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Best of the Bay 2011: BEST PORK DESSERT


If they shoot horses (don’t they?) and make garlic ice cream, they might as well whip up a dessert with pork in it. And they do: the peanut butter pie at Straw, a nifty little carnival-themed restaurant that opened recently on Octavia Boulevard in Hayes Valley. The pie filling is a luxurious mousse and the crust is chocolate, so you could make a good case that such a confection wouldn’t need pork — or anything else. But in the spirit of fun, the kitchen does lay some bits of candied bacon atop each slice. Candied bacon! When Homer Simpson finally dies and goes to heaven, this is what he will feast on. Until then, you can treat yourself to a little taste.

203 Octavia, SF. (415) 431-3663, www.strawsf.com

Best of the Bay 2011: BEST RETURN OF THE MAC


A one-room schoolhouse feel, minus the ‘marm but plus the mac? That seems right for a light-hearted, full-flavored spot that zaps you back — maybe not to Little House on the Prairie days (although the ingredients are Ingalls-fresh), but at least to second grade, when a grilled cheese and tomato soup were all the haute cuisine one needed. Oakland’s cute Homeroom makes us want to check that we have both of our mittens clipped to our sleeves as we dive into updated youth classics: grilled cheese with Inna jalapeño jam, Blue Lake string beans, and Three Twins root beer floats. Best of all, oodles of mac ‘n’ cheese, made with everything from tangy chevre to hot chorizo, Gilroy garlic to vegan-version walnut. School’s in for summer!

400 40th, Oakl. (510) 597-0400, www.homeroom510.com



A beignet craze has swept the Bay, and really, who could withstand the fiendish temptation of these deep-fried, sugar-sprinkled, French-by-way-of-New-Orleans brunch delights? Our current favorites come courtesy of the new Devil’s Teeth Baking Company in the Sunset which, despite its intimidating name, traffics in heavenly pastries. (The bakery’s name is actually a tribute to a sobriquet for the Farallone Islands.) The diabolically good bakers here have even set aside a day for beignet worship: zip down to beignet Sundays and fill those idle hands with made-to-order clouds of perfection — and cups of Blue Bottle coffee to boot. While you’re there, score a batch of spice-chunked ginger cookies or a gooey-sweet pie. Followed by a stroll down Ocean Beach? Yes please, Mr. Mephistopheles. 

3876 Noriega, SF. (415) 683-5533. www.devilsteethbakingcompany.com



Welcome to the Guardian’s Best of the Bay 2011! This is our 37th annual celebration of the people, places, and things that make living here such a great experience — from Best Burrito and Best Local Band to Best Strip Club, Best Shoe Store, Best Drag Queen, and beyond.

More than 15,000 of our readers voted in our 2011 Best of the Bay Readers Poll for their favorites in more than 200 categories. You’ll find the results inside — as well as 150 Editors Picks that highlight some Guardian favorites, old and new, that we think deserve special recognition for lighting up our lives this year. 

Our theme for 2011 is “Beautiful Rebels” — and inside this year’s Best of the Bay, we’ve highlighted eight of our favorite “beautiful rebels” who we think are helping change the Bay Area for the better.  Throughout its history, the Bay Area has attracted wave upon wave of people looking to create something unique. From Barbary Coast explorers to Belle Epoque, Jazz Age, and Beatnik free spirits, from hippies and queer and civil rights pioneers to tattooed 1990s swing kids and Burning Man visionaries, to today’s global tech innovators and their DIY, local, organic, small-batch counterparts. 

We seem to be living in a time when a certain conservatism and conformity reigns, when speaking out gets you pilloried in the comments section and big-box consumerism squeezes out charming idiosyncrasies. That’s why we wanted to take this Best of the Bay opportunity to celebrate the Bay Area’s proud perseverance in remaining the weirdest, oddest, most interesting and rewarding place in the world, somewhere where “freak” is a compliment and “out there” equals “gorgeous.”

In 1974, Esquire magazine asked us for ideas for its Best of the USA issue, which led to us publish the original Best of the Bay. Made by the people of the Bay Area for the people of the Bay Area, it’s our annual opportunity to celebrate the people and places that make this city great. We were the first weekly paper to publish a regular “best of” issue. Thirty-seven years on — and 45 years after we opened our doors — we’re still going strong.

Editing this year’s installment was a hoot. I shower grateful smooches on all my collaborators, especially my right-hand amiga Caitlin Donohue, creative wiz Mirissa Neff, amazing illustrator Renee Castro, photographer Ben Hopfer, the Guardian staff, and the ever-supportive Hunky Beau, my own personal Best of the Bay.

But most of all I thank you, dear reader, for your generous participation, for making the Bay Area such an astounding place to live, and for turning us on to some great new things this year.

Marke B.,

Best of the Bay 2011 co-editor



Like the Guardian, Renee “Lady Reni” Castro is native to the Bay Area — really. Born in Oakland, Castro’s heritage stems from the Ohlone Native American tribe. (You can’t get more local than that.) Her background serves as inspiration for much of her art, especially her subjects’ clothing and their deeply-rooted connections to the natural world. Her other influences for her illustrations in this year’s “Beautiful Rebels”-themed Best of the Bay include Mexican and Spanish folklore, broken-hearted femmes fatales, disheveled muses, and erotic heroines. Castro’s current projects include commissions for SF companies the Loin and Peasants and Travelers, shows in local galleries, plus an apprenticeship at Amor Eterno Tattoo in Oakland, where you’re welcome to drop by and see her.






Marke B., Caitlin Donohue


Mirissa Neff


Ben Hopfer


Renee Castro


Jackie Andrews, Emily Appelbaum, Rebecca Bowe, Richard Boyce, Kimberly Chun, Angelina Kravich,  Cheryl Eddy, Nicole Gluckstern, Sean Hurd, Steven T. Jones, Heather Mack, Virginia Miller, Carly Nairn, Sarah Phelan, Julie Potter, Tim Redmond, Paul Reidinger, Kat Renz, Charles Russo, Amber Schadewald, Ariel Soto-Suver, Diane Sussman, Hannah Tepper, Christopher Trenchard


Francesca Balaguer, Stephen Heraldo, Ben Hopfer, Eric Lynch, Virginia Miller, Ariel Soto-Suver, Erik Anderson


Emily Appelbaum, Diane Sussman




Welcome to the San Francisco Bay Guardian’s Best of the Bay 2010! This is our 36th annual celebration of the people, places, and things that make living here such a ridiculous joy — from Best Burrito and Best Amateur Sports Team to Best Strip Club and beyond.

Thousands of our readers voted in our 2010 Best of the Bay Readers Poll for their favorites in more than 200 categories. You’ll find the results inside — as well as 150 Editors Picks that highlight some Guardian favorites, old and new, that we think deserve special recognition for lighting up our lives this year.

This year our theme is “A Celebration of Local Heroes.” We’ve chosen eight individuals who we feel embody the current spirit of the Bay Area and its unique values. We hope you’ll be as inspired by their stories as we are. But really, our readers and everyone who contributes to making the Bay Area a better place to live are our local heroes. So throw on that magic cape, hop on your pedal-powered Batmobile, and let’s do it!

In 1974, Esquire magazine asked us for ideas for its Best of the USA issue, which led to us publish the original Best of the Bay. Made by the people of the Bay Area for the people of the Bay Area, it’s our annual opportunity to celebrate the people and places that make this city great. We were the first weekly paper to publish a regular “best of” issue. Thirty-six years on — and 44 years after we opened our doors — we’re still going strong.

Editing this year’s installment was a hoot. I shower grateful smooches on all my collaborators, especially my right-hand amiga Caitlin Donohue, creative wiz Mirissa Neff, amazing Local Heroes photographers Keeney + Law, the totally rad Blue Sky Studios, photographer Ben Hopfer, and the ever-supportive Hunky Beau, my own personal Best of the Bay. But most of all I thank you, dear reader, for your generous participation, for making the Bay Area such an astounding place to live, and for turning us on to some great new things this year.


The Guardian’s free annual Best of the Bay party is legendary — and you won’t want to miss this one. Schmooze with all the winners at Mezzanine! Rock out with Chuck Prophet, Stephanie Finch and the Company Men, and The Bitter Honeys. Thrill to the hip-hop improv of The Freeze! DJ Ome, Polite in Public photobooth, Burgermeister truck, and more!

Thursday, Aug. 5, 9 p.m., free

Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF.





Marke B.


Mirissa Neff


Caitlin Donohue


Ben Hopfer


Keeney + Law


Blue Sky Studios


Rebecca Bowe, Bruce B. Brugmann, Kimberly Chun, Paula Connelly, Caitlin Donohue, Cheryl Eddy, Nicole Gluckstern, Johnny Ray Huston, Steven T. Jones, Virginia Miller, Tim Redmond, Paul Reidinger, Charles Russo, Amber Schadewald, David Schnur, Diane Sussman, Stephen Torres


Ben Hopfer, Mirissa Neff


Caitlin Donohue, Diane Sussman


Liz Brusca, Michelle Neville



Michael Keeney and Jasmine Law met at the Brooks Institute of Photography. It didn’t take long for them to realize that their approaches complemented one another. Together they are Keeney + Law, a team that successfully balances being both professional and life partners. In photography, their shared vision is based around the idea of a vignette, where every photo is a short story with an emphasis on good light. Always striving to connect with their subjects, Keeney + Law’s collaborative process was a perfect fit for this year’s Local Heroes portrait project.



The Guardian’s Local Heroes portraits were shot at Blue Sky Studios in San Francisco (with the exception of Vernon Davis, who was shot on location by Peter Bohler). We used Blue Sky’s state-of-the-art Light Grid, which is the first fully robotic lighting mechanism of its kind.


