Writers: Jane Knoerle, Cristian Ponce, Barbara Wood, Renee Batti, Jennifer Hine and Dave Boyce.
Photographers: Michelle Le, Veronica Weber, and contributed photos.
You'll see many old favorites and some newcomers on the list of winners of the 2015 Almanac Readers' Choice awards.
The Readers' Choice poll is all about letting readers express their opinions about the places they like, and in some cases, love, in our area. Balloting is open for six weeks and is exclusively online. Each ballot must contain votes for at least five businesses in five categories. Voters confirm their selections by clicking on a link in an email we send after a ballot is submitted.
We encourage businesses to actively campaign with their loyal customers to get votes, and many do. But we prohibit multiple votes from the same person, email address or IP address. We have multiple ways of discovering cheating or ballot-stuffing, and each year we disqualify ballots that we determine came from illegitimate email addresses.
This year more than 18,000 votes were cast.
We allow a business in a neighboring city to win if it receives the most votes, which occasionally occurs. We populate the initial ballot with obvious businesses and those that did well in the voting the previous year, but any business located on the Midpeninsula (Redwood City to Mountain View) may ask to be listed.
Watch for our 2016 contest next April.
AMERICAN RESTAURANT, PLACE FOR A DATE
"Farm to table" was Jesse Cool's mantra long before it became a cliche in the food industry. Owner of Flea Street Cafe, which won awards in two categories, Ms. Cool has been a leader in the sustainable food movement, serving only fresh, in-season, organic and local ingredients since her Menlo Park restaurant opened more than 35 years ago. Chef/owner Carlos Canada works with Ms. Cool to present a menu of "old-fashioned recipes with a modern twist." Recent offerings included grilled yellow peach and burrata salad, a summer vegetable tasting, pasture-raised chicken, Webb Ranch berry tart and strawberry shortcake. What could be more American? The soft lighting, series of nested rooms, and background of cool jazz make Flea Street Cafe our readers' ideal choice for a cozy dinner for two. 3607 Alameda de las Pulgas, Menlo Park | (650) 854-1226
CASUAL DINING, BEST OUTDOOR DINING, INDEPENDENT COFFEE HOUSE/TEA HOUSE, PLACE TO MEET PEOPLE
Cafe Borrone continues to be one of the most popular gathering spots in Menlo Park as any visitor to the plaza in front of the cafe and neighboring Kepler's bookstore can see. Enjoying breakfast, lunch or dinner outside or indoors has been a favorite pastime of area residents for more than 25 years. The restaurant was opened by Roy and Rose Borrone, and is now operated by daughter Marina Borrone and her husband, chef Josh Pebbles. In crafting the menu, Josh and Marina focus on choosing sustainable fish and organic meats, and supporting local farms. Friday night diners are often treated to the sounds of Clint Baker's Borrone All Stars jazz band. "We absolutely love sharing life with the community," Marina says. "It's family with extended family." 1010 El Camino Real, #110, Menlo Park | (650) 327-0830
P.F. Chang's at Stanford Shopping Center has won the Readers' Choice award for favorite Chinese restaurant. Manager Danielle Eastman attributes its popularity to the friendly staff and, of course, the food. The old classics are still there but new choices, such as the Dynamite Scallop Roll and the Lobster Avocado Roll, keeps diners coming back, she says. In addition to the variety of meat, chicken, seafood and vegetarian options, customers like the restaurant's cability to handle large parties. ==I 900 Stanford Shopping Center Bldg. W, Palo Alto | (650) 330-1782>
DINE WITH KIDS
Jeffrey's Hamburgers, winner of the Readers' Choice award in the Dine with Kids category, offers menu choices that will satisfy adults as well as children, says Serge Karanov, owner of the Menlo Park restaurant that appeals to families. In addition to burgers, hot dogs and milkshakes, there are a variety of other sandwiches, plus burger bowls, salads and seafood. Customers give the restaurant high marks for cleanliness and creating a family-friendly atmosphere. The fresh ground beef, of course, is a big draw. 888 El Camino Real Menlo Park | (650) 322-1959
Left Bank French brasserie, in downtown Menlo Park, is even more popular with local diners since it expanded its outdoor sidewalk seating. Opened in 1998, the restaurant was completely remodeled in 2008. Classic brasserie items, such as steak frites, onion soup, cassoulet, and escargot, are available, however, since July 1 there is a renewed emphasis on farm-to-table and organic products at all five left Bank restaurants, says general manager Edmond Zencirci. Late summer specialties include heirloom tomato salad, and a salad of locally raised spinach, Frog Hollow Farm apricots and pecans. For a sweet finale, try the profiteroles with chocolate sauce. 635 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; (650) 473-6543
