Best of the Bay 2011

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Best of the Bay 2012 Editors Picks: Shopping


Best of the Bay 2011 Editors Picks: Shopping


Though electric bikes far outnumber cars in communities from Chinas crowded cities to mountainous towns in the Swiss Alps, they have yet to catch on here in the States. Regardless of the reason, and despite SF’s hilly terrain — quite possibly the perfect venue for the bikes’ charms — the owners of New Wheel make this list for sheer entrepreneurial derring-do. Karen and Brett Thurber went ahead and opened the city’s first e-bike-focused store, where they also do repair, hawk sleek Euro-designed accessories, and host the neighborhood’s first e-bike charging station. The station, designed as a gas pump from that not-so-distant era when we needed to drive cars to work (we are writing you from the future), also charges cell phones, digital cameras, and more — quite the charge for the Bernal Heights community.

420 Cortland, SF. (415) 524-7362,



Guardian photo by Brittany M. Powell

Holy Vampire Weekend, Kanye — no need to waste your time drooling over the archives of Street Etiquette, the sharpest neo-preppy style blog of our time. Fulfill your up-to-the-minute Ivy League-ish yearnings (with a dash of street-level snazz) at Asmbly Hall, the Fillmore men’s and women’s clothing shop for the sophisticated prepster. The natty clothes aren’t priced too outrageously (button-down shirts are around $80), and familiar classics are tweaked with unique elements like scalloped collars and stripy inseams. Husband-wife owners Ron and Tricia Benitez have reworked an old mattress store into an absolutely lovely space with brick walls and blond wood floors. Here’s where you’ll score that funky two-tone cardigan, irreplaceable Macarthur shirt, or dreamy summer beach dress. You’ll have to supply your own air of undergrad gravitas.

1850 Fillmore, SF. (415) 567-5953,



Hidden in a corner of the beloved Rooky Ricardo’s Records store is the domain of Glass Key Photo owner and photography enthusiast Matt Osborne. From a funky wedge of floor space, Osborne offers a top-notch, well-edited, and cheap selection of cameras, film, and darkroom gear. Much of his treasure is stored in an old-school refrigerator case, making for an appealingly bizarre shopping experience. Customers thirsty for hard-to-find photographic gear should check out Glass Key before the bigger-name stores — even if the refrigerator doesn’t hold the key to your photographic fantasies, Osborne is happy to special order what he doesn’t have. He also earns rave reviews for his camera repair skills, and sells root beer to thirsty shutterbugs.

448 Haight, SF. (415) 829-9946,


It is no secret that San Francisco has thrifting issues. Due to the admirable commitment to cheaply bought fashion (and high incidence of broke, under-employed drag queens), most of our used clothing stores are heavily picked over — or well-curated, with ghastly price tags to match. Those sick of fighting could do worse than steer their Zipcars north. In Sebastopol sits Aubergine, a high-ceilinged mega-vault stuffed with vintage slips, half-bustiers — clearly geared toward the Burning Man strumpet — menswear, and the occasional accessibly priced Insane Clown Posse T-shirt. Racks on racks on racks on racks — and if you need a break from bargain browsing, you’re in luck. The shop has its own cafe and full bar, where many nights you’ll find live music from gypsy dance to jazz drumming.

755 Petaluma, Sebastopol. (707) 827-3460,



The charming, chatty cashiers at the Benedetta Skin Care kiosk in the Ferry Building have clear, shiny skin, but it’s not due to the local produce from the farmers market outside. Based in the Petaluma, Benedetta offers organic, botanics-based, sustainably packaged products that actually work. Take a tip from your freshly scrubbed lotion sellers: rather than loofah-ing your skin to a pulp with packaged peroxides that — let’s face it — sound kind of scary when you actually read the fine print, refresh with the line’s perfectly moist Crème Cleanser that leaves skin smelling like a mixture of rosemary and geranium. From anti-aging creams to deodorants and moisturizing mist sprays, this small company offers treats for all skin types — perfect for popping in next to your small-producer cheese wheels and grass-fed charcuterie.

1 Ferry Building, SF. (415) 263-8910,



Interested in perpetuating a bibliophilic mythos among your houseguests? Turned on by the image of sitting quietly by a roaring fireplace, sipping a brandy, and reading Kafka amid towers of dusty tomes? Well, the Bay Area Free Book Exchange has those tomes for you to own. Since its opening in 2009, the Exchange has given away more than 245,000 free books for the sole joy of making knowledge accessible in book form. The nonprofit is run by a collection of book-lovers in El Cerrito who sell some of the donated volumes on eBay in order to pay rent, electricity, and other expenses. The rest of the stories, however, make their way to the Exchange’s storefront, where every weekend customers are invited to take up to 200 titles at once. Stock your bathroom with freaky medical guides? Actually read the books you snap up? We’ll let you work out the ethics on your own.

10520 San Pablo, El Cerrito. (510) 705-1200,



Guardian photo by Godofredo Vasquez/SF Newspaper Co.

It can be hard to beat the sheer variety offered by your Ikeas and Bed Bath & Beyonds when it comes to fresh new flatware or an upgrade on your trusty college-era rice cooker. Lucky for local business fans (which we assume you are if you’re this deep into our Best of the Bay issue), there’s a little-guy alternative: Clement Street’s Kamei Restaurant Supply. Kamei has dishes for every occasion: light blue earthenware plates with fetching designs of cherry blossom trees, coffee mugs shaped like barn owls and kitty cats, tea sets, sake sets, and every cooking utensil a chef could desire — plus paper umbrellas with koi fish prints and flip-flops. Maybe ‘cuz with all the savings you’ll spot in Kamei, you’ll be able to afford more beach trips.