Best of the Bay 2010 Readers Poll: Shopping






Green Apple

506 Clement, SF. (415) 387-2272, www.greenapplebooks.com



Green Apple

506 Clement, SF. (415) 387-2272, www.greenapplebooks.com



Green Arcade

1680 Market, SF. (415) 431-6800, www.thegreenarcade.com




326 Fell, SF. (415) 621-6543, www.isotopecomics.com



Fog City News

455 Market, SF. (415) 543-7400, www.fogcitynews.com




1855 Haight, SF. (415) 831-1200; 2455 Telegraph, Berk. (510) 549-1125, www.amoeba.com




1855 Haight, SF. (415) 831-1200; 2455 Telegraph, Berk. (510) 549-1125, www.amoeba.com



Lost Weekend

1034 Valencia, SF. (415) 643-3373, www.lostweekendvideo.com




1745 Folsom, SF. (415) 863-0620, www.rainbowgrocery.org




Various locations, SF. www.ambiancesf.com



Sui Generis

2265 Market, SF. (415) 437-2265, www.suigenerisconsignment.com



Chloe’s Closet

451 Cortland, SF. (415) 642-3300, www.chloescloset.com



Colleen Mauer

(415) 637-7762, www.colleenmauerdesigns.com




Various Bay Area locations. www.crossroadstrading.com



Thrift Town

2101 Mission, SF. (415) 861-1132, www.thrifttown.com



Shoe Biz

Various locations, SF. www.shoebizsf.com




Various Bay Area locations. www.shopattherapy.com



Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Fair

Main and Navy, Alameda. (510) 522-7500, www.antiquesbybay.com



Cole Hardware

Various locations, SF. www.colehardware.com



The Ark

Various Bay Area locations. www.thearktoys.com




1306 Castro, SF. (415) 641-6192, www.peekabootiquesf.com



Valencia Cyclery

1065 and 1077 Valencia, SF. (415) 550-6601, www.valenciacyclery.com




2250 Union No. 1A, SF. (415) 337-8481, www.cheengoo.com



Eye Gotcha Optometric

586 Castro, SF. (415) 431-2988, www.eyegotchasf.com




1840 Embarcadero, Oakl. (510) 533-0146, www.harborsidehealthcenter.com



Community Thrift

623 Valencia, SF. (415) 861-4910, www.communitythriftsf.org



Paxton Gate

824 Valencia, SF. (415) 824-1872, www.paxtongate.com



Green Arcade

1680 Market, SF. (415) 431-6800, www.thegreenarcade.com



Sports Basement

Various Bay Area locations. www.sportsbasement.com




Various Bay Area locations. www.rei.com



Church Street Flowers

212 Church, SF. (415) 553-7762, www.churchstreetflowers.com



Agent Provocateur

54 Geary, SF. (415) 421-0229, www.agentprovocateur.com



Good Vibrations

Various Bay Area locations. www.goodvibes.com



Madame S

385 Eighth St., SF. (415) 863-9447, www.madame-s.com



Folsom Gulch

947 Folsom, SF. (415) 495-6402


Best of the Bay 2010 Readers Poll: City Living










Funcheap SF








Gavin Newsom



GLBT Historical Society

657 Mission, SF. (415) 777-5455, www.glbthistory.org



Dana King, CBS 5



Distortion 2 Static




KFOG, 104.5 FM




DJ Deevice, Gridlock




Folsom Street Fair




Hotel Whitcomb

1231 Market, SF. (415) 626-8000, www.hotelwhitcomb.com



Golden Gate Bridge



Black and Blue Tattoo

381 Guerrero, SF. (415) 626-0770, www.blackandbluetattoo.com



Idexa at Black and Blue



Rocket Dog Rescue




Dog Tales Walking and Sitting Service

(415) 948-3840, www.dogtalesunleashed.com



VIP Grooming

4299 24th St., SF. (415) 282-1393



Mission Pet Hospital

720 Valencia, SF. (415) 552-1969, www.missionpet.com



Paul Y. Lin, DDS

82 Townsend, SF. (415) 543-6882, www.paulylindds.com



Erika Horowitz, ND

(415) 643-6600, www.sfnatmed.com



Heise’s Plumbing

260 Ocean, SF. (415) 333-0704



Ike’s Electric

3546 19th St., SF. (415) 861-6417, www.ikeselectric.com



Delancey Street Moving and Trucking

600 Embarcadero, SF. (415) 512-5110, www.delanceystreetfoundation.org



Joshua Alexander, CMT

(415) 691-4076, www.joshuaalexandercmt.com



Immune Enhancement Project

3450 16th St., SF. (415) 252-8711, www.iepclinic.com



Marriage Prep 101

417 Spruce, SF. (415) 905-8830, www.marriageprep101.com



Pat’s Garage

1090 26th St., SF, (415) 647-4500, www.patsgarage.com




3248 17th St., SF. (415) 552-8115, www.werkstattsf.com



Box Dog Bikes

494 14th St., SF. (415) 431-9627, www.boxdogbikes.com



Public Barber Salon

571 Geary, SF. (415) 441-8599, www.publicbarbersalon.com




2221 26th St., SF. (415) 294-5004, www.insymmetry.com



Blue Turtle

57 West Portal Ave., SF. 170 Columbus, SF. (415) 699-8494, www.blueturtlespa.com



Anthony’s Shoe Service

30 Geary, SF. (415) 781-1338



Cable Car Tailors

200 O’Farrell, SF. (415) 781-4636



Brain Wash

1122 Folsom, SF. (415) 431-9274, www.brainwash.com



Mission Cliffs

2295 Harrison, SF. (415) 550-0515, www.touchstoneclimbing.com



Xavier McClinton, Body by X

5768 Paradise, Corte Madera. (415) 945-9778, www.bodybyxonline.com



Monkey Yoga Shala

3215 Lakeshore, Oakl. (510) 908-1694, www.monkeyyoga.com



Tim Lincecum



Fog Rugby




Kezar Stadium

755 Stanyan, SF.



Mission Pool

1 Linda, SF. (415) 641-2841



Baker Beach



Golden Gate Park



Muir Woods



Angel Island



Tree Frog Treks




Fort Funston



Potrero Del Sol



Ocean Beach

Best of the Bay 2010 Editors Picks: Shopping



Best of the Bay 2010 Editors Picks: Shopping


Well before colony collapse disorder became a phrase of terror, Bay Area bee geeks were eyeing their neglected backyard anise and eucalyptus plants as potential ambrosial fill-up stations for honeybees. In 2008, Her Majesty’s Secret Beekeeper entered the scene, giving the city’s swelling ranks of colonial wannabees the ultimate sweet spot: a one-stop source for everything Apoidea. The clean, light-filled store — which has the distinction of being the only urban beekeeping store in the country — stocks backyard starter kits and supplies, those fabulous white hazmat-style suits (and really, haven’t you always wanted one for demonstrations or Halloween?) beeswax candles, books, bee DIY products (i.e., honey and honeycombs), and, yes, bees. Let’s face it, you haven’t really tasted SF or embraced its hive mentality until you’ve drizzled some Gold Fine Crystal over your locally baked artisanal bread.

3520 20th St., SF. (415) 744-1465. www.hmsbeekeeper.com



Shopping at P-Kok can be exhausting. You have to the cross the street, sometimes several times, just to take in all the cute clothes, bags, jewelry, scarves, etc. (and all at affordable prices) at P-Kok’s two Haight Street locations. It’s enough to make you want to find a tranquil garden, flop down on a chaise lounge with a beverage, and soothe your weary self with a sauna. At the P-Kok on the even side of the street (the one at 776 Haight), you can. Formerly the site of a day spa, P-Kok has preserved and replanted the inherited backyard garden sauna — renamed Eden — and rents it for $15 an hour. The best part: it accommodates up to 10. Packed like sardines or solo, it’s the perfect antidote to bustling Haight Street— and the perfect refreshment before going back out into P-Kok(s) and loading up on more cute stuff.

776 Haight, SF. (415) 503-1280, www.pkoksf.com



Distraction is the enemy of sock shopping — you came for ultrathin running socks, but omigod, the store has lilac suede Fluevogs with four-inch heels! Before you know it, you’re out $250 and you still have no socks. That cannot happen at SockShop Haight Street. The small, newish, locally-owned store has nothing but socks and sock-related habiliment, including high socks, low socks, toe socks, boot socks, jock socks, kids socks, dad socks, tights, slipper-socks, and sock monkeys. And within those categories, SockShop goes way deep with wool socks, striped socks, plain socks, dot socks, cotton socks, argyle socks, cashmere socks, skull socks, floral socks, flag socks, food socks, animal socks, music socks, holiday socks, fox socks, blocks socks, and rocks socks … Really, need we say more?

1780 Haight, SF. (415) 396-5400, www.sockshoponhaight.com



OK, not all of us can afford to buy some ancient heap of stones fixer-upper villa in Siena where, caressed by sun and Italian hunks, we blossom into writers (bite us, Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany). No, we must make do in our fog-shrouded garrets, scrounging for dropped change for a $2 cappuccino. But at some point, we can all afford to splurge on at least one small piece of authentic Italian splendor to add luster to our hardscrabble lives. That’s when we head to Biordi Art Imports in North Beach, a floor-to-ceiling treasure trove of hand-painted Majolica ceramics. And once you start sipping your coffee from a gorgeous De Simone mug or spooning your gruel from a colorful Eurgenio Ricciarelli bowl, the virtual sunlight comes rushing in. You won’t miss that stinkin’ villa at all. Maybe the hunks.

412 Columbus, SF. (415) 392-8096, www.biordi.com



Be it ever so humble or token, city dwellers always seem to crave some connection to the natural world: the single bathroom orchid, the three desktop seashells, the rock and glass arrangement lining the windowsill. When it comes to finding these small grace notes (outside of illicitly pocketing them from Glass Beach or Muir Woods), our vote goes to Xapno. The small one-woman shop in the Lower Haight offers a beautiful and fragrant cornucopia of the best that nature and humanity create: fresh and dried flowers, plants, vases, candles, jewelry, cards, shells, branches, cacti, books, paper, paintings, and sometimes clothes and shoes. Furthermore, about half the artists are local, including a ceramics student at City College who has been baking baskets-full of delicate ceramic roses in varying shades of ivory, peach, and pink.

