (650) 328-5700

Late night restaurant/Meal for under $5
Although it didn't make it on the Pizza leaderboard, Weekly readers still felt Pizza A Go-Go was worthy of praise. The University Avenue hangout, always teeming with teens, was deemed the best restaurant open after ten as well as the best meal for under five bucks. Low prices and late hours, rare in Palo Alto, are exactly what make the pizza joint a favorite for the under-twenty crowd. The doughy crust, always soft, and the hot pizzas, often straight out of the oven, also make for a good following. Just don't go if "dude" and "bro" aren't in your vocabulary, and surfing is something only lazy good-for-nothings do. Especially since the water sport is piped in to televisions hanging from the wall while you eat. In-N-Out took second in the late night category, followed by Jack in the Box . In the Meal for under $5 category, which was restricted to non-chain restaurants, Jamba Juice and Pluto's tied for second with The Dutch Goose taking third.
Pizza A Go-Go, 335 University Avenue, Palo Alto, (650) 322-8100

Mexican restaurant
Weekly readers pegged California Avenue's Palo Alto Sol as the best restaurant with Mexican fare. The name is appropriate, as the sidewalk dining and large front windows allow for a sunny ambience while you eat. The menu comes entirely from the Mexican state of Puebla, which was colonized by the French for large periods of its history. The French influence can be seen in some of the cream and wine sauces. Take Camarones Mulata, for instance. The shrimp are served in a sour cream sauce, along with the skins of three different types of sundried peppers. Or maybe the Pollo Cerrano, a chicken in cream sauce tempered by red wine, mushrooms, garlic and cerrano peppers. Best Burrito winner Una Mas was runner-up, while Compadres was third in the balloting.
Palo Alto del Sol, 408 California Ave., Palo Alto, (650) 328-8840

New restaurant/service
One fish, two fish, 3 Fish , new fish. Weekly readers have fallen in love with this new Menlo Park hot spot, giving it both the Best New Restaurant as well as Best Service honors. A member of Palo Alto's Fish Market family is running the place in his rookie season, and is already second in the balloting (to the Fish Market) for Best Seafood Restaurant. 3 Fish boasts a wide variety of seafood, from cioppino, a tomato-based shellfish stew with clams and mussels, to sushi and oysters at the raw bar. Other than broiled, grilled, pan-fried and baked fish, the restaurant also offers various lamb, veal, steak and chicken dishes for the non-fish- loving patrons. Entrees range from $12-$25, while appetizers peak at $11. Left Bank , a bustling French-themed cafe in Menlo Park took second, while another new seafood restaurant, Straits Cafe in Palo Alto, came in third.
3 Fish, 888 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, (650)326-2633

Pasta restaurant
Pasta entrees for $6 in downtown Palo Alto? Only at Pasta ? And that's not to be questioned. The small cafe has opened its career with two straight Best Of's, and all that without an official name. The owners started out with the peculiar, unfinished name, hoping to nab a new one during a naming competition. The community was so smitten with the cheap plates of pasta, Caesar salads and free-flowing Chianti, however, that the management never had the heart to change the name. Pasta ? has had to squeeze its little tables into an unforgiving narrow storefront, but the friendly atmosphere makes the space seem cozy, not cramped. All noodles come perfectly al dente, ladled with hearty bolognese sauce, a delicate dill and smoked salmon concoction or sausage and green peas in a light cream sauce. Florentine came in second with Osteri a rounding out the list.
Pasta ?, 326 University Ave., Palo Alto, (650)328-4585

Pizza restaurant
Talk about dominance. Menlo Park's Applewood Inn has been selected the most popular pizzeria in the area for the 10th year in a row. At Applewood, customers can find both exotic and traditional toppings for their pizzas. The restaurant has built its excellent reputation by creating unusual variations of pizza for adult tastes. Some of their sophisticated flavor combinations have an international edge, such as the Nice (spinach, ricotta, red onions and tomatoes), the Dallas (chili sauce, barbecue beef, chilies and red peppers), and the Athens (marinated egg plant, feta, sun-dried tomatoes and capers). The bottom line is still being attended to: a terrific, chewy crust, cheese thick enough to pull off in strings, and a flavorful tomato sauce. Also check out their extensive beer selection, which boasts some hard-to-find Bavarian varieties. Roundtabl e and Pizz'a Chicago came in second and third, respectively.
Applewood Inn, 1001 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, (650) 324-3486

