Best of Pleasanton
Switch to online voting brings record response, comments
This year's balloting for our sixth annual "Best of Pleasanton" feature was done entirely online with phenomenal response, telling us that Pleasanton has well adapted to the Internet and keyboard communications. Besides voting on all 53 questions, many took the extra step of commenting on their choices, emphasizing that they enjoy our historic downtown, that people-watching is part of the fun of dining at restaurant tables along Main Street, and that our downtown coffee shops, restaurants, shops and Farmers' Market are clearly the public's favorite gathering places.
Of course, it's not easy to pick out the Best of Pleasanton because so much is so good. Teens, especially, still like to hangout at Stoneridge Mall, although some want more "fun" places where they can go on weekend nights. Others e-mailed us directly after casting their online votes to suggest more categories for next year, such as Best Dentist or Best Teacher. We were flattered to have so many unsolicited votes naming us as Best Newspaper, although that wasn't on our list of choices. Our question about the Best Spirited High School produced many direct e-mails from students praising Amador Valley or Foothill high schools, which tells us their upcoming season-ending cross-town football duel should be quite a game.
As always, there are those who are disappointed by Pleasanton. One 44-year-old woman said she's looked in vain for a good place to meet other singles, "but I have yet to find it, let alone find the best place for a first date," another "Best of" question. One disgruntled homeowner messaged us that "there is still a lot of room for improvement in Pleasanton, so I haven't found anything I'd call best." Most message sent directly to the Weekly, however, were from readers who said they had great difficulty picking a "Best of" because they think the whole town is the best place to live, shop, work and have fun. And that's the spirit of our "Best of" feature: To let you, our readers, tell us what you like best. Here we go...
Best Place to People Watch, Get Together With Friends and Meet New People: Main Street/Downtown Pleasanton
Although Pleasanton may have grown in size throughout the years, its heart remains the same, and is still located right in Downtown Pleasanton along Main Street. Whether sipping coffee at Tully's Plaza, window shopping, stopping at one of the many fine restaurants, spending Saturday at the Farmers' Market or enjoying the many parades and events held along Main Street, Pleasanton residents know downtown is the place to be. That's why Main Street was voted Best Place to People Watch and Downtown was named Best Place to Get Together With Friends. For those new Pleasanton residents looking to make friends, downtown, the Farmers' Market and Tully's Plaza tied for Best Place to Meet New People.
Best Activity for Teens: Organized sports
With so many teams and facilities in Pleasanton, it makes sense that organized sports won Best Activity for Teens. The Pleasanton Sports and Recreation Park, 5800 Parkside Dr., reveals no favorites as it houses areas for soccer, baseball, football, volleyball, skateboarding and batting cages. Time teens spend practicing is evidenced by the excellent records of Pleasanton's many sports teams. Yet, the "sport" of shopping is not to be overlooked, as several teen readers said they also enjoyed hanging out at Stoneridge Shopping Center. Check out www.ptown411.com/sports.php for sports team listings or to add a teen sports group.
Best Place to Have a First Date
Popular upscale Mexican eatery the Blue Agave Club, 625 Main St., took the top honors for the best place to break bread with a new flame. Maybe it's the restaurant's prime location on Main Street with the ability to people watch, the indoor seating inside a restored 143-year-old building, the outdoor courtyard tables decorated with romantic candles, heat lamps, dressed up waiters or the beautiful presentation of traditional Mexican cuisine. In Pleasanton for nine years, Blue Agave has become a staple for anyone looking to taste the flavor from south of the border. It's no surprise to learn that the restaurant also garnered reader's choice for "Best Atmosphere" and "Best Outdoor Dining." Salud!
Best Public Event/Festival/Entertainment
A summer concert series this past summer at the Alameda County Fair with big name headliners such as county artists Tracy Lawrence and Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, swing musicians Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and pop and R&B group KC & The Sunshine Band may be what propelled the annual fair to the top of the charts for Pleasanton residents. The approximately two-week affair continues to attract attendees from far and wide year after year to experience the carnival rides, 4-H offerings, exhibitions, horse racing at the country's oldest racetrack and the overall good old fashioned fun that comes along with a county fair.
