Simply the best
In 18th annual Best Of competition, readers
vote for the familiar
Instead of boring readers with a vaguely clever introduction
about trends and tastes from atop the Ivory Tower of Knowledge
the Palo Alto Weekly, we thought we'd give the community a crack
at describing what makes Palo Alto the best.
Sprinkled throughout our readers' picks for best restaurants,
shops and services are an (extremely) random sampling of local
personalities expounding their love for Palo Alto.
Of course, we can't resist adding our own two cents (it's that Ivory Tower thing
... ), we also invited Weekly employees from all levels within the company to
add their own personal favorites.
We hope you'll find new places to explore or at least a basis for lively discussion
around the kitchen table. With no further adieu, here's the Best of Palo Alto,
A new category to the Palo Alto Weekly's "Best Of" honors
an old favorite -- Zibibbo. Located in a renovated Victorian Home,
the pan-Mediterranean restaurant has delighted the palates of local
residents since opening its doors in 1997. The appetizers alone
could fill up most people: duck liver mousse on crostini with poached
apricots and rosemary; marinated mushrooms in sherry vinegar and
mint; and chicken terrine with watercress and creamy mustard are
just some of the gourmet offerings. And let's not even talk about
the cheese dishes. Tamarine Restaurant was the runner-up. 430
Kipling St., Palo Alto (650) 328-6722.
Staff Pick: Gordon Biersch, Three Seasons
Tamarine has revived the 500 block of University with its
novel blending of Vietnamese cuisine and fine art. A well-dressed
crowd has made reservations a suggestion, while the tasty menu
based on small plate entrees keeps them coming back. Starters,
like summer rolls and shrimp cupcakes begin at $6. Small plate
entrees such as Mint Chicken and Hoisin Lamb Chops start at $15.
Try some of their aromatic, flavor-infused rice for $2 per serving.
Just a few blocks away, Three Seasons took second place. Tamarine
Restaurant, 546 University Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 325-8500.
Staff pick: Three Seasons
For the serious romantic, Maddalena's Continental Italian
Restaurant offers elegant dining and service. Art Deco chandeliers,
brocade-lined walls, elegant seating and tuxedo-clad waiters add
to the effect. Serving up luxury dishes like rack of lamb, duck
and filet mignon, Maddalena's specializes in sophisticated, distinctive
cuisine. There are private dining rooms available for a more intimate
setting. Offering a romantic place for Greek food, Evvia came in
second. Maddalena's Continental Restaurant, 544 Emerson
St., Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 326-6082.
Staff pick: Zibibbo
The Fish Market
From giant photographs of fishing scenes to a New England
architectural ambiance, The Fish Market on El Camino Real in central
Palo Alto both feels like and rates as the best seafood restaurant
in the area, according to Palo Alto Weekly readers. Founded in
1976 by the late Martin Simon of Palo Alto and two real-estate
partners from Southern California (referred to intentionally as
the "flounders" on the menu's historical blurb), The
Fish Market was designed as a moderate-priced but quality seafood
restaurant with a casual, lively atmosphere, and a visible kitchen.
Dinners are from just under $11 up to $39 (lobster), with a median
price of about $14-$15. Other restaurants in the chain are in San
Jose, Santa Clara and San Jose, as well as Irvine, San Diego and
Del Mar in southern California and in Phoenix, Ariz. Hours are
11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 11 p.m.
Friday and Saturday. The runner up is Scott's Seafood in Town & Country
Village, a more formal, quieter but a bit pricier dining environment. Fish
Market Restaurant, 3150 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94306 (650)
Staff Pick: The Fish Market
Restaurant to Splurge
Whether lounging at the bar, enjoying a romantic dinner
for two, or mingling on the patio, Palo Alto residents love to
splurge at Spago. The menu is pricey, but the experience is worth
the price. Creator Wolfgang Puck offers California cuisine with
Italian, French, and Italian influences. Funky artwork and colorful
walls contrast the sophisticated tablecloths and place settings.
Spago is the it-spot for chic dining in Palo Alto. Greek restaurant
Evvia placed second. Spago, 265 Lytton Ave., Palo
Alto, CA 94301 (650) 833-1000.