Place for hot and spicy food
When you are bringing the heat, there's three-alarm, five-alarm, and bring-the-whole-dang-fire-department. For six years running now, readers have agreed that Palo Alto's Jing Jing has a little of each, depending on the dish. This Chinese restaurant has been known to make eyes water preemptively upon entering the establishment, so bring a ready tongue. The orange peel beef, kung pao chicken and dahn dahn mihn noodles are worth more than a try. Keep the water close at hand, bring something to mop that brow, and settle in for some of the spiciest culinary sensations this side of the Szechwan province. Siam Garden took second, while Amber India placed third.
Jing Jing, 443 Emerson St., Palo Alto, (650) 328-6885

Place for outdoor dining
Yeah, there's a grill and, yeah, there are some beers on tap. But Weekly readers agree--for the sixth year in a row-- that the best thing about the Empire Grill & Tap Room is its fabulous patio. It's hard to feel more blessed than you do dining on a warm day at one of the patio tables with friends or even business associates--that's how pleasant it is. A little trickling fountain and rustling greenery make it hard to believe you are in downtown Palo Alto. To go with the well-chosen microbrews and imports on tap, the menu showcases unfussy dishes and assertive flavors that could be characterized as California cuisine with no pretension. Outdoor heaters keep the environment cozy when the weather cools. Cafe Borrone in Menlo Park and Nola's were second and third, respectively.
Empire Grill & Tap Room, 651 Emerson St., Palo Alto, (650) 321-3030

Place to buy fresh fish
The Pacific Ocean may be close enough to drive to, but most of us don't venture out to catch our own fish. The best place to snatch the freshest of the day's catch without using a rod and reel is Cook's Seafoo d in Menlo Park. The market on El Camino Real tops the list once again this year. Founded in 1928 by Bill Cook, the market specializes in fresh fish bought from local fishermen. Cook's sells more than 40 varieties of seafood, featuring snapper and sole fished from local waters. Whether you're planning to deep-fry the calamari, throw a salmon on the grill or steam some halibut, our readers say Cook's is the place to go. The Fish Market finished second, while Whole Foods was third.
Cook's Seafood Market, 751 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, (650) 322-2231

Place to buy fresh produce
There's no phone number and the produce goes quickly, but every Saturday morning, the hordes come out to the bustling parking lot behind Hamilton Avenue's post office for the Downtown Palo Alto Farmer's Market . The market, which runs June through December, was one of the first to open for business, second only to Redwood City. Palo Alto's market opened in 1981 with just 10 growers and has ballooned to accommodate nearly 3,000 shoppers every Saturday. Readers claim that it's not only the best place to buy produce but also a perfect opportunity to run into neighbors and friends. Sigona's Farmer's Market , which has a storefront at Stanford mall, came in second, while Piazza's Fine Food s finished third.
Downtown Palo Alto Farmer's Market, parking lot behind the Hamilton Avenue post office, Palo Alto. Opens 8 a.m. Saturdays

Place to buy health food
For the eighth year in a row, Whole Foods Market gets the nod from Weekly readers as the best place to buy health food. The market's aisles are piled high with fresh organic produce, as well as bins of whole grains, dried lentils and quinoa. The deli has fresh-from-the-oven casseroles, roast chicken, salads and hot soups (four every day). Its bakery has a mouth-watering array of pies, cakes, pastries and cookies, and it offers coffee drinks, chai teas and juices and smoothies. The vitamin and herb sections are stocked with a mind-numbing selection of natural health aids. California Avenue's Country Su n placed second, and Redwood City's Sigona' s took third.
Whole Foods Market, 774 Emerson St., Palo Alto, (650) 326-8676

Place to buy meat
Whether it's sausage, salmon or their trademark secret recipe, "Fred's Steak," meat and fish-lovers rank Schaub's Meat, Fish and Poultry at the top of their lists for the best place to buy meat. Schaub's not only has high-quality products, but friendly, helpful service. Besides a wide array of meats, this upscale meat market also has a selection of spices, dressings and gourmet dishes for entertaining or a picnic supper. Also strong is its poultry and seafood selection, whether it's roast chicken or a halibut steak. Andronico' s beat out College Terrace's JJ&F market by one vote for second and third place, respectively.
Schaub's Meat, Fish and Poultry, 395 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, (650) 325-6328

