Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - August 27, 2010

Best Of Palo Alto 2010

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Restaurants

Ambience

When a fellow asks for a dinner suggestion, a good response would be: "Get him to the Greek" restaurant, that is. Popular Palo Alto eatery Evvia Estiatorio has earned accolades in many areas but especially shines in ambience, thanks to its friendly staff, linen-lined tables and open kitchen with a big wood-burning fireplace. Readers gave a close second place to St. Michael's Alley in this category. 420 Emerson St., Palo Alto; 650-326-0983. evvia.net

California Cuisine

Fresh fare, fast service and a menu as eclectic as the Golden State have turned Calafia Cafe & Market A Go Go into a favorite food stop. Chef Charlie Ayers understands California cuisine better than most, having also cooked at Google and for the Grateful Dead. Dishes here include many organic vegetables, salmon, pork tacos and curry chicken. St. Michael's Alley again earned a close second place. 855 El Camino Real, Suite #130, Palo Alto; 650-322-9200. calafiapaloalto.com

Chinese Restaurant

At Chef Chu's, diners can order such timeless favorites as Mongolian beef, Kung Pao chicken and chow mein. But also hidden on the huge menu are delicacies not found at every neighborhood Chinese restaurant Imperial Shark Fin Soup or Eight-Treasure Squab, anyone? It's this commitment to Chinese cuisine at its best that has made Chef Chu's a favorite for Peninsula residents. A close second: Su Hong in Palo Alto. 1067 N. San Antonio Road, Los Altos; 650-948-2696. chefchu.com

Cocktail Lounge

"Cocktail" star Tom Cruise never served beverages half as good as those you'll find at La Bodeguita del Medio. The Cuban bar/restaurant on California Avenue is the top spot in town to grab a stiff drink, according to "Best Of" voters. La Bodeguita serves an array of unusual cocktails, including its uber-popular mojitos, Florida Daiquiris and Havana Sunrises. Cruise on by for a taste of Cuba. 463 S. California Ave., Palo Alto; 650-326-7762. labodeguita.com

Coffee House

What's not to love about Peet's? From its 1960s Berkeley origins to its current presence in various Bay Area spots and beyond, Peet's has a tradition of offering dark-roasted coffees and scrumptious teas. And with four locations in Palo Alto alone, you're never far from your next caffeine fix. 3904 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-433-0500; 153 Homer Ave., Palo Alto, 650-325-2091; 436 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-319-0367; 77 Town & Country, Palo Alto, 650-328-4771; peets.com

Dining With Kids

For 85 years, Peninsula Creamery Dairy Store & Grill has been serving up scoops, burgers and sandwiches to Palo Alto families who go "Back to the Future" at this authentic diner. The Creamery was for years the sole supplier of dairy and ice cream products for Stanford University, high schools, businesses and restaurants. Today, the weekday lunch crowd gathers for sandwiches while viewing soccer on two TVs. 900 High St., Palo Alto; 650-323-3175.

Hall of Fame: First Year

Sometimes, parents just need a break from cooking, and they head to the Palo Alto Creamery for classic '50s-diner fare in a kid-friendly atmosphere. The retro decorations, jukebox and comfortably high noise level have proved entertaining for local youngsters. If the little ones have been especially well-behaved, treat them to some of the candy sold at the register. 566 Emerson St., Palo Alto; 650-323-3131; and 2A Stanford Shopping Center, Stanford; 650-327-3141. paloaltocreamery.com

French Restaurant

When asked for a Palo Alto restaurant recommendation, Weekly food writer Dale Bentson regularly suggests Bistro Elan, which has also won Zagat and Michelin Guide praise. Menus evolve, but recent offerings included sauteed halibut; peach and feta salad; Greek salad with lamb meatballs; and lime ice cream. The garden in back invites al fresco dining in the company of fig and lemon trees. 448 S. California Ave., Palo Alto; 650-327-0284. bistroelan.com

Fusion

A dinner at the elegant Tamarine is an unhurried affair. How can one rush, when there are so many dishes to savor? Patrons say they love to nosh on the half-moon buns (steamed buns filled with roast pork, cucumber, pickled daikon and hoisin sauce), sip their way through the Ha Long Bay (crab wonton) soup, and dive into the lemongrass sea bass and shaking beef. If you're like other loyal patrons, your meal will be an affair to remember. 546 University Ave., Palo Alto; 650-325-8500. tamarinerestaurant.com

Indian Restaurant

Owner Vijay Bist opened Amber India 16 years ago, and, he says, "Our chef has been passionate about cooking since day one." This longtime local favorite has since expanded to four locations, but diners can still find great service and delicious Northern, Moghlai and Tandoori Indian dishes at its El Camino Real restaurant. 2290 El Camino Real #9, Mountain View; 650-968-7511. amber-india.com

Hall of Fame: Third Year

Visiting Bollywood stars in search of the authentic flavors of home need look no further than Palo Alto's Darbar Indian Cuisine. Now in its third term in the Hall of Fame, the tiny restaurant draws a big crowd for its popular lunch buffet, which serves up piping-hot dishes from northern and southern India. Favorites include potato fritters, chicken tikka and dal. 129 Lytton Ave., Palo Alto; 650-321-6688. darbarcuisine.com

Italian Restaurant

Don Corleone would have clamored for some true Italian flavor in the States, and he would have found it at Osteria in downtown Palo Alto. The popular restaurant serves mouth-watering traditional Italian fare. Moderate prices, sensible portions and tasty food have helped earn Osteria a reputation as an Italian restaurant good enough for a don. 247 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto; 650-328-5700.

