Reader's Poll 2011 - Shopping and Services
Shopping and Services - Best Of Monterey County 2011
Thursday, March 17, 2011
For many, nothing could matter more than the care of their beloved Bobo – so finding a local pet store that’s on top of its game is nothing less than crucial. Then again, for some the care of their car is everything, so dealerships and car washes take on added emphasis. Shoes, meanwhile, are a fashionista’s best friend, pharmacies represent real relief and tattoos are forever. The point: When it comes to shopping and services, it pays to pick a winner. Here are more than 60 to sift through (save some time and find the "Best of Monterey County" category your looking for quick and easy here):
Best New Business of 2010
Best Environ – Mentally Friendly Business
San Carlos between Seventh and Eighth, Carmel 624-1222, www.ecocarmel.com
Here come organic baby clothes. And natural body products for pets (and humans). And hypoallergenic mattresses and non-toxic paints and countless other inventions that reinvent sensitivity to the environment. At Eco Carmel, the welcoming shelves are dripping with earth-friendly solutions to everyday life – how to compost food, pimp out your home, eat and drink and garden and create art projects with your kids. In short, Kristi Reimers’ Eco Carmel is a trailblazing, buzz-generating general store. Look for “Eco Evenings” green-living classes beginning at the end of March.
Best Shopping District/Center
Del Monte Center
1410 Del Monte Center, Monterey
The DMC dominates this category by way of its practical diversity. There’s grub to fuel the body at top spots like Whole Foods, Lalla Grill and P.F. Chang’s. There’s technology in The Apple Store, GameStop and Radio Shack. There are clothes for your back at Forever 21, Lucky and Macy’s. There’s homemaking machinery over at Williams Sonoma and Pottery Barn. There’s hygiene at the Bath and Body Works and The Body Shop. There’s entertainment to take in at Century Cinemas Del Monte, PetCo and the Wild Bird Center. There are even drugs at CVS, 1 cent sake at Yama Sushi and neon-frill underwear at Hot Topic. Those who live to shop make it their first stop.
Best Place to Buy Art/Craft Supplies
Beverly’s Fabrics & Crafts
2090 N. Fremont Ave., Monterey, 646-5141
344 Main St., Salinas 422-1508,
From paints to beads, various types of yarn, kids’ crafts, peacock feathers and scrapbooking accoutrements, Beverly’s is the place to go to satisfy your art and craft supply fix. At both locations in Monterey and Salinas, knowledgeable staff answer questions and dole out creative advice. Beverly’s also hosts classes and workshops in crafts, scrapbooking, quilting, sewing and more.
Best Antique Shop
Cannery Row Antique Mall
471 Wave St., Monterey
Bakelite bracelets from the 1930s, complete sets of Pyrex mixing bowls, Steinbeck first editions, Lucky Strike advertisements from the ’50s (in mint condition), art-deco paste brooches and 100-year-old cast-iron toys with working parts. So goes the assortment of wall-to-wall treasures on sale within this 21,000-square-foot, two-story warehouse. And the 150 collaborating local vendors are constantly adding inventory, ensuring that you find something fresh, vintage, rare and/or retro each time you visit.
Wells Fargo Bank
Here’s a tip you can take to the bank: Weekly readers love them some Wells Fargo. Whether it’s because of the friendly tellers and helpful hostesses (who circulate through the lines, asking customers about the purpose of the visit to further expedite the prompt service), multiple branches or free coffee, locals and Yelpers agree Wells is, in fact, the best.
Best Bike Store
398 E. Franklin St., Monterey
Established in 1870 in England, Joselyn’s has served Monterey County since the 1940s and cemented itself as the area’s two-wheel authority. Boasting a stellar service shop and a well-organized showroom displaying road, mountain, hybrid and kids’ bikes, as well as a great selection of accessories, it’s not hard to see why locals love Joselyn’s. Sponsoring a number of local riders in both road and cross-country circuits doesn’t hurt its popularity either.
Best Bookstore – Used
600 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey
Unfortunately, some used bookstores – with their stacks of dusty, unorganized tomes – would be the ideal setting for an episode of the A&E program Hoarders. Not BookBuyers. There are great used books here – William Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury ($6.95) and Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises ($8.95) – and they are easy to find in the store’s well-organized sections. Little placards help you locate that hard-to-find work on dollhouses or drug culture.
