BestOf 2006 Readers Picks
Thursday, March 16, 2006
PLACE FOR A FIRST DATE Starbucks
…The reasons are endless, really. Starbucks serves coffee, which means that should the date go bad, the “well, I’ve got to run” excuse is perfectly acceptable. But should you and Mr. Wonderful hit it off perfectly, Starbucks’ jazzy tunes, comfy chairs, and whimsical wall murals make it OK to linger as long as you like. Meet for a morning coffee, grab a pumpkin scone for breakfast, stay for a turkey-sandwich lunch…you get the picture. So Mr. Wonderful won’t stop talking about himself? Well then, feel free to help yourself to a different patron. There are always plenty of cute ones to choose from at Starbucks.
PLACE FOR INTELLIGENT CONVERSATION Café Noir
365 Calle Principal, Monterey | 649-6647
…There are several possible reasons why Café Noir won Best Place for Intelligent Conversation instead of Best Place for Mindless Chatter. It might have something to do with its location adjacent to the Osio Theater, which usually plays a handful of challenging films. It could be because of the dry-erase board, dubbed “Caffeine for the Mind,” which features quotes by folks like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jon Stewart. Or it could be attributed to the cafe’s selection of espressos, teas and coffees that get the mind firing on all cylinders.
PLACE FOR MINDLESS CHATTER Starbucks
…“So, yeah, he left a voice message for me last night but I didn’t call him back because, what’s the point? Did you watch last night’s Survivor, by the way? What? They canceled it? You’re joking, right? Wait, they called our name. That’s us. Could you grab my latte? The one on the left. The grande, not the venti—or did I order a venti? Can you get me a napkin, too? Thanks.” (long sigh) “So, like I was saying, he left a message, but I didn’t call him back...”
PLACE TO EAVESDROP Lallapalooza
474 Alvarado St, Monterey | 645-9036
…It’s hard not to overhear other people’s conversations at Lallapalooza, what with the intimate seating and the ever-present crowd and the flow of high-octane spirits oiling up jawjoints and all. But let’s be honest, it is a little fun to try and figure out what the person at the next table is gushing about. Just remember that they can hear you just as well as you can hear them.
PLACE TO PEOPLE-WATCH Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey
…There is an art to people-watching. To the committed student of the human in public, a lonely individual is a textured canvas oozing insight: the direction he casts his eyes, the style and condition of his shoes, the way he holds his hands. For one who revels in these details, the wharf is an almost overwhelming orgy of information slapped against the backdrop of sailboats, ocean views and adobes: heavy-eyebrowed tourists shuffling around, curly-tailed pugs frowning about, the monkey man chiding sugar-high kids. The ambitious artist can even take on bonus sights by people-watching the people watching the male sea lions bully one another beneath the local fishermen as they clean the day’s catch.
PLACE TO RECLAIM YOUR INNER CHILD Dennis the Menace Park
777 Pearl St, Monterey
…No jungle gym on the planet rivals the train at Dennis the Menace Park. It runs on the pure and renewable power of exploration, inspiration and imagination. And it’s just the first stop at this wonderland. The ivy maze is good for a half-hour of chase for you and the knee-highs, the epic big silver slide at least 20 slippery tries. Throw a birthday party here or just stop by on the way to work and ensure that today you’ll enjoy a little more youthful exuberance than yesterday.
PLACE TO TAKE VISITORS Monterey Bay Aquarium
886 Cannery Row, Monterey | 648-4800
…There are rules to receiving out-of-town guests. But perhaps none is as important as Thou Shalt Wear Them Out. That’s where the Monterey Bay Aquarium comes in. With its endless displays of marine life, including ticklishly psychedelic jellyfish, it’s a great place to tire out your white sneaker-wearing visitors. That way, they’ll sleep well into the next morning, allowing you to sleep in too.
ARCHITECTURAL TREASURE Carmel Mission
3080 Rio Rd, Carmel | 624-3600
…Founded in 1770, Carmel Mission is more than just Monterey County residents’ favorite architectural treasure. It’s also the preferred retreat and final resting place of Father Junipero Serra, who founded a string of California missions in the 1700s. Now that’s high praise.
