2014 Readers Choice winners

Results are in for our first-ever San Ramon Valley-wide competition

Things to do, places to see, pampering to enjoy and yummies to eat -- once again, our readers have spoken.

This year, for the first time, we combined the San Ramon and Danville Readers Choice awards into one hotbed of competition: the San Ramon Valley Readers Choice awards.

We polled residents about their favorites in a panoply of categories, from food to nails and banks to dance halls. Thousands of votes streamed in over the month the ballot was online, and the competition was fierce.

You may recognize some favorites of old and, perhaps, learn of something new in this year's Readers Choice.


Best Bank: Chase

Chase has friendly, helpful tellers and competent financial advisers that you can build a solid relationship with. Our readers prefer Chase for all their banking business.

Best Credit Union: Patelco Credit Union

The people of Patelco are anxious to serve, bright and well-spoken -- and make sure to thoroughly explain the ins and outs of banking to all their customers.

Best Financial Planner (Non-brokerage): Summit Financial

Our readers can rely on Summit Financial for all their financial planning needs. They take the time to understand clients' situations and explain in detail their solutions.

Best Financial Planner Brokerage: Morgan Stanley Smith Barney

It can be a risky business putting your trust into a company, especially when it comes to money. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney earns their clients' trust through integrity and service, and helps individuals, families and institutions achieve their unique financial goals.

Best Mortgage Company: RPM Mortgage

Paperwork with buying a home can be overwhelming. That's why RPM Mortgage employees are there to guide customers through every step.

Best Mortgage Professional: Casey Doerlich, RPM Mortgage

RPM Mortgage hires only the most professional agents in the loan agency, such as Casey Doerlich. He has access to the latest in marketing, technology and training in order to do his job quickly and easily. Clients state that Casey is knowledgeable and professional, and is always going the extra mile during the loan process.

Best Real Estate Agent: Shannon Berger, Better Homes & Gardens

Shannon Berger has built a successful referral-based real estate business. Her commitment to her clients has helped her receive numerous awards throughout the year. Shannon is dependable, resourceful and demonstrates a hard work ethic.

Best Real Estate Office: J. Rockcliff Realtors

With offices in Danville, Blackhawk, Pleasanton and Livermore, J. Rockcliff 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 Real Estate Team: The Combs Team - J. Rockcliff

Joe and Nancy Combs have a reputation for being assertive in both negotiating and closing, and they're more than happy to spend some time talking with people about all their real estate needs.

Best Travel Agency: Alamo World Travel & Tours

Celebrating its 33rd year in business, Alamo World Travel & Tours assists clients plan their vacations -- whether it's booking a hotel, a tour or a cruise. The travel agency offers its clients valuable assistance and advice, as well as the most competitive prices.

Health & Fitness

Best Acupuncture: San Ramon Acupuncture Clinic

San Ramon Acupuncture Clinic treats patients with back pain, shoulder pain, insomnia, as well as women's health issues. Protocols are individualized to fit the patient's specific needs. The clinic offers a personal and caring relationship for each of its patients in a safe environment.

Best Health Club: Danville Fit

Danville Fit offers members new exercise equipment, group exercise classes, personal trainers and a spa. Members say the staff is friendly and the membership fees are the most affordable in the Tri-Valley area.

Best Massage: Jolie Salon & Spa

Our readers call Danville's Jolie Salon & Spa a perfect balance of comfort and decadence, a place they can leave glowing and relaxed, thanks to the magical hands of the masseuses.

Best Martial Arts Studio: Tao Sports

Tao Sports in Danville focuses on character development, physical fitness and self-defense instead of fighting. The studio's goal is to build the student's self-esteem through a community that works together toward improved physical strength, focus and concentration, and self-discipline. At Tao Sports, the community practices martial arts by encouraging and supporting one another.

Best Place to Buy Fitness Equipment & Apparel: Forward Motion

Start with the shoes and build your perfect workout outfit from there. Forward Motion's Race Club is the leader for recreational runners, cyclists, swimmers and triathletes.

Best Place to Walk, Jog or Bike: Iron Horse Trail

Get a breath of fresh air and spend some time outdoors. The Iron Horse Regional Trail is a 33-mile stretch of a former railroad with much to explore.

Best Yoga/Pilates: Danville Yoga Center

All levels of yogis practice at this wonderful studio. With challenging and inspiring classes and attentive instructors, our readers experience peace and serenity.

