Best of Oakland and the East Bay

Let's Get This Party Started


Mitch Tobias

From super-rich and delicious thick-crust pizza to crazy-fresh artisanal cocktails and vegan soul food that will make you swear off meat, Oakland—and the East Bay, for that matter—has it all going on. It’s an exciting city, with hipster and minimalist restaurants snaring the attention of The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Blog just named it No. 1 in its compilation of the 10 Most Exciting Cities in America. And that’s what we celebrate in this issue—the Best of Oakland and the East Bay. Let’s get this party started!

jump to: Food & Restaurant | Drinks | Lifestyle | Goods & Services | Kids | Pets

Food & Restaurant

Best Food Truck

Doc’s of the Bay (Also: Best Nonburger Burger Winner)

Here’s the sight that greeted us at Snow Park in downtown Oakland on a sunny late spring day: a crowd of people sitting on the grass near the Doc’s of the Bay food truck, struggling mightily to keep the fixings of their colossal Angus beef and vegetarian black bean burgers from spilling onto their shirts or legs. Meanwhile, a line of about 15 people waited patiently to get theirs. Zak Silverman’s roving restaurant has caused quite a sensation during its brief existence—initially at Art Murmer/First Friday gatherings, and then at various other spots in Oakland, San Francisco, and Emeryville. The key, he says, “is using the best local ingredients I can find, from the challah buns [by Firebrand Artisan Breads of Oakland], to the meat [Golden Gate Meat Co. Inc. of San Francisco], to the stuff we put on our burgers [much of it from Berkeley Bowl].” Even the Blue Dog sodas are NorCal products, from Sacramento. “Doc” is also understandably proud of his special red pepper ketchup, which got so many enthusiastic comments he now sells it by the bottle. 510-379-5582, roving locations are revealed at

Best Barbecue

Everett & Jones Barbeque
126 Broadway, 510-663-2350, (locations also in Hayward and Berkeley).

Best Brunch

Aunty Mary’s Cafe
Tucked between two Korean barbecue restaurants in Temescal, Aunt Mary’s has become famous for its weekend brunch, which typically has a good-sized crowd waiting outside on Telegraph Avenue for a table. On warm weather days, you want to be on the front patio, but the inside is lively and cheery, too—the walls are decorated with works created by local artists or by nonprofessionals associated with various Bay Area community groups and change every few months. Portions at Aunt Mary’s are large, the ingredients fresh and mostly local, and many of the dishes lean heavily toward Southern cooking—you’ll find grits, buttermilk biscuits and gravy, a dish called bubble and squeak (potato cakes topped with eggs and a reduced green sauce from cooked collards), catfish sandwiches, and South Carolina pulled pork on the large menu. Restaurant manager Starla Garvey raves about Aunt Mary’s twist on French Toast: “Our pain perdue—or ‘lost bread’ [it’s French]—is one of my favorites. The bread is soaked in honey and milk and whiskey. It’s so delicious. It’s baked to order, so it takes a while, but
it’s absolutely worth the wait.”
4307 Telegraph Ave., 510-601-9227,

Best French Fries

Barney’s Gourmet Hamburgers
5819 College Ave., 510-601-0444, and 4162 Piedmont Ave., 510-655-7180, (locations also in Berkeley).

Best Chef

James Syhabout, Commis
3859 Piedmont Ave., 510-653-3902,

Best New Restaurant

This is Portal co-owner Warren Rector’s first restaurant, and he found a gem of a spot for it—a short block from Lake Merritt in a small building that has a deck with fabulous views of the water. “Originally, we were thinking a full organic-vegetarian restaurant, but when we saw the patio, we knew it would be perfect for a beer garden,” he laughs. “We still focus on organic foods, as fresh as possible, mostly local produce, and sustainable fish and meats.” The beer list is all California brews, except for Rector’s favorites from Portland’s Allagash Brewing Company. The seasonal menu has a choice variety of meat and veggie options, including four kinds of mini-burgers, fresh pasta, turkey meatballs (his mom’s recipe), and “garbage bread”: “That’s a stromboli on the East Coast. It’s basically a rolled-up pizza with all the toppings inside. The ingredients change all the time depending on what vegetables are around.”
1611 Second Ave., 510-663-7678,

Best Bakery

La Farine Boulangier Patisserie
6323 College Ave., 510-654-0338;
3411 Fruitvale Ave., 510-531-7750; 4094 Piedmont Ave., 510-420-1777; also: 1820 Solano Ave., Berkeley,

Best Breakfast (Sitdown)

Mama’s Royal Cafe
4012 Broadway, 510-547-7600,

Best Burger

Barney’s Gourmet Hamburgers
5819 College Ave., 510-601-0444, and 4162 Piedmont Ave., 510-655-7180,
also in Berkeley).