BEACH Carmel Beach
…No matter how long you live on the Monterey Peninsula, you never really take Carmel Beach for granted. Book-ended by Pebble Beach and Carmel Point, the golden sands and emerald green water are stunning time and time again. Adorned with beautiful people, consistently good waves, and zillions of dogs, Carmel Beach is where to go when you want to feel like you’re on vacation. Take one look at the tourists’ faces and you’ll remember exactly how lucky we are to have a place like Carmel Beach in our backyard.
SURF SPOT Asilomar
…Unlike Carmel Beach, Asilomar can be downright desolate, gray and unwelcoming. The water isn’t much different. For most of the year, it’s as cold as the proverbial witch’s tit, littered with bull kelp, and stalked by white sharks (Lew Boren was killed here in 1981). But when the big swells roll in during the fall and winter, it’s heaven for the handful of regulars who brave the elements. With three or more distinct peaks and a wide swell window, Asilomar is, without a doubt, the classic Monterey County surf spot.
GOLF HOLE 18th at Pebble Beach
…Five hundred forty-three yards of nerve-jangling ha-ha, the drink just to the left and 50 yards of sand running up to the green. They say if you’re playing it right, your first shot is a hair’s breadth from slipping into the brine. You’re aiming for the landmark cypress tree and a victorious stroll into the Lodge, but the beauty of the place alone is enough to unhinge you. Do you laugh or do you cry? Here people do both.
PLACE TO WATCH THE SUNSET Carmel Beach
…You see them arriving as the big red fireball nears the horizon each evening—couples, families, groups of teenagers. At the top of the hill they stop, kick off their shoes, roll up their pantlegs, step into the cold, silky white sand of Carmel Beach, slide a little going down the hill until they find the perfect spot and sit down. Now everyone on the hill is oriented the same direction, toward the setting sun. Voices grow subdued. Will it be a green flash day? The orb sinks and shrinks and finally winks out altogether, and the people, released from the moment, laugh and resume talking, get up and shake off the sand.
PLACE TO PICNIC Point Lobos State Reserve
Three miles south of Carmel on Highway 1 | 624-4909
…It’s easy to see why Point Lobos won best place to have a picnic. You can drive right up to three designated picnic spots in the park—Whaler’s Cove, the Piney Woods parking area and Bird Island Parking area—and get superb views of the area’s spectacular serrated shoreline with its deep azure waters and stunning crescents of white sand.
HIKING TRAIL Garland Ranch Regional Park
8.6 miles east of Highway 1 on Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley | 372-3196
…There are actually lots of trails in the 4,500-acre Garland Ranch Park, from flat easy loops around the meadow to half-day excursions up to the fire tower through dry oak and buckeye forest. It’s easy to get geared up for a long haul here, thanks to trails that pass by Rumsien Indian sites, waterfalls and sweeping views of Carmel Valley.
PLACE TO BIKE Recreation Trail, Pacific Grove to Marina
…Segment the easy-cruising Rec Trail into five pieces and they might sweep the top five in this category. Think about it. Each piece—the curvy descent from the dune-top cross at the Beach Resort in Seaside, the shady glide through the eucalyptus grove along Del Monte Avenue, the lordly stretch past Fisherman’s Wharf and the Coast Guard pier, the part that sweeps past Cannery Row and Hopkins Marine Lab, or the splashy approach to Lovers Point—can heal the most jaded heart by itself. Together they’re worth another $50 bucks tacked onto the rent each month. And just wait ‘til they connect it to Santa Cruz.
HANGOUT FOR LITTLE KIDS MY Museum
601 Wave St, Monterey | 649-6444
…If Playdough is your only idea of kid-like fun, MY Museum isn’t the place for you. But if you—oh, and your kids—are into things like the Creation Station, (where hot glue guns rule), or the magnet table, the giant loom and the puppet station, then it’ll be easy to figure out why readers dig this little-kid hotspot. And age doesn’t matter.
HANGOUT FOR TEENS Cherrybean Gourmet Coffeehouse
332 Main St, Salinas | 424-1989
…Everyone who’s anyone in the teen set could navigate his or her way to this Oldtown icon with eyes shut. Could be the coffee. Could be the über-hip vibe. More probably, it’s because the high-school crowd knows this is the place to see and be seen, sipping uppity frothed creations and hanging out just to see who’s gonna show up next. Everyone will. Everyone always does.
