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Simply the best
In 18th annual Best Of competition, readers vote for the familiar

Current Winners
  • BEST OF 2003 -
    published August 20, 2003
  • Past Winners:

  • BEST OF 2002 -
    published August 21, 2002
  • BEST OF 2001 -
    published August 21, 2001
  • BEST OF 2000 - published August 30, 2000
  • BEST OF 1999 - published September 8, 1999
  • BEST OF 1998 - published September 16, 1998
  • BEST OF 1997 - published August 20, 1997
  • BEST OF 1996 - published July 31, 1996
  • BEST OF 1995 - published Oct. 18, 1995
  • BEST OF 1994 - published Oct. 12, 1994
  • Instead of boring readers with a vaguely clever introduction about trends and tastes from atop the Ivory Tower of Knowledge that is 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, 2003.

    Appetizers
    Zibibbo
    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

    New Restaurant
    Tamarine
    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

    Romantic Restaurant
    Maddalena's
    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

    Seafood Restaurant
    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) 493-9188.
    Staff Pick: The Fish Market

    Restaurant to Splurge
    Spago
    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

    Bagels
    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

    Breakfast
    Hobee's Restaurant
    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

    Coffee House
    Peet's
    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 El Camino Real #77, Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 328-4771.
    Staff pick: Peet's

    Sunday Brunch
    Hobee's Restaurant
    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

    Casual eats

    Burgers
    Kirk'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
    Fresh Choice
    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

    Inexpensive restaurant
    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

    Pizza
    Applewood Inn
    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

    Sandwiches
    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

    Solo Dining
    Caffe Verona
    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

    International Flavor

    Chinese Restaurant
    Su Hong
    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

    Indian Restaurant
    Darbar
    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

    Italian Restaurant
    Osteria
    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

    Mexican Restaurant
    Andale Taqueria
    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

    Sushi Restaurant
    Fuki Sushi
    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

    Thai 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 (650) 329-8129.
    Staff pick: Krung Siam

    Vietnamese Restaurant
    Tamarine
    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

    Desserts
    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) 493-6553.
    Staff pick: Cold Stone Creamery

    Milkshake
    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 (650) 327-3141.
    Staff Pick: Palo Alto Creamery Downtown

    Night on the Town

    Happy Hour
    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

    Singles 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
    Cafe Fino
    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

    Grocery Store
    Whole Foods
    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

    Produce
    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

    Art Gallery
    Z Gallerie
    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

    Frame Shop
    University Art
    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

    Furniture Store
    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

    Hardware Store
    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

    Looking Good

    Dry Cleaner
    Delia's Cleaners
    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

    Jewelry Store
    Gleim Jewelers
    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

    Men's Apparel
    Nordstrom
    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

    Shoe Repair
    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

    Women's Apparel
    Nordstrom
    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

    Pamper Yourself

    Hair Salon
    Los Salonez
    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

    Manicure/Pedicure
    Los Salonez
    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

    Massage
    Watercourse Way
    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

    Active Alto

    Bike Shop
    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

    Gym
    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

    Sporting Goods
    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

    Hotel
    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

    Travel Agency
    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, and Cardoza Bungey Travel, 550 Hamilton Ave., Ste. 125, Palo Alto (650) 325-5600.
    Staff Pick: AAA

    Pets

    Place to walk the dog
    The Baylands
    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

    Veterinarian
    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

    Shop Around

    Bookstore
    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

    Florist
    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

    Pharmacy/Drug Store
    Longs Drugs
    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

    Stationery Store
    Village Stationers
    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

    Toy Store
    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

     

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