This annual contest makes us realize how fortunate we are to be surrounded by so many great choices. As always, Main Street shops and restaurants are popular but folks are happy to patronize other parts of town, too, when they find something they like.
Best Computer Repair -- QES. Friendly and knowledgeable, QES started in 1998, the same year Google hired its first employee. To be around that long, you know they must be doing something right.
Best Dry Cleaner -- VIP Cleaners. For seven years in a row, VIP has been named Readers Choice for best dry cleaners. Great service, great prices and they even remember their customers' names.
Best Financial Institution -- Wells Fargo. Customers say the Wells Fargo in town goes above and beyond expectations and that they're friendly and polite.
Best Financial Planner -- Charles Schwab. Offering personal relationships, fact-based guidance, value and free workshops at its Pleasanton branch, there's a reason people talk to Chuck. Wealth Management Associates was a close second.
Best Mortgage Company -- Landmark Mortgage Group. With dozens of testimonials over the years, many from repeat customers and even second generations of happy clients, our readers know they can bank on Landmark.
Best Mortgage Professional -- Scott Eaton, Landmark Mortgage Group. Scott joined Landmark just two years ago and has already made a name for himself for his experience, his attention to detail and his knowledge.
Best Real Estate Agent -- Gina Piper. A Realtor who goes above and beyond for her clients is sure to get noticed, and our readers love Gina. Did you know she also teaches yoga?
Best Photographer -- Bella Luna Studios. Christina Gray takes photos that are so beautiful they literally make people cry. This marks the fifth straight Readers Choice win for Bella Luna, and it's obvious Christina is passionate about what she does.
Best Real Estate Office -- Keller Williams. It's hard to fault a Realtor that includes integrity and honesty in its motto and a culture of caring. That may be why Keller Williams is our Readers Choice for the third straight year.
HEALTH & FITNESS
Best Acupuncture -- Eastern Medical. Acupuncture has been proven to help chronic pain and can even ease stress, and our readers have proven Eastern Medical is the place in town to go.
Best Health Club -- ClubSport. It's clean and modern and people rave about ClubSport's equipment and personal trainers. No wonder it's a consistent Readers Choice winner.
Best Hearing Services Provider -- Hearing Services. Serving the Tri-Valley since 1986, Hearing Services offers digital hearing instruments, on-site repairs, hearing evaluations and even Saturday hours.
Best Massage -- Healthy Necessity Massage. Michelle Pena is a holistic health specialist as well as massage therapist and people can't say enough good stuff about her. Healthy Necessity puts the ahh back into massage.
Best Martial Arts Studio -- Crispim BJJ Barra Brothers. Offering muay Thai, boxing, wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for all ages, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) for adults and kids and fitness and conditioning, Crispim BJJ Barra Brothers has a little something for everyone.
Best Optometrist -- Foothill Optometric Group. If the eyes are the window to the soul, squinting is like looking through dirty windows. Foothill Optometric Group has been offering individualized vision solutions and outstanding customer service since 1983.
Best Place to Buy Fitness Equipment & Apparel -- Fleet Feet. When customers become owners, they bring a new focus to a business, and Debbie and Ethan Falls made that jump in 2007. Run in to their new, larger store at 234 Main St.
Best Place to Walk, Jog or Bike -- Pleasanton Ridge. Lots of parking and trail options that include different lengths. It's nearly all out in the open so remember your hat and sunscreen. And keep your eye out for the mountain unicyclist.
Best Yoga/Pilates -- Zen Pilates & Fitness. Personal training and, small group classes, each incorporating yoga, Pilates, flexibility, strength, balance, cardiovascular and core stability. It's Zen Pilates & Fitness' second Readers Choice win.
BEAUTY AND STYLE
Best Consignment Store -- Savvy Seconds. Consignment shops work out great for the buyer -- who gets a bargain -- and the seller -- who can cash out of a purchase that didn't pan out. Check back often to see what's new and find the perfect fit.