"It's very heartening that people are so loyal. We're lucky to have so many friends, They're like family to us," says managing partner Ciya Martorana upon hearing that once again Almanac readers have declared Carpaccio their No. 1 choice for gracious dining in a Tuscan atmosphere. You' ll find all the Italian classics, such as lasagne, cannelloni, eggplant Parmesan and tiramisu at Carpaccio, but chef Chay Mendez keeps things lively with his weekly specials. Recent specials have included bruschetta with cherry tomatoes, arugula and burrata cheese with prosciutto, and risotto with spring vegetables. Another new addition, banana cream pie, is proving to be a big hit with diners, says Ciya, whose business partners are Bob Columbo and Aaron Ferer. 1120 Crane St., Menlo Park | (650) 322-1211
According to General Manager Lumi Gardner, a factor that makes Fuki Sushi stand out is its diverse menu. "Our amazing chefs from Japan in team with our serve staff and management is how we can execute this menu," she said. In addition to the delicately crafted sushi rolls with well-cooked rice and fresh seafood, some of the most popular items on the menu include the warm and light Miso Soup and the tasty Udon noodles. The dine-in restaurant has varying atmospheres, from a lively sushi bar to casual tables and the private tatami rooms in the back. 4119 El Camino Real, Palo Alto | (650) 494-9383
Cafe Del Sol won Readers' Choice laurels again in the Mexican restaurant category. It's a popular dining spot for locals seeking modern Mexican cuisine. They say they like the variety of its fresh and tasty choices. In addition to classic ceviche, the restaurant recently added to its menu La Jolla ceviche, as well as ribs with three different kinds of sauces, and a special side of orange rice. Owner Lionel Diaz says the kitchen pays close attention to preparation of meat and chicken, and samples the food every day to make sure the taste is just right. 1010 Doyle St # 1, Menlo Park | (650) 326-2501
The award for favorite new restaurant goes to the Firehouse Bistro in Woodside. Owners LeeAnn and Bill Gilbert have owned the building for many years, and when it became vacant recently, decided to open their own restaurant. The two aren't novices. They have had a Lake County restaurant for 12 years and ran a hotel for 20 years. LeeAnn Gilbert says she thinks customers "are happy that we have high quality food at reasonable rates," and also appreciate the restaurant's elegant, yet rustic decor with a touch of whimsy. Chef Nate Tauer, who previously worked at Bouchon, is "a fanatic" about only using the best ingredients and sources, Ms. Gilbert says. Many of the fresh vegetables and some of the wine come from the Gilberts' Lake County ranch. "We don't have anything in the freezer except our ice cream," Ms. Gilbert said. They have been serving dinner only on Tuesdays to Sundays, from 5 to 10 p.m., as well as private parties, but hope to soon start serving Sunday brunch. 2991 Woodside Road, Woodside | (650) 851-4988
Deep burgundy walls, white linen covered tables glowing with candlelight and set far enough apart for intimate conversation, The Village Pub is the perfect place for a romantic evening, be it "getting to know you" or an anniversary celebration. Handsome decor is only a small part of the Pub's success. The impeccable food and professional service make this one of the Bay Area's highest rated restaurants. Fresh produce from the restaurant's 17-acre SMIP Ranch in Woodside, as well as high quality meat, fish and ingredients, is prepared by executive chef Dmitry Elperin. A recent menu offered such entrees as sesame crusted squab with seared fois gras and sauteed ramps and grilled rack of pork with peach mostarda and crispy squash blossoms. 2967 Woodside Road, Woodside | (650) 851-9888
Food & Drink
Angel Heart Cakes is named for co-owner Debbie Umphrey's grandmother's angel food cake recipe, but the bakery, which opened in 2011, produces so much more. There are devils' food, coconut, and carrot cakes, cupcakes, tarts, puddings, pocket-pies, and many "grab and go" breakfast items, such, as mini angel food cakes, quick breads and individual quiches. There are also gluten-free treats including macarons. Co-owners Debbie Umphreys and Chris Rivera, have been busy providing baked goods for nearby business, including Facebook, and desserts for ZeroCater. While they have discontinued their wholesale business, many former wholesale customers continue to stop by and pick up their cakes at the bakery, says Chris. Marsh Manor, 3716 Florence St., Redwood City, (650) 363-2253
The award for favorite breakfast place goes to Buck's of Woodside, the iconic Woodside restaurant that may be more famous for its decor than its food. "The secret to Buck's is our staff," says Jamis MacNiven, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Margaret. "Some have been around so long that they speak the local Indian language. The food is good, sure, but the other side of the equation is the customers. People like to be with other people having fun. Oh, and the babies. In almost 25 years we have never had a bad baby." Breakfast is served Monday through Friday until 11 a.m. and weekends and holidays until 2:30 p.m. 3062 Woodside Road, Woodside | (650) 851-8010
