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Best Of Oakland and the East Bay 2015

Some 178 winners, epitomizing the finest in food and drink, goods and services, and lifestyle and leisure.


2015 Lifestyle & Leisure

Most Kid-Friendly Restaurant

Cactus Taqueria

2015 Food & Drink

Best Bar

Café Van Kleef

2015 Food & Drink

Most Iconic Oakland Cocktail

Café Van Kleef's Greyhound

If you like cocktails that are classic in design yet fresh in flavor, then your next evening should be spent cozied up to the eccentrically eye-pleasing bar at Cafe Van Kleef, an Oakland institution that boasts a signature drink as delicious as its atmosphere. Order the house special—a greyhound with hand-squeezed grapefruit—then turn your head in every possible direction: Mick Jagger will stare back at you from a mug shot, van Gogh will catch your glance from a mural of what is clearly the best dinner party, and strange bones and collectibles will hold your attention for longer than you may expect. This kitschy, iconic venue serves all the other favorites bar patrons love, but even bourbon aficionados will agree that when you hit up Van Kleef’s, you gotta get a greyhound.

2015 Lifestyle & Leisure

Best Choir

Calling All Choir

When I joined the Calling All choir a year ago, I thought it would be fun to stretch my vocal cords and relive my high school glory days as Glee Club president. What I got was much, much better: a new and treasured community of friends. Founded two years ago by Oakland musician Mark Growden, the choir has blossomed into an extended singing family that’s way, way hipper than the Von Trapps. Member Cynthia Wood said she has not only forged “inspiring new friendships,” but also launched a new journalism project with one of her fellow sopranos. “I’m not surprised, because that’s what music can do,” said Growden, whose contemporary chorale pieces are the backbone of the choir’s repertoire. “You feel the feeling in the room of warmth and community. Anyone can join; no audition required (hence, “Calling All”), and more than 70 members now sing at three practices each week—two in San Francisco and one at the Kehilla Community Synagogue in Oakland. The fall season begins in mid-September; new singers welcome.

2015 Goods & Services

Best New Business

Cat Town Café

2015 Goods & Services

Best Kitty Hookup

Cat Town Café and Adoption Center

When my mom drove me from Berkeley to the edge of Uptown Oakland, I didn’t know what to expect from America’s first cat cafe. I nibbled a croissant in the swanky cafe until it was time to enter the Cat Zone. But when a tiny tuxedo kitten rubbed against my legs, I quickly forgot all about my food. Nearly 200 feline friends have been adopted here since the cafe—co-founded by Ann Dunn and Adam Myatt—opened in October. “I wanted to create an environment where the cats would be out of cages, where they could have fun while they were waiting for a home, and people could meet them and see who they really are,” Dunn said on a recent visit. Dunn started Cat Town as a nonprofit rescue in 2011 with fellow volunteers from the Oakland Animal Shelter; about 200 volunteers now help foster cats and run the cafe. Instead of terrified cats in cages, you get to meet relaxed, happy cats and experience their true personalities—better for the cats and the peeps.

2015 Lifestyle & Leisure

Best Camp

Chabot Space & Science Center

2015 Food & Drink

Best California Cuisine

Chez Panisse

2015 Lifestyle & Leisure

Best Place To Board Pets

Citizen Canine

2015 Lifestyle & Leisure

Best Preschool

Claremont Day Nursery

2015 Lifestyle & Leisure

Best Spa

Claremont Hotel Club & Spa

2015 Food & Drink

Best Neighborhood Bar


2015 Food & Drink

Best Salads


2015 Lifestyle & Leisure

Best Public School: K–8

Crocker Highlands Elementary School

2015 Goods & Services

Best Consignment Services

Crossroads Trading Co.

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