Best Place to Take Kids and to Walk a Dog: Any Pleasanton Park
With 41 parks to choose from, its no wonder Pleasanton residents couldn't pick just one for the Best Place to Take Kids or the Best Place to Walk A Dog. Any Pleasanton park will do, according to the voters. But, if you're looking for something specific--picnic spot, bocce, barbecue pits, etc.--be sure to open up the Pleasanton Weekly's Info Pleasanton guide and turn to page 20. There you'll find a list of amenities for every park. If it's a day for sports, Val Vista Park or Sports and Community Park with their many soccer and baseball fields may fit the bill. Or, if you're looking for a smaller, quieter park where young children can play, Veterans' Memorial Park or Vintage Hills Park could be the setting for your day. If your dog is tired of walking on a leash, take him over to Muirwood Park where he or she can run around in the dog park. Whatever your day holds, any park can fill that need.
Most Spirited High School: Amador Valley High School
Ever since Foothill High School opened in 1973, there has been a (friendly) rivalry with Amador Valley High School, which was Pleasanton's first high school and has a history that spans more then 80 years. Whether in sports, competition civics or marching band parades, whenever Foothill and Amador go head-to-head, the students get riled up, ready to defend their school and bring home the win. It's no wonder, then, that in the Weekly's Best Of contest, a face-off between Amador and Foothill brought out many voters. But, when all was said and done, Amador came out with the victory and was named Most Spirited High School. However, all is not lost for Foothill. Maybe Amador was on top in this challenge, but football season is just getting started and when Foothill and Amador face-off later this season that will be the real test for which school has the most spirit.
Best Golf Course
You've got to be a member, which costs up to $36,000 upfront, but even so, Castlewood Country Club was the leading favorite of readers who like its challenging golf course, the historic site and clubhouse facilities. As one credit card company advertises, membership has its privileges at Castlewood with shorter waits for tee times and a less crowded practice tees and warm-up areas. Still, Pleasanton's $34.5-million Callippe Preserve Golf Course that opened last November came in as a close second, with voters saying they like its hilltop site, on-site golf pros and a chummy clubhouse with tasty, inexpensive sandwiches and refreshments. GolfWeek magazine ranked Callippe Preserve as the sixth best golf course in a recent issue, which is likely to draw more golfers and probably more votes in our "Best of" in 2007.
Best Local controversy: Traffic
Traffic congestion in and around Pleasanton ranked as the No. 1 controversy, which means there's really no controversy at all. Traffic jams during the morning, after school and evening commute hours are worse than ever. And there's no new pavement planned to ease the problem in the near future, only more traffic lights which a number of readers believe are the problem. We may see a new carpool lane on I-580 east of Hacienda and a separate truck-climbing lane over Pigeon Pass on Highway 84 within a few years, but don't look for Stoneridge Drive to extend to El Charro and Livermore anytime soon. A note to candidates in the Nov. 7 municipal election: Many readers e-mailed us that your views on easing traffic jams will play heavily when they cast their ballots.
Best Local Hero
It seems as if everyone knows John Madden, and we should since he and his wife Virginia have lived in Pleasanton for 35 years. Their two sons, Joe Madden of Goal Line Productions and developer Mike Madden of Red Bear Enterprises, are also household names in the business and high school sports communities. Readers said that during the off-season, they see the Maddens on Main Street or enjoying refreshments at their Rose Hotel. Recently inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, John Madden also is seen on most television sets during the football season and year-round in the scores of video games that carry his name and thrill thousands of youths in the community.
Best Place to get a Traffic Ticket
We thought our readers would pick the intersection of First Street and Bernal Avenue since we see so many flashing lights there during the evening rush hour, but then we learned that mot of the motorists cutting through our town then don't live here and probably didn't vote. Responses ranged from tickets for red-light runners at Valley Avenue and Santa Rita Road to speeding on Bernal and, of all unlikely places, Touriga Drive, which Ruby Hill parents use to take their kids to Vintage Hills Elementary School. However it seems our readers have experienced vehicular justice on virtually every primary or secondary artery in our fair community that their overwhelming response was "anywhere in Pleasanton."
