Readers Choice 2011
Old favorites, new favorites make the grade
The Pleasanton Weekly Readers Choice 2011 balloting ended recently, and the 28,328 votes have been tabulated. How exciting it was to see the opinions pour in, as folks pondered their favorites and shared them with us.
From mortgage companies to ice cream to computer repair to hamburgers to acupuncture, you went online to give us your opinions. Many of the winners are on Main Street but other parts of town are popular with our readers, too, reminding us what a diverse, sizeable city we are.
Below are the first- and second-place winners -- our congratulations to all, and our thanks to everyone who participated.
Best Photographer -- Bella Luna Studios. Another year, another win for Bella Luna, making 2011 the fourth straight win for Christina Gray's studio. Check out the page of testimonials. Second Place is Images by Lori, which has a great blog.
Best Mortgage Professional -- Diversified Mortgage Group. Diversified has been assisting Northern California homeowners and buyers for more than 20 years, and has built its business from referrals. Second Place is Brian LeBars, Vintage Mortgage Group.
Best Real Estate Office -- Keller Williams. A real estate company with a culture that promotes fairness. Ask about WI4C2TS. Second Place is Alain Pinel, serving the Bay Area exclusively for more than 20 years.
Best Mortgage Company -- Landmark Mortgage Group, trustworthy, goal driven and team players. Second Place is Vintage Mortgage Group, established in 1992 by Laura Raney.
Best Auto Dealership -- Lexus of Pleasanton. With a passion for providing customers with a world-class ownership experience. Second Place is Dublin Honda, offering a warm family atmosphere for every customer.
Best Senior Living Facility -- Pleasanton Gardens Senior Living. Very affordable housing for senior citizens stemming from a partnership of four churches: St. Augustine's Catholic Church, Lynnewood Methodist, First Baptist and Centerpointe Church. Second Place is The Parkview, which brings a fresh approach to assisted living and memory care in Pleasanton.
Best Computer Repair -- Tri-Valley PC Medic. Whether your computer has a dreaded virus or just needs fine-tuning for better performance, PC Medic is the place to go. Owner Ken Cook even makes house calls, and he can deal with annoying popups and get your computer and network running smoothly. Second Place is Pleasanton Computer Repair, which can repair a PC via a remote desktop tool.
Best Dry Cleaners- - VIP Cleaners. Offering delivery of top quality dry cleaning, laundry, alterations, and shoe repair, this is VIP's sixth straight Readers Choice win. Second Place is Hacienda Cleaners, promising to go above and beyond the level of service offered by others.
Best Financial Planner -- Wealth Management Associates. A team of professionals that lets you focus on the more important stuff, while they focus on creating, monitoring and evaluating your financial portfolio. Second Place is Charles Schwab, offering personal relationships, fact-based guidance and value.
Best Atmosphere -- Barone's. Home of Thursday night Music Under the Stars, live music Friday and Saturday nights, and outdoor patio dining. Second Place is Blue Agave Club, with live mariachi music and enough tequilas to float a small boat.
Best Romantic Restaurant -- Barone's. Offering "the most romantic continental cuisine restaurant" and working hard at making it true. Great atmosphere, great food and live music under the stars make for a romantic mix and its organic spice garden adds to the flavor. Second Place is Hap's Original Steaks & Seafood. Nothing says love like a big ol' steak.
Best Outdoor Dining -- Blue Agave Club. Classy but low-key outdoor dining, complete with live music outdoors twice a week. Second Place is The Hop Yard Alehouse & Grill, with casual outdoor dining, and a huge variety of beer.
Best Main Street Restaurant -- Blue Agave Club. See a trend here? Our readers clearly love Blue Agave. Maybe it's all that tequila. Second Place is Oasis Grille, downtown Pleasanton's exotic dining destination.
Best Margarita -- Blue Agave Club. With 51 different types of margaritas, by the glass or to share by the liter, it's not hard to figure out why Blue Agave consistently wins this category. Second Place is Alberto's Cantina. Having 18 margarita combinations would be a sure winner anywhere else.
Best Mexican Restaurant -- Casa Orozco. Coming up on 30 years in business and founded on a strong family bond, a hard work ethic and Mama's recipes. Second Place is Blue Agave Club where Alexandro Garcia blends traditional Mexican flavors with California-style cooking.