525 Clement, SF. (415) 666-3699



Guardian photo by Amber Schadewald

Nenna Joiner’s done a number on us. In a Bay Area full of superlative sex shops, her Feelmore510 — which opened a year and a half ago — has run away with our sex-positive souls. What makes her business stand out? It could be her rainbow of pornos (Joiner herself makes skin flicks that have an emphasis on racial, sexual, and body-type diversity) or, it could be the pretty store design, with erotic art displayed in the shop’s plate-glass windows. You’ll often find Joiner at her store as late as 1:30am: besides outfitting her customers with stimulating gear, she hosts in-store sex ed lectures and movie screenings. “Sex is a basic need for survival,” she told the Guardian in an interview earlier this year. We agree, and that’s why Feelmore510’s a new East Bay necessity.

1703 Telegraph, Oakl. (510) 891-0199,


Much of the wine we drink is stuffed full of chemical preservatives. Purists like wine critic Alice Feiring have raised a hue and cry over the industry’s reluctance to force producers to label these ingredients. We have to give it up to a little shop off of Polk Street for supporting the so-called “natural wine” movement which encourages additive-free imbibement. Biondivino is charming enough in its own right: library-style shelves full of luscious Italian pours, among which proprietor Ceri Smith has made sure to include many natural wines. And because these bottles tend to be produced by small scale vineyards, Biodivino helps support the little guys, too. Sure, sometimes all you can spring for is a bottle of three-buck Chuck (natural wines can be pricey) — but props to Smith for giving consumers the choice.

1415 Green, SF. (415) 673-2320,



“If just owning a bamboo bike was the end goal, we’d just build them for you,” said Justin Aguinaldo in a Guardian interview back in February. “For us, it’s about empowering more people and providing them with the value of creating your own thing.” Aguinaldo’s Tenderloin DIY cycling hub Bamboo Bike Studio doesn’t just produce two-wheeled steeds whose frames are made of easily-regenerated natural materials — it teaches you useful bike-making skills so that you can be the master of your own self-powered transportation destiny. Buy your bike parts (kits start at $459), and then get yourself to tinkering. After a weekend-long session with Bamboo Bike Studio’s expert bike makers, you’ll have a ride that’s ready for the hurly-burly city streets.

982 Post, SF.



For lovers of esoteric literature, 2141 Mission is a dream come true. The unassuming storefront (the building’s ground floor is occupied by the standard hodgepodge of Mission District discount stores) belies a cluster of alternative bookstores on its upper levels. Valhalla Books is flush with titles in their debut printing; Libros Latinos holds exactly that; lovers of law history will find their joy in the aisles of Meyer Boswell; and the building’s largest shop, Bolerium Books, holds records of radical history — volumes and magazines that together form a fascinating look at the gay rights, civil rights, labor, and feminist movements (and more!). Most visitors make the pilgrimage with something specific in mind, but walk-ins are welcome as long as they have a love of the printed page.

Bolerium Books, No. 300. (415) 863-6353,; Libros Latinos, No. 301. (415) 793-8423,; Meyer Boswell, No. 302. (415) 255-6400,; Valhalla Books, No. 202. (415) 863-9250



Some chefs drool over the copper pots at posh cooking stores. Artists lovingly caress the sable brushes in painting shops. But what aspirational retail options exist for the you, the craftsman? Home Despot? Perish the thought! Luckily, your days of retail resentment are over. At the Japan Woodworker, you can fondle high-end power tools to deplete your paycheck, plus tools hand-made in traditional Japanese style — like pull saws, chisels, and adzes — which are not only beautiful, but quite affordable. If you’re the type of person who savors doing things the slow way, the tools found here will do much to imbue your projects with love and care. And if you’re not, perhaps it’s time you paid a little more attention to detail — a very Japanese value, indeed.

1731 Clement, Alameda. (510) 521-1810,



Ever rolled your eyes at the endless articles on flower arranging found in home magazines — as if you had the money or the time? Then you might be due for a visit to the San Francisco Flower Mart. The SoMa gem sells cut flowers of every description at wholesale prices, making it the perfect playground for those looking to get plenty of practice, per-penny, poking stems into vases. And if your Martha Stewart moment doesn’t seem imminent, there are plenty of other fixin’s — giant glass balls, decorative podiums, fish tanks, driftwood, grosgrain ribbons, flamingo-themed party supplies — to rifle through. It’s the perfect place to while away your lunch break: it smells great, and it even has a perky little cafe to caffeinate your midday visit.

640 Brannan, SF. (415) 392-7944,



Photo by Godofredo Vasquez/SF Newspaper Co.

Hey, you with the dreams of a better bathroom! There’s no need to put up any longer with that cracked toilet bowl, that faulty faucet, that perma-grody bathtub, or that shower head that suddenly switches into “destroy” mode at the worst possible moment (i.e. right in the middle of herbal-rinsing your long, lustrous hair). Head down — or direct your responsible landlord down — to the cluster of independent home supply stores at the intersection of Bayshore Avenue and Industrial Street in Bayview-Hunter’s Point. There you’ll find K H Plumbing Supplies, a huge family-owned and operated bathroom and kitchen store with everything you need to fulfill your new fixture fantasies. The staff is extra-friendly and can gently guide you toward affordable options in better-known name brands. Even if you have only a vague idea as to which of the thousand bath spouts will reflect your unique personality, they’ll find something for you to gush over.