Best Bookstore – New
2080 California Ave., Sand City
Michigan-based Borders started out as an independent, helped drive most of the little guys out of business and saw its own fortunes topple because the chain couldn’t get an e-reader strategy together fast enough to compete with Amazon.com. But admit it, when Borders last month announced hundreds of stores would close in conjunction with its bankruptcy restructuring, news that the Sand City store would survive brought a collective sigh of relief. The place has the best magazine rack between here and SF, and features a large number of interesting foreign titles (from Monocle to Donna Hay) and hip arts periodicals (from Selvedge to Oxford American). The best sellers are there, the biography, poetry and history sections are beefy and the employees are happy to (still) be there. And for those of us who want to touch an actual page, we’re happy they’re still there too.
Best Car Dealership – New
Lexus Monterey Peninsula
1721 Del Monte Blvd., Seaside
Lexus Monterey Peninsula promises a world-class ownership experience to every customer. Selling quality models like the high-performance IS F and the green-friendly RX Hybrid lends credibility to any sales pitch, but receiving the Elite of Lexus award proves these guys are for real. Backed by a professional service department complete with loaner cars and a shuttle service, the staff makes sure you get taken care of, proving that the car-buying process goes beyond driving that Lexus off the lot.
Best Car Dealership – Used
500 Auto Center Circle, Salinas, 444-7700
1340 Fremont St., Seaside, 392-0445
2 Heitzinger Plaza, Seaside, 394-1233
1661 Del Monte Blvd., Seaside, 800-820-9908
Buying a used car at one of the family-owned Cardinale dealerships in Monterey County takes the sting out of the used-car-purchasing experience. To get customers the car they want, the network of dealerships works together (even the Cardinale dealerships outside of Monterey County), which also means greater financing options. Customers can expect better pricing, too, because of the size and selection of Cardinale’s inventory.
Best Car Repair Shop
Tom’s Monterey Auto Repair
870 Abrego St., Monterey
The staff members at Tom’s Monterey Auto Repair boast an almost-encyclopedic knowledge of the automotive condition, and have long been a trusted wrangler of quality parts for both domestic and foreign vehicles. Their run in this category speaks to that appeal: This year marks the third straight and ninth overall. What’s the secret to making a typically trying experience a positive one for customers? Owner Tom Hillesheim says it’s his shop’s honest, informative and collaborative approach to diagnosing and solving the automotive crises his customers bring in: “We are imperfect people working on imperfect machines, and doing our best to fix them.”
Best Tire Shop
Sullivan’s Tire Pros
Seaside Auto Center, 1730 The Mall, Seaside
Get out of this shop as quickly as possible. That’s the goal for Sullivan’s Tire Pros in Seaside, who understand that a flat tire or an oil change shouldn’t mean waiting around all day. The wait ain’t so bad, anyway, since Sullivan’s offers a comfortable waiting room with Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs. Tire services include alignments, brakes and balancing, and the pros are authorized dealers of Michelin, Good Year, Firestone and Bridgestone brands, to name a few. Extras include a free shuttle service to home or work and a free tire quote online.
El Estero Carwash
590 Fremont St., Monterey
El Estero Carwash has been around for 50 years. Yes – a full half century of smiling service, expert wash jobs and shiny wax finishes. While your automobile gets the scrub down, vacuum and multi-personnel detailing, you can sit inside the comfy lounge to supervise or, better yet (these dudes know what they’re doing), stroll the well-stocked mini general store, grab a snack and an air freshner for the ride, and watch the news or a sports game on TV.
Best Place to Buy a Motorcycle
Monterey County Harley-Davidson
333 N. Main St., Salinas
Despite the fanfare over the MotoGP crotch rockets at Laguna Seca, Monterey County residents have spoken, and in hogs they trust. Monterey County Harley-Davidson delivers classics like the Softail Deluxe – and the clean-as-a-whistle, newly arrived Nightster – with an attention to customer service that keeps riders rumbling back. If you’re waffling about pulling the trigger on one of these puppies, just ask yourself, what would Hunter S. Thompson do?