HANGOUT FOR SENIORS Carmel Foundation
Eighth and Lincoln, Carmel | 624-1588
…It isn’t just about the hot meals served (or delivered to the homebound) or the rides to the doctor’s office or the grocery store, or any of the other generous things that the Carmel Foundation’s members do for the elderly. It’s also about making a community and having fun with the other wise old birds. And we aren’t talking strictly bingo, bridge and tea. There’s ping-pong, woodcarving, yoga, photography and movies. In other words, a little something to look forward to the minute you hit 55.
VOLUNTEER ORGANIZATION Meals on Wheels
700 Jewel Ave, Pacific Grove | 375-4454 | 229 Pajaro St, Salinas | 758-6325
…Our society’s treatment of the impoverished or homebound elderly is generally abysmal, but this is one bright exception. Every day, volunteers from the Peninsula and the Salinas Valley pick up meals to deliver to seniors at their homes in one of the best examples of man’s humanity to man. And now both organizations provide PetMeals as well so the animals that are frequently the primary companions of Meals on Wheels recipients can remain in good health too.
PLACE TO WORK Naval Postgraduate School
…Is it the golf course? The plump, regular checks from Uncle Sugar? The beauty of the old Del Monte Hotel? Is it the novelty of sharing office space with a ghost? Whatever it is, the majority of readers seem to think the Naval Postgraduate School is the best place in the county to work. Maybe they’re right, but if you want to know for yourself, you’ll first have to get through the laborious federal application process—or boot camp. And it’s not clear which is more grueling.
PLACE TO GET MARRIED Lovers Point
Ocean View Avenue, Pacific Grove
…Even the most jaded wedding guest will tear up from the sheer beauty of a Lovers Point wedding: The blushing bride and glowing groom standing atop the grassy bluff with the white sand, blue water and pink sunset behind them as they promise to love and cherish each other “‘til death do us part.” Just don’t go during any high surf advisories.
WEB SITE KSBW
…Just a guess: Our readers love it for the traffic report, which can be monitored from work and make the commute home easier, or for the cool weather cams—which display almost real-time images of Fremont Peak, Mount Toro and Monterey—or for the “Irresistible Headlines,” which are often cute (“Blind Students Forced To Pass Driver’s Ed Written Exam”), and not for the editorials. Just a guess.
RADIO STATION KWAV-97FM
…The funny thing about KWAV is that it’s called “soft rock” radio. Does that mean that its listeners were once hard rock fans but have since “softened” somehow and now listen to a different kind music? It’s a tricky question that must be answered with great care so as not to offend. The bottom line is people eat this stuff up, probably because you can turn it on just about anytime and hear classic tunes by the likes of Rod Stewart, Luther Vandross and Elton John. And who would ever dare call Elton John soft?
RADIO DJ Joey Martinez (KOCN-105.1FM)
…You develop a lot of affection for a man who sees you through from mid-afternoon to quittin’ time every day. On a recent afternoon Martinez went all-out on an up-tempo tour of R&B’s greatest hits from a certain era, such that we found ourselves dancing in the kitchen in our socks. There was Gloria Gaynor declaring she’d survive, Yvonne Elliman pouting that if she couldn’t have us she didn’t want nobody, baby, and Michael Jackson exhorting us not to stop ‘til we got enough. It was grand. Thanks for the memories, Joey.
TV NEWS KSBW
…While the mulitiple-award-winning anchor Dan Green gets all the glory, it his news team makes it all possible—the ultra-professional co-anchor Erin Clark, sports guru Dennis Lehnen, and weatherman Jim Vanderzwaan. The name of the game in TV news is trust, and KSBW is the winner.
TV ANCHOR Dan Green (KSBW)
…We love Dan. Our readers love Dan, which is probably why he sweeps this category year after year. Particularly engaging is that super-expressive eyebrow thing he’s got going on. If it furrows, he’s about to say something shockingly TiVo-able. If he raises one, he thinks the story he’s telling is as ridiculous as you do. He checks the drama at the door and keeps it real, delivering the straight dope without any pomp. That he’s perfectly matched with super-professional co-anchor Erin Clark, sports messiah Dennis Lehnen and weather god Jim Vanderzwaan is icing on the already-trustworthy cake.
