http://paloaltoonline.com/print/story/print/2013/08/30/best-of-2013


Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - August 30, 2013

Best of 2013

A snapshot of the Palo Alto area will show a place teeming with tasty restaurants, handy service businesses and retailers whose wares are all the rage. The Weekly is eager to share which hotels, eateries and shops its readers have given the thumbs up to.

Which florist has the most followers? Which Thai restaurant is trending? Which chiropractor got the most clicks? Maybe it's safest if this year's best skin care business doesn't "go viral," but we'll find out which yogurt yelpers said "yes" to.

Some of these are first timers and others are hall of famers with three years on Best Of's timeline.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your search engines.

Best of Palo Alto's friend list

Editors: Eric Van Susteren and Elena Kadvany

Writers: Carol Blitzer, John Brunett, Sue Dremann, Rye Druzin, Chris Kenrick, Karishma Mehrotra and Gennady Sheyner

Publicity and logistics: Rachel Palmer and Miranda Chatfield

Photographers: Christophe Haubursin, Michelle Le and Veronica Weber

Designers: Linda Atilano, Lili Cao, Shannon Corey, Roseanna Leung, Paul Llewellyn, Scott Peterson and Kameron Sawyer

SERVICE

Acupuncture

With the right mix of professional care and quality results, Annie Wang Acupuncture proved to voters that the business is much more satisfying than a Facebook poke. The first-time winner provides health care services to alleviate a host of symptoms and conditions, including pain, headaches, allergies and stress. 895 Sherwood Ave., Suite 101, Los Altos, 650-468-3636; www.anniewanglac.com

Auto Repair

The reason Larry's AutoWorks was voted best auto repair shop is quite simple: "We're the best," owner Larry Moore says. He says that his customers always tell him that they keep coming back because Moore and his team are straight-shooters. If it isn't broken or if it doesn't make sense to fix, Moore will tell his customers just that. "We take care of cars," he acknowledges, "but what we really take care of is car owners." 2526 Leghorn St., Mountain View, 650-968-5202

New Service Business

Practical yoga teachings meet modern, stylized ambiance at Samyama Yoga on Middlefield Road. Enjoy Ascension, its spacious, naturally lit studio with white oak flooring, where the sun's rays seep in to warm the room during the daytime and vibrantly light its walls as it sets. Maybe relax in its sleek lounge or its de-stressing massage room — wherever you go, you'll be enveloped in a deeply relaxing and constructive ambiance. 2995 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-320-9262; samyamayogacenter.com

Chiropractor

Customers agree for the second year running that Health Logic is the best chiropractor to remove the groans and aches in the body and improve your quality of life. Their chiropractors use unconventional preventative medical techniques to strengthen the body and prevent ailments. Health Logic crafts wellness programs with patients and also offers physiotherapy, bone density screenings and lifestyle advice. 633 Menlo Ave., Menlo Park, 650-853-1800; healthlogicllc.com

Day Spa

Life is already stressful, so chill out. Sometimes you need a break and time to relax. With hot-tub rooms, full-hour Swedish massage (either deep tissue or prenatal), skincare and spa treatments, Watercourse Way may be the perfect place to do just that. It's got the Best Of chops to prove it — previous to winning this year, it had three consecutive Hall of Fame appearances. 165 Channing Ave., Palo Alto, 650-462-2000; www.watercourseway.com

Dentist

For all your teeth-related needs, head to Palo Alto Dental Group, a local establishment that's still operating out of the same building it opened in, in 1934. State-of-the-art technology, high-quality care, friendly and experienced staff and a committed attention to detail make Palo Alto Dental Group the best dentist in town. 511 Byron St., Palo Alto, 650-323-1381; www.paloaltodentalgroup.com/

Dry Cleaner

AJ's Quick Clean, which won for best dry cleaner in 2010 and tied with Charleston Cleaners last year, is known for quick turnaround, friendly service and environmentally conscious dry cleaning. AJ's also serves as a laundromat and is conveniently located next to Philz Coffee's midtown location. Grab a cup of joe and hang out while your clothes get clean! 3175 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-494-1550; AJsCleaners.com

Fitness Classes

Readers were euphoric over exercise at Uforia Studios in Palo Alto. Taking on the legendary runner's high, the studio claims its workouts are "so much fun you'll forget it's good for you." Instructors with performance backgrounds, such as dancing and acting, take students through the moves of such energetic workouts as Zumba, GRIT cardio and strengthening, "fever" aerobics and Revolution, a full-body cycling workout developed by a dancer. When time is of the essence, Uforia exercise makes the most with intense, satisfying workouts. 819 Ramona St., Palo Alto, 650-329-8794; www.uforiastudios.com

Frame Shop

Need help finding a specialized frame? Want an art supply but just can't find it anywhere? Accent Arts has what you need, delivering a wide range of framing options and art supplies to artists throughout the area. It's unique selection means that you will never be bored, and their friendly and helpful staff will make sure that you get the attention and help that you need. Accent Arts also offers an online store that allows for easy access to their vast inventory. 392 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-424-1044; accentarts.com

University Art

Hall of Fame: First Year

Want to hang a photo in something that is more than a flat frame? Looking to make a custom gift for someone special? You can find what you need at University Art, a mainstay of downtown Palo Alto located at the intersection of Hamilton and Ramona since 1964. University Art provides a full range of art supplies for the professional and amateur artists alike, as well as a friendly and knowledgeable staff to navigate the store and assist you with your framing questions. 267 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, 650-328-3500; universityart.com

Gym

The spotless, expansive gym at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center continues to dazzle and challenge visitors with its wide array of muscle-toning, pound-shedding, endurance-building offerings. Aside from the usual treadmills and bench presses, the JCC gym features two swimming pools (one for children and one for adults), cycling studios and a large roster of friendly and knowledgeable personal trainers offering individual advice and group classes on pilates, Zumba, Vinyasa yoga and other activities guaranteed to get hearts pumping and endorphins soaring. 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto, 650-223-8700; www.paloaltojcc.org

Hair Salon

For the fourth straight year, voters have chosen Hair International as the best place to get a fresh new cut. The salon, which also is in its second year of Hall of Fame for Men's Haircut, takes both appointments and walk-ins. For the extra mile in beauty, Hair International offers Brazilian blow-dries, facial hair waxing and threading, and spa-style manicures and pedicures.232 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, 650-324-2007; www.hairintl.com