678 Haight, SF. (415) 863-8199, www.xapno.com



Ombre feather earrings, Hollywood Regency lamps, and two-headed chicks by way of the taxidermist — that’s what BellJar is made of. Less evocative of Sylvia Plath’s total collapse than a delicate glass chamber filled with oodles of fascinating objects, the Mission boutique has made a name for itself as the discriminating gothette or vintage girl’s go-to for unique tchotchkes and gifts for loved ones — or, better yet, one’s own bad, sweet self. Here, and on the store’s recently revamped website, you’ll find delightfully retro-esque and oh-so-womanly clothing, witty trinkets that draw inspiration from nature’s bounty, exquisite earrings and necklaces, and founder Sasha Darling’s dark-femme ‘n’ fabulous eye for the Francophile, the girly, and the gorgeously Grimm.

3187 16th St., SF. (415) 626-1749, www.shopbelljarsf.com



Seductively snug latex over a perfectly pert nipple — yes, please! Skip the tassels, beads and sequins, and go for a super-sexy set of pasties that show off your breasts and hint at the budding shape beneath. The Heartbreaker pasties by Madame S are individually fashioned by hand in the SoMa fetish wear and sex shop’s very own latex production lab by Madame’s devilishly talented crafters. Hidden in the back behind kinky-costumed mannequins and closed doors, your breast’s friend is taking on a cute, heart-shaped form right now and you should be anticipating ways to fit them into your daily wardrobe. Traditional black- and red-rimmed, these pasties are coquettish, classy, and come-hither all at once. Guaranteed to make jaws drop and temperatures rise with appreciation.

385 Eighth St., SF. (415) 863-9447, www.madame-s.com



Nothing celebrates life more than death — or at least, nothing is more invigoratingly creepy than opening a beautifully wrapped gift to find a life-size crown of thorns made with an assortment of deceased birds’ legs. Haight boutique Loved to Death is stocked with goose-bump inflicting fancies, many of which are gold-encrusted and way more thought-provoking than a living bouquet. Say “I love you” with a 24-karat badger-claw brooch, surprise him with a scorpion in a vial, or show her you care by putting an antique baby doll head under her pillow. Taxidermy (no animals were killed in the making — they were dead already), resurrected art, antiques, and goth-hip jewelry are way more fun when they test your lover’s limits. And if your delicate beloved can’t handle your purchase, you’ll get to keep the muskrat mandible gold-gilded earrings yourself.

1681 Haight, SF. (415) 551-0136, www.lovedtodeath.net



“We want to make things that have joy and humor, but that people aren’t embarrassed to have lying around their house,” says Gama-Go cofounder Greg Long. When Long and Chris Edmundson quit their day jobs at an East Bay toy company 10 years ago, they were following a dream to make well-designed, cartoon-inspired clothing and products that played off the enormously popular, collectible-crazy pop surrealism movement happening in L.A. at the time. It was a vision that launched a thousand T-shirts. Today, some of Gama’s cute-with-bite stock characters like Tigerlily, DeathBot, and that cuddly ice-bluish fave, Yeti, are common sights on city streets, clubbers’ chests, and shopaholics’ totes. And now there’s Go for your pad too. Guitar-shaped spatulas and “pot” holders that resemble big old Mary Jane leaves make perfect gifts for that urban class clown.

335 Eighth St., SF. (415) 626-1213, www.gama-go.com



Photo by Ben Hopfer

Screw a monument and urban planning: we live in City Beautiful. Walk down nearly any street in SF and there on the pavement and buildings you will find the stencils, murals, super burners, tags, and — how do you say? — art that makes this town rich in color, rich in mind. So where does the discerning street artist go for the tools and gear she needs to make these blocks pop? It’s gotta be 1:AM gallery, where prices on paint pens and aerosol spray trump the art supply and hardware stores every time. (1:AM as in “First Amendment” — and a tagger’s preferred rise and shine.) Not to mention the whole gallery side of the space, which hosts some of the most original sometimes-street artists around — who often tag the outside of the store’s Sixth Street walls in kaleidoscopic temporary letterings and designs.

1000 Howard, SF. (415) 861-5089, www.1amsf.com



Word to the aspiring pageant queens: (apparently) it’s not all about the Vaseline on the teeth and duct-taped boobs. You want that crown, you need a face full of grade-A goos and glosses — and we know just the place to get them, girl. Kryolan Professional Makeup has been in the primp game since 1942, plumping and perking a passel of pretties, including the 2010 Miss USA contestants. But maybe you’re a DIY kind of queen? All good — Kryolan’s got a kaleidoscopic showroom full of the glitz and glamour for them bright lights, including glitter in animal, vegetable, and mineral form (the company produces more than 16,000 products in 750 colors — over the top, just like you!). If you need help slopping it on in style, or just some tips on how to blend with a little subtlety, then strut, mamma, strut to application classes in the same building.

132 Ninth St., SF. (415) 863-9684, www.kryolan.com



Better circulation, cardiovascular health, time to reflect: running makes you free. (Especially if it’s away from an out-of-shape cop.) But pounding these city streets can be tough on the joints and bones. You’d like a little freedom from aching discomfort as well. So jog over to On the Run, an Inner Sunset shoe store that specializes in helping peeps in pain — seriously, half the store’s first-time customers arrive with a doctor’s referral. Its trained staff will send you for a walk on an electronic pad that measures foot pressure, plus pronation and supination (both refer to the angle at which your foot hits the block). They use a fancy device to measure your feet accurately, then hook you up with some sweet kicks that have you feeling fit, fast, and fab. You pay a bit more for all this podiatric prognostication, but hey, all runners know there’s gotta be some pain in the gain.

1310 Ninth Ave., SF. (415) 665-5311, www.ontherunshoes.com



The fog makes a great excuse for those with black thumbs. Usually we can blame our houseplants’ premature striptease of this mortal coil on the clouded vagaries of our mini-ecosystem. However, even fact-based finger-pointing fails when it comes to the death of a beloved succulent. One simply should not be able to kill a cactus. And yet one does. Sigh. Should your astrophytum be stymied or your once-verdant aloe shade into an unbecoming red, Succulence is there. This secret garden store is hidden away on a Bernal Heights video store’s back patio, packed with many a bulbous, spiny, or just plain prickly new friend for you to take home in an inventive recycled planter. But don’t ditch that sickly chum languishing in your window box! Succulence also mixes a special soil blend that can resuscitate even the saddest looking ball o’ spikes.

402 Cortland, SF. (415) 282-2212



In some lovely, distant universe, all we buy are magnificent orchids, and all the money goes to AIDS prevention and relief organizations. This impractically gorgeous fantasy becomes reality at nonprofit Orchid Mania’s beautifully named Orchid Temple, based in an unassuming house in the Excelsior District that contains a three-climate greenhouse. OM has packed its temple with orchids that resemble dancing ladies, some smelling of blood (all the better to woo their insect pollinators), that will stop your housemates in their tracks with their glory on your kitchen table. Call ahead to alert the temple guards — or show up during the all-volunteer operation’s open orchard hours, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays — and take your time browsing for a worthy cause. The temple also functions as a bulb foster home to keep rare species from extinction. Let’s just say they’re into the preservation of beautiful lives all around.

717 Geneva, SF. (415) 841-1678, www.orchids.org



You can’t walk by Martin’s 16th Street Emporium without ogling the ghoulish delights displayed in the windows. Casual strollers might be forgiven for thinking the place is called “The Skull Store” — an apt description, anyway, considering that the store is stuffed floor-to-ceiling with skulls galore. Though it’s not open very often (try Thurs.-Sat. afternoons — look for the pirate flag out front), it’s well worth a special visit to pick up a gift for your favorite skull collector. Sterling silver jewelry is the main attraction, with everything from dangerous-looking knuckle-duster rings (scary skull!) to delicate pendants and earrings (fashion skull!). It also carries skull figurines and other knickknacks, not all of them skull-related, but many of them vintage. Imagine stumbling upon an uber-cool, slightly spooky estate sale. If the estate was owned by Cap’n Blood, that is.

3248 16th St., SF. (415) 552-4631, www.skullsinsf.com



Do you need a dashiki-looking starter jacket, a grafted Italian fresco, an antique colored glass chandelier — like, yesterday? Friend, welcome to the power of collection. And welcome to Cottage Industry, the domain of a one Claudio Barone. The Italian-born Barone has spent the last 22 years traipsing about the globe, purchasing goods from indigenous craftspeople (at prices reasonable to all parties involved), and then retreating to Fillmore, treasure secured and ready to be squeezed into his darling shop — waiting for the day when you must, absolutely, positively, have that carved ebony figurine from the Congo, right away! Even if your mission lacks a hysterical level of urgency, do drop by. The piled shelves of goods ranging in price from 10 cents to $30,000 will either heighten or assuage the most pressing case of wanderlust.

2326 Fillmore, SF. (415) 885-0326



A gorilla sits in Japantown’s classic origami store. She’s squat and a little wrinkly, but say what you want about her lumps and rolls, she’s fantastically multidimensional — and even carries a little baby on her back. You can expect that kind of artistic wonder from Paper Tree, opened by the Mihara family in 1978 and run to this day by sisters Vicky and Linda, who constructed the primate in question. Not only can their shop meet your most fantastical origami needs (and those for quirky Japanese “office supplies” like sushi-shaped erasers and beribboned money envelopes), but the Miharas are serious about taking a role in their neighborhood community. Their lively origami classes and art, a staple for the last 43 years at the Cherry Blossom Festival, are testament to their desire to share the love of a good fold.