Best Computer Store
Apple Del Monte Center
240 Del Monte Center, Monterey
We remember our hormonal teenage years, when we’d cruise the mall looking to flirt. At the time, the food court seemed like the best bet. But our readers know an even better place to Mac: the Apple Store at Del Monte Center, where you can paw the goods all afternoon. “Geniuses” patiently answer questions, from the most basic to the techiest. The store offers workshops to help get the most out of gadgetry – and maybe even score a date.
Best Dive Shop
614 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey
Bamboo’s got everything one could hope for in a dive buddy: It knows the best dive sites, from Monastery to McAbee Beach; it has all the slickest gear; it can teach skills that translate into certifications, from wreck diving to rescue diving; and it can unspool a mean dive yarn – ask employee Jeff Collenberg about the five harbor seals joining the dive group during a recent adventure off New Monterey.
Best Dry Cleaners
Vapor Sudden Services Cleaners
1193 10th St., Monterey
For more than 90 years, the third-generation, family-owned-and-operated Vapor cleaners has been cleaning whatever customers bring in, from coats and blouses to sleeping bags and bedspreads. Certified environmentally friendly, the award-winning cleaners (five years in a row) is committed to quality without the use of toxic chemicals. Getting garments in before 10am guarantees same-day pickup, no extra charge. Each garment is inspected individually before cleaning; if a loose button or stray thread appears, an on-site seamstress fixes it without additional charge. Delivery to the Peninsula is on the house too.
Best Ethnic Market
Mi Tierra Market
1000 Broadway Ave., Seaside
We eat first with our eyes. Let those peepers chomp the massive chicharrones, ogle the smooth quesillo, gaze on the guacamole and get lost in the endless Mexican-style meats. The dried pepper selection rivals any in the area, and the taqueria in the back makes the meanest tacos in town. One proven delicious way to travel the Tierra: Order a range of chorizo, al pastor and lengua tacos at the counter, crack a bottle of Jarritos and ramp up your anticipation scanning the hot sauces, Bimbo breads and colorful piñatas. The grub’ll be up in no time, and down your hatch even quicker.
Swenson & Silacci
110 John St., Salinas, 424-2725
432 Alvarado St., Monterey, 375-2725
Remember this number: 1945. Nineteen forty freakin’ five. Franklin D. Roosevelt was prez. Gas was 15 cents a gallon. And back over here in Salinas, Walter and Bessie Swenson opened a little flower shop. In 1966, Ed Silacci joined the team. Businesses don’t survive 66 years on good looks and a few good buds alone. Step into the Salinas oasis and in an instant, the harsh reality of the world is replaced by paths that lead from one tranquil garden of beauty to another. Need a corsage? Call. Need some make-up flowers or an I-forgot-your-birthday-but-thank-God-this-place-does-same-day-delivery? Call. Want to hide from the world? Stop by.
26200 Carmel Rancho Blvd., Carmel
Ben Beesley helps ease the resident pain of a real estate search – and meet client needs no matter the condition of the market – with a balance of business strategy, technology tools and tireless research. As a native to the area, the Keller Williams agent often connects to local homebuyers in more ways than one. From short sales to million-dollar listings in Pebble Beach, Beesley opens the door.
Best Real Estate Office
Keller Williams Realty Carmel
26200 Carmel Rancho Blvd., Carmel
Keller Williams is the third-largest real estate agency in the country, but that doesn’t make it the best. It’s the fact that the huge team adheres to its ambitious mission statement agent by agent: “Our focus is on our agent-centric culture that emphasizes access to cutting-edge real estate training, real estate coaching and real estate education.”
Best Golf Shop
2040 Fremont Blvd., Seaside
No handicap here. A multi-hole putting green lined with every mallet and blade a golfer could hope for is but the beginning. Add three full-swing indoor ranges, including a distance and directional simulator, and things get professional grade. Golf Mart has a wide selection of new and used clubs to fit any budget. And if that driver didn’t work with your dirty draw, the 90-day return policy means trading it in is easier than sinking a 3-footer.