Best Book Store: Towne Center Books
Pleasanton residents are a literary bunch, it's hard to name a favorite with so many independent bookstores to choose from around town. But, when pressed to choose, the verdict came back that Towne Center Books is the Best Book Store in Pleasanton. In addition to a great selection of titles, Towne Center Books makes literature an event, regularly bringing in authors each month for readings and question and answer sessions. The store also is home to several book clubs that meet once a month. Located at 555 Main St., just under the Pleasanton arch, the store first opened in 1993 and was purchased by the current owner, Judy Wheeler. Visit www.townecenterbooks.com for a complete list of upcoming events.
Best Dry Cleaners
In a new category this year that highlights Pleasanton's best clothes primping for that special gala, holiday party or just the average workday, VIP Cleaners cleaned house with first place for best dry cleaners. The business has two locations along Santa Rita Road. Call 462-8838 or 846-4335.
Best Domestic Car Repair: Scott's Automotive and Light Truck Repair
When it comes to domestic auto maintenance, it's important to find trusted and friendly mechanics. Weekly readers say they have found this and more at Scott's Automotive and Light Truck Repair. Located in Suites C and D on 32 California Ave., they service foreign and domestic cars and trucks. They are open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. To set up an appointment, call 417-0222.
Best Foreign Car Repair: Precision Auto Repair
For those who consider knowledge of foreign car maintenance to be a different language, let Precision Auto Repair be your translator. Need a factory-scheduled service or repair? They can do it, while maintaining your warranty. Readers said Precision Auto repair was the best because they are all about convenience, customer service and a job well done. The owner even works in the shop to ensure quality work. Customer service surveys, coupons and appointment request forms can be found on their Web site: www.precisionautorepair.com.
Best Art/Frame Gallery: Studio 7 Fine Arts
Even before expanding onto Main Street, Weekly readers considered Studio 7 Fine Arts to be a masterpiece. Locally owned and operated at the corner of Main and West Angela streets, Studio 7 received many awards before becoming the largest gallery in the Bay Area in September 2006. With a wide variety of paintings, sculpture, jewelry, hand-blown glass and more, you'll always find something new and unique within the new walls of Studio 7. Make sure to regularly check their Web site www.studio7finearts.com for their many events and latest additions.
Best Athletic Apparel/Shoes: The Passionate Athlete
The Passionate Athlete is for athletes who love to break a sweat and look good while doing it. The store at 440 Main St. offers plenty of great-looking clothes--even jewelry and shoes--for someone with an active lifestyle or who loves to be cute and comfortable. Give them a call at 931-0775 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best Clothing Store: Aloha Island Trading Clothing
If a trip to Hawaii is beyond your grasp, try the next best thing and head to Aloha Island Trading Company on 410 Main St. The store is stocked with Hawaiian print shirts, Tropical Tantrum batik clothing, sandals, purses, swimsuits, specialty Hawaiian foods and more. No wonder readers named it Best Clothing Store, just wearing their clothes seems like a tropical vacation. Visit their Web site at www.alohaislandtradingcompany.com for product info, hours and events, like "Taste while you shop" on Friday nights. In a close second, readers also liked Me & Emmi clothing store, 459 Main St.
Best Florist: Alexandria's Flowers
Whether you're looking for a corsage for prom, a bouquet for your sweetheart or just some flowers to liven up a room, Alexandria's Flowers is the place to go. The wide selection and great quality, not to mention personal service, is what makes Pleasanton residents say Alexandria's Flowers is the best Fforist in town. A family-owned and operated business, Alexandria's Flowers, located at 3037 Hopyard Rd., takes the time to give every customer customized help and you'll be sure to leave with the exact flower arrangement you want.