2272 Shafter, SF. (415) 970-9718



Back in college, you probably had that friend who dressed up as a Christmas tree on Halloween and had to dance near a wall outlet all night so he could stay plugged in. Or … maybe you didn’t. Either way, costumes that light up are no longer just for burner freaks and shortsighted frat bays. With a little help from Cool Neon, anyone can get lit in an affordable el-wire wrapped masterpiece of their own creation. Wanna cover your car with LEDs? This place can do it. Creative signage for your business? No problem for these neon gods. And even if you’re just missing the sparkly, lit-up streets of the holiday season, Cool Neon can oblige: its Mandela Parkway façade is a light show in itself.

1433 Mandela, Oakl. (510) 547-5878,


Sure, on any given Sunday the Rare Bird is flush with vintage duds for guys and gals, antique cameras, birdhouses, jewelry, and trinkets. But for all you birds looking to truly find your flock, fly in to this fresh store on third Thursdays during the Piedmont Avenue Art Walk. Rare Bird proprietress Erica Skone-Reese hatched the event a year ago, and has chaired the art walk committee ever since, giving all those art-walk lovers who Murmur, Stroll, and Hop (all names of Bay Area art walks, for the uninitiated) a place to home in between first Fridays. Can’t make it when the Ave.’s abuzz? No worries. Rare Bird curates an always-changing list of featured artisans — like Featherluxe, who’ll fulfill your vegan feather-extension needs should you have them — and recently began offering classes in all art forms trendy and hipster, from terrarium making to silhouette portraiture.

3883 Piedmont, Oakl. (510) 653-2473,



Got nerdy friends you just can’t understand? Feel bad asking them to explain, for the tenth time, the difference between RPG, GMT, MMP, and D&D? WOW them with a trip to Endgame. Not only will they find others who speak their language, but — because they can spend hours browsing board games, card games, toys, and trinkets — you’ll have them out of your hair … at least until you can look up what the heck they’re talking about on Urban Dictionary. Add an always-open game room, plus swapmeets, mini-cons, and an online forum, to equal more nerd-free hours than you can shake a pack of Magic Cards at. Just be careful you don’t find yourself lonely, having lost your dweeby mates to Endgame’s undeniable charms. Or worse: venture in to drag them out and risk being won over, yourself.

921 Washington, Oakl. (510) 465-3637,



In addition to being part of a string of friendly neighborhood hardware stores, Belmont Hardware‘s Potrero Hill showroom brims unexpectedly with rooms of fancy doorknobs, created by the companies who design modern-day fittings for the likes of the White House and the Smithsonian. A gold-plated door handle with an engraving of the Sun King? A faucet set featuring two crystal birds with out-stretched wings, vigilantly regulating your hot and cold streams of water? It’s all at Belmont Hardware. With a broad range of prices (you can still go to them for $10 quick-fix drawer knobs and locks, don’t worry) and an even broader scope of products, Belmont represents a world where hardware can inspire — check out the local chain’s four other locations for more ways to bring the glory home.

Various Bay Area locations.



The square aspect ratio and grainy filters of everyone’s favorite $1 billion photography app turn perfectly good shots crappy-cool with the swipe of a finger, allowing smart phone users everywhere to take photos way back. But to take photos way, way back, you have to be in the Mission for a tintype portrait at Photobooth. These old-timey sheet-steel images were once popular at carnivals and fairs; even after wet plate photography became obsolete, tintypes were deemed charmingly nostalgic — a sort of prescient irony that pre-dated hipsterism yet neatly anticipated it. Perhaps that same appreciative irony applied to the tintype’s tendency — due to long exposure time — to make subjects look vaguely, yet somehow quaintly, sociopathic. Or, as the Photobooth website delicately puts it, “Traditionally, tintypes recorded the intensity of the individual personality.”

1193 Valencia, SF. (415) 824-1248,



Gold Rush Alaska? Deadliest Roads? Swamp Life? Though you love ’em, it’s hard to apply what you’ve learned during those late-night trashy-television-and-junk-food binges. But fans of Storage Wars and American Pickers, rejoice! At the Santa Cruz Flea Market, you’ll meet folks who locker for a living and travel hours to sell their scores — everything from fur coats to antique fuel tanks. Pick through yourself to see what invaluable treasures turn up: belt-driven two-seater motorcycle? Check. Handmade blown glass, Civil War memorabilia, bootlegger’s copper still? Check, check, check. Come for the farm-fresh produce, aisles of leather boots, plastic whosee-whatsits and electronics of dubious provenance, or, if Man Versus Food is more your style, challenge a massive stuffed baked potato or shrimp ceviche tostada.

Fridays, 7am; Saturdays, 6am; Sundays, 5:30am; $1-$2.50. 2260 Soquel, Santa Cruz. (831) 462-4442,



They may not scream when you uproot them or ensnare you with insidious vineage, but the exceptional succulents, epiphytes, and bromeliads at Crimson Horticultural Rarities will certainly tickle your fancy — in a perfectly harmless way. Find everything necessary to cook up an enchanted garden or adorn your dorm room (four-poster bed not included) in singular style. Proprietresses Leigh Oakies and Allison Futeral indulge your desires with oddities ranging from the elegant to the spectacular to the slightly creepy, and will even apply their botanical wherewithal to help you create a whimsical wedding. Or, if your potions kit needs restocking, Crimson can supply sufficient dried butterflies and taxidermied bird wings to oblige you. (Collected, cruelty-free, from California Academy of Sciences.)