Best Health Club
Carmel Valley Athletic Club
27300 Rancho San Carlos Road, Carmel
Escape the seaside fog, drive along the winding valley roads, and come upon one of the area’s hidden treasures – the Carmel Valley Athletic Club, a bona fide oasis. Multiple tennis courts, a two-story workout building, a low-level chlorine pool and hot tubs, and more than 11 specialized group classes are the current offerings – and a big reason this club’s won for a fifth consecutive year. The perks just keep coming: The cardio room now has the “Jacob’s Ladder” seen on the ABC show The Biggest Loser, the Mind and Body Center offers four different kinds of yoga classes and a lodge-like aesthetic, complete with a fireplace and sofas. In July, CVAC will welcome a new pool, a new clubhouse and adults-only spa with eight hot tubs, a co-ed steam room and sauna and a meditation area.
Best Yoga Studio
Seaside Yoga Sanctuary
1360 Fremont Blvd., Seaside
The Sanctuary offers classes seven days a week with a diverse spectrum of teachers and disciplines. Weekend workshops deepen the stretch. March sessions focus on Iyengar postures to soothe hips and backs, the Feldenkrais Method for mindful walking, and AcroYoga, a playful blend of gymnastics and massage. The spacious studio, meanwhile, creates its own calming flow. Owner Laura McKinnon says she works to create a space where people feel comfortable opening their minds and bodies to the restorative powers of yoga. Namaste.
Best Massage Therapist
Sallyann Forzani, Vista Blue Spa
400 Cannery Row, Monterey
If there is a spot just beyond nirvana but just shy of actual levitation to another place and time, Forzani knows where it is. She has perfected her craft into an art that surpasses the everyday ho-hum of a rub-down, and gives clients what they’re really after – peace from touch, unqualified relaxation and rejuvenation of the spirit. Few can deliver all of that with the sincerity of someone who loves what she’s doing. She can; you can feel it in her touch.
Monterey Plaza Hotel
400 Cannery Row, Monterey
The views alone will make guests rethink that old saying, “There’s no place like home.” Unless, of course, your home includes a balcony perched over the Monterey Bay, where you can sit in a plush robe, watch cormorants and otters play in the surf, and drink room-service mimosas. But the amenities don’t stop in the Monterey Plaza Hotel’s rooms. Visitors can venture downstairs to the elegant Duck Club Grill, with panoramic ocean views and a menu featuring local produce and sustainable seafood, or Schooners Bistro on the Bay, with its heated outdoor terrace that invites al fresco dining year round. Vista Blue Spa sits on the top floor of the hotel and pampers guests with the Monterey Bay Salt Glo treatment, among others.
Spa on the Plaza
201 Alvarado St., Monterey
Located in the Portola Hotel, the Spa on the Plaza offers more than 6,000 square feet dedicated to spa and salon services, health and fitness. Whether it’s a testament to the tropical anti-aging wrap and papaya enzyme facial, or the spa’s membership in the Organic Trade Association, readers routinely award it “Best Spa.” And Spa on the Plaza takes care of its locals, too, with a “locals card” offering specials and deals.
201 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey
Dressed in glistening glass and trimmed with smooth steel, Oya’s exterior secures plus points. Those points are doubled with sleek, snowy-white sinks and raven recliners and tripled with posh products like Sebastian and Kérastase fashioned by a mix of skilled hairstylists. Plus, owner Brian Bode recently coiffed models’ tresses at New York’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, styling funky up ’dos with a fringe for fashion powerhouses Alice + Olivia and Pamela Love. The point: Here the points keep coming.
Best Place for Skin Care
Aquablue Skin & Body Spa
229 Main St., Salinas
Sure, you could settle for a facial. Why not? The cleansing, exfoliating, masking and moisturizing ritual in this Oldtown spa is as glorious as it gets. But why stop there? How about a scrub-down of your entire bod with superfine sea salts? Or allow yourself to be slathered in mud or drenched in purifying oils until you just can’t take it anymore? When was the last time your skin begged to be touched because it felt that good? Nobody does it better than this pampering crew.