Place to buy wine
From burgundies to cabernets, Beltramo's Wines and Liquor s has been purveying fine wines for the Midpeninsula for more than 100 years, offering not only stellar products, but expert service, and even winemaking experience. The shop has more than 4,000 different wines in stock, mostly domestic, but with a broad selection of wines from South America and Europe. A tasting room and in-house wine consultants make sure you leave with just the right vintage. Finishing second was Trader Joe's , for its bargain pricing, and Vin, Vino, Win e pulled in one vote behind at third.
Beltramo's Wines and Liquors, 1540 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, (650) 325-2806

Restaurant with the best service
Topping the best service category this year is newcomer 3 Fish restaurant on El Camino Real in Menlo Park. Formerly the site of stalwart Ken's family restaurant, 3 Fish brings a fresh look to the area with its nautical thematic elements and it's New England decor. The menu dishes out a mouth-watering variety of baked and fried fish, including a raw bar for for diehard fish fans. Steaks, chicken and pasta are also served in this refreshing and friendly atmosphere. The ever popular Nola's placed second, with Spago and Evvia Estiatorio tying for third.
3 Fish, 888 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, (650) 326-2633

Seafood restaurant
Our readers definitely have a favorite seafood restaurant, and its name is easy to remember: The Fish Market . At this restaurant, diners can find such old standbys as cracked crab, or rare treats like Australian Gold Band Snapper. The restaurant also offers plenty of delicious favorites, such as swordfish caught on one of the establishment's own boats, the "Harpooned Pilikea." Other things you'll find on the menu are mahi mahi, trout, clams, mussels and oysters, fresh from the restaurant's own oyster farm up in Puget Sound. Tempting appetizers start you off, like a steaming bowl of white clam chowder. 3 Fish came in second, and Cook's Seafood took third.
The Fish Market, 3150 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, (650) 493-9188

Special occasion restaurant
Evvia Estiatorio is truly a place for the gods--and celebrations. This Aegean restaurant on Emerson Street boasts a fine list of succulent entrees and specials fit for the Greek deities. A rustic setting sets the mood for an outing here, with such specials as spit-roasted leg of lamb and grilled salmon greeting the awaiting taste buds. Items range from simpler baked casseroles stuffed with eggplant and lamb ragout to skewered and marinated swordfish to more exotic items such as octopus in tomato and red wine sauce. Wolfgang Puck's Spag o on nearby Lytton Avenue came in at second, with Chantilly in Redwood City placing third.
Evvia Estiatorio, 420 Emerson St., Palo Alto, (650) 326-0983

Steak
For the sixth consecutive year, Weekly readers say the best place to eat the perfect steak is the Sundance Mine Company . Sundance has attracted a loyal following by serving a small but carefully selected array of entrees that are centered around beef. The restaurant does focus on steak, but the kitchen does just as well with seafood. Clubby and dark, Sundance is the perfect place to try the menu's centerpiece, the Shareholder's cut (16 ounces of prime rib)--just take your shareholder's wallet with you. Bentley's in Woodside came in second, with MacArthur Park finishing in third.
Sundance Mine Company, 1921 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, (650) 321-6798

Sushi/Japanese restaurant
For years, the race for best in this category seems to be passed back and forth between favorites. Fuki Sushi held first place again this year at the top of the local sushi and Japanese restaurants. Fuki's soothing atmosphere, contrasted with Miyake's boisterous one may have played a role this year. Fuki Sushi's festive Japanese-style fondue (called shabu, shabu, after the sound the beef makes as it's swished through the broiling broth at the table) could also be a reason. Fuki Sushi also offers a straightforward list of fresh sushi and sashimi. Miyake , of course, came in second, with Benihana' s of Burlingame placing third.
Fuki Sushi, 4119 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, (650) 494-9383

Thai restaurant
Menlo Park's Siam Garden won over it's patrons' taste buds, coming in on top of the Thai restaurant field. Appetizers feature fragrant, curry-laden chicken, pork or beef, as well as vegetarian dishes. Soups, flavored with lemon grass, galangal and kaffir lime leaf leave eaters sated. With reasonable prices, comfortable blue Naugahyde booths and a menu of Thai favorites, Siam Garden is consistently an award winner. Thai City came in second, while Bangkok Spoo n finished third.
Siam Garden, 1143 Crane St., Menlo Park, 853-1143