470 49th St., Oakl. (510) 992-3519,


Though Skylar Fell fell in love with the squeezebox via a happy exposure to the punks of the East Bay’s Accordion Plague back in the 1990s, she knows to pay homage to the masters. Fell apprenticed with master repairman Vincent J. Cirelli at his workshop in Brisbane (in business since 1946!) and at Berkeley’s now-defunct Boaz Accordions before opening Accordion Apocalypse in SoMa. The shop, which both sells and repairs, also stocks new and antique instruments in well-known brands (to accordionists, that is) Scandalli, Horner, Roland, and Gabanelli. Fell will fix you up if you bust a button on your beloved accordion, and she has made her store into a hub for lovers of the bellows — check out the website for accordion events coming up in or out of the city.

255 10th St., SF. (415) 596-5952,



Situation: You’ve just moved into a new place, only to look up and discover that the previous owner somehow Frankensteined three different desk lamps from the more aesthetically challenged end of the 1990s into a living room light fixture. It must die. Worse: Your aunt just gifted you the most generic Walmart wall sconces ever for your housewarming present, and she is coming to stay next month. Perhaps worst of all: You’ve just discovered a gorgeous 1930s pendant lamp in the basement, but it’s banged up terribly and who the heck knows if it works? Solution to everything: the wizards at Dogfork Lamp Arts, headed by owner Michael Donnelly. Services include restoring and rewiring antique lamps and light fixtures, and even reinventing ugly ones — making glowing swans of your awkward mass-market ducklings. (We discovered Dogfork’s magic at the new Local’s Corner restaurant in the Mission, where a pair of Pottery Barn lamps were transformed into wonderfully intriguing, post-steampunk sconces.) Rip out that gross track lighting and put up something unique.

199 Potrero, SF. (415) 431-6727,



Triple Aught Designs fills a post-North Face niche almost too-perfectly: the outdoor apparel company is locally based (it’s headquartered in the Dogpatch) and personable (the recently opened outlet in Hayes Valley offers a friendly, intimate shopping experience). It is also light-years ahead in terms of tech and design: hyper-strong micro-thin jackets and hoodies in futuristic battleground colors so styley we’d seriously consider sporting them on the dance floor, plus elbow armor and space pens that zip right past wilderness campouts and into Prometheus territory. We’re particularly enamored of the Triple Aught backpacks — these strappy beauts could have been nabbed from a boutique on Tatooine, a perfect look for riding out the coming apocalypse.

660 22nd St.; 551 Hayes, SF (415) 318-8252,



Guardian photo by Godofredo Vasquez/SF Newspaper Co. 

Need a bit of gentle encouragement before you open your home to an exquisite orchid? Will it take a little nudge before carnivorous pitcher plants share space with your beloved ironic porcelain figurines? Maybe a delicate hand is called for when it comes to developing a chic terrarium habit. Michelle Reed, the owner of indoor plant paradise Roots, has no problem with all that — her gorgeous little boutique is there to help green up your apartment and let the sunshine in. Besides delectable, mood-brightening plants for your inner sanctum, the store also stocks a healthy selection of local art to elevate your interior design aesthetic, as well as a neat array of planters and supplies (we’re in love with the heart-shaped wall planters that look like little light sconces). Let your tight, high-rent space breathe a little easier with help from Roots’ little friends.

425 S. Van Ness, SF. (415) 817-1592

Best SF smiles: The Best of the Bay winners photo


We like to call it “the best picture in San Francisco.” It’s the annual Best of the Bay winners photo — with more than 350 winners standing together at our recent party at Horatius, smiling and saying “best of” for the camera. 

Go here to see the winners…

And here to see them with their identifying numbers

For a personal copy of the winners photo go to

Click to the next page for our numbers guide.