Best Furniture Store
Carmel Plaza, Seventh and Junipero, Carmel
Homescapes’ motto: They travel the world so you don’t have to. But just visiting their new massive Carmel Plaza showroom is a trip – there are big living walls, endless creative couches and other accoutrements, imported granite Buddhas from Indonesia and lavender-sprinkled orchids from local growers surrounding the vibrant pops of sea green and fluorescent orange candles. Clients can take advantage of the full-service design studio with award-winning designers Tom Williams and Robert Hale. And leadership is even adding a café tasting room and wine bar. Furniture has never been so fun.
Best Jewelry Store
447 Alvarado St., Monterey
With 20 years under his belt (and a high-style watch on his wrist), owner Gasper Spadaro continues to impress with his selection of jewelry. Among the trinkets: Italian-made sterling silver Elliot Chandler pendants and Bucherer, Jorg Gray, Bulova, Carbon 14 and Maurice Lacroix wrist candy. Plus, classic freshwater and Tahitian pearls and semi-precious stones. A Lladro porcelain collection accents the mass assortment of earrings, necklaces and rings. Leave it to Gasper’s to provide one-of-a-kind treasures magnetized by comprehensive (and kind) service.
Best Internet Provider
RedShift Internet Services
712 Hawthorne St., Monterey
RedShift has the capabilities of a large company, but the care and convenience of a local business. The network is monitored 24/7, and the customer-care hours – 8am to 7pm five days a week – make troubleshooting less of a hassle. The company also has skilled techs ready to assist with website or graphic design. In other words, having a local friend like RedShift in the digital world beats getting caught in the Web with its competitors.
Best Men’s Clothing Store
Khakis of Carmel
Ocean between Junipero and Mission, Carmel
Looking good is all that matters. With that in mind, take notice of what these ridiculously well-dressed folks are wearing, recommending and selling. Be sure the color of your belt matches your shoes – and if you’re one of those who have enough courage to sport a pocket silk, be sure that it goes with your tie. Khakis will tell you all of the different ways to fold it and can even give you fashion tips. Because rocking only one look is so last season.
Best Women’s Clothing Boutique
266 Main St., Salinas
Whether going to the prom or camping out in front of the TV, there’s no reason not to look good doing it. Bliss Boutique carries a mix of everyday pieces – think denim and super-soft T-shirts – to cocktail and formal dresses, plus belts, jewelry, bags and other accessories galore that you won’t find anywhere else in the county. And they’re affordable. For spring, check out Bliss’ collection of rompers, lacy tops and flowy dresses, perfect for a picnic on the beach. But because we do live in Monterey County, Bliss carries coats year round, so a little coastal fog or cold temps won’t ruin your picnic, or your look.
Best Secondhand Clothing Store Best Thrift Store
571 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey, 649-6056
708 E. Alisal St., Salinas, 424-5346
1045 N. Main St., Salinas, 755-8668
729 Broadway Ave., Seaside, 394-1212
There are few stores that hold the promise of a striped polyester shirt and lava lamp from the ’70s, a Material Girl-inspired ensemble from the ’80s and a teal couch from the ’90s. But on a good day at Goodwill, anything is possible, and with four locations across the county, locals can mix, match and make the magic happen to improve their wardrobes and their community conveniently. Offering a range that spans bargain designer jeans and boleros adorned with ostrich feathers, to offcasts from Target and hand-knit, grandma-made sweaters, this re-use beacon + job-training nonprofit = win.
Best Shoe Store
Ocean at Dolores, Carmel
Need stylin’ boots? Check. Cozy Uggs? Check. Or how about golf shoes or those funky-lookin,’ butt-shaping teeter-totter sneakers? Yep, got those, too. But wait, there’s more. Stilettos in brands that scream couture: Stuart Weitzman, Donald J. Pliner or Pour la Victoire. Or little works of art moonlighting as handbags – like Stella Page or Botkier. This is true small-town style: one little swanky gem of a boutique handling your tiny little tootsies’ every last whim. There’s simply no reason to go anywhere else. Why would tired little feet even want to, anyway? Clearly this is Oz.