1743 Buchanan, SF. (415) 921-7100, www.paper-tree.com



There are those who blow and bluster about the lack of true beach weather in our city of rolling fog. And then there are those that smile and manifest sunbeams. Of the latter faction is Meggie White, whose Marina boutique, .meggie., imparts the same hope for rays as its fetching blonde owner. A breezy interior of hardwood and weathered white fixtures plays snazzy backdrop to .meggie.’s wonderland: fly floral sundresses share racks with the thinnest of sherbet-colored tees and cardigans. So stock up — what if that freak summer sunburst pokes through, and you without your pastels! .meggie. stocks several local designers, and White herself makes a supremely sand-worthy line of hand-forged silver, stone, and shell jewelry. So much more fun than that panicked schlep to J.Crew.

2277 Union, SF. (415) 525-3586, www.meggiejewelry.com



Stymied on the menu for tonight’s dinner? Try this: start with a solid base of local, independent business, add two cups of foodie focus, stir in equal parts retro chic and current craze, bake with a product no one can get enough of, and never allow to cool (serve each slice with a celebrity sighting.) Problem solved! Such is the taste of your new culinary North Star, Omnivore Books, which happens to be the hawtest cookbook-only lit shop in Noe Valley. Owner Celia Sack has stocked her shelves with yummy tomes both new and old, and the small space packs in hungry audiences for its stellar author events. Recent speakers have included New York Times food writer Frank Bruni and local cheesemonger Gordon Edgar. It’s enough food inspiration to sate the least decisive dining divas among us.

3885 Cesar Chavez, SF. (415) 282-4712, www.omnivorebooks.com



So you’re headed to psych class at City College one day when, on a dime, you say forget it — I’m going to follow my love and start a mini-skateboard empire in the Tenderloin instead. Welcome to the life of Johnny Roughneck. The boarder opened tee shirt treasure trove Dwntwn Skate Supply to hawk his Roughneck line of skate hardware and give a hand to new designers, like those of TL-repping clothing line The Loin, all while establishing a let’s-have-fun attitude in a neighborhood that often has its odds stacked against it. Occasional barbeques out on the Hyde Street pavement have given the shop some presence on the block, and Dwntwn has even played jump-off to some wildly legit skating events. Check out the video of the Roughneck crew’s 2010 Caltrain tour for Bay skating inspiration.

644 Hyde, SF. (415) 913-7422, www.dwntwnsf.com



Raising your fist is all well and good, but if your arm gets tired, you’ll want that rebel yell printed on your T-shirt for good measure. After helping to found the Mission’s community screen-printing shop, Mission Gráfica, radical artist Jos Sanches opened Alliance Graphics in 1988. He needed a place where he could continue to churn out his poster print protests against the world’s various sources of evil (capitalism, neoimperialism, commercialism, and a busted justice system, to name some of his faves) — and still be a resource for the progressive causes that to this day need a voice on the street. Does your war cry scream out to be monogrammed on a bumper sticker, backpack, or umbrella? Alliance can get the job done right, with union labor and made in the USA products to boot.

1101 Eighth St., Berk. (510) 845-8835, www.unionbug.com



Lord, these used clothing stores. The racks of oversized leggings, the bins of kitty-appliquéd sweatshirts, the puff paint visors. (Wait, are those hip now?) Who has the time for such excavations? There are times when you just want to throw your hands in the air like you just don’t care and head to the local Anthropologie. But back down off that ledge! Delisa Sage’s Collage on Potrero Hill can be your one-stop cool kid shop when you haven’t the time to rifle through Grandma’s old church dresses. Skone-Rees has stocked her boutique with well-edited used clothing at prices not too far above Goodwill price gouges. (Her nifty store of scavenged home décor is next door.) And you’ll never find her array of locally-made jewelry and well-preserved boots and slippers at any Salvation Army. But be forewarned: Collage’s collection of late 1990s failed tech startup mascot hats is a bit lacking.

1345 18th St., SF. (415) 282-4401, www.collage-gallery.com



Is there anything that Bianca Starr owner Bianca Kaplan can’t do? After moving on from her and hubby’s bangin’ DJ spot, 222 Hyde, Kaplan turned her eyes from beats to threads — secondhand designer label threads, which her Mission boutique sells to all the fly ladies looking for a clubby, classy, strappy looks (with just a hint of “Dynasty” decadence and chola sass) in which to creature up the night. Dresses, separates, handbags, belts, jewelry, and footwear: no detail is overlooked. Always collaborative, Kaplan picks chic up-and-coming designers to feature at her packed monthly stylist boutique events, and hands them the reigns to her racks for the night. And if you happen to stroll past Bianca Starr (so-called for her childhood friend’s coolest name ever) on a sunny day, you might just catch Kaplan and her girlfriends lounging streetside with a bottle of champagne. Wearing the cutest frocks you’ve ever seen, natch.

3552 20th St., SF. (415) 341-1020, www.biancastarr.com



Photo by Ben Hopfer

The mother-in-law’s birthday approaches, and all we know is that she likes to knit socks. Maybe we can help out with her frosty feet at the ImagiKnit store we always pass in the Castro? Probably great for some yarn — maybe a little bit fusty, too, though, and maybe somewhat intimidating to those who’ve never pearled. Imagine our surprise as we enter a rainbow wonderland busting with spectacular spun materials — spiky mohair, luminous silk, titillating cashmere, speckled cotton — and staffed by immediately accommodating people who don’t want to stick needles in our naïve newbie eyes. More shock: we run into several of our hippest friends leafing through vintage pattern books and holding court at the DIY wool winders. ImagiKnit’s community vibe and vibrant stock draw us in for hours. In the end we make the momentous decision to knit those socks ourselves. Sorry about the six toes, Mom.

3897 18th Street, SF. (415) 621-6642, www.imagiknit.com



Fountain pen lovers are a strange bunch. We spend hundreds of dollars on something that’s part status symbol, part jewelry, part objet d’art and, oh, yes, part writing instrument. Sometimes these works of exquisite craftsmanship write beautifully; sometimes they leak, skip, spurt ink all over the paper (and our hands), and don’t write at all. That’s why Stephanie Boyette, the fountain pen expert at Flax, is our favorite nibster. She can help you pick the right pen and ink, tell you how to use acrylic flow enhancers, give you tips on maintenance, and often tell you with a quick glance why your precious pen is malfunctioning. In fact, she’s so devoted that she’s been chosen to work as an apprentice to John Mottishaw, the Los Angeles nib-repair expert who is widely regarded as the best fountain pen surgeon in America.

1699 Market, SF. (415) 552-2355, www.flaxart.com



What’s that on your head? If it ain’t a wig, get thee to the Wig Factory, pronto, because every man, woman, boy, girl, dog, cat, bird, and goldfish needs at least one follicular embellishment to send their look into another, more fabulous dimension. The Wig Factory’s capital selection includes everything from utter realness to costume frivolity — it’s got you covered like Andre Agassi’s cranium after half a can of Ron Popeil’s spray-on hair. Devotees know that Wig Factory is subject to some controversy because of its rules limiting the number of hairpieces you can try on in a single visit, which some people complain about. Such folks conflate whining with Yelping — ignore them. Do you want to try on a wig that’s already been tested by a hundred finicky entitled shoppers who think their scalps don’t stink? We don’t think so. Queens and princesses, beauty is here, on a mannequin head. Kings and princes, you can look like Adam Lambert or a Brylcreemed silver fox in a single fitting.

3020 Mission, SF. (415) 282-4939



It’s easy to show your California love when it’s directed at Mint Mall, a SF-based online clothing shop that mixes fine originals with vintage finds. An appreciation for natural fabrics, an eye for vibrant eras of well-known and obscure labels, and the type of tough dedication required to make the best thrifting finds are three of the special ingredients that make up Mint Mall. But the two main factors are co-owners Corina Biliandzija and Genevieve Dodge, who teamed up over half-a-decade ago and have refined their own designs and vintage visions with each passing day. Mint Mall items are fun to wear and born from the pair’s love and enthusiasm for fashion and everyday style. Native fringe, Aztec or cartoon prints, bell-sleeved tunic tops, Grecian gold thread minis, Bergdorf Goodman floral maxis, Diane von Furstenberg silk wraps, Givenchy platforms, original hoodies — the dynamic duo behind Mint Mall work hard for your closet, so you better treat them right.




Even before it opened, Candy Darling had a reputation, thanks to its fabulous name and kicky red plastic sign. Passersby were left to wonder — would it be a candy shop, or a drag queen fashion emporium? Those with a sweet tooth were the ones who received the happy answer, though, to be honest, there’s something wonderfully Grey Gardens about the store’s vintage 1960s or ’70s feel. Candy Darling the Warhol superstar was utterly unique, the essence of feminine glamour, and as soft and lovely as a lilac-scented breeze. Candy Darling the corner shop is a little paradise of sea-salt caramels, milk chocolate turtles, rocky road clusters, English toffee bars, and dark chocolate-dipped candied ginger. It does its namesake proud, which is no small feat. Visit Candy Darling just once and you might never see Mrs. See again.

798 Sutter, SF. (415) 346-1500



A great bookstore is almost like an inspiring place of worship, except more fun and more grounded in palpable truth. Some of San Francisco’s best bookstores are nestled into nooks, like the esoteric Bolerium, or ready to move, like 871 Fine Arts. The numbers in this tome emporium and gallery’s name are enigmatic: for years, it brought some historical heart and heft to the art biz maze that is 49 Geary, and now it’s at 20 Hawthorne, another half-hidden location. (So the name’s obviously not address-oriented; perhaps it refers to the year Viking king Bagsecg died?) Owner Adrienne Fish has developed a selection of art books that is simply second to none in SF — 871 mixes old and new titles, is well-organized, and brings a sense of depth and breadth to any movement or era. The layout and lighting are attractive and efficient, and browsers and buyers can also enjoy an art show during a visit, since Fish’s curatorial acumen regarding California art is extra-sharp.

20 Hawthorne, SF. (415) 543-5155



Great reasons to use a glass dildo: they last longer, they’re less likely to harbor harmful bacteria, they retain temperature well — and on first glance, they more resemble works of fine art than hump handles. It was this urge toward aesthetic excellence that compelled Samantha Liu to open Glass Kandi, the display shop for her online catalog Glass Dildo Me. Liu provides expert guidance to the adventurous singles and curious couples who grace her door, smoothly introducing them to the exact masterpiece of whorled glass and embedded metals that will rev their engines. And don’t worry if you have a lady who likes to accessorize — Glass Kandi’s arsenal of whips, wigs, jewelry, and more is tinglingly top notch.

