Our subscribers have spoken, telling us what they think is tops in the Sacramento area. From best TV reporter to best rock radio station, best place to get a massage to best place to get a tattoo, best local sports team to best locally owned women’s boutique, it’s all here and more. Our editors have chimed in, too, with 30 picks that help make the region reign supreme. Read on to discover this year’s very best of Sacramento.
Food & Drink
Best Restaurant Name You Gotta Love: Pizza & Chicken Love Letter
You might think you’re lost in translation when you read the sign for Pizza & Chicken Love Letter. But it’s a Korean restaurant, and in Korean culture, according to Dr. Brian Lim of Sacramento State, this isn’t a joke but a normal name. And what exactly are Korean-style pizza and chicken like? So spicy they scorch the tongue? The answer is no, says restaurant owner Patty Coyle, who adds that her best-selling item is sweet-potato pizza. 2990 Bradshaw Road, Sacramento; (916) 369-2009
Best Tea Service: Turkish Tea at Anatolian Table
Turkish culture comes alive when you order Anatolian Table Restaurant’s Turkish tea. Derived from the Black Sea region of Turkey, the black tea is served hot in dainty, tulip-shape glasses and is brought to your table on a traditional Turkish serving tray. Rocklin may be miles away from the exotic city of Istanbul, but this tea will give you a taste of what life in Turkey is like. 6815 Lonetree Blvd., Suite 105, Rocklin; (916) 772-3020; anatoliantable.com
Shopping and Services
Best Place To Get a Jump on Things: Sky High Sports
Kids bouncing off the walls? Turn them loose at Sky High Sports, where wall-to-wall trampolines provide a safe place to do back flips, front flips, play dodgeball or just jump themselves silly. Actually, anyone aiming to get into shape may want to give trampolining a try: Even our friends who are workout queens swear they were exhausted after just a few minutes. 11327 Folsom Blvd., Rancho Cordova; (916) 853-5867; jumpskyhigh.com
Best New Place To Give Your Credit Card a Workout: Fountains at Roseville
Hey, big spender: You’ve got a new place to put it on plastic. This grand outdoor “lifestyle center” opened in June with a mix of stores we’ve seen before—Chico’s, Coldwater Creek, White House/Black Market—alongside a few that are new to the region—the artsy fashion boutique Anthropologie and that culinary crème de la crème, Sur La Table. It’s also home to the region’s second Whole Foods Market. In the middle of it all: a fountain, where you can catch a water show, complete with Vegas-style music and lights. But tuck your credit card away—this one’s on the house. Roseville Parkway at Galleria Boulevard, Roseville; thefountainsatroseville.com
Best Folsom Fashion Find: Tea Stain Clothing
There’s not a drop of Darjeeling in these long- and short-sleeve T-shirts and tanks, but their hues are subtle, like tea stains—hence the name. This Folsom-based wholesale men’s and women’s clothing business was started last year by husband-and-wife team Devin and Ashley Hajek, who were fed up with flashy fashions and wanted to create something simpler and more sophisticated. They sell their products online and in stores both national and local, including Dara Denim (midtown and Granite Bay) and NV Her Boutique in Folsom. teastainclothing.com
Best Place To Rev Up Nostalgia: Sacramento Vintage Ford
This veritable palace for vintage cars and trucks, street rod and hot rod products could easily ignite the awe of even a nonauto buff. Cruising around the squeaky-clean 70,000-square-foot facility, you’ll see everything from cream-puff cars on display—the original shiny black Batmobile recently parked here—to every part, tire or accessory needed to turn an old Model T, T-Bird or truck back into mint condition. You’ll also find gifts galore, from miniature model cars to license plate frames and automotive art. Although Vintage Ford opened in 1969, the motif is ’50s all the way, including a “Happy Days”-style soda shop where you can refuel on a chocolate malt before taking another spin around the showroom. 2484 Mercantile Drive; Rancho Cordova; (916) 853-2244; vintageford.com
Best Mom and Pop Auto Body Shop: Bertolucci’s Body & Fender Shop
Richard Bertolucci started this family-owned and -operated auto body shop 60 years ago, and there are plenty of people who have been loyal to it for just as long. It’s not just the attention to detail in making banged-up cars look like new that keeps them coming back, say customers, but the way the Bertolucci family treats everyone like family. 1717 Stockton Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 454-4433; bertoluccis.com
Best Passport to Provence: Georgeanne Brennan’s Cooking Classes