Best Chinese Restaurant -- Chinese Szechuan. From the honey walnut prawns to the crispy ginger chicken to sizzling rice soup, this food is so good that some folks drive 40 miles for it. Second Place is P.F. Chang's China Bistro. With a menu that includes vegetarian and gluten free choices, P.F. Chang's proves chain restaurants can be good.
Best American Food Restaurant -- Eddie Papa's American Hangout. Family friendly, fun filled American style bar and grill on Hopyard Road near Stoneridge, where American food means more than burgers and fries. Second Place is the Hop Yard Alehouse & Grill. Build your own burger or choose from a menu that includes beef brisket, pulled pork and a salmon BLT.
Best Meal Under $20 -- Eddie Papa's American Hangout. Entrees like Vermont apple pork chops, Kona braised short ribs, Harlem fried chicken and waffles, and Alaskan fish and chips, each for less than 20 bucks. Second Place is Me & My Friend's Café, which serves breakfast and lunch, specializing in healthy cooking with generous portions.
Best Pizza -- Gay Nineties Pizza & Pasta. Pizzas made from scratch and sourdough specialty pizzas. According to local legend, there's even a ghost on the premises of this place, one of Pleasanton's first commercial buildings. Second Place is Amici's Pizza, baking pizzas in brick ovens so the crust comes out crisp and darker than the typical American pizza.
Best Steakhouse -- Hap's Original Steaks & Seafood. Serving certified Angus steaks that have been dry aged for 28 days. Don't be surprised if one of the three owners or the chef stops by your table just to make sure everything's perfect. Second Place is McNamara's Steak & Chop House, with hand selected Midwestern corn-fed Angus beef.
Best Burrito -- High Tech Burrito. Combining the finest, freshest ingredients around with a menu loaded with choices, High Tech Burrito gives you the ultimate burrito experience. Second Place is Casa Orozco, rated by burritophiles as among the best in the East Bay.
Best Burger -- In-N-Out Burger. There's a reason the line's always long here. A Double-Double with cheese (and a chocolate shake) from In-N-Out Burger: inexpensive, quick and delicious. Second Place was Bob's Giant Burger, making giant juicy burgers since the 1960s.
Best French Fries -- In-N-Out Burger. No frozen fries here. You can watch them get made from fresh potatoes while you drive through or wait to pick up your order. Get two orders -- one for the drive home. Second Place is McDonald's. There's something almost addictive in the oil McDonald's uses that keeps people coming back.
Best Breakfast -- Jim's Country Style Restaurant. You know a place is good when the local police and random strangers direct people there. Some say it's the best spot for breakfast in a 50-mile radius. Second Place is Dean's Café on Main Street. Dean's must be doing something right to make it into a monologue by a late-night talk show host.
Best Thai Restaurant -- Little Home Thai. The food here is amazingly good and inexpensive. Try the Tom Yum Koong, a hot and sour soup with prawns, mushrooms and lemon grass, served in a heated container and a glass of coconut milk. Second Place is Pleasanton House Thai Cuisine, another Pleasanton favorite with great prices and great food.
Best Ice Cream/Yogurt Shop -- Meadowlark Dairy. You have to love a drive-through dairy in the first place, and the servings are bigger than the usual small/medium/large. Soft-serve ice cream at its best. Second Place is Cold Stone Creamery. For 23 years, Cold Stone has been making fresh ice cream blended on a frozen granite stone.
Best Bakery -- Noland's Cake Shop. Find the right cake for your special occasion from wedding cakes to kids cakes, with a great photo gallery of cakes created to look like everything from wine bottles to hamburgers. Second Place is Primrose Bakery, with wedding cakes, tarts, cookies and pastries done European style.
Best Mediterranean/Middle Eastern Restaurant -- Oasis Grille. Have a glass of wine in the rose garden, tour the Mediterranean with a sampler then dig in to a rack of lamb or Moroccan stuffed chicken. Second Place is Agora Bistro, with Mediterranean cuisine from Greece, Turkey and Italian Provincial.
Best Coffee House -- Peet's Coffee & Tea. That venti soy double mocha frappuccino and the growth of coffee culture in America in general can be traced directly to Peet's. Alfred Peet mentored generations of specialty coffee entrepreneurs, including the cofounder of Starbucks. Second Place is Starbucks. What started as a coffee bar is now a worldwide phenomenon, with specialty beverages, food, CDs and yes, even an iPod app.
