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Enough with celebrity news, already. How about shining some light on the stars in our local community, the people who run the shops and provide the services that add pleasure and quality to our lives?
That what participants in The Almanac's 2010 Readers' Choice poll decided to do by voting for their favorite restaurants, shops and services.
And the winners are …
Boutique 4 wins the nod from Readers' Choice voters for favorite boutique. Tamara Michel, co-owner with her sister Julie, says the shop offers timeless and classic clothing for women, "styles that never go out of style." Boutique 4 also sells bath and body products, as well as accessories and gifts. 809 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 322-8444.
FURNITURE, HOME DECOR & FURNISHINGS
Flegels takes home the award for Furniture and Home Decor. This is the 18th consecutive year that Flegels has won a Readers' Choice award. Brian Flegel attributes its success, in part, to giving customers something free. In this case, it is one of their nine interior designers who will work to find the correct accent piece or a full suite of furnishings at no additional cost. Flegels' high-end furniture is backed by a full-service plan, which includes repair, refinishing and upholstery. On Sept. 2, Flegels will preview its newest line of Matsuoka furniture from Japan. These pieces feature exotic and rare woods. Flegels is the only West Coast distributor. Otherwise, you would have to go to Berlin, Miami, Taipei or New York. 870 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 326-9661.
CAFE, PLACE TO MEET PEOPLE, INDEPENDENT COFFEE/TEA HOUSE
Cafe Borrone's European-style plaza and art-covered walls are a good choice, when, to quote their 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. Readers certainly agree, having again named family-owned Cafe Borrone as the best cafe and the best place to meet people. Readers also named the cafe the best independent coffee/tea house. 1010 El Camino Real #110, Menlo Park; 327-0830.
Though many restaurants take pains to achieve a particular ambiance, Buck's of Woodside does it without hardly trying. Wait, without trying hard. Buck's is simply a "giant toybox full of mad people," says owner Jamis MacNiven, who characterizes the restaurant's appearance as his dreamscape. A 20-foot carved wooden fish outside the door, a buffalo's head on the wall, airplanes dangling from the ceiling, and lots of toys, pictures and gadgets adorn the walls. With a quirky sense of humor and commitment to creating a themeless "wacky Americana" atmosphere, the restaurant deliberately avoids trends, he says. "We strive to do the same thing today as yesterday," observes Mr. MacNiven. 3062 Woodside Road, Woodside; 851-8010
GROCERY STORE, BUTCHER
For years, Draeger's has won the hearts and taste buds of Readers' Choice voters for years, and 2010 is no exception. The market boasts a vast selection, including products from all over the world. Customers flock to the store for everything from standard fare to specialty products. The meat section, where the knowledgeable staff is available to answer questions, specializes in aged Midwestern beef, but also offers a large selection of other varieties. Although it's a local family-run business, Draeger's is well known throughout the area. 1010 University Dr., Menlo Park; 324-7733
BOOKSTORE, GREEN BUSINESS
Kepler's Books and Magazines is a perennial favorite of Readers' Choice voters -- and the community at large -- due to its author events, knowledgeable staff, and wide variety of 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," says staff leader Nancy Salmon. Kepler's has well over 200 registered book clubs and even a book club aisle. Among the deals: 20 percent off all New York Times bestseller's everyday. 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 324-4321.
Readers' Choice voters again named Village Stationers best stationery store for its selection of paper goods, office supplies, gifts, and greeting cards, as well as for the knowledge and personal service of its staff. The independent and family owned Village Stationers is one of the last true stationery stores in this area. Its longevity rivals that of the love story in "The Notebook." 719 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 321-6920.
You don't have to be Tony Soprano to recognize the quality of the bling at Hirzel Fine Jewelers. Nor do you have to be a single lady to come to Hirzel to put a ring on it. And Hirzel's is definitely not just for those living in a material world: Hirzel can meet many needs, from repairs to custom designs, with jewelry for many price ranges. In appreciation of the store's deep expertise after 50 years in the business, Readers' Choice voters again elected Hirzel Fine Jewelers as their favorite jewelry store. 730 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 328-6030.
