This year we held the second annual Readers Choice for everyone to vote for their favorite things in Danville and San Ramon. Before that, we held the contest for three years in the Danville Weekly. Ballots were online at www.DanvilleExpress.com and www.SanRamonExpress.com for a month, enabling readers time to cast their votes.
We always like to learn what places and services our readers choose. It's a good chance to hear about new things -- and to remember the old.
Best Auto Dealership -- Dirito Brothers in Walnut Creek. One of the largest Volkswagen dealers in the country, this family-owned business has received several awards for customer service.
Best Danville Area Real Estate Office/Realtor -- J. Rockliff. With offices in Danville, Blackhawk, Pleasanton and Livermore, J. Rockliff Realtors is one of the fastest growing companies in the state. Its relocation department provides home buying or selling assistance around the corner or across the globe.
Best Kept Secret Treasure of Danville -- Museum of the San Ramon Valley. Located in the renovated Southern Pacific Train Depot on Railroad and Prospect, the Museum is a must-see for a perspective on the town's history.
Best Mortgage Broker/Brokerage -- Bank of America, Jim Black. Mortgages are tricky business. Whether you need to refinance, redesign or just have someone repeat the information, our readers like Jim Black for his nearly 20 years of experience.
Best Senior Living Facility -- Diablo Lodge. Lush and plush,bthis is the best place to relax and enjoy a lifetime of labor. If raucous and rowdy are more your style, one reader suggests visiting Elliott's bar.
Best Travel Agency -- Danville Travel. When the Internet just won't do, residents turn to staff at this agency for all their challenging itineraries and unique destinations.
Health and Beauty
Best Day Spa -- Tribez. With a wide range of skin care treatments and massage services, our readers go to Tribez for a relaxing hour — or day — of pampering.
Best Fitness Club -- ClubSport San Ramon. Located at the top of Bollinger Canyon Road, this lavish gym includes spa services, a pool and a variety of classes. Catch up on your favorite television shows while getting in shape.
Best Hair Salon for Men -- Sport Clips. Television, shoulder rubs and a clean cut — get what you don't at home at this malefocused salon. It has locations in Danville and San Ramon.
Best Hair Salon for Women -- Tribez. Looking for more than uptight up-dos and tired trims? Our readers visit Tribez's 38 stylists for the latest looks.
Best Manicure/Pedicure -- Bollinger Nails. If your dogs are barkin', ease their troubles with a relaxing spa pedicure. Hardworking hands get the royal treatment.
Best Martial Arts Studio -- America's Best Karate. Kids of all ages and levels can kick, punch and spar their way to better self-esteem and fitness.
Best Place to Walk, Jog or Bike -- Iron Horse Trail. Rollerblades and scooters are also acceptable along the 33-mile stretch of former railroad.
Best Yoga/Pilates -- Danville Yoga Center. Various levels of yogis practice the sun salutation at this serene studio.
Best Art Gallery -- Blackhawk Gallery. This gallery, located in Blackhawk Plaza, is run by the members of the Alamo-Danville Artists' Society. It's a great place to browse for a piece of local art.
Best Athletic Apparel Store -- Forward Motion. Start with the shoes and go from there. Its Race Club is the leader for recreational runners, cyclists, swimmers and triathletes.
Best Bicycle Shop -- California Peddler. This shop on Hartz has everything for cycling needs, from the bike itself to replacement parts, accessories, people to give you advice and jerseys featuring the California bear on a bike.
Best Bookstore -- Rakestraw Books. Stop in to browse, buy the latest bestseller or see what's new. Staff will order any book sothere's no need to go online for your reading material. Rakestraw features frequent author visits, book clubs and more.
Best Discount Store -- Rick's Picks. Everyone loves a deal but no one more than Rick Hirshberg, who makes a livelihood by sharing his best bargains with his customers at his shops on Hartz Avenue in Danville and on Main Street in Pleasanton.
Best Florist -- East Bay Florists. Located in the Livery, this shop is lovely inside and out. For special occasions or just because — say it with flowers.
Best Framing Shop -- Richard's Arts and Crafts. Head to the back of Richard's in Alamo to view readymade frames and molding for custom frames or to do it yourself, with the help of staff.
Best Grocery Store -- Trader Joe's. Its inventory is smaller than that of supermarkets, which is how it keeps prices low. TJs has all the basics plus fresh foods, packaged and frozen from appetizers to entrees to desserts to make your eating interesting and nutritious.
Best Hobby/Craft Store -- Richard's Arts and Crafts. We dare you to walk through this store without considering taking up a crafty hobby, from beading to artificial flower arranging to scrapbooking. It's also holiday headquarters.
Best Home Accessories -- Elegant Clutter. Now that the basics are in place, head to the Livery to buy those finishing touches for your home. The store is relaxing and well-appointed, just as your home
can be. Staff is knowledgeable and friendly.
Best Home Consignment Shop -- Home Consignment Center. This is one of those places that should be on everyone's regular route as the inventory changes often and you never know what is in store for you. It also carries vintage and contemporary jewelry.
