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The Bohemian's Best of the North Bay 2006

Photograph by Rory McNamara

Maria do Céu


[ Writers' Picks | Readers' Choice ]

[ Writers' Picks | Readers' Choice ]

Food & Drink
[ Writers' Picks | Readers' Choice ]

[ Writers' Picks | Readers' Choice ]

[ Writers' Picks | Readers' Choice ]

[ Writers' Picks | Readers' Choice ]


Writers' Picks

Local Hero
Maria do Céu
Best place to eat red licorice, pet the nice doggie, enjoy fine art, catch up on celebrity magazines and--oh yeah--service your car
Do you choose your mechanic for her joie de vivre? For her sharp sense of humor? For the candy selection in her ante room? For the amenities of her comfortable waiting area? Isn't that crazy? We do, too!

Do you take your car in to your mechanic because she and her team are utterly trustworthy, have trained for years in just one type of a vehicle--and that would be: Japanese cars--and are so devoted to cleanliness that they wear surgical gloves while they work? Wow. Same with us!

Do you solely purchase Japanese vehicles because they're the only car your trustworthy mechanic, goddess-like in her purity, will work on, sadly forsaking the Volvos and Audis and sweet little slick-backed Beemers that could be yours? Amazing! If we could afford a car, we'd forgo it, too!

With so much synchronicity abounding, there must be something in the air about Maria do Céu and her team at Petaluma's Out West Garage. An ordinary woman doing an ordinary day's work helping out ordinary people, Maria manages to transcend the ordinary, giving advice, giving watch, giving care and, of course, giving your ride just what it needs.

A regular winner of our Readers Poll, she's our pick for an everyday hero, this year and every year. Out West Garage, 321 Second St., Petaluma. 707.769.0162. --G. G.

Photograph by Pablo C. Leites

Best Pulp and Press
Dear Gutenberg,
Been meaning to say congrats on that Bible gig for a while. What can I say, I'm impressed. Anyway, you know how you're always railing about the rise of desktop publishing and how the clones at Kinko's pretty much sealed the tomb on ye olde letterpress? Dig this, Gute--there's a hip chick in P-town, Trish Kinsella, who's been running a custom letterpress and stationery company under the name Dauphine Press. She's got an international clientele through her website (www.dauphinepress.com), and last summer she opened an old-school-style stationery store on Kentucky Street. And she's teaching classes about everything from letterpressing your own wrapping paper and gift tags to making faux postage stamps and bookbinding. Dude, Kinko's is going down! The revolution will be letterpressed! Dauphine Press, 119 Kentucky St., Petaluma. 707.775.4200. --D.H.

Photograph by Nina Zhito

Best Place to Get a Blackened Past
Is there a place on Main Street for porno films and pipes? For over 40 years, the Pleasure Principle has proved that there is. Located on Throckmorton Avenue, sandwiched between trendy boutiques and gift shops, the store of oddities continues to live up to its window sign by being "The Least Boring Shop in Mill Valley." Whatever your pleasure, this store has it, from bongs to blow-up dolls to bracelets to everything in between. "It's probably the only store on the West Coast where you can buy a real Geiger counter radiation detector along with your radio remote-activated vibrator," boasts proprietor Dave McDonald.

Missing in recent years is McDonald's classic poster proclaiming himself "The Howard Cosell of X," as a way of boasting about his encyclopedic knowledge of adult films. The sign was removed since young people don't know of the legendary sportscaster and the fact that the number of films has grown exponentially. "I have a pretty good knowledge, or at least I used to," says the porn connoisseur. "At this point in time, it's like an avalanche coming at me!" The Pleasure Principle, 74 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley. Open daily, noon to 11pm. 415.388.8588. --D.S.

Photograph by Rory McNamara

Best Way to Keep the Time at Bay
Hundreds of clocks ticking away among the stench of cigars and the sound of specialty tools is what you'll find at David L. Hunt Watch & Clock Repair, located in a shed in Hunt's backyard. Since 1947, Hunt has been fixing all manner of crystal timepieces, winders, antique pocket watches and clocks; if it ticks, Hunt knows why. Decidedly old-school, Hunt tends to look down on anything made to be disposable--cheap timepieces made in China, for example--but he's up to the challenge of any repair, even if it means utilizing a third helping hand from the customer himself. Simple repairs can be done while you wait, and there's an assortment of clipped newspaper articles and quips on the walls, should you actually tire of looking at thousands of little tiny watch parts and wondering just what the heck it is that they do to make a watch work. Tons of personality, good service and plenty of cool old things to look at sum up the Hunt Watch & Clock Repair experience. Make sure to call for hours before bringing in your old Rockford or Hamilton. David L. Hunt Watch & Clock Repair, 2114 Slater St., Santa Rosa. 707.546.0381. --G.M.