A passport once was required for Georgeanne Brennan’s cooking classes, held in the palate-pleasing region of Provence. But not anymore: The weakened economy has prompted the award-winning cookbook author to move operations stateside, to her bucolic farm in Winters. With a huge garden and an abundance of fruit trees and grape vines—plus a lovely farm kitchen, surrounded by lemon trees—it certainly feels like the French countryside, but all you need is a set of wheels to get there. Classes are held monthly, on weekends. georgeannebrennan.com
Best New Hotel for Hipsters: The Greens Hotel
With rooms named “A” through “Z”—no numbingly normal numbers, please—The Greens Hotel shouts out its defiantly hip spirit. That ultracool sheen extends to the rooms, with primary-color motifs, sleekly modern Limn furniture (Limn store owner Dan Friedlander owns Greens) and wall art straight out of MOMA. And rest assured: The retro-modern Greens lives up to its name by using eco-friendly housekeeping practices. 1700 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 921-1736; thegreenshotel.com
Best Addition to Downtown: The Citizen Hotel
A dingy stretch of J Street gets a massive boost this fall with the highly anticipated opening of the city’s first high-rise boutique hotel. The developer, Joie de Vivre Hospitality of San Francisco, spent beaucoup bucks renovating the old Cal Western Life office building. A ground-floor restaurant called Grange opens later this year with acclaimed Atlanta chef Michael Tuohy at the helm. 926 J St., Sacramento; (916) 447-2700; jdvhotels.com
Best Fun for the Faraway Fan: All American Sports Fan
Transplanted sports fans find plenty to cheer about at All American Sports Fan, where geographic diversity rules. You’ll find a Red Sox T-shirt for the displaced northeasterner, a Seattle Seahawks blanket for the former northwesterner and a Minnesota Vikings key chain for the guy who just moved here from St. Paul. The family-run shop, around since the ’70s, has an old, dusty feel befitting its Old Sac location and often serves as a final stop for those who’ve hit all the flashy sports stores in town and come up empty. 1021 Front St., Old Sacramento; (916) 442-5066; aasportsfan.com
Best Block Party: J Street Between 27th and 28th
They call it “The Bloc”—that sophisticated stretch of sheer indulgence that runs along J Street between 27th and 28th. It emanates at a wicked-fast vibrational rate, thanks to a constant throng of party-hearty types. Start with Margarita Mondays at Centro and end the week, perhaps, with a show at Harlow’s. In between, you can grab a slice at Papi’s, shoot pool at the Blue Cue or try out the latest hip restaurant on the strip (most recently, that would be Aura and G.V. Hurley’s). And then go home, sleep it off and do it all over again. theblocsacramento.com
Best Musical Multitasker: Ray Anthony Trujillo
Being a classical violin dynamo is one thing. But playing a mean sax at age 13 is something else again—and Ray Anthony Trujillo does both exceedingly well. It helps that his father owns a music store and served as his first teacher. But the young Trujillo is more than your average kid with a musical head start. On violin, he’s played with the Sacramento Philharmonic and is one of the Sacramento Youth Symphony’s star players. On saxophone, he’s been known to jump on stage with the big boys, improvising on jazz, blues and pop. And—get this—he even fronts his own jazz quartet. How many 13-year-olds do you know can say that?
Best Next Big Thing: Ryan Hernandez
OK, so we’re going out on a limb. But Ryan Hernandez’s voice is something to behold, alternately bringing to mind Al Green’s soulfulness, Stevie Wonder’s emotional intensity and John Legend’s dulcet tones—not bad company for a 24-year-old self-taught musician from Sacramento. (He also plays acoustic guitar and piano and does it well.) By mixing old-school classics like “Let’s Get It On” with new-school pop/alternative, Hernandez is a hit with what he calls the “16 to 60 crowd,” performing regularly at Bistro 33 restaurants and other local venues.
Best Spirit Lifters: The Voices of Praise
If you don’t feel a rush of exhilaration when you hear The Voices of Praise, you must have walked into the wrong church. The musical pride and joy of Center of Praise Ministries (at 23rd and Capitol in midtown) is only some 35-members strong, but fills up the massive church like 1,000 voices—and not because of the microphones. Whether singing traditional or contemporary hymns, worship choruses or anthems, this choir’s electrifying power will jolt you right out of your seat and onto your feet, just like a good gospel group should.
