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Best Of Oakland and the East Bay 2016

The most amazing finds of the year.

Winners

2016 Goods & ServicesReaders' Choice

Best Jeweler

Pave Fine Jewelry Design

2016 Lifestyle & LeisureReaders' Choice

Best Pet Store

Pet Food Express

2016 Goods & ServicesReaders' Choice

Best Senior Living

Piedmont Gardens

2016 Food & DrinkReaders' Choice

Best Butcher Shop

Piedmont Grocery

2016 Lifestyle & LeisureReaders' Choice

Best Public Middle School

Piedmont Middle School

2016 Food & DrinkEditors' Choice

Best Breakfast Sandwich

Pizzaiolo

Sure, breakfast sandwiches, those little hand-sized parcels of egg and bread, require little to be good. But this one at Pizzaiolo—with a Kaki Farm egg, La Quercia speck, and mustard greens—puts all other Egg McMuffin-like sandwiches to shame. The biscuit is strong enough to hold up to lashings of egg yolk and melted Calabrian chili butter, yet it’€™s still tender and crumbly. The greens inside are braised to tenderness, and the speck is shaved thin; both give in easily to a dainty bite. Shirt stains are averted. Social embarrassments are warded off. And yet, it’€™s a come-to-mama kind of sandwich. One tip though: Press the whole thing down before biting in, or cut it in half with your knife, lest you shoot egg yolk out the back of it.

2016 Lifestyle & LeisureEditors' Choice

Best Banjo Picking

Porky's Pizza Palace

In a San Leandro joint reminiscent of the TV show Cheers for its sense of community, the longest running regulars aren’t customers at all, but a banjo band. The Oakland Banjo Band has played Porky’€™s Pizza Palace weekly for the past 35 years, outranking even the current owners. “We inherited them,” said Gary Valenziano, whose family bought the restaurant in 1983. The band formed in the basement of Best Music Co. in Oakland nearly 60 years ago, ebbing and flowing to present-day status of 15 members. With fancy picking and catchy tunes, the band gained a following. Every Thursday night, the banjos get feet tapping, heads bobbing, hands clapping—and devoted fans out of their seats for a line dance. Cynde Rivera, longtime bartender who chose the shift “because of the banjo band” said, “It’s a good feeling.”

2016 Food & DrinkReaders' Choice

Best Bar Spirits Selection

Prizefighter

2016 Lifestyle & LeisureEditors' Choice

Best East Bay Book

Purity by Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen’€™s latest book, Purity, tells the story of Pip (her real name is Purity), who struggles to find her identity after graduating from college in massive debt. Oakland and Felton serve as two of its backdrops. Her goal in the beginning, while squatting with anarchists in Oakland and interacting with oddball characters, is finding out who her father is and discovering her own backstory. The tale becomes more complex as Pip roves the world working for people like Andreas Wolf, a German computer hacker based in Bolivia, and Tom Aberant, an investigative journalist in Denver. Although Oakland is not the book’€™s main setting, Franzen’s visit to the East Bay captures much of the feeling of life in the city’s Uptown district in recent years. Typically chock-full of smart ideas and relevant observations.

2016 Goods & ServicesReaders' Choice

Best Real Estate Company

Red Oak Realty

2016 Food & DrinkReaders' Choice

Best Sausages

Rosamunde Sausage Grill

2016 Food & DrinkEditors' Choice

Best Bar in Which to Get Your Dance On

Ruby Room

A stone wall behind the bar, backlit red lights throughout, and a local clientele vibe contribute to the feel of hanging out in a secret bat cave at the Ruby Room. On Saturdays and Sundays oft rotating (no pun intended) local DJs spin death rock, glam rock, and punk hits on vinyl. Fridays get your old-school hip-hop on until the wee hours of the morning on a packed dance floor. Don’t be surprised to find the bar lined with flaming drinks on a weekday metal night (spread by word of mouth, not social media). Go ahead and bring your posse—though the dance floor is small, there is a closed indoor smoking side room (yes, you read that correctly) to lounge or play pool in if you want to catch your breath with a trademark whiskey sour.

2016 Goods & ServicesEditors' Choice

Best Secret Bunny Warren

Ruby's Garden

Mae Chan, the manager of Ruby’s Garden, says, “People lose their minds when they see the bunnies.”€ On the first Friday of every month, the children’s clothing store becomes a secret bunny warren, with a variety of laid-back, “€œcrazy fluffy” Lionhead and domestic bunnies (straight from the backyard of Chan’€™s daughter, Ruby) for kids aged 0 to 99 to hold and pet. Chan has found that bringing this “slice of wilderness”€ into the shop adds joy and a sense of community. In addition to this complimentary bunny therapy (on colorful couches, no less), during the Bunny Parties the shop offers snacks, wine, and special discounts on new and gently used kids’€™ clothing, shoes, books, and gifts. It happens every First Friday, 6-8 p.m., and is free.

2016 Goods & ServicesReaders' Choice

Best Children's Clothing

Ruby's Garden

2016 Food & DrinkReaders' Choice

Best Diner,Best Late-Night Munchies

Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe

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