Best Nonburger Burger

Doc’s of the Bay
510-379-5582; Doc’s roving locations
are revealed at

Best California Cuisine

3917 Grand Ave., 510-547-4036,

Best Chinese Restaurant

Little Shin Shin Restaurant
4258 Piedmont Ave., 510-658-9799,

Best Date Night Restaurant

À Côté Restaurant
5478 College Ave., 510-655-6469,

Best Dim Sum

Hong Kong East Ocean Seafood Restaurant
3199 Powell St., Emeryville,
510-655-3388, 510-655-3389.

Best Ethiopian Restaurant

Asmara Restaurant
5020 Telegraph Ave., 510-547-5100,

Best Food Truck

Doc’s of the Bay
510-379-5582; Doc’s roving locations are revealed at

Best Italian Restaurant

Italian Colors Restaurant
2220 Mountain Blvd., 510-482-8094,

Best Late-Night Munchies Spot

Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café
1805 Telegraph Ave., 510-251-9400,
and 4081 Hollis St., Emeryville,

Best Mediterranean/Greek Restaurant

Ikaros Greek Restaurant
3268 Grand Ave., Oakland,

Best Mexican Restaurant

Restaurante Doña Tomás
5004 Telegraph Ave., 510-450-0522,

Best Overall Restaurant

Wood Tavern Restaurant
6317 College Ave., 510-654-6607,

Best Outdoor Restaurant

Even without its popular patio, Bocanova, the self-described Pan-American grill in the heart of Jack London Square, would have to be considered one of Oakland’s true destination restaurants, with its large, stunningly beautiful dining room, attractive bar, and some of the best food in town. But this richly deserved Best Of honor celebrates the spacious outdoor patio, which looks out on the tranquil Jack London Square Marina on the Oakland Estuary, literally just a few steps away. Around two-dozen tables of varying sizes (including two family-style tables) sit under a canopy of eight enormous suspended cream-colored umbrellas; not a bad seat in the house. On sunny days it’s pure bliss on the deck. Evenings still afford lovely views of the water, there are plenty of standing heaters for those nippy nights, and the maitre d’ notes that “we have an arsenal of fleece blankets we give out if it gets really cold.
55 Webster St., Jack London Square,  510-444-1233,

Best Restaurant With a View

Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill
1520 Lakeside Drive, Oakland,

Best Restaurant With Staying Power

Bay Wolf
Don’t think that because Michael Wild and Larry Goldman’s Bay Wolf restaurant has been in the same charming converted Victorian house on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland for 38 years that the perennial fine-dining favorite is coasting. Au contraire. The bistro’s chef for more than a decade, Louis Le Gassic, is always looking for ways to freshen his California-Mediterranean cuisine, while not ignoring the desires of the restaurant’s faithful clientele. Ingredients are all fresh, seasonal, and mostly local, and diners can usually count on finding simple but usually spectacular chicken, duck (a specialty), beef, and imaginative pasta main courses, plus a changing selection of starters. Needless to say, there is also an extensive wine list, heavy on California and French selections. The atmosphere is casually elegant, like the food itself. As noted food critic and restaurateur Patricia Unterman wrote recently, “Bay Wolf has evolved into this divine state like a great wine that has aged to maturity. There are no more rough edges, just depth, complexity, and sensual completeness.”
3853 Piedmont Ave. 510-655-6004,

Restaurant With Best Service

4293 Piedmont Ave., 510-652-3676,

Best Thin-Crust Pizza

5008 Telegraph Ave., 510-652-4888,

Best Thick-Crust Pizza

Zachary’s Chicago Pizza
5801 College Ave., 510-655-6385, (locations also in Berkeley, Pleasant Hill, and San Ramon).

