Ladies and gentlemen, you can finally stop counting down the days: The 2013 Readers’ Choice issue is here. This J. tradition, now in its ninth year, marks the one time in the year when we turn to you, our loyal readers, and humbly solicit your opinions on just about everything (which isn’t to say we don’t hear plenty from you the rest of the year — and we cherish that input) concerning your favorite places to eat, play, learn, celebrate, volunteer, shop and more.
And what did we learn? Well, a lot of the repeat winners are favorites for a reason — so don’t look for the bagels at Oakland’s Grand Bakery to be dethroned anytime soon. But there’s always room for something new: Wise Sons Deli, which opened a third San Francisco location at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, gives hungry readers yet another incentive to check out the world-class exhibits.
When it comes time to party, there is no shortage of venues, from the 15,000 square feet of space at the stalwart JCC of San Francisco to the historic Julia Morgan Ballroom in the Merchants Exchange Building, a new winner, which has recently seen the likes of President Obama and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi come through its doors. Another newcomer this year is the Marin Art and Garden Center, with 11 acres of lush gardens that are popular for weddings, b’nai mitzvah and fundraisers.
In the Jewish literature and Judaica realm, Afikomen, Berkeley’s standby for gifts, books, music, tallit and more, has held a special place in the community’s heart since 1991. But this year voters also wanted to acknowledge Book Passage, “the Bay Area’s liveliest bookstore.” With locations in Corte Madera and at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, the store carries a large selection of Jewish books and partners regularly with the Osher Marin JCC to present Jewish-themed events.
And, of course, the Jewish community loves to give back. The range of organizations to which readers donate their time and money truly spans the Bay Area, with nods going to Jewish Family and Children’s Services in the East Bay, San Francisco and the North Bay; Jewish Family Services of Silicon Valley; and Friendship Circle, the Palo Alto–based organization that pairs high school students with special-needs children for unique Jewish educational experiences.
There’s no room here to recount the amazing photographers, restaurants, retirement residences and organizations that made the cut. But believe us — by the time you’ve gone through this special section, you’ll be brimming with civic pride, if not in the mood to run out and shop, join a new club or make reservations.
Special thanks go to Carol Inkellis, who fabulously wrote this year’s edition. And of course, a mazel tov to all our winners!