Hotel

Rosewood Sand Hill, winner of "Best Hotel" for the fifth year, has become a center of the Peninsula social scene since its opening in 2009. Locals, as well as hotel guests, enjoy the hotel's relaxed California ranch atmosphere, Madera restaurant, the terrace for sunset cocktails, and the lounge for a lively scene in any season. New this year are Saturday jazz nights in the hotel lobby lounge and the in-house chocolate line (used for desserts, wedding favors and turn-down services), launched by executive pastry chef Mellisa Root. There is also a new treatment "menu" at Sense spa. 2825 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, 650-561-1500; www.rosewoodhotels.com/en/sandhill/

Hotel

Hall of Fame: First Year

Visitors to Palo Alto find the perfect home away from home at the luxury, boutique Garden Court Hotel, voted "best hotel" so many times it's now in the Hall of Fame. Even sans automobile, newcomers easily can get the local lay of the land, with quiet neighborhood streets as well as all the attractions of downtown at their doorstep, and Stanford not much farther. The Garden Court remains popular with locals as well as an elegant venue for weddings, private dinners and election-night parties. 520 Cowper St., Palo Alto, 650-322-9000; gardencourt.com

Manicure/Pedicure

Get your nails looking their finest at LaBelle Day Spa and Salon where business has been thriving since 1976. With two other Bay Area locations, the salon with the winning manicure and pedicure of 2013 can expertly complete your spa treatment with their signature treatments like Nights in Bordeaux and Pumpkin Pie Pedicure. Founder Bella Schneider is considered a skincare industry leader with a growing product line — a trusty professional for your polished nail care. 95 Town and Country Village, Palo Alto, 650-327-6964; www.labelledayspas.com/

Massage (TIE)

See complete listing for Watercourse Way under Day Spa.

For all your bodily aches and pains, head to the Massage Therapy Center on California Avenue, which won best massage for the third year in a row. Services range beyond your typical massage and include acupuncture, acupressure, deep work massage, pregnancy massage, trigger point therapy and more. "We're thrilled to receive this award three years in a row and take this opportunity to extend our deep appreciation to our loyal clients, skilled therapists and superb management!" Lucia Miracchi, owner (and therapist) wrote in an email. 368 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-328-9400; massagetherapypaloalto.com

Men's Haircut

From the striped barber pole out front to the television in the corner tuned in to news or ESPN, The President Barbershop is a hair place for men. It's guys cutting guys' hair. Straightforward and timeless. "This is how God intended men to get their haircuts," a patron on Yelp said. The barbershop has been a Palo Alto fixture for more than 60 years — and that's a lot of haircuts — from crew cuts to mohawks, and everything in between. It is also a 2012 "Best of" winner. 490 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-325-5229.

Men's Haircut

Hall of Fame: Second Year

See complete listing for Hair International under Hair Salon.

Orthodontists

In a steady march to the Hall of Fame, Midpeninsula Orthodontics has again gathered the most likes as well as the smiles from satisfied Palo Altans. Dr. Stacey Quo has led the business to its win in this category by making patients feel comfortable and providing excellent care. 965 High St., Palo Alto, 650-328-1600; www.orthoquo.com

Personal Trainer

Oshman Family Jewish Community Center's motto, "Live Fully," is apt for 2013's best personal trainer. For ages 10 and up, their certified trainers commit to your health and fitness goals, helping you lose body fat, gain muscles and even increase confidence. The state-of-the-art fitness center offers a "BeWell Orientation" to assess clients' fitness status quo and three one-hour introductory sessions to build on that assessment, giving you an easy adjustment into their comprehensive programs.3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto, 650-223-8700; www.paloaltojcc.org

Plumber

Customers at Guy Plumbing appreciate the company's trust and reliability, and readers have once again named the family-owned business best plumber. Owner Dave Guy said that customers enjoy the fourth-generation company because not many businesses today focus on face-to-face interactions and customer service. "It's good to see that there's still interest in the hands-on, mechanical aspect of business," he said. The business has responded to city and county water-saving regulations by providing products that both work well and minimize water usage. "We're becoming familiar with how to save water," he said. "Customers are pleased with it." 1265 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 650-323-8421; www.guyplumbing.com

Shoe Repair

Whether you're doing some sole-searching, need to get your shoe in the door at the next job interview or just repair your relationship with your footwear, Midtown Shoe Repair has the tools and expertise to make your old shoes sparkle. The store, which also repairs luggage, is located in its titular neighborhood and has made frequent appearances in previous editions of Best Of Palo Alto. 2796 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-329-8171

Skin Care

LaBelle Day Spa and Salon is where Palo Altans go to pamper themselves. The salon is known for excellent quality manicure/pedicures and a staff with extreme attention to detail. LaBelle is also the best when it comes to skin care, with 14 different kinds of facials that pamper, deep clean, hydrate, brighten and leave your skin feeling better than ever. 95 Town & Country Village, Palo Alto, 650-327-6964; www.labelledayspas.com

Skin Care

Hall of Fame: Second year

Skin Spirit is the best of the best when it comes to skin care in Palo Alto, comfortably staying in the Best Of Hall of Fame for a second year. Exceptional quality of service and treatments consistently set Skin Spirit apart. 701 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 650-324-9600; skinspirit.com

Travel Agency

Whether picking up a map or needing travel plans, readers give AAA in Palo Alto a triple-A rating. The quiet building on Forest Avenue has been a longtime destination spot for travelers looking for direction and advice. Expert agents will help plan that vacation of one's dreams, from a trip to Disneyland with the kids to a honeymoon or anniversary excursion to an exotic isle. There are many trip packages for seniors, too. 430 Forest Ave., Palo Alto, 650-262-3870; www.csaa.com

Value Hotel/Motel

Only minutes from downtown, the Creekside Inn has won Best Of for the third year in a row. Creekside Inn allows guests to choose from 136 well-appointed guest rooms in this charming boutique hotel. The hotel is eco-friendly and provides guests with beautiful landscaping, a heated outdoor pool, 24-hour fitness center, and access to free shuttles to Stanford University and local restaurants. 3400 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-493-2411; www.creekside-inn.com

Veterinarian (TIE)