Beauty & Style

Best Clothing Consignment Store: A Dress Change

Our readers go to this beautifully organized boutique for current fashion from the best brands, reasonable prices, and the perfect condition of their merchandise. From scarves to coats, boots to jewelry, A Dress Change is an excellent shopping experience.

Best Day Spa: Jolie Salon & Spa

Each of the four rooms at this spa, including a couples room, has a tranquil environment to soothe your soul. Jolie has created the perfect place to relax away from the outside world.

Best Facial Care: Jolie Salon & Spa

Enjoy a beverage, treats and a luxurious robe while rejuvenating your skin. In the mood for true decadence? Try the 24-karat gold facial.

Best Hair Salon for Men: Sport Clips

Television, shoulder rubs and a clean cut -- get guy time and a great 'do at this male-focused salon, with 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 on Town and Country Drive in Danville for the latest looks and the most professional staff -- they trust Tribez for the best cut, color or style.

Best Jewelry Store: Mark Kahn Jewelers

Mark Kahn has been making and repairing jewelry for over 60 years. Not only does his store carry lines of bridal jewelry and fine jewelry, but they can turn any vision into a custom-made piece of perfection.

Best Medical Spa: Blackhawk Plastic Surgery

Dr. Ronan and the staff of Blackhawk Plastic Surgery want to make their clients feel good about themselves. Our readers say that their care is professional and top of the line, and the courteous and competent staff put them at ease for whatever procedure they might undergo.

Best Nail Care: Polished Nail Bar & More

Our readers love the fun, girly atmosphere at Polished Nail Bar & More. Even more than that they rave about the cleanliness, the enormous nail polish selection, and the excellent technicians who handle their nail care.

Best New Retail Business 2014: Pieces of Chocolate

Chef Barnes of Pieces of Chocolate specializes in custom chocolate designs and his now-famous wine tasting chocolates. With an exquisite array of flavors and beautiful craftsmanship, our readers can't stop raving about this great new place to get your gourmet chocolate fix.

Best Place to Buy a Gift (TIE): Cottage Jewel and Sweet Celebrations

Cottage Jewel is chock-full of unique vintage treasures, artisan pieces, and beautiful antiques that are perfect for one-of-a-kind gifts. The helpful, knowledgeable owner and staff make the experience of finding your treasure a breeze.

Sweet Celebrations carries everything you need to throw a great party. From creative balloon designs to customized stationary, the staff will help you find whatever you need for that perfect event.

Best Clothing Store: Anthropologie

For an inspiring place to shop for clothing, shoes, and beautiful household items, Anthropologie is the place our readers trust. With excellent quality and truly outstanding service, it's the place to dress for a party or dress up your house.

Best Shoe Store: Tootsies

This home-grown downtown shoe sanctuary offers cute shoes and accessories as well as pedicures, all in a colorful and relaxing setting.


Best American Food Restaurant: Brass Door

Established in 1955 when the total population was a little over 100, the Brass Door has been around since before San Ramon was San Ramon. Great steaks, fresh fish and salads, but no one can remember why it was called the Brass Door, except that it has one.

Best Bakery: Miglet's Gluten Free Bakery

Delicious chocolates, delectable cupcakes and cakes made to order -- and all of them are gluten free. Whether your diet is restricted or not, our readers keep coming back for more of Miglet's amazing desserts.

Best Barbecue: Dickey's Barbecue Pit

It's a summer barbecue every day at Dickey's. This restaurant smokes its own meats without any short cuts, and focuses on the best sauces and sides any barbecue lover could hope for.

Best Breakfast: Valley Medlyn's

Have a tasty, sit-down breakfast and enjoy some of our readers' favorites: homemade hash browns, perfectly crispy bacon and, of course, the Medlyn's Scramble.

Best Brew Pub/Sports Bar: The Fieldhouse Sports Grill & Tavern

Munch on a delicious burger, sip on a cocktail or one of their numerous beers, and catch every game from all the major premium sports channels on over 25 big screens. For the true fanatics, this is the best place to be.

Best Burger: In-N-Out Burger

Burgers are all they do. The long lines just make finally getting that double-double with cheese or animal fries all the sweeter.

Best California Cuisine/Innovative Dining: Esin Restaurant & Bar

Esin Restaurant & Bar is consistently named our Readers Choice. Kudos to husband and wife chef team Curtis and Esin deCarion for their inventive use of fresh ingredients and their six dessert specials a day.