Best Store For Musical Instruments
233 Monterey St., Salinas
From a used Hohner Accordion Corona II Purple to a brand new, all-tube Mesa Boogie Electra Dyne Guitar Combo Amplifier, Wise is the spot for even the most discriminating musician. Mild-mannered owner Pete Wise and his staff know their stuff and give customers the kind of attention that’s become a mythical entity at big-box chains like Guitar Center. Plus, new and used inventory flows in every day. Wise also does in-shop service and repairs for every instrument in need.
Best Neighborhood Market
242 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove
In a time and place with chain grocery stores around every corner and famers markets every day of the week, Grove Market is still going strong. It’s no accident. For more than 40 years, Grove Market has been more than just a neighborhood grocery store for Weekly readers. It supports local businesses by stocking up on local produce and products; its employees are the kitchen elves who whip up ready-made salads and simply-stick-it-in-the-oven barbecue ribs. Whatever your need – be it a loaf of bread, some baking soda or Ajax – they can fulfill it. And guess what? They deliver!
Best Outdoor Gear Store
145 General Stillwell Drive, Marina
Whether you’re going for a day hike in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park or paddling 100 miles of the Lost Coast, REI has the knowledge and selection available to get you in, out and into the wild. Veteran explorers can scan the wealth of superior gear, while novice adventurers can take advantage of the knowledgeable staff and attend virtually any class one would need to take on the outdoors. Don’t have the cash for that new internal frame pack? It’s a good thing REI rents those and anything else you need to complete your kit. No more excuses – just get out there.
McShane’s Nursery & Landscape Supply
115 Monterey Salinas Highway
There are lots of places where you can buy tomato plants, a rosebush or two, maybe a fountain and call it a day. You might not even talk to a human being during the exchange, if, for example, you use the self-checkout option at the big-box joint. Then there are places like McShane’s Nursery & Landscape Supply, where you can buy everything to create the garden or landscape of your dreams, and get all of the info you could possibly need to make it happen. Worm castings? Compost? Pea gravel? A personal shopper to hold your hand? It’s all there. Proprietor Steve McShane’s enthusiasm for his trade is infectious, as is his ability to organize and disseminate information. McShane’s YouTube channel features more than 80 videos. The store blog, “And the Beet Goes On,” details the trials and tribulations of the edible gardening enthusiast.
Best Local Pet Store
Stone’s Pet Shop
1122 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove
From puppies to geckos to a bird that can sing “Happy Birthday,” Stone’s Pet Shop is a palace of wonders for animal lovers. This 60-year-old store’s ever-changing inventory features rescued critters in need of homes, so you can count on seeing a new batch of animals every time you go in. The fish here are all tank-raised and never captured from the wild. Exotic and colorful creatures aside, Stone’s is a go-to for health-conscious cat and dog owners who want to stock up on two dedicated freezers’ worth of raw food for their four-footed loved ones.
499 Alvarado St., Monterey
Ordway isn’t trying to pretend it’s a mini department store. Instead of toys, cooking supplies and Hallmark cards, the aisles of Ordway – away from the busy pharmacy counter – are stocked with medical supplies, including a few acres’ worth of gauze bandages and a whole fleet of sturdy wheelchairs. Imagine that: prescription and over-the-counter drugs and medical supplies, and helpful pharmacists – at a pharmacy!
Best Photo/Camera Store
Green’s Camera Store
350 Main St., Salinas, 424-5247
472 Alvarado St., Monterey, 655-1234
Fifth and San Carlos, Carmel, 624-8880
Green’s Camera has changed locations and shut down some stores over the years, but has always kept its excellent service and a full stock of cool cameras and photo gadgets. Green’s keeps amateur and pro shooters snapping away with a staff which has the years behind the lens to garner respect from even the most fancy sophisticates. Consider this: Green’s still develops black-and-white and E-6 slide film in-house, keeping the film geeks happy too.
Best Grocery Store
Best Organic Produce Market
800 Del Monte Center, Monterey
That Whole Foods gets our readers’ double endorsement speaks to the store’s scope: From the pesticide-free produce to the package-free bulks, from the aisles of nutritious boxed staples to the cold case of sustainable seafood, healthy choices abound. It’s also a great place to dine: Cue a hot bar with addictive rotisserie chicken, a salad bar to please the yoga set, and smackable bakery goods free of trans fats. Note the nice freebies too: filtered water up front, fancy cheese samples, toothpicks at the olive bar and tiny tasting cups at the soup station. If you don’t want to bet on an unsure thing, ask ’em to slap a “Try Me” sticker on it and it’s gratis.