The Rosewood Sand Hill hotel has been open only since April 2009, yet Readers' Choice voters have already twice named it their favorite hotel. Spread over 16 acres, Rosewood Sand Hill is an "urban oasis" with "the look and feel of a luxury resort," managing director Michael Casey says. It has scenic surroundings and is just minutes from Silicon Valley, he adds. Rosewood Sand Hill offers both a casual atmosphere and first-class amenities, such as fine dining, house-infused cocktails, and the Gold Rush Renewal spa treatment. 2825 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park; 561-1500.
"People from Europe come in to buy our Napoleons. They say they're just like the ones you get in Paris," says Woodside Bakery manager Jan Sweyer. "We use all butter and our custards, mousses and Bavarians are made in house." Along with its luscious cakes, such as genoise aux fruits, the bakery offers tarts, breads, pies and special-occasion cakes prepared by pastry chef Jesus Mendoza. Morning pastries are always popular, especially with the cycling crowd. Ladies' teas. featuring miniature pastries, are a new feature. Owner Mark Sweyer and his sister, Jan, grew up in Woodside. 3052 Woodside Road, Woodside; 851-7247.
Our readers just can't get enough of Carpaccio, naming it best Italian restaurant year after year. Although it has been one of Menlo Park's favorite dining spots for two decades, managing partner Ciya Martorana and chef Jorge Cortes constantly introduce new dishes in the weekly specials. Recent offerings included prosciutto with melon as an appetizer, hand-rolled pasta with sausage, peas, and walnuts in cream sauce, game hen stuffed with risotto and asparagus, and sanddabs, when available. Save room for dessert. The white chocolate banana cream tart with coconut macadamia nut crust, panna cotta, and tiramisu are totally delicious. 1120 Crane St., Menlo Park; 322-1211.
INTIMATE DINING, PLACE FOR A DATE
When you invite a date to dinner at the Village Pub, he or she can't help but be impressed by your sophisticated tastes. Foie gras. Osetra caviar. A burger with fries. It's all there for your dining pleasure, as prepared by Chef Dmitry Elperin. The Pub also emphasizes fresh, seasonal food, with many vegetables grown in the restaurant's own organic farm in the hills above Woodside. The comfortably spaced tables ensure your "sweet nothings" will not be overhead by other diners. This year the Pub received its second year's listing in the one-star category in the Michelin guide for the San Francisco Bay Area and Wine Country. 2967 Woodside Road, Woodside; 851-9888.
In warm weather, diners take to the sidewalk seating at The Left Bank bistro. "It's part of our tradition," says general manager George Perezvelez. The newly remodeled interior, however, is appealing all year round A typical French brasserie, the Left Bank is known for its classic versions of beef bourguigon, coq au vin, tarte Lyonnise, cassoulet, and steak frites. The brasserie also works closely with local farmers who provide seasonal organic food. The late summer menu features the food of Provence, such as aubergine (eggplant), salad nicoise, and frisee salad. Try blueberry clafouti for a sweet finale. 635 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park, 473-6536.
The Mix, a Frozen Yogurt Treatery, a new venture for local residents Jamie Schein and Susannah Albright, is a family-friendly gathering spot that serves a top-quality dessert made with Straus Family Creamery yogurt and fruit purees. The immaculate display of 32 toppings includes several kinds of fresh fruit, as well as such sweet stuff as Butterfinger crumbles, jimmies and Gummi Worms. Recently the yogurts of the day were: organic tart, mocha, vanilla and peanut butter. Toppings may also be mixed into the yogurt in a special machine. 3536 Alameda De Las Pulgas, Menlo Park; 854-6491.
Runner up: Yogurt Stop, 401 El Camino Real at College Ave., Menlo Park; 325-9864.
PLACE TO BUY WINE
When Giovanni Beltramo first arrived in California in 1880 from Castel Nuovo di Don Bosco in Italy, he cultivated a vineyard in Menlo Park. That led to his establishing a wholesale-retail wine and spirits business in town, which today is an integral part of Menlo Park's history. Beltramo's Wines and Spirits is still a family-owned business, with Giovanni's grandsons, John R. and Daniel Beltramo, guiding the store since the 1960s. Bertramo's has been named our readers' favorite wine store year after year. It has also received recognition as "Retailer of the Year" by Market Watch and has been named a "top wine shop" by the New York Times and Food and Wine Magazine's Wine Guide, according to the Beltramo's website. 1540 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 325-2806.