Best Chinese Restaurant: Uncle Yu's

Traditional Chinese cuisine melded with modern styles, so you can get anything from hot and sour soup and Mongolian beef to contemporary specials like smoked salmon on a bed of cucumber noodle, baby spinach, and sauteed with a shitake mushroom soy vinaigrette. Uncle Yu's has been our Readers Choice for years.

Best Coffee House: Peet's

For all those who need a morning pick-me-up, Peet's is the place to get your caffeine, from teas to lattes to the best coffees in the business.

Best Grocery Store: Lunardi's

This place boasts a huge produce section, an ample selection of meats, and its own brand of salsa, pasta sauce and more. Healthy, tasty and reasonably priced.

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 options.

Best Italian Restaurant: Gianni's Italian Bistro

Owner and Italian native Gianni Bartoletti has designed a menu with delicious Italian dishes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Combine that with the classy and cozy interior and excellent service, and it's our readers' favorite place for a true taste of Italy.

Best Kid-Friendly, Non-Chain Restaurant (TIE): Zachary's Chicago Pizza and Fat Maddie's Grille

Zachary's Chicago Pizza: With an easy, friendly atmosphere and scads of choices for pizza, Zachary's is a great place to take the whole family -- and order something the kids will happily eat.

Fat Maddie's Grille: Fat Maddie's has plenty of kid-friendly options like chicken tenders and sweet potato fries, with friendly service and more than enough delicious choices to satisfy the adult eaters too.

Best Mediterranean/Middle Eastern Restaurant: Faz Restaurant & 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: Los Panchos Mexican Restaurant

For the yummiest, most authentic Mexican dishes this side of the border, our readers put their trust and appetites in Los Panchos. With huge portions and friendly service, there's no better place to fill yourself up.

Best New Restaurant 2014: Revel Kitchen and Bar

Revel debuted this year as an upscale yet casual tavern with a beautiful atmosphere, extensive and clever cocktail list, and delicious food -- from pork belly sliders to ahi tartar with avocado, and a salted caramel butterscotch pudding that people can't seem to stop talking about.

Best Pizza: Zachary's Chicago Pizza

With over 150 best pizza awards since it was established in 1993, it's easy to understand why Zachary's is our Readers Choice for best pizza. Zachary's offers both Chicago-style stuffed pizza and a traditional thin crust.

Best Place for a Business Lunch: Bridges

Bridges Restaurant and Bar is a relaxed, urban-casual setting in the heart of downtown Danville. It offers a perfect location, tasty food, and a warm, noninvasive hospitality perfect for a meeting of minds or businesses.

Best Romantic Restaurant: Bridges

Couples can find a beautiful, romantic ambiance at Bridges. With comfortable, intimate seating, delicious food and cocktails, and scrumptious desserts that can be shared by two, it's the place to go for a lovely date.

Best Sushi/Japanese Restaurant: Kane Sushi Japanese Cuisine

With an excellent selection of sushi and specialty rolls, as well as teriyaki and tempura on the menu, our readers love to treat themselves to Kane Sushi's fresh and tasty food -- with the bonus of a friendly and attentive staff.

Best Take-out Restaurant: Great Impasta

The Great Impasta has been making delicious Italian food for more than twenty years, and is the perfect place to get a quick meal to satisfy a hearty appetite. They also offer fresh, uncooked pasta dinners to take and cook at home.

Best Thai Restaurant: Thai House Restaurant

Enter into a land of happy taste buds 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 an extra dose of charm.

Best Vegetarian Cuisine: Vitality Bowls

Try a big bowl of healthy eating that tastes so good you won't believe it's good for you. Filled with all natural and organic ingredients, superfoods, gluten-free options, and jam-packed with vitamins and nutrients, a healthy lifestyle never tasted so good.

Kids & Pets

Best Children's Clothing Store: Sweetie Face Kids

Sweetie Face Kids has adorable, upscale clothing for toddlers and slightly older little boys and girls, as well as a selection of baby apparel and accessories. Our readers absolutely rave about this Danville store's selection of special occasion clothing.

Best Party Place for Kids: Golden Skate

Golden Skate in San Ramon is a super fun place for kids to have a party and groove to music while rollerskating or rollerblading the day away. They even offer pizza, ice cream and goody bags.

Best Pet Groomer: Shampooches

Dirty dogs get clean at this competitively priced, professional grooming salon. Cats, too! Pamper your pet with a custom cut from experienced groomers.