Best Specialty Retail
Best Place to Buy a Gift: Domus
When it comes to picking out that perfect present for a birthday and many other holidays of the year, Domus in downtown Pleasanton is where readers said is their one-stop-shop. The window dressing displays that can be seen along the busy Main Street entices shoppers looking for just the right thing to give as a gift from the heart. The specialty home decor and housewares store offers a varied selection of unique products that can't be matched at any Williams & Sonoma or Crate & Barrel.
Best Veterinarian/Pet Care
Dr. Larry Scharg led the voting for providing best veterinarian, with readers describing him and his Hopyard Animal Hospital as the best for compassionate, excellent care. His technicians and assistant won equal praise for carefully handling the smallest of dogs and cats to Great Danes and Boxers. One reader said they're committed to providing quality medical care with a gentle touch. The animal hospital is located at 3059 Hopyard Road Suite B. Call 462-7750.
Best Pet Store
PetWay Discount Pet Food & Supplies in the Raley shopping center at 5480 Sunol Blvd. won Best Pet Store hands-down. Owner Doug Weiss and his employees earned compliments for their knowledge of the best food for different pets and other supplies to keep pets happy and under control. They also offer to carry supplies to their customers' cars but, unfortunately, not from driveways to their garages. The store is open every day except Sunday. Call 846-3172.
Best Pizza: Gay '90s
Everyone in Pleasanton knows if you want quality pizza, go to Gay '90s. It's so good, you won't even mind when a ghost pops up every now and then. The restaurant, located on the corner of Main and Abbie streets, is known for its rich history and its role in Pleasanton's past. But, more importantly, what makes the pizza so tasty are the quality products used for every pie, everything from the cheese to the toppings to the crust. And while the pizza is just as good whether you take it out or eat in, Pleasanton parents know Gay '90s is a great place to take the young ones. After all, children love pizza, and the outdoor patio and laid back atmosphere makes it an ideal restaurant for the whole family. That's why Gay '90s came in second for the Best Place to Eat with Kids.
Best Bakery: Primrose Bakery
For those of us who have a sweet tooth, and we do come in large numbers, Primrose Bakery is just the place to satisfy that confection craving, according to reader's responses. Just like our "Survivor" theme, Primrose has outmatched and outlasted the competition. Located at 350 Main St., the bakery continues to offer the best in European-style cakes and pastries for those special occasions in life.
Best Breakfast: Vic's All Star Kitchen
Judging by their votes, readers say there's no better place to eat the breakfast of champions than a table at Vic's. Nestled at 201-A Main St., Vic's All Star Kitchen has been serving breakfast and lunch since 1994, making even local hero John Madden proud. The sports-themed eatery offers an array of dishes from omelets to burgers to "light weight" selections for those looking for a healthier choice.
Best Place to Eat with Kids: Sweet Tomatoes
To a child, the buffet is by far the most ideal restaurant. Where else do you get to have as much as you want and get to pick and choose what exactly will go on your plate? In the world of a child, where decisions are usually made for him or her, this kind of control is exhilarating. And parents know it, which is why they voted Sweet Tomatoes as the Best Place to Eat with Kids. What makes Sweet Tomatoes, located at 4501 Hopyard Rd., a great place to eat with kids is that there is something for everyone. Even picky eaters will find something between the salad bar, soups, bread, pastas, baked potato bar and, everyone's favorite, the pizza. Sweet Tomatoes also has a rotating menu that features seasonal favorites each month. After the meal, children (and adults) can have fun at the dessert bar making their own sundaes with soft serve ice cream and a variety of toppings. And, no one will mind if they go back for seconds.
Best Romantic Restaurant: Claude and Dominique's Bistro
By far a popular choice for romantic dining, Claude and Dominique's Bistro continually serves fine French cuisine. French Chef Claude Lejeune started developing his legendary skill as an apprentice in France at the age of 14. While the restaurant is inspired by Pleasanton's "quaint downtown," the food is praised for being upscale and authentically French. Open Tuesday through Saturday, Claude and Dominique's is located at 210 Rose Ave. Readers also head to Barone's at 475 St. John St. for a romantic meal out.