Best Day Spa -- A Touch of Health. Spend an hour or five at this St. Mary Street establishment being massaged and pampered and come out feeling -- and looking -- years younger. Couples can enjoy a one-hour Swedish message side by side for $165, with a bottle of champagne for $25 more.
Best Hair Salon for Men -- and for Women -- Hairlights. This salon at the corner of Hopyard and Valley wants each haircut to be a special experience and starts everyone in the Lather Lounge for a massaging shampoo and treatment. Prices vary according to the stylist's experience, from new talent to master. It caters to men and women of all ages, from kids to seniors.
Best Jewelry Store -- Cardinal Jewelers. This store is itself a jewel, say our readers. Located on Hopyard Road, it specializes in custom designs with gemstones of all qualities, or using your own. Inspections and cleanings are free so go get your rings cleaned and check it out.
Best Nail Care -- Bollinger Nail Salon. It opened in 1998 at the Bollinger Crossing Plaza in San Ramon and now has eight salons from Livermore to Pleasant Hill, including one in Pleasanton to keep your fingers and toes looking their best.
Best New Retail Business 2011 -- Therapy. Cute clothing and knickknacks make this Main Street store the best place for shopping therapy, say our readers, with merchandise that is "random and fun." Prim was a close second.
Best Place to Buy a Gift -- Berry Patch. The winner for the last four years, the Berry Patch has been a place for artisans to sell their work since 1994, which makes the ever-changing merchandise unique -- perfect for a gift.
Best Clothing Store for Women -- Savvy Seconds. This place is a downtown favorite for sure. Customers like this shop for its variety and point out that it has fabulous firsts as well as savvy seconds.
Best American Food Restaurant -- Eddie Papa's American Hangout. The word "American" is in its name so you know where to head for traditional fare, including specialties from regions including Florida Popcorn Shrimp, South Texas Nachos, Memphis Pulled Pork and Hawaiian Poke. Other dishes are classics from certain periods, like meatloaf from the 1950s.
Best Atmosphere -- Blue Agave Club. Right near the Pleasanton Arch, the eclectic front gardens welcome diners to enjoy gourmet Mexican cuisine made from family recipes of owner Alejandro Garcia. Inside dining can be enjoyed in the 140-year-old Victorian on colorful hand-carved chairs.
Best Bakery -- Primrose Bakery. Stop in for a cookie or treat, or order a special cake at this shop on Angela right off Main Street. Its pastries and tarts are created in the European style.
Best Barbecue -- Dickey's Barbecue Pit. Pulled pork, brisket, ribs and links -- when our readers are in the mood for barbecue and all that goes with it they head for Dickey's in Bernal Corporate Plaza.
Best Breakfast -- Jim's Country Style Restaurant. This restaurant on Sunol Boulevard across from the Senior Center does a bustling business for breakfast and lunch, and its morning menu features a wide selection of omelets.
Best Brew Pub/Sports Bar -- The HopYard Alehouse. The original HopYard Alehouse, at Hopyard and Valley in Pleasanton, is located on what was once the largest hop farm in the world until the prohibition movement and other factors took their toll. The Alehouse is a tribute to the renaissance of brewpubs and microbreweries, and a great place for friends to gather.
Best Burger -- In-n-Out Burger. The price is right and the food is consistent. The menu is short but sweet and focused on burgers. Its location on Johnson near I-580 makes it convenient when hopping on or off the freeway.
Best Burrito -- High Tech Burrito. In addition to classic burritos, the high tech part perhaps is the trendy Spicy Cajun, Thai Chicken and Curry Chicken. Its healthy section includes Braised Tofu. It's all yummy with fresh ingredients and sauces.
Best Chinese Restaurant -- Chinese Szechuan. Located on Valley near Hopyard, this place is sizzling. Folks love the food as well as the decor and the friendly service with owners who remember their customers even after years.
Best Coffee House -- Peet's. This is a real honor because Pleasanton has some great coffee shops. But people love its brew and also like the atmosphere of this shop on Hopyard near Valley and its energetic staff.