Vegetarian restaurant
Whether it's breakfast, lunch or dinner, a true vegetarian can find a tasty entree at Menlo Park's Late for the Train, opened 24 years ago by Bob Cool and then-wife Jesse Cool. From whole wheat challah French toast, to many Moosewood-style vegetarian dishes, you'll walk out sated. Organic tofu can be substituted in any dish, and organic vegetables--even black beans or cranberry juice--are staples. Breakfast is the restaurant's signature meal, from the Carlos' breakfast tostada to tamari-marinated roasted potatoes. Veggie omelets and granola are available as well. In second place was The Good Earth, followed by Fresh Choice.
Late for the Train, 150 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, (650) 321-6124

OF LOCAL NOTE

Place for a first date
Nola's festive New Orleans (think Nawlins) atmosphere may be part of its secret for winning year after year. The noise means you and your date will be talking tete-a-tete, getting to know each other. The drink are deliciously strong (note the hurricanes, bug juice and frozen 'ritas). And the restaurant's sultry Mardi Gras atmosphere turns every night into a party. The casual atmosphere should take the nerves away, and make it easier for the first date to lead to a second. The food is a mix of Cajun/Creole and Caribbean, with big helpings. This year's second place goes to Gordon Biersch, the brewing company's Palo Alto stronghold. Third place goes to MacArthur Park.
Nola's Restaurant, 535 Ramona St., Palo Alto, (650) 328-2722

Place for a last date
It looks like it's over, but that doesn't mean your last meal together has to be at McDonald's. You may as well go out in style, and Il Fornaio may just be the ticket. This classy establishment with it's rich Italian decor and atmosphere was voted as the best place to celebrate the highlights of any relationship. If lunch is all you can muster, a wide array of dishes await, including insalatas, pizzas and, of course, scrumptious pastas. Dinner offers many of the same dishes with more elaborate options such as mesquite-grilled and wood-fired rotisserie chicken. Kirk's Steakburgers on California Avenue came second, with the Peninsula Creamery and Burger King tying it up for third.
Il Fornaio, 520 Cowper St., Palo Alto, 853-3888

Local hero (non-athlete)
WHO IS SKRABO? Local hero Gerhard Casper, who recently resigned as president of Stanford University, emerged as this year's favorite local hero for readers. Born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1937, Casper spent his term during the past eight years streamlining and reorganizing the university's structure and making the transition for incoming students easier. University infrastructure and housing has also undergone extensive expansion and renovation to recover from the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 as well as accommodate the increasing need for student housing, especially at the graduate level. Casper has also been working to extend Stanford's relationship to the community surrounding the campus as well as strengthening relations with alumni.

Place to hear live music
With the closure of Palo Alto's last live-music venue, The Edge, readers chose Shoreline Amphitheatre as the best place to hear live music. Whether it's rhythm and blues, jazz, or high-energy rock, Shoreline gets the nod from readers. Every year over the course of the long outdoor-concert season, more than 40 entertainers zoom into Shoreline and 700,000 concert-goers flock to see them. Shoreline Ampitheatre was opened in 1986 under the direction of Bill Graham Presents, and now boasts an array of culinary choices to munch on before the show. Menlo Park's British Banker's Club came in second, and Gordon Biersch finished third.
Shoreline Ampitheatre, 1 Ampitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, (650) 967-3000

Place to meet singles
Nola's, with its young, lively crowd, is the best place to meet singles, for the second year in a row. So, forget the personal ads and stop in for Nola's odd mix of Cajun/Creole and Caribbean cuisine, and keep your eyes open for that eligible date. Once again, the British Banker's Club in Menlo Park came in close behind Nola's, if you want a more wood-and-brass kind of atmosphere. Gordon Biersch came in third place.
Nola Restaurant, 535 Ramona St., Palo Alto, (650) 328-2722