20. Adris Beasley; 21. Simone Coulars; 22. DG Blackburn; 23. Rana Kapoor; 24. Aldo de la Cruz; 25. Michael Ziabel; 26. Christopher Carter; 27. Kanoa Blodgett; 28. Rich Henry; 29. Julian Lute; 30. Adam Szyndrowski; 31. Mandy O’doul; 32. Miranda Caroligne; 33. Mary Kay Chin; 34. Shaw San Liu; 36. Pandora Nair; 37. Derek Schultz; 38. Helen Pappas; 39. Keyko Riuz ; 41. Jamie Sage Cotton; 42. Lancy Woo; 44. Jonathan Tuite; 45. Michael Lopez; 46. Ron Robinson; 48. Kayoko Pinto; 49. Christian Cunningham; 50. Brown Amy; 51. Adrian Roberts; 53. Michele Melton; 54. Pali Boucher; 55. Tim Archuleta; 56. Jaime Botello; 57. Maryam Tavakoli; 58. Kayla Turner; 59. Webster Granger; 60. Kathryn Haskeel; 62. Philip Campbell; 63. Mark Bowen; 64. Alexa Vickroy; 66. Crystal Higgins-Peterson; 67. Nichole Spencer; 68. Kendra Rae; 69. Brucius ; 70. Oran Scott; 72. Joel Pomerantz; 145. Jairo Vargas; 147. Declanne Campbell; 148. Jane McIntyre; 149. Michael Illumin; 150. Sasha Kelley; 151. Cody Frost; 152. Bryce Campe; 153. Benjamin Bac Sierra; 154. Shannon Amitin; 155. Jan-Henry Gray; 156. Eleanor Gerber-Siff; 157. M. W. ; 160. Satoko Kojima; 161. James Fong; 234. Pedro Gomez ; 235. Rana Chang; 236. Amir Hosseini; 237. Rebecca Prieto; 238. Justine Kessler; 239. Tim Choy; 240. Travis Zano Abbott; 241. Domingo Licon; 242. Leticia Lara; 243. Joseph E. Pearson; 244. Jimmy Lara; 245. Ariana Akbar; 246. James Kafader; 247. Emilio Freire; 248. Bruno Soto; 249. Alexis Ramirez; 250. Alexa Trevino; 251. Ivan Lopez; 252. Shakeel the iPhone Guy; 253. Isaac Rodriguez; 254. Jara RA; 255. Sandra Michaan; 256. Adam Spiegel; 257. Thomas Friel; 258. Eboni Senai Hawkins; 259. Brock Keeling; 260. T. J. Jackovick; 262. Natalie Nuxx; 263. Marcel A. Baudwin; 265. Anna Gazdowicz; 266. Devon Devine; 267. Deidre Roberts; 268. Heklina; 270. Lina Abuarafeh; 271. Erin Archuleta; 272. Therese Batacian; 273. Catherine Tchen ; 274. June Gallardo; 275. Mauricio Arce; 276. Debi Cohn; 277. Thomas John; 278. Abe Pedroza; 279. Gerard Koskovich; 280. Julia Cabrita; 281. Laura Brief; 282. DJ Carnita; 285. Edwin Escobar; 286. Shannon Young; 287. Eva Marez; 288. Paul Freedman; 290. Ian Deleporte; 291. Todd N. Koester; 292. Adrienne Calcote; 293. Whitney Branco; 294. Natasha Rempe; 295. Dixie De La Tour; 296. John Western; 297. Jan Meric; 298. Steve Barrew Ecaea; 299. Sydney Leung; 300. Frank Biafore; 302. Adam Smith; 303. Melyssa Mendoza; 304. Wenlan Rong;  304. Wenlan Rong; 305. Rita Garcia; 306. Michael Thanos; 307. Luis Vasquez; 308. Justin Anastasi; 309. Damon Way; 310. Shannon O’Malley; 311. Keith Wilson; 312. Anjan Mitra; 313. Emily Mitra; 314. Benjamin A. Pease; 315. Shizue Seigel; 316. Makoto Imaizumi; 317. Mark Furr; 318. Angela Chavez; 320. Ava Roy; 321. Damon Styer; 322. Johnny Funcheap; 323. Dylan Salisbury; 324. Laura Bellizzi; 325. Camper English; 326. Peter Kasin; 327. J. Tony Serra; 328. Donna Flint; 330. Ariel S. Feingold; 331. Tim Thompson; 332. Ken Rowe; 333. Tristan O’Tierney; 334. David Williams; 335. Alicia Albarran; 337. Michael Wolf; 340. Naomi Beck; 341. Renato Gresuani ; 343. Matt Mikesell; 344. Randy Gardner; 345. Brittany Gale; 346. Kory Salsbury; 347. Josué Argüelles; 348. Dauric O Flaithbheartaigh; 349. Briana Miranda; 350. Brendan Getzell; 352. Stuart Bousel; 353. Raffi Meric; 354. Marcia Gagliardí; 355. David Roche; 356. Angela Bakas; 360. Daniel Grove; 361. Alex Von Wolff; 362. Kristine Vejar; 363. Jarrad Webster; 365. Rich Ibarra; 366. Pat Cadam; 367. Nathaniel Justiniani; 368. Wassana Korkhieola; 369. Kitty Me-ow McMuffin; 370. Keith Houston; 371. Ernesto Gonzalez; 372. Molly Tyson; 424. Ellen McCarthy; 425. Kristina Quinones; 426. Nicholas Smilgys; 427. Momek Pedeni; 428. Kate Starr; 429. Ben Rotnicki; 430. Walt Von Hauffe; 431. Colleen Mauer; 432. Karen Roze; 433. Paz De la Calzada;  434. Peter Blick; 435. Jeff Whitmore; 436. Dustin Toshiyuki; 437. Hillary Bergmann; 438. Jennifer Pattee; 439. Matthew Quirk; 441. Sam Haynor; 442. Will Greene; 443. Bettina Limaco; 444. Christine Friel; 445. Dlaitan Callendaer-Scott; 446. Steven Baker; 447. Brian Davis; 448. Benjamin Seabury; 449. Suzanne Long; 450. Kristine Vejar; 451. Jeff Ng; 452. Jane Underwood; 453. Dion Larot; 454.  Victor R. Menacho; 455. Kali Lambson; 456. Lexi Lipstick; 457. Akash Kapoor; 458. Louise Glasgon; 459. Harrison Chustang; 462. Jeremy Adam Smith; 463. M. Levy; 464. Nio Anderson; 465. Rebecca Katz; 466. Kat Brown; 467. Charlie O’Hanlon; 468. Lauren Sadler; 469. Stephanie Foster; 470. Chris Beale; 471. Bethanie Hines; 472. Zenobia Bracy; 474. Clare’s’ Deli; 475. Bryce Beastall;  476. Derek Hena; 477. Alex Rivas; 478. Ben Van Horter; 479. Thomas Valotta; 480. Paul McWilliams; 481. Janice Whaley; 482. Mick Aguilera; 483. Reynaldo R. Cayetano Jr.; 484. Rebecca Cate; 485. Martin Cate; 486. Charles Coffee; 487. Serge Bakalian;  488. Sandy Handler; 489. David Handler; 490. Maryln Sevilla; 491. Jim Sweeney; 492. David Gordon; 494.  Frances Rath; 























































































































































