Best Solo Dining and Best Burrito: High Tech Burrito
When people eat burritos, they like them big--so full that with each bite the beans, rice and any other fillings spill out. High Tech Burrito will give you just that, which is why Pleasantonians voted it Best Burrito in town. What makes High Tech Burrito, located at 349 Main St. Suite A, even more delicious is its eclectic menu featuring specialty burritos such as the "Thai Me Down" burrito filled with chicken and vegetables sautéed in a peanut sauce and the "Ya-hoo! BBQ" burrito stuffed with steak or chicken and slathered in barbeque sauce. Fiesta Taco on 1989 Santa Rita Rd. came in a close second for Best Burrito. A traditional taqueria-style restaurant, Fiesta Taco will give true burrito connoisseurs the authentic meal they crave. The restaurant also makes its own salsas, a great addition to any burrito. For those looking to eat alone, High Tech, located at 349 Main St., right in the center of Tully's Plaza, provides the ideal spot, which is why it was also voted Best Solo Dining. Grab a burrito, sit in the sun and enjoy taking as long (or as little) time as you want--after all, when you eat by yourself, you get to decide when to come and go.
Best Take-out Restaurant: In-N-Out Burger
It could be the North Pole and fast foot chain In-N-Out Burger would still have a steady stream of cars passing through its drive thru. That's how popular the burger joint, which pays homage to 1950s Southern California, is even today. Especially popular with the younger generations, In-N-Out is best known for its staff which dons white aprons fastened with an oversized safety pin and legendary paper hats with palm trees on them. Readers voted the eatery at 6015 Johnson Dr. Best Take-out Restaurant as well as Best French Fries.
Best Hamburger: Red Smoke Grill
The local, non-franchise "Best Take-out" was the Red Smoke Grill at 4501 Hopyard Rd., which makes some fabulous barbecue. The restaurant is owned by Jim Painter and Ken Hinshaw who each have 30 years of restaurant experience under their belts. Red Smoke Grill is designed as a concept restaurant that combines convenience with a casual atmosphere, and serves freshly prepared food made with high-quality ingredients.
Best Value Restaurant: New York Pizza
Where else can you get a slice of pizza that takes over the plate and a soda for under five bucks these days? At New York Pizza on 690 Main St., the piece of pie reminiscent of the Big Apple is not only tasty, but affordable. Not in the mood for pizza? The eatery also serves up ribs, chicken wings, salad and garlic bread.
Best Chinese Restaurant
The Panda, voted Best Chinese Restaurant, is located on just east of Main Street at 30 W. Angela St., with one reader commenting that the restaurant's Mandarin cuisine is "a savory delight" just as she experienced in Northern China. Readers also said its friendly, fast service and reasonably-priced entrees make it their favorite for lunch downtown, but they also praised its broad selection for more leisurely dinners. Family-owned and operated, The Panda is open for lunch from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday and for dinner from 5-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday and from 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call 484-4880.
Best Italian Restaurant
Fontina Ristorante at 349 Main St. was our readers' favorite for Italian food, with Pastas Trattoria, located nearby at 405 Main, coming in a close second. Fontina's received rave comments from our readers who praised the restaurant's homemade soups, pastas, seafood, chicken and veal and its "comfortable, elegant atmosphere." The critically acclaimed white tablecloth Italian restaurant features a new integrated computer system to speed up customer service and outdoor seating areas. It also has started a weekend champagne brunch, which is being served Saturdays and Sundays beginning at 10 a.m.
Readers also named Pasta Trattoria as their favorite, with just a few votes short of Fontina's. Our voters said they liked the ambiance, the authentic Italian cuisine and Pastas' luscious desserts. Frankly, we like both restaurants and often stand in line for tables on Main Street where we can enjoy good food while also watching the people passing by.
Best Martini and Place to Splurge
Not being martini drinkers ourselves, we relied on readers to tell us that Hap's at 122 W. Neal St. offers both the best martinis in town, but also is the Best Place to Splurge. Making a great martini and attracting diners who don't mind paying a bit more for some of the best steaks in town must go hand in hand. On the outside, Hap's is unassuming, but one step inside and you know you are in for a special treat. The tastefully decorated steakhouse offers ambiance and serves quality meals--and obviously, our readers say, the best martinis. Reservations are recommended. Call 600-9200.