Staff pick: Zibibbo
Top of the Morning
Noah's New York Bagels
For the second year in a role, Noah's New York bagels takes
the crown for Weekly readers. Despite the company's new emphasis
on sandwiches, it's apparently the bagels, lox and shmears that
keeps customers lined up outside Noah's doors. "Best of 2000" champ
Izzy's Brooklyn Bagels came in second. Noah's New
York Bagels, 278 University Avenue, Palo Alto (650) 473-075.
Staff Pick: House of Bagels
Cranking out coffee cake for the masses could well be the
mission statement of Hobee's. But that would be selling the local
chain short. The fact that they still pack 'em in at 8 locations
in the 650 and 408 area codes begs the question: Is Hobee's the
only business in the Silicon Valley to remain unaffected by the
downturn in the economy? Second place goes to Joanie's CafÈ. Hobee's
Restaurant, 4424 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94306 (650) 493-7823
and 855 El Camino Real #67, Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 327-4111.
Staff pick: Hobee's Restaurant
Peet's isn't your typical, sit, sip and suppose coffeehouse,
but it brews the best pot of java in Palo Alto, according to readers.
The small, moody coffee house on Homer Ave. has no seats or tables
and on most days is shoulder-to-shoulder with caffeine-crazed patrons.
On most mornings Palo Altans form a steady line out the door and
outside they pack the benches, littered with the morning papers.
Peet's features a range of coffees and teas like Jasmine Lime Ice
Tea Cooler. New on its lists of offerings are flavored syrups.
Second to Peet's is Starbuck's. Peet's Coffee and
Tea,153 Homer Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 325-2091 and 855
Real #77, Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 328-4771.
Staff pick: Peet's
For another year, readers have deemed Hobee's the ideal
place to have Sunday brunch. Hobee's delivers with California-influenced
comfort food, a homey atmosphere and a generous serving of their
famous coffee cake. Beware however of long lines on the weekend.
St. Michael's Alley placed second. Hobee's Restaurant,
4424 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94306 (650) 493-7823 and 855
El Camino Real #67, Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 327-4111.
Staff Pick: Joanie's
A throwback to yesteryear, this California Avenue restaurant
wins this category virtually every year with its open-grilled steakburgers
(big, juicy hamburgers) and hot dogs. Kirk's branched out a few
years ago, adding fries. A large array of condiments are offered
and customers dine casually at outdoor picnic tables. Readers'
second-place was again Taxi's. Kirk's Steakburgers,
361 California Ave., Palo Alto (650) 326-6159.
Staff pick: In-N-Out.
Dining with Kids
We all know what parents look for in a restaurant: convenience,
convenience and convenience. Kids have such a short attention span,
its necessary to find a place that serves up tasty and nutritious
food hot and fast. Fortunately, Fresh Choice meets all those criteria.
Soups, salads, pasta, pizza, and tasty desserts are on your child's
plate faster than you can say 'Happy Meal." They don't have
to know it's also good for them. Why spoil the fun? Palo Alto Creamery
Downtown landed in second. Fresh Choice, 180 Stanford
Shopping Center, Palo Alto. (650) 322-6995
Staff Pick: Country Gourmet
Pluto's Fresh Food
Readers think Pluto's is out of this world when it comes
to grabbing a bite to eat on the cheap. The galactic-themed restaurant
with it's Jetson's-like dÈcor draws a big lunch crowd during
the week and a steady stream of eager eaters on the weekends. Situated
on University Avenue, the restaurant, with locations in San Francisco
and the North Bay as well, serves up down-home grub Cafeteria style.
Diners can pick the ingredients for a hearty salad ($3.95, side;
$4.80 main) served with soft herb foccacia bread or concoct their
own hearty Thanksgiving-like dinner with choices like fresh carved
turkey ($3.75), Smashed Spuds ($1) or Neptune's Stuffing ($1.60).
Also known for it's comfort food, Palo Alto's Creamery Downtown
placed second. Pluto's Fresh Food, 482 University
Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 853-1556.
Staff pick: Pluto's
Boasting a savory menu as unique as its name, the Applewood
Inn in Menlo Park has long held a tradition of offering palate-pleasing
pizza and a family-friendly environment. This year people of the
Peninsula agree, voting Applewood the Best Pizza in the area. But
mouth-watering pies with pepperoni or pineapple aren't all the
restaurant offers. Fresh, flavorful salads, zesty garlic bread
and high-quality imported brews compliment the traditional tavern
dÈcor to offer guests a memorable dining experience. The
centerpiece, though, has always been the pizza. Pizza My Heart
in Palo Alto snagged second. Applewood Inn, 1001 El
Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA 94025 (650) 324-3486.