Place for a wedding reception
No matter what the season, a garden wedding with a gracious turn-of-the-century mansion as a backdrop will create a picture-perfect day. For the second year, Gamble Gardens is the number-one choice of readers for exchanging wedding vows. The house and grounds, built in 1902, were left to the city by Elizabeth F. Gamble (of Proctor & Gamble fame). The fully restored garden has a formal rose garden, a wisteria garden, even a "clock-golf" circle (used years ago by Elizabeth Gamble for a type of golf). Rent the facility for a wedding reception and you'll also be able to use the services of the center's wedding coordinator. Time is limited to eight hours, and guests are limited to 50 people, although the center allows parties of 75 people twice a month. Of course, nothing this good comes without restrictions: Music must be live and acoustic (stringed instruments only). The Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Bechtel International Center on Stanford campus placed second and third respectively.
Elizabeth F. Gamble Gardens, 1431 Waverley St., Palo Alto, (650) 329-1356

THE RIGHT STUFF

Antique store
Maria's Antiques in Los Altos pulled ahead of Adele's Antiques this year, claiming a secure first place. Maria's has three locations in Los Altos and one in Los Gatos. For nearly 25 years, Maria's has specialized in country French furniture, French pottery and French fabrics. Coming in third place is Patrician Antiques in Los Altos.
Maria's Antiques, 393 Main St., Los Altos, (650) 941-9682

Art gallery
The Photographer's Gallery on Ramona Street captured the top prize for art gallery in 1997 and returned to do the same in the new millennium. This gallery has everything from vintage 20th-century photographs to works by Ansel Adams. It offers "museum-quality" art, as well as expertise for the novice and the experienced individual. The dynamic-but-classic art setting draws in customers. The gallery often features work by established photographers, as well as up-and-coming local artists. University Art Center across from City Hall placed second with the Cantor Museum at Stanford placing third.
The Photographer's Gallery 536 Ramona St., Palo Alto, (650) 328-0662

Bike shop
For all your two-wheeled, self-propelled needs, Weekly readers recommend The Bike Connection. The store boasts an accommodating staff ready to help you through the large inventory that can be seen through glinting through their windows along El Camino Real. This inventory includes the newest mountain, road and hybrid bikes, as well as some trendier items for the little ones--bike trailers, joggers, and, of course, push scooters. And the next time your chains get so crossed that you can't make sense of them, The Connection has a knowledgeable bunch of gearheads ready to repair them. Last year's winner, Palo Alto Bicycle, slipped to second this year while Wheelsmith took third.

Bookstore
Weekly readers still trust Kepler's Books and Magazines most for all their in-print needs. Founded in 1955, Kepler's is one of the oldest independent bookstores in the area. The store features a knowledgeable staff, a wide variety of popular categories and personalized service. Each week, the store hosts author readings and book-signings, and on the first Sunday of each month, Kepler's has an open-mike poetry reading. Aside from the books, Kepler's has newspapers and magazines from around the world, a huge selection of calendars and reading accoutrements. Printers Inc. in California Avenue came in second, with Borders Books at third.
Kepler's Books and Magazines, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, (650) 324-4321

Car repair
Our readers must all drive BMWs, because they felt that Palo Alto BMW Service and Repair, also known as Palo Alto Bimmer, was the best place to get their car serviced. If that German hunk of metal is acting up, just take it over to the folks at Bimmer, and they will have it purring faster than you can say "Autobahn." Their location--on the corner of Alma Street and Homer Avenue--is central for Palo Alto professionals. The shop does everything from diagnostic and electrical work to engine overhauls, transmissions, clutches and breaks. Perennial favorite Ole's Car Shop fell to second, while Meissner Automotive came in third.
Palo Alto Bimmer, 799 Alma St., Palo Alto, (650) 325-3818

Dry cleaners
If you've smudged pasta sauce on your favorite blouse or dribbled drink on your best slacks, our readers say the best solution is a trip to Delia's Cleaners and Drapery Centers. And that's what our readers have said for some years now. Founded in San Jose in 1969, Delia's 45 stores provide the standard for dry cleaning and laundering services as well as ministering to your delicate leather and suede items. If you've lost (or gained) a little around the waist, the tailors and seamstresses at Delia's can do alterations. Menlo Shirt Laundry and Dry Cleaners were the runners-up, and Emerson Laundry Cleaners took third.
Delia's Cleaners and Drapery Centers, 2790 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, (650) 321-9190; 2013 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, (650) 323-9190