Best Barbeque -- Red Smoke Grill. All-natural chicken, choice tri-tip, and tender pork, with tri-tip and chicken cooked over red oak, and items such as the Red Smoke Original Tri-Tip Sandwich with fresh hand-cut salsa and a side item of Pinquinto Beans. Just writing about this makes us hungry. Second Place is Dickey's BBQ. We're embarrassed to admit we've eaten the whole picnic pack by ourselves. Great food and some funny videos, too.
Best Take-Out Restaurant -- Red Smoke Grill. We are so going there for a tri-tip takeout lunch with a side of chicken tortilla soup, just to make our coworkers jealous. Second Place is In-N-Out Burger, so good those Double Doubles never actually make it home.
Best Sushi/Japanese Restaurant -- Sozo Sushi. With specialty rolls like the dragon roll, dancing ebi and the disco roll, this is anything but the usual raw fish and rice. Second Place is Sato Japanese Cuisine, Pleasanton's first Japanese restaurant opened in 1983 and designed to look like a Japanese home.
Best Place for a Business Lunch -- Stacey's Café. Stacey's has been winning in this category since 2007 with real linen napkins, great décor and a fun menu. Second Place is Red Smoke Grill: good food and a casual atmosphere for an informal business lunch.
Best Italian Restaurant -- Strizzi's. From an Italian deli and shoe shop in Greensburg, Pa., to Pleasanton's best, Strizzi's is an American success story with great pasta and a wood-fired grill. Second Place is Fontina Ristorante, with great Italian food, beautiful presentations and a vegetarian menu, too.
Best Seafood Restaurant -- Strizzi's. Fresh fish dishes like wood-grilled salmon and an amazing seafood fettuccine. Second Place is Hap's Original Steaks & Seafood. Hap's makes great steaks, but remember, it's called steaks and seafood for a reason.
Best Vegetarian Cuisine -- Sweet Tomatoes. Less than 24 hours after they've been picked, those fresh veggies are on their way to Sweet Tomatoes. The food is made from scratch every day, and don't forget the pastas, soups and focaccia breads. Second Place is Oasis Grille, with vegetarian specialties in an upscale setting.
Best Winery -- Wente Vineyards. Wente is the country's oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery, and the winery recently partnered with the Food Network to create a lines of wines to be paired with foods. Don't forget the summer concert series! Second Place is Mitchell Katz Winery, the hometown favorite. As a teen, Mitchell spent summers helping his grandfather make wines and decided to carry on the tradition.
HEALTH & BEAUTY
Best Manicure & Pedicure -- Bollinger Nail Salon. Now's the weather to show off those perfectly polished toenails! Manis and pedis are relaxing treatments that you continue to enjoy with every glance at your hands and feet. Nail shops abound in Pleasanton, and Top Ten Nails came in second.
Best Health Club -- ClubSport. With its state-of-the-art fitness center, kids' activities, and indoor and outdoor tennis courts, it's easy to see why ClubSport again garnered the most votes. Second Place was 24 Hour Fitness, which recently moved into new digs on Willow Road.
Best Hair Salon for Men -- Cosmo's. Men love this place and we don't know whether it's the reasonable price ($10) or the miniskirted stylists/barbers who make for a fun atmosphere. What's not to like? Dion's Salon, located at Club Sport, won Second Place.
Best Yoga/Pilates -- Downtown Yoga. It's physical, it's mental, it makes for flexibility and overall well being as yoga helps to increase the flow of energy. If you haven't discovered the joys of yoga, check out this studio. Second Place was Zen Pilate's & Fitness.
Best Acupuncture -- Eastern Medical. Don't go through life with discomfort: Acupuncture and acupressure are respected around the world as safe and natural medicine, which work by returning your body to its natural state of balance to let it heal itself. Second Place was Body in Balance.
Best Hair Salon for Women -- Fusion 3 Salon. This salon on Main Street aims not just for quality but for fun, so patrons can relax amid laughter and leave feeling upbeat as well as looking beautiful. The Image Salon and Day Spa on West Las Positas was second in the running.
Best Massage -- Heavenly Day Spa. Hmmm, heavenly. That about sums up our requirements for a massage, whether it be Swedish or warm stone or any of the other specialties. Second Place was Healthy Necessity Massage -- what a great concept: a massage as a necessity.
Best Martial Arts Studio -- Jue's Taekwon-Do. Master Gordon Jue, a seventh-degree black belt, is "dedicated to teaching life skills through martial arts" at his studio on First Street. Second Place Crispim BJJ Barra Brothers provides Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training.
