At Sacramento magazine, we’re all about showcasing the very best the Sacramento region has to offer. So it’s no wonder “The Best of Sacramento” is our favorite feature of the year. In the following pages, you’ll not only find out who our subscribers say are the “best” in 55 categories; you’ll also discover 75 of our own editors’ picks, including some familiar faces and places plus others that might be new to you but that we think are pretty darn special. So sit back, relax and join us in celebrating what makes the Sacramento region simply the best.
Food & Drink
Best Place To Ponder Purchasing a Benz Over Panini and Martinis: Bistro 33 Rocklin
The first of its kind in the United States, the restaurant is located inside the Mercedes-Benz of Rocklin dealership and service center.
Best British Fix: Touch of Britain
Located on Watt Avenue in North Highlands, Touch of Britain tearoom and shop serves traditional English tea middays Wednesday through Sunday. Go for tea and a crumpet, or try the steak and kidney pie, spaghetti on toast, or fish and chips.
Best Designer Cookies: Cookieboy Artisan Baked Goods
This midtown landscape designer’s custom-designed cookies, sporting expertly iced monograms and more, are a feast for the eyes.
Best Alternative Bakery: Azna Gluten Free Bakery
Thanks to this dedicated gluten-free, vegan bakery in Cameron Park, folks who forego gluten and animal products in their diets can still have their cake (and cinnamon rolls and brownies and scones) and eat it, too.
Best Ethnic Market in Folsom: Folsom Quality Meat Market & Kabul Bazaar
This store and butcher shop is stacked, literally to the rafters, with interesting halal goods, including Asian teas, chaat spices, kefir cheese, organ meats, whole fishes, gas can-size containers of olive oil, huge bags of lentils and dried peas, and olives.
Best New Farmers Market: Oak Park Farmers Market
The weekly outdoor market, open mid-May through mid-October, supplies residents of this urban “food desert” with a place to buy fresh, nutritious produce from local farmers.
Best Press: Frate Sole Olive Oil
This estate-grown olive oil from Woodland is so good, it won gold twice this year—at the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition and the Yolo County Fair.
Best Surprise in Old Sac: Cafe Americain
Who’da thunk you’d find a champagne and caviar bar in the heart of tourist land?
Best Sweet Buns in the Round: Mahoroba Japanese Bakery’s Kobe Cream Delight Buns
These buns are sweet, but not too sweet, and the bakery’s in a round-shaped building. (OK, technically, it’s a decagon—but you get our angle.)
Best Raw Resource: The Green Boheme
The heat is not on at this tiny raw foods cafe on Del Paso Boulevard, where you can dine on vegan “living foods,” pick up organic and superfood supplies, and take classes on getting healthy on a diet of plants, nuts, sprouts and seeds.
Best New Frozen Treat: Shari Fitzpatrick’s Chocolate
Dipped Berries and Bananas—For $5.99 per 12-ounce carton at Raley’s and Bel-Air, you can get frozen chocolate-dipped strawberries, cherries, raspberries and peanut butter-covered bananas whenever you like.
Best Place To Pick Your Own Mandarins: Sunset Ridge in Newcastle
You can pick wicked-good mandarins here (the ones with the baggy skins that peel right off) while enjoying the gorgeous view from the Newcastle hillside.
Best Burger Joint With a Less Than Appetizing Name: Nationwide Freezer Meats
While the name of this midtown dive isn’t exactly drool-inducing, its French Ground Steak Burger absolutely rocks.
Best Place To Get Your Candy Fix 365 Days a Year: Kobasic’s Candies—You can stop in this family
owned and – operated shop any day of the year for some chocolates and candies made by third- and fourth-generation candy makers.
Best Scottish Import Since Plaid: Alasdair Fraser
Hailed as one of the finest fiddlers Scotland has ever produced, this San Juan Ridge resident and master musician has helped foster a renaissance of traditional Scottish fiddling and dance in the U.S. and abroad through his concerts, Nevada City-based record company, and fiddle schools and camps in the Sierra Nevada foothills, Scotland and Spain.
