Thursday, March 19, 1998
Swenson & Silacci
432 Alvarado St., Monterey, 375-2725
90 West Alisal St., Salinas, 424-2725
When Captain Best-Of has some 'splainin' to do, he knows he can count on Swenson & Silacci to do it for him. Monterey location floral designer Andrea Lacy says customers have been returning to the 50-year-old business because of the personal care, high-quality flowers and arrangements, and great floral designers who have made giving the customer what they want their highest priority.
Runner Up: Pacific Grove Florist, Pacific Grove
Best Candy Store
310 Del Monte Shopping Center, Monterey, 373-4550
650 Northridge Shopping Center, Salinas, 449-4583
You know who you are. You slip into See's when they're busy and ask for a free sample, then slip out again. So maybe you don't know there's no wax or preservatives in the rich chocolates, or the creamy mouth-watering truffles are 30 percent richer than the ordinary nougat. While you're so busy trying to sneak out unnoticed, you probably don't even notice the holiday gift packs, sour jelly beans, peppermint twists and even hot, fresh-brewed coffee. Next time stick around. There's a good reason See's has stayed in business for 70 years. Won last year, too.
Runner Up: Pieces of Heaven, Monterey and Carmel
Best Jewelry Store
447 Alvarado St., Monterey, 375-5332
If flowers didn't do the trick, Captain Best-Of is hereby advised to make a visit to Gasper's Jewelers for a little token of his remorse. There are lots of smiles, lots of service at Gasper's. "We accommodate all our customers, regardless if it's a $5 job or $10,000," says owner Gasper Spadaro. Specializing in custom designs in gold or platinum, Gasper's is ready to make up ring sets for the about-to-be-wed, no matter if it's the first, second or third time around. Jewelry is always a good idea for birthday and anniversary gifts, too. On-premise repair and stone setting are just part of the friendly service provided.
Runner Up: Mr. Z's Jeweler, Pacific Grove
Best Sporting Goods Store
Big 5 Sporting Goods
1000 Northridge Shopping Center, Salinas, 449-6767
1300 Del Monte Shopping Center, Monterey, 375-8800
Captain Best-Of wants to make sure when you're ready to play, you get the right equipment at the right prices. For running shoes, fishing tackle, exercise equipment or baseball gear, he recommends Big 5 again this year. Ray Dolor, assistant manager of the Monterey store agrees, saying Big 5's return policy takes the risk out of shopping for gear. "We're spread out all over the western United States. You can exchange at any Big 5 store, no matter where you are," he says.
Runner Up: Outdoor World, Monterey
Best Golf Store
Nevada Bob's Golf
399 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey, 372-5516
Captain Best-Of has El Ni¤o to thank for giving him a little extra time to get his equipment in shape. He made all his purchases and repairs at Nevada Bob's (which also won this category in '97) because he knows he gets the lowest prices and best quality merchandise, including Cobra, Arnold Palmer, Callaway and Titlist, as well as name-brand golf apparel at any of Nevada Bob's stores--here in Monterey, or when he's playing a round in Hong Kong, France, China, Brazil or Germany. Captain Best-Of gets around.
Runner Up: Pro Golf Discount, Monterey
Best Surf Shop
On The Beach Surf Shop
Ocean and Mission avenues, Carmel, 624-7282
693 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey, 646-9283
It's sick, man, but On The Beach surf shop went Richter in the "Best Of" poll and proved themselves worthy again as the county's Best Surf Shop. Boards, wetsuits, sunglasses, accessories, it's all here when you call the boss and tell him you're "under the weather." Little does he know you're riding some killer waves with Best-Of Man.
Runner Up: Sunshine Surf and Sport, Monterey
Best Dive Shop
Aquarius Dive Shop
2040 Del Monte Ave., Monterey, 375-1933
32 Cannery Row, Monterey, 375-6605
All the local dive shops carry pretty much the same merchandise, admits Alan Christ, service manager at Aquarius' Del Monte Ave. location. You've got your basic wet suits, equipment rentals, on-site repairs and air fills ($4 a tank), plus you can sign up for an underwater guided tour in the kelp forests of Monterey Bay. What sets Aquarius apart, and makes it the usual winner in this category, is personal service. "We have a very friendly, knowledgeable staff," Christ says. CW readers agree with him on that.