569 Geary, SF. (415) 931-2256, www.glasskandi.com



It’s a bad cliché. The snooty bike repair dude, sniffing down his (lensless) thick-frame glasses at your beloved, if somewhat mind-boggling, bicycle. Will he overquote you? Will he really fix the problem with due diligence? Will you regret asking him the question in the first place? Blow by those stereotypical scaries and enter the world of Roaring Mouse Cycles. Racks and racks of high-quality road, track, and mountain bikes await to be sized expertly to your frame. (Should your size not be in stock, they’ll order it for you with a perfect-fit guarantee). Plus, the racing enthusiast staff is pro enough to know exactly what your two-wheeled buddy needs to get rolling again. They pride themselves on a steel frame code of service, and definitely won’t hurt your bike — or your ego. You’ll never feel velo-vapid again!

1352 Irving, SF. (415) 753-6272, www.roaringmousecycles.com



Photo by Ben Hopfer

Way out west, where Midwestern dreams take form, there’s a Victorian that predates the great 1906 quake. There, you’ll find men’s workwear goods refined to something like an art form. They’re well-arranged in a shop known to sport an American flag or two, not in any jingoistic way, but as a reflection of its “finest quality dry goods”: jeans, shirts, bags, boots, and other masculine items, all selected by Todd Barket, whose design eye has influenced some of the more popular mass-market clothing brands on Market Street. The attire in Unionmade is considerably pricier for the most part, but with a sharpness, durability, and practical ingenuity (they’ve carried Chester Wallace canvas bags built to fit two six-packs) you won’t find for a lower tag. While a different nearby store has Japanese denim for those whose wallets can indulge in jean dreams, Barket stocks Levi’s from the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s, a tack that taps into the brand’s SF past and relates to it newer brands such as Woolrich and Gitman Tanner. Look for the Unionmade label, or rather, for the stamp on your bag when you’ve made a purchase.

493 Sanchez, SF. (415) 861-3373, www.unionmadegoods.com



If you can’t find something to geek out on in Japantown’s five-story New People Tokyo fashion mall, you’re not doing it right. But not many of the pop culture palace’s multitudinous corners have spawned their very own local subcultures — which brings us to Baby, the Stars Shine Bright, a Harajuku ministore mecca, and one of the original brands responsible for the “Sweet Lolita” dress up movement in Japan. Lady-like Lolita adherents flounce around in intensely festooned outfits otherwise seen only on the most precious of collectible baby dolls. And since this is the BSSB brand’s only U.S. retail source, pretty-pretty princesses come from far and wide to partake in the store’s frillfest of matching dresses, bonnets, Mary Janes, and parasols. For extra credit, the Lolitas can play at BSSB-organized tea parties, held at pinkies-up swank spots all over the city.

1746 Post, SF. (415) 525-8630, www.newpeopleworld.com


Best of the Bay 2010 Editors Picks: Food and Drink



Best of the Bay 2010 Editors Picks: Food and Drink


A Web search for every cafe, a cafe for every Web search? All well and good, but what if your search is for the best goldarn double-sided dildo there is — and you’re sick of that uptight suit over there eyeing your Googles? Proudly pervy surf-and-sippers, you officially have a kick-it spot. Kink café and boutique Wicked Grounds not only brews steamy cups of Ritual coffee, but hosts regular meet-and-munches where you can warm up to your next dom, sub, or whatever you’re into these days. The welcoming staff can be easily convinced to serve coffee from a dog bowl for the right slave. (Caution: contents may be hot!) They might also be able to help out with that just-right vibe hunt: shelves by the front counter stock all the finest gear in Super Sexy Toyland.

289 Eighth St., SF. (415) 503-0405, www.wickedgrounds.com



When it comes to sardines, you have to think outside the earthquake shelter. On the flavor-ometer, the tinned food of last resort (served on tarps in the shelter with Saltines and stale water) bears no resemblance to its freshly grilled or roasted self. Not only are the little silver herrings tasty, they pack a megadose of essential fatty acids, the stuff nutritionists keep nagging us to eat more of. But no one needs to tell this to the Italian-inspired chefs who created the sardine sandwich at Barbacco Eno Trattoria, the more casual relation of Perbacco in the Financial District. Unlike restaurants that play it safe with sardines by smothering them in mayonnaise and lemon juice, Barbacco tops its sardines with seared calamari. Not most people’s first choice, perhaps, but the two get along swimmingly, especially when served on an Acme torpedo roll and slathered with arugula and “roasted tomatoe condimento.”

220 California, SF. (415) 955-1919, www.barbaccosf.com



When people start trash-talking donuts, it’s hard not to imagine a life in which the person was weaned on Hostess or Entenmann’s and maybe stepped up to Dunkin’ or Krispy Kreme on special occasions. In other words, we’re talking a lifetime of mass production, where the only donuts these people have encountered spent their nasty, brutish, and short lives being callously blended in giant vats and stuffed into huge ovens, untouched — nay, unkneaded! — by human hands. Not so at Dynamo Donuts & Coffee, the small, open-air stand in the Mission that is diligently working to give donuts a good name. Each day the artisanal bakery makes seven to 10 types of donuts, all by hand. Standouts include the maple-glazed bacon apple, spiced chocolate, and lemon Sichuan filled with lemon curd and Dynamo’s incomparable “dredge.”

2670 24th St., SF. (415) 920-1978, www.dynamodonut.com



Which came first: the chickens or the eggs? At Stable Cafe, what probably came first was a commitment to fresh, local, sustainable food, which led to its farm in Santa Rosa, which led to its chickens, which led to its eggs, which led to its egg and cheese breakfast sandwich, which is a savory, molten marvel of scrambled egg and cheddar on thick, toasted Acme bread. But this light, airy Mission District cafe, beautifully renovated by architect Malcolm Davis in one of SF’s original carriage houses, brings that kind of integrity to everything it does. Its credo seems to be, do a small number of things well (know thy chickens; bake thy own muffins) — and adhere it does. And if you want to pay homage to the laying lovelies who created your eggs, Stable has their photos on the wall.

2128 Folsom, SF. (415) 552-1199, www.stablecafe.com



For a city with such a strong bohemian reputation, San Francisco has surprisingly few spaces that capture some of the flavor of the actual place. Yes, Virginia, there really is a Bohemia — and its capital is Prague. (One prefers the emphatic German spelling: PRAG. No lazy French vowels trailing behind, doing nothing!) And, speaking of nothing, nothing says Prague quite like a mug of the beer known to the Czechs as Budvar but to us, we of the North American market — perhaps because of a potential conflict with Budweiser — as Czechvar. A splendid place to enjoy said beer, whatever its name, is at the aptly named Café Prague. The feel inside is wonderfully Mitteleuropean, while the calorie-rich food emphasizes such basics as starch, meat, and fat. You probably won’t leave hungry, or sober.

2140 Mission, SF. (415) 986-0269



Photo by Ben Hopfer

Don’t be deceived; Red Crawfish isn’t some kind of Red Lobster knockoff. The name is (we guess) a sly joke, and the restaurant does offer crawfish. But neither the jokey name nor the serving of crawfish is what makes the restaurant special. No, the reason you’ll remember Red Crawfish is because of its split personality. And although in human beings, split personalities are generally problem personalities, it’s different — and better — with restaurants (in this case, all Jeckyll and no Hyde). By day, Red Crawfish is an ordinary-looking Tenderloin restaurant that lays out an agreeable east Asian menu. But when the sun goes down, the place morphs smoothly into a Cajun spot whose gumbo is superb. Good gumbo doesn’t exactly grow on trees in these parts, so for this dish alone, let us all give thanks to Red Crawfish, whichever one it may be.

611 Larkin, SF. (415) 771-1388



If Mexican cooking is underrated in this country, part of the reason must be that we’ve been exposed to fast-food chain tacos and, even in our very own Mission District, overexposed to the burrito — which isn’t even authentically Mexican. God save the burrito anyway; it gives a lot of bang for the buck, and that’s important in these shriveled times for starving students and plenty of others. But there’s a real education to be had as well in the foods of Mexico, and a good place to audit the class is Nopalito, an offshoot of the highly regarded Nopa. The care taken about ingredients matches that of the nearby mothership, and the menu ranges nimbly across regional specialties, many of which are unfamiliar. The carnitas are recognizable, but they are also spectacular. It will be as if you’ve never had them before.

306 Broderick, SF. (415) 437-0303, www.nopalitosf.com



Football and food take on more global connotations at Balompié, and that’s just bueno. The restaurant is well-hung with huge flat-screen televisions showing soccer matches from around the world, and the food is splendidly Salvadorian at a modest cost. This means lots of pupusas and pasteles, along with exotica like pacaya (pickled date palm blossoms), and — to rinse down all this bounty — the Salvadorian beer Regia, which comes in bottles that resemble howitzer munitions. But the best thing about Balompié is that at its heart it’s a sports bar. Men like to watch sports on big TVs while drinking beer, and it doesn’t matter whether they’re speaking Spanish, drinking Regia, or pulling for Costa Rica, pupusas in hand.

3349 18th St. (also at 525 Seventh St. and 3801 Mission), SF. (415) 648-9199 (558-9668, 647-4000)



What do we miss most about Paris in the spring? The hip-hop boys with their gold chains and exposed biceps, the gamine girls in strappy heels, the constant elusive threat of rain, the crowds at Paris-Plages, laden with beer bottles, acoustic guitars, and joie de vivre. But above all, we can’t help reminiscing about those street crepes, fresh off the griddle, just the ticket for staving off those inopportune late-night hunger pangs, and great for soaking up any excess vin ordinaire in the bargain. Hooray! The 11th Street corridor’s Crepes A Go Go serves up the best street crepes this far side of the Maginot line. Starting at just $2.50, each crepe is made to order, and filled to oozing point with a decidedly Californian array of savory or sweet options. Open until 4 a.m. on weekends, with complimentary French hip-hop and comfy street-side sofa seating in the bargain. Take that, bacon-wrapped hotdog cart.

