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Diablo has been asking readers to vote for their Best of the East Bay shops, eats, and activities for a quarter-century.


Best of the East Bay Turns 25


Nine years after Diablo magazine’s first issue hit mailboxes, we published the inaugural Best of the East Bay edition. That was back in 1988, when Danville, Pleasanton, and Walnut Creek were still in the 415 area code, and the few cell phones that existed were as big as a shoebox. Oh, and a house in Blackhawk cost about $400,000.

Even way back then, there were some winners who would keep doing things right for the next 25 years, such as this year’s best delicatessen, Walnut Creek’s Genova Deli. And certainly, our magazine’s namesake, Mount Diablo, was just as much a winner as it is today: Our favorite mountain would go on to receive honors for best place to watch a sunset, best wildflower hikes, best experience for out-of-town visitors, best place to pop the question, and best place to camp.

Santiago Bueno/SygmaBefore we get to this year’s winners, we wanted to take you on a trip back through time to check in on the various people, places, shops, and services that have won. Please join us in toasting all the favorites for the past 25 years—and raising a glass to the next 25 years!



1988: Livermore’s Wente Vineyards, 2012’s winner for best East Bay winery, is an inaugural Best of the East Bay winner for its tasting room.

1989: Rasputin Records wins best used record store, back when “record” meant “vinyl.” Then again, vinyl is making a comeback, and Rasputin’s Berkeley and Concord stores are still going strong.

1990: Take One Video receives props for its outstanding selection of video rentals in three East Bay locations. Even in the age of Netflix streaming, a Take One Video still exists in Pleasant Hill, in the space formerly occupied by Einstein Entertainment (the best video rental winner from 1999–2004.)

1991: Way before slow food was hip, Walnut Creek’s Shadelands Ranch Historical Museum wins the award for best place to get a grasp of the East Bay’s farming roots. We’ve since retired the category, but the museum is still a great place to step back in time.
1992: Best dinner goes to Lafayette’s Tourelle. Never heard of it? The fine-dining restaurant became Postino in 1998.

1993: Danville’s Rakestraw Books wins best indie bookstore. It’s moved three times since and has settled on Hartz Avenue—and it’s still our readers’ favorite in 2012.

1994: Martinez’s waterfront is our readers’ pick for best kept secret in the East Bay. Had a chance to check it out yet?

1995: Walnut Creek’s Punchline Comedy Club wins best nightclub. East Bay nightclubs are a tough biz: Aura, Bobbie MacGee’s, Echo, Maestro’s, and the Blue Tattoo all received reader and editor shout-outs over the years, only to fade to black.

Ericka McConnell1996: Lark Creek Café, now Lark Creek Walnut Creek, wins best new restaurant. Also in ’96, Spiedini won best Italian: Alas, this pioneering restaurant is long gone.

1997: We run an essay on the hamburger you’d drive the farthest for in honor of the East Bay’s first In-n-Out in San Ramon. Meanwhile, Changes Salon is named best place to get a women’s haircut for under $40. (Offer no longer available.)

1998: We run a guide to the hidden pleasures of Briones Park. This East Bay Regional Parks gem
is still relatively deserted, even though parking rates have decreased from $3.50 to $3 per car over the years.

1999: David M. Brian wins best place to buy Beanie Babies. At the time, the store was the largest retailer of Beanie Babies in the world. Also that year, baseball player Mark McGwire is voted best role model for kids: 1999 was just after McGwire broke the single season record for home runs but before he acknowledged doing it while on steroids.

2000: Danville-raised supermodel Christy Turlington becomes the first celebrity to grace our Best of the East Bay cover. Also this year, we start listing website addresses for the winners. One of the editors suggested the whole Internet thing was here to stay.

2001: American League MVP Jason Giambi is our first ballplayer on the Best of the East Bay cover, wearing a T-shirt from legendary local chopper shop Simms Custom Cycles.

2002: Cat Cora wins best chef for her work at Postino, before blowing up big-time on international TV shows such as Iron Chef.

2003: Readers pick Berkeley’s Michael Chabon as favorite local author. Look for Chabon’s first East Bay–set novel, Telegraph Avenue, in stores on September 11. Also, Barnabus, a Lafayette poodle, is named best political pooch. Seems his owner registered the dog for the Republican Party to test the voter registration system, and Barnabus joined the GOP. We assume Barnabus will be voting for Romney this fall, unless he’s offended by the whole roof of the car snafu.

2004: Dennis Richmond wins best news anchor, and Dave Morey wins best radio DJ. We miss these legendary broadcasters, both of whom have moved away from the Bay.

2005: Yoshi’s wins best place to hear live music; the legendary Oakland jazz club is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2012.

Mitch tobias2006: Zachary’s Pizza opens a new location in San Ramon and wins its fifth of 10 best pizza awards. Look for another location opening in Pleasant Hill later this year.

2007: Benny McKay, owner of Acc’sentials in Pleasanton, wins best men’s business casual store. McKay is now at Neiman Marcus in Walnut Creek. Same great guy, fancier shop.

2008: We interview Castro Valley native Rachel Maddow, then a frequent guest host on MSNBC’s evening news lineup. Soon after, Maddow was given her own show and became the star of the channel. (You’re welcome, Rachel. Hey, let’s catch up.)

2009: Stork’s Nest in Pleasanton—which is now The Nest in Danville—wins best baby shop. Wonder if those ’09 babies have iPads yet.

2010: Danville’s Esin wins its fifth consecutive award for best place for dessert. The category went away in 2011 but returned this year—and Esin retains the title. Victory is sweet.

2011: Lafayette’s Orchard Nursery wins best plant nursery, its 14th Best of the East Bay award. Talk about a perennial!

2012: The Class of 2012 includes 176 Best of the East Bay winners. Turn the page to start the fun.


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