Best Home Furnishings -- Elegant Clutter. Comfortable and eye-catching, the furnishings are sure to tempt you. Be sure to visit the sale room.
Best Jewelry Store -- Smith Jewelers. This full-service jeweler has everything that sparkles, from diamonds to watches to Waterford crystal. It also has custom made 14K gold charms of the Danville Oak Tree.
Best Maternity Store -- Snickerdoodles. This upscale children's resale boutique also has a maternity section so you can look great while awaiting the big event.
Best Men's Clothing Store -- McCaulou's. This store carries the basics for men, from Levi's to Columbia, which may be why our readers like it.
Best Place to Buy a Gift -- Elegant Clutter. This shop offers chic items in all price ranges to make gift-giving easier.
Best Shoe Store -- Shuz of Danville. Looking for comfortable shoes with a perfect fit? Our readers say to head for this shop in the Livery. Its brands may cost a little more but they are of good quality.
Best Wine Store -- Beverages and More. The store on Diablo Road offers 333 wines but prices are best during 5 cent sales when it's buy one, get the second one for a nickel. It also has tastings.
Best Women's Clothing Store -- Chico's. Maybe it's the slimming jeans, the trendy jackets, the T-shirts that wear well through a thousand washings, or the chunky jewelry.
Best American Food Restaurant -- Esin Restaurant and Bar. Owners Curtis and Esin deCarion say they create American fare with Mediterranean influences, all fresh and seasonal. Our readers say they love it.
Best Bakery -- Danville Old Towne Bakery. Cupcakes just like your mom used to make. Bite-sized cookies to complete a meal. Multitiered cakes for special occasions. Our readers recommend this bakery, which opened in 1952.
Best Breakfast -- Katy's Korner. Who knew eggs benedict could be prepared so many ways? Our readers, who chose this restaurant in San Ramon as their favorite. Corned beef hash also comes recommended.
Best Burger -- Tower Grille. The Tower Burger is half a pound of ground certified Angus, and it comes with a side of french fries, buffalo fries, garlic fries, soup, salad, fruit, mashed potatoes or potato salad. A Tower Turkey Burger is also on the menu.
Best California Cuisine/Innovative Dining -- The Peasant and the Pear. "Great food is fresh food" is the mantra at the Pear, which is why its menu is seasonal, an important aspect of California cuisine. The chefs continually surprise with their creations from fresh ingredients.
Best Chinese Restaurant -- Uncle Yu's. This restaurant, with three branches including one in San Ramon, offers traditional Szechuan fare plus innovative contemporary dishes.
Best Deli -- Domenico's. Forty meats and 30 cheeses to be mixed and matched on fresh artisan bread delivered daily. Yum! Add one of the 60 homemade rotating salads, and go next door to Domenico's
Café afterward for its famous gelato.
Best Dessert -- Café Esin. Choices range from a classic crëme brulee to a bittersweet chocolate fudge brownie with caramel pecan sauce and vanilla bean ice cream. Or enjoy cheese with dessert wine.
Best Fresh Produce -- Danville Farmers Market. The sellers take pride in the produce and are helpful with cooking tips. The market also has specialty food items and fresh flowers at good prices.
Best Ice Cream/Yogurt Shop -- Yogurt Shack. This family-owned shop has expanded to three locations but the one on Hartz at Diablo Road is the favorite here. Its website lists the day's flavors, which always include non-dairy, low-fat and no-sugar.
Best Italian Restaurant -- Piatti's. Lunch, brunch and dinner — it's Italian! With a separate menu for food service at the bar. The ambience is great, too, with an open kitchen and stone pizza hearth.
Best Independent Coffeehouse -- Peet's Coffee & Tea. Our readers must be Peetniks — they're real fans of Peet's coffee. Or maybe it's the location our readers love, right off the Iron Horse Trail.
Best Mediterranean/Middle Eastern Restaurant -- Faz Restaurant and Bar. Owner Faz Poursohi grew up in Tehran, where he learned to love cooking. Our readers crave the kabobs but in the summertime the redwood grove in the Hartz Avenue restaurant is also a draw.
Best Mexican Restaurant -- Maria Maria. The stunning décor at this restaurant in the Rose Garden and the menu are inspired by legendary musician Carlos Santana. The Mexican dishes may be traditional but the approach is innovative.
Best Outdoor Dining -- Bridges. It's hard to believe when sitting on the pleasant Bridges patios that you are only a few short steps from the hustle and bustle of Hartz Avenue. Its gardens have inspired many a patio in Danville.
Best Pizza -- Amici's. This "East Coast pizzeria" is, luckily for our readers, located on the West Coast, right in the Rose Garden. The traditional Italian brick oven melds the fl avors and produces crispy yet slightly chewy crusts.
Best Place for a Business Lunch -- Bridges. Enjoy a good meal while talking business in this quiet setting with good service. Lunch menu includes small plates, salads, sandwiches and more.
Best Romantic Restaurant -- Bridges. Day or night, the bridge mural on the wall is a perfect backdrop for couples who want mainly to gaze into each other's eyes.