Environmentally conscious store

A new category, but an old favorite: Common Ground was voted Most Environmentally Conscious this year by our readers. Common Ground is more than just a good garden-supply store that sells, among many important gardening essentials, high-quality chicken manure that will boost your little garden's growth. The store is also an "Education Center," and offers classes ranging from general environmental conservation to "How to Start a School Garden." If you aren't up for sitting in class, check out the extensive reference library and learn on your own. In any case, Common Ground is your best way to augment your garden while soothing your angst about the environment's downward spiral. The store is planning on moving this fall to a location on College Avenue, so watch for development on that front. Whole Foods and Trader Joe's came in second and third, respectively.
Common Ground, 2225 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, (650) 328-6752

Place for a facial
When you need some serious pampering, treat yourself to a revitalizing facial. For the fourth year in a row, Weekly readers agree that the two La Belle Day Spas in Palo Alto are the best places to get this pampering. La Belle offers more than 10 different customized facials--including some specifically designed for men and teenagers--with prices starting at $60. Ensconced in a private treatment room, the customer is tended to by highly trained specialists who explain every step of the process. Founded in San Francisco 24 years ago by Bella Schneider, La Belle also offers numerous massage treatments, wraps and scrubs, as well as electrolysis waxing, and nail and makeup artistry. Neiman Marcus' Salon took second, and the Great Getaway third.
La Belle Day Spas, 95 Town and Country Village, Palo Alto, (650) 327-6964; and 36 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, (650) 326-8522

Flowers
Menlo Park's Roger Reynolds nursery beat out other stores for the best place to buy flowers. The nursery's knowledgeable staff can steer you toward just the right plants, and give you advice on the right soil and fertilizer. From azaleas to zinnias, the nursery's selection is impeccable, and when you're done choosing annuals and perennials, the choice of gardening tools and yard ornaments is broad. When you're done, grab a bite in the adjacent tea room. The Palo Alto Farmer's Market came in second, with University Florist coming in third.
Roger Reynolds Nursery and Carriage Stop, 133 Encinal Ave., Menlo Park, (650) 323-5612

Framing shop
Regardless of subject or medium--from your great uncle's watercolor of the family homestead to an original Chagall--our readers recommend taking your art to University Art Center for framing. In business since 1947, the store, with locations in San Francisco, San Jose and Sacramento, is known for its knowledgeable staff, who can help you choose the best frame and format styles to complement your piece. Before you leave, take a few minutes to browse through the rest of the store and admire the range of art supplies and paraphernalia. Second on the list of framers was The Great Frame Up, with Van Kampen coming in third.
University Art Center, 267 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, (650) 328-3500

Furniture store
At the top of the furniture heap in theis year's tally is Flegel's, prized for its range of Baker, Stickley, Henredon, Guy Chaddock and Widdicomb brands. The Menlo Park shop also carries an extensive line of Brown Jordan outdoor furniture and offers complete home design services. Flegel's has served the Bay Area since 1954, and has another location in San Rafael. Crate and Barrel and Restoration Hardware were considered the second and third best places to go for your furniture needs.
Flegel's, 870 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park, (650) 326-9661

Gardening store
For the sixth straight year, gardening's Goliath beat out the local Davids when readers picked the Woolworth Garden Center as the best gardening store. It may not carry the most exotic species, but the perennials, bedding plants, roses, trees and shrubs are healthy, well-priced, and in stock. In addition, Woolworth offers a wide range of planters, garden tools and fertilizers. Old-timer Roger Reynolds in Menlo Park took second place, while Common Ground was third.
Woolworth Garden Center, 725 San Antonio Road, Palo Alto, (650) 493-5136

Hair salon
Ready for the back-to-school do? Want a haircut that will dazzle your coworkers upon your return from vacation? Or maybe just a how's-it-going, split-end reducing, "quarter inch off the top" kind of cut? Our readers, in a coup of sorts, selected the Neiman Marcus Hair Salon as the Best Hair Salon. Juut, formerly known as Yosh, fell to second this year. At Neiman Marcus, you can expect high-quality service from the team of hair professionals. The light, airy salon on the third floor of Neiman Marcus in the Stanford Shopping Center provides a good backdrop for hair styling. Hair International, also in the Stanford Shopping Center, took third.
Neiman Marcus Hair Salon, Stanford Shopping Center, (650) 329-3360

Hardware store
Built on a reputation for courteous and knowledgable service, Palo Alto Hardware earned the public's number one vote for another consecutive year. Beating out Menlo Park Hardware and Peninsula Hardware for the top spot, the independently owned affiliate of Ace Hardware has also been recognized as Santa Clara County's first official "Green Business" for its conservation and prevention efforts. So next time you need paint, a new sprinkler head, or even a kitchen gadget, head on over to Palo Alto Hardware.
Palo Alto Hardware, 875 Alma St., Palo Alto, (650) 327-7222.