Staff pick: Pizza My Heart
Village Cheese House
The golden-arched fast-food corporation may have its "special
sauce," but the Village Cheese House -- this year's winner
of Best Sandwich -- gets people's mouths watering with its gooey,
secret "spread." It's just one reason this 43-year Town & Country
Village fixture has been a perennial Best Of pick. Another plus:
The Cheese House offers the hunkiest sandwiches around, double-deckers
bulging from their double saran-wrapped coverings. Choose from
the $4.95 "regular, old-fashioned" and the $5.95 "works" --
both come with a much-needed stack of napkins for when the tasty
(and somewhat messy) spread, well, spreads. Subway Sandwiches and
Salads took second place. Village Cheese House, 157
Town & Country
Village, Palo Alto (650) 326-9251.
Staff Pick: Palo Alto Creamery Downtown
To read, sit and think, or just enjoy some alone time, Palo
Alto residents have loved hanging out at Caffe Verona. Socialites
and loners alike trickle in to sip coffee ordered from a full espresso
bar or eat Italian dishes. The expansive windows facing the street
are perfect for people-watching, and the outside eating area is
a great place to start friendly conversations. Unfortunately, this
Weekly winner will be closing its doors Aug. 31 after 19 years
in business. The funky Zao Noodle Bar placed second. CaffÈ Verona,
236 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 326-9942.
Staff pick: Caffe Verona
Exercise your chopstick muscles with huge helpings of Mandarin
and Szechwan style food from Su Hong. The Su Hong menu describes
different appetizers, soups, chicken and duck, pork, beef and lamb
and seafood dishes, as well as vegetable, rice and noodle dishes.
Luncheon special start at $5.95 and go up to $6.95 for combination
plates that are served with hot and sour soup, spring roll, BBQ
pork fried rice, and vegetable chow mein. Don't forget your fortune
cookie! Following Su Hong was Jing Jing Szechwan Hunan. Su
Hong, 1039 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA 94025 (650) 323-6852.
Staff pick: Jing Jing
It came in second place last year, but this year Darbar
surged ahead for the win, leaving the 2002 winner (and this year's
staff pick), Janta, in the dust. Serving mostly northern Indian
cuisine and some southern Indian dishes, Darbar treats patrons
to a variety of curries, vindaloos, desserts and more. There are
plenty of lunch and dinner options -- including a lunch buffet
-- and the food is tasty and moderately priced. The friendly service
is also a plus. Darbar Indian Cuisine, 129 Lytton
Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 321-6688.
Staff pick: Janta
For lunch and dinner, Palo Alto residents crowd into this
charming trattoria wearing everything from business suits to sportswear
for yummy Tuscan cuisine and authentic Italian desserts like tiramisu.
Reservations are almost a must -- the place is always packed and
the environment is homey and fun. Also loved: Il Fornaio Cucina
Italiana and Pasta? -- they tied for second. Osteria,
247 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 328-5700.
Staff pick: Osteria
Andale Taqueria has made its name offering healthy food
with healthy ingredients: no frozen or canned foods, whole vegetarian
beans (not refried), grilled meats over mesquite charcoal and only
skinless chicken. This mix put Andale's over the top for our health-conscious
readers, who undoubtedly want to enjoy the glories of Mexican food
without loosening their belts. Last year's champ, Celia's, came
in second. Andale Taqueria, 209 University Ave., Palo
Alto. (650) 323-2939.
Staff Pick: La Morenita
It was the first sushi restaurant in Palo Alto when it opened
at 4119 El Camino Real in 1978, and it is the first-place "Best
of..." winner for 2003, according to Weekly readers. The semi-private
tatami matted booths and private tatami rooms allow you to sit
on the floor, but with room to stretch your feet in hidden wells
under the tables. Waiters wear kimonos, and the ambiance has been
enhanced through a recent remodeling, corresponding to the restaurant's
25th anniversary. In addition to sushi, there is a full menu of
teriyaki and other dishes. And at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 2 the restaurant
will sponsor a free class in ikebana, Japanese flower arranging,
to celebrate its "Best of..." success. Miyake in downtown
Palo Alto came in second. Fuki-Sushi, 4119 El Camino
Real, Palo Alto, CA 94306 (650) 494-9383.
