Best of Sacramento

Each year, SN&R writers and readers pick their favorite Sacramento experiences and destinations.

Whether you’re looking for a hiking trail or a great museum, the best milkshakes or Chinese take-out, our Best of Sacramento listings from the past year can help you narrow your options.

Best place to play pool

T.C.'s Billiard & Dart Club
With 21 regulation-size tables (including four for tournaments and one that’s coin-operated), T.C.’s on Fulton Avenue is our favorite spot for a few games of pool. It’s about the sport here, not upscale cocktails or pre-nightclub flirting—although drinks and snacks are available and there’s music on the jukebox. And it’s not as pricey as you might be used to. The club rents tables out by the hour at a cost of $5 for a single player, $7 for two players and $8 for three to six players. If you’re in the mood for a little friendly competition, sign up for the nine-ball tournament on Monday nights (sign-ups start at 7 p.m., with games starting at 8 p.m.). The space is large, so you won’t have to battle crowds or worry about people constantly interrupting your shot. Winter is the club’s busiest season, but otherwise you’ll rarely have to wait in line. 3500 Fulton Avenue, (916) 978-9916.

Best noncorporate coffee

The Naked Lounge
After the death of the True Love Coffeehouse in Midtown, we were left trudging through the corporate wasteland of Starbucks and Java City for our evening coffee. While some may have given up, we pressed on to find another local coffee spot with decent prices, quality coffee and a relaxed atmosphere that wasn’t bustling with the briefcase-and-tie crowd. At last, relief. Luckily for those of us who still refuse to buy corporate coffee, hope can be found at The Naked Lounge coffeehouse among the comfortable, cushiony chairs; the agreeable employees; and coffee that’s consistently high-quality and aromatic. 1500 Q Street, (916) 442-0174,

Best bet for a safe ride home

Designated Drivers Association of Sacramento
They don’t want to judge or lecture you about being responsible; they just want to keep you from messing yourself or somebody else up. Recognizing the limitations of our public-transit system—and the major buzz kill of going out on the town, getting nice and tanked, and then having to leave your car behind—volunteers for the Designated Drivers Association (DDA) are here to save your sodden, sorry ass. Ring them up on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., and a pair of intrepid good Samaritans will come out to pick you up, ensuring that both you and your car get home in one piece. Since its inception in 2001, DDA has taken real action against drunken driving, making things easier—and safer—for more than 11,000 Sacramento-area nightlifers. Hotline at (916) 335-5555,

Best reason to blow off your morning run

A&A Imports
On the occasional morning, you can smell them all over McKinley Park as you jog around the sandy path dodging the ducks: doughnuts, doughnuts, doughnuts. The sweet scent of glaze and yeasty dough wafts everywhere. But where are they? The surrounding streets, lined with leafy trees and brick houses, are resolutely residential. Is it all a trick of the senses, an olfactory mirage? No. They’re at A&A Imports, where a small, no-frills deli sells sweet extras from its manufacturing operation. (There are also Greek foodstuffs, so if you’re in the market for imported feta or cherry preserves, check it out.) For just $1.25, you can get an assortment of glazed, chocolate, Danish and more in a bag so big you’ll need at least 10 more laps around the park—some other day. 326 Alhambra Boulevard, (916) 441-1120.

Best free computer advice

CompUSA service-department geeks
Getting frustrated looking for honest advice on buying a new computer, or upgrading your two-year-old model, which is almost obsolete? Do you get a sinking feeling that the computer-store salesperson doesn’t have a clue what he or she is talking about when you ask questions about that graphics card, hard drive or DVD burner? Then get off the sales floor and head to the service department, tucked in the corner of the CompUSA store on Alta Arden Expressway. The real geeks toil away in obscurity here on the backroom workbench installing components and software, and they know what the best products and most reliable brands are. At no charge, Beau Richins and his team of computer gurus will reveal the skinny on which products are designed to self-destruct in six months and which ones will last. 2040 Alta Arden Expressway, (916) 565-6075,

Best strip club for couples

Pure Gold Showgirls
Of the numerous strip clubs in town, only two advertise as being especially couple-friendly. Of course, most strip clubs welcome women, but both Club Fantasy and Pure Gold Showgirls offer regular discounts for couples—a good incentive for first-timers who don’t know where to start. Club Fantasy’s all-American sports-bar vibe may put you at ease, but you’ll have a sexier time at Pure Gold. The small club is dark and intimate, and the enthusiastic dancers offer a lot of personal attention. Couples get in free from 6 to 8 p.m. nightly with an ad, and there’s even an adjoining “love boutique” if you decide you want to spice things up at home upon leaving. And ladies, the dancers at Pure Gold look like us—well, gym-toned, tanned, shaved versions of us. But still, rather than a dozen blondes with fake boobs, you’ll find women diverse in height, look, ethnicity, dance style and breast size—a nice reminder that “sexy” can mean a lot of things. 3000 Sunrise Boulevard in Rancho Cordova, (916) 631-3520,

Best spicy tofu

Thai Palace
Thai Palace has both new, interesting dishes and tasty variations on traditional favorites. The servers smile, and the walls are decorated with all sorts of Thai artwork, but by far the best thing about Thai Palace is the spicy tofu. Along with the animal-saving protein goodness that is tofu, it has a sweet and spicy chili sauce, and it’s topped off with fresh, crunchy basil leaves to give it a little kick. Even carnivorous types will like this stuff. 3262 J Street, (916) 447-5353.