Best Soul/Southern Food Restaurant

Souley Vegan
If “vegan soul food” sounds like it might be an oxymoron, rest assured that Souley Vegan owner Tamearra Dyson has a good handle on both parts of the term. A vegan since she was 16, she learned to cook soul food from her mom, who lives in Louisiana, but along the way figured out ways to creatively use Southern spices and ingredients in tasty vegan recipes. So, while you won’t find fried chicken at Souley Vegan, you can savor Dyson’s organic, gluten-free Southern-fried tofu. Folks also rave about the Toasty Burger (with both fried, breaded tofu and barbecue tofu), the special mac and cheese, the spicy gumbo, and sides ranging from mashed potatoes to red beans and rice, black-eyed peas, fried okra, and yams. Dyson even makes her own vegan mayonnaise and vegan cheese. The atmosphere is casual, as you’d expect. Save room for dessert.
301 Broadway, 510-922-1615,

Best Sushi Restaurant

Geta Japanese
165 41st St., 510-653-4643.

Best Thai Restaurant

Soi 4 Bangkok Eatery
5421 College Ave., 510-655-0889,

Best Vietnamese Restaurant

Pho 84
354 17th St., 510-832-1338,

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Best Artisanal Cocktails

The New Easy Lounge
Blink and you might walk right by the unassuming façade of the New Easy on lively Lakeshore Avenue. But step inside and you’ll find yourself in a colorful wonderland that screams “party!” If that drink on the bar is flaming, it might well be a Spring Sideshow, one of the New Easy’s famous artisanal cocktails—that one consists of flambéed grapefruit and creole bitters, with Oro Pisco Italia, crème de violette, and lemon. All of bar manager Summer-Jane Bell’s novel concoctions feature unexpected combinations of flavors (e.g., white whiskey infused with arugula and white pepper; grapefruit honey soda with Irish whiskey and sherry), and most contain house-made ingredients—the New Easy’s own syrups and sodas—and custom infusions. The potent libations and their ingredients change seasonally, and there are often unusual specials, too.
3255 Lakeshore Ave., 510-338-4911,

Best Coffee

Blue Bottle Coffee
James Freeman’s exquisite artisanal Blue Bottle Coffee is no longer just Oakland’s little secret. Besides the headquarters near Jack London Square, where the warehouse and roastery are visible to the rabid legions getting their individually brewed cups in the adjoining cafe, Blue Bottle is sold at several other Bay Area locations and has also moved into Brooklyn and Manhattan, to considerable fanfare and glowing reviews. Not since Peet’s Coffee and Tea staked its turf many years ago has a coffee come along that inspires such devotion. In part influenced by the slow-coffee brewers of Japan, Freeman’s troops will serve no cup before its time, using only the freshest beans, roasted in vintage equipment from the ’50s and ’60s, and it’s the deliberate process that leads to what many Blue Bottle acolytes believe is the closet thing there is to coffee perfection. A new, much larger Oakland cafe will open in the 108-year-old W.C. Morse building on Broadway at 42nd Street. Freeman told the Nosh blog, “Oakland has been awesome to us, so I think it’s worth investing in Oakland.”
300 Webster St., 510-653-3394,

Best Bottled Beer Selection

Beer Revolution
464 Third St., 510-452-2337,

Best Draft Beer Selection

The Trappist
460 Eighth St., 510-238-8900,

Best Cocktails

Mua Oakland Bar
& Restaurant

2442 A Webster St.,

Best Artisanal Cocktails

New Easy Lounge
3255 Lakeshore Ave., 510-338-4911,

Best Happy Hour

Restaurant Chu
362 College Ave., 510-601-8818,

Best Margaritas

Restaurante Doña Tomás
5004 Telegraph Ave., 510-450-0522,

Best Martini

41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley,

Best Neighborhood Bar

Heart and Dagger Saloon
504 Lake Park Ave., 510-444-7300,

Best Wine Bar

Toast Wine Lounge
5900 College Ave., 510-658-5900,

Best Wine List

À Côté Restaurant
5478 College Ave., 510-655-6469,

Best Local Winery

Rosenblum Cellars
2900 Main St., Suite 1100,
Alameda, 510-865-7007,

Best Place to Drink Cheap

The Kingfish
A classic dive—and we use that term with great affection here—the tiny Kingfish Pub and Cafe (hey, it’s a bar) has been a popular watering hole on the border of Temescal and Rockridge since the 1920s. If the ramshackle exterior is a turnoff, or you find the cluttered, low-ceilinged interior claustrophobic rather than cozy, the Kingfish might not be for you. It’s a proudly funky neighborhood place—though it also has surprising hipster cred—where folks come to knock back a good selection of mostly inexpensive beers and other drinks (and there are always specials), maybe catch a ball game on the TV, play some shuffleboard, spin some tunes on the jukebox, and hang out into the wee hours.
5227 Claremont Ave., 510-655-7373,