Runner Up: Bamboo Reef, Monterey
Best Place To Buy Adventure/Camping Gear
2222 North Fremont St., Monterey, 373-3615
As soon as the mud dries out a little, Captain Best-Of is heading into the back country of Los Padres National Forest for some serious hiking and camping. Meanwhile he's checking out the Kelty, Jansport and Peak 1 backpacks at Outdoor World, and treating himself to a new pair of hiking shoes and warm woolly socks. Outdoor World's warm, friendly staff makes the shopping easy. Better get a rain tarp, too, just in case.
Runner Up: Big 5, Monterey and Salinas
Best Mountain Bike Store/Best Road Bike Store/Best Bicycle Service
486 Washington St., Monterey, 375-2144
Aquarian store owner, Tony Bushlow, says customers keep voting Aquarian their favorite bike store because of the TLC offered to everyone who comes in the door. "We're not elitist here," Bushlow says. "We look at bicycling as something we want people to do to have fun. They don't have to be in the 20-to-25 age group, or racers." In addition to a great selection of mountain and road bikes, Aquarian carries everything a biker could need, from water bottles and cages, odometers, pumps, racks, panniers, and a complete repair facility "with way too much money in parts," Bushlow says.
Runner Up Mountain Bikes: Sports Center, Seaside
Runner Up Road Bikes: Winning Wheels, Pacific Grove
Runner Up Bicycle Service: Joselyn's Bicycles, Monterey
Best Place To Buy Coffee Beans
461 Alvarado St., Monterey, 373-8575
492 Del Monte Shopping Center, 642-0736
World-traveling Captain Best-Of, coffee bean aficionado extraordinaire (and also trilingual), drags his tired little butt into Starbucks for a cup of hot brew and bounces out with some of the best beans on earth. Some days, he favors the subtle-but-complex Kenyan coffees, on others he prefers the livelier Central-American blends. Whatever his choice, he's always guaranteed freshness, because Starbucks doesn't keep their beans around for more than a few days. Also in shop are top-of-the-line grinders, espresso machines, gift items, and of course, Oprah's latest book-of-the-month, with proceeds going to literacy programs. Aaah! Now he feels better.
Runner Up: Morgan's Coffee and Tea, Monterey
Best Health Food Store/Market
173 Central Ave., Pacific Grove, 647-2150
Captain Best-Of knows the staff at Granary Market delivers the highest levels of customer service they're capable of, because store manager Todd Loomis told him so. "The products we sell are becoming widely available throughout the grocery industry," says Loomis. "But the reason people come here overwhelmingly over somewhere else is that a commitment to natural health and wellness is our forte." Besides, Granary's certified organic produce, fresh juices, baked goods from local bakeries, and packaged grocery items, are just darn good, and good for you. (Is that Captain Best-Of we see in the corner popping vitamins?)
Runner Up: Cornucopia Community Market, Carmel
Best Neighborhood Market
242 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove, 375-9581
Grove Market is everything a neighborhood market should be, and one of the last locally owned holdouts on a street that is fast falling prey to chain store mania (Grove Pharmacy three doors away is now a J.C. Penney's catalog store). Owned for 30 years by Charles Higuera and Dwight Langley, Grove Market offers high-quality food and supplies, killer coffee beans, a great produce section (runner up in this year's category), and a fabulous in-house butcher shop featuring Captain Best-Of's personal favorite: real thick-cut bacon. Most of all, though, is the warm feeling you get from the time you first walk in the door. "We know everybody," Langley says. "It's a real neighborhood market." When the cashier tells you to come back soon, you know he means it.
Runner Up: Monte Vista Market, Monterey
Best Produce Market
Del Monte Produce
2400 Del Monte Ave., Monterey, 373-5800
Captain Best-Of keeps his trim figure by eating lots of salads and steamed veggies, and where better to buy them than at Del Monte Produce, where 75 percent of the greens sold are home grown? "In the winter our produce comes from Mexico and Florida, but from April until the first frost, around November, we sell our own merchandise from the Salinas Valley," says Peter Tsigaris, owner. "We grow our own strawberries, zucchini, lettuces, parsley, chilies, tomatillos, broccoli and cilantro." Del Monte also makes quick-stop shopping easy by offering dressings and salsas, dried nuts, and fresh herbs, bread and tortillas.