Latin American Restaurant

The top winner here was La Bodeguita del Medio, which was also voted tops for its cocktail lounge. See the full item in that category.

Meal Under $20

Thrifty Pluto's was also singled out for its salads. See the complete listing in the Salad category.

Mediterranean Restaurant

The ever-popular Evvia took the top prize in several categories this year. See the full listing under Ambience.

Mexican Restaurant

Call it a final bow for the Oaxacan Kitchen. The traditional Mexican eatery off California Avenue has been named Best Mexican Restaurant, but the establishment recently announced it will close its doors for good in early September. That means there is still time to pay the business a visit for moles, empanadas, tortas and tostadas. In fact, forget the bow call it a standing ovation. 2323 Birch St., Palo Alto; 650-321-8003. theoaxacankitchen.com

Hall of Fame: First Year

Serving up Puebla-style Mexican dishes, Palo Alto Sol on California Avenue often overflows with patrons. Outdoor seating and a colorful, festive interior offer casual and more formal dining. Diners sip potent margaritas while savoring specialties such as pollo guajillo and camarones mulata, along with dozens of burritos and taco variants. 408 California Ave., Palo Alto; 650-328-8840.

New Restaurant

Any restaurant that has the word "artisan" in its title may spark a smirk from foodies. But Howie's Artisan Pizza, which opened at Town & Country Village last year, has delivered in style. The crust is crispy, the atmosphere hip and stylish, and the service gracious. But it's the toppings that put the "art" in "artisan," including house-made pancetta and broccoli raab. After seven years at Marche in Menlo Park, Chef Howard Bulka gets a red-carpet welcome to Palo Alto. 855 El Camino Real, #60, Palo Alto; 650-327-4992. howiesartisanpizza.com

Outdoor Dining

Cafe Borrone's European-style plaza and art-covered walls are a good choice, when, to quote the cafe website, "Europe is too far to go for lunch." Loyal fans also love the expanded dinner menu and "coffee that exceeds expectations," according to assistant general manager Jeffrey Frey. Most of the year, there's plenty of sun and ambience outside. If you've got leftover change, you can even toss three coins in the fountain. 1010 El Camino Real, #110, Menlo Park; 650-327-0830. cafeborrone.com

Restaurant to Splurge

The Fusion category is the place to find a write-up on Tamarine, which was thrice-honored by readers this year; it's also a third-year Hall of Fame resident under Vietnamese Restaurants.

Hall of Fame: First Year

Popular, pricey Evvia is written up in the Ambience category.

Romantic Restaurant

Evvia also took the top readers' prize for Ambience. Bistro Elan came in a close second for Romantic Restaurant.

Hall of Fame: First Year

St. Michael's Alley was not only placed in the Hall of Fame for Romantic Restaurant, but also honored by readers for its Sunday Brunch. A full write-up is in that category.

Solo Dining

There's nothing daunting about tucking into a side booth at Coupa Cafe to enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner solo. The organic, slow-food, Venezuelan fare (accompanied by rich, fair-traded coffee) includes crepes, salads, panini and the specialty arepas, thin cornmeal griddle cakes served as a sandwich. Need a quick pick-me-up rather than a pick-up? Sample the chuao chocolate bonbons, with names like cambur, rio caribe and wild truffle. 538 Ramona St., Palo Alto; 650-322-6872. coupacafe.com

Hall of Fame: First Year

Readers have placed Cafe Borrone in the Hall of Fame this year for solo dining. The cafe also won for Best Outdoor Dining; see the full listing there.

Sports Bar

The Old Proin downtown Palo Alto is kind of the Meryl Streep of the Best Sports Bar category: It always seems to win. It's no wonder, as the night spot offers beer and mixed-drink options, a diverse menu, a plethora of big-screen HD televisions and even a mechanical bull. With sports-team posters and past issues of Sports Illustrated decorating the walls, the Old Pro typifies what a good sports bar is all about. 541 Ramona St., Palo Alto; 650-326-1446. oldpropa.com

Steak

For meat eaters there truly is nothing like a great steak. To satisfy their cravings for a rich meal in an old-school steakhouse atmosphere, meat lovers of Palo Alto head to Sundance the Steakhouse for prime rib, sirloin, filet mignon, New York strip and ribeye steaks. If there's still room afterwards, diners can finish the evening with the chocolate torte. 1921 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650-321-6798. sundancethesteakhouse.com

Sushi/Japanese

Delightful, delectable and de-lovely sushi rolls (and other dishes) of many flavors and varieties make Miyake once again a top Palo Alto destination for Japanese cuisine. Miyake has both a mellow lunchtime vibe and an after-dark ambience of thumping music and strobe lights. A close second place in the reader poll was Sushi Tomo. 140 University Ave., Palo Alto; 650-387-6506.