Best Whiskeys/Bourbons/Hard Liquor

This Uptown Oakland favorite, draws throngs, both for its gourmet Southern cooking and its formidable drink list, which features a whopping 88 bourbon whiskeys, 30 rye whiskeys, and 22 other American whiskeys. At Picán, whiskey rules. What’s the best on offer? That would be 15-year-old, 95 proof Black Maple Hill, for $58 a glass. “It’s really hard to find,” says bartender Dean Proteau. “We have one of the last bottles in the East Bay. It’s not always around, but it’s also not one you’re going to talk people into.” Not surprisingly, Picán is jumping most during First Fridays: “We’re jammin’ wall-to-wall for eight hours,” he says.
2295 Broadway, 510-834-1000,

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Best Local Tourist Attraction

Lake Merritt
Hallelujah! The years-long beautification of the east side of Lake Merritt is almost done. For the thousands of people who jog, power-walk, or aimlessly amble around the 3.4-mile perimeter of what is justly known as the Jewel of Oakland, it’s only been a minor eyesore and inconvenience, because there was always plenty of gorgeous unaffected lakeside terrain to enjoy. Now, however, there are more and prettier lawns to lounge and picnic upon, new beds of California native plants and flowers, a stately new walking bridge at the south end, and, finally, the completion of the lake’s famous Necklace of Lights, which sparkle from dusk to midnight. Every step offers a spectacular view—of downtown, the Oakland Hills, the stunning Cathedral of Christ the Light.

Best Bay Area Day Trip

Point Reyes National Seashore

Best Weekend Getaway


Best Girls’ Getaway


Best Guys’ Weekend

Lake Tahoe

Best Art Gallery

Vessel Gallery
Before moving to 25th Street in booming and bustling Uptown in 2010, Lonnie Lee had been quietly drawing followers for six years to the first iteration of her Vessel gallery, on Ashby Avenue in Berkeley. In that smaller space, she demonstrated her exquisite and adventurous taste in fine art, jewelry, custom furniture, and crafts, but now her profile has expanded dramatically since the 30-year Oakland resident radically renovated and moved into the spacious, architecturally splendid upper-floor space of a 1906 building that originally functioned as a hayloft for horses used by the Oakland Fire Department. Since relocating, Lee has become an active member of the burgeoning Art Murmur scene, regularly hosting cutting-edge group shows, while also highlighting the diverse works by some of her favorite painters, sculptors, and other artists, including Juan Santiago, Sanjay Vora, Wayne Shafer, and Cyrus Tilton (creator of the gallery’s unforgettable and enveloping locust swarm exhibit).
471 25th St., Oakland, 510-893-8800;

Best Health Club/Gym

Namaste Personal Training
1240 Powell Street, Suite 1C, Emeryville, 510-595-6842,

Best Local Festival or Annual Event

Oakland Art Murmur

Best Local Tourist Attraction

Lake Merritt

Best Live Music Venue

Fox Oakland Theater
It’s no coincidence that Oakland’s Uptown renaissance coincided with the 2009 reopening of the historic Fox Theater after being shuttered and in disrepair for nearly four decades. The multimillion-dollar facelift restored the one-time movie palace (it opened in 1928) to its original glory, so now it even rivals the Art Deco Paramount Theatre just a few blocks away. The Fox is an awe-inspiring mash-up of Moorish, Indian, Deco, and Middle Eastern architectural elements that probably shouldn’t work together, but do. Since Oakland-based Another Planet Entertainment started booking the place, it has showcased hundreds of top rock, R&B, indie, electronic, folk, rap, metal, and uncategorizable acts, selling out the venue more often than not. Everyone wants to see his or her favorite band at the spacious but still intimate
Fox, and artists who could pack larger venues will often take smaller paydays just to catch that special Fox vibe.
1807 Telegraph Ave., 510-302-2250,

Best Museum in the East Bay

Oakland Museum of California
1000 Oak St., 510-318-8400,

Best Museum in San Francisco

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
151 Third St., San Francisco, 415-357-4000,

Best Local/Regional Park

Tilden Regional Park

Best Golf Course in the East Bay

Tilden Park Golf Course

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Goods & Services

Best Antique Store

Montclair Estates
4268 Piedmont Ave., 510-339-6505,

Best Bookstore

Walden Pond Books
3316 Grand Ave., 510-832-4438,

Best Butcher Shop

Ver Brugge
6321 College Ave., 510-658-6854.