Best spot to get the lowdown on sex in Sacramento

Sacramento Zone
Whether you want information on nude modeling or events for local swingers, you’ll find it at the Sacramento Zone. The Web site (at features a mixture of ads and locally written tidbits that will open your eyes to new turn-ons. Erotic employment opportunities and kinky contests abound (last year, we even wrote about the Toys for Tarts effort to provide underprivileged women with used—but sterilized—sex toys). The site’s volunteer staff rates local strip clubs, massage parlors and escorts, based on readers’ comments and staffers’ personal experiences. As one staffer put it, “We’d just always wanted a site like it, and it was sort of an experiment. Craigslist has the ads but not the information or contests. The contests made it kind of fun.” The Sacramento Zone is growing. It currently gets up to 3,000 visitors a day and plans to add a “Sacramento stripper of the month” feature as well as some new games.

Best place to go out to (when you feel like staying in)

Kasbah Lounge
Kasbah Lounge offers the perfect compromise for people who want to hit the town without leaving behind the comforts of home. Its bustling Midtown location and nightly 3 a.m. closing time make the restaurant’s central bar a viable spot for nightlife watching, while the Kasbah’s quiet nooks are lined with pillows for lazy lounging. The waitresses bring you snacks and tea while you recline, and the dim interior lighting means no one notices if you happen to doze off for a moment. 2115 J Street, (916) 442-4388.

Best street for a one-hour promotion blitz

J Street, between 10th Street and Alhambra Boulevard
For many creative people, the business side of things is little more than an afterthought. The dense world of taxes and contracts doesn’t always figure into rock-star fantasies or dreams of turning the art world on its head. Even promotion can be an uncomfortable challenge, which is why a lot of performers leave fliering to a street team or put it off until the very last minute. Of course, any promotion is better than no promotion at all—even devoting a single hour to it can help. And J Street makes it easy, with at least a dozen spots acting as boosters of local culture. If it’s summertime, start at Cesar Chavez Plaza during a farmers’ market or Friday Concert in the Park. Visit The Beat, The Bread Store and then Tone Vendor. Before you know it, you’ll have unloaded an armload of fliers and several posters, and you’ll still have SN&R’s front desk, Atmosphere, 23 Lounge, Beach Hut Deli, Sugar Shack, Art Ellis, Lily New York, Cuffs Urban Apparel, Her, DV8, University Arts and the Fifth String to visit.

Best burger

In-N-Out Burger
various locations,

Best spot for dining alone

Jack’s Urban Eats
various locations,

Best pizza

Zelda’s Original Gourmet Pizza
1415 21st Street, (916) 447-1400

Best sushi

Mikuni Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar
various locations,

Best breakfast

2330 J Street, (916) 441-0948; 8511 Elk Grove Boulevard in Elk Grove, (916) 686-2880

Best Greek

Greek Village Inn
65 University Avenue, (916) 922-6334

Best local beer

Brew It Up!
801 14th Street, (916) 441-3000,

Best happy hour

The Depot
2001 K Street, (916) 441-6823,

Best local coffee shop

various locations,

Best smoothies

Jamba Juice
various locations,

Best grocery store

various locations,

Best bookstore

various locations,

Best bank

Wells Fargo
various locations,

Best home furnishings

Room Source
various locations

Best place to buy music

Tower Records
various locations,

Best tattoo shop

American Graffiti Tattoo
1219 19th Street, (916) 443-7778; 132 E Street, Suite 1B, in Davis, (530) 753-1948;

Best hair salon

Mosaic Salon
2700 J Street, (916) 558-2700; 1111 Howe Avenue, Suite 305, (916) 929-1111

Best vintage-clothing store

Crossroads Trading Co.
2935 Arden Way, (916) 972-9900; 1850 Douglas Boulevard in Roseville, (916) 781-9900;

Best bike shop

City Bicycle Works
2419 K Street, (916) 447-2453; 7885 Greenback Lane in Citrus Heights, (916) 726-2453;

Best shoe store

2418 K Street, (916) 443-4200,

Best ski resort

Heavenly Lake Tahoe
corner of Wildwood and Saddle in South Lake Tahoe, (775) 586-7000,

Best annual event

California State Fair
1600 Exposition Boulevard, (916) 263-FAIR,

Best park

William Land Park
4000 Land Park Drive

Best museum

Crocker Art Museum
216 O Street, (916) 264-5423,

Best comedy club

Laughs Unlimited
1207 Front Street, (916) 446-8128,

Best dance club

2000 K Street, (916) 448-7798,

Best sports bar

Mandango’s Sports Bar & Grill
1310 Fulton Avenue, Suite D, (916) 487-2984; 106 North Sunrise Boulevard, Suite B5, in Roseville, (916) 797-7678;

Best place to hear loud music

Old Ironsides
1901 10th Street, (916) 443-9751,

Best open-mic

Luna’s Café & Juice Bar
1414 16th Street, (916) 441-3931,

Best gay bar

2000 K Street, (916) 448-7798,

Best place to go on a first date

Old Sacramento

Best place to meet singles

The Depot
2001 K Street, (916) 441-6823,