Best Little Girl With a Big Voice: Olivia Kaufmann
Somehow, we don’t expect big voices to come from small packages. But they can—and do, as 13-year-old Olivia Kaufmann has been proving to local audiences. The petite singer/actress with the powerful pipes performs with Sacramento Theatre Company’s Young Professionals Conservatory and is becoming an increasingly familiar face in local theater, jumping from the STC stage to Magic Circle in Roseville to El Dorado Musical Theatre, based in her hometown of El Dorado Hills. It appears the critics like her, too: This year, she was nominated for an Elly award.
Best Homegrown Fred and Ginger: Michael Eric Koptke and Chelsea Farrah
Like Fred and Ginger before them, Michael Eric Koptke and Chelsea Farrah are glamorously gliding across the stage of life with stars in their eyes. The dancing duo has won top honors in several ballroom competitions, including the Pro/Am Open (he’s pro, she’s am) at the International Grand Ball in San Francisco this past summer. They dream of becoming world champions—and if they keep wooing judges with their winsome waltzing, they just might make it.
Best Paintings by Numbers: The 50-50 Show
Fun, clever and affordable, The 50-50 Show features 50 works created by 50 artists in 50 days, most of them priced below $150. Do the math, and you’ll come up with a grand total of 2,500 tiny treasures. (They’re only 6 by 6 inches each.) Held at the 20th Street Art Gallery in midtown, the event sees its third anniversary in April 2009, and gallery owner Jim Ferry says he intends to continue the tradition. But get ready to fight the crowds: During Second Saturday this past April, the place was packed.
Best Beatboxer To Beat All: Antoinette “Butterscotch” Clinton
She goes by “Butterscotch,” sweet and simple. But there’s nothing simple about her ability to sing, beatbox and play piano—all at the same time. (Creating all those drumbeats and rhythms with one’s mouth and tongue is, in itself, an act of sheer contortionism.) This past year, the 23-year-old Davis native gained national attention on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” where she came within inches of winning. But the beatbox world knew her long before that: In 2005, Butterscotch was named the first International World Female Beatbox Champion. She subsequently claimed the West Coast Beatbox champion title, leaving 18 male competitors behind with nothing but microphone spit.
Best Show Stealers: Steelin’ Dan
Heads up, Steely Dan fans: Instead of waiting for their next tour, get your fix with local tribute band Steelin’ Dan. From the straightforward pop/rock of “Reelin’ in the Years” to the quirky, jazz-infected “Green Earrings,” even the most discriminating Dan fans will be hard-pressed to find flaws in Steelin’ Dan’s amazingly accurate arrangements and marksmanlike musicianship.
Best Way To Waltz Away the Hours: The Strauss Festival of Elk Grove
As you watch the dancers gracefully twirl around the stage, the women in colorful ballroom gowns and the men in dapper tuxes, it feels like old Vienna all over again—and that’s precisely the point. The Strauss Festival of Elk Grove, a tradition since 1987, attracts more than 30,000 visitors to swoon to Johann Strauss Jr. waltzes (played by a 32-piece orchestra) for its four-day run every July. The outdoor festival, staged at Elk Grove Regional Park, features a different choreographed storyline every year, so repeat visitors can be surprised every time. It’s perfectly enchanting—and perfectly free (if you don’t count the cost of parking).
Best Band To Hit It Big (Then Move Here): Papa Roach
The road may be their home most of the year—they’ll be touring the East Coast around the time you read this—but Sacramento is the “official” home of Papa Roach. (Translation: They have houses, wives and kids here.) Fronted by heavily tatted singer Jacoby Shaddix, this four-man band is nothing if not uncategorizable, merging metal with punk, alternative rock and pop. But it’s their dark, smoldering intensity that seems to distinguish Papa Roach the most, propelling them into mainstream orbit since their triple-platinum major-label debut (Infest) in 2000 and keeping them there ever since. (Translation: They’re big.)