Best Mexican restaurant
It's not hard to find great Mexican food in Pleasanton, but when it comes to a favorite, readers once again chose family-owned and operated Alberto's at 435 Main St. as the Best of Pleasanton. They said they liked the authentic Mexican food with the chance to dine outside overlooking Pleasanton's historic Main Street or in one of Alberto's festive dining rooms. Another favorite activity, readers said, was drinking Alberto's prized margaritas while watching games in the restaurant's sports bar on its 73-inch high definition TV.
Pleasanton is truly blessed with sushi, but the winner again was Sozo Sushi, a busy place at lunch and dinner, where everyone is greeted with friendly shouts when they enter. Supplies are delivered fresh each day, sauces are made from scratch, and even the "Sushi World Guide" notes its "creative maki menu." Readers said the food arrives quickly and is well presented, and the atmosphere is efficient and bustling, yet amazingly calm. The restaurant is located at near the intersection of Hopyard at Valley, near Gene's Fine Foods.
Let's Get Physical
Best Biking or Walking Trail: Pleasanton Ridge
Even though Pleasanton is a developed city, it still has many beautiful trails nearby. Case in point: The Pleasanton Ridge. This 3,163-acre park offers Pleasanton residents an escape into nature that may be just what you need after a long week in the office. That's why, once again, the Pleasanton Ridge was voted Best Biking or Walking Trail. The ridge has a variety of trails that can accommodate walkers or bikers of any level, from leisurely strolls to intense bike rides. With a 5.9-mile hiking loop covering the park, you can be sure you'll never get bored while getting the workout you need.
Best Fitness/Yoga Center: Club Sport
This is the third year Pleasanton residents voted Club Sport as the Best Fitness/Yoga Center, and it's no wonder why. Located at 7090 Johnson Dr., the club calls it self a "fitness resort," which makes even exercise seem like a peaceful activity. Club Sport has the usual gym accessories, boasting a wide range of weights, cardio equipment and exercise classes, but provides even more than the usual fare. The facility also houses intramural sports leagues, nutrition and wellness classes, live jazz on Thursdays and a deli with full wireless Internet access--you know, for after the hard workout.
Best Place to Jog: Any Pleasanton Neighborhood
Pleasanton residents aren't picky with where they jog. If it's nearby, it's good enough, apparently, because no one could decide on one place in Pleasanton that's the best, which is why any Pleasanton neighborhood won as Best Place to Jog. If you're in the mood for a challenge, jog up the hill on Bernal Avenue. Want something a little quieter? Vintage Hills works. Looking to take in some history along the way? Try a downtown neighborhood. Although, jogging down Main Street, while you'll get plenty of window shopping done, may not be that fun. Who wants to be sweaty in a crowd? One thing is for sure: when the weather's nice, Pleasanton gives residents plenty of jogging options.
Best Place to Pamper Yourself: Pleasanton Spa
Every now and then, you need to take a "me day" and the Pleasanton Spa offers everything to make that happen. From massages to facials to manicures, the Pleasanton Spa knows how to treat a lady (or man) right, which is why it was voted Best Place to Pamper Yourself. Located at 6155 Stoneridge Dr., Ste. 150, what makes the Pleasanton Spa so special is not just its excellent service and calming atmosphere, but also the variety of services available, which includes reiki treatment, toe pebbling and a special tension buster, just to name a few. To reduce and eliminate tension is the spa's stated objective, so stop in and see if it's meeting its goal. We have a feeling you'll be glad you did.
Best Place to Walk a Dog
Readers said any park in Pleasanton is the Best Place to Walk a Dog, but make sure your dog's on a leash. Complaints from other dog walkers about unleashed pets has police and the department's animal control officers scurrying in response to cell phone calls to ticket those who violate the city's requirement. Dogs can be unleashed in Augustine Bernal Park if the owner is with them.