Best Consignment/Resale Shop

Crossroads Trading Company
The obvious thing about consignment stores is that their stock of used clothing changes constantly, so you never know what you’ll stumble onto. Berkeley-based Crossroads is a national chain, but it’s the nature of these shops that the clothing they sell reflects the tastes of the local population that brings in the clothes. According to Patti Harris, manager of the always well-stocked Rockridge Crossroads, “Eighty-five percent of our product is from the public, and 15 percent is [new clothing] from our corporate buyers, so what they sell to my store goes to every store in the company.” Consignment stores tend to be more expensive and much more selective than true thrift shops, but the overall quality is consistently high, and in the case of Crossroads outlets, merchandise is thoughtfully and logically laid out by color and genre—not just a jumble of racks. “Everything we buy today goes out on the sale floor today,” Harris says. “And we buy a lot.”
5901 College Ave.,
510-420-1952; also 2338 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-843-7600,

Best Gift Shop

6134 Medau Place, 510-339-7090,

Best Grocery Store (Nonchain)

Berkeley Bowl
Some old-timers still pine for the comparatively intimate former location of the Berkeley Bowl Markeplace, across Shattuck Avenue, in what was once a bowling alley. It was like an indoor farmers market, dominated by piles of every kind of fresh produce imaginable and bins of dried goods. Even in its  gargantuan “new” space (since 1999) the store still has some of that vibe, and even more of everything than it once did, plus it is also a colossal supermarket with aisle after aisle of products for the kitchen and home. The emphasis is on natural products and goods made by smaller, environmentally conscious companies, but the selection is still enormous. There’s a butcher shop and a seafood area, and hot prepared foods, but the big draw for most is still the incomparable mountains of produce—some locally grown, others obscure exotics from around the world—and the hundreds of clear plastic cylinders of dry goods, from beans (10 varieties) to teas, nuts, and grains. The newer, spiffier Berkeley Bowl West location has siphoned some of the hordes from the flagship store, but both are crowded most of the time.
2020 Oregon St., Berkeley,
510-843-6929; West Berkeley Store:
920 Heinz Ave., 510-898-9555,

Best Home Decor/Home Furnishings

Rockridge Home
5418 College Ave., 510-420-1928,

Best Jewelry Store

Pavé Fine Jewelry
5496 College Ave., 510-547-7000,

Best Beauty Salon

Seven 7 Salon
5358 College Ave., 510-601-7776,

Best Manicure/Pedicure

Natural Nails Plus
3527 Grand Ave., Suite B,

Best Place to Book a Shower/Party

Claremont Hotel
Club & Spa

41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley,

Best Place to Get Married

Brazilian Room
Tilden Regional Park, Wildcat
Canyon Road at Shasta Road,
Berkeley, 510-544-3164,,

Best Spa

Claremont Hotel Club & Spa
Gazing up at the blinding white façade of the stately Claremont Hotel, it’s hard to tell how serene and relaxed the setting really is. Up on the well-manicured grounds, the most prominent sounds are the wind rustling through palm trees and the distant ponk of tennis balls on the courts below. It’s a magnificent spot for an urban resort, and the Claremont has succeeded in part because it draws visitors both from around the world and around the Bay. Spa Claremont massages, facials, and body treatments have become popular with well-heeled locals and others looking for a special birthday, anniversary, or honeymoon splurge. The Spa’s services include 11 different massages—therapeutic, aromatherapy, Shiatsu, Lomi, etc.—and the same number of facials—Ginseng Herbal, Environmental Defense, Triple Peel, Hydrafacial, etc. There are also hair and nail salon treatments and package deals for multiple services.
41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley,

Best Shoe Store

5525 College Ave., 510-595-7272,

Best Shopping District


Best Women’s Boutique

Rue Atlelier
Barbara Dryden’s boutique is just a narrow slip of a store, yet it feels light, airy, and elegant, and the ever-changing rack of clothes on the south wall is bursting with inviting colors, patterns, and textures, as well as casual and dressier fashions. Dryden stocks her store with “designers I think the women around here would know and want, and I also change it up depending on what they’re looking for. I have new packages arriving almost every day, so it always feels a little bit like Christmas.” A staircase in the middle of the store climbs up to a small loft space housing a pop-up boutique. Downstairs, you’re likely to encounter Dryden’s adorable (and mellow) French bulldog, Gracie, “our official greeter/mascot,” she says.
2981 College Ave., 510-845-6800,