350 11th St. and other locations, SF. (415) 503-1294



Do you remember when the venerable coffee shop was a place people gathered to hang out instead of network? Where gamers would shuffle their Magic decks, writers would swap paragraphs, readers would sit quietly for hours with a good book and a pot of tea, and caffeine-fueled college kids would cram like the dickens? Welcome to Borderlands Café, the newest darling of the Valencia Street corridor. An offshoot of the classic Borderlands Books sci-fi bookstore, it’s already attracted quite a cross-section of trend-spotting caffiends and café nostalgists who just want to converse without being shushed by perfectly-coiffed app-oholics. And with a huge selection of magazines, comfy chairs, and scrumptious cheddar cheese and onion scones, Borderlands has a lot to offer even the solo café dweller. Except for Wi-Fi, which is actually our favorite perk of the place.

Borderlands Café, 870 Valencia, SF. (415) 970-6998, www.borderlands-cafe.com



It’s not situated in a chic location, unless you’re looking for snazzy new rims or a car wash. But Poc Chuc is well worth a trip down a less-bustling stretch of 16th Street for its unique Spanish-Mayan fusion cuisine. Open for lunch and dinner five days a week, the small, unadorned restaurant offers an array of dishes that inject an ancient, mouthwatering twist into standard Latin American fare. (Think plenty of smoked turkey, grilled tomatoes, pickled onions, and, of course, maize in several iterations.) A platillo Maya appetizer platter combines some of its tastiest, bite-sized creations, with plenty to share among a group — but no fighting over the pork empanadas or turkey salbutes! Main dishes include the signature Poc Chuc — grilled citrus-marinated pork topped with grilled tomatoes — and a reliable daily specials menu. Go for the mole!

2886 16th St, SF. (415) 558-1853, www.pocchuc.com



If you don’t like cookies, feel free to skip ahead. But if you were born with taste buds and an appreciation for delicious gooeyness, you’d do well to hit up Anthony’s Cookies. There is indeed an Anthony — likely you’ll see the man himself when you stumble into his Valencia Street shop, lured by the prospect of fresh, hot, calories-be-damned treats. And if Anthony looks like the happiest guy on planet Earth, he probably is — he bakes cookies for a living, after all — using only natural ingredients. Who’s magical now, Keebler Elves? Flavors include the usual suspects, plus variations on chocolate chip (semisweet, with walnut, using white chocolate … ) done to soft-meets-crisp perfection, plus inspired creations like cookies and cream and whole wheat oatmeal.

1417 Valencia, SF. (415) 655-9834, www.anthonyscookies.com



Sink happily into the dark brown booths at Baker and Banker for a memorable Cal cuisine dinner — sweet corn bisque with a plump lobster hush puppy, maybe, or sausage-stuffed quail in a coffee-molasses glaze. Husband and wife chef duo Jeff Banker and Lori Baker get it right with each dish. But you could visit for dessert alone with Lori’s ever-changing wonderland of a dessert menu. In fall, dessert might be pumpkin cobbler, steaming hot with a crunchy top and cooled with candied pumpkin seed ice cream. In summer, a cherry tarte tatin accented by salted caramel and amaretti rules. Awesomely, the Baker and Banker’s XXX triple-dark chocolate layer cake is a constant. This orgiastic slice stands tall with a bottom layer of dark, dense flourless chocolate. Not to be outdone, the middle is a tangy chocolate cheesecake, while the top finally gives you a density break with traditional chocolate cake. One of the more satisfying threesomes in town.

1701 Octavia, SF. (415) 351-2500, www.bakerandbanker.com



Sandbox Bakery is a pocket-sized cafe in Bernal Heights serving Ritual Roasters and De La Paz coffee with classic pastries like Valhrona chocolate croissants or orange currant scones. But it doesn’t end there. Owner and pastry chef Mutsumi Takehara’s background ranges from Slanted Door to La Farine, and her creations span a world of taste. Sandbox’s Japanese sweet bread, or kashi pan, is a lightly sweet brioche filled with the likes of melon or yuzu marmalade with sage. Or, in its savory form, it comes challah-like with negi-miso, curry or red bean paste filling. Daily special sandwiches often express a fusion of cuisines: Thai chicken croque-monsieur; an apple, smoked gouda, and rosemary spread over fresh baguette, or a teriyaki chicken rice burger with sticky rice as bun. A Zen-like experience with Parisian spirit.

833 Cortland, SF. (415) 642-8580 , www.sandboxbakerysf.com



Not familiar with Hakka cuisine, the regional cooking style of Southeast China that’s got food bloggers in a hot lather? It’s time you became acquainted. Head to the Outer Richmond and get schooled at Hakka Restaurant. Hakka looks like any other nearby Chinese joint, but there’s a legitimate pride in the service and an uncommon freshness to the food. Dishes include salt-baked chicken, fried strips of pumpkin coated in salted egg, crisp Chinese broccoli sautéed in rice wine, and ngiong tew foo, or stuffed tofu cubes. Kiu nyuk, a beloved Hakka dish, has two known versions, the more common served here: fatty pork belly layered over preserved mustard greens and mushrooms in a dark and complexly herbal sugar-soy sauce. Slice through layers of skin and fat to the tender anise-scented meat and you’ll be hooked on Hakka.

4401-A Cabrillo, SF. (415) 876-6898 BEST FRIENDLY YEMENI

This spring, on the western edge of the Tenderloin, a humble little restaurant opened quietly: Yemeni’s. Owner Ali Abu Baker and his staff convey a warmth almost equal to that of the piping Yemeni bread coming from the oven (useful for sopping up hummus with strip steak). Shawerma, baba ganoush, tabbouleh, and other Middle Eastern favorites are available. But the real draws are traditional Yemeni dishes like salteh, the country’s national dish: a meat stew topped with hilbeh — a tomato-based, chutney-like dip spiced with fenugreek, garlic, and cardamom — and zhug/sahaweq, a hot pepper sauce. Sip Yemeni coffee accented with a spice mix called hawayij. Baker shares his passion for his native country’s food at prices that encourage feasting for mere dollars. Stop into neighboring Queen of Sheba market for Middle Eastern groceries to complete your culinary journey.

1098 Sutter, SF. (415) 441-8832, www.yemenirestaurant.com



Rhea’s Deli is an unassuming, even demure, counter hidden inside a Mission District convenience store. But then the bad-ass $8 Korean steak sandwiches come out and the gloves come off. You’ll be fighting for — or at least gladly waiting up to 30 minutes in line for — a chance to sink your teeth into one of these babies. (Smart steakers call ahead and preorder). Once you’ve scored, it’s tempting to wolf down this mountain of tender, spicy Korean beef, shredded cabbage, red onions, and cheddar cheese on a crunchy baguette. Avoid this animal urge and take it slow, allowing the pleasure to last. Rhea’s offers an array of other savory lunchables as well, from a katsu sandwich with pork loin fried in Japanese breadcrumbs to a 19 Street sandwich with roast beef, Vermont cheddar, pepper jack, avocado, and pickled jalapenos. But, you know, steak.

800 Valencia, SF. (415) 282-5255



The appropriately named Coffee Bar offers a double whammy of appeal: it occupies an impeccably cool industrial-looking space for laptop workaholics and serves some truly eye-opening coffee. Mr. Espresso coffee beans provide the kick in bracing espressos and cappuccinos; an ultra-expensive, ultra-shiny Clover machine dispenses perfect single cups. Unlike chain-like offerings of watered-down, cloyingly sweet mochas and “specialty” coffees, the additional drink menu items here are crafted with punch. Vietnamese or Havana coffees (conveniently hot or iced for those variable summer days) are sure things. But our taste buds go up in flames for Coffee Bar’s El Diablo. A devilishly smooth mix of espresso, chipotle-infused milk, and Guittard chocolate, the robust brew marries a hint of cocoa sweetness to subtle heat. Yes, we’re probably going to hell for worshipping El Diablo. But at least we’ll be awake for it.

1890 Bryant, SF. (415) 551-8100, www.coffeebar-usa.com



Trek to a mellow stretch of Clement Street and enter the “five-star dive” environs of Tee Off Bar & Grill. You might assume it’s all right for a beer and little else — but you’d be wrong. The place is comfortably worn, sure. But regulars and staff soon feel like old friends, often sharing one of their spare Bronx Bombers (fiery BBQ chicken wings) or beer-battered mushrooms. The next surprise comes when you exit the dim interior to a sunny back patio with picnic tables and random paraphernalia from popular pirate parties (ask your bartender). A chalkboard reveals weekend specials. Wait! Is that a $20 kangaroo burger? After you’ve balked at the price, you can’t pass up this adventurous challenge, especially when the burger is plumped up with fried onions and kiwi relish. Make sure you call ahead, since Tee Off only serves it on occasional weekends and until supplies run out. If the roo’s already hopped, other worthy eats like ostrich burgers or Paul’s Crafty mac ‘n’ cheese, a four-cheese blend with pancetta blessed by Guy Fieri himself, will satisfy.

3129 Clement, SF. (415) 752-5439, www.teeoffbarandgrill.com



When the rustic-chic Marlowe first opened, it offered a seemingly straightforward menu of bistro staples like steak frites and cheesy cauliflower gratin that seemed anticlimactic. But chef Jennifer Puccio’s faith in the classics and elegant marshaling of simple ingredients soon paid off: raves began to roll in — especially for the jaw-widening burger loaded with caramelized onions, horseradish aioli, and bacon. But the burger isn’t the only star on the lunch menu. Diving into Marlowe’s deviled egg sandwich is not settling for second best. Simple in presentation, it’s one of the finest egg sandwiches out there, an open-faced beauty with a layer of crisp, meaty bacon, aged provolone, pickled chilis, and horseradish aioli on the side (perfect for accompanying fries). Order addictive brussels sprout chips and let the office know you won’t be back for a while. The only proper way to wrap up such a heartwarming lunch is to take a nap.