Best Salad -- The Peasant and the Pear. Caesar, Cobb, Waldorf, Nicoise are on the menu, along with the Bishop Ranch and the Black and Blue, which is pan-seared grass-fed fi let mignon tips and Point Reyes Blue Cheese on romaine with blue cheese dressing, topped with crispy fried onions.
Best Sushi/Japanese Restaurant -- Tie: Kane Sushi Japanese Cuisine; Fish on Fire Sushi Bar and Grill. Kane, on north Hartz, specializes in rolls, many named after the patrons who invented and requested them. Fish on Fire, in Town and Country Shopping Center, has great sushi as well as tempura and teriyaki.
Best Take-out Restaurant -- High Tech Burrito. Burritos are fast, fresh and custom-made. But would someone please explain why it is "high tech"?
Best Thai Restaurant -- Thai House Restaurant. Enter into the Land of Smiles as you step into this rustic old house on Rose Street in downtown Danville. The food is tasty, and each dish is arranged artistically and delivered with charm.
Best Wine Bar -- The Vine at Bridges. It offers more than 350 wines from around the world, which must help its rating, with 35 choices by the glass, happy hour snacks and live music Thursday-Saturday nights.
Kids and Pets
Best Children's Clothing Store -- Snickerdoodles. Get the hippest children's fashions at the cheapest prices. This consignment center is also a treasure trove of toys and decorations.
Best Pet Groomer -- Shampooches. Dirty dogs get clean at this competitively priced, professional grooming salon. Cats, too!
Best Pet Sitter -- Paws and Claws Pet Sitting. This independent owner provides sitting services as well as dog walking and a pet taxi.
Best Store for Pets -- Pet Food Express. Express your love for your pets by attending its in-store events, self-service pet wash and checking out all the food that's fit to feed.
Best Tutoring School -- On Track Learning. Help your student get ahead with private or small group tutoring, math clubs and transitional training.
Best Veterinarian -- Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center. Discerning pets and their people like the convenience of one-stop shopping. For food, pharmacy and emergency services needs, our readers visit
Home and Vehicle Maintence
Best Antique Store -- Cottage Jewel. This boutique has one-of-akind treasures for the home and to wear. Like any treasure hunt, it goes on and on — stop in to this downtown shop often.
Best Car Repair -- Danville Service Center. Readers rave about the work done at this shop on Linda Mesa. Work is good and timely, prices are fair, and customers and their cars are treated well, say reviews.
Best Car Wash -- Tie: Sponges, Chamois Hand Car Wash. Sure, you can wash the car yourself in the driveway but who wants to? And don't you always miss a spot?
Best Flooring Store -- Diablo Flooring. This place has a wide selection of flooring, from pure wool carpets to stylish tiles to hardwood floors to laminates, bamboo, vinyl and everything in between.
Best Hardware Store -- Tassajara Valley Ace Hardware. This store offers the convenience and helpful staff of an old-fashioned downtown hardware store.
Best Home Improvement Contractor -- Gayler Construction. Looking to upgrade your kitchen? Your bathroom? How about the whole house? Our readers like Gayler for beautiful, long-lasting remodels.
Best Interior Designer -- J. Hettinger Interiors. These people have ideas galore and solutions for every design problem. Jerry's mission is to bring joy and fulfillment to every client.
Best Nursery/Garden Center -- Navlet's. Plants from ground covers to trees and everything in between keep our readers returning to this anchor of the Rose Garden. Don't forget to buy bird seed.
Best Tire Store/Service Center -- Big O Tires. The four big O's that hold up your vehicle are just as important as the engine and our readers recommend this shop for its large inventory and dependable service.
Out and About
Best Golf Course -- Blackhawk Country Club. These two 18-hole, par 72 championship courses make dramatic use of natural terrain and water features and keep getting more beautiful as the landscape matures.
Best Happy Hour -- Bridges. Its happy hour menu is renowned throughout the region as the best place for a good light meal in beautiful surroundings with a wide choice of libations.
Best Place for a Picnic -- Mount Diablo. Drive it, bike it, hike it, visit for the day or the night — and remember the picnic! In the springtime you may dine to a backdrop of wildflowers.
Best Place for Dancing -- Meenar's. I guess it ain't called Meenar's Music Club for nothing. Folks come from far and wide to dance here.
Best Place to Get Together With Friends -- That Bar. This lively place on Prospect Avenue with its dueling piano bar quickly caught on as a great venue for spending the evening with friends.
Best Place to Have a First Date -- The Peasant and the Pear. Great food and place for conversation, which are the ticket for a successful date, whether the first or one of many. The eatery is tucked away off Hartz so a walk through downtown Danville can prolong the evening.
Best Place to People Watch -- Starbucks on Hartz Avenue. This corner is arguably the busiest in town and a lot of the traffic is on foot. Patrons can also watch the construction at the Veterans Hall.
Best Public Event -- Fourth of July Parade. This red, white and blue extravaganza is a true community celebration, and the DanvilleExpress.com/SanRamonExpress.com Marching Band always places first.