LOCAL ATHLETE (male) Michael Phillips
…Even when facing the fiendishly talented Seaside High Spartan football team, many still felt Michael Phillips was the most talented athlete on the field. This year, despite a relatively modest amount of carries, he led the league in rushing and carried the Monterey offense to the playoffs, where previously undefeated PG was so obsessed with stopping him that the ‘Dores gouged them with the fullback dive all day long. Oh, and he was the backbone of the basketball team. And a state-qualifying sprinter on the track. MHS’ loss is Weber State’s gain—there he’ll play wide receiver.
LOCAL ATHLETE (female) Kelli Okuji
Robert Louis Stevenson School
…Harvard should get a kick out of Okuji. The three-time all-conference striker led the Pirates to the playoffs with clutch lasers and relentless athleticism, then proceeded to do her dominant thing for the track team as well. All the while, she did OK in the classroom too—or good enough to get into Harvard, anyway.
USE OF LOCAL TAX DOLLARS Window on the Bay
…We live on the most beautiful body of water in the world, yet over the years we had nearly sealed it off from view. Early civic leaders understood the importance of retaining a window on the bay, yet for decades apathy and greed filled in the open spaces along downtown Monterey’s waterfront. Thanks to your local tax dollars and some visionary leadership, we’re getting the bay back.
POLITICIAN Rep. Sam Farr (D-Carmel)
100 W. Alisal St, Salinas | 424-2229
…Sam Farr was first elected to California’s 17th Congressional District, representing the Central Coast, in 1993. After 13 years spent laboring in the pit of American politics, one could excuse him for doing as others have done, to waver on his core values. Not Sam Farr. His voice exudes steely resolve and a deep well of passion for progressive issues, including the environment, affordable housing and helping the poor. In the interest of good government, may we pass a law to clone Sam Farr five times and have his clones run Monterey County? Please?
PLACE TO ARGUE POLITICS County Government Center
168 West Alisal St, Salinas | 755-5066
…Is limiting new development to cities and community areas the best idea for future development? Or more disastrous for the wine industry than the glassy-winged sharpshooter? Discuss amongst yourselves, or rather, argue. Indeed, Monterey County politics have become so polarized lately that no one really talks about politics anymore. It’s all argument—especially when it comes to land-use decisions at the weekly Supervisors’ meeting every Tuesday morning at 9:30am—and it tends to get downright nasty. At least now we can argue politics from the comfort of padded chairs in the shiny, stylish new County Government Center.
PLACE TO SIGN CAMPAIGN PETITIONS Trader Joe’s
1170 Forest Ave, Pacific Grove | 656-0180
…¡Hola! Wie geht es Ihnen? Koenichiwa! Are you registered to vote? The people have spoken. Trader Joe’s parking lot is the best place in Monterey County to sign campaign petitions—in any language. So make sure you read the whole petition first and don’t sign it unless you really are registered to vote (and can translate it into several other languages).
POWER BROKER Leon Panetta
…Some very fabulous things exist in Monterey County that are the brainchildren of Leon Panetta, former White House chief of staff for Bill Clinton. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is one. California State University at Monterey Bay is another. And of course the Leon and Sylvia Institute for Public Policy is yet another. Someone please coax this dedicated public servant into running for governor.
LOCAL DO-GOODER Don Chapin
…Chapin could just sit back in the hills of his Crazy Horse Canyon Road home and smoke stogies while he counts his silver. Instead, he gives tirelessly to hospitals, schools, the California Rodeo, the Salinas Airshow, community restoration projects, and youth and community outreach programs, to name a few. Just when we thought he’d left no local cause unfunded, he decided to build affordable housing for his employees. Here’s hoping he never runs out of ideas.
LOCAL EVENT First Night
Dec. 31, Downtown Monterey | 373-4778
…“Epic” is one of those superlatives that’s habitually abused by kids and TV commentators. A sandwich is not epic. The local mobilization for this annual family-based blow-out? That’s epic: scores of artists, poets, MCs, dancers, performers, musicians, clowns, bands, dignitaries and an army of volunteers rising as one to harvest thousands of dollars for local nonprofits. That skateboard jump? Not epic. The estimated 30,000 folks who showed up at First Night 2005 over the course of the afternoon and evening? You guessed it: E-P-I-C.