330 Townsend, SF. (415) 974-5599, www.marlowesf.com



One expects to shell out a pretty penny to partake of gourmet cooking techniques like sous-vide, or vacuum-packed slow cooking. But Berkeley’s eVe defies such expectations with a palate-tickling, surprisingly filling two-course prix fixe menu for $25 that includes several sous-vide items. The set menu offerings change often (additional items are steadfastly priced at $11 each), but husband-and-wife chef team Christopher and Veronica Laramie always keep it lively, highlighting the tastes of Veronica’s native Peru. Grilled squid ink risotto gets a tart kick from candied kumquats and yuzu. Diver scallops are brightened by lime leaf, edamame, mint, and delicate salmon roe. A sizable piece of fatty-licious pork belly pairs with a warm watermelon radish, chive flower, and a paper-thin slice of candied Buddha’s hand. Dessert might be goat brie sweetened with apricot, red wine, and a welcome contrast of shallots and flax seeds. In other words, world-class gastronomie d’avant-garde priced to appeal to ramen-weary students.

1960 University, Berk. (510) 868-0735, www.eve-berkeley.com



It is with humor and reverence that one dines at Three Papayas, a pop-up Sunday brunch from 12 p.m.-4 p.m. at Doc’s Clock bar. Mismatched Michael Jackson placemats abound, and Bibles and porn-laced comic books act as menu-holders. Creative chef Ta-Wei Lin emphasizes fresh and funky Vietnamese and Thai flavors. His menu of four or five changing items per week (everything is $8) might include pan-fried rabbit, Filipino sisig, chicken or vegan Vietnamese crepes, or viet banh canh with clams and coconut sauce. If it’s available, hop on the unusual Bunny Chao, a hollowed-out loaf of bread — filling piled neatly on the side — overflowing with green lentils, veggies, and cardamom pods. Chef Lin garnishes with seasonal fruits like figs, passion fruit, and, of course, papayas, making his plates fun to behold, but even better to eat. In the lovably grungy Doc’s setting, pair your food with a peppery bloody mary, and join your fellow dive-tastic brunchers in a round of hallelujahs.

2575 Mission, SF. (415) 824-3627, www.docsclock.com



Morning at Brenda’s French Soul Food: where to start? Grillades and grits or crawfish beignets? Fried shrimp po’boy or sloppy Josephine? Eggs and andouille? Oui, Oui! This wee spot on Polk Street — open for breakfast, brunch, and lunch — is a showcase of the strikingly huge flavors of New Orleans-style French and Creole cuisines. The portions are big, the atmosphere strikes a note between quaint and cosmopolitan, and wonderfully named Filipino-Creole chef (and New Orleans native) Brenda Buenviaje keeps the flavor flowing. The only drawback, besides having to brave the tiny curbside riots to get in, is having to choose among the many dreamy menu items on offer. Make sure, however, to wash down Brenda’s must-try gumbo with a glass of sweet watermelon iced tea before proceeding to the next steaming dish.

652 Polk, SF. (415) 345-8100, www.frenchsoulfood.com



From slammin’ New Mexican resto Green Chile Kitchen comes Chile Pies, a low-key dessert café offering a spicy paradise of crave-inducing organic sweets. Seriously, if you thought Southwestern desserts were frozen in a sticky Bimbo-landia of saturated fats, this joint will blow your buds. Blue corn waffle cones, Straus Family soft-serve, Café Gratitude raw vegan ice cream, and fantastic floats (ginger ale with cardamom ice cream, anyone?) are just a few of the tasty treats at the Panhandle hot spot. The main draw is the rotating cast of daily pie specials, from the simple, like banana cream, to the sophisticated, like a tangy green chile apple with walnuts and red chile honey drizzle. Can’t decide between a scoop of Three Twins Ice Cream or a slice of chocolate peanut butter pie? No problem, have both in the form of a frosty pie shake. And then there’s Chile’s piece de resistance: a classic Frito Pie, with organic Niman Ranch beef and Mexican red chile. You can have pie for dinner and dessert.

601 Baker, SF. (415) 614-9411, www.greenchilekitchen.com/chilepies



Do thoughts of those wallet-demolishing $9 beers at AT&T Park leave you with a sinking feeling in your stomach? There’s no need to get shut out of lunch or dinner plans around game time — hightail it to nearby Hard Knox Café for a true meal steal. Heaping soul food plates of smothered pork chops, Cajun meatloaf, barbecued spare ribs, and chicken and waffles, available at super-affordable prices, will last you all 54 outs and then some. Hard Knox’s no-nonsense shrimp po’boys and hot link sandwiches to go will keep you doing the wave through extra innings at a fraction of ballpark prices. Better yet, order a perfectly battered pile of fried chicken, settle into one of the comfy booths, and watch the entire game on the flat screen. You can order round after round from Hard Knox’s stellar selection of microbrews without missing a minute of the action.

2526 Third St., SF. (415) 648-3770, www.hardknoxcafe.com



Don’t know about you, but we periodically have these Jack Nicholson Five Easy Pieces chicken salad sandwich moments at oyster bars, where we want to say, “We’ll have an order of oysters with lemon, cocktail sauce, and horseradish. Now hold the oysters — and bring me the lemon, cocktail sauce, and horseradish.” That’s why whenever we order a virgin Mary at Rose Pistola in North Beach, we get the spooky feeling that the bartenders have read our mind. The secret of their piquant housemade mix is, according to several staff members, secret (although one staffer did divulge that the bartenders add horseradish to the traditional tomato juice-Tabasco-Worcestershire combo). On top of this, Rose Pistola adds a green olive, pickled onion, and slice of lemon. You won’t even miss the vodka — or the oysters.

532 Columbus, SF. (415) 399-0499, www.rosepistolasf.com



Photo by Ben Hopfer

A tucked away, speakeasy-like space on the second floor of the Crescent Hotel, minus the masses and snobbery: that’s where you’ll find the Burritt Room and its founder, master mixologist Kevin Diedrich. In the brick-walled space accented with sparkly chandeliers, black and red couches, and white piano, Diedrich shakes and stirs from a reasonably-sized menu of 18 rotating cocktails. He doesn’t just craft the classics, though there are plenty of those. Diedrich also creates inventive new drinks — often featuring marmalade — like the sparkling Hitachino Sour with bourbon, orange marmalade, lemon, sugar, and orange bitters, topped with Hitachino White beer. His experience lies in some of the country’s greatest bars from East to West. Diedrich sets a welcoming, unpretentious tone, has assembled a tight team of bartenders, and will take you on tasteful journeys nostalgic and new.

417 Stockton, SF. (415) 400-0500, www.crescentsf.com



Oh, if all our utopias were this dreamily delish. Ideally situated on green perch of reclaimed woodland on the edge of the UC Berkeley campus, halcyon eatery Gather offers seasonally minded, meticulously sourced food (complete with a sizable, possibly TMI volume, available to diners, detailing all providers and particulars). Vegetarians and vegans will be pleased to know that former Millennium sous chef Sean Baker has given much thought to its selections: the menu is 50 percent vegetarian, the star of which is undoubtedly the artisanal vegan “charcuterie” platter, which might include the most delicate tofu-skin tower or an Tuscan Rose eggplant with cashew “ricotta” and fennel-top pesto. Expect biodynamic and organic California wines, as well as piquant cocktails like the Secret Breakfast, composed of smoked peach scotch, bacon cello, spicy honey, and egg whites.

2200 Oxford, Berk. (510) 809-0400, www.gatherrestaurant.com



With or without you, we’re set to indulge our love of refined yet pleasure-minded Catalan cooking — and the pitch-perfect Contigo, which translates as “with you,” has us murmuring “Bon profit!” like a native of the land of Gaudi and Dali. The crowds have made this industrial-moderne Noe Valley restaurant the most popular spot in the hood for its wonderfully authentic Catalan tapas, artisanal Spanish and stateside hams, and fresh Catalan flatbreads — studded with wild nettles and porcinis (add a farm egg, anchovies, or Fatted Calf bacon). Aficionados of whole-critter eating won’t shy away from the tripe and chorizo and chickpeas or the oxtail-stuffed piquillo peppers, all sourced from local organic providers. And everyone, including the finicky ankle-biters, will want the albondigas, or pork and ham meatballs. For here the pig reigns supreme, even on the cookie plate, which includes a piglet-shaped peanut butter and bacon number.

1320 Castro, SF. (415) 285-0250, www.contigosf.com



Moist and addictive, this blood-red baby is so tiny it’s totally OK to sink your fangs into a foursome and not break the Eternal Oath of Your Diet. Sure, his type wasn’t born yesterday, but damn, the way he stares at you, his skinny jeans, that whipped topping that glistens in the sun … the Rich Red Velvet cupcake at Cups and Cakes Bakery, named for its deep, vampire-luring color and smooth, timeless flavor is enough to blow our Team Edward minds. (Jacobites can tear into other flavors on offer, like Pretty Pretty Princess and Rainbow Bright. Just sayin’.) Did we mention the rich swirl of cream cheese and the crimson sprinkles? Que bella! Step into Jennifer Emerson’s beckoning SoMa bakery and drool over the perfectly constructed cuppies therein. And don’t worry, these beauties won’t make you wait three sequels for your first bite.