Best Medical Spa -- MD Laser Spa. This establishment offers everything from laser to cosmetic surgery. One fan described Dr. Robert Gray's work as "subtle yet superb." Renu Laser Spa came in second.
Best Personal Trainer -- Zen Pilates & Fitness. Guess our readers like all the trainers at this studio, where classes are taught all day in groups of one to four people, with each class incorporating yoga, Pilates, flexibility, strength, balance, cardiovascular and core stability. Second place was trainer Daniel Elias, who is at Crispim BJJ Barra Brothers.
HOME & VEHICLE MAINTENANCE
Best Tire Store/Service Center -- Big O Tires. Think about it: Is any part of your car really more important than your tires? Big O off Stanley Boulevard was No. 1, and Second Place is America's Tires in Dublin.
Best Home Contractor -- Borg Fence. Don't overlook what a new fence, ornamental gate, deck or arbor might do to improve your home. Our readers love working with Borg Fence. Second Place was KDC Kitchens, a full-service kitchen and bath design and remodeling company.
Best Auto Detail -- California Shine Co. With the price of cars, they are an investment so it's best to keep them bright and shiny on the outside as well as maintained under the hood, and our readers love this place, on Johnson Avenue. Second Place is West Coast Dents on Santa Rita Road.
Best Carpet/Flooring Store -- Diablo Flooring. We walk, run and slide on them as well as make them support heavy furniture. Young children get down and play on them. Pets sleep on them. Choose your flooring carefully! And let the folks at this showroom on Sunol Boulevard help. S&G Carpet on Johnson came in second.
Best Place to Buy a Spa or Hot Tub -- Dublin Spa Center. Luxury or necessity? Depends how much you work out your muscles. Also, hot tubs are sometimes the only way to stop being cold on a winter's night. Second Place is Pleasanton Pool Center.
Best Carpet Cleaners -- Glover's Steam Cleaning. Each time you get your carpets cleaned, we're sure you say: "From now on we'll take off our shoes at the door!" Good luck. To get their carpets looking new, our readers choose Glover's; Second Place is Tiger Carpet Cleaning.
Best Car Wash -- Pleasanton Hand Car Wash. A gentle but effective car wash by hands that aren't yours -- sweet -- using soft lamb's wool mitts instead of brushes or cloths that could damage your car's finish. And it usually only takes about 20 minutes. Second Place is Dublin Auto Wash.
Best Foreign Car Repair -- Precision Auto Repair. Its mechanics are trained to maintain and repair all makes and models of Acura, Honda, Lexus, Toyota and Hybrids, using factory parts and fluids. Second Place is SAS German Auto, which services Mercedes Benz, BMW, Porsche, Audi and Volkswagen. What does this tell us about Pleasanton's vehicles?
Best Domestic Car Repair -- Scott's Automotive and Light Truck Repair. Chevys, Fords and other American cars are still on the streets of Pleasanton, too. One patron says, "We've been using this shop for years and I would not go anywhere else at this point." Second Place is Harry's Auto Repair.
Best Roofer -- Sierra Roofing Systems. You might not feel the need for a new roof now but look ahead to winter. Let Sierra check out your roof before it begins to leak. Folks also like Second Place winner, Tri-City Roofing.
Best Plumber -- Valley Plumbing. Valley not only can repair leaks, gas lines and backflows, it also does bath remodels and more. Visit its showroom in a historic building on Rose Street downtown to get ideas. Second Place is Mr. Rooter Plumbing of the Tri-Valley.
Best Nursery/Garden Center -- Western Garden Nursery. This full service garden center offers a wide selection of top quality plants from premium growers, garden products and organic fertilizers and pest controls. Plus it has fountains and garden accessories to help you create your own little Eden. Second Place is Armstrong Garden Center in Dublin.
Best Hardware Store -- Workbench True Value Hardware. From tools to garden accessories, this place has it all -- plus old-timers to help you find that little gizmo. Check out its website for the bargains of the month. Second-Place Richert Lumber is a great place to visit for home improvement projects as well as hardware.
KIDS & PETS
Best Toy Store -- Golden Apple Learning Center. This unique store for parents and teachers offers fun games and toys for every age. It offers frequent events so drop in to get acquainted. Second Place is Heroes & Villains Comics on Main Street, which also features games and collectibles.
Best Place for Dance Lessons -- Jazz N Taps. This makes the fifth year for Jazz N Taps to receive this honor. The studio on Quarry Lane also offers ballet, hip-hop and modern dance. Second Place is Spark Dance Studio, which also offers a variety.