With almost 50 years in the pet-health game, it's no wonder readers chose Adobe Animal Hospital as winner of this year's best veterinarian. With more than 20 vets, 24/7 urgent and emergency care, a pharmacy, and a policy of constantly having a vet staffed for around-the-clock intensive care, Adobe's readers are purring, yelping, chirping for its im-peck-able care. 4470 El Camino Real, Los Altos, 650-948-9661

Whether it be a dog, cat, parrot or monkey, Mid Peninsula Animal Hospital has proven to voters yet again that it is Palo Alto's best veterinary service. The business boasts up-to-date technology and professional care that one would expect for themselves, let alone their furry loved one. Additional services include dentistry, boarding, and concierge. 1125 Merrill St., Menlo Park, 650-325-5671; www.midpen.com

Yoga

Focused on a wide range of yoga types, students at any level will feel welcome with the experienced instructors at YogaSource. The studio offers classes for those who prefer the intense, challenging and hot bikram yoga and those who choose the peaceful yin yoga. Their newest addition is a cutting-edge teacher training program for aspiring instructors. 158 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, 650-328-9642; www.yogasource.com

RETAIL

Beauty Supply

Selling every kind of product from hair care to skin care, Peninsula Beauty Supply has what readers need for their everyday — and special day — beauty and personal care. What's more, every year a portion of Peninsula Beauty Supply's sales go to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, Community Breast Health Project, Women's Recovery Association and the Shelter Network. 250 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-327-1454; www.peninsulabeauty.com

Bike Shop

Looking for a new mountain bike, beach cruiser or car racks? Need to get your old road bike repaired? Head over to Mike's Bikes, where friendly, knowledgeable, bike-obsessive staff are always on hand to help you get back on those two wheels. 3001 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-858-7700; mikesbikes.com

Bookstore

Having trouble finding your next book club's selection? The friendly folks at Books, Inc. will be happy to help. They might even encourage you to join the 4th Tuesday Book Club (for discussions of contemporary fiction) or start 'em early with the Book Busters Book Club, for ages 9 to 12. If the gifts you're seeking are for kids, be sure to check out the toy section in the back; for yourself, you might want to discover an extensive travel section or the shelves that focus on books by local authors. 74 Town & Country Village, Palo Alto, 650-321-0600; www.booksinc.net

Bookstore

Hall of Fame: First Year

After 58 years, Kepler's Books and Magazines, which was part of the paperback revolution, has survived online booksellers and the digital revolution. Started by pacifist Roy Kepler, the bookstore remains the intellectual and cultural destination spot of the Peninsula, showcasing world-class authors at its events. Kepler's has been praised for its quality selection of books and magazines and its knowledgeable staff. It's a bit smaller, but readers are glad it still thrives. Few retail businesses can boast the groundswell of community support bestowed on the much-loved Kepler's. 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 650-324-4321; www.keplers.com

Boutique

Shady Lane has been on the Best Of list since 2010. Its window lures any passerby in to peruse local artisans' best work and most don't leave without a new Native American bracelet, a beaded cell phone pouch, or any other item from this downtown treasure's collection of jewelry, art glass, woodworking, gemstones and more. The valuables at the charming shop make fine gifts and neat keepsakes for loved ones. 441 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-321-1099; shadylanegallery.com

Eyewear

It's clear to see why Uber Eyes made it into this year's Best Of. Uber Eyes focuses on the fundamentals of eye care with glaucoma and Lasik consultations and eye exams for kids and adults alike. But Uber Eyes hasn't just set its sights on exams — the staff believe that glasses can be the ultimate accessory for personal style, and it proves it by offering more than 30 brands of designer eyewear to choose from. 2750 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-321-3382; www.ubereyes.com

Florist

The source of countless Instagram photos, Stanford Floral Design has been helping people find the right mix of flowers for whatever occasion since 1994. Although the business will close down its location on Hamilton on Sept. 30, owner Werner Rogmans said he will continue to operate in Palo Alto and can be reached by phone or email. This is the second time Stanford Floral Design has won the category, coming back to win after first claiming victory in 2011. 433 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, 650-462-8230; www.stanford-floraldesign.com

Located on Waverley Street just off University Avenue, Michaela's Flower Shop has its roots in downtown Palo Alto and is planted in the minds of Palo Altans as the go-to place for flowers for any situation. The popularity of Michaela's Flower Shop stems first from its attentive customer service and broad bounty of beautiful bouquets. So put the petal to the metal, and check it out! 453 Waverley St., Palo Alto, 650-321-5390; michaelasflowershop.com\

Gift Shop

See complete listing for Shady Lane under Boutique.

Green Business

Over its 41 years of existence this business has pioneered recycling and biking in Palo Alto. At the same time it has encouraged and taught citizens how to be sustainable in their gardens and homes through classes and tours. Common Ground provides a store full of sustainable materials, including non-GMO seeds, natural fertilizer and a knowledgeable and friendly volunteer staff. Common Ground also puts on multiple events every year, most recently showcasing 10 edible gardens in the surrounding cities. 559 College Ave, Palo Alto, 650-493-6072; www.commongroundinpaloalto.org

Green Business

Hall of Fame: Second Year

Whether you call it Palo Alto Hardware, Ace Hardware, or (its most recent incarnation) Hassett Hardware, this Alma Street fixture remains the city's most prominent and popular destination for local tinkerers, fixers, innovators and energy conservationists. The perennial winner also walks the walk when it comes to green energy, having achieved recognition in recent years for its ambitious eco-friendly features, including a photovoltaic roof that supplies 95 percent of the store's electricity. 875 Alma St., Palo Alto, 650-327-7222; www.paloaltohardware.com

Hardware store

See complete listing for Palo Alto Hardware under Green Business.

Home Decor & Furnishings

Designs are colorful, attractive and reasonably priced — and now IKEA even offers shopping tips online so the experience needn't be overwhelming: First, check out the website, make a list (and check product availability), drop the kids at the play area, take a break and sample some Swedish meatballs, then checkout and take your gems home. And if you can't figure out the directions to get your dresser from flat pack to stand-up bureau, there's help available (for a fee). 1700 E. Bayshore Road, East Palo Alto, 650-323-4532; www.ikea.com

Jewelry Store

See complete listing for Shady Lane under Boutique.