Staff Pick: Miyake Restaurant
Siam Royal Authentic Thai
The fluorescent pink sign outside has beckoned many a pedestrian
into this quaint restaurant for excellent authentic Thai food with
that famous Thai smile. Some customers stick to their old favorites
-- pad thai and curries, but the menu offers many more choices.
Traditional wood carvings and wall decorations make for a pleasant
atmosphere and the prices are easy on the wallet. Krung Siam, the
competition on the opposite side of the street, placed second. Siam
Royal Authentic Thai, 338 University Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301
Staff pick: Krung Siam
With a panoply of yummy dishes, friendly service and tasteful
dÈcor, Tamarine offers something for everybody. After a
rushed day at work, a meal at Tamarine will definitely help you
slow down. Several types of herb-infused rice are offered, and
the lemongrass bass, Tamarine prawns and Wok Pho Noodles are among
the restaurant's popular dishes. Portions at Tamarine are small,
but with so many tasty options you'll want to try many different
items. Three Seasons came in second place. Tamarine
Restaurant, 546 University Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 325-8500.
Staff pick: Three Seasons
The Prolific Oven
If you've got a sweet tooth, The Prolific Oven is the place
to go. Patrons can choose from rich American style cakes, cheesecakes,
French style cream cakes, muffins, pastries, cookies, specialty
breads, challah, croissants and coffeecake. The friendly, relaxed
environment is a great place to go for a cup of coffee as well,
or, Monday through Friday, grab lunch. Offering desert served up
by singing servers, Max's Opera CafÈ placed second. Prolific
Oven, 550 Waverley St., Palo Alto, CA 94301, (650) 326-8485.
Staff pick: Gordon Biersch, Three Seasons
Ice Cream Store
Rick's Rather Rich Ice Cream
A computer chip and a rose are more commonly known for their
speed and scent. But at Rick's Rather Rich Ice Cream, it's their
taste that earns them notoriety. Rick's Rather Rich beat out Cold
Stone Creamery, last year's winner, for best Ice cream store. Opened
in 1958 by Rick Payne, Rick's Rather Rich Ice Cream, in the Charleston
Shopping Center, is a favorite hot spot to cool off, according
to Weekly readers. Now run by Gary Schoen, the ice cream store
on any given day features about two dozen homemade concoctions
gleaned from a laundry list of 400 secret recipes. The ice cream
is so infamous it garnered a mention in Gourmet magazine in 2002.
Second to Rick's is Cold Stone Creamery. Rick's Rather
Rich Ice Cream, 3946 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303 (650)
Staff pick: Cold Stone Creamery
Palo Alto Creamery Downtown
If you're jonesing for a cool and delicious milkshake, head
to Palo Alto Creamery Downtown (formerly known as Peninsula Fountain
and Grill). These thick, homemade ice-cream-based drinks could
easily convert patrons to a liquid diet. There are 18 flavors to
choose from, including chocolate, mocha chip, Oreo cookie and peppermint.
You get a glass, plus a generous amount in an ice-cold silvery
cup to keep it from melting. Yummy. Taxi's Hamburgers placed second. Palo
Alto Creamery Downtown, 566 Emerson St., Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650)
323-3131 and 180 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, CA 94304
Staff Pick: Palo Alto Creamery Downtown
Night on the Town
Nola Restaurant and Bar
Stepping into Nola is like taking a trip to the French Quarter
in New Orleans. An acronym for New Orleans Louisiana, Nola offers
a fun and colorful setting for food and drinks. Try their signature
Hurricane at the bar, put on some Mardi Gras beads, and sample
some Cajun dishes like voodoo chili or alligator and crawfish dumplings.
Serving up drinks along with renowned ribs, MacArthur Park placed
second. Nola's Restaurant and Bar, 535 Ramona
St., Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 328-2722.
Staff pick: Nola Restaurant and Bar
Nola Restaurant and Bar
Peninsula singles have spoken. The paramount place to meet
new people while enjoying a tasty spirit or pint of bubbling ale
is Nola on Ramona Street. Nola repeats its success from last year,
once again picking up first place in the Singles Bar category.