Best Pet Store -- Murphy's Paw. It's a dog's world, say Melanie and Mike Sadek, owners of this shop on Main Street; we humans just happen to live in it. And, yes, there is a Murphy, who joined the Sadek household in 2002, and was the inspiration for a special place to take dogs for toys, treats and accessories. Our readers also like Pet Food Express, which won Second Place.
Best Place to Walk, Jog or Bike -- Pleasanton Ridge. Stretch your legs and enjoy nature on the Ridge. The loop is 20 miles but it's only two miles to the top for some great views. Second Place is Sports Park, a complex off Hopyard Road that has formal fields, skateboard ramps and great places to play and picnic.
Best Veterinarian -- Pleasanton Veterinary Hospital. Its mission is to help companion animals -- including dogs, cats, pocket pets and reptiles -- live longer, healthier and happier lives. Our readers say: Mission accomplished. They also like Town & Country Veterinary Hospital, which came in second.
Best Pet Groomer -- Shear Magic. This beauty salon works on all kinds of furry friends and also offers boarding. Town & Country Veterinary Hospital, with state-of-the-art dryers as well as the Hydrosurge bathing system, is Second Place.
Best Tutoring School -- Sylvan Learning Center. Get help for your child here in reading, writing, homework, math, study skills, preparation for state tests as well as SATs. It also offers academic camps. Second Place is Kumon Math & Reading.
OUT & ABOUT
Best Place to Have a First Date -- Barone's. With music under the stars, its own organic spice garden (which leads to good conversation along with enhancing the taste) and great food, this is the place to go to impress that potential special someone. Second Place is Stacey's Café, with a fun menu and great décor.
Best Golf Course -- Callippe Preserve. Winner of 15 awards (including a couple from us), it's been named one of the top municipal courses in the country by Golfweek Magazine. Keep your eyes open for the elusive Callippe Silverspot Butterfly. Second Place is Castlewood Country Club, with two separate courses, the Hill Course and the Valley Course.
Best Place for Live Music -- Concerts in the Park. The free Friday concerts are so popular that Pleasanton has to ask people not to set their blankets out the day before. Just the place to start off a great weekend. Second Place is Main Street Brewery, with live music on Friday and Saturday nights from 9 p.m. to midnight.
Best Place to Get Together with Friends -- Downtown Pleasanton. With coffee, pastries, casual and fine dining or for just a window shopping stroll, downtown Pleasanton is our Readers Choice once again. Second Place is Concerts in the Park. Get together, sip some wine and dance with friends. Make sure you get that blanket out early, though.
Best Place for a Picnic -- Concerts in the Park. Some of our readers just bring a blanket and a basket, while others go all out with chairs, tables and crystal. Either way, the concerts have great music and no ants. Second Place -- any park in Pleasanton. Pick a park on any a warm day -- you're sure to find a family or a couple dining al fresco.
Best Place for an After Work Drink -- Hop Yard Alehouse & Grill. One word covers it: Beer. From lagers to barleywine, our readers know the Hop Yard is the place to go for a cold one on a hot day. Second Place is Redcoats, with the friendliness of a British pub and without the warm beer.
Best Place to People Watch -- Main Street. With a busy Main Street any weekday afternoon and especially at First Wednesday street parties, sitting at a restaurant or walking along, downtown is a fine place to watch the world go by. Second Place is the Plaza at Main & West Angela where Tully's is on the corner, a great place to congregate.
Best Place to Meet New People -- Main Street. The Wine Stroll, First Wednesdays, museum tours like the Ghost Walk and the Art on Main all offer great opportunities to spark up a conversation with a total stranger. Second Place is the Farmers Market, where you can trade recipes with people you've only known for five minutes.
Best Place for Dancing -- Redcoats. DJs spin music with videos from 10 p.m. to close on Fridays and Saturdays, and in the summer, you can catch a DJ Thursdays and First Wednesdays, too. Don't slip your disco. Second Place is Barone's with live bands Thursday and free admission before 6.
Best Florist -- Alexandria's. This family-owned flower shop prides itself on friendly, creative service as well as fine floral arrangements and unique home accents for special occasions or "just because." Second Place is Pleasanton Flower Shop, whose hands-on owner will also assemble fruit and gourmet baskets.
