Their names have become ubiquitous in the Palo Alto area. Their products and services are relied on and enjoyed daily by locals. Their businesses are everyday stops in our daily lives and make us feel at home. They are the Hall of Famers.
Businesses who win Best Of awards five years in a row in a category join the elite Hall of Fame for three years, during which they do not appear on the Best Of ballot. This gives consistent winners extra recognition while also allowing other businesses a chance at taking first place in their category.
Palo Altans have long prized University Art as a one-stop shop for framing, art supplies and unique gifts. Though it has moved from its longtime home across from Palo Alto City Hall, the business now has its own building only 4 miles away in Redwood City. Loyal customers will have good reason to make the jaunt, with trusted art supplies, art classes and superior framing available, which residents have recognized with the Weekly’s Best Of award for more than a decade.
2550 El Camino Real, Redwood City, 650-328-3500; universityart.com
Walk right in — or make an appointment — at this bustling hair salon whose international flair matches its worldly customer base at Stanford Shopping Center. Affordable, sophisticated and diverse, Hair International is so consistently popular with readers that it ascends this year to the Best of Palo Alto Hall of Fame. Owner Pam Decharo hires stylists from the world over. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a fascinating immigrant tale along with your new do.
232 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, 650-324-2007; hairintl.com
Garden Court Hotel
Nothing in the heart of downtown Palo Alto makes you say “Aaahh!” quite like the Garden Court Hotel. Refreshments both afternoon and evening in the lobby, a fresh and fragrant gardenia beside each bed, overhead rain showers, aerated spa-tubs, port and cookie service — it’s the little touches that add up to big relaxation. And if it makes a difference to you to patronize businesses that support the community, you can rest assured: The Garden Court routinely offers its meeting rooms and other services to local civic groups. Yes, even your conscience can smile here.
520 Cowper St., Palo Alto, 650-322-9000; gardencourt.com
Since 2003 SkinSpirit has been catering to clients’ needs with the best technology and luxurious spa-like accommodations. Hold the scalpel, SkinSpirt practices non-surgical cosmetic procedures resulting in the ultimate satisfaction in skincare for face and body. The expert staff members listen and carefully personalize treatment for individuals based on their wants and ultimate needs, so you leave this award-winning establishment feeling refreshed and brand new.
701 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 650-324-9600; skinspirit.com
The Village Cheese House
The Village Cheese House’s generously sized sandwiches, top-notch ingredients and signature spread make it a longtime Palo Alto crowd pleaser. Established in 1959, it remains a favorite lunch spot for Paly and Stanford students. Build your own hot or cold sandwich from a selection of fresh breads, meats and cheeses, or go with the ever-popular Old Fashioned, keeping it simple with just bread, meat, Swiss cheese, pickles and signature spread. Yelpers rave about the roast beef and Havarti on Dutch crunch.
855 El Camino Real #157, Palo Alto, 650-326-9251; thevch.com
Peninsula Beauty Supply
For lotions and potions, endless nail colors, the best and latest shampoos, conditioners, hair tools, face care, makeup and more, head to Peninsula Beauty Supply. Drugstores might have similar options but nowhere near the same range nor helpful, patient employees willing to answer all your questions and help you make a smart, reasonable purchase. Peninsula Beauty Supply is a go-to for both standard and more unusual beauty care products, and that stock draws customers from beyond Palo Alto to its doors.
250 University Ave., Palo Alto; 650-327-1454; peninsulabeauty.com
Palo Alto Sport Shop
& Toy World
Become a kid again in the aisles of Palo Alto Sport Shop & Toy World, brimming with all the classics of childhood: bubbles, Legos, wooden train sets, paper dolls, scooters, kites, baseball gloves — even an old-fashioned gumball machine — plus newly popular items like Spy Gear and GoldieBlox, an engineering toy for girls. Upstairs there’s a whole section for serious swimmers, both kids and adults. The family-owned store also does a brisk summer business in beach sandals and hats.
526 Waverley St., Palo Alto, 650-328-8555; toyandsport.com
Kepler’s Books and Magazines
For the second year, Kepler’s Books and Magazines is sitting comfortably on the Hall of Fame throne, known as the premier destination for all things literary in the area. And there’s more good stuff on the horizon: “We are looking forward to a lot of things this coming year — finishing up the store renovations; further building out the nonprofit Peninsula Arts & Letters with new programs, more funding, (and a) bigger team; continuing to enhance the in-store inventory of books; and an exciting new literary service we plan to launch in the fall,” co-manager Praveen Madan said. The view from the staff’s perspective sounds equally optimistic: For the first time since the bookstore relaunched in 2012, they received bonuses this year based on the number of hours worked.
1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 650-324-4321; keplers.com
Hassett (ACE) Hardware
Its name has changed, but the long-standing tradition of being at the forefront of sustainable practices continues at Hassett (ACE) Hardware, formerly known as Palo Alto ACE Hardware. The family-run business on Alma Street has long offered its customers a panoply of tools for greening up their homes, from fluorescent lightbulbs and non-toxic pesticides to biodegradable trash bags. The store also practices what it preaches by relying on low-flush toilets, using an on-demand water heater and, in a particularly bold gesture, installing a photovoltaic roof system that generates 95 percent of the store’s annual electric needs. For these green efforts, Hassett ACE Hardware has been inducted by our readers to the sustainability “Hall of Fame.”