Best Small Theater Nestled Within a Big Neighborhood: Celebration Arts
With blocks of houses surrounding it on all sides, this tiny East Sac theater’s very existence is a surprise to some, but its productions make it well worth pulling out the GPS to find.
Best Local Band Celebrating a Big Birthday: Mumbo Gumbo.
Fun-loving, fan-favorite multigenre party band Mumbo Gumbo celebrates 20 years this year.
Best Jazz Group: American River College Vocal Jazz Ensemble
This award-winning student group puts the smooth in smooth jazz.
Best Boomer Band: Ant Bee Band
This six-man acoustic band from Roseville really gets the joint jumpin’ with its energetic covers of classic rock songs from the ’70s.
Best Pint-Size Banjo Player: Quinn Alfaro
When he performs on Second Saturday with local band Mike Blanchard & the Whispering Chingaderos, this 12-year-old more than holds his own with the big boys.
Best Ambassadors for Skateboarding Since Tony Hawk: Nic and Tristan Puehse
These Shingle Springs twins may be only 12 years old, but their skateboarding videos on YouTube have logged more than 11 million views; their first full-length feature film, Nic and Tristan Go Mega Dega, is available on DVD, and more movies are in the works.
Best Reason To Listen Up: Stories on Stage
Fiction writers turn their work over to professional actors, who read the stories at the mike the last Friday of every month at midtown’s Sacramento Poetry Center. It’s often hilarious, sometimes chilling and always a good, lively listen.
Best Gospel Singer Who Can Groove You Into Shape: Van Goss
With a music and fitness nonprofit called Van Goss Ministries, and songs such as “Preacher’s Daughter,” “Irresistible Praise” and “My Lord Reigns,” it’s clear that Van Goss not only walks the talk, she runs it and sings it, too.
Best Dancers Who Hip-Hop Into the Community: Capitol Roots
Dancers from this active arts studio and event production company take hip-hop, break dancing and martial arts tricking out to the region at fundraisers and competitions.
Best Stepping Stone to Stardom: B Street Theatre Acting Internship Company
Recent college grads from throughout the country try out for coveted spots in B Street’s acting internship program, where they receive intensive professional training and opportunities to appear in the award-winning theater’s plays. Former interns have gone on to star in productions in major markets.
Best Doing Good
Best Place To Order Big and Tip Generously: Casa Garden Restaurant
All gratuities and surplus profits from this mostly volunteer-run restaurant in Curtis Park support the Sacramento Children’s Home.
Best Haven for Weary Souls: ARK 2000
Since 2000, Galt-based Performing Animal Welfare Society has welcomed elephants, lions, tigers—and soon, bears—to its 2,300-acre foothills sanctuary in San Andreas, where these refugees from circuses, zoos and the exotic animal trade are living out their lives in peace.
Best Community Mealtime: Sikh Temple of Sacramento’s Langar Hall
Everyone’s welcome to come for a free vegetarian meal at the Langar Hall (community kitchen), where all eat together regardless of race, religion, economic status or gender.
Best Self-Esteem Boost: Compliment Booth
If you stop by the booth on Second Saturday—it’s usually on J Street near the MARRS complex—booth staffers will pay you a compliment, sometimes in Spanish and always for free!
Best Helping Hand With a Green Thumb: Robert B. Hamm
For nearly 20 years, this local plant expert has raised perennials and specialty annuals for his Benefit Plant Sales, raising almost $150,000 to date for local AIDS charities.
Best Home to Animals Often Bypassed at the Shelter: A Chance for Bliss Animal Sanctuary
Founders Deanna and David Bartley provide a “forever” home to some 80 senior and special-needs animals at their Penryn-based sanctuary, and through awareness and education hope to encourage others to adopt a senior or special-needs animal themselves.