Cook's Seafood Market, a family-owned business since 1928, is another local institution. The market sells only the freshest of seafood, from No. 1 grade yellowfin tuna, used for sashimi, to Dungeness crab. Unlike the old days, the fresh crab is now available year-round. Pick up a loaf of Acme bread along with the crab, add Cook's house-made Crab Louis dressing, and you have yourself a feast. Don't forget to stop next door where Cook's Seafood Restaurant serves up its signature dish of fish and chips, along with clam chowder, cioppino, shrimp and Crab Louis. 751 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 322-2231.
Stanford Park Hotel, a European-style luxury hotel, is home to the Duck Club Restaurant, which serves breakfast seven days a week. The restaurant features a wide variety of breakfast goodies in a refined, yet relaxed, white-tablecloth setting. It's a perfect place to treat yourself to eggs Benedict, cinnamon French toast, huevos rancheros, Belgian waffles, pancakes and omelets. The Duck Club opens for breakfast at 6:30 a.m. weekdays and 7 a.m. on weekends. For those in a rush, stop by the lounge and let the barista pour you a morning cup of coffee to enjoy in the lounge or on the go. Light breakfast fare, such as yogurt, fruit or pastries, is also available. 100 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 322-1234.
HAMBURGERS, DINE WITH KIDS
The Pink Ladies and Greasers would love the 1950s atmosphere of Jeffrey's Hamburgers in Menlo Park, but families can also enjoy a traditional American meal in the old-time diner ambiance. Jeffrey's has become a popular destination for families with its kid-friendly accommodations and the aroma of a perfectly grilled burger. The entire family can enjoy its condiment bar, and though fresh salads are available for those w+ho want healthful options, customers crave the garlic fries, onion rings, and creamy milkshakes offered by the friendly staff. 888 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 322-1959.
Producing a meal satisfying enough for every member of the Brady Bunch is a daunting task, but surely they, along with the families of the Peninsula, would love to brunch at Stacks. Since the Menlo Park location's opening in 2002, Stacks has provided customers with a bustling family atmosphere, complete with the smells and sounds of a home-cooked breakfast. The personable, attentive staff is happy to satisfy customers with a smile and delicious food, making the restaurant the equivalent of one big happy family. With twists on classics, including tempting banana macadamia nut and coconut pancakes, Stacks leaves customers' mouths watering and in anticipation of the next visit. 600 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 838-0066.
Cafe Del Sol is home to traditional and modern Mexican cuisine that pleases this year's Readers' Choice voters. Green rice and green salsa are among the popular dishes, owner Uriel Gonzalez says. Fish tacos are new to the menu, but customers are already raving about them, he adds. The restaurant, which serves takeout customers and does catering, has been around for eight years and upgraded the outside of its building last year. 1010 Doyle St., Menlo Park; 326-2501.
Runner-up: Lulu's on the Alameda, 3539 Alameda de las Pulgas, Menlo Park; 854-8226.
The historic British Bankers Club in Menlo Park is sporting a new name -- the BBC Gastropub -- to reinforce the point that you can dine, as well as drink, there. Readers' Choice voters were likely thinking about the drinking part when they named the British Banking Club their favorite bar. The BBC has about 300 varieties of whiskey and scotch and more than 100 brands of bottled beers and beers on tap, according to Gim Ettaro, the executive chef. There are also 30 drinks on the specialty drink menu. On some nights, guests at the bar can listen to live reggae, jazz or salsa music. As of last year, the bar started a monthly "whiskey dinner," a four-course meal paired with whiskey that ranges from $55 to $75 a person. In April, they introduced the "beer dinner." As for martinis, do you want it shaken or stirred? Your answer may give you away. 1090 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 327-8769.
Move over Woody and Buzz, Cheeky Monkey Toys has again won the hearts of children all over the Peninsula. This marks the company's 10th consecutive win as the Readers' Choice for best toy store, a favorite for locals because of its quality customer service and toy selection. "We're always looking for the newest and greatest in the toy industry," says Janelle Cedusky, a Cheeky Monkey employee. With the store's bimonthly events, featuring play tables or art stations open to the public, it's no wonder kids flock to participate in a setting as fulfilling as Andy's playroom. 640 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 328-7975
Looking for Jacob's toned bod and the camaraderie of his werewolf pack? Fitness 101, with its low-key, clean and friendly atmosphere, is available for those who truly want to work out. It was founded in 1986 by 18 local doctors, notes owner Gordon Bliss, who credits the unique quality of the gym to its loyal members. "Every gym wants to be that family-friendly, well-known place where everyone feels welcome," says Bliss. "That's actually here." With a newly built outside gym, Body Pump structured classes, small group training and RAW (Real Athletic Workout) Fitness, this gym will fulfill any active person's fantasy. 40 Scott Dr., Menlo Park; 321-7900.