Men's Apparel

Whether you are dressing up for a wedding or just looking for a nice pair of shoes, Macy's has everything a man could want. Macy's carries top brand names such as Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and more. Men will be able to find whatever they need for the occasion in Macy's well-laid-out store, whether they crave suit jackets, running shorts or just a good pair of jeans. 300 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, 650-326-3333; www.macys.com

Men's Apparel

Hall of Fame: Second Year

A man with any type of fashion sense will find the perfect, complete look at Nordstrom with its wide array of choices in jeans, shirts, suits and more. If you are looking for active wear, casual clothing or formal attire for a special occasion, Nordstrom's classy and trendy styles will catch your eye. And on top of it all, its helpful customer service will land you the perfect outfit. 550 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, 650-323-5111; www.shop.nordstrom.com

New Retail Business

How can one surf the web for hours without a comfy couch to lounge in? For its excellent selection of home decor, voters have selected West Elm as the best new business in town. Get the coolest styles in furniture to deck out your home at their downtown store, or check online for a wider selection. 180 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-329-8086; www.westelm.com

Nursery/Garden Supply

Your garden problems will vanish after help from SummerWinds Nursery. Whether it be their Garden Coach service that sends professionals to your home to assess your gardening challenges or their home-delivery service for all the large trees, plants and garden accessories you need, their team is there to help. Even beyond their customer service and quality plants, their email specials will keep you in the loop for sales and special events. With seven South Bay Area locations, service is right next door. 725 San Antonio Road, Palo Alto, 650-493-5136; www.summerwindsca.com

Pet Store

Pet owners across the Bay Area go to Pet Food Express for its crunchy, meaty, fishy morsels for pets. But the stores, including its Middlefield Road location in Palo Alto, offer a whole suite of other services — a self-service pet wash (complete with air dryers, towels and aprons to keep you dry during particularly vigorous dog shake-offs). It also hosts events such as pet adoption days and community veterinary clinics, during which you can poke your pooch with a vaccine or microchip your meowing pal. 3910 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-856-6666; www.petfoodexpress.com

Pharmacy/Drug Store

Ripped your shorts? Ran out of batteries? Got a blister? Tired of your nail-polish color? Need a quick gift? CVS is our readers' favorite destination. Aisles are filled with everything you could possible need, from greeting cards and wrapping paper to TP or a quart of milk. Oh yes, and prescriptions can be filled and over-the-counter meds for colds, allergies or a hacking cough can be found in abundance. 2701 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-330-0132; 3935 Town & Country Village, Palo Alto, 650-322-2554; 352 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-324-3248; www.cvs.com

Pharmacy/Drug Store

Hall of Fame: Second Year

Even the social media/technologically impaired can appreciate why Walgreens made it to the Hall of Fame. Its app allows photos to be uploaded from a smartphone (and prints picked up hours later at one of the three Palo Alto locations) or prescriptions to be scanned (and refills picked up soon after). There's even a map of the store to guide you. Who could ask for anything more? 4170 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-858-2007; 300 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-326-3876; 2605 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-566-9723; walgreens.com

Shoe Store

Step into Footwear, Etc. and walk out with a pair or two of shoes that will have your feet dancing. From leather to animal-friendly products, this longtime downtown business offers dozens of shoes, boots and sandals for all lifestyles. Need a good walking shoe for that tour of Rome? Footwear will find the perfect style — and in hard-to-find sizes and widths. The knowledgeable staff knows how to give customers the perfect comfort fit. 463 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-328-1122; www.footwearetc.com

Sporting Goods & Apparel

Need that extra motivation to work out? Head to Lululemon Athletica for the brightest, hippest workout apparel for both men and women. Whether you're a yogi, runner or aspiring athlete, Lululemon is bound to have some gear that's right for you. 432 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-566-1617; lululemon.com

Stationery Store

It always amazes me that I never receive two identical birthday cards. My friends must be shopping at Village Stationers, which boasts an amazing selection of designers, from zany to religious. They even stock some vintage cards at vintage prices. But cards aren't the only draw: scrapbooking materials, stuffed animals, hostess gifts, office supplies — what an entertaining way to spend a lunch hour. 310 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-326-7970; 719 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park, 650-321-6920

Toy Store

Going on a picnic and need a frisbee? Got a niece or nephew turning 10? Want to surprise a loved one with a cuddly teddy bear? Take a look inside one of Palo Alto's most revered retail stores, Palo Alto Sport Shop & Toy World. This is the fourth year in a row the business has nabbed first place in this category. 526 Waverley St., Palo Alto, 650-328-8555; toyandsport.com

Women's Apparel

Whether you are looking for a professional business outfit for work or casual attire for a weekend outing, Nordstrom has the latest styles and fashions for women. Their large selection of jeans, dresses, tops and more will fit the flair of women who like more cutting-edge and outgoing trends as well as the ladies who want a comforting and conventional look. No matter the age or the size, you're sure to find your match at this store. 550 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, 650-323-5111; nordstroms.com

FOOD AND DRINK

Bagels (TIE)

Can a Palo Altan close her eyes, click her heels and transport herself to Brooklyn? Well, no, but it's not for lack of trying at Izzy's Brooklyn Bagels, readers' choice for best bagels. Festooned with 1930s photos of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the major Brooklyn thoroughfare Nostrand Avenue, Izzy's offers a huge selection of bagels and schmear, not to mention hamantaschen and varieties of rugelah and knish. A crammed community bulletin board advertises everything from Hebrew school to a blood drive to Stanford medical studies in search of subjects. 477 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-329-0700; 2220-B University Ave., East Palo Alto, 650-322-5700;

izzysbrooklynbagels.com

Downtown's undisputed bagel champion has never been afraid to transcend the traditional. In addition to the usual bagel comforts — the hot crust, the fresh lox, the gooey cream cheese — House of Bagels features plenty of zestier, sexier ingredients, including pesto and jalapeno. It's not just bagels, either. The University Avenue establishment also offers a broad and doughy selection of delectables, from tuna sandwiches and turkey hot dogs to piroshki and spanikopita. 526 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-322-5189; houseofbagels.org

Bakery/Desserts

Sweets are certainly trending at the Prolific Oven, where Palo Altans have been heading since 1980. Prolific Oven offers multiple style cake options for order (French or American?), desserts from cannoli to cupcakes to cheese-swirled brownies, holiday pies, homemade bread and more. "We are ECSTATIC that Palo Alto still loves us!" Regina Chan, daughter of Prolific Oven owner Henry Chan, wrote in an email. "We are all seeing downtown Palo Alto change a bit — businesses coming and going, and we're thrilled to receive this award because it means we are still doing something right." Head to the Oven for a coffee, sandwich and your dessert of choice — but make sure you check in on FourSquare first! 550 Waverley St., Palo Alto, 650-326-8485; prolificoven.com