Hall of Fame: Third Year

Melt-in-your-mouth nigiri awaits sushi lovers at Fuki Sushi, now in its third year of the Hall of Fame. Fans of the restaurant say that the fish is fresh, the decor elegantly appointed, and the variety of sushi rolls abundant. Favorites include the beef umeshiso age, agadashi tofu and amaebi shrimp. Says one reviewer: "Delicate and delicious." 4119 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650-494-9383. fukisushi.com

Thai Restaurant

Curries and basil dishes are the thing to order at Thaiphoon, with choices of fish, tofu, chicken and beef, and rice. In addition to standard offerings and Thai iced tea, there are also less typical beverages such as pomegranate lemonade or young coconut juice with ice. And if you like Thai desserts, it's hard to beat the fried banana with coconut ice cream, or sweet sticky rice with fresh mango. 543 Emerson St., Palo Alto; 650-323-7700. thaiphoonrestaurant.com

Vegetarian Restaurant

Readers praised Calafia Cafe & Market A Go Go both for its vegetarian and Californian dining. See the full listing under California Cuisine.

Wi-Fi Hotspot

Coupa Cafe won in this category and one other; see the full listing under Solo Dining.

Wine Bar

Oenophiles, or those 21 and over just looking for a place to relax, can tryThe Wine Room, just off University Avenue. The dimly lit front room has a bar and tables, while a room in back beckons with muted tones, plush couches and comfortable stuffed chairs. There's also a bar menu with marinated olives, roasted almonds, charcuterie and desserts. 520 Ramona St., Palo Alto; 650-322-1292. thepawineroom.com

Reality Bites

Food & Drink

Bagels

The line out the door every Sunday morning attests to House of Bagels' popularity plus its location as the place to schmooze while ordering a shmear. The bagels are authentic boiled, then baked but they're not so hide-bound as to exclude pesto cheese or raisin cinnamon. Early birds can score all-in-one bagels with their lattes; slugabeds have to settle for one of the other 20 flavors. Can't decide? Maybe branch out to a sandwich or pastry and on weekends, the coveted black-and-white cookie. 526 University Ave., Palo Alto; 650-322-5189.

Hall of Fame: First Year

Gruff Brooklyn charm meets California creativity. Everyone seems to love Izzy's Brooklyn Bagels: the kosher connoisseurs savoring the whitefish spread, the execs chomping on power bagels, the casual neighborhood diner who wants extra avocados. Purists can savor the Lox Special, a comforting non-nonsense star that proudly boasts no vegetables. Those with a hankering for adventure can line their toasty offerings with olive, jalapeno, basil or cucumber-and-scallion spreads. 477 S. California Ave., Palo Alto; 650-329-0700. izzysbrooklynbagels.com

Bakery/Desserts

Woven cafe chairs, Cinzano umbrellas and small round tables help give Douce France that Continental feel ... and it doesn't hurt that often there are actual French people here speaking actual French. In this European milieu, bakery options cover all manner of pastries, cakes and crepes, including delicate pastel macarons and tarts just big enough to be crowned with a single strawberry. 855 El Camino Real #104, Palo Alto; 650-322-3601.

Barbecue

When you see an armadillo wearing cowboy boots, you know you're in Armadillo Willy's. The BBQ joint has served up Texas-style barbecue in various Bay Area locations since 1983. Three types of ribs and nearly everything else are cooked over an oak-wood fire. Armadillo Willy's barbecue sauce will stick to your insides, in a good way. 1031 N. San Antonio Road, Los Altos; 650-941-2922. armadillowillys.com

Breakfast

When yet another bowl of cereal makes you want to skip the a.m. meal, locals recommend Hobee's. The Bay Area chain of homey cafes serves a range of lunch and dinner items, but it's best known for its omelets and scrambles, hashbrowns and coffeecake, with breakfast served all day. Joanie's Cafe came in a close second with readers. 4224 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-856-6124; 67 Town & Country Village, Palo Alto, 650-327-4111; 2312 Central Expressway, Mountain View, 650-968-6050. hobees.com

Burgers

The burgers at this bustling hub are as complex and tasteful as the diners who design them. The Counter offers its customers a vast array of crispy toppings and flavorful sauces, including the trendy (basil pesto and chipotle aioli) and the exotic (tzatziki sauce, Russian dressing and ginger soy glaze). Though burgers are the main draw, the sweet-potato fries are guaranteed to make anyone's short list for Best Supporting Dish. 369 S. California Ave., Palo Alto; 650-321-3900. thecounterburger.com

Burrito

Despite its relative infancy (the Palo Alto restaurant opened in November 2009), Chipotle has already found its way into Palo Altans' hearts and stomachs. The Chipotle burrito, simple yet savory, earned top honors from Weekly readers. This appetizing offering features enough southwestern ingredients to make even Clint Eastwood's mouth water (think cilantro-lime rice, vegetarian black beans, braised carnitas and more). 2675 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650-462-9154. chipotle.com

Delicatessen

Despite two remodels in the past three years, the Village Cheese House in Palo Alto's Town & Country Village retains its standing as a much-loved local sandwich place. Those who remember the old days will be surprised to find the place cozier and more focused on sandwiches. After 48 years, Frank and Donald Staehnke sold the business to Palo Altans Noah and Sarah Hiken in 2007. But classic favorites old-fashioned Swiss, pickle, house spread and meat on Dutch crunch, for example haven't really changed. 855 El Camino Real #157, Palo Alto; 650-326-9251. thevch.com