Best Sandwich: Quiznos
The people have spoken and they like their sandwiches toasted. At least, that's what can be inferred by Quiznos' win as Best Sandwich in town. With locations at 519 Main St. and 4000 Pimlico Dr., as well as a store in Hacienda Crossings, Pleasanton residents can get their fill of Quiznos' toasted subs where ever they are in town. Every sandwich at Quiznos has a special twist--even a turkey sandwich is made exciting again with anything from rosemary bread, bacon or guacamole. Coming in a close second was last year's winner, Gimanelli's Deli. Located at 915 Main St., right next to Amador Valley High School, Gimanelli's is an authentic Italian deli with hearty sandwiches filled with quality meats. The store also serves many homemade specialties, such as hummus, sausage, dolma and its signature garlic cheese dip.
Best Coffee: Starbucks
When a caffeine fix is in need, the coffee cup with a mermaid with flowing hair is the chosen one among Pleasantonians. Originally flourishing in Seattle, Starbucks Coffee has become as ubiquitous if not more so than McDonald's. With six locations in the city, residents don't have to look far for those green aprons.
When Pleasanton residents don't feel like feeding a corporate giant, they love supporting the little guy, er--local non-franchise favorite, Coffee Beans & Bistro, which has two locations on Main and Selvante streets. In business for about a year and a half, owner Charles Sutherland allows talented local artists to display their pieces within the coffee shop's walls.
Best Hamburger: Bob's Giant Burgers
If a hefty helping of beef is what's for dinner, Bob's Giant Burgers is your place, voted Best Hamburger in the non-franchise category. The no frills eatery on First Avenue has remained a popular mainstay in readers' books. When it comes to ordering a patty and bun and that's why it was voted best non-franchised take-out restaurant.
Best Ice Cream: Coldstone Creamery
When you're a castaway on a deserted island or even just stuck in the Valley heat without air conditioning, the best-tasting relief is found inside Coldstone Creamery at 349 Main St. In addition to the infinite number of ice cream concoctions, they've recently added shakes and smoothies to their repertoire. Like a cherry on top--or mixed in!--the friendly and sometimes musical employees make for a great ice cream eating experience. Many readers also enjoy the local drive-through flavor of the historic Meadowlark Dairy, located at 57 W. Neal St.
Best Place for an After Work Drink: The Hop Yard Alehouse and Grill
A list of unchecked e-mails are as long as the Great Wall of China. Your boss hasn't given you that raise you were expecting and putting in 60-hour work weeks is starting to wear on you. Sounds like you need a drink--namely one at the Hop Yard Alehouse and Grill. Not just for bad days at the office, but good ones as well, readers say the Hop Yard is the local favorite for having a libation or two after work. The popular watering hole located on its namesake Hopyard Road, where hops used to be grown, never has a problem filling up the barstools with the after work crowd. Drinks aren't the only popular menu item. French fries also topped readers' list next to In-N-Out Burger in the non-franchise category.
Best Place for Dancing: Nightclub Aura
Deemed a bit of Las Vegas and Manhattan in the Tri-Valley, nightclub Aura has become one of Pleasanton's premiere hotspots. The club, which features luxurious interior designs by Pamela Pennington Studio, has spacious Red and Blue rooms, each with an extensive bar, VIP seating and dance area. Renowned DJs frequently stop by to mix everything from top 40 to funk. Private events, birthdays, VIP booths and dinner reservations can be reserved online at www.nightclubaura.com. For a taste of the chic city living without the hassle, Weekly readers say Aura is your best bet. Aura is located at 4825 Hopyard Rd. And for those who prefer dancing to live bands, readers said the Pleasanton Hotel on 855 Main Street. is hopping on Friday and Saturday nights.
Best Place for a Picnic and Live Music
Friday night Concerts in the Park at Lions Wayside Park won hands-down as the Best Place for a Picnic and the Best Place for Live Music. Readers said they enjoy picnics at many other parks in Pleasanton, but the joy of having a casual Friday night dinner with the family and listening to great music is a combination that most readers like. Unfortunately, the Friday night concerts are held only during the warm weather months, but then that's generally when our readers said they do their picnicking.