Featuring imaginative drinks such as the "Ms. Mel's Mojito" and
savory dishes with a Creole flair, Nola reputed popularity among
the 25 to 35-year-old crowd draws patrons from around the bay.
Eager singles can often be seen huddled on the sidewalk outside
this New Orleans-themed hot spot, anxious to partake of the fun
times within. The British Bankers Club in Menlo Park earned second
place. Nola Restaurant and Bar, 535 Ramona St., Palo
Alto, CA 94301 (650) 328-2722.
Staff pick: Blue Chalk Cafe
Venue for Live Music
In matters of music, Palo Altans chose suave elegance over
fist-pumping rock 'n' roll this year. While Cafe Fino shares a
menu and property with the old-world Maddalena's, Fino starts to
sizzle after about 7:30 p.m. when the lights go down and the live
music starts up. Featuring jazz and blues in a cozy art deco atmosphere,
the cafe also offers tango lessons. Shoreline Amphitheatre came
in second. Cafe Fino, 544 Emerson St., Palo Alto,
CA 94301 (650) 326-6082.
Staff pick: Shoreline Amphitheatre
Stock Your Cupboard
From the variety of folks streaming in and out of the store
all day, you can tell Whole Foods is not just any grocery store,
it's the grocery store. Weekly readers voted
Whole Foods best grocery store and best place to buy fresh produce
this year. Last year, it won for best health food. The store has
something for everybody, whether you're after fresh fruit, vegetables,
meat, fish, or baked goods. There's also a wide variety of packaged
foods, ranging from environmentally conscious organic and vegetarian
goodies to yummy, old-fashioned junk food (see the cookies, ice
cream and potato chips on various aisles). Steady Safeway came
in second place this year. Whole Foods Market, 774
Emerson St., Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 326-8676.
Staff pick: Piazza's
Whole Foods Market
There are people who take an evening stroll, making sure
they stop by Whole Foods to sample the produce. For those who've
added at least five servings of vegetables and fruits to their
daily diet, the fresh, organic produce at Whole Foods beckons often.
We're talking blueberries to die for, not to mention the heirloom
tomatoes. But, if you're trying to combine marketing with other
shopping, Sigona's Farmers Market is a good choice. Whole
Foods Market, 774 Emerson St., Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 326-8676.
Staff pick: Whole Foods
For the home
According to Weekly readers, Z Gallerie is more than a furniture
store. Apparently it's a great place to purchase art for your apartment
or home. Who knew Picasso behind Plexiglas could be so alluring?
Gallery House Inc. placed second. Z Gallerie, 340
University Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 324-0693.
Staff Pick: Art 21
Posters, photographs, prints, pin-ups. Regardless of what
your framing needs may be, University Art in Palo Alto aims to
please. A veritable staple in the Palo Alto art scene, University
Art not only offers a wide variety of frames for purchase, but
its qualified staff is well-versed in matting and framing techniques
to boot. And the colorful shop doesn't stop there, as a diverse
array of tools for the aspiring artist are also offered, including
everything from pens and pencils to rulers and rubber stamps. The
people of the Peninsula have voted; University Art is the Mona
Lisa of frame shops. Great American Framing Shops took second. University
Art, 267 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 328-3500.
Staff pick: University Art
Crate and Barrel
It started as a family business in the mid-1960s and has
grown to a national chain of more than 100 stores. But why do Palo
Altans call Crate and Barrel their favorite furniture store? Maybe
because the sparse, modern lines of its designs resonate with the
Northern California lifestyle -- clean, simple and classy. Pieces
that dazzle in a faux-Mediterranean monster home look equally elegant
in a mid-century Eichler. Second place goes to Flegel's Home Furnishings. Crate & Barrel,
530 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, Ca 94304 (650) 321-7800.
Staff pick: Z Gallerie
Palo Alto Hardware
From tools to fixtures, electrical to plumbing and a little
of everything in between, Palo Alto Hardware is the place for the
handy-minded. It's also the winner in this category every year
for the decade it has been open. Staffers know their nuts and bolts,
too. Also home to homeowner solar power systems. Reader's second
choice was Peninsula Hardware. Palo Alto Hardware,
875 Alma St., Palo Alto, (650) 327-7772.
Staff pick: Palo Alto Hardware
With two locations in Palo Alto and 43 more in the Bay Area,
Delia's has created a tradition of cleaning excellence. Local residents
have trusted their garments to them for decades, and they've won
the confidence of the Weekly's readers more than 10 years in a
row. Most of their locations offer a variety of services, including
dry cleaning, laundering, tailoring, and leather and suede cleaning.