Even pretentious Hollywood actors would enjoy relaxing at Watercourse Way, this year's pick for best day spa. For 30 years now, locals have been drawn to indulgence by the private hot tub rooms, steam and sauna services, and heavenly massages. Recently, though, the spa has expanded to offer facial and full body services, which pamper its customers like celebrities. Inspired by the natural hot springs of Tassajara, manager Dorian Leslie says the spa "strives to provide a zen setting in an urban area." They accomplish this with star quality, say voters in the Readers' Choice poll. 165 Channing Ave., Palo Alto; 462-2000
Though yoga and exercise can be daunting, Be Yoga and Wellness provides a welcoming face to its clients. "There's a really warm sense about the studio and the space," says owner Lisa Haley. Though she started teaching yoga by herself two years ago, her business has grown to 13 teachers and a wellness center. Clients say the personal touch in the classes enables them to feel comfortable physically and spiritually while strengthening their bodies and minds. 1923 Menalto Ave., Menlo Park; 906-9016.
Runner up: The Dailey Method, 3528 Alameda de las Pulgas, West Menlo Park; 854-8361==
Menlo Velo Bicycles has ridden to the top again as favorite bicycle shop among Readers' Choice voters. This old-school shop attracts customers with its wide selection of bikes and friendly employees. Customers enjoy seeing familiar faces there. Some mechanics have been at Menlo Velo for 20 years, says Service Manager Christian Parker. Demand for bicycles has boomed, he says, as more people view bicycling as a healthful and inexpensive mode of transit. 433 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 327-5137.
Still going strong after 52 years, it's no surprise that Guy Plumbing has come out on top again among Readers' Choice voters. Guy Plumbing has clients who have been customers for years, staff head David Guy says. The four-generation family business focuses on service and repair, and sells plumbing fixtures online, as well. The staff helps repair and replace water heaters, sinks, faucets and more. 1265 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 323-8415.
Menlo Park Ace Hardware has again proved to be the favorite hardware store of Readers' Choice voters. With a large variety of tools and appliances, along with an accessible location in downtown Menlo Park, the store has won for best hardware store for the fourth consecutive year. A knowledgeable, eager staff, neighborhood store feel, and easy parking behind the store draw customers back. 600 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 838-0066.
Trusted friends and personal stylists mixed into one, the employees of Los Salonez offer low-maintenance hair care to their community of loyal customers. "Everybody is friendly," says owner Klara Turner. "People will come in and want to sit together and chat. There's only four of us working, so we make up the little neighborhood salon." With a focus on color correcting and naturalizing hair color, Los Salonez staff appreciates the natural beauty and individuality of each customer. Offering quick trims and other on-the-go services, the salon is the place to go for a speedy makeover and a friendly smile. 1010 Alma St., Menlo Park; 328-0735.
One can imagine Humphrey Bogart having his hair cut there. Golden Shears brings back the look and feel of the golden days of barber shops. Opened in 1963 by Louie Arenas, he still owns the shop and cuts hair there. Many customers have been patrons for years, even decades, and some of their children and grandkids are now regulars. The shop appeals to kids, with videos and toys. This is the 10th time Golden Shears has won this category. 814 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 325-0943.
Menalto Cleaners is the place to get your suit or dress cleaned -- or altered -- for the red carpet, whether you are a celebrity or just a star among your friends. Since the business began 21 years ago, employees have made an extra effort to get to know their customers and their wishes, says owner E. Gary Smith. The hallmark of his business, he says, is attention to detail and treating customers with a personal touch. ==I 1921 Menalto Ave., Menlo Park; 323-7001.
"We bend over backwards to take care of our clients," Abbey Carpet owner Nancy Stanton says. For the first time, Readers' Choice voters chose the locally owned and operated Abbey Carpet for best floor covering, based on quality of service and range of selection. Ms. Stanton once flew to Pasadena to help a client the day she heard a project was behind schedule -- just one sign of her commitment to clients. 905 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 462-0800.