Best Selection of Liquor
1900 N. Davis Road, Salinas
So you’re planning a NASCAR kegger on Saturday and hosting a royal champagne-and-caviar reception Sunday and you only have time for one stop. Head to the Bev. Go to the Mo. And brace yourself for spirit selection overload. With constant specials (including the famous 5-cent wine sales) it’s a one-stop for the refreshments needed for any party or gathering, at reasonable prices. For more booze for your buck, sign up for a ClubBev card.
Best Wine Market
1275 S. Main St., Salinas
Instead of running away from his customers, Victor Kong, Star Market’s resident wine sage, engages them. “This one is like a Chardonnay, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc,” he’ll say, “all whipped into one.” With the best selection of Monterey County wines all stacked into one aisle, it’s hard not to be impressed: Wow, it has Pisoni Estate, Chock Rock Chardonnay and Cambiatta Albarino… cool, even some old Durney Cabernets… awesome.
Best Seafood Market
Sea Harvest Fish Market and Restaurant
598 Foam St., Monterey, 646-0547
100 The Crossroads, Carmel, 626-3626
2420 Highway 1, Moss Landing, 633-8300
Dungeness crab, sea bass, and halibut, oh my! Sea Harvest offers seafood favorites delivered fresh off the boat. Seafood and provenance are clearly labeled on the glass case, making it easy to pick sustainable options. Plus, the knowledgeable staff is happy to clean and gut the fish for you, dole out cooking tips and tell you when the next boatload is due. And with a wide array of sauces available, seafood cooking doesn’t come any easier or guilt-free. They also do cheffing themselves if you want to take the night off.
Best Gourmet/Kitchen Shop
Sur La Table
Carmel Plaza, Ocean Avenue and Mission Street, Ste. 103, Carmel
Pronouncing Sur La Table might be a challenge, but finding what you’re looking for there is a breeze. Smiley-faced spatulas, Kuhn Rikon lefty lid lifter can openers, Staub mussel pots – just about every kitchen gadget is stashed somewhere in the aisles. It’s not surprising local epicureans love coming here. Like a kid in a candy store, you can browse more than 1,200 items augmented by help from the friendly, knowledgeable staff.
1720 Contra Costa St., Sand City
For more than three decades, A&R Plumbing has gone the extra mile for Monterey County residents. Clogged toilets are nasty and annoying, but post-earthquake gas leaks can be deadly. A&R’s professional staff addresses these and a host of other issues on a daily basis with pricing that’s fair. So, the next time you accidentally flush a shower curtain down your commode, trust your pipes to the pros at A&R.
Best Hardware Store (tie)
Pacific Grove Ace Hardware
229 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove
Coast Ace Hardware
1136 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove
Not to throw the proverbial wrench into anyone’s sense of plurality in naming a clamp champ, but two separate, independently owned Aces share this crown molding. Pacific Grove Ace Hardware and Coast Ace Hardware, each on the opposite ends of Forest Avenue in Pacific Grove, are jam-packed with tools, materials and a billion doo-dads and whatchamadoogies for your every home improvement project. From augers to aerators, paints to plaster, keys to critter cages, it’s all there at the P.G. Aces, where “good service is always in stock.”
Best Tattoo Parlor
800 Lighthouse Ave. #A, Monterey
They come for owls swooping from a shoulder halfway down an arm. They seek Chinese dragons – coiled, popping through clouds or wrapping around a wrist – and 1980s video-game characters like Mario and Zelda. They seek superheroes like Superman, Batman and the Thing and, believe it or not, quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt like, “A woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.” Whatever tattoo they come for, though, Weekly readers like to get it here more than anywhere else. This ink doesn’t run.
Best Gift Shop
Never on Sunday
251 Pearl St., Monterey
As a little girl, Jenny Fry had a dream of opening her very own gift shop filled with treasures from across the world. In 2006, dream became reality. The vibrant shop is filled with an array of greeting cards, Greek toiletries and French linen tableclothes. The focus is on detail, thereby making every purchase extra special, down to the wrapping paper and delicate ribbon. Classic, quirky and eclectic are all hallmarks here, where there’s something for everyone within the confines of the historic stone building – but never on Sunday.