BBQ

Have a hankering for mouth-watering ribs? Chicken in a special barbecue sauce, coupled with corn muffins and sweet butter? Or maybe just a fresh salad with crispy greens and toasted croutons with a balsamic vinaigrette? If any of these appeal, you're in total agreement that Armadillo Willy's has met its goal since 1983 — to "serve the best barbecue this side of Texas." 994 Acacia Ave., Los Altos, 650-948-4659; armadillowillys.com

Breakfast

There is almost always a short wait for a table at Joanie's Cafe, one of California Avenue's most bustling eateries. Joanie's has been a destination spot for 26 years, serving up omelets, crepes and waffles for breakfast and burgers, salads and sandwiches for lunch, including French staples such as Croque Monsieur and onion soup. Dinner at the perennial Weekly Best Of favorite includes more refined fare, including grilled salmon Provencal, ravioli scampi and green peppercorn flank steak. 405 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-326-6505; joaniescafepaloalto.com

Burgers

For the last 65 years, this establishment has served steakburgers to generation after generation of Palo Altans, Stanford students and techies. Kirk's Steakburger is renowned for its third-pound burgers, milkshakes and fries. Customize your burger with Kirk's row of toppings. Opened in 1948, Kirk's still uses the same butcher to supply its ground steak. Come get your charcoal-grilled burger while it's hot! 75 Town & Country Village, Palo Alto, 650-326-6159; kirks-steakburgers.com

Hall of Fame: Second Year

The Counter calls itself "the 21st century's bold answer to the classic burger joint" and it most certainly is. At The Counter, you can custom-create your own burger from an extensive number of options. Step one: Choose a burger (beef, chicken breast, turkey or vegan veggie). Step two: Choose a cheese (from yellow American to herb goat cheese spread). Step three: Choose up to four toppings (too many to list). Step four: Choose a sauce. Step five: Choose a bun. Step six: Enjoy. 369 S. California Ave., Palo Alto; thecounterburger.com/paloalto

Burrito

For the first time, Sancho's has won over the hearts of Palo Alto's burrito lovers, taking over for two-time champion Chipotle as the best burrito in town. Perhaps what won voters over is the new Midtown location on Middlefield Road that opened in 2012, complete with a bigger menu for vegetarians and an outside patio dining area. Sancho's offers catering or a Taco Truck to help feed your next birthday party, reunion or wedding. 491 Lytton Ave., Palo Alto, 650-322-TACO (8226); 2723 Middlefield Road, 650-324-TACO (8226); sanchostaqueria.com

Deli/Sandwich

The Village Cheese House has been a staple part of Palo Alto residents' diets for more than 50 years. While they have kept their special, signature sauce, they have added vegetarian and gluten-free diet options. But Palo Alto's treasured full-service deli is known for its quality meat: roast beef, ham, turkey and more. The Cheese House's famous double-decker sandwich — the "Old Fashioned"— is sure to please. 157 Town & Country Village, Palo Alto, 650-326-9251; thevch.com/

Dim Sum

The carpeted, dignified dining rooms of Palo Alto's classic and ever-popular Ming's Chinese Cuisine and Bar can be counted on to deliver a high-quality and authentic experience, with a full Chinese menu in addition to endless trays of made-from-scratch dim sum choices. It's also one of the very few local establishments open 365 days a year. 1700 Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto, 650-856-7700; mings.com

Grocery Store

At a time when words like "organic," "free range" and "gluten free" are being co-opted by seemingly every new restaurant and supermarket, Whole Foods remains Palo Alto's undisputed king of health eating in downtown Palo Alto. When the Emerson Street fixture opened its doors in 1989, it became the first Whole Foods outside of Texas. While the store's inventory has changed to accommodate the latest foodie whims and healthy habits, its commitment to freshness and sustainability has never wavered. 774 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 650-326-8676; wholefoodsmarket.com

Grocery Store

Hall of Fame: First Year

Where would we be without cookie butter, Joe-Joe's, Joe's O's, Trader Giotto or Trader Jose? Lost. But good thing we don't have to be, with Trader Joe's in Palo Alto serving all of our grocery needs. Trader Joes does it all — fresh produce, delicious prepared foods, meat and poultry, beer and wine — and does it at the right price. 140 Town & Country Village, Palo Alto, 650-327-7018; traderjoes.com

Happy Hour

Back to claim another title, NOLA is the New Orleans-themed bar that Palo Altans, Stanford students and young professionals love to frequent. Voters deemed the bar as Palo Alto's best Happy Hour back in 2011, featuring raspberry mojitos, ginger juleps and Hurricane bowls. NOLA has claimed this category in back-to-back years, making it the easy choice for locals looking for a fun night. 535 Ramona St, Palo Alto, 650-328-2722; nolas.com

Ice Cream

Back from its third year in the readers' Hall of Fame, Rick's Ice Cream hits it out of the ball park again for 2013. Each day 48 flavors are churned fresh, including exotics such as Kulfi, a rose-flavored concoction with pistachios; white chocolate ginger; and Sideways, made with Cabernet. Swirl your tongue around the frosty treats in a cone or a cup. Add ice cream cakes, fudge and other sweets, and there are plenty of options for any sweet tooth. 3946 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-493-6553; ricksicecream.com

Milkshake

The milkshakes are creamy and thick, churned out and served in classic metal cans. Peninsula Creamery Dairy Store has been in the same location since 1923, when it opened as a dairy distributor. The store looks as if it has been trapped in the 1950s, with its red vinyl chairs. Though the days of milk delivery are over, the Creamery still makes a mean shake. With 11 flavors of ice cream to choose from, your options are endless. 900 High St., Palo Alto, 650-323-3175; peninsulacreamery.com

Hall of Fame: Third Year

As its website blurb says, five generations of Palo Altans have raved about the milkshakes at Palo Alto Creamery Fountain & Grill. A change of ownership never seems to make a dent in the quality of those thick, creamy shakes — something Stanford grads can count on when they come back for reunion weekend. Even the extras — whipped cream, hot fudge, peanut butter, dates or banana — are mouthwatering. Two straws, please. 566 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 650-323-3131; www.paloaltocreamery.com