Hotel
The Garden Court Hotel held its first place spot again this year. This Mediterranean-style hotel, known for its excellent service, offers rooms ranging from $250 to $500 a night. Rooms feature fax machines, mini-bars, VCRs with complementary videos, newspapers, terrycloth robes and 24-hour room service supplied by Il Fornaio Cucina Italiana, which is located below the hotel. The Stanford Park Hotel in Menlo Park took second place, and the Westin followed behind in third place. Garden Court Hotel, 520 Cowper St., Palo Alto, (650) 322-9000.

Place to buy jewelry
As one of the premier jewelry retailers in the country, it's no wonder Tiffany & Co. made its way to the number one spot after moving to Palo Alto just three years ago. Located in the Stanford Shopping Center, Tiffany's little blue boxes offer something for everybody, ranging from the well-known fine silver jewelry to crystal, china, timepieces, barware, baby gifts and even fragrances. Gleim Jewelers took second place this year followed by Mansoor-Gore Jewelers.
Tiffany & Co., 149 Stanford Shopping Center, (650) 328-2552.

Place for a massage
Stressed? Look no further than Watercourse Way for a soothing solution to tense muscles and throbbing temples. Rates for treatments vary depending on the time of your visit, but Watercourse Way offers an array of packages that cater to a range of needs and the size of your wallet. The Body Therapy and Peak Performance tied for second place, and Reach Fitness came in third. Watercourse Way, 165 Channing Ave., Palo Alto, (650)462-2000.

Music store
Tower Records stood tall next to its competition again this year, easily securing the top spot for finding favorite tunes, ranging from classical to jazz to pop. Known around town as a local teen hangout, the store is open from 9 a.m. to midnight year round. Capturing the second place spot in a tie vote was Hear Music and Melody Lane, which will be closing. Borders Books and Music came in at number three.
Tower Records, 630 San Antonio Road, Mountain View (650) 941-7900.

Pharmacy
Maximart Pharmacy jumped into the number one spot this year following Longs Drug Store's six-year reign. This Cambridge Avenue store, which has been in business for more than 30 years, keeps its customers coming back for the friendly service. Unlike a lot of larger pharmacy chains, Maximart makes deliveries for customers and is more than happy to special order prescriptions and rare products that other stores don't usually offer. Longs Drug Stores at University Avenue and Midtown tied for second place. Rite Aid and Walgreens tied for third.
Maximart Pharmacy, 240 Cambridge Ave., Palo Alto, (650) 327-3922.

Photo developing
PhotoTime regained its top spot this year, knocking last year's first place Longs Drug Store in Midtown to third. Offering a variety of services for specific photo needs, PhotoTime capped this category for its one-hour photo processing, reprints, enlargments, poster prints, slides, overhead prints and portrait studio. Wolf Camera and Longs Drug Store in Sharon Heights tied for the second place spot.
PhotoTime, 138 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, (650) 326-7687.

Place to blow your last $20
What could be better than a bucket of popcorn and the latest flick at the Century 16 theater in Mountain View on your last $20? General admission tickets are $8.50, and children under 11 as well as seniors pay $4.75. Bargain shows Monday through Friday until 6 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday until 2 p.m. Cost is $5.25 for general admission. Tickets can also be ordered online. Tower Records came in second followed by Beltramos wine shop in Menlo Park in third place.
Century 16, 1500 N. Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View, (650) 960-0970.

Place to buy greeting cards
Letter Perfect came up with the first place spot again this year, beating out McWhorters and Hallmark for the best cards and stationery. Lette Perfect offers a place for browsers to get away from the busyness of University Avenue and select among a wide selection of cards, from serious to hilarious at reasonable prices. The store also sells a variety of personal and business stationery, as well as wedding invitations.
Letter Perfect, 384 University Ave., Palo Alto, (650) 321-3700.

