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Best Of Oakland and the East Bay

169 winners—our biggest list ever—representing the tops from sausages and spirits to circus arts and pub crawls


2014 Goods and Services

Best Repurposing of a Candy Shop

Temescal Community Foundation

Anyone who lives in the Temescal district is familiar with the old Hooper’s Chocolate store. The eccentric pink Cape Cod–style building has been a charming landmark on Telegraph Avenue for decades. But as the Hooper’s business fortunes wound down, it was also undeniable that the slowly decaying building had become a bit of a dilemma: Who the heck would be willing to take on this odd space? The Temescal Community Foundation, it turns out, which moved in its thrift store annex. It seems obvious in retrospect, but what better use for a quirky old structure than to sell quirky second-hand wares. The foundation gave the place a little facelift (preserving the exterior sign and even the old candy display counters inside, now used to showcase jewelry), and in the process has injected even more new life a rejuvenated neighborhood.

2014 Food and Drink

Best Steaks

The Alley

The Alley in Grand Lake serves a steak dinner so simplistically divine that Fred Flintstone would yell, “Yabba dabba do!” Alongside a salad swimming in dressing, steamed vegetables, and a baked potato, diners can choose from a New York or chopped sirloin steak or the Alley special or club steak—a 7-ounce and an 8- to 9-ounce top sirloin, respectively. Order the club steak rare, and you’ll get a charred exterior zigzagged with grill marks that can barely contain the tender, bloody flesh one cut away. The unadulterated recipe—meat plus fire—is a no frills prep that lets the natural flavors shine through, the perfect meal for anyone who’s ever wondered what a steak dinner should be at its very core.
Photo by Lori Eanes

2014 Lifestyle and Leisure

Best Health Club-Gym

The Bar Method

2014 Food and Drink

Best Cheeses

The Cheese Counter at the Pasta Shop

2014 Goods and Services

Best Spa

The Claremont Hotel Club & Spa

2014 Families and Pets

Best Place to Share Creative Quality Time With Your Teen

The Crucible

Now in its 15th year, The Crucible industrial arts center in West Oakland lives up to its tagline, “inspiring creativity in everyone.” Adults as well as youth can take all sorts of fiery, funky, fun classes in art and craftsmanship, ranging from blacksmithing to glass blowing to welding and woodworking. Parents, consider signing up for classes alongside your kid so you both can unleash your imaginations while working with your hands. The Crucible also offers Fun Together Weekend workshops that teens can enroll in with their parents. Make designing, building and creating a family affair.
Photo by Pat Mazzera

2014 Goods and Services

Best Grocery Checkout Crew

The Folks at Piedmont Grocery

If you shop at Piedmont Grocery with any regularity, chances are the checkout clerks will learn your name, greet you personally, and ask about your kids or your work. If you need a special order or have trouble finding something, they’ll remember and inquire if you got it the next time they see you. And if you ever need extra help, they’ll promptly lend a hand with a smile. The crew’s leaders Aldo Estrada, Dave Howland, and Wayne Davis promote a tradition of old-fashioned, neighborly customer service that newer gourmet grocers try but often fail to emulate. Thanks to these employees, Piedmont Grocery—which celebrates its 113th year in September—keeps the heart of Piedmont Avenue beating strong.
Photo by Pat Mazzera

2014 Food and Drink

Best Neighborhood Bar

The Kingfish Pub and Cafe

2014 Lifestyle and Leisure

Best Place to Dance

The Layover

2014 Goods and Services

Best New Business

The Pet Concierge

2014 Families and Pets

Most Inspirational Sermons

The Rev. Elouise D. Oliver

Senior Minister, East Bay Church of Religious Science

2014 Food and Drink

Best Bar

The Trappist

2014 Food and Drink

Best Wine Store

The Wine Mine

2014 Goods and Services

Best Plant Nursery

Thornhill Nursery

Comparing this shaded Montclair nursery to some other local nurseries is like comparing the Berkeley Bowl to a 7 Eleven. Stocked with plants perfect for Oakland’s microclimate, the knowledgeable staff can help you start a new garden, troubleshoot any plant problems you may have, or point you in the direction of something new to perk up your already thriving backyard jungle. But more importantly, Thornhill serves up inspiration as readily as information, with meandering paths, multiple ponds, and multi-hued flora delightfully arranged to get you revved up for creating your own plant-filled Eden.
Photo by Pat Mazzera

2014 Food and Drink

Best Seafood Retailer

Tokyo Fish Market

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