New Food/Drink Establishment

Success in San Francisco does not necessarily translate to success in Palo Alto, but La Boulange has impressed voters with its French baking talents and ambient dining areas. Situated on the corner of University Avenue and High Street, the bakery features brunch, salads, sandwiches and organic coffee on the menu. 151 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-323-3332; laboulangebakery.com

Pizza

Patxi's Chicago Pizza deep-dish pizza isn't your average pizza. This Chicago-style pizzeria chain started in Palo Alto in 2004 and has continued to hook Bay Area and Denver residents ever since. Its Palo Alto location has an old-style feel, with tile floors and plate glass windows, mixed with modern lighting and a charming bar. And when it comes to the food, its varied options will leave your mouth watering. 441 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 650-473-9999; patxispizza.com

Produce

With an abundance of strollers, backpacks, bicycles, kids and dogs, the California Avenue Farmers' Market feels like Palo Alto's new, multilingual town square. The year-round, Sunday morning market, chockablock with fruits and vegetables of the season, is this year's readers' pick for Best Produce. Rain or shine, the dazzling colors of all the farm-fresh products are sure to cheer you up: peaches, plums, berries, peppers, squash, potatoes, fennel, oranges, eggplant, dahlias, sunflowers and much, much more. California Avenue between Ash and El Camino Real, Sundays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., year-round; urbanvillageonline.com

Salad

The winner for best salad this year easily leaves its competitors behind. Sprout Cafe shoots past expectations by providing a build-your-own salad bar that includes dozens of tasty ingredients including fruits, nuts, cheeses and meats. Indecisive? Sprout's signature salads have mouthwatering combinations of ingredients balanced just right. It's no wonder readers have put a fork in Sprout as best salad in Palo Alto. 168 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-323-7688; cafesprout.com

Seafood

Whether you want to eat at the restaurant or buy fresh food to prepare at home, Cook's Seafood is the place for seafood lovers. Besides offering a variety of freshly caught seafood, Cook's will clean and crack Dungeness crab, pack seafood for travel or prepare a platter for guests. (They'll also respond to special cutting requests, including scraping off the skin, but keeping the bones for making gefilte fish.) And, customers rave about the fish 'n' chips. 751 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 650-322-2231;

cooksseafood.com

Seafood

Hall of Fame: First Year

From chowder to lobster, The Fish Market is the place to go for fresh seafood, readers said. Pan fried, smoked, steamed or mesquite grilled, the restaurant serves up sea delicacies to suit every palate. There's an oyster bar and retail market for patrons who want to cook at home. The cioppino fish soup is a specialty here. 3150 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-493-9188; thefishmarket.com

Steak

For the second year running, Sundance the Steakhouse has won as the place to go for top-quality steak. Located next to El Camino Real, Sundance feels a world away, a restaurant reminiscent of the days of smokey, low-lit lounges where premium cuts of meat were consumed with a cigar. Family-owned and -operated for 39 years, Sundance is the place to go treat yourself to after those long days in the office. 1921 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-321-6798; sundancethesteakhouse.com

Takeout

Fast service and commitment to doing the basics well makes Su Hong a go-to for local takeout (swooping the Best Of title for the second year in a row). The original Su Hong was established in 1977 in Menlo Park, and the Palo Alto outpost (opened in 1987) continues the tradition of juicy potstickers, perfectly fried General's chicken, tender garlic eggplant and the like. 4256 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-493-3836; suhongeatery.com

Yogurt

Loyal Fraiche followers might have been nervous when the frozen yogurt shop closed its doors on Emerson Street last year and moved (albeit down the block) to Hamilton Avenue, but a bigger space only meant a bigger and better menu. Craft your own frozen yogurt creation from a selection of fresh, organic ingredients, grab a Blue Bottle coffee to go or enjoy a thick slice of Mayfield Bakery bread slathered in almond butter. With wins in 2010, 2011 and 2012, Fraiche is only one year away from the Best Of Hall of Hame. 200 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, 650-838-9819; fraicheyogurt.com

RESTAURANTS

Ambiance

Since 1977, Palo Alto has been blessed with the Cuban-style atmosphere of La Bodeguita del Medio. With the tropical feel, sweet rum cocktails and rich cigars of this friendly bar and restaurant, you'll feel like you are dining out in Havana. Their steak and seafood completes the package of a wonderful evening. 463 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-326-7762; labodeguita.com

Ambiance

Hall of Fame: Third Year

A bustling downtown Palo Alto venue in which to see and be seen, Evvia Estiatorio has been voted tops in "ambiance" so many times it's a Weekly Hall of Famer. With crisp white tablecloths, rustic wooden chairs, hanging copper pots and a Greek menu to die for, Evvia feels both comfortable and elegant. And never underestimate the olfactory factor: The aromas from the wood-fired ovens provide another "sense" that you're in a special place. 420 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 650-326-0982; evvia.net

Bar/Lounge

See complete listing for La Bodeguita del Medio under Ambiance.

California Cuisine

Calafia Cafe & Market a Go Go won big this year, taking three Best Of titles: California Cuisine, Solo Dining and Fusion. The restaurant is headed up by Charlie Ayers, previously Google's chef. Calafia is "the manifestation of my long-term vision to 'go public' with the concept I created at Google," Ayers writes on the restaurant's website. Remnants of his techie past are visible at the restaurant, where patrons can order and pay from a digital menu called "Presto." With the touch of your finger, you can order crispy pork belly buns, a crimson quinoa salad or a half-pound Calafia burger. 130 Town & Country Village, Palo Alto, 650-322-9200; calafiapaloalto.com

Chinese Restaurant

From its signature, and truly famous, "Famous Chicken Salad" with its shredded chicken, hot mustard and cilantro, to its Rainbow Calamari in a light wine sauce, Chef Chu's has well earned the accolades posted on its website, from such luminaries as former Secretary of State George Schultz and former 49ers quarterback Steve Young. Good food, good ambiance, good fun. 1067 N. San Antonio Road, Los Altos, 650-948-2696; www.chefchu.com

Coffee house

A San Francisco original, Philz Coffee got its start in humble beginnings, with Phil Jaber searching to create that perfect cup by experimenting on customers at his corner grocery store. A pioneer of the "slow coffee" movement, each cup is individually crafted from specialty beans. It might take up to five minutes from grind to cup, but patrons say it's worth the wait. 101 Forest Ave., Palo Alto, 650-321-2161; 3191 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-251-9798; www.philzcoffee.com