Runner Up: Grove Market, Pacific Grove
Best Seafood Market
Sea Harvest Fish Market and Restaurant
100 Crossroads Blvd., Carmel, 626-3626
598 Foam St., Monterey, 646-0547
1136 S. Main St., Salinas, 422-2016
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, all for sale fresh from the briny depths--or quick-frozen by faraway fisherfolk--at Sea Harvest's three locations. Dimas, at the Foam Street store, says they've been getting in "a lot more Mahi-Mahi lately," which is a current bestseller, along with Petrale sole, salmon and swordfish. Local fish and seafood rule the roost, but Sea Harvest also offers Alaskan halibut, Chilean sea bass, and Costa Rican swordfish, among other far-flung delicacies. Sea Harvest sells seasonings and other fishy accompaniments as well as prepared fish dishes, and has a sit-down or take-out restaurant on the premises if you just can't wait 'til you get home. Just don't tell Captain Best-Of that you're not at the Fishwife!
Runner Up: Phil's Fish Market and Eatery, Moss Landing
Best Ethnic Market
400 Pearl St., Monterey, 372-2524
It's been 79 years since Sunrise Grocery opened its doors, a pioneer in Asian food and cooking supplies on the Central Coast. It's been rewarded for its longevity by CW readers, who name it the best year after year. Sunrise is a pleasure to shop in: Japanese, Thai, Chinese and other Far Asian merchandise is grouped by country on well-spaced, well-lit shelves. Prices are less than what you'd pay in the supermarket for, say, coconut milk or sesame oil. And the frozen section offers ready-cooked delicacies (the Chinese pork dumplings are great) as well as specialty produce, such as lemon grass, seaweed and galanga. If they don't have what you want, they'll order it, or tell you where else you might find it. Check out their sake selection, and the lovely tea sets and Chinese bamboo rice steamers along the far wall.
Runner Up: Mediterranean Market, Monterey
Longs Drug Stores
Multiple locations throughout Monterey County
Let's face it: it's difficult to fly faster than a speeding bullet when your sinuses are congested. Further, no superhero can afford to miss a day of work, even if the flu seems to be striking down co-workers for the third time this winter. While vitamin supplements help, now and again even Best-Of Man needs a prescription filled. So readers voted Longs as the county's best pharmacy once again. Their service is quick, their prices competitive and they have multiple locations throughout the county. Fill-'er up!
Runner Up: Ordway Drug Store, Monterey
Best Car Dealership
5 Heitzinger Plaza, Seaside, 393-3020
Captain Best-Of doesn't waste time. He contacted Victory Toyota through the Internet, made an offer and hopped a helicopter ride up from Big Sur to pick up his new 4Runner. Last seen, Captain Best-Of was traversing the Old Coast Road back down to his yurt in the forest--he knew he could trust the reliable sales and service at Victory.
Runner Up: Butts, Seaside
Best Place For An Oil Change
865 Abrego St., Monterey, 649-5823
2415 North Fremont St., Monterey, 375-5823
228 North Main St., Salinas, 422-5823
Captain Best-Of's tongue is tied when it comes to praising Q-Lube, the best oil-changing service business in the County. What can he say except they take you in on a first-come, first-serve, no-appointment-necessary basis, give you an 18-point service, charge around 30 bucks, and get you out of there in an average of seven minutes? Huzzah! There's still time to actually eat lunch.
Runner Up: Mr. Lubrication, Seaside
Best Place To Buy A Car Stereo
1662 North Main St., Salinas, 442-3600
905 Playa Ave., Sand City, 392-0103
Because Captain Best-Of spends a lot of time in his car checking out the Best Of...for YOU, he's upgrading his car stereo system at Circuit City. Checking out the amplifiers, crossovers, subwoofers, equalizers and all those speakers--with name-brands like Kenwood, Sony, JVC and Alpine--sounds pretty confusing, right? Needn't be. Just ask Danny at the Sand City store. He'll tell you about their same-day installation, too.