Town and Country Cleaners placed second. Delia's
Cleaners, 2790 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94306 (650) 321-9190.
Staff picks: AJ's Quick Clean, Delia's Cleaners
If you can't say "I love you," or "I'm sorry," than
show your affection with gems from Gleim, a family-owned independent
jeweler that opened its first store on University in 1931. Eye-
popping rings and necklaces, unique broaches, as well as clean,
classic items that can become family heirlooms are just some of
the items on display. Other services offered include jewelry repair
and custom design, as well as free-cleaning and inspection. Voted
second was Holly Golightly's favorite, Tiffany and Co. Gleim
Jewelers, 322 University Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 323-1331
and 119 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, CA 94304 (650) 325-3533.
Staff pick: Gleim
Nowhere else can men find designer ties, sportswear, and
casual clothes with such class and affordability. Amid popular
offerings as women's cosmetics, baby clothes, and the Brass Plum,
the Nordstrom Men's Department holds its own. With a plethora of
brands and styles, boys and men can enjoy the variety Nordstrom
has to offer. Rival department store, Macy's Men's Store, placed
second. Nordstrom, 550 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo
Alto, CA 94304 (650) 323-5111.
Staff pick: Nordstrom
Midtown Shoe Repair
For 23 years Palo Alto has brought its weary, its worn out
and its holy soles to this midtown institution on Middlefield Road.
Their shoes are resoled and redyed, heels repaired and broken zippers
made whole. Excellent service and high quality workmanship have
kept loyal customers returning with the shoes they just can't bear
to give up, year after year. This shop also repairs luggage. The
European Cobblery placed second. Midtown Shoe Repair,
2796 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94306 (650) 329-8171.
Staff picks: Midtown Shoe Repair & Paul's European Cobblery
When it comes to a shopping Mecca for women's fashions,
Weekly readers make a pilgrimage to Nordstrom, where super-friendly
sales associates roam the racks, searching for customers to service.
In addition to Nordstrom's devotion to the "customer's always
right" philosophy, the emporium tops the list with selection.
Among thousands of apparel items, the savvy shopper can find everything
from a $16 pair of cotton exercise shorts to a $3,695 Italian,
jet-black leather jacket, dripping with so much fringe, it would
make even Elvis jealous. Those sticker-slashing half-yearly sales
apparently haven't hurt the store's standing, either. The smaller-scale
Chico's on University Avenue took second. Nordstrom,
550 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, (650) 323-5111.
Staff Picks: Anthropologie, Bryn Walker, Leaf and Petal
A little New York flare and L.A. attitude embodied in a
haircut? That's exactly what clients at Los Salonez want. This
funky Alma St. salon with its Cuban tunes and party atmosphere
is this year's Best Hair Salon pick. Los Salonez, now 12 years
old, doesn't want to turn people into something they're not. Rather,
stylists try to give people a taste of the city - something with
a little funk and fun. But scissor art is just a small section
of the salon's services. Almost 80 percent of their business is
from clients looking for a new hue. Juut Salon Spa on University
Avenue came in second place. Los Salonez, 1012 Alma
St., Menlo Park, CA 94025 (650) 328-0735.
Staff pick: Juut
Upbeat world music fills the air in this hair and nail salon
with a party atmosphere. Loyal customers love the manicures and
relaxing one-hour pedicures that come with massages. Precise polishing
techniques keep regulars happy -- and who can argue with a bright
new color on their fingers and toes? Clients can choose from an
array of lotions to be used during the manicure and pedicure for
a truly indulgent experience. They sell specialty salon products
and Puntamayo world music albums. La Belle Day Spas placed second. Los
Salonez, 1012 Alma St., Menlo Park, CA 94025 (650) 328-0735.
Staff picks: Body Kneads, Kim's Nails, La Belle
With a recent mention in the New York Times and clients
from as far as Djibouti, Africa, it seems even people beyond the
Peninsula agree: When stress becomes too much to bear, there's
only one Way to go. Watercourse Way was voted Best Place for a
massage, continuing its lengthy string of success in the category.