Dining With Kids

If you're looking for a place to take the family out, look no further than Palo Alto's California Pizza Kitchen, where you'll be greeted by the smell of baking pizza and crayons for the kids. Also known as CPK for short, the pizza place offers a lot more than just hand-tossed dough. Salads, pasta and fish complement the menu, and a well-apportioned kids menu makes it easy to find what your youngsters want. The fun atmosphere and mix of booth and table seating makes it the perfect place for a family night out. 531 Cowper St., Palo Alto, 650-323-7332; 180 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-325-2753; cpk.com

French Restaurant

This charming bistro aims to bring the flavor of South France to California Avenue and according to our readers, it succeeds with gusto. Pastis' extensive brunch and dinner menus include a generous heap of mouth-watering French-style offerings: the Quiche Lorraine, the Croque Monsieur and the quarter-pound Pastis Burger, topped with bleu d'Auvergne cheese. Needless to say, the restaurant also features an extensive wine collection, with selections ranging from Napa Valley to Sauvignon. Merci, Merci, me! 447 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-324-1355; pastispaloalto.com

Fusion

See complete listing for Calafia Café & Market a Go Go under California Cuisine.

Fusion

Hall of Fame: First Year

At Tamarine, food and family are one. Their shared plates of lemongrass bass, Tamarine prawns and more exemplify the "family-style" Vietnamese tradition that this restaurant strives for. Their innovative and cutting-edge cuisine creates the full dining experience equipped with an enticing aroma, beautiful decor and sophisticated taste. Tamarine's chefs are continuously in creative mode but also tied to the nostalgia of the Vietnamese tradition. 546 University Ave, Palo Alto, 650-325-8500; tamarinerestaurant.com

Indian Restaurant

When it opened a location in Palo Alto in 2011, Amber India was already well known by critics and foodies alike. Amber India offers up an exquisite variety of new-age Indian and classic dishes, such as naan with goat cheese and cashews, tandoori chicken, duck vindaloo and chicken biryani. With options and Amber India's use of premium ingredients, there is no place better for a taste of India. 150 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-329-9644; amber-india.com

Italian Restaurant

Ciao Down! Whether you're looking for a romantic dining spot or a place for long lunch meeting or brisk brunch — you'll always have some tasty Italian treats to enjoy with your company at Il Fornaio. Freshly made pasta — including a gluten-free variant — butternut squash ravioli and freshly baked pizzas are just a few of the fan favorites at this returning Best Of winner. Il Fornaio also has seasonal regional menus — each with fare from a different area of Italy. 520 Cowper St., Palo Alto, 650-853-3888; ilfornaio.com

Latin American Cuisine

See complete listing for La Bodeguita del Medio under Ambiance.

Meal Under $20

Affordable, good-for-you fare is the mantra at LYFE Kitchen, where entrees like pea and carrot risotto and Tal's ancient grain bowl sell for under $12. The garden-heavy menu and vegan options propelled this two-year-old downtown establishment to be the top pick for best vegetarian restaurant, even though LYFE's menu also offers options for carnivores. President and CEO Mike Roberts, who formerly led more than 31,000 McDonald's restaurants in 118 countries, knows a thing or two about inexpensive food. 167 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, 650-325-5933; lyfekitchen.com

Mediterranean Restaurant

For an authentic Middle-Eastern meal, Mediterranean Wraps is the place to go. Since 1997, this family-owned business has offered simple and healthy falafel wraps, shawermas and hummus plates. You can find them on California Avenue, University Avenue or at your own event through their catering business. 425 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-321-8189; 209 University Ave., 650-289-0866; kanzeman.com

Mediterranean Restaurant

Hall of Fame: Third Year

See complete listing for Evvia under Ambiance.

Mexican Restaurant

The upscale dining experience at Reposado is a long way from run-down taquerias where most of the food arrives in tin foil. Instead, the smells of spicy chicken mole and grilled lobster waft through the brilliantly colored, spacious interior. Add to that a huge variety of delicious wines and tequilas, and you get a great location for dates or nights out with friends and family. 236 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, 650-833-3151; reposadorestaurant.com

New Restaurant

Only two restaurants in California can boast that they serve Neapolitan pizza with a VPN (Associazone Verace Pizza Napolitana) from the Italian government, and Palo Alto's Terrone is one of them. Needless to say, they know a thing or two about pizza. Terrone serves up traditional Italian pizza, using a brick domed oven emblazoned with "Terrone" in white tile that can get as hot as 900 degrees, cooking the pies in 60 seconds or less. Terrone also serves up many salads, small plates created from seasonal and local produce, homemade pastas and a range of entrees. 448 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-847-7577; terronepizza.com

Outdoor Dining

After splitting the title with Cafe Borrone last year, voters have deemed Caffe Riace the best place to eat a meal outside. The Italian restaurant flaunts a classy European flavor that can be felt in the ambiance of the outdoor patio dining area. Along with the authentic Sicilian menu and the beautiful Palo Alto weather, Caffe Riace is a winner. 200 Sheridan Ave, Palo Alto, 650-328-0407; cafferiace.com

Restaurant to Splurge (TIE)

See complete listing for Tamarine under Fusion.

Count on local, organic cooking diva Jesse Cool to deliver the perfect cozy-yet-sophisticated setting at Flea Street Café, this year's pick for Most Romantic Restaurant. The decades-old establishment on Alameda de las Pulgas in Menlo Park was serving fresh, in-season, organic ingredients way before it became trendy. Cool's vision and persistence have paid off in her local empire of three restaurants, a catering company and seven cookbooks. 3607 Alameda de las Pulgas, Menlo Park, 650-854-1226; cooleatz.com/flea-st-cafe

Romantic Restaurant

See complete listing for Flea Street Café under Restaurant to Splurge.

Solo Dining

See complete listing for Calafia under Fusion.