Runner-up: Stephen Miller Gallery, 800 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 327-5040.==
The winner of the best auto repair category is Portola Valley Garage, a specialist in the repair of European vehicles. The most recent addition to the garage is a $15,000 computer device to correctly reprogram cars after repairs, a device rarely found among independent repair shops, owner Tom Ramies told The Almanac. "You can't fix a modern car without this equipment," he said. 4170 Alpine Road, Portola Valley; 851-7442.
NURSERY & GARDEN SUPPLIES
Wandering around Roger Reynolds Nursery & Carriage Stop feels like discovering a world as beautiful as that in Avatar. Established in 1919, making it the oldest nursery on the Peninsula, the business survived the Great Depression -- and even the Great Recession -- to continue to serve longtime customers and newcomers. A knowledgeable staff helps people navigate through new and interesting species amidst the abundance of fruit trees, herbs, vegetables and flowers. Garden supplies and indoor plants are available at the Carriage Stop, located in a Victorian cottage on site. Customers here realize that the colors of planet Earth, especially those from plants at the nursery, surmount even those of Pandora. 133 Encinal Ave., Menlo Park; 323-5612.
The Great Frame Up in Menlo Park has stepped into the winner's circle again. Owner Marcy Magatelli, museum-trained at the Art Institute of Chicago, leads a staff with cumulative experience exceeding 45 years. Although The Great Frame Up began as a frame-it-yourself shop, many customers today prefer to have the staff do the framing. After all, do you know how to frame an Australian boomerang? They do. 1047B El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 323-1097.
In an area where technology is king, Ladera Travel scores points through personal attention and customized solutions, whether you're traveling for leisure or pleasure. For 40 years, Ladera Travel has served local customers, helping with booking cruises, tours, flights, trains, hotels and cars. The agency is available to provide assistance 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 325 Sharon Park Dr., Menlo Park; 854-3222.
"I see the cafe as an extension of my living room," says Kathleen Daly, owner of Cafe Zoe, which Readers' Choice voters picked as the place for live music. Cafe-goers -- whether socializing, working, or sipping an impressive latte -- make up a community that mimics a family staying at Ms. Daly's house. Musicians in the neighborhood have found Cafe Zoe to be a comfortable haven for self-expression. Though the music scene at the cafe has been quiet of late, live music events will restart in August, she says. 1929 Menalto Ave., Menlo Park; 322-1926.
Runner-up: Cafe Borrone, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 327-0830.==
Avi Decorative Painting is committed to doing things the environmentally friendly way, says owner Avi Lenchner. For example, the company uses paints and materials with a small amount of volatile organic compounds, disposes of paints and materials at Palo Alto Recycling Center, and reduces carbon emissions by carpooling frequently. The company's goal, he says, is to educate customers about their options and help them make their homes both healthier and better looking. "We care about what our customers have to say," he adds. "We help them come up with a vision so they can get exactly what they want." P.O. Box 51551, Palo Alto; 329-0770.
PLACE FOR A KID'S BIRTHDAY PARTY
From mugs to dog bowls to flowers to fairies, the opportunity for creating a ceramic masterpiece seems endless at Color Me Mine. For the birthday boy or girl, themed parties are an option, and a special commemorative finger print plate can be ordered. With more than 60 paint colors to chose from, creativity swirls around the wooden tables and chairs, allowing kids to experiment with art while socializing with friends. The store is not limited to ceramics. It offers mosaics, glass-fusing and tie-dying as well. 602 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 328-4486.
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; 329-1340.
There's this guy who bought a pair of shoes several years ago at Nordstrom. After about eight years, when the sole separated from the top of a shoe, he bought them back to Nordstrom and asked if it could be repaired. The salesman said no, but he would give the customer credit for about 80 percent of the original price of the shoe. The customer then used the credit to buy a pair of sneakers. After about a week, when the customer discovered the sneakers were too small, he brought them back to Nordstrom to get a larger size. The customer not only got the right size, but a 20 percent discount since the shoe was on sale. Any questions? 550 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto 94304; 323-5111.
What are the secrets to the success of J Floral Art? Staying engaged and working directly with customer to meet their special needs, say partners Jeffrey Adair and Craig Kozlowski. Starting as an elegant, eye-catching floral shop on Santa Cruz Avenue in downtown Menlo Park, J Floral Art has grown into a full-service event maker that not only brings the flowers they are famous for, but everything else. They're in the movies now so customers can pick up a CD and see what they do. Look for them also on YouTube and Facebook. 3489 Edison Way, Menlo Park; 363-0313.