The award for favorite hamburger goes to The Dutch Goose, a Menlo Park institution for decades. While the Dutch Goose has been in Menlo Park forever, it recently closed to make the restaurant completely ADA compliant and just reopened on May 22. Owner Greg Stern says the Goose took the opportunity to add a pizza oven, and started serving pizza in June. "We could not have made the improvements without the support of the Beltramo family (our landlord) and the expertise of Midglen Studios (Steve Patrick) and County Restaurant Supply (Scott Krampert)," Mr. Stern said. 3567 Alameda de las Pulgas | 854-3245
ICE CREAM, FROZEN YOGURT
Queen Bee, winner of the Readers' Choice award in the ice cream/frozen yogurt category, serves some of the Bay Area's finest ice cream, including Marianne's from Santa Cruz, which has been made since 1958, says owner DeAndra Axlund. "We're an old fashioned mom and pop shop," he says. Among items offered by Queen Bee are ice cream sandwiches, malts, banana splits and ice cream filled cupcakes, to name a few. Besides the sweets, he says, the family-friendly environment keeps bringing the customers back. 3716 Florence St., Redwood City | (650) 787-5239.
Applewood Pizza in Menlo Park takes the Reader's Choice award again for favorite pizza place. The Applewood menu has many options, including a lunch special of a personal pizza and drink for under $10. Customers like the variety of toppings, such as barbecue chicken, bell peppers, Canadian bacon, prawns and smoked salmon. Those who order a pre-made pizza have choices, too, including the Florentine pizza with marinated artichokes, mushrooms, bell peppers and fresh tomatoes. In addition to pizza and pasta, Applewood serves Hungarian food, such as Hungarian goulash and langos (Hungarian garlic bread). 1001 El Camino Real, Menlo Park | (650) 324-3486
PLACE TO BUY MEAT, GROCERY STORE
Shopping at Draeger's has become a way of life for generations of local residents dating from 1955 when the market first opened in a Quonset hut at 1010 University Drive. The family-owned store features a vast selection of everything from caviar to corn flakes. "Shoppers keep returning to the store because of the freshness and high quality of the products. Because the store is a small, locally owned and operated company, we are probably best connected with the local producers," says Richard Draeger, one of the 10 children of the late Frank Draeger. (Frank was the son of founder Gustave Draeger.) "There are five of us who work here on an everyday basis," says Richard. Some of the next generation is also working in the business, the fourth generation to do so. The meat and fish department is staffed with trained butchers, who are happy to give extra service, such as cubing beef for a stew or splitting ham hocks. "That's something you don't see much of these days," Richard Draeger says. 1010 University Drive, Menlo Park | (650) 324-7700
Woodside Deli, winner of the Readers' Choice award in the best sandwich category, has been making old-fashioned sandwiches for generations, says Gina Carle, daughter of the owner of the restaurant. It's the traditional Italian feel that is incorporated into the food and signature sandwiches (such as The Godfather) that keeps people coming back for more, she says. Besides sandwiches, Woodside Deli offers products it makes, such as pasta sauces, raviolis and salads. The deli sells a variety of imported meats, cheeses, wines, pastas, olive oils, vinegars, cookies and canned goods. 1453 Woodside Road, Redwood City | (650) 369 4235
It's the speed, quality, consistency and cleanliness that keep customers coming back to Su Hong To-Go, said Heidi Murphy, the takeout manager. "Most of our customers are with us for many, many years," she said. Over the past 30 years, the menu has stayed "pretty much the same," a characteristic that will apply to the restaurant's menus for the foreseeable future, she said. 630 Menlo Ave., Menlo Park | (650) 322-4631
The recognition for favorite auto repair shop for 2015 goes to Portola Valley Garage, a specialist in the repair of European vehicles. In an online testimonial, a BMW owner called the management "knowledgeable, straight-shooters and a pleasure to work with." Owner Tom Ramies says the garage is now a dealer for Bosch automotive parts and for Dinan, a maker of performance parts for BMW vehicles. 4170 Alpine Road, Portola Valley | 851-7442
Some clients of Moses Hairstyling, winner of the Readers' Choice award in the Barber category, refer to Moses Moreno as the "hair magician" and even their personal "therapist." His hair-grooming process and attention to detail is what he is known for, but his personality and care for each client is what keeps them loyal. Clients say he leaves them feeling refreshed, polished and confident about their appearance. What he's most proud of, he says, is the difference he makes in the lives of his clients and the friendships he builds along the way. ==I 1110 Crane St, Menlo Park | (650) 322-8822.