Sports Bar

The plasma televisions, the peanut shells, the pool table and the patio called "The Duck Blind" make this burger-and-beer joint one of Menlo Park's iconic hot spots. For more than 45 years, the Dutch Goose's deviled eggs, 12 cold beers and jukebox have won over the hearts of their loyal customers. On top of all that, its welcoming atmosphere serves as a perfect choice for your Little League parties, family reunions, college hangouts and more. 3567 Alameda de las Pulgas, Menlo Park, 650-854-3245; dutchgoose.net

Sports

Hall of Fame: Second Year

Want to stop for a cold one and catch the game? The Old Pro, the returning champion for sports bars in the Palo Alto area is the clear choice. Its tasty selection of beers and wines are complemented by a handful of sippable specialty cocktails, but there's a ton of tasty foods to try that go beyond the normal sports bar fare — from Thai chili hot wings to pork belly pizza. Plus, there's a mechanical bull; who couldn't like that? 541 Ramona St., Palo Alto, 650-326-1446; oldpropa.com

Sunday Brunch

The intimate setting and delicious fare at Saint Michael's Alley makes it a prime place to enjoy time with loved ones. It's equally good as a place to enjoy roasted salmon and wine with that special person or try creamy eggs Benedict, pancakes and carafes of mimosas at a sunny brunch with friends. St. Michael's Alley has repeatedly earned top marks with readers for years as a romantic restaurant and as a spot for Sunday brunch.140 Homer Ave., Palo Alto, 650-326-2530; stmikes.com

Sushi/Japanese Restaurant

It's no wonder that Fuki Sushi has almost 70,000 likes on Facebook and took this year's Best Sushi/Japanese Restaurant — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had the Palo Alto restaurant cater his private wedding ceremony in May of last year (and even had a Fuki Sushi branch installed on Facebook's new Menlo Park campus). Fuki Sushi, which opened in 1978, has an extensive menu from appetizers (beef asparagus roll anyone?) to nigiri sushi, sashimi, rolls and entrees. Thirsty sushi-goers can also indulge in Fuki Sushi's cocktail menu, whiskey list, sho chu or liquid dessert menu. 4119 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-494-9383; fukisushi.com

Thai Restaurant

Get your Pad See-ew fix at Palo Alto's new favorite Thai restaurant, Bangkok Cuisine. Located one block away from University Avenue, the restaurant boasts a cozy atmosphere, ambient outdoor seating and an extensive vegetarian menu. 407 Lytton Ave., Palo Alto, 650-322-6533; bangkokpaloalto.com

Hall of Fame: Third Year

The relaxing dining experience and Pan-Asian cuisine of Thaiphoon has launched it to the Hall of Fame status. With options of Indian and Chinese dishes along with its Thai specialties, you can get a wonderful taste of different worlds in one sitting. Yet the champion restaurant resists the "fusion" label, highlighting the purity of each ethnic selection like Indian rotis, Chinese Mongolian beef and Thai fish curry. To top it all off, its full bar offers exotic cocktails and imported beers. 543 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 650-323-7700; thaiphoonrestaurant.com

Vegetarian Restaurant

See complete listing for LYFE Kitchen under Meals Under $20.

Wine Bar

Open 4 p.m. to midnight every day, you can come to The Wine Room hours after most other Palo Alto locales have shuttered for the night. The Wine Room has a quaint exterior and a cozy, lively indoor atmosphere punctuated by a bar, fireplaces and comfy couches. Its wines are the things to come for, though. The Wine Room has wines that are comfortable choices and some that are a bit more exotic — with varieties coming from places as close as Sonoma County and as far as Italy. 520 Ramona St., Palo Alto, 650-462-1968; thepawineroom.com

FUN STUFF

Art Gallery

Shallow Alto? Anyone who's slammed the city with that nickname hasn't been to the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford with its changing exhibits, permanent Rodin sculpture garden and a very Cool Cafe. The next couple of months feature four centuries of French drawings, plus French lithographic albums (including erotic visions and demonic apparitions), as well as a dozen works from primo artists — think Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein — on advertising and commercial art. Don't miss Deborah Butterfield's "Untitled of 1999," the horse sculpture in the foyer. 328 Lomita Drive, Stanford, 650-723-4177; museum.stanford.edu

Nightlife

See complete listing for Nola under Happy Hour.

Best Place for a Kid's Playdate

Captivate your child's curiosity and share a love for science and nature with a trip to the City of Palo Alto's own Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo. With hands-on experiences and a diverse population of 50 different species of bobcats, jungle bats and more, your child will be mesmerized. There are plenty of ways to get involved, including school science programs, summer camps and birthday parties. 1451 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-329-2111; friendsjmz.org

Place to Enjoy the Outdoors

Did someone say hike and a picnic? Escaping Palo Alto's growing density is as easy as trekking up Page Mill Road for about 20 minutes, flashing your local address, then continuing into 1,400 acres of the pristine Foothills Park. Expect to find a lake (with fishing and boating allowed), miles of trails, picnic tables and barbecues (which one can reserve for groups) and the chance to spot wildlife, from deer to coyotes. Want to extend your stay overnight? You can reserve a campsite at Towle Camp up to a year in advance. 3300 Page Mill Road, Los Altos Hills, 650-329-2423; cityofpaloalto.org

Place for Live Entertainment

After being open for more than 80 years, Palo Alto's best place for live entertainment is old, but its players aren't. The City of Palo Alto Children's Theatre has been allowing chaperoned children to participate in nearly every part of the play-production process — from set and costume fabrication to acting, lighting and direction work — all to put on plays by kids, for kids. The 2013-14 season will have kids going wild in the "The Jungle Book," getting out of their shells in "The Nutcracker" and really rocking the rhymes in "Dr Seuss' The Cat in the Hat" and "Seussical the Musical." 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-463-4930; cityofpaloalto.org/childrenstheatre

Best Place to go for a Run

The Stanford Dish is not your average jogging route. A quick hike or run in the open environment of the Stanford hills will not only give you a crystal-clear view of Stanford University (and, on a good day, of San Francisco's skyline), it will give you a glimpse into the Bay Area's natural wildlife: Great Blue Herons, California ground squirrels, wildflowers and even bobcats or coyotes. Hundreds and hundreds of Bay Area joggers and Stanford students can be found exploring the paved trails of 3.5-mile main loop that takes about an hour and 15 minutes to walk. Stanford Avenue and Junipero Serra Boulevard

Wi-Fi Hotspot

After a year's hiatus, voters again turned to Coupa Cafe as Palo Alto's best place to surf the web. The Venezuelan cafe has locations littered across Stanford campus along with its primary location downtown, which has been there since 2004. Organic and artisanal, it is easy to see why Palo Alto residents enjoy checking their emails at this local treasure. 538 Ramona St., Palo Alto, 650-322-6872; coupacafe.com

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