CHINESE RESTAURANT, TAKE OUT
Su Hong's famous walnut prawns, general's chicken, spring rolls, and pot stickers have again, for the 17th year, earned it best Chinese restaurant honors among Readers' Choice voters. How do they maintain such consistent excellence? "Most of our employees have been working here over a decade," says owner Bee King. "They're like a basketball team. Sometimes they don't need to say anything, because they just know the response." Because everything is also offered to go, it's not surprising that Su Hong To Go was also named the best take-out restaurant. Su Hong, 1039 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 323-6852. Su Hong To Go, 630 Menlo Ave., Menlo Park; 322-4631.
First-time winner Gombei Restuarant specializes in generous portions, fresh vegetables, and lots of teriyaki. With $8.75 lunch combinations and $10.75 dinner combinations that also come with salad, rice and miso soup, the notion of a great deal is definitely not Lost in Translation here. Gombei also has restaurants in Santa Clara, San Jose, and Sunnyvale. 1438 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 329-1799. Runner-up: Kaygetsu Classic Japanese restaurant, 325 Sharon Park Drive, Menlo Park; 234-1084.
Amber India is the Readers' Choice for favorite Indian restaurant. "Our chef has been passionate about cooking since day one," says owner Vijay Bist, who opened Amber India 16 years ago. Amber India has since expanded to four locations, but diners can still find great service and delicious dishes at its El Camino Real restaurant. 2290 El Camino Real, Mountain View; 968-7511
The fresh ingredients, mouth-watering aromas, and unusual varieties make Applewood Inn pizza the Readers' Choice again this year. You can choose from a list of signature pizzas or create your own. Customers say they love the salads and drinks as well. Locals looking for a casual family meal or night out with friends often find themselves heading for the Applewood Inn. 1001 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 324-3486.
A warm, fluffy bagel with melt-in-your-mouth cream cheese is a popular combination at Posh Bagel, which Readers' Choice voters have elected their favorite bagel shop. Unfortunately, a June 16 fire that started in a neighboring business did damage to Posh Bagel, which is closed for several months. When it reopens, customers will surely flock back with cravings for their favorite flavors of spread and bread. 869 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 325-7674
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, Suite 157, Palo Alto; 326-9251.
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 arson; it reopened in April. 643 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 321-1530.
Why have voters in the Readers' Choice poll picked The Pet Place as their favorite pet store for 18 consecutive years? It comes down to the quality of service provided by owners Lynn and Marc Macy and their friendly and knowledgeable staff. It's a store with a heart that's devoted to the health and welfare of animals through support of such programs as animal rescue and adoptions. The Pet Place goes the extra mile, whether it's locating a difficult-to-find product, referring a customer to a veterinary specialist, finding a custom harness for a disable dog, or suggesting a toy for your favorite "grandcat." The Pet Place has been recognized nationally as the U.S. retailer of the year by Pet Product News magazine and has received Menlo Park's prestigious Golden Acorn award for professional excellence. 777 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 325-7387.
For the second consecutive year, readers have chosen Cindy's Nail Spas as the best place to pamper hands and feet. Three locations in Menlo Park, easy access and dedicated service draw locals in, including to the newest location on Alameda de las Pulgas in West Menlo Park. Referred to as Green Nail Spa, only natural nails are cared for there, according to CEO Cindy Nguyen. Prices are reduced for teens and even more for children, making the salon a location from which anyone can emerge with star quality nails. Three Menlo Park locations: 1702 El Camino Real, 322-6427; 1012 Alma St., 566-1909; and 3530 Alameda de las Pulgas, 233-9317.
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 some 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 ... 139 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto; 650-328-0574.
READERS' CHOICE WRITERS, PHOTOGRAPHERS, DESIGNERS
Writers: Jane Knoerle, Hannah Totte, Georgia Wells, Carolyn Copeland, Rebecca Wallace, Jennifer Hine, Andrea Gemmet.
Photographers: Michelle Le, Veronica Weber and Kimihiro Hoshino.
Contributing designers: Linda Atilano, Shannon Corey, Diane Haas, Paul Llewellyn, Raul Perez, Scott Peterson and Gary Vennarucci.