Best Pet Store: Pet Food Express

Express your love for your pets by attending Pet Food Express in-store events, self-service pet wash, and checking out all the food that caters to every creature's diet.

Best Place for Dance Lessons: Bella Dance

The staff at Bella Dance in San Ramon believe that they are doing more than just teaching steps; they are mentoring children and sharing their love of dance. Our readers agree that along with exceptional dance instruction, the environment and instructors are caring, encouraging and inspiring.

Best Tutoring School: Lafayette Academy

From private tutoring to SAT and ACT prep, Lafayette Academy is all about helping your child succeed. Family owned and operated, with local instructors who care about their students, this is the place for success.

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 Bishop Ranch.

Home & Vehicle Maintenance

Best Antique Store: Cottage Jewel

Cottage Jewel has one-of-a-kind treasures for the home and to wear. These treasures are unique and change frequently -- so make sure to stop by often.

Best Art Gallery: Blackhawk Gallery

This gallery not only has artists from all around the San Francisco Bay Area in their 10-week long exhibits, they also donate a percentage of sales to the ADAS Art For The School Program Grants.

Best Auto Dealership: Diablo Motors

Get your next car at this local, "non-dealer-ish" and honest store. Our readers rave about Greg Meier's personal service and knowledge. As they say at Diablo Motors, "Life's too short to drive a crummy car."

Best Auto Repair: Auto Care of Danville

Our readers take their cars to Auto Care of Danville to give their cars a proper checkup, to fix anything and everything with reasonable speed and prices, and for the competent and friendly staff that help get their vehicles into tip-top shape.

Best Auto Detail/Car Wash: Chamois Hand Car Wash

Sure, you could wash the car yourself in the driveway but who wants to, especially during these drought times? And don't you always miss a spot? At Chamois in Danville, your car will come away positively gleaming and well-pampered.

Best Carpet/Flooring Store: Carpet One

Locally owned and operated, Carpet One Floor & Home in San Ramon has a 100% guarantee that you'll love your floor, and a Healthier Living Carpet Installation System to minimize allergens, mold, mildew and dust.

Best Florist: East Bay Flower Company

This shop is lovely inside and out. For special occasions or just because -- say it with flowers.

Best Hardware Store: Ace Hardware

Get service with a smile, along with everything you need for home improvement and gardening.

Best Home Improvement Contractor: Gayler Construction

Gayler Construction has a well-deserved reputation for being on time, on budget, with professional management and staff. This award-winning, green-certified design and build firm in Danville has been our Readers Choice for years.

Best Home Furnishings: Home Consignment Center

As Home Consignment Center's sales have grown, furniture factories have started to consign their samples, closeouts, overruns or other products directly to the stores, meaning great deals on new furniture, too.

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 Homebuilder: Shapell Homes

Committed to excellent craftsmanship, innovative architecture and customer satisfaction, Shapell Homes takes care to design homes for the utmost comfort.

Best Nursery/Garden Center: Navlet's

Plants from ground covers to trees to everything in between keep our readers returning to this anchor of the Rose Garden. Don't forget to buy bird seed.

Best Senior Living Facility (TIE): Diablo Lodge and Sunrise Living

Lush and plush, Diablo Lodge is the best place to relax and enjoy after a lifetime of labor. If raucous and rowdy are more your style, one reader suggests visiting Elliot's Bar, but this is the place for tranquility.

Sunrise Living offers residents all the comforts of home, freedom, and happiness. This is the place to make fast friends and engage in life-enriching daily activities with the benefit of experienced and attentive caregivers.

Rest & Recreation

Best Girls Night Out Spot: Martini Sky

Indulge in a well-crafted martini and great appetizers, including truffle macaroni and cheese or lobster potstickers. Upscale but not stuffy, Martini Sky in Danville is a lovely place to gab with the girls.

Best Golf Course: Diablo Country Club

Recognized as one of the most desirable courses in the Bay Area, the Diablo Country Club golf course has small, challenging greens and is perfect for a good game in the beautiful countryside.

Best Hobby/Craft Store: Richard's Arts & Crafts

We dare you to walk through Richard's Arts & Crafts without considering taking up a crafty hobby, from beading to artificial flower arranging to scrapbooking.

Best Kept Secret Treasure of Danville: Osage Station Park

This hidden treasure has a little bit of everything -- rose gardens, little league fields, playgrounds, jogging trails and plenty of spaces to nap or relax. As an added bonus it's dog friendly, so furry friends can enjoy the fun too.

