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The Best of the Santa Clara Valley 1996

Mr. Bill When San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown starts panting after our brand-new professional soccer team like a sailor on leave, it's proof that the Santa Clara Valley must be doing something right. Figuring out what's right about the South Bay has been an annual rite for Metro ever since its inception. Each year (has it really been 11?) at this time, the results are compiled into print in the Best of the Santa Clara Valley issue. This year's 164-page volume is Metro's biggest issue ever.

As always, our staff selections reflect our experiences of working, commuting, shopping, eating and playing in the valley. When one of our editors, for example, needed a framing shop that understood the Japanese tradition of folding 1,001 origami cranes for good luck, he discovered Morita's Picture Framing--and soon learned that it rated a top pick. When it came time to choose the best places to dine, everyone on staff voiced a well-fed opinion based on innumerable repasts at his or her favorite eatery.

Unwilling to rely solely on our own digging and intuition, we polled the people we knew and demanded their recommendations; we buttonholed strangers, pumping for leads; we even surveyed the information superhighway and picked up some guy in glasses who agreed to stand in front of our favorite places for scale. (We put his picture on the cover, even though he would not give us his name. If anyone knows, please email us at [email protected] so that we can mail him a check.)

And, as always, we asked for your opinions--in a ballot only slightly less complicated than the one you'll get in November. The results were, as in years past, sometimes dismaying (surely Taco Bell can't be the second-best East San Jose restaurant and America Online is not the best Internet service provider, although they are a source of good free floppy disks); sometimes baffling (Denny's is not, repeat, not, a Bed and Breakfast, so don't show up with luggage); sometimes inspired (Joe Strummer is--or was--a very fine Clash player). Your opinions proved to be so useful that this year, for the first time, we decided to publish the second- and third-place finishers as well.

Taken together, the editors' choices and the readers' picks offer a high-resolution portrait of our valley. Strength in numbers counts; locally based chain operations like Hobee's, Florentine and Fresh Choice carried categories, as did individual owner-operated independents and other local underdogs. For every Starbucks, there is a Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Company; for every Round Table, there is a Willow Street Wood-Fired Pizza. Seattle and San Francisco may soon be trying to steal more than our sports teams and technology.

The Best of ...

Food & Drink

Goods & Services

People & Places

Arts & Culture

Sports & Recreation

And our readers' sometimes clever, sometimes clueless write-ins

Editorial Project Managers: Judi Blackwell, Michael S. Gant and Todd S. Inoue

Project Production Manager: Donald Long

Photographer: Christopher Gardner

Written and compiled by Corinne Asturias, Nicky Baxter, Broos Campbell, Ami Chen Mills, David Cohen, Anne Gelhaus, Shweta Govindarajan, Rafer Guzman, Traci Hukill, Christina Malcolm, Andrew X. Pham, Richard Sine, Stephanie Stephens, Sharan Street, Laura Stuchinsky, Richard von Busack, Bernice Yeung

Photos of the guy in glasses courtesy of Stanford News Service/L.A. Cicero

Photo illustrations manipulated by Donald Long and Foster Barnes

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From the 1996 Best of the Valley issue of Metro, September 19-25

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Copyright © 1996 Metro Publishing, Inc.