For more than 20 years its masseurs and masseuses have offered
tranquility for weary patrons. But massage isn't the only opportunity
to relax at Watercourse. The spa also boasts nine private hot tub
rooms (several which also include saunas, steam rooms and cold
plunges), facials, spa treatments (such as the popular 3-D or soothing
Rain Dance), and much more. Those with tense shoulders and sore
muscles find comfort in the hands of Watercourse Way. Body Therapy
Center grabbed second. Watercourse Way, 165 Channing
Ave., Palo Alto, CA (650) 462-2000.
Staff pick: Watercourse Way
Palo Alto Bicycles
One trip to Palo Alto Bicycles would transform any Palo
Alto driver into a cycling enthusiast. The big variety of bikes,
brands, and gear makes it a Mecca for serious bikers, and its funky,
brightly-colored visuals are eye-candy for University Avenue window
shoppers. The store boasts a tradition of good service, enthusiasm
for the sport of cycling, and deep knowledge of the latest cycling
products. Mikes Bikes and Sausalito Cycle rolled in second. Palo
Alto Bicycles, 171 University Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 328-7411.
Staff pick: Palo Alto Bicycles
YMCA of the Mid-Peninsula
"Building strong kids, strong families, and strong
communities." That's the Y's mission statement, and its true.
With classes such as adult and youth basketball, pre- and post-natal
exercise, racquetball, and family camp, members can work or play
hard to become strong in body and mind. Brought to Palo Alto in
1893, the Y has five locations -- East Palo Alto, El Camino, Page
Mill, Palo Alto, and Sequoia. Reach Fitness stayed true to its
name, grabbing second place. YMCA of the Mid-Peninsula,
4151 Middlefield Road #211, Palo Alto, CA 94303 (650) 856-3955;
3412 Ross Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303 (650) 856-9622 and 755 Page
Mill Rd., Palo Alto, CA 94304 (650) 858-0661.
Staff pick: Curves
Palo Alto Sport and Toy World
Owned and operated by the Hoffacker family since 1930, Palo
Alto Sport and Toy World has won the first place category for toy
stores every year. Grandson Ed Hoffacker III carries on the family
business, suiting up many local teams from baseball to swimming.
Manager Eric Hager credits customers with keeping the store ahead
of the curve through interest in cutting-edge sports. The store
offered lacrosse and yoga equipment before the others, he said.
Perhaps that anticipation of customers' needs has kept the store
a community favorite. Big 5 Sporting Goods, emphasizing adult needs,
placed second. Palo Alto Sport and Toy World, 526
Waverley St., Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 328-8555
Staff pick: Palo Alto Sport and Toy World
On the Move
Garden Court Hotel
With rooms starting at $299 per night, this year's winner
is no budget bargain. But when Burt Bacharach played last year's
Summer Symphony, he stayed at the Garden Court. Need we say more?
The Stanford Park Hotel took second place. Garden
Court Hotel, 520 Cowper St., Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 322-9000.
Staff pick: Garden Court Hotel
American Express Travel and Cardoza Bungey Travel
The top-notch travel agency in Palo Alto? There isn't one.
There are two! Readers picked American Express Travel and Cardoza
Bungey Travel, both downtown establishments. Cardoza Bungey specializes
in well-traveled agents -- experts on exotic locales from Cambodia
to Belize -- as well as off-the-beaten-path vacations, such as
adventure travel and multi-generational trips. Meanwhile, American
Express Travel offers a full-service bureau with huge benefits
for cardholders, says team leader Cesar Guerra. His staff of eight
helps customers book flights, plan elaborate vacations, and fill
their billfolds with things they shouldn't leave home without --
AmEx travelers checks. Especially hot this year: traveling close
to home, including cruises of the Mexican Riviera, Hawaii and Alaska.
Second place in this category goes to AAA. American
Express Travel, 250 University Ave., Palo Alto, (650) 327-3711,
Bungey Travel, 550 Hamilton Ave., Ste. 125, Palo Alto (650) 325-5600.