Best Independent: Kar Tunes, Seaside
Best Place Rent Videos
Multiple Locations throughout Monterey County
Bigger is definitely better-at least when it comes to videotape rental. Again this year, Coast Weekly readers voted double-B as the best place for video rentals in Monterey County. Why? 'Cuz the place is packed with aisle after aisle of videotape, new and old, obvious and obscure. And with four locations in Monterey County, there's always a Blockbuster somewhere close by.
Best Independent Place to Rent Videos: Monster Video, Carmel and Big Sur
Best Bookstore/Best Bookstore for Children's Books/Best Selection of Magazines and Newspapers
Borders Books and Music
2080 California Ave., Sand City, 899-6643
A runaway winner in all three categories, Borders has, in little more than a year, established itself as the dominant bookstore in Monterey County. Not only do they have a huge selection of titles, they also have comfy chairs, entertainment most nights of the week, and an impressive selection of newspapers and magazines. And when Captain Best-Of needs a jolt of java before his late night crime-fighting, he knows he can find it at Borders.
Best Independent Bookstore/Children's Books: Thunderbird Bookshop, Carmel
Best Independent Selection of Magazines: Bookworks, Pacific Grove
Best Place To Buy Office Supplies
1524 North Main St., Salinas, 443-3686
850 Playa Ave., Sand City, 394-2582
It could be as low-tech as Post-Its and pencils or as high-end as a laptop or electronic organizer--Office Depot has it all, along with office furniture, printing and copy services, and lots of software. Captain Best-Of was seen in the check-out line with a paper shredder and tape recorder. Said he was in a hurry for a flight to Washington. Oh, yeah?
Runner Up: Staples, Seaside
Best Computer Store
534 Abrego St., Monterey, 649-5900
Captain Best-Of knows you want the fastest computer for your flight simulator, a reliable, knowledgeable staff to answer your questions in plain English, and a quick turnaround on repairs, so he's recommending PC People. For the eighth year in a row, as a matter of fact. "We're on the cutting edge of new systems," says manager Tim Bailey. "We're flexible enough to see what's coming. People are coming in asking for the new 3D graphics game cards, Pentium II systems, digital cameras and the new rewritable CD-ROM drives. They do business here because of our great service department, too, which the big box stores don't have. When we sell a computer, we're right here when they have a question or problem."
Runner Up: Circuit City, Sand City and Salinas
Best Place To Buy A Cellular Phone
571 Franklin St., Monterey, 647-8888
1276 South Main St., Salinas, 754-8888
Remember when Maxwell Smart used to take off his shoe to telephone the boss? You don't? Well, look it up. Anyway, Captain Best-Of makes all his personal and business calls using the digital PCS cell phone he bought from Cellular One, where he was treated to courteous service and given a simple competitive rate. He got one for Agent 99, too.
Runner Up: GTE, Salinas, Sand City
Best Selection of New Tapes or CDs/Best Selection of Used Tapes or CDs
14 Crossroads Mall, Carmel, 624-3832
402 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey, 649-3469
1680 Del Monte Shopping Center, 372-1236
1712 North Main St., Salinas, 449-4320
Captain Best-Of left the movie Titanic and went straight to The Wherehouse to get the soundtrack CD. Traded in his old Dances With Wolves and Braveheart discs for it. He could have had his pick from rap, reggae, classical, pop, jazz. It's all there. That's why The Wherehouse keeps on winning your praise.
Runner Up New Tapes or CDs: Do Re Mi, Carmel, Monterey
Runner Up Used Tapes or CDs: Recycled Records, Monterey
Best Place to Buy an Exotic Pet: Tie
Del Monte Pets
Del Monte Shopping Center, Monterey, 372-0121
Exotic Tropicals and Pets
1986 Fremont Blvd., Seaside, 394-1020
Whatzamatta? A kitten ain't good enough for you? Del Monte Pets offers dwarf rabbits, hand-fed lovebirds, land hermit crabs and bearded dragons, described by fish department manager Norman Johnson as "passive, and nice for kids to play with." Exotic Tropicals specializes in fish, birds and reptiles only. Owner Matthew Marion enthusiastically recommends his Burmese python, "a huge iguana," locally-bred king snakes, Indonesian golden toads, scorpions and tarantulas. "The ones I've got won't bite," he promises.