875 Alma St., Palo Alto, 650-237-7222; hassetthardware.com
Some allege that frozen yogurt — along with cupcakes — is a dessert that’s had its day. But Fraiche Yogurt doesn’t try to be trendy; it just serves high-quality sweet treats (and beyond) for health-conscious Palo Altans. Just as perfect for breakfast as dessert (if you’re a purist who thinks the combination of oatmeal and frozen yogurt is strange, think again), Fraiche delivers time and time again. Locals might remember Fraiche Palo Alto’s previous location, making this larger corner space all the more enjoyable. Fraiche has also expanded its offerings in recent years, now slinging its own fresh-made Greek yogurt, baked goods, juices and some savory salads.
200 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto; 650-838-9819; fraicheyogurt.com
Saint Michael’s Alley
Sunflower centerpieces and amber-tinted glass-oil candles couple homespun charm with mellow romantic warmth during dinnertime at Saint Michael’s Alley. The dining area exudes coziness through golden-toned paint and wood-and-wicker chairs, while white wall trimming and window edgings keep the room looking fresh and bright, day to night. Seating in the more trendy bar area provides a comfortable place to meet up for drinks and a bite to eat. “The bar area is more casual,” a waiter said. “But we have people being romantic no matter where they’re sitting.”
140 Homer Ave., Palo Alto, 650-326-2530; weekend brunch served at 806 Emerson St.; stmikes.com
Downtown Palo Alto has no shortage of bars, yet Old Pro continues to stand out as the neighborhood’s top destination for unwinding, watching sports and ushering in the end of the workday with a cold pitcher and a hot slider. With its large menus, larger TVs, generous beer selection and a mechanical bull, the Ramona Street bar continues to win plaudits from readers, which voted to induct Old Pro into the city’s “Hall of Fame.”
541 Ramona St., Palo Alto, 650-326-2446; oldpropa.com
Tamarine Restaurant and Gallery
The flavorful and mixed textured cuisine at Tamarine Restaurant and Gallery has customers returning for more of their delectable intricate presentations. The work put into the rather stylish and savory dishes cannot go without notice. So pull up a chair and also admire the contemporary Vietnamese art while dining.
546 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-325-8500; tamarinerestaurant.com
Entering its third year in the Hall of Fame, the Palo Alto branch of the gourmet build-your-own-burger chain, The Counter remains a reliable favorite, with a menu filled with fresh and interesting choices — both for the main protein (try the bison!) and the locally sourced litany of toppings, like smoky chipotle aioli, housemade tzatziki, jicama, quinoa and kale. Besides burgers made to order, you can choose from one of many prefab options. Wash it all down with a premium cocktail, on-tap brew or build-your-own milkshake.
369 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-321-3900; thecounterburger.com
Midtown Shoe Repair
That pair of very expensive boots sitting in the closet that haven’t seen the light of day for months because of a destroyed sole can easily be repaired. Midtown Shoe Repair has been serving the Palo Alto area for years and this year has been inducted into the Best Of Palo Alto Hall of Fame. As their motto says, “We fix anything; just bring it in.” So go ahead. Those shoes have been in the dark way too long. The shop also sells luggage, handbags and shoe products.
2796 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-329-8171; On Facebook
When it comes to apparel, Nordstrom is a fitting member of the Hall of Fame. Whether you’re looking for skinny or straight fit jeans, Gucci or Lanvin dress shoes or a new wallet or watch, each department is stocked with friendly staff to help you find quality items that fit your needs. If that doesn’t convince you, maybe the sports events that the store’s televisions feature will. And don’t forget to bring Rover, as the store is pet friendly. For women’s wear, Nordstrom offers dozens of designer collections and specialty shops whose fashions can inject just the right “oo-la-la” into your wardrobe.
550 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, 650-323-5111; shop.nordstrom.com
Nestled firmly in Hall of Fame status, Walgreens is golden. It has adapted seamlessly to the rise of the smartphone with apps that allow people to print photos from their devices (prints can be picked up in about an hour at any of the Palo Alto locations) and easily order prescription refills by scanning the bar code on Rx labels for pick-up shortly thereafter. Walgreens also offers the convenience of a wide array of products, from household and grocery to personal care and wellness.
2605 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-566-9723; 300 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-326-3404; 4170 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-858-2007; walgreens.com
Complaints about Trader Joe’s are few and far between, aside from the common kvetch that there aren’t enough of them, even with one store each in Palo Alto, Mountain View and Menlo Park. If customers had their way, there’d be a TJ’s on every street corner, spreading its spirited brand of food and fun. Where else can you get a bottle of Tunisian organic extra virgin olive oil, “reduced guilt” chunky guacamole, a tray of Trader Giotto’s ricotta and spinach rigatoni, and dirt-cheap heirloom artichokes in one quick trip? And the staff is so good-natured, we don’t even feel guilty giving in to temptation when it comes to all those gourmet chocolately confections they place near the registers.
140 Town & Country Village, Palo Alto, 650-327-7018; traderjoes.com
The Fish Market
There is literally something for everyone at The Fish Market, with hundreds of items categorized by sashimi and sushi, salads, appetizers oyster bar, smoked fish from Farallon Fisheries, pasta, mesquite-grilled or pan-fried fish, as well as crab and lobster. Plan to spend time perusing the lengthy menu before considering the daily specials (recently: Cashew Crusted Rainbow Trout or Sauteed Saffron Mussels). Early birds can take advantage of the Early Catch menu, between 4 and 6 p.m. on Monday through Thursday, which offers six entrees, plus clam chowder or salad, for $14. No substitutions or split plates.
3150 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-493-8862 (TUNA); thefishmarket.com
Hassett (ACE) Hardware
See complete listing for Hassett (ACE) Hardware above under Green Business.
See complete listing for Nordstrom above under Men’s Apparel.
See complete listing for Hair International above under Hair Salon.