Readers’ Choice 2020

Eat, drink, shop and play

This is J.’s 16th annual Readers’ Choice issue, and in many ways it feels like “Bittersweet 16.” The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on our lives and our livelihoods, but the creativity and ingenuity of this community has led to many adaptations by our organizations and businesses. Whoever thought we would find so many ways to commemorate special times virtually? Online gatherings for parties, graduations, b’nai mitzvahs, weddings, and even funerals have become commonplace, and many synagogues have been livestreaming Torah study as well as Shabbat and holiday services with great success.

Taking note of these changes necessitated by the shelter-in-place orders, we have this year added a new Readers’ Choice category — the virtual gala! So many of our community organizations depend on their annual galas as their No. 1 fundraising event for the year, and many of them take place in the spring. The lockdown forced everyone to pivot: All three of our winners in this new category were deep in the throes of planning their annual galas when the shelter-in-place orders put the kibosh on in-person events. The Jewish Community Relations Council, whose gala was slated for March 11, was one of the first to go virtual. Congregation B’nai Tikvah in Walnut Creek and Kehillah Jewish High School in Palo Alto also suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune; truly an event planner’s worst nightmare! But all somehow managed to be successful, bringing in those urgently needed donations, as you can read on page 25.

We all know the many headaches that restaurants have dealt with since March. Here, too, online ordering, delivery services and social-distanced waiting lines have enabled us to keep enjoying some of the most scrumptious food on the planet from our favorite restaurants, bakeries and markets. Check for our latest bagel initiates to the Have a Nosh section: Daily Driver in San Francisco, Berkeley’s Boichik Bagels and Mill Valley’s New York Bagels. Jewish restaurants new to the ranks of Readers’ Choice include Oakland Kosher and its recently opened deli counter, and The Marvelous Matzah Experiment in Sunnyvale. And some local favorites have made it into the Fine Dining hit parade for the first time, among them San Francisco’s venerable vegetarian outpost Greens, Berkeley’s fine dining eatery Rivoli and Flea Street Café in Menlo Park.

With the virus still in the headlines, things continue to evolve. Before you head to any establishment you’ll want to call or visit the website for the latest info. After the community opens up, you might remember that you read something in J.’s Readers’ Choice about a great place that you wanted to check out in person. Luckily for you, our list will be available on our website all year, at In the meantime, stay well, and please support our local shops, restaurants and organizations!

Synagogue Life
Have a Nosh
Time to Celebrate
Shop Till You Drop
Health, Beauty & Fitness
Business & Professional