The award for day spa goes to Sense in the Rosewood Sand Hill hotel complex. The natural surroundings of the spa, with gardens and views of the Santa Cruz Mountains, make this a popular destination for local residents. In operation since 2009, the spa has 13 treatment rooms and men's and women's locker rooms, each with a relaxation area, wet lounge and outdoor courtyard with whirlpool. At the center of the spa, a co-ed relaxation lounge opens into a courtyard with a fountain. Sense spa has a Duet Suite with outdoor garden and whirlpool, movement studio with group fitness classes, and hair and nail salons. The fitness center offers a fitness and wellness suite from Technogym 2825 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park | (650) 561-1500
This is the first time Ladera Cleaners has won a Readers' Choice award. Often you have to go to several places to get the gown fitted properly, repair the moth hole in your blazer and get your laundry and dry cleaning done. Ladera Cleaners, located in the Ladera Country Shopper mall, does it all, from simple laundry to alterations and re-weaving. Locals who have been using Ladera Cleaners for years say they started because of the location but stayed because of the service. 3130 Alpine Road, Portola Valley | (650) 854-2291
FITNESS CLASSES, GYM, YOGA
Studio Rincon swept the fitness field by racking up Readers' Choice awards in three categories: fitness classes, gym and yoga. Manager Libby Shelton says customers like the tight-knit community of participants who take its classes, which range from Pilates and Zumba to various levels of yoga. Studio Rincon continues to add classes to its schedule, including a new boot camp class at 6:30 a.m. for those who want an all-body workout. There are different levels of fitness classes based on the participant's age and condition. For the youth, there are summer camps and fall dance classes starting the day after Labor Day. 3536 Alameda de las Pulgas, Menlo Park | (650) 861-0242
The choice of Almanac readers in 2015 in two categories florist and nursery is Ladera Garden & Gifts, located in the Ladera Country Shopper mall. Co-owner Mercedes Navarro attributes the popularity of her business to a combination of a variety of plants and gifts, excellent service and hard-working employees with good attitudes. The store's appeal may also have something to do with a continuous influx of new items, Ms. Navarro said. "Maybe that's part of it," she said. "You don't see (the new items) in other places." 3130 Alpine Road, Suite 380, Portola Valley | (650) 854-3850
Olive Hill Salon has been voted favorite hair salon for the third year in a row. Owner Danielle Casa says Olive Hill currently has six stylists "who are always going the extra mile for our guests." She and her employees participate in charity events for the environment and other causes. This year, it was an Earth Day cut-a-thon to raise money to provide clean water for people who live without it. Also, there was a breast cancer research fundraiser. Next year the salon plans to repeat those and add two more fundraisers, she says. "We work hard to make everyone's experience the best it can be," Ms. Casa says. "We have many new guests walking through our door each week and we want them to feel as welcome as our clients we've known for years." 2920 Woodside Road, Woodside | (650) 851-1150
The award for favorite hotel goes to Rosewood Sand Hill, carrying on its seven-year Readers' Choice winning streak. Rosewood continues to be a leading hotel, dining and social destination for Silicon Valley. Named a five-star hotel by Forbes Travel Guide this year, the property's 121 guestrooms and suites, award-winning spa and Michelin-starred dining experience at Madera (the hotel's signature restaurant) make an appealing combination for the area's entrepreneurs as well as business and leisure travelers from around the world. 2825 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park | (650) 961-1500
Hanh Hong and her mother Mai are co-owners of A Touch of Elegance in Menlo Park. They are going into their 16th year offering manicures, pedicures, waxing, and eye lash extensions with expert service. Hahn and Mai understand how important their customers are and always call them by name and know their needs. Their salon is dressed in a sea of orchids initially Mai's hobby and now an opportunity for customers to buy them. 1150 Crane St., Menlo Park | (650) 321-0679
Guy Plumbing, a family owned and operated business now in its 67th year, is the winner, once again, of the favorite plumbing honors in the Readers' Choice polling. With the benefit of four generations of plumbing expertise, Guy Plumbing is an established member of a referral network of trusted local services and vendors, Showroom Manager Camille Guy said. A staff knowledgeable in plumbing services and parts, and a showroom with a substantial inventory of high quality products rounds out the picture. With the ongoing drought, water-conservation devices are a particular focus for 2015, Ms. Guy says. 1265 El Camino Real, Menlo Park | (650) 323-8421
AAA Travel Services, winner of the Readers' Choice award for favorite travel agency, aims to satisfy the varying needs of customers, whether the destination is domestic or international, says John Pesqueria, an AAA travel agent. AAA pays attention to detail, he says, not just in booking flights and hotels, but in providing information, such as tour books and the AAA specialty, maps. Travel agent Linda Williams points out that dealing with an established company like AAA gives customers comfort. They also like the benefits, such as discounts on hotels and on particular vacation destinations. 430 Forest Ave., Palo Alto | (650) 798-3200.