Best French Fries -- In-n-Out Burger. Afficionados like nothing better than to argue the pros and cons of fresh fries found throughout town. But our readers have spoken: Go to In-n-Out. They are made on the spot from fresh potatoes.
Best Grocery Store -- Trader Joe's. Trader Joe's keeps its prices low by carrying a limited inventory but it has almost everything one needs and specializes in healthy foods. Samples help shoppers make new discoveries.
Best Health Food Store -- Tie: Valley Health Mill, Trader Joe's. Valley Health Mill is a complete health food store with degreed nutritionists who are happy to help. It also carries hard-to-find natural foods such as raw milk from 100% grass-fed cows and the largest selection of gluten-free food products in Pleasanton. TJs emphasizes the natural and the healthy with items that are gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, fat-free and kosher.
Best Ice Cream/Yogurt Shop -- Meadowlark Dairy. Although the dairy is no longer on the west hills of Pleasanton, its quality products live on at this drive-through where enthusiastic teens serve up generous portions of soft ice cream and yogurt in cones or cups. It also conveniently carries staples.
Best Italian Restaurant -- Strizzi's. Pasta, anyone? Fettuccine, ravioli, lasagna, penne and don't forget risotto. All this and minestrone soup. Chicken and fish dishes are favorites, too, cooked on a wood-fired grill. Buon appetito!
Best Kid-Friendly, Non-Chain Restaurant -- Eddie Papa's American Hangout. Eddie Papa's is a family friendly, fun-filled American style bar and grill, created by Pleasanton resident Edward Westmoreland, and celebrates the food and beverage cultures of America.
Best Main Street Restaurant -- Barone's. Maybe it's the innovative cuisine, the service or the ambiance people like, or maybe it's the combination of all three, just off Main on St. John Street. People also enjoy the outdoor patio from May to late October. Strizzi’s was a close second.
Best Meal Under $20 -- Eddie Papa's American Hangout. The owner prides himself on achieving quality without being expensive. The food is always made from scratch, and the menu changes with the seasons to use local organic produce.
Best Mediterranean/Middle Eastern Restaurant -- Oasis Grille. Our readers find this Main Street location an oasis to visit when in the mood for kabobs, hummus, flatbreads or other Mideastern fare. Its Rose Garden is especially pleasant in the summertime.
Best Mexican Restaurant -- Casa Orozco. This restaurant was a dream of La Familia Orozco, papa Luis Sr. and mama Herlinda and their five offspring; their homemade dishes, salsas and sauces are a hit with our readers. The location in Dublin opened in 1984 and now there's a second place in Livermore.
Best New Restaurant 2011 -- Handles Gastro Pub. Maybe it's the comfort food, maybe because the food is seasonal with a farm-to-table approach -- or maybe it's the 30 craft beers and 16 wines on tap. This latest occupant of the Pleasanton Hotel has a growing number of fans.
Best Pizza -- Gay 90's Pizza & Pasta. From plain cheese pizza to its Frank's Special, Gay 90's on Main Street at Abbie can tell pizza from pizza. Order one of its specials or choose your own combinations, then sit back and wait for your pizza pie to be hand-tossed and cooked with the freshest ingredients.
Best Romantic Restaurant -- Barone's. It's been No. 1 in the romance department with our readers for many years. If you don't already have a special someone, check out the singles who enjoy its Music Under the Stars, every Thursday from May 31-Oct. 31.
Best Seafood Restaurant -- Strizzi's. Shrimps and scallops come in scampi at this Main Street favorite, and its salmon is wood-grilled and served over fresh spinach or with roasted garlic mashed potatoes. Strizzi's also makes a mean seafood fettuccine with garlic cream sauce.
Best Sushi/Japanese Restaurant -- Sozo Sushi. A Dragon Roll to die for -- and so much more. Our readers say there is lots of variety and note that the prices are reasonable. They obviously have fun naming their rolls, which include a Bernal Roll, a Marilyn Monroll and a Raiders Roll.