Best Place to Buy a Gift -- Berry Patch. This unique downtown shop has been a place for artisans to show and sell their work since 1994; the merchandise is an eclectic mix of hand-crafted items, gifts, toys and cards -- something for everyone. Second Place is Clover Creek, which offers beautiful home decor and gift items, plus a vast selection of cards.
Best Bicycle Shop -- Bicycles! Pleasanton. Bicycling goes way beyond transportation from your house to your best friend's as it did in our childhoods. Let the experts at this Main Street shop guide you along the route. Second Place is Crank 2, which specializes in tandem bikes.
Best Jewelry Store -- Cardinal Jewelers. Jim Kuhn opened this sparkling shop in 1977 to fulfill his dream of becoming a small-town jeweler. Pleasanton has grown but Cardinal still offers small-town friendliness and service. Second Place is Jewelers Gallery on Main Street.
Best Home Furnishings -- Clover Creek. Finish off your home with specially selected home accents, pillows and wall pieces from this Main Street store that has become a Pleasanton fixture. Second Place is Rick's Picks, newer to Pleasanton Main Street but offering great bargains on quality merchandise.
Best Home Consignment Shop -- Home Consignment Center. Folks apparently don't mind driving to Danville for this shop, which offers quality furniture and accessories at lower prices, as well as jewelry. Whether you need anything or not, it's always a fun place to browse. Second Place is Rick's Picks.
Best Hobby/Craft Store -- Michael's Arts & Crafts. For crafty projects as well as for fun seasonal do-it-yourself decorating, check out this store in Dublin -- it'll light your imagination on fire. A variety of classes is also offered. Second Place is Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft, also in Dublin.
Best Outdoor Furniture Store -- Patioworld. We look for beauty and comfort but don't forget durability in California since we leave our patio furniture outside year round. Patioworld has classic and stylish contemporary outdoor furniture and accessories to enhance your life outdoors. Second Place is Richert Lumber, which offers a wide selection in the store and its catalog.
Best Consignment Store -- Savvy Seconds. This upscale consignment boutique in the cute brick building on Main Street offers designer clothes, jewelry and accessories at much less than their original price. It's also a good place to turn over the clothes that didn't work out or that you're tired of. A couple of blocks away is Lotus Consignment, which came in second.
Best Women's Clothing Store -- Savvy Seconds. Wow! This place must be savvy to win this category as well as Best Consignment Store. Check it out for one-of-a-kind items and stylish clothes at a good price. Second Place is Passionate Athlete with its active and casual wear.
Best Place to Buy Athletic Equipment -- Sports Chalet. On Rosewood Drive, this huge store offers gear for any athletic endeavor for indoor, outdoor, summer or winter. It has everything needed for scuba diving, including a pool and instructor to teach the sport. Second Place is Play It Again Sports, which offers used and new goods.
Best Art Gallery -- Studio 7. Put this gallery on your list of stop-in places every time you are strolling down Main Street, or make it a special destination. Its imaginative art -- including glass sculptures -- will help you redefine spaces in your home. Distinctive jewelry will help define you. Second Place is Alexander's Fine Art, also on Main Street.
Best Bookstore -- Towne Center Books. Independent bookstores are a dying breed; heck, even chain stores of actual printed, hold-in-your-hands-and-turn-the-pages books are closing. But Towne Center is keeping the literary spirit alive with personal service, a great selection, book groups and events with authors. Borders came in second but it closed its Pleasanton store recently. It's still selling online.
Best Grocery Store -- Trader Joe's. TJ's making cooking fun, always offering something new to try, and easy to prepare. It keeps its prices reasonable by keeping a small inventory but still manages to have the basics on hand as well as exciting new products. Second Place - Gene's Fine Foods. This independent grocery makes its salads and other deli items from scratch with its tried and tasty recipes, and its extensive meat counter gets good reviews, too.
Best Health Food Store -- Trader Joe's. The company emphasizes the natural and the healthy with items that are gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, fat-free and kosher. It prides itself on products with quality, natural ingredients with no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, no genetically modified ingredients, no MSG and no added Trans Fats. Second Place is Valley Health Mill; its knowledgeable staff can help you become healthier through eating, with natural supplements.
Best Wine Store -- The Wine Steward. You don't have to leave Main Street to find a vast assortment of wines -- including 100 carefully selected wines under $10 -- and helpful, knowledgeable staff. It offers speakers and events to enhance your wine knowledge -- sign up for its newsletter. Second Place is Trader Joe's, which is known for Two Buck Chuck but offers better quality wines at reasonable prices.