Best Chiropractor

Align Chiropractic
6239 College Ave., Suite 201,

Best Dentist

Melinda Chan, D.D.S.
5277 College Ave., Suite 203,

Best Wine Shop

The Wine Mine
5427 Telegraph Ave.,

Best Organic Market

Rockridge Market Hall
Market Hall is foodie heaven. The bounteous Market Hall Produce is dominated by fruits and veggies from local farms or other parts of California, lots of it organic. Depending on the season, you can sample your way through many different types of pears, oranges, tangerines, and mangoes. Yum! The Marin Sun Farms Butcher Shop specializes in local, pasture-raised meats, much from its own land in Point Reyes. The butcher shop’s grass-fed beef, lamb, and goat are perhaps the main calling cards, but this gem of a market also thrills chefs with its cuts of chicken and pork, its farm-fresh eggs, plus duck, sausage, and other meats. Next door, the Hapuku Fish Shop buys only from environmentally responsible fishermen: glorious swordfish, salmon, ahi tuna, sole, large and small scallops, and prawns.
Hapuku’s fish-and-chips takeout
is sublime. Finally, the Pasta Shop also uses the freshest ingredients—many local and organic—in its prepared foods, hot and cold.
5655 College Ave., 510-250-6000,

Best Acupuncturist

Oakland Community Acupuncture
15 Croxton Ave., 510-654-6500,

Best Massage Center (or Therapist)

Andrea Turner
585 Mandana Blvd., Suite 3,

Best Place for Yoga

3229 Lakeshore Ave., 510-832-9642; 5416 College Ave., 510-547-9642; also: 2820 Seventh St., Berkeley,

Best Place for a Facial

Seven 7 Salon
(Shelly Gomez)

5358 College Ave., 510-601-7776,

Best Auto Repair

Torchio’s Auto Repair
Behind the desk that sits near the front of this old brick-walled garage in downtown Oakland is a blowup of a vintage photo depicting a mechanic working on some Jazz Age sedan. It was taken in that building sometime in the 1920s, and to tell the truth, the place doesn’t look much different than it does today. Torchio’s Auto Repair has been in the same functional, nondescript building since 1924—only the cars, the mechanics, and the tools have changed. It was a Torchio-family business for around 70 years; the past 20 or so, it’s been owned by a mechanic named Michael Bott. The general repair and maintenance shop—or “car care center” as Bott terms it—has built a strong client base through the years, and all it takes is one look at its Yelp ratings—nearly all 5s; amazing for a service facility—to see that Torchio’s is keeping its customers satisfied.
2344 Webster St., 510-451-3272,

Best Shop for Fashionable Eyewear

C2020 Optometry
5833 College Ave., 510-658-2020,

Best Real Estate Company

Team 510, Jackie Gallanagh and Chimene Pollard
Red Oak Realty, 6450 Moraga Ave., 510-812-9186, 510-846-3601,

Best Real Estate Agent

Chimene Pollard, Team 510
Red Oak Realty, 6450 Moraga Ave., 510-846-3601,

Best Plastic Surgery Practice

Joseph Togba, M D.
3300 Webster St., 510-763-2525,

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Best New Kids’ Clothes

Ruby’s Garden
Located in the heart of what has become a de facto restaurant row in the Temescal District, Ruby’s Garden offers an impressive selection of hip kids’ clothing and shoes, with an emphasis on Bay Area makers, including eye-popping, globally inspired togs by Tea Collections of San Francisco. Part of one wall is adorned with handmade superhero-style capes (also from a local maker), and there are also small areas devoted to a few well-chosen toys and books. The back third of the store is given over to racks of carefully selected gently-used clothes, so there should be something for every pocketbook.
5026 Telegraph Ave., 510-595-5325,