Best Kept Secret Treasure of San Ramon: Dougherty Valley Performing Arts Center

Our readers love the beautiful, upscale venue for everything from comedy shows to high school musicals. Both audience members and performers can enjoy good acoustics and clean facilities.

Best Place for Dancing: Meenar's

Meenar's is the place our readers like to get down on a Friday night, showing off moves to both live music and DJs playing 80's, hip hop and rock and roll. Indulge in a drink and join the crowd.

Best Place for Live Music: McGah's Pub and Pianos

The dueling pianos at McGah's are high energy fun -- sing along, drink along, and request whatever song you want to hear. They now also have the Country and Cocktails music series featuring songs from chart-toppers and vintage country crooners.

Best Place to People Watch: Hartz Avenue, Danville

Lined with lovely shops and delicious places to eat, Hartz Avenue in the heart of downtown Danville is our readers' favorite place to kick back and watch all the people enjoying their time out on the town.

Best Place to Watch a Televised Ballgame: Fieldhouse Sports Grill

With 25 screens playing all the premium sports channels, you won't miss a single play at Fieldhouse in Blackhawk. The perfect place for a cold beer, an awesome meal, and all the games your inner fanatic desires.

Best Public Event: 4th of July Parade

Attracting over 40,000 attendees each year from the San Ramon Valley and beyond, the 4th of July Parade in Danville has it all -- from dance teams to vintage cars, Boy Scout troops to drill teams. Celebrate Independence Day with a full day of fun.


Like this comment
Posted by Louisa
a resident of Danville
on Oct 24, 2014 at 5:59 pm

I really question and am skeptical of some of the winners for the 2014 Reader's Choice. E.g., Uncle Yu's as Best Chinese restaurant and In-N-Out as Best Hamburger??!! I do not believe they are clearly the "Best". What about 3 Brothers and The Habit in San Ramon?

It seems like the selections of the winners for the Reader's Choice is more of a popularity contest rather than being the "Best" in the area.

Like this comment
Posted by Derek
a resident of Danville
on Oct 25, 2014 at 9:57 am

Uncle Yu's is outright nasty, and a real head spinner as a first choice winner. The real question (you out there, Gina?) is why this list looks EXACTLY the same every year.
Leo's is far better than most of what passes for Chinese food up in this area, and several other good places never seem to make the list either. Most eateries that are on the list are pretty sub-par. Up here in Danville, if you put high prices on the menu and use a lot of fancy French & Italian words, that's all it takes to get them on the hook. It's it is greasy, pricey, and/or pretentious that seems to be the right formula. No accounting for bad taste.

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Posted by PE
a resident of Danville
on Oct 27, 2014 at 11:37 am

I agree with Derek and Louisa. I find myself searching for better places outside our area for better quality, service and fair prices. Just for example even though it wasn't voted as one of the "Best", I was embarrassed when I entertained guests at Father Natures in Danville, and was bombarded with a very loud band while trying to enjoy our meals and conversation. I couldn't wait to leave the place. The old, plastic, cheap, patio furniture made me not want to sit in the chairs and ruin my clothing. It seems that some of Danville areas are so sure of their past good reputation that they do not try anymore to be better and just take it for granted that people will come. I chuckle when I hear that Danville residents should support their local businesses----why not the local businesses should try to earn our business instead.

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Posted by Derek
a resident of Danville
on Oct 27, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Father Nature's sort of gets weaker as the day goes on. I think their breakfasts are quite good, and we still go there for lunch sometimes, but dinner is overpriced, mediocre, and as you observed, often quite noisy.
Most of the eateries in the Walgreens/pet Food Express part of the Livery are very good, and Santorini is excellent. And there are some other good ones here, but they never seem to make the list. Personally I think Walnut Creek has by far a higher percentage of good restaurants than Danville, but some might disagree.

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Posted by Catherine
a resident of Danville
on Oct 28, 2014 at 2:53 pm

@ Louisa

What gave it away that is was a popularity contest? It is a poll of the reader's choices, and polls are never a gauge to go by. Some of the choices say to me people don't get out much...

Like this comment
Posted by Mona
a resident of Monte Vista High School
on Jan 29, 2016 at 4:57 am

That reader choice was a little odd in my opinion.

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Nominations due by Sept. 17 and Pleasanton Weekly are once again putting out a call for nominations and sponsorships for the annual Tri-Valley Heroes awards - our salute to the community members dedicated to bettering the Tri-Valley and the lives of its residents.

Nomination form