Best Land Developers: Soil Born Farms
Celebrating 10 years, this nonprofit urban agriculture project not only supplies organic produce grown on its two urban farms to farm stands, farmers markets, CSA subscribers and local co-ops, but through its many programs inspires us all to reconnect with what we eat, raising our awareness of the importance of everyone having the opportunity to eat healthfully, locally and sustainably.
Best Show of Homeless Families’ Talents: Staging a Miracle
During this five-week summer program, more than 100 volunteers in collaboration with First United Methodist Church of Sacramento teach visual and performing arts to families that are transitioning from homelessness. Every evening that the workshops are held, volunteers and students eat dinner side by side. The program culminates in an inspirational musical production for the community.
Best “Just for Fun”
Best Swing Set: Midtown Stomp
Every Friday night, midtown’s Eastern Star Ballroom teems with toe-tappin’ energy as dancers of all ages and experience levels convene for lessons in East Coast swing and Lindy Hop, followed by hours of open dancing to DJs and live bands.
Best Way To Indulge Your Inner Rock Star: Skip’s Music’s Weekend Warriors
You provide the talent, time and money, and Skip’s Music will pair you up with like-minded musicians, loan you equipment, offer a little coaching and—at the end of four weeks’ practice—give you your own gig!
Best Example of Defying the Rumors: West Wind Sacramento 6 Drive-In
We’ve heard rumors that the area’s only remaining drive-in theater was closing for the past 10 years—yet the reels roll on.
Best Wild Ride for Moviegoers: D-BOX Seats at Folsom’s Palladio 16 Cinemas
D-BOX seats allow you to feel action-movie rumblings and rollings in your back, butt and thighs. The 22 seats, limited to one theater, cost $8 more than standard seat admission.
Best Art-filled Hotel: Embassy Suites Sacramento Riverfront Promenade
The lobby of this hotel is filled with depictions of regional landscapes in various media by local artists Gil Amavisca, Joseph Bellacera, Paula Wenzl Bellacera, Terry Pappas and others along with sculptures by Camille VandenBerge and Masatoyo Kishi.
Best Bet for Your Budding Artist: ArtBeast Studio
Young children not only can unleash their inner Picassos at this midtown art center’s open studios but can take classes in movement, drumming, yoga, glee and more. Proceeds benefit Tubman House, a nonprofit serving young, homeless parents and their children.
Best Ambassador for UC Davis: Melanie the Cockatoo
This sociable Moluccan cockatoo—a full-time resident at the vet hospital since 1998— charms visitors with her playful antics.
Best Girls’ Night Out: TwinSoup.com’s Stiletto Crawl
Because shopping + dining + a limo + a bunch of gal pals = loads of fun.
Best Lunch Bunch for 15 Years: The Dining Divas
Since 1995, local lunchers Gloria Glyer, Paulette Bruce, Bernice Hagen, Joan Leineke, Gayla Mace and Peg Tomlinson-Poswall have dined out together for Sacramento magazine, introducing readers to new restaurants, regaling them with chatter—and raising almost $400,000 for local charities in the process.
Best Brain Trust: The Sacramento Living Library Series
This free monthly lecture series, around little more than a year, already has featured many movers and shapers of the Sacramento landscape, including former mayors Heather Fargo, Anne Rudin, Phil Isenberg and Burnett Miller; author Peter Schrag; Tower Records founder Russ Solomon; and Sacramento Bee editorial board member Ginger Rutland.
Best New Hotel Amenity: Mac Mini Computers at The Citizen Hotel
Earlier this year, the hotel put Mac Minis in every rooms so guests can check e-mail, download music from iTunes and stream movies from Netflix and Hulu.
Best “Looking Good”
Best Skin Elixirs: Brown Bag Botanicals
Handcrafted locally by green-beauty queen “mompreneur” Christine Rice, Brown Bag Botanicals’ Lavender Orange Shea Butter and Chocolate Body Butter sound good enough to eat. Free of animal products, petrochemicals, parabens and other known irritants, they hydrate and soothe the most parched and sensitive skin.