Best Place to Buy Music
Do Re Mi Music & Video
26135 Carmel Rancho Blvd. #B, Carmel
In a culture that’s become dominated by filesharing, iTunes and shopping online, the days of buying CDs in person have become somewhat of a rarity. After 34 years, Do Re Mi owners Charlie and Nancy Costanza find their humble business to be one of the last of its kind in the area. The secret to success: constant awareness of inventory, variety – from Leonard Cohen’s Songs From a Room to John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme – and most importantly, customer service that comes with a human face.
744 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey
Glass pipes, bubblers and bongs galore, Mary Jane’z wins this award not just for the inventory of unique and locally made smoking devices, but for the warm and friendly service. Beginners and the most experienced blowers of smoke (and everyone in between) will feel welcome walking in and talking with the staff about the best way to partake. Choose from the unbreakable Hurricane bong (imported from Austria) or a vaporizer for the créme de la créme of smoking experiences. And budget some time to chill out in the lounge and spark up some thoughtful conversation.
Best Surf Shop
On The Beach
693 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey
Kelly Sorenson, a pure-stoke lover of everything surfing, launched this Mecca of a shop in 1986. Loved by all the locals, with killer staff and the latest and greatest products for shredding surf or turf, OTB is a corner-store utopia for beach bums and snow bunnies. OTB offers surf trips to close enough hot spots on the wave, and also snow trips to Tahoe. Although the store has gotten big and famous, Sorenson stays humble – always speaking with gratitude and giving to charities. On The Beach, or off the beach, the sense of stoke is always around.
Best Place to Rent Videos/DVD’s
1170 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove, 657-0292
2260 Fremont, Monterey, 655-5401
262 Reservation Road, Suite A, Marina, 384-1054
1988 N. Main St., Salinas, 442-3050
1594 N. Sanborn Road, Suite 100, Salinas, 754-0906
In what is perhaps the most likely category to go the way of buggy whips and the American middle class, Blockbuster Video wins hands down. Of course, due to unforeseen technological advancements, the competition has dwindled to a few robotic Red Boxes and a rather “blue” local video shop. But those of you who haven’t taken the occasion to walk the aisles of an actual movie rental store since the advent of the various couch-potato friendly digital content delivery services will likely be pleasantly surprised at just how refreshingly nostalgic and inspiring the experience is. The good news: The company that revolutionized the home entertainment industry is still here, with five local stores, and their shelves are stacked (thankfully, alphabetically, which is the natural form of how movie browsing should be presented) with current films, from the A-Team to Zoolander, as well as an interior sea of racks packed with classics that are a sensory hoot to peruse, pick up, turn over, read and consider for your evening’s entertainment.
Best Shoe Repair Shop
Federico’s Drive In Shoe Service
542 Abrego St., Monterey
Federico’s got sole. Lots of ’em, in fact, in addition to heels, polish, leather cutters – or whatever your shoes need to look and feel as good as new. This perennial winner does it all, from shining and polishing, to rebuilding a broken 4-inch stiletto and winterizing your favorite leather boots. Drop off your shoes, or the good folks Federico’s will do it while you wait.
Best Toy Store
Seventh and San Carlos, Carmel, 624-0441
480 Del Monte Center, Monterey, 643-0907
With the growing popularity of online distractions and electronic games for the young ’uns, it would seem that Thinker Toys would be feeling the heat. But nothing can replace the joys of stuffed giraffes and tigers, giant K’nex ferris wheels, and classics like Slinky and Barrel of Monkeys. Come Christmas or birthdays, customers want to make sure they are getting thoughtfully created and well-made toys, and Thinker delivers. Kites, puzzles, puppets and dollhouses are offered in vast selections. Fans of the Concours D’Elegance can splurge on a mini classic pedal car for their kids, or keep things educational and opt for “Disgusting Science” kits and Build-An-Airplane sets. From preschool and infant, baby to toddler, toys for all ages are covered.