Grocery

Anyone who's ever reluctantly volunteered to do the weekly grocery shopping and ended up wandering the aisles aimlessly, overwhelmed by the sea of products, can appreciate the unusual set-up of Trader Joe's. The grocery chain is popular for its prepackaged frozen foods and individual meals for the most clueless of cooks. It also has an extensive selection of wines and specialty items. 855 El Camino Real #140, Palo Alto; 650-327-7018. traderjoes.com

Ice Cream/Gelato

Folks line up for Gelato Classico after a movie at the nearby Aquarius Theatre, before the movie, perhaps even during the movie. It's that good. Flavors that win particular praise include creme brulee, ginger, spumoni and espresso. On a hot day, you might also go for a fruity sorbetto. 435 Emerson St., Palo Alto; 650-327-1317. caffeclassicofoods.com

Hall of Fame: First Year

Rick's Rather Rich Ice Cream has been churning out 48 handmade ice cream delicacies for 35 years, creating old favorites and exotic, unusual flavors. Rose, lavender mocha fudge, frappes, shakes and sundaes can all be had at Rick's micro-creamery. Fudge is another specialty at Rick's, including orange creamsicle and mocha fudge. 3946 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto; 650-493-6553. ricksicecream.com

Martini/Cocktail

La Bodeguita del Medio also took top honors in the Cocktail Lounge category. Cruise on that way to see the full listing.

Milkshake

It's likely that this sweet concoction also helped the Palo Alto Creamery score a Hall of Fame in the Dining With Kids category. Read the full write-up there.

Pizza

Pizza is a meal of choice for movie lovers the world over, and local diners have picked Ramona's as the top spot for a tasty pie. The popular eatery offers pizzas whole or by the slice, not to mention a bevy of other menu choices (such as sandwiches and calzones). You can't expect to find Julia Roberts or Matt Damon behind the counter (a la their 1988 comedic charmer "Mystic Pizza"), but you can expect to find a delicious meal. 2313 Birch St., Palo Alto; 650-322-2181. ramonas-pizza.com

Hall of Fame: First Year

The fresh ingredients and unusual varieties make Applewood Inn the Hall of Fame choice for pizza for Weekly readers this year. Diners can choose from a list of signature pies that include the Scandinavian, which features smoked salmon and sour cream; and the Budapest, rich with Hungarian sausage. 1001 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 650-324-3486. applewoodpizza.com

Produce

Ever wonder why, when you're sleuthing out a new outfit at Stanford Shopping Center, you suddenly crave a peach? It could be the free samples at Sigona's Farmers Market, where locally, organically grown produce is just a few steps away. If you're overwhelmed by choice, check out the online recipe section for what to do with half a flat of strawberries, or how to make corn-on-the-cob amazing (think: parsley, basil, tarragon, chives, sage and chervil). 399 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto; 650-329-1340. sigonas.com

Hall of Fame: Third Year

Technicolor tangerines, tomatillos and tubers bring more color to fruit- and veggie-lovers' worlds than any Turner-ized classic film. Whole Foods Market in downtown Palo Alto has long been popular for its bright pyramids of produce greeting visitors at the front door. Even the grumpiest Hollywood producer might green-light a few bags' worth. 774 Emerson St., Palo Alto; 650-326-0539. wholefoodsmarket.com

Salad

You don't have to be a star chef to build your perfect salad at Pluto's. Its buffet of toppings which includes beets, bleu cheese, jicama and sweet walnuts caters to every palate. Carnivores can supplement their leafy creations with slices of turkey, chicken or tri-tip steak, while diners looking for something warmer may opt for Neptune's Stuffing or the Pan-Cooked Vegetable Galaxy. 482 University Ave., Palo Alto; 650-853-1556. plutosfreshfood.com

Seafood

The Fish Market is not the place for the indecisive: Hundreds of items on the menu lure Weekly readers to sample something new on repeat visits. It's unusual to stop by and not run into someone you know. And what draws people? The extensive array of seafood, including classic chowders, oyster bar, fish 'n' chips and fresh mesquite-grilled fish. And for the cook-it-yourselfers, the retail market offers a school of fresh fish choices. 3150 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650-493-8862. thefishmarket.com

Sunday Brunch

Your mouth will be forgiven for watering when you step inside St. Michael's Alley and your eyes lock onto the fluffy omelets and saucy Eggs Benedict already on other diners' plates. For here is a Sunday Brunch deserving of the capital "S" and capital "B." Regulars say the friendly staff is one of the attractions, along with the Blue Monkey pancakes with blueberries and bananas tucked inside. (Although St. Mike's has mostly moved to Homer Avenue, it still serves brunch on Emerson.) 806 Emerson St., Palo Alto; 650-326-2530. stmikes.com