Best Eyebrow Artist to the Stars: Kristie Streicher
When she’s not shaping eyebrows at Sacramento’s Space 07 salon, Kristie Streicher’s in L.A. or New York, working with A-listers such as Julia Roberts and Julianna Margulies.
Best Guy To Give a Scalp Massage: Bassil Kamas
The next time you get a massage from certified massage therapist Bassil Kamas, request he use The Tingler on your scalp. Trust us—you’ll be glad you did.
Best Shopping & Services
Best Beauty Store Where Employees Greet You at the Door: Total Beauty Experience
Employees at this well-stocked beauty supply/gift shop and hair salon on Arden Way always—and we mean always—give you a friendly greeting when you enter the store.
Best Place To Decorate Your Midcentury Modern Home: GoogieTime
Located inside the Midway Antique Mall, GoogieTime sells furniture and other fun items—all authentic, no repos here—right out of the ’50s and ’60s.
Best Small-Town Grocer That’s Big on Charm: Plaza Foods
Shopping at this Rancho Murieta mom and pop—with its ultra-friendly service and clean, well laid-out store—makes you feel like you’ve stepped back into a simpler time.
Best Record Keepers: Dimple Records
You’ll find vinyl galore at this thriving eight-store chain, along with used and new DVDs, CDs, cassette tapes and electronic games.
Best Friend to Musicians Through the Generations: Kline Music
Open since 1963, this family-owned store on Sutterville Road sells and rents instruments and boasts an excellent staff that gives music lessons.
Best Place To Party in Style: Article Consignment Boutique
Host your next purse, jewelry, makeup or other fashion-related party at this East Sac boutique; it’s free to rent out, and you and your guests will get bonus private shopping time—discount included!
Best Place To Get Your Next Fancy Dress: Maria Luisa’s Boutique
This unassuming little boutique on a nondescript stretch of Franklin Boulevard sells gorgeous dresses—in colors ranging from white to yellow to deep magenta, and in styles frilly or not—suitable for quinceañeras, bridesmaids, proms, confirmations and first communions.
Best Rent-A-Retreat: Good Golly Farm
This 1-acre Arden-area backyard—owned by a local nonprofit CEO, collage artist and avid gardener—provides an inspiring space for locals seeking a mini getaway to paint, write poetry, practice yoga or ponder their next creative endeavor. During their stay, guests can help themselves to the fruits and vegetables grown on-site, which also fuel the produce boxes of five local families.
Best Store for the Holistic Pet:
From selling all-natural food and supplements to providing a pet salon and spa and educational classes, Corner Pet is a one-stop shop for health-conscious pets and their human companions.
Best Local Ghostbusters: American Paranormal Investigations
This group’s mission goes beyond collecting evidence of the paranormal; it helps families deal with their haunting issues so they can feel more comfortable in their own homes.
Best Hot Tubs: Sutter Davis Hospital and Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital
The Birthing Center at Sutter Davis and the Family Birth Center at Sutter Auburn Faith boast the only in-hospital birthing tubs in the region for pregnant mothers seeking a warm-water birth for their babies.
Best Toy Store in Rancho Cordova: BrainyZoo Toys
It’s bright, busy and filled with toys, games and art projects you can’t find just anywhere. High-quality brands include Melissa & Doug, Alex, Breyer and Creativity for Kids.
Best Shoe Store in El Dorado Hills: Bella Talloni
Open since December 2009, this pretty little boutique owned by Lin Stommel brings stylish and luxurious men’s and women’s shoes (brands include Dolce Vita, Cole Haan, Steve Madden, Matisse and Uggs), bags, jewelry and more to El Dorado Hills.
Best Seat Covers: The Neat Seat Company
For about $34 a chair, Glenn Riggs creates customized nylon chair covers for office chairs, emblazoned with company logos and employees’ names.