Best of the Bay 2011: BEST HOW SOON IS WOW


Smiths-mania is an admirable torment that afflicts any teen worth her salt who craves morosely literate lyrics paired with driving, jangly melodies. It can continue to affect its victims well into adulthood, too — from nostalgic Gen-Xers who slip on Meat is Murder when the sky is gray and the black dog is growling softly, to folks like author Simon Goddard, whose Mozipedia meticulously breaks down the particulars of every song the 1980s British group recorded. Another work of genius that a feverish Smiths obsession has engendered? Janice Whaley’s The Smiths Project. The Bay Area singer produced a six-CD, 71-song a cappella recreation of the melancholic Mancunians’ entire catalog — in one year. The ingeniously layered beauty of Whaley’s voice fills in all the parts of classics like “How Soon is Now” and “The Queen is Dead.” But all the ache of the originals remains.

Best of the Bay 2011: BEST CAKE-TASTROPHES


“I just want to make people read my evil shit,” gleefully wicked Bay Area meta-baker and blogger Shannon O’Malley of Apocalypse Cakes told us last year. “Fatalistic gluttons!” Branch Davidian Texas Pecan Pie, Seismic Haitian Mudcake; Bird Flu Feather Cake, “Inexplicable” Blackbird Pie, Global Jihad Date Cake, even Gay Wedding Cake (there’s bondage involved) — O’Malley’s hilarious, conceptual “recipes for the End” play up our primal fascination with food and disaster while tweaking the foodie propensity for perky cultural appropriation. Now her End Times creations have been collected into an Apocalypse Cakes book, so you can unplug, retreat to your mountain survival hut, and indulge your millennial cravings, enraptured.



We’re not sure what your list of priorities looks like when it comes to promising soulmate candidates, but for us, that person better damn well know how to cook. Here’s one nifty little trick for finding out if the person across the table can adequately steam your beef: schedule a shabu-shabu date. The Japanese cuisine, which requires you to use chopsticks to cook your own thinly sliced meats and veggies in a shared hotpot, is incredibly fun and tasty — once you get the hang of it. The friendly Shabusen in Japantown is our favorite, because it has an authentic atmosphere and a klutz-patient staff who don’t mind a little splashy ineptitude. And if your companion happens to be a butterfingers, you can always save face with one of Shabusen’s umami-riffic sukiyakis.

1726 Buchanan, SF. (415) 440-0466



You hear tales of a magical Korean restaurant located in a converted garage near Ocean Beach, barely marked by a strand of Christmas lights and a winking chicken with a bowtie and green hair. The restaurant is open until 2 a.m. and is perfect for after-bar snacks: kimchee fried rice, calamari and beef bulgogi, heaps of noodles, crispy fried clucker, and jugs of thick, soju-infused cocktails. When you enter Toyose, it’s actually the quaintly decorated Korean restaurant of your imagination, with a tasty underground vibe to boot. Perfect for post-bar refreshment, true, but a destination in itself: you could lose yourself (and your party) in one of the huge, savory seafood casseroles or cauldrons of sizzling rice soup. And so affordable! No wonder it’s jam-packed with the young and hot.

3814 Noriega, SF. (415) 731-0232

Best of the Bay 2011: BEST RUM LEED-ER


When Bar Agricole opened earlier this year, the provenance of its architectural design made almost as many headlines as its food. Impeccably eco-contemporary and obsessively LEED-standard compliant, the striking tavern in SoMa raised the bar for restaurant design. Good for it. It’s lovely; it’s immaculate; we would almost eat off the walls. But — besides the fact that all this green-edged conception has actually yielded a comfortable vibe, stellar drinks, and spectacular cooking (please try the sauerkraut soup and roasted mussels with chorizo) — what’s the real news? Agricole! The classic West Indian white rum, or rhum, is derived from pure cane juice and much prized by the French. Bar Agricole serves it in its ti punch cocktail, spiffily accented with lime zest. The clean, crisp taste evokes an amiable warmth within, much like Bar Agricole itself.

355 11th St., SF. (415) 355-9400,


Best of the Bay 2011: BEST SWEET HOOKERS


We used to love watching David “Hooker” Williams rule the pool table and patio at the Pilsner Inn back in the day. But who knew then that lurking within him was the potential to blow our sweet tooth into the stratosphere? Good thing he let that scrumptious light shine, following his muse to create Hooker’s Sweet Treatshandmade, habit-forming, sea-salted, dark chocolate-covered caramels. These little babies, which Williams calls his “hookers,” work the corners of finer food stores like Bi-Rite Market or display themselves tantalizingly at the homey Hooker’s Sweet Treats Café in the Tenderloin, tempting you to pick up a private evening’s worth of smooth and gooey entertainment. Or hey, just gorge on all the hookers you want right there, accompanied by a fresh cup of Sightglass coffee and to-die-for plum pudding.