Takeout

Formerly on El Camino Way, Palo Alto's Su Hong Eatery & Restaurant recently reopened in the old Denny's on El Camino Real. Regardless of the location, the restaurant has long been a take-out favorite for local families, and now many dishes come in two sizes. In a recent review, Weekly food writer Sheila Himmel noted that Su Hong might have healing powers as well: Many folks swear by the hot and sour soup for easing head colds. 4256 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650-493-4664. suhongeatery.com

Yogurt

It should come as no surprise that one of downtown Palo Alto's most popular places earned the top accolade this year. Fraiche, a magnet for hungry yogurt lovers both young and old, features homemade, organic yogurt made with top-notch (and often local) ingredients. Not to be confused with Mel Brooks' olive-skinned sage in "Spaceballs," the fare at Fraiche is always fresh and full of flavor. 644 Emerson St., Palo Alto; 650-566-0055. fraicheyogurt.com

Goodfellas

Services

Audio/Visual Products and Services

Aspiring Hitchcocks, Kubricks and Ansel Adamses flock to Keeble & Shuchat Photography, long a destination among amateurs and professionals for audio-visual gear from camcorders to SLR lenses. Classes, large-format and canvas prints, digital and photo labs, photo restoration and video transfers are some of the red-carpet services offered. 290 S. California Ave., Palo Alto; 800-854-8996. kspphoto.com

Auto Care

For 38 years, Larry's Auto Works has provided the type of auto repair that gives its customers peace of mind, and those customers have voted Larry's best auto repair for 2010. Owner Larry Moore said his customers have told him they keep coming back because of the honest and trustworthy service and that "we don't try to sell them things they don't need."

2526 Leghorn St., Mountain View; 650-492-5443. autoworks.com

Chiropractor

Got a crick in your neck? A kink in your spine? A knot in your knee? You may want to follow Weekly readers' advice and head to Health Logic, this year's winning chiropractic clinic. In addition to standard chiropractic adjustments, the doctors at Health Logic also offer nutritional advice and postural analysis. Readers gave Peak Performance the second-place prize. 633 Menlo Ave., Suite 100, Menlo Park; 650-853-1800. healthlogicllc.com

Day Spa

So your co-star's thrown a temper tantrum, the director's had a nervous breakdown and your agent tells you he wants you to star opposite that guy who played Urkel in "Family Matters." Oh, what is the world coming to? No worries, dear starlet Destino Spa knows how to treat you right with massages, organic facials and other luxuries. In short, it's all about you. Just as the world should be. 4335 West El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650-947-0203. destinospa.net

Dentist

Never mind her acting skills or diction. How is the latest starlet's smile? With the rabid demand in Hollywood for the whitest, straightest teeth, a silver-screen type has to have a stellar dentist. Weekly readers advise visiting the Palo Alto Dental Group, a group of six dentists based on Byron Street. Coming in second place was McKenna Dentistry. 511 Byron St., Palo Alto; 650-323-1381. paloaltodentalgroup.com

Dry Cleaner

If it's AJ's clean, it's AJ's green. Getting in sync with Palo Alto's environmental sensibility, Chris Choi turned AJ's Quick Clean Center into a green business five years ago, forsaking perchlorethylene as a cleanser in favor of the more earth-friendly liquid silicone. The newer method is odorless and leaves clothes free of static cling, Choi says. 3175 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto; 650-494-1550. ajsquickcleaners.com

Hall of Fame: First Year

For years,Charleston Cleaners, in a free-standing building at the corner of Middlefield and Charleston roads, has been a neighborhood and city-wide favorite. In the rare case when you have to stand in line with your laundry, there are magazines to read and interesting memorabilia on the walls. And Hershey's chocolate kisses for all. 3900 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto; 650-424-1113.

Fitness Classes

Readers singled out the Palo Alto Family YMCA in this category, and also chose it as Best Gym (see the full write-up there). A close second for Fitness Classes was Poised Fitness.

Frame Shop

OK, so not everyone's headshot leads to a movie role. But University Art has the perfect 8-by-10 frame (or was that 11-by-14?) to enhance any photo. We non-starlets just want a good artistic eye to choose matting (how wide?), frame molding (or not?) and covering (clear glass, frosted glass, Plexiglas?). The flagship store has been located downtown since 1964, drawing its fans from local artists and people who just want to display their art well. 267 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto; 650-328-3500. www.universityart.com/Palo_Alto

Gym

Getting fit is not just for action heroes like Jet Li and Jason Statham. Everyone deserves a healthy lifestyle, and this year's "Best Of" voters have chosen the Palo Alto Family YMCA as the top place to exercise and stay in shape. The Ross Road YMCA features an array of cardio and weight-training machines, lap and instructional pools, a large basketball court and a colorful "KidZone." 3412 Ross Road, Palo Alto; 650-856-9622. ymcasv.org/paloalto

Hair Salon

Every hairdresser has a story at Hair International in Stanford Shopping Center. Owner Pam Decharo runs a bustling, friendly shop, open evenings and weekends with no appointment required. Reflecting her clientele, Decharo's stable of hairdressers is from all over the world. If you're lucky, your stylist might share a Persian recipe or tell you about their story of arriving in America. 232 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto; 650-324-2007. hairintl.com

Hotel

With its French doors, Italian linens, Mediterranean-style courtyard and 62 rooms redesigned this year by Spanish interior designer Pablo Paniagua, the Garden Court Hotel oozes European charm. But it also offers its guests some distinctly Palo Alto touches, including iPhone-docking stations and key cards that control energy use. 520 Cowper St., Palo Alto; 650-322-9000. gardencourt.com

Manicure/Pedicure and Massage

The winner in these categories, Destino Spa, also won for Best Day Spa; see the listing in that category.