Menlo Velo Bicycles, frequent winner of the Readers' Choice award for Bicycle Shop, strives to connect with every customer who drops in, says owner Rainer Zaechelein. Customers like to visit the shop, he adds, because they expect a level of personal assistance they wouldn't likely find at bigger outlets. Keeping stock up to date is a primary priority, Mr. Zaechelein points out. In addition to selling cycling goods and servicing bikes, Menlo Velo rents out road bikes and town bikes for those 18 and over. 433 El Camino Real, Menlo Park | (650) 327-5137
Even though Kepler's Books has traditionally won the top Readers' Choice prize in the bookstore category, the adage "Some things never change" would be greatly off the mark when speaking about this Menlo Park institution. "We are gradually and successfully transforming Kepler's from a traditional for-profit bookstore into a membership-driven institution with a mission of deepening literacy and providing cultural enrichment for our community," says Praveen Madan, Kepler's community engagement officer. "This year we completed a successful nonprofit pilot program to organize literary events and donate books at all seven public schools in East Palo Alto and Belle Haven, and reached over 1,300 students," he says. Another exciting change: The store is hosting a weekly radio show in partnership with journalist Angie Coiro, who interviews a range of authors. It's also developing a monthly book subscription service. Its new nonprofit events organization "has a stellar events program lined up for the fall" with Meg Clayton, Adam Johnson, David Shields and others, Mr. Madan says. 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park | (650) 324-4321
BOUTIQUE, GIFT & NOVELTY
Although Shady Lane just moved to Menlo Park in March, readers have already named it a first-time winner in both Boutique and Gift & Novelty categories. "We were in business in Palo Alto for 40 years and have a wonderful following," says owner Alice Deutscher. The shop is now housed an an octagon building in Sharon Heights Shopping Center. "A customer told us about the space and when I saw it I knew in my heart it was for us," says Alice. The shop features 15 artists who only sell at Shady Lane. Items also come from all over the the world. Handmade gift items include jewelry, ceramics, glass, woodworking and textiles. "Our gifts are beautifully wrapped and we welcome returns. We also have old fashioned layaway," says Alice. ==I 325 Sharon Park Drive, Menlo Park | (650) 321-1099
The award goes to Menlo Flooring and Design, owned by Eugene Perez, who says customers, both homeowners and trade professionals, like the wide variety of options offered to meet their flooring needs. The store has been adding green and environmentally friendly products, including tiles of natural stone, cork floors and natural wool carpets. Customers appreciate, too, that Mr. Perez is all-local. He not only runs his business in Menlo Park, he lives there, too. His aim, he says, is to continue to provide the level of "good old fashioned" customer service that has been the store's hallmark for more than 20 years. 905 El Camino Real, Menlo Park | (650) 305-1099
University Art, a family-owned business that started in 1948, has this motto: "Real people available to assist you with all your needs." UArt, as it calls itself, has become a center for all things creative. It has a broad selection of frames, from pre-made to custom, and from wood to acrylic. It offers numerous stains, glazes, finishes and three-dimensional treatments. There are ongoing art classes and an abundance of art supplies for sale at discounts to teachers and students. "If it's creative," UArt posts on its website, "it's here." 2550 El Camino Real, Redwood City | (650) 328-3500
The favorite hardware of Almanac readers participating in the Readers' Choice poll is Menlo Park Ace Hardware. "We try to be helpful and solve problems," says owner and store manager Vasile Oros. "That's the first goal. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes not so good, but we try." Coming soon: a handyman area for services such as fixing window screens, sharpening knives and "advice, always advice," on home improvements, Mr. Oros says. 700 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park | 325-2515
HOME DECOR & FURNISHINGS