442 Hyde, SF.

Best of the Bay 2011: BEST LIQUOR LOWDOWN


Why is it that we like to read about food and drink so much on the Web? In no other Internet area, except maybe porn, is the meeting of the weightlessly virtual and the essentially physical so addictively fruitful. And while crackerjack local liquor expert Camper English’s Alcademics site doesn’t tear off your panties with glossy cocktail shots, his entertainingly detailed descriptions of the latest drool-worthy liquors will have you practically licking your screen. Over the past four years — besides visiting more than 70 distilleries, blending houses, and bodegas in 14 countries — Alcademics has helped refine the Bay Area’s cocktail-blogging niche with some much-needed worldliness and a willingness to look deeper at what’s in our highball. (English’s degree in physics helps here.) We’ve said it before: you really can drink to feel smarter!



Punjab Chinese American Restaurant (the name’s not a reference to the Indian state, here it means “fire dragon”) offers free mimosas with its weekend brunch, a standard Americana menu of eggs, pancakes, french toast, and the like. Standard that is, until one considers that the weekday menu is also fair game, from traditional Chinese fare to trash food staples like hot dogs and cheeseburgers — and some say the joint’s Polynesian fried chicken is among the best cluck in town. Whatever’s making your tummy rumbly, the secret to Punjab is to call in your order in advance — this homemade fare takes time to prepare.

2838 24th St, SF. (415) 282-4011

Best of the Bay 2011: BEST DONUTSOS


All our lives, we have searched for a pastry that resembles a mosh pit fatality. And now that we’ve found it — the raspberry jelly-filled Headbanger — small matter that we have go to San Jose to re-up. Such is the glory that is Psycho Donuts, where the employees wear old-fashioned nurse uniforms and preside over a parade of freak-out frosteds, meat-stuffed donuts, tart raspberry-and-key-lime vegan ‘nuts, even 14-inch donut pizzas made to order and a cocktail-flavored donut of the month. Many are charmingly dubbed with losing-it labels: Cereal Killer, Dead Elvis, Comfortably Numb. Liberate the patients from their glass pastry case! You’d be crazy to miss out.

288 South Second St., San Jose; 2006 South Winchester, Campbell. (408) 378-4540,

Best of the Bay 2011: BEST REVENGE SERVED COLD


At 7.5 percent alcohol by volume, Speakeasy Brewery’s Payback Porter is dark, sweet, and potent — good traits for anything, great traits in a beer. This is not to say Payback is cloying; rather, it begins with a fresh bitterness that quickly melts into one of the smoothest strong beers available, whether on tap or in 22-ounce bottles. For all you lager louts, Payback makes for an easy first step into darker brews. And once you’re hooked, Payback is easy to get — it was formerly known as “Hunters Point Porter” in honor of the location of Speakeasy’s brewery — and is now sold all over its hometown.

1195 Evans, SF. (415) 642-3371,



Booze cruise to Asiento at 5 p.m. Every day, the first person into the Mission District bar at the designated hour of power gets to name their poison and their drink is added to the day’s happy hour specials. A soaring purple comet mural covers one side of Asiento — follow its trajectory and you’ll find classy cocktails, tapas, board games, and a comfy yet sleek neighborhood bar. Quietly gaining popularity in recent months as a friendly place to meet your building mates, Asiento also offers a late-night Sunday happy hour from 10 p.m. to midnight for the hard-working service industry superstars among us. It’s even serves brunch.

2730 21st St., SF. (415) 829-3375,



Fitting, we must profess, that the namesake of George Sterling Memorial Park was a poet. The views from this Russian Hill rec hub make us want to write stanzas between sets of tennis and ballads after basketball runs. Near-360-degree views of this epic setting can be found up at the corner of Hyde and Lombard streets (yes, right where Lombard begins to snake downward). Come for the views but stay for the play — four tennis courts and a full basketball court await the aerobically inclined. Waits can get long for the tennis courts, so be sure to abide by (and enforce!) the one-set-per-court rule.

Lombard and Hyde, SF

Best of the Bay 2011: BEST REAL DEAL BARBER


Florindo “Flo” Cimino opened his barber shop atop Potrero Hill in 1953, when he was 20. He has been snipping at the same address ever since — he’s even lived about three blocks away, in the same Arkansas Street house, since his parents brought him back from St. Luke’s Hospital as a baby. Now 80, he’s spent six decades as a barber, hair stylist, news destination, and Potrero Hill institution. Many clients have been with him for decades and come from all around the Bay and beyond — for good reason. His barbershop has the look of a place that Sam Spade would visit regularly for a trim and the neighborhood scoop.

Flo’s Hair Styling, 1532 20th St., SF. (415) 642-0887



Maria del Carmen Flores of Estrellita’s Snacks has been cooking since she was six. She took notes from her mother in El Salvador until she had mastered the pupusa. Then she lived in Mexico, learning the local cuisine. Her masa envelopes are plump, griddle-crispy on the outside and packed with toothsome seasoned meats, vegetables, and cheese. The pickled veggies are optional — in name only. Sliced thick, they’re best when combined with Flores’ hot salsa: all told, a perfectly crafted snack (but really a meal) you’ll crave all week long. Or maybe you’re just missing the metal stars that flash in Flores’ grill every time she smiles — telling you that the woman’s a dedicated entrepreneur.