Best Gently Used Kids’ Clothes

Ruby’s Garden
5026 Telegraph Ave., 510-595-5325,

Best New Toys

Rockridge Kids
5511 College Ave., 510-601-5437,

Best Used Toys

Toy Safari
Want to entertain your kids for, say, one or two hours? Take them to Alameda’s Toy Safari, which is one of the biggest independent toy stores in the Bay Area—it’s literally stuffed with toys from floor to ceiling in each of its two rooms. In fact, in the smaller room, which has green plastic flooring like a giant Lego set, dozens of stuffed animals hang from the ceiling. The action even spills out onto the sidewalk, where dollhouses and tricycles provide a preview of the goodies inside. Toy Safari has new toys and games aimed at every age level and interest, and also a sizable collection of previously owned toys. Large plastic bins in the main room houses used action figures, Lego blocks, and cars for tiny tots and older kids, while the annex offers hundreds of games, stacked high almost out of sight. Good luck extricating your kids when it’s time to leave.
1410 Park St., Alameda,

Best Children’s Birthday Cake

A Taste of Denmark
3401 Telegraph Ave., 510-420-8889,

Best Kid-Friendly Vacation


Most Kid-Friendly Restaurant

Fentons Creamery
and Restaurant

4226 Piedmont Ave., 510-658-7000,

Best Birthday Venue

Children’s Fairyland
699 Bellevue Ave., 510-452-2259,

Best Preschool

Tudorka Tots
5040 Mountain Blvd.,

Best K–8 Public Elementary or Middle School

Chabot Elementary School

Best Public High School (9–12)

Oakland Technical High School

Best Summer Camps for Ages 3 to 7

Camp Galileo

Best Overnight Camp

Camp Chyrsalis
2434 McKinley Ave., Berkeley,

Best Family Overnight Camp Out

Family Sundown
Oakland Zoo, 9777 Golf Links Road, 510-632-9525,

Best Kids’ Haircut

Snips Children’s Hair Salon
5335 College Ave., Suite 4,

Best Music Instruction for Kids

Holy Names Preparatory Music Department
Since 1968, Holy Names University has sponsored a community music school on its campus, helping thousands of kids and teenagers (and some adults), from beginners to advanced, improve their musical and performance skills through individual and group instruction and playing together in different ensembles. The school uses a combination of Suzuki Method and other more traditional approaches to music education, drawing on the expertise of around 25 Holy Names teachers. Private instruction is available for 10 instruments—violin, viola, cello, harp, guitar, piano, flute, voice, recorder, and oboe. Among the classes offered are divertimento chamber orchestra, intermediate da capo youth orchestra, cello choir (for beginning cellists), piano ensemble, wind/brass ensemble, and a few more. Programs run in spring, summer, and fall.
3500 Mountain Blvd., 510-436-1224,

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Best Place to Buy Things for Your Pet

Paws and Claws
If you’ve ever wandered the aisles of a chain pet store, confused and overwhelmed by the towering shelves of cans and ginormous bags of everything, you might find one of the East Bay’s many fine independent pet shops more to your liking—such as Paws and Claws in the Dimond District. Owners Diane Pfile and Ruth Villasenor are part of the growing movement of pet lovers who emphasize natural and organic ingredients in the food they sell, so you won’t find the popular name brands that are loaded with suspicious fillers of unknown origin. Instead, they feature a wide selection of nutritious frozen raw foods, organic treats, and canned and kibble selections free of chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, and preservatives. The biodegradable cat litters are also free of chemicals and the harmful silica dust found in the most popular brands. Paws and Claws also boasts a surprisingly large variety of pet toys, leashes, and leads, and dog apparel, from pullover hoodies to rain slickers. The Paws and Claws grooming spa and bathhouse are
3436 Dimond Ave., 510-336-0105,

Best Veterinarian (or Clinic)

Montclair Veterinary Hospital
1961 Mountain Blvd., 510-339-8600,

Best Dog-Friendly Restaurant

It isn’t easy finding places where you can sit down and have a nice meal while you’re out walking your dog, but the two East Bay Crepevine restaurants fill the bill by allowing pooches to sit beside the outdoor tables at each location. At the Rockridge Crepevine on busy College Avenue, seven tables adjacent to the open-air patio (which does not permit dogs) form a line going up Ocean View Avenue, while in North Berkeley, a handful of French cafe-style tables and chairs hug the building’s cheery exterior. Aside from savory and dessert crepes, the casual Crepevine is also known for its omelets, sandwiches, bountiful salads, and sinfully delicious desserts. Portions are large, and the prices reasonable. Sorry, dog food is not on the large menu.
5600 College Ave., 510-658-2026;
also, 1600 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-705-1836.

Best Place to Go Overnight With Fido


Best Place to Board Pets

Happy Hound
1695 34th St., 510-547-3647,

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