Runner Up: SPCA, Monterey
Best Place for Pet Supplies
2040 Fremont Blvd., Seaside, 394-0845
Pet Pals' 11,000-square-foot warehouse-style store is one reason why it's called the Costco of pet supply, but you don't have to buy in bulk to take advantage of Pet Pals' large selection and low prices. Owner Glenn Matherly, who opened his Soquel store 12 years ago and the Seaside branch six years ago, says that "service and selection" are what set Pet Pals above the rest. "It's a big store, with a lot of different things," he notes. Matherly claims he doesn't get a lot of weird or unusual requests from clients. "We're a pet supply store, not for exotics," he points out. So don't be coming in for bedding for your pet alligator, 'cause that's not what they're about. But if you want cat food, dog collars, bird feed or flea powder, and you want it cheap, and lots of it, look no further.
Runner Up: Posh Pets, Pacific Grove
Best Place To Buy Musical Equipment
425 Alvarado St., Monterey, 372-5893
John Prock, manager of Music Unlimited, says his store will meet or beat any price, anywhere in the world, on musical instruments and equipment. That's the attitude that keeps customers coming back for their guitars, keyboards, and band instruments. The knowledgeable staff answers your musical questions, while teachers are waiting in the wings to bring you up to speed on your new instrument. They're open seven days a week, too. (Which means Captain Best-Of can always find the proper accompaniment for his solo rendition of "Radar Love.")
Runner Up: Bay West Music, Monterey
Best Place To Buy a Camera
Green's Camera World
350 Main St., Salinas, 371-7177
472 Alvarado St., Monterey, 655-1234
213 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove, 373-3686
Mark McMahon, manager of the Pacific Grove Green's Camera World says Green's is a real old-fashioned camera store, from the best selection in Monterey County of old and antique cameras to the latest in digitals. Lots of photo accessories like tripods, camera bags, and darkroom equipment, and their own photo labs. "We're an all-under-one-roof kind of thing," says McMahon. "Our customers say we're really great to deal with. They always have a good time in our store."
Runner Up: Myrick Photographic, Monterey
Best Place For Art Framing
663 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey, 373-0134
(Searle) Frames On Broadway
805 Broadway Ave., Seaside, 394-9394
Guess how many corner samples of frames Searle has on hand for customers' selections. If you guessed 10,000, you win a framed portrait of Captain Best-Of! Well, not really. But Searle has a great staff of designers and framers, and their prices are about 25 percent lower than those other framers. A small variety of prints are sold here, too.
Runner Up: Crafts Unlimited, Monterey
Best Arts & Crafts Supply Store
2090 N. Fremont St., Monterey, 646-0346
Unlimited is right! You'd expect the Styrofoam, the dried and silk flowers, and wreath rings. But did you know Crafts Unlimited! has everything you need for a sewing project, including the notions? (that's buttons and thread) Did you know they had all kinds of stuff to keep kids busy indoors during this rainy season like stickers, puzzles, finger paints, crayons, drawing paper and easels? Want to decorate a birdhouse? No problem! Any notion (that's a bright idea) you have for a project can be fulfilled right here.
Runner Up: Searle, Monterey
Best Place to Buy Gently-Worn Clothing
729 Broadway Ave., Seaside, 394-1212
571 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey, 649-6056
708 E. Alisal St., Salinas, 424-5346
1258 N. Main St., Salinas, 449-6361
For the second year in a row, CW readers have tapped Goodwill stores as the best place to buy second-hand clothes. Changing the category name from "thrift store" to "gently-worn clothing" doesn't seem to have dissuaded you. Seaside store manager Narcissa Mendoza says prices range from $1.95 for tee-shirts, baby clothes and other smaller items, to $49 for winter coats. The stores also offer furniture and "appliances that work," Mendoza adds. Plus, the money you pay all goes to support Goodwill's local project, job retraining for the disabled. So take part in the feel-good clothing chain: all items were donated in Monterey or Santa Cruz counties, and are re-bought by customers in the same area, to benefit a local charity. Captain Best-Of says it's too bad they don't carry superhero uniforms. A tip for locals: sell your gently-worn clothing through runner up Nice Twice, and you get a healthy percentage of the selling price.