Best Take-out Restaurant -- Dickey's BBQ. Dickey's, on Bernal near I-680, is dine-in or take-out but sometimes it's more fun to eat at home when the food is so wonderfully finger-lickin' good.
Best Thai Restaurant -- Pleasanton House Thai Cuisine. On Santa Rita at Valley, this place serves traditional Thai dishes plus vegan and gluten-free dishes and sauces. It's a small, friendly place so ask for advice if you don't already have favorite Thai dishes.
Best Vegetarian Cuisine -- Sweet Tomatoes. The quick turnover keeps all those fruits and veggies fresh as can be. Folks rave about the salad bar and the fresh baked goods.
KIDS & PETS
Best Tutoring School -- Steps Community Prep School. Steps' unique program is our readers' choice for tutoring programs in math, science, world language and English composition. Pleasanton Unified School District teachers on staff offer students an in-depth review of concepts, provide test preparation with analysis of test results, and plan and adjust teaching strategies according to individual needs.
Best Party Place for Kids -- Rockin' Jump. There's nothing like somersaulting and jumping off the walls to make kids happy and please parents because these activities aren't at home but instead at Dublin's Trampoline Park, which is this year's Readers Choice for the best party place for young ones.
Best Pet Groomer -- Shear Magic. This beauty salon has been in business for 13 years and wins readers' praise for its groomers' patience and compassion for animals that is so vital to keeping our furry friends safe and happy.
Best Pet Store -- Pet Food Express. In addition to offering just about any kind of merchandise a pet would want, this new Santa Rita Road store also funds pet rescue and care programs as well as education on responsible pet ownership, making it a winner for our readers.
Best Place for Dance Lessons -- Jazz N Taps. This makes the sixth year for Jazz N Taps to receive this honor. The studio on Quarry Lane also offers ballet, hip-hop and modern dance.
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.
Best Veterinarian -- Pleasanton Veterinary Hospital. Readers like its professional care, service and its mission to help companion animals live longer, healthier and happier lives.
HOME & VEHICLE MAINTENANCE
Best Antiques/Collectibles Store -- Olde Towne Antiques Mall at 3440 Stanley Blvd. is an emporium that boasts 10,000 square feet and nearly 100 dealer spaces. With its vast inventory, readers say they can always find something to satisfy their most particular tastes.
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.
Best Auto Dealership -- Lexus of Pleasanton. Just a walk through the showroom shows customers this dealer's passion for providing a world-class ownership experience.
Best Auto Detail -- California Shine Co. With the price of cars, our readers love this place that keeps their investment bright and shiny on the outside as well as maintained under the hood.
Best Car Wash -- Pleasanton Hand Car Wash. A gentle but effective car wash by hands that aren't yours, plus workers use 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.
Best Carpet Cleaning Service -- Glover's. Most home carpets take a beating, especially in the main walkways, and to get their carpets looking new and inviting, our readers chose Glover's.
Best Carpet/Flooring Store -- Carpetland. Readers rate this store on Rosewood Drive as tops in terms of flooring options and inventory, professional customer service and installation.
Best Deck and Fencing -- Borg Fence. Our readers love working with Borg Fence in planning, designing and installing new fences, ornamental gates, decks and arbors to improve their home.
Best Domestic Car Repair -- Scott's Automotive. Readers driving Fords, Chevys and other American cars rate Scott's the best for taking care of the cars they own and love.
Best Florist -- Alexandria's. This family-owned flower shop prides itself on friendly, creative service as well as fine floral arrangements and is also our readers' choice for unique home accents for special occasions.
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.
Best Hardware Store -- Workbench TrueValue Hardware. From tools to garden accessories, this place has it all -- plus a few "old-timers" to help you find that little gizmo. Check out its website for the bargains of the month.
Best Home Contractor -- The Door Doctor. Family owned and operated since 1978, the Door Doctor is our readers' choice for custom installations and quality for entry and interior doors, garage doors for the home and commercial garage doors.