Best Gift for Expectant Moms: Annie & Isabel
These chic coverups, designed by Sacramento nurses Selena Srabian and Anna Ryan, beat the standard-issue hospital gown by a mile.
Best Kids Clothier: Trumpette
This Sacramento-based company makes baby clothes so chic, they’re sold at Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Best Jewelry Designer: Pamela Tuohy
This local jewelry designer handcrafts exquisite baroque-style pieces using reclaimed materials and found art.
Best Place To Browse for Books With Beverage in Hand: Borders
Enjoy a drink in the bookstore’s cafe, plopped down in one of its comfy chairs, or while perusing shelves and shelves of books. Just make sure to put a lid on it.
Best Sports & Fitness
Best Athlete Leaving Others in Her Wake:
Ranked first in the nation and the world in slalom for water-skiers in her age group, and second in the nation and third in the world in the jump, this Rio Linda 16-year-old and St. Francis High School junior, who appeared in Sports Illustrated this past July, helped the U.S. Junior Water Ski Team win the overall team gold medal at the 2010 World Junior Water Ski Championships.
Best Mixed Martial Arts Grappler: Urijah Faber
Dubbed the “California Kid,” Urijah Faber—a two-time NCAA qualifier and the all-time win leader in Division 1 wrestling for UC Davis—is currently ranked the No. 4 featherweight champion in the world in mixed martial arts.
Best Reason To Get Up Early Thanksgiving Morning: Run To Feed the Hungry
This benefit for Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services is a win-win: Participants get a little pre-feast exercise in the form of a 5k walk/run or 10k run, and people in need get assistance in the form of food, clothing, mentoring, education and more via proceeds and, most especially, donations.
Best Spot To Be Asked “What’s Your Sign?”: Michael Mercury’s Astro Yoga Class at Yoga Loka
Noted local astrologer Michael Mercury not only gives an astrological forecast for the week during this 90-minute Hatha yoga class (held Sundays at noon), but participants who e-mail him their birth day and time receive a 25-page astrological report back.
Best Municipal Investment in Fitness: West Sacramento Recreation Center
This city-run facility—unique within the region because it shares space with a high school—operates like a gym, complete with exercise equipment, basketball court, climbing wall, swimming pool, child care and spacious locker rooms.
Best Reason To Cue “We Are the Champions”:
Jesuit High School’s Rugby Team
Currently the state champions, this Carmichael all-boys Catholic high school varsity rugby team ranked third in the USA Rugby National Championships this year, ranked first in the nationals four times in the previous five years and has 11 alumni players on Cal’s roster, the current collegiate champs.
Best New Football Team: Sacramento Mountain Lions
The United Football League’s Sacramento Mountain Lions—quarterbacked by former Minnesota Viking and three-time NFL Pro-Bowler Daunte Culpepper and coached by Dennis Green, also of Vikings fame—have finally brought pro football to town.
Best Between-Inning Distraction: The River Cats’ Hot Dog Cannon
Fans go wild at Raley Field when the hot dog cannon comes around partway through a Sacramento River Cats game, and the free dogs, sometimes wrapped in River Cats T-shirts, have been known to fly all the way into the nosebleeds.
Sacramento Kings’ Sign Lady and Mr. Sign Lady
Longtime Kings fans Barbara and Nick Rust, aka Kings Sign Lady and Mr. Sign Lady, show up to almost every home game wearing their “die hard fan” jerseys, toting handmade signs that show nothing but support for the team, even when times are tough. Their devotion has not gone unnoticed by the Kings: The two were inducted into the Kings Sixth Man Hall of Fame.
Best Gym for Those Who Dislike Mirrors: Bodytribe Fitness
What you will find in this eclectic midtown gym: rotating artwork (check it out on Second Saturdays), plants, abstract-looking light fixtures and sometimes a friendly dog or cat. But mirrors? Not here.