Best Space-Aged Passage to India
Though a corporate chain store that features checkers listlessly scanning foodstuffs over electronic eyes, Rohnert Park's Food Maxx does two things well: it keeps prices low, and has an excellent Indian section. From heat-and-eat Indian classics such as navratan korma (mixed vegetables) to curry pastes to chutneys, pickles and donkey's milk soap, Ganesha himself might just smile upon this aisle of authenticity in the otherwise bleak vanilla landscape of the Friendly City. For some dark humor, step aside and watch people try to negotiate the self-service checkout, where frustrated shoppers often nearly come to blows with store employees over the expeditious task of bagging one's own groceries, just going to show that while it may be cheap at Food Maxx, it ain't free. Food Maxx, 605 Rohnert Park Expressway, Rohnert Park. 707.584.1200. --M.P.

Easiest Place to Drop $300 in Three Minutes
Do not, I repeat, do not walk into Dressers clothing shop if you have a willpower problem. The women in this shop will know what you look good in (Nicole Miller), and they will not hesitate to alert you to such items. You will try these clothes on and they will look great and they will not be what you came in for and you will either have to buy them, regret that you didn't buy them or berate yourself for not being rich enough to buy them. Nothing is cheap here. But the clothing is well-made and beautifully designed, so that's why (Nicole Miller) looks so good on you. Mary and Tessa Grul--mother and daughter--have been buying beautiful clothes together for years. Mary opened the shop in Cotati 36 years ago and moved it to Sebastopol about 18 years ago. This is not Macy's; these ladies can actually help you. They'll put together a slammin' outfit, they'll help you pick the right dress or the right gift for the right occasion and, most importantly, they will tell you the truth. (At least I think they're telling me the truth.) And most of all they can help you find things that look good on you (Nicole Miller), even on those days when your ass is blotting out the sun. Dressers, 141 N. Main St., Sebastopol. Open daily. 707.829.8757. --M.J.

Best Place to Inadvertently Enter Napa's Weird 'Twilight Zone'
Anyone would say that Groezinger Wine Merchants is a fairly innocuous, even charming, place to taste and buy wine. The youngish owners, Rick Beard and Justin Rush, have an intelligent version of a Beavis and Butthead routine down pat. During a recent visit, Beard relaxed, boots propped up on the stainless bar, while Rush looked for funny fodder on wimp.com, all while they bantered cheekily with each other and the customers. Dead posters and other rock 'n' roll paraphernalia paper the already purple shop walls, but it was the Dandy Warhols that provided the background music on this particular day. The spit bucket is graced with their lightning logo, and the Groezinger guys reminisce about the year they exclusively played AC/DC in the shop. Cobwebs on some of the bottles indicate that not too many patrons actually come in to shoot the shit with them, but luckily, they've got a biggish mail order business to keep them buzzed and afloat.

On this particular day, on this weird-ass Twilight Zone of an afternoon, we're chit-chattin' and everything's fine, when the sole other patron in the store, a dude who works at an upvalley bar, lets loose with a fart of a racist joke. Never quick with retorts, I managed to stutter out a jab back at the dunce. Rush, who studied Marxism in school and no doubt defends notions of equality, laughed at the guy, "She's got you!" Unruffled, Mr. Upvalley took his leave. The Dandys played on. Minutes later, a wine distributor entered. By way of greeting he heartily offered, "Hey guys, just got back from a week of snortin' oxy. I feel pretty good."

Or, maybe he said "takin' oxy"?

I left, wondering what the hell just happened.

Groezinger Wine Merchants, 6484 Washington St., Ste E, Yountville. Open Monday-Saturday, 10am to 5pm. 707.944.2331. --B.A.

Best Spot to Rent the Tools to Sound Pro
Your band is ready for their first recording adventure, but your budget isn't. The solution? Atlas Studios in downtown Santa Rosa offers complete recording services for half the cost of usual studio work, with rates starting at $25 per hour. Atlas is owned and operated by Stanroy Music Center drum instructor Jesse Wickman, who has 20 years of experience in Bay Area bands, ProTools engineering certification and a smart array of high-quality digital equipment. He covers every phase of recording and production, including acoustic demos, mixed and completed multi-track albums, disc duplication, and mobile services.