Sat.–Sun., 7:30 a.m.–3 p.m. Alemany Farmers Market, 100 Alemany, SF. Also various Bay Area festivals.

Best of the Bay 2011: BEST STAR EGG


You’ll want to come back to Oakland’s Commis again and again and again for chef James Syhabout’s not-so-secret faux breakfast, a dreamy amuse-bouche that is almost always on his $68 five-course prix fixe menu. Behold a blissfully custardy Commis slow-poached egg, a deep-yellow yolk cradled in a “white” of cream and onion and sprinkled with tiny pebbles of granola — you’ve soft-landed on Planet Sublime. The dish is just one reasons the Oakland native Syhabout — a veteran of Spain’s El Bulli, the U.K.’s Fat Duck, and the Bay Area’s Coi — and his crew earned O-town’s first Michelin star. The other reasons lie in the subtle magic he wrings out of seasonal, locally grown or foraged ingredients like garlic scapes, wild fennel pollen, sea lettuce, English peas, oxalis, thyme, and nasturtium.

3859 Piedmont, Oakl. (510) 653-3902,

Best of the Bay 2011: BEST WAKE ‘N’ SHAKE


The only bad thing about Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café in Emeryville is the parking — and that’s because everything else is so damn good. (A new second location in uptown Oakland may bring drivers better luck.) From breakfast-all-day omelets and tofu scrambles to straight-up burgers and fries, the time-honored diner fare is good enough to keep cars circling the block for a spot. But if you’re eco-conscious, you’ll consider fueling yourself, rather than your car, to start your day off Rudy’s-right. For that, there’s nothing better than the Rudy’s Can’t Fail Shakin’ Jesse — an inspired blend of Guinness stout, chocolate ice cream, and homebrewed espresso. All the essentials in one malty mug, ready to whisk away the previous night’s hangover and power a morning of full-throttle accomplishment.

481 Hollis, Emeryville. (510) 594-1221 and 1805 Telegraph, Oakl. (510) 251-9400,

Best of the Bay 2011: BEST SUBLINGUAL HIGH


The Bay Area’s well-developed medical marijuana industry has done much to elevate the age-old practice of smoking marijuana to new heights, with sticky, stinky new strains and a wide variety of edibles. Along with improvements of the herbal variety have come winning technological advances: the formulation of some mighty fine of cannabis tinctures and other concentrates. Our favorite? Alta California tinctures by CBD Science, formerly known as 420 Alchemy. Take a drop or two sublingually (that’s under the tongue, stoners) and you’ll attain a beautiful high that’s different from smoking, vaporizing, or eating — a clear but consuming ride that seems to emanate from your very tissues, almost ecstasy-like. Three varieties — Healing, Tranquility, and Euphoria — give fans a range of satisfaction.

(877) 737-4420,



Make sure you’re hungry when you roll up to the Junior Barbecue food truck to order one of Junior’s famous Brazilian burgers. The sandwich Junior hands you, wrapped in paper to keep the juices from cascading out, will be enormous. The uniquely delicious, stick-to-your-ribs burgers are packed with enough ingredients to equal about three meals — beef patty, egg, bacon, hot dog, cheese, ham, pineapple, grilled onion, fresh lettuce, tomato, and corn mayo crammed into a bun. Eight dollars gets you a burger, which will feed you for a couple days, and a Coke. Junior is a gracious Brazilian who has lived in the United States for 11 years and can’t do enough to ensure that his customers are happy. Want some ketchup? Need a napkin? On a bike? How about a bag with handles to make it easier for you?

Napoleon at Evans, S.F.



So you’re happily imbibing at the Mission’s 500 Club, and you’re a wee bit too wobbly to uproot yourself from your bar stool. But dammit — you’re hungry, and no amount of tipsy wishing can summon the Tamale Lady on command. Thank the gods for Clare’s Deli and Late Night Kitchen. Just steps away from the Five, you can call in, order up (the meatball grinder, an homage to the legendary East Coast staple, is a comfort-food masterpiece), and be back in your spot before your latest song even finishes on the juke box. Clare’s will deliver your salvation to you at the bar, or anywhere in San Francisco. Though this is a mighty fine service — and Clare’s is open seven days, 11 a.m.–11 p.m., with a neato daily dinner menu — the deli also offers options for non-boozehounds: park at the few tables on location, or grab your food to go: to your home, to nearby Dolores Park, or to wherever delicious meatballs are needed most.

3505 17th St., SF. (415) 621-3505,



In the third season of Dexter, top cop Maria has two bonding experiences with women that are consummated with two words: “ganache frosting.” Ganache — that rich, delicious, thick, delicious, dense, delicious mix of chocolate and cream — is the base element of Boulette Larder‘s singular cup of Eastern European-style hot chocolate. All day long, Boulette’s attentive chefs keep a pan of molten ganache simmering in anticipation of its hot chocolate fans. The result is hot chocolate so thick you almost need a spoon, and so satisfying you can omit that dollop of cream. But an almost-colloidal scoop of liquid nirvana doesn’t come cheap: it’ll cost your $5 to go and $6 to stay. Still, that’s way cheaper than booking a flight to Prague. Now we know how Maria felt.

1 Ferry Building No. 48, SF. (415) 399-1155.