Runner up: Nice Twice, Monterey
Best Women's Clothing Store/Best Place to Buy Men's Clothes/Best Place to Buy Women's Shoes
100 Del Monte Shopping Center, Monterey, 372-3333
200 Northridge Shopping Center, Salinas, 443-1111
Hoping to make it into the big Thanksgiving Day parade, Captain Best-Of, and you, chose Macy's as the best place for men's and women's clothing. Their sheer size and national reach means they always have a wide selection of clothing and shoes in all price categories. And maybe the best part about shopping at Macy's is their no-fault return policy. If you can't decide between three dresses, take 'em all home and return the ones you don't like. (Captain Best-Of certainly does.) Macy's will take stuff back after a ridiculously long period, with or without receipts (but you only get the lowest sale price with no receipt). Special mention must go to runners-up The Clothing Store, Lloyd's Shoes and Dick Bruhn, local favorites that are mentioned year after year by CW readers--it's not their fault they don't have multi-million dollar budgets.
Best Women's Clothing Store Runner Up: The Clothing Store, Pacific Grove
Best Place to Buy Men's Clothes Runner Up: Dick Bruhn, Carmel and Salinas
Best Place to Buy Women's Shoes Runner Up: Lloyd's Shoes, Carmel
Best Shopping Center
Del Monte Center(formerly Del Monte Shopping Center)
Munras Ave., Monterey, 373-2705
Del Monte Center has gone through a subtle facelift since new owners Divco West Properties and Sun America Insurance bought it in January 1997. First of all, they've dropped the "Shopping" from their name. General manager Jeff Miyaoka says they're repainting--"a whole new color scheme, lighter, more aesthetically pleasing," upgrading the landscaping, and trying to bring in "more upscale stores, to position ourselves so we're not in direct competition with the power centers.in Sand City." The newest addition to Del Monte's 80 stores is Whole Foods, set to take over the Lucky's space in June. Captain Best-Of has a burning question: Is there any truth to the persistent rumor that Nordstrom's will come to Del Monte Center? "It's just a rumor, for now," Miyaoka says. "We'd love to see them come in to the Peninsula. But Nordstrom's typically requires another 100,000 people in the trade area." Heck, we'll take our small town just the way it is, then.
Runner Up: Northridge Shopping Center, Salinas
Best Place To Shop For Kids' Clothes
Mervyn's Department Store
300 Northridge Shopping Center, Salinas, 449-9131
1500 Del Monte Shopping Center, Monterey, 372-8800
Since life doesn't promise better-than-average, much less excellence, when it comes to kids, Captain Best-Of decided, alas, to remain childless. He does dote on his nieces and nephews, though, and when birthday times roll around, you can find Captain Best-Of in the aisles of the children's department at Mervyn's, grabbing up bargains on name-brand kids' clothing, such as Bugle Boy, Cheetah, Levi's, Hanes and Carter's. Since the little squirts grow up fast, Captain Best-Of appreciates the low prices on their always-in-fashion styles for the younger bunch.
Runner Up: Gap Kids, Monterey
Best Place To Buy Prescription Eyewear
1420 Del Monte Shopping Center, Monterey, 375-7755
670 Northridge Shopping Center, Salinas, 443-6090
Even baby-boomer Captain Best-Of has to hold his book out at arm's length to read the fine print, so he got his glasses at Lenscrafters, where he chose stylin' designer frames, have his glasses made up in an hour, and keep a little change in his pocket by using one of those Lenscrafters money-saving coupons.
Runner Up: Costco, Sand City, Salinas
Best Place To Buy Sunglasses
Sunglass Hut International
Multiple locations throughout Monterey County
Peering out through the rain, Captain Best-Of has been heard humming, "the sun'll come out tomorrow." Besides, he lost his sunglasses again, so he's making his way down to Sunglass Hut International, where he can choose from an array of lenses fashioned by DKNY, Stussy, Revo, Ralph Lauren, and, of course, the old standby, Ray-Ban.
Runner Up: Lenscrafters, Monterey and Salinas