Best Home Furnishings -- Domus. This popular kitchen and home accessories retailer reopened on Main Street last summer and has won our readers' votes for its selection of kitchenware, home accessories, toys, books, stationery and much more. Its late night operating hours are also a favorite with readers.
Best Nursery/Garden Center -- Alden Lane. Just its location within a grove of centuries-old oak trees makes this a unique destination garden center. The setting, combined with a vast selection of plants and friendly customer service, had our readers giving a thumbs up to Alden Lane.
Best Outdoor Furniture Store -- Patioworld. We look for beauty and comfort but don't forget durability since in California we leave our patio furniture outside year round. Patioworld has classic and stylish contemporary outdoor furniture and accessories to enhance your life outdoors.
Best Place to Buy a Spa or Hot tub -- Dublin Spa Center. Whether a luxury or necessity for those weary bones, readers tell us that hot tubs are sometimes the only way they can rejuvenate themselves on a cool summer night, or even during colder winter months.
Best Plumber -- Valley Plumbing. This downtown store that's known for its service and designer's guidance is a winner again for its bath remodels and plumbing services. Visit its showroom in a historic building on Rose Street to get ideas.
Best Pre-Owned Car Dealership -- Acura of Pleasanton. This dealership, long known for its customer service, is also our readers' choice for used (now called "pre-owned") cars, with some 5,000 available on most days. Readers tell us they like the sales staff's enthusiasm as well as the always large choice of vehicles.
Best Roofer -- Tie: Tri-City Roofing, Wicks Roofing Co. Roofs are usually the last things on a homeowner's mind until there's a leak. That's when repairs and replacements are urgently needed, and our readers rate these two roofers as equally the best. Tri-City Roofing specializes in roof inspections, repairs and maintenance, even gutter replacement and cleaning. Wicks Roofing and its owner Jon Morrison have rave reviews for their roofing materials and "price-friendly" options.
Best Senior Living Facility -- Heritage Estates. Our readers this year chose Heritage Estates in Livermore as their favorite place for independent and assisted living for those 62 and older. Whether they or their loved ones need a little help or a lot, the privately developed facility offers a professional and friendly staff and, located on Stanley Boulevard, it's close to Pleasanton.
REST & RECREATION
Best Bookstore -- Towne Center Books. Love the feel of a book in your hands, the smell of fresh paper and ink, and the sound of a new book's spine cracking for the first time? Our readers know Towne Center is the place to go, with personal service, great selections, book groups and events with authors.
Best Golf Course -- Callippe Preserve. Fore! OK, for us it's more like five or six, but Callippe is such a good place to play that some golf writers are hesitant to describe it because they want to keep it to themselves. Plus, recently a rare callippe butterfly was found right on the course.
Best Hobby/Craft Store -- Michael's Arts & Crafts. If you're feeling crafty, Michaels in Dublin has everything from art supplies to scrapbooking to yarn and needle crafts. Looking for a hobby? Check it out.
Best Kept Secret Treasure of Pleasanton -- Tie: Pleasanton Ridge, Firehouse Arts Center. Pleasanton's tie for secret treasure shows two different views. For the outdoorsy, there's Pleasanton Ridge, with opportunities for hiking, biking and walking. Then there's the Firehouse Arts Center, bringing in name acts for more than a year plus offering lectures and community and professional theater. Its Harrington Gallery features exhibits that change monthly, with opening receptions. Hike in the morning, then enjoy a performance at the Firehouse.
Best Place for Dancing -- Barone's. Grab your date or your friends and head out to Barone's, where there's live music on the patio Thursday nights to shake your groove thing, with free admission before 6 p.m.
Best Place for Live Music -- Concerts in the Park. Whether you settle on a simple blanket or bring a repast as elaborate as a mini wine bar, Concerts in the Park are a great way to kick off the weekend -- and they end early enough to head out to a movie or more dancing.