Place to buy pet supplies
Pet Food Depot
caters to birds of all feathers. With supplies ranging from bird cages to chicken feed, this family-owned pet shop clawed its way to the top for another year, beating second-place Petco and third-place finisher The Pet Place. The Pet Food Depot also offers a full range of dog and cat products along with a hearty selection of animal food.
Pet Food Depot, 3127 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, (650) 852-1277.

Shoe store
Can't seem to find that perfect pair of pumps? Nordstrom is our readers' favorite place to snatch up the latest styles. Semiannual sales are a shoe shopper's delight where bargain hunters will find a huge selection of men's, women's and children's shoes. Footwear, Etc. captured second place, and Macy's and Payless Shoe Source tied for the third-place spot. Nordstrom, 550 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, (650) 323-5111. Shoe repair Weekly readers voted Paul's European Cobblery to the number one spot for shoe repair. Family-owned and operated for three generations, experts repair both shoes and other leather goods such as purses or belts. Prices range from $4 for a shoe shine to $48 for a full leather, soles and heels repair. Paul's beat Midtown Shoe Repair and the Stanford Mall Cobblery for first place.
Paul's European Cobblery, 410 California Ave., Palo Alto (650) 323-0409 and 390 University Ave., (650) 323-3045.

Toy store
They've got all the classics at the Palo Alto Sport Shop and Toy World. From Chutes and Ladders to Twister, the famous downtown landmark has an inventory that can make even the biggest grown-up drool. Playmobil and Fisher-Price as well as Lego and Brio are in stock for the shorter guys. The Waverley Street store has also left its mark in the sports industry with its competitive-swimming merchandise. Palo Alto Sport Shop captured the top spot, well above Toys R Us and Imaginarium in second and third place.
Palo Alto Sport Shop and Toy World, 526 Waverley St., Palo Alto, (650) 328-8555.

Travel agency
Located in downtown Palo Alto since 1931, Bungey Travel Inc. has taken the top spot once again this year after beating out Ladera Travel and Dale Johnson Travel. Specializing in the higher end of the travel market, Bungey is the best bet to book cruises, customized vacations and action-adventure packages.
Bungey Travel Inc., 116 University Ave., Palo Alto, (650) 325-5686.

Used-book store
Know Knew Books knows what it takes to be the best place to find rare books. It's the fourth consecutive year the California Avenue store has captured first place. With a supply of 80,000 books, this nine-year-old store has an eclectic selection of science fiction, travel, erotica and lots more. Megabooks came in second, and Bell's followed behind for third.
Know Knew Books, 415 California Ave., Palo Alto, (650) 326-9355.

Video store
Weekly readers gave Blockbuster Video four stars for being the top-notch video store in town. Convenience, multiple copies of new releases, a fair selection of foreign films and a wide array of video games all make easy excuses for being couch potatoes on a Friday night.
Blockbuster Video, 3990 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, (650) 424-1362; 102 University Ave., Palo Alto, (650) 328-7582; 1365 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, (650) 326-4797.

Women's clothing store
Whether it's for casual wear or evening attire made by top-of-the-line designers, Weekly readers named Nordstrom the best place to find that perfect outfit for any occasion. Known for its customer service and selection, the Seattle-based store pleases shoppers of every ilk. Frequent sales make the store a bargain hunter's dream. Leaf & Petal took second place, and Ann Taylor came in third.
Nordstrom, 550 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, (650) 323-5111.

Place for a workout
Reach Fitness Club got the gold for the best place to shed some pounds this year. Sweat it all off in the steam room or the dry sauna, and cool down afterwards in Reach's lap pool. For a more intense workout, sign up for some personal training sessions or go to a step aerobics class. After you've gotten a thorough workout, massage therapy is available to ease your aches and pains. And if you want to be pampered a little bit after your hard workout, manicures and pedicures are available on site. Full membership ranges from $53 a month to $580 per year.
Reach Fitness Club, 707 High St. Palo Alto, (650) 327-3224; also at 377 Second St., Los Altos.


Palo Alto Online Logo © 2000 Palo Alto Online. All Rights Reserved.