Atlas is the source of excellent current discs by local alt-rock notables like Snag, Wiseacre, the Spindles, Shelby Cobra and the Mustangs, Drop Point, and Cliff Greenwood and the Monsters. The studio also comes with an expert in-house rhythm section--Wickman on drums and Paul "Slim" Hoffman of Cropduster on bass. For an appointment, call 707.486.9139, or visit www.jessewickman.com. --K. B.

Best Weekly Act of Selfless Direction in a Heathen Post-Boom World
NorthBayMovies.com is the model of free-flow information exchange Al Gore envisioned when he "invented" the Internet. The brainchild of Bert Towle, the site is an advertising-free listing of every flick playing in North Bay movie houses, updated weekly and made available to the public with nary a penny asked in return. Towle posts no reviews, makes no recommendations and proffers no editorial content other than what's playing in a theater near you. Moreover, all films receive equal treatment, which is part of Towle's goal to level the playing field for independent theaters, which have historically had trouble getting their listings seen in media glutted with megaplex ads. "I grew up in the Midwest with small-town theaters, and I hated seeing them close," he says. "I'm more a fan of having theaters available to the people, particularly the little ones in the heart of downtown areas where kids can ride their bikes to like I did a thousand years ago." www.northbaymovies.com. --D.H.

Best Response to 'High Fidelity'
The film High Fidelity wouldn't be as funny if there really weren't used-record-store employees who make you feel like an irrelevant, mainstream yuppie. Thank God for Bedrock Music for providing a contrary experience. "We won't laugh at you for buying what you like," warmly assures longtime manager Tony Palmer, "and we'll go out of our way to help you find it." Some of what this increasingly rare type of record store offers are frequent-buyer cards that never expire, free CDs given for every dozen purchased and a fully stocked box of free record-company promo posters. In addition to featuring occasional in-store appearances from the diverse likes of José Neto and Spearhead, Bedrock is dedicated to the local unknowns. "We always provide window space for local artists," says Palmer. "That's part of being a record store." Bedrock Music, 2226 Fourth St., San Rafael. Open daily. 415.258.9745. (Footage of Spearhead's performance can be viewed at www.keyholeproductions.com.) --D.S.

Most Unsuitable Place for a Starbucks: A Curse
As you drive Highway 1 on your way to Stinson Beach, you bask in the lush scenery of the Tamalpais Valley. Green hills and flowing valleys surround you as you escape the rat race in favor of the call of the ocean. A detour to the Bohemian Shoreline Highway can be just as relaxing. You can pull into the Tam Junction shopping center to browse the latest gear at the O'Neill Surfshop, or stop by the spa at Trinity Nails, or enjoy an organic smoothie or yoga class at Cafe Del Soul. Or you could go to the Starbucks next door for a triple espresso and a copy of the New York Times. Just pray that your caffeine or stock market crash doesn't come before you reach the beach--the road is very windy. --D.S.

Best Place to Try on Fur Coats and Check Out New Art
In the last year, Moxie Clothing has become the most buzzed-about hotspot for monthly art shows, introducing packed crowds of scenesters to the fresh work of young, local up-and-coming artists like Loren Butchart, Jared Powell, Joe Leonard, Robert Sorensen and Jerry Ilkenhons. Even if seeing quickly-evolving talent on display and buying it at affordable prices isn't your thing, there's always racks and racks of clothes to flip through, and now that Moxie has just moved to a new bigger space, you probably won't have to worry about spilling your Pabst Blue Ribbon on the designer jean rack during one of its packed opening receptions. Moxie, 600 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa. 707.545.7858. --G.M.

Best Flower Stand
We've heard it forever: Location, location, location. The location of Linda's Flower Box in San Anselmo definitely provides an astounding juxtaposition. The tiny stand sits in front of the block-long US Bank building, bringing some sorely needed natural beauty to the imposing monument to commerce. Further countering the thirst for profit are the flexible prices. Linda Spediacci, who started the business in 2003, has sold flowers for as little as 75 cents, being more concerned with brightening someone's day than lightening their wallet. "Anyone can afford a flower," she insists, "and one flower does a lot." Continuing after last winter's flood wasn't even a question for Spediacci, whose stand is an ongoing tribute to her son Joseph who died tragically on Christmas Eve 2003, eight days after she opened. "He left me this little piece of heaven on earth," she says, further putting the idea of wealth into perspective. "He's always here." Linda's Flower Box is located at 305 San Anselmo Ave., and is open from Wednesday through Saturday from 10 AM to 5:30 PM, 415-250-5245.

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From the March 22-28, 2006 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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