Hall of Fame (Manicure/Pedicure): Second Year

Chances are, you've got more class than Lindsay Lohan. So regardless of whether you're an action-movie star or a genteel period-piece player, you want elegant nails. La Belle Day Spa is a popular choice for the mani-pedi combo, complete with a fruit-paraffin treatment. Even the loftiest judge would be impressed. 95 Town and Country Village, Palo Alto; 650-327-6964. 36 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto; 650-326-8522. labelledayspas.com

Hall of Fame (Massage): First Year

"Watercourse Way was inspired by the natural hot springs of Tassajara," co-manager Nathan Hanley says. Visitors enjoy the spa's quiet, peaceful ambience during massages and can opt for a hot stone or couples massage or more. 165 Channing Ave., Palo Alto; 650-462-2000. watercourseway.com

Men's Haircut

Hair International also took the reader prize for Best Hair Salon overall; see that listing above.

Orthodontist

One of the new Best Of categories this year is Best Orthodontist. Weekly readers voted for Stacey Quo of Mid Peninsula Orthodontics. Quo has degrees from the school of dentistry at the University of California at San Francisco and started her own practice in Palo Alto in 1997. Readers might also catch her lecturing at Stanford's Sleep Disorders Clinic. 965 High St., Palo Alto; 650-328-1600. orthoquo.com

Personal Trainer/Fitness Program

"Attitude is everything," declares the website of Poised, a women-oriented personal-training and "lifestyle-consulting" business in Menlo Park. Cheerful co-owners Jill Plant and Yvonne Tally seem to reflect the stated goals of this enterprise. Poised offers Pilates and core-strength-oriented programs, as well as outdoor training and a class called "Strengthage" "designed for mature clients or those with chronic limitations." 209 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 650-566-1388. poisedfit.com

Plumbers

If you can say "Yes" to any of the frequently asked questions on the Dave's Custom Plumbing website (Wet spots under the sink? Low water pressure in the shower? Is there rust on your water heater?), it might be time to call Dave. Site testimonials include: "Running a start-up company is tough in itself but when the only sink in our building clogged and our dishwasher started leaking while we were making a funding presentation, there was only one company we would call." Palo Alto, 650-323-3112. davescustomplumbing.com

Shoe Repair

"Cobbler, cobbler, mend my shoe and my old purse and my ratty belt and every other favorite leather item that I can't bear to part with." If that's your mantra, then Robert Babekian is your man. Proprietor of Midtown Shoe Repair, Babekian has droves of followers who praise his ability to breathe new life into tired Ferragamos and Jimmy Choos. Customers call his prices quite reasonable, to boot. 2796 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto; 650-329-8171.

Skin Care

Stars can Photoshop laugh lines away, or request that special filter on the movie-camera lens. Still, it would be nice to have a smooth-looking mug underneath all that Hollywood magic. So if a star swans into Palo Alto, he or she might visit Skin Spirit downtown. Services offered include chemical peels, Botox, microdermabrasion and dermal fillers. 701 Emerson St., Palo Alto; 650-324-9600. skinspirit.com

Travel Agency

It's happened to all of us. Lost hotel reservations, activities that don't quite live up to their Internet descriptions, that moment of realization as you step off the plane that it's, um, monsoon season these are otherwise known as vacation disasters. To help ensure that their trips are unforgettable in the best sense of the word, Weekly readers turn to Cardoza-Bungey Travel to seek advice and learn about good deals. Just don't forget the camera. 550 Hamilton Ave., Suite 125, Palo Alto; 650-325-5600. cardoza.com

Value Hotel/Motel

In the quaint and bustling California Avenue business district, Hotel California offers serious bargains to its guests. The hotel features an inviting courtyard and 20 rooms, all equipped with the standard amenities: television, private bath and telephones. The only thing that's not standard is the rates. With rooms starting at $85 a night, Hotel California is a bargain-hunter's paradise. A close second place was the Stanford Motor Inn. 2431 Ash St., Palo Alto; 650-322-7666. hotelcalifornia.com

Veterinarian

Pets are the stars at Mid-Peninsula Animal Hospital, which includes the Animal Gallery of pet art located around the corner. The office's team of dedicated veterinarians includes specialists in emergency medicine, exotic animals, dermatology, acupuncture and alternative medicine. Boarding, house calls and weekend appointments are its other services. The Animal Doctor came in a close second. 1125 Merrill St., Menlo Park; 650-325-5671. midpen.com.

Hall of Fame: First Year

After 45 years of offering top-notch 24/7 veterinary care to creatures of all types, the ever-popular Adobe Animal Hospital has moved on up. This month, Adobe relocated to a new building (the former site of Elephant Pharm) and now has more room and amenities for its clients and critter customers. 4470 El Camino Real, Los Altos; 650-948-9661; adobe-animal.com.