For 23 years, the Almanac's readers have given Flegel's Home Furnishings a Readers' Choice award. The business, which has involved three generations of the Flegel family, has been in business 61 years, since its founding in 1954. The store's quality products, including prestige furniture lines such as as Stickley, Baker, Marge Carson and Brown Jordan, attracts not only Silicon Valley titans, but a world-wide clientele for both home and office furnishings. Professional interior designers are available to help shoppers find exactly what they are looking for. 870 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park | (650) 326-9661
Co-owners Marcia De Lima and Dave Nagel of Ela Lingerie in Menlo Park have created a full-service boutique that carries a wide selection of lingerie and sleepwear. As Ms. De Lima explains, women's figures, styles and needs change over the years. What was fine in some years may no longer fit, may be out of style or may lack comfort now. Ela Lingerie aims to provide a custom fit for all women in all walks of life. They have a return clientele who say they enjoy the relaxing and elegant atmosphere and the personal service. This year Ela Lingerie is expanding its selection with hard-to-find smaller and unique sizes not easily found elsewhere. 1139 Chestnut St., Menlo Park | (650) 796-0768
or 23 consecutive years, The Pet Place in Menlo Park has been the pet store of choice for Almanac readers. The store that goes the extra mile for animals and their human companions has operated just fine for years without a website but is about to launch one, says Marc Macy, who owns the business with his wife Lynn. The address will be www.thepetplacemenlopark.com. Meanwhile, for Internet kicks, try out its Facebook page at thepetplacemenlopark. In addition to its wide selection of pet products, The Pet Place offers service and advice, from finding the right diet to referring a customer to a veterinarian, sitter or trainer. The store hosts rescue groups and shelters, and helps with adoptions and in finding temporary and permanent homes for animals. 777 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park | (650) 325-7387
Almanac readers regularly head to Sigona's Farmers Market when they want the freshest vegetables and fruit on their table. And not only fresh, but sourced. "We go the extra mile by writing on all our signage where the product was grown and who the farmer is," says Sigona's Maria Abad. But Sigona's offers more than produce: There are olive oils, artisan cheeses, wines, and microbrews, as well as cut flowers. Too busy to drop by one of the stores at the Stanford Shopping Center or on Middlefield Road in Redwood City? There's an online store, where you can order dried fruit, nuts, olive oils, balsamic vinegars and more for shipping. "Also, we have a bi-weekly newsletter in which we feature produce tips, tips for healthy living, specials (and) recipes," Ms. Abad notes. And, she says, there are free items with an in-store purchase of $30 or more," 39 Stanford Shopping Center, 180 El Camino Real, Palo Alto | (650) 329-1340
Beltramo's Wines and Spirits has again risen to the top of our readers' list for favorite specialty store. The store was founded in 1882 by Giovanni Beltramo, who immigrated to the area from the Piemonte region of Italy about two years earlier. It's been in the family ever since, with Giovanni's grandchildren and great-grandchildren keeping the doors open and the shelves stocked with wine, beer and spirits from around the world. The store has wine tastings every Saturday from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., and beer tasting generally every other Friday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. 1540 El Camino Real, Menlo Park | (650) 325-2806
HAPPY HOUR, LIVE MUSIC
The Readers' Choice award in two categories happy hour and live music goes to Freewheel Brewing Company at the Marsh Manor Shopping Center in Redwood City. Established in 2012, the brewery and pub draw a diverse crowd attracted by the beer (in the tradition of English-style, cask-conditioned ales), pub food, live music and other entertainment, says Manager Devin Roberts. To keep it interesting, the pub holds special events such as open mic nights, stand-up comedy and CD release parties. The pub also works with local charitable organizations, such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula. 3736 Florence St., Redwood City | (650) 365-2337
(Note: Flea Street Cafe won for "place for a date" and Cafe Borrone won for "place to meet people." See the Restaurants section for information on these winners.)