Best Vocal Versatility: Beth Duncan
By day, longtime local broadcaster Beth Duncan is on the radio, reporting news and traffic; by night, she flexes her vocal muscles in a more sensual way: singing jazz. Wrapping her silky yet sturdy voice around standards like “’S Wonderful” isn’t entirely new terrain for Duncan—she once made her living as a singer—but she dropped out of music for a while before giving jazz a serious go. While broadcasting remains her bread and butter—you can catch her on 1380 KTKZ (AM), 710 KFIA (AM) and 103.9 The Fish (KKFS FM)—singing for her supper is what really feeds her soul.
Best Group to Wax Poetic—Bilingually: Escritores del Nuevo Sol/Writers of the New Sun
Members of this group write in Spanish, English or both—so their poetry readings, typically held at La Raza Galeria Posada in midtown, swing accordingly. Some even “code-switch,” mixing words from both languages, so if you drop in on one of their readings, you may want to keep your Spanish-English dictionary handy. escritoresdelnuevosol.com
Sports and Fitness
Best Heavy Hitter: Dustin Pedroia
Woodland’s Dustin Pedroia made the “Who’s Hot” section of The Sacramento Bee sports pages so many times this year that even his fans lost count—and here’s why: In just two years with the Boston Red Sox, he’s risen to the top as one of the best hitters in baseball. Last year, Pedroia set a major league record for the highest batting average by a rookie second baseman, helping him to win American League Rookie of the Year honors. He also was the second player in baseball history to lead off the World Series with a home run. This year, the 25-year-old 2008 All-Star kept the momentum going with one of the highest batting averages in the league. And all this from a guy who once was dismissed as being too small (5 feet 9 inches) to make the majors.
Best Homegrown Olympians: Stephanie Brown Trafton (gold, track and field, women’s discus); Stephanie Cox (gold, women’s soccer); Gabe Gardner (gold, men’s volleyball); Kara Lawson (gold, women’s basketball); Gina Ostini Miles (silver, equestrian eventing); Casey Weathers (bronze, baseball); Mary Whipple (gold, rowing women’s eight); James Williams (silver, fencing, men’s team sabre)
For those of us who have a hard time just dragging ourselves to the gym every so often, the idea of winning an Olympic medal is just plain incomprehensible. (Heck, even the idea of training for such an event is incomprehensible.) So imagine our immense admiration for the eight local athletes who did the near-impossible, bringing home so many medals from the Beijing Olympics that we wonder how they got through airport screening on the return flight home. To all of them, and all the locals who competed or coached this summer, our hats are off. Way off.
Best Group for “Pudding” Charity First: Totally Tapioca
Vocal quartet Totally Tapioca is singing to make the world a better place: All the money they raise goes to charity. It isn’t always easy to find time for music when you’ve got day jobs and families, but group member Nancy Fitzpatrick says it’s well worth it. “We all sing for the love of it and try to use our talents to better our community,” she says. The Susan B. Komen Foundation, American Lung Association and Lambda Community Center are just a few recipients of Totally Tapioca’s totally selfless mission.
Best Sports Hero With a Cause: Adrian Ross
Former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Adrian Ross may be retired from pro sports, but he’s now tackling an even bigger playing field: enriching the lives of local youths. Through his Maddbacker Foundation, this Elk Grove High export pours his passion into the cause, hosting an annual charity celebrity basketball game with a star-studded roster that has included everyone from NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice to rapper Master P—inspiring kids, he hopes, to follow their dreams.
Best Concrete Example: I–5 Fix
It seemed like the impossible dream: finishing the largest freeway fix in the region’s history in less than two months. Rehabilitating the drainage and roadway systems on Interstate 5 downtown was originally thought to be a 114-day job. But that was before Caltrans brought on board Rancho Cordova contractor C.C. Myers, the state’s go-to guy for fast freeway and bridge repair. Construction crews worked ’round the clock, only briefly derailed by a heat wave that prevented concrete from setting properly, and on July 28-—less than two months after work began—I–5 reopened in both directions. Apparently, miracles do happen.
Best Relief From Parking Grief: SABA Valet Bike Parking
Need a place to stow your Specialized, a spot to stash your Schwinn? No worries: The folks at Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, better known as SABA, have come up with a savvy solution: valet bike parking. The free service is offered at a number of local events, including Earth Day festivities in the spring, Friday night concerts at Cesar Chavez Plaza in the summer and the Salmon Festival at Nimbus Fish Hatchery in the fall, where last year the nonprofit checked in nearly 1,000 bikes.