Yoga

It might be a headless headstand kind of day, or perhaps you just want to breathe deeply in child's pose for a while. Either way, there's a class for that. Darshana Yoga has a variety of class offerings including Beginner and Gentle Yoga, Restorative and Advanced. Bring your best reverse half moon and stay a spell in this sunny downtown studio. 654 High St., Palo Alto; 650-325-9642. darshanayoga.com

The Shop Around the Corner

Retail Shopping

Beauty Supply

You may not be transformed into a sea-roughened pirate for your starring role in "Pirates of the Caribbean" every morning. But if you were, Peninsula Beauty Supply would probably be your go-to beauty store for making yourself gorgeous again after the cameras stop rolling. Hair products, cosmetics and a salon are among the offerings here. 250 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-327-1454. peninsulabeauty.com

Bike Shop

Resolved: Lose 10 pounds. Solution: Bike to work. But where to begin? Mike's Bikes doesn't offer just your Mom's Schwinn. Today there's a "comfort/hybrid/commute" number, along with road, mountain, cyclocross and cruiser options. With the bikes come all the accoutrements: helmets, car racks, bells and whistles (OK, horns), chains, cranksets, tires and tubes and of course, the proper attire. 3001 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650-858-7700. mikesbikes.com

Bookstore

Kepler's Books and Magazines is a perennial favorite of Weekly voters and the community at large due to its author events, knowledgeable staff, and its books, magazines and gifts. Founded in 1955, the store is a local institution. When it comes to hiring, Kepler's takes a special approach. "We don't hire cashiers. We hire readers," staff leader Nancy Salmon said. 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 650-324-4321. keplers.com

Boutique

This welcoming downtown boutique is a goldmine for gift shoppers and jewelry collectors. Shady Lane has been dazzling Palo Altans for more than three decades with its Native American necklaces, hand-carved figurines and charming tchotchkes. Most of the merchandise here has been crafted by local artists. Weekly readers also favor Leaf and Petal, giving it the second-most number of votes in the Boutique category. 441 University Ave., Palo Alto; 650-321-1099. shadylanegallery.com

Carpet & Floor

There's plenty of space to roll out scrumptious carpet samples in the ample, hushed chamber of Interiors & Textiles. Once you've chosen a few, you can check them out and take them home to try out on your floor. With a huge selection, the store has done business locally for 55 years. Weekly readers awarded Stanford Carpet a close second place. 1400 Shoreline Blvd., Suite B-1, Mountain View; 650-493-1700. interiorstextiles.hdwfg.com

Eyewear

Whether your style is nerd or femme fatale, nothing changes one's appearance faster than eyewear. Retro and modern glam collections at Lux Eyewear offer opportunities to be an instant new you, sans surgery. The 800 style choices include sports lens by Rudy Project, sunglasses by Maui Jim, rimless by Kazuo Kawasaki or just plain chic by Chanel or Judith Leiber. Readers were also clearly pleased that Lux specializes in non-chain-store fashionware, with on-site service and repairs. 1805 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650-324-3937. luxpaloalto.com

Florist

Any business that's been around for more than 100 years must be doing something right. Mills the Florist in its quaint, brick downtown building has been offering fresh flowers, gifts and many other things bright and blooming since 1903. Readers voted Nature's Alley a close second place. 235 University Ave., Palo Alto; 650-326-3443. millsflorist.com

Hall of Fame: First Year

Whether you're adding a splash of color to four weddings or a funeral, Michaela's Flower Shop has flora galore. The longtime downtown floral spot has played its role in making nervous Paly and Gunn teens shine at prom, couples' anniversaries sing and stays at Stanford Hospital feel cheerier. Hate to see the fresh-flower power wilt? Pick a Michaela's dried floral arrangement. 453 Waverley St., Palo Alto; 650-321-5390. michaelasflowershop.com

Gallery

The Palo Alto Art Center hosts a lot more than glass pumpkins and the Clay & Glass Festival. Exhibitions encompassing a wide array of artists and media make regular appearances. Works on display have recently included prints by Diego Rivera and other 20th-century Mexican artists; a contemporary tapestry featuring images of cloned sheep; and huge papier-mache sculptures by local students. Current summer shows explore Surrealism. A close Best Of second place was the Nature Gallery. 1313 Newell Road, Palo Alto; 650-329-2366. cityofpaloalto.org

Gift/Novelty Shop

Shady Lane also won for Best Boutique; see the full listing in that category.

Green Business

See the Hardware Store category for a description of Palo Alto Hardware, which was honored by readers in both categories.