Staff Pick: AAA
Place to walk the dog
Take pooch out for some fresh air, some socialization and
a romp at the Palo Alto Baylands Preserve. Bond with pooch as you
two take in the unique mixture of tidal and freshwater habitats,
and catch up with your own personal bird watching. There is a flat
5 mile trail and leashed dogs are welcome, except in special bird
nesting areas. Don't forget to pick up after pooch! Not nearly
as scenic, Mitchell Park came in second. The Baylands,
2775 Embarcadero Way, Palo Alto, CA 94303 (650) 329-2382.
Staff pick: Stanford
Adobe Animal Hospital
A haven for owners of exotic pets, Adobe Animal Hospital
will celebrate its 40th anniversary in February. The hospital attracts
pets and owners from as far away as San Francisco and the East
Bay, said Sherry Freitas, hospital manager. Seventeen veterinarians
and a staff of more than 50 pet technicians care for a Noah's ark
of creatures from the animal kingdom: Rabbits, lizards, birds,
rats, chinchillas, ferrets, turtles and every breed of dog and
cat. Freitas attributes Adobe's success to its high-quality care.
There's a vet on call 24 hours a day, and an intensive care unit,
eliminating the need to transport pets requiring critical care
to an after-hours emergency clinic. Locals also flock to second-place
winner Palo Alto Pet Hospital. Adobe Animal Hospital,
396 1st St., Los Altos, CA 94022 (650) 948-9661.
Staff pick: Palo Alto Pet Hospital
Kepler's Books and Magazines
Since the demise of Printer's Inc., Kepler's doesn't really
have much competition in this category, as independent bookstores
are becoming an endangered species. Strong fiction, non-fiction
and children's selections, new releases, a large magazine selection,
on-line ordering, and a helpful and knowledgeable staff make Kepler's
a delight for book lovers. Readers' second place was again Borders. Kepler's
Books and Magazines, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, (650) 324-4321
Staff pick: Kepler's Books and Magazines
Michaela's Flower Shop
The bubble-gum pink faÁade still screams "Stapleton" --
and customers have come to expect the same creativity, service
and scents at Michaela's Flower Shop. Steve Wong and Michaela Dieffenbach,
who have 35 years' experience between them, have owned the shop
for 4 and a half years. If you're seeking fragrant tuberoses or
dramatic Casablanca lilies, you're in luck. Don't spot what you
want to "say it with flowers"? The owners place their
orders morning, noon and evening and can get most things - even
cockscombs (Chinese woolflowers) - by the next day. Second choice
was longtime favorite Mills the Florist. Michaela's
Flower Shop, 453 Waverley St., Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 321-5390.
Staff pick: Michaela's Flower Shop
Averaging 260-280 prescriptions a day, Longs has won the
Weekly's Best Of for the sixth time since 1995. Longs prides itself
on its smiling staff and considerate care, said Victoria Pasana,
pharmacy technician. "Customers say that we're never rude.
We call them to let them know if there's a problem with their prescription.
We don't leave the customer hanging," she said. Local mainstay
Walgreens came in second. Longs Drugs, 352 University
Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 324-1667 and 2701 Middlefield Road,
Palo Alto, CA 94306 (650) 330-0131.
Staff pick: Longs Drugs
The only thing better than a paper store filled with cards,
wrapping paper and gift items is an even bigger one. Village Stationers,
once on University Avenue, is now located in the old Printer's
Ink building on California Avenue. Craving a toile-patterned pencil
holder, the latest Beanie Baby creations or perhaps the perfect
sentiment expressed in a card? This is the place. If you can't
find it there, troop on down to Congdon and Crome, the second-place
winner. Village Stationers, 310 S. California Ave.,
Palo Alto, CA 94306 (650) 326-7970.
Staff pick: Letter Perfect
Palo Alto Sport and Toy World
Perennial "Best Of" champ Palo Alto Sport and
Toy World came in first place yet again. Their secret to success
is easy to guess: in a world full of big-box chains, Palo Alto
Sport and Toy World is an honest-to-gosh retailer with local roots
offering classic toys and sporting goods that transcend all trends
and "hot" lists. Wooden building blocks? Baseball mitts?
No problem, and no wonder why this store has pleased Palo Alto
residents for more than 70 years. Second place goes to Play Store. Palo
Alto Sport and Toy World, 526 Waverley St., Palo Alto (650) 328-8555.
Staff Pick: Palo Alto Sport and Toy World