by Stephen Buel
Perhaps never before in most of our lifetimes has the East Bay seemed so polarized. On the positive side, entrepreneurial energy, long-overdue investment, and renewed civic pride have brought a new sparkle to the region — which is visible in our trendy shops, sprawling beer gardens, and diverse new cultural institutions. And yet, as costs soar in the absence of sorely needed new housing, too many of us must pinch our pennies, continually searching for creative ways to stretch our dollars in what has become one of the country's most expensive places to live. Hence the theme of this year's Best Of the East Bay: Splurges and Steals. Our cover model, Wiley the Express office dog, illustrates our intent. For her splurge, she was accessorized by Berkeley's Paco Collars, winner of a Best Of award in the category of "Best Canine Bling." As for her steal, shortly after we rescued Wiley from her home on the streets of Oakland, we had her spayed by the fine folks at the East Bay SPCA, winner of an award in the category "Cheapest Way to Spay."
On the pages below, you'll find many other wonderful ways to pamper yourself while also living within your means. Congratulations to all this year's winners.