Hardware Store

In an era of big-box retailing, Palo Alto Hardware radiates the feel of days gone by. Though the store is part of the national Ace Hardware chain, many customers here are greeted by name and all are served by a knowledgeable staff. The crowded aisles are a bit of heaven for the homeowner in search of just the right light bulb. For every transaction without a bag, the store donates a nickel to Palo Alto Partners in Education, a foundation that supports Palo Alto's public schools. 875 Alma St., Palo Alto; 650-327-7222. paloaltohardware.com

Home Furnishing/Decor

What came first the crate or the barrel? No matter: Those folksy home furnishings have been overtaken by modern walnut tables, sleek walnut-and-chrome bentwood chairs and a newlywed's nirvana of kitchenware. That's Crate & Barrel today, a purveyor of style and comfort. Weekly readers are also fans of Sur La Table, which took a close second place. 530 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto; 650-321-7800. crateandbarrel.com

Hall of Fame: Second Year

From your basic Framsta line to Smaskas, Bjurstas and Ektorps, IKEA has got home-decorating needs covered, with its popular, affordable furniture and accessories, which include the streamlined, minimalist, whimsical and bright, all in ready-to-put-together packages. 1700 E. Bayshore Road, East Palo Alto, 650-323-4532; ikea.com

Jewelry

Three-time winner Shady Lane also won in the Gift/Novelty Shop and Boutique areas; see the full listing in the latter category.

Lingerie

If you're going to play hooky from work and lounge around all day eating bonbons, you want to look good while doing it. For delicate indoor wear, readers often choose Victoria's Secret. There's plenty of lace and silk, polka dots and leopard prints to go around, not to mention many options for push-up, demi-cup, strapless, racerback and... Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto; 650-328-0574. victoriassecret.com

Men's Apparel

Movie stars have Academy Award-winning costume designers like Edith Head and Colleen Atwood to give them impeccable style. Palo Altans have Nordstrom. With its wide selection of brands and styles to mix and match, you might not even need a personal stylist to pick out the right mohair suit or waffle-knit sweater. 550 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto; 650-323-5111. shop.nordstrom.com

New Retail Business

If you thought Vans was just a shoe store, think again. The new shop in downtown Palo Alto carries backpacks, purses, dresses, belts, T-shirts and more and, oh yes, shoes too. The window of the store, which opened May 7, displays a giant green-and-orange Crayola box with cute checkered kids' shoes sprouting from the top. 222 University Ave., Palo Alto; 650-330-0520. vans.com

Nursery and Garden Supplies

SummerWinds Nursery is a favorite for all things horticultural, whether shoppers are seeking teak garden furniture or Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew. Of course, there are plenty of growing things: flowering plants, grasses, shrubs and trees to create one's own Bali Ha'i or Shangri-La. The store will also custom-create container gardens of colorful flowers. 725 San Antonio Road, Palo Alto; 650-493-5136. summerwindsca.com

Pet Store

If Dorothy's tornado had landed her in Palo Alto instead of Oz, she might have headed for Pet Food Express to stock up for her terrier sidekick. After choosing from hundreds of brands of pet necessities, Toto could have stuck around for a vaccination clinic or pet wash. And if Dorothy decided he needed a playmate, she could check out regular mobile adoption events hosted by local animal societies. Weekly readers also gave The Pet Place enough votes for a close second place. 3910 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto; 650-856-6666. petfoodexpress.com

Pharmacy/Drug Store

In addition to cosmetics, first-aid products and a photo lab, Walgreens offers flu-shot clinics, gift cards, and medication management and will text customers when their prescriptions are ready. It also offers shopping for a late-night snack or quart of milk. The downtown Palo Alto location has risen from the ashes of a 2007 fire; it reopened in April. 300 University Ave., Palo Alto; 650-326-3404. 2605 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto; 650-566-9720. 4170 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650-858-2007. 643 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 650-321-1530. walgreens.com

Shoe Store/Women's Apparel

Three-time winner Nordstrom also took the top reader prize in Men's Apparel; see the full listing in that category. Anthropologie was a close second in Women's Apparel.

Sporting Goods

The Palo Alto Sport Shop and Toy World provides a million inducements for Palo Altans to get off the couch and play, including Nerf balls, soccer cleats and bathing suits. The perennial Best Of winner has an inventory that always seems to capture the latest trends, as well as a generous toy collection and a wide selection of youth-sports gear and swimwear. 526 Waverley St., Palo Alto; 650-328-8561. swimtowin.com

Hall of Fame: First Year

Dear Ms. Hollywood: When did you reach your breaking point with the paparazzi? Was it when you tiptoed to the pharmacy to buy a remedy for an embarrassing personal condition, and you weren't wearing any eyeliner? It may be time for a backcountry getaway. Stop by REI first. Weekly readers are fans of its outdoors clothing and gear, and at the Mountain View store you can also rent tents, camping stoves, sleeping bags and backpacks. And, if you're really looking to hide far away, snowshoes. 2450 Charleston Road, Mountain View; 650-969-1938. rei.com

Stationery Store

The Letter Perfect experience begins before one even sets foot in the door: the refined archways, picture-perfect white window and the crisply serifed font above the doorway. Indeed, paper aficionados say they drool over the stationery, cards, party invitations, and unusual Post-It notes that shop owner Gwen Gasque has selected. Meanwhile, Best Of voters bestowed a close second place on Paper Source. 384 University Ave., Palo Alto; 650-321-3700. letterperfect.com

Toy Store

Palo Alto Sport Shop and Toy World also won in the Sporting Goods category; see the full listing there.

Comments

Posted by Moe, a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Apr 23, 2012 at 8:43 am

My wife and I love Joanie's Cafe! The service is excellent and the building is clean and well kept. The food is excellent! My wife especially loves the eggs, and I love the bacon. I would recommend Joanie's to anyone who wanted an excellent breakfast.


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