451 Ninth St., SF. (415) 437-2877, www.cupsandcakesbakery.com



Nestled amid boxy-lofty tech startups and the frenetic energy of AT&T Park lies the small green courtyard wonderland of Crossroads Cafe. The sprightly enterprise is a component of the Delancey Street Foundation, one of the country’s most innovative self-help organizations for the homeless, which has filled up this quiet little SoMa block with 370,000 square feet of housing, vocational schools, and the well-regarded Delancey Street Restaurant. But at Crossroads, all that is readily apparent of this commendable social enterprise is the distinct impression that the staff — composed mostly of Delancey residents learning workforce skills — wants to create the best darn cafe ever. Proceeds from the large menu go toward resident education and support. Pass through the small bookstore and grab Michael Chabon’s new bestseller, order a housemade waffle or scoop of coconut ice cream, and settle into a seat on the garden patio for a little soul sunshine.

699 Delancey, SF. (415) 512-5111, www.delanceystreetfoundation.org



You’re always down for a 40 on the corner, a Bud on the stoop, or a PBR from your purse on Corona Heights. But sometimes you want an actual beer. You know, the kind that doesn’t taste like you wrung out a hipster’s legwarmers in your mouth. You’ve considered venturing into the labyrinth of microbrews, but microbrew culture turns you off — kind of snobby, kind of midlife-crisis-y, definitely confusing. Relax and revolt: Beer Revolution, downtown Oakland’s new grade-A beer store, will guide you into superlative suds with deep knowledge and just the right amount of edge. Staff connoisseurs offer tastes of recommended nectars, and a generous deck studded with picnic tables encourages kicking up your Doc Martens and glugging with abandon. Besides bottled bounty, there’s a spirited band of ever-rotating, ever-satisfying selections on tap, like Meantime Scotch Ale, Caracole Nostradamus, and Alagash Black. Slip on a balaclava and pop a few caps at bland brewskis.

464 3rd St., Oakl. (510) 452-2337, www.beer-revolution.com



You know those foodies (maybe you’re one) — so up on the blogs and culinary porn rags they think they’ve tasted everything under the sun. Well, unless these epicurean explorers have logged some serious hours at 100% Sweet Dessert Café in the Outer Richmond, they’ve surely left some sugary stones unturned. You simply will not find a menu that covers more enticing and bewildering acreage — at least 10 massive pages illustrated with a complex grid system that showcases a dazzling plethora of Asian desserts. Two you might want to sample: crystal rolls (clear rice paper sachets of sweet sugary goo and fresh mangos and strawberries) or a selection from the extensive jelly drink section of the menu. Sure, the many of the sample photos look like fairy tale versions of your saltwater aquarium’s decorative fauna, but your fish seem to lead delicious lives, right?

2512 Clement, SF. (415) 221-1628



Photo by Ben Hopfer

When Jamie Kasselman hands you a box on your birthday, you better be stoked. Presentation is key. Before opening her candy store in the Marina, she was famous for her impeccable flair for arranging sweets on designer dishes — a clear inspiration for the achingly sweet décor at Sweetdish. Kasselman has it well stocked with classic candies, designer chocolates hailing from mouth-wateringly diverse locales ranging from Colombia to Ghana, and even some treats made closer to home. (Kasselman makes her own line of fantastic homemade flavored marshmallows. Want-want-want!) It can be difficult to decide between all the fanciful bulk candy options — we’re naturally drawn to all the strawberry and lemon goodies — but the pretty salesgirls will feed you samples of from bags of irregulars behind the counter if you ask … sweetly.

2144 Chestnut, SF. (415) 563-2144, www.thesweetdish.com



Vegetarian goddess Heidi Swanson started her essential 101 Cookbooks blog way back in the ancient year of 2003. It was a way to start putting her massive cookbook collection to use, combining her love of cooking with her interest in photography. The result is a comprehensive vegetarian go-to guide for making simple, delicious recipes infused with her own San Francisco flair. Swanson focuses on natural, whole foods and ingredients, frequenting SF’s many farmers markets and organic foods stores. Then she tells readers how to whip up gems like chile blackberry syrup, Tuscan ribollita, and Rajasthani buttermilk curry. Each post walks you through her experiences with colorful photos and descriptions, substitution suggestions, and cooking tips. She’s since published two meat-free meatspace cookbooks of her own — mere amuses bouches to her blog, which contains reams of virtual veggie lore. If you ever wondered what the name of that funny squash is or what to do with halloumi cheese, give her a click.




Oh, pickled egg! Like your glass-jarred, vinegar-soaked, bar-top cousins the pig’s foot and the giant gherkin, you have for years endured the tipsy sneers and simulated gagging of drinkers who never gave you a chance. Once the prince of any bar worth its salt, an easy snack for barflies and hofbrauistas alike, you slipped into ovoid obscurity. Now one bar has resurrected your sweet purple form by giving it a gourmet spin. Who’d pass up a go at pickled quail eggs at the Alembic in this age of adventurous eating? It just goes to show that if you repackage something, provide the proper ambience, and price something at $2, you can get someone to eat just about anything. Perfect with Alembic’s saucy cocktails, you’re a hit with highbrow tipplers. Now please put in a good word for your forgotten cousins.

1725 Haight, SF. (415) 666-0822, www.alembicbar.com



Any eatery can slap some pulled pork and pickles on a panini and call it a Cuban sandwich. But true Cuban food connoisseurs venture to Market Street’s upper climes to dig in at the tiny Chan Chan Café Cubano, a cute café by day that at night becomes a paradise of traditional dishes prepared with a gourmet touch. Entrees like ropa vieja and pollo en hoya are spectacular, but you may just pack them up to go after feasting your way through the well-priced tapas menu, which includes scrumptious croquetas, hongos, and camarones criollos. Plus, hello, a couple pitchers of sangria. With true Cuban flair — when the electricity goes out, as it sometimes does, a rewarding fever of culinary improvisation descends — and a laidback, handsome staff (yes, you may have to wait a bit for your order to come out of the one-stove kitchen, but you’ll have plenty to look at), Chan Chan is indeed one of those “hidden gems.”

4690 18th St., SF. (415) 864-4199



Photo by Ben Hopfer

Best cioppino? Them’s fightin’ words in San Francisco, where the thick, rich seafood stew originated. But we’re serious. As certified fish freaks always eager for a fix of this blues-obliviating local delicacy, we’ve tried our fair share. And we can safely say that the home-style cioppino at Sotto Mare is the best. The key — besides the incredible tang of the smoky tomato broth and flawlessly fresh crab and fish chunks, scallops, mussels, and shrimp loaded within — is the atmosphere. Run by beloved, no-nonsense North Beach legend Gigi Fiorucci (don’t squeeze that lemon wedge over your superbly grilled sand dabs or he’ll reprimand you), Sotto Mare has a true family feel, a bustling business of diverse diners, and a haphazard décor that recalls San Francisco’s ramshackle maritime past. When that steaming cioppino tureen, more than enough for two, is placed on the table by the gregarious waitstaff, you feel a delicious connection to SF history.

552 Green, SF. (415) 398-3181, www.sottomaresf.com



Never mind the ubiquitous fancy food carts or “third wave” coffee shops springing up in back alley garages — wieners were everywhere this past year. The explosion of gourmet and not-so-gourmet hot dog stands, joints, and full-on restaurants worked to balance all the epicurean exotica with some down-home comfort for those who were raised in a broke-down Chevy on televised baseball and McDonald’s apple pies. All were worthy, but one in particular consistently heated our buns: Showdogs. This “emporium of sausages” keeps it classy with a spotless, tin-tiled interior and organic ingredients like wild boar and merguez, while still appealing to the everyday eater with a sporty sense of humor — we’re suckers for the 49er, an all-beef Schwartz dog with housemade mustard, arugula, and, gasp, real sauerkraut. Add some barbecue fries and a Trumer Pils, and this hearty barker wins best in show.

1020 Market, SF. (415) 558-9560, www.showdogssf.com



“I just ate half a chicken.” That declaration is written on a Post-it stuck to a cubicle at the Guardian offices. The sticky piece of pastel paper has since been signed by other people besides the original chicken lover. What can you say? Unless you’re the staunchest vegetarian, sometimes you just get the urge to eat half a chicken. Thai BarBQ in Potrero Hill was ideal for such moments, but it’s flown the coop. Luckily, Baby Blues BBQ is here to satisfy those extra-intense and voracious aviary cravings. The restaurant’s Marion County slow-smoked yard bird is served with a tangy barbeque sauce, but be sure to ask for the special Sassy Molassy molasses sauce. Add in corn bread and a choice of two fixins (sautéed okra, mac ‘n’ cheese and corn on the cob are some of the best options) and at a grand total of $15, you’ve got a deal only a fool would cluck-cluck at.

3149 Mission, SF. (415) 896-4250, www.babybluessf.com



We all know about chicken soup for the soul, how about delicious soup for the skin? Because its pork bone broth contains collagen and calcium, tonkotsu ramen has a rep as the genuinely edible version of a spa facial. There are some delicious tonkotsu ramens in Vancouver and San Francisco, but they’re all matched and even superceded by the subtle one at Asuka Ramen, which manages to be rich and light within a single spoon-size sip. Ramen establishments have popped up all over the city in the last year or two, but Asuka steers clear of trendy trappings and delivers the low-priced goods. Tantanmen is Asuka’s go-to dish, but if you don’t confuse greasy strong flavor with deliciousness, its pork-and-egg laden tonkotsu is the type for you.

883 Bush, SF. (415) 567-3153



If life was little more than vodka and pastries (with no hangovers), we’d be in heaven, and the best place to shop would be Royal Market & Bakery. Even here on this mortal playground, Royal Market and Bakery is in the running for greatest shop. Why? Tasty marinated quail, excellent caviar, homemade hummus, fresh fruit, savory eggplant rolls with cheese, dark Russian chocolates, Turkish coffee, a tremendous selection of chilled vodkas and other liquor, an overflowing nook of flaky pastries, and last but not least, Beef Lulu. A special seasoned dish of ground meat, Beef Lulu is as enjoyable as its name is funny. At a time when the city is being overrun by generic chain supermarkets, Royal makes the case for individuality devoted to regional cuisine. And the prices are better, too.

5335 Geary, SF. (415) 221-5550



On a busy street south of San Francisco lies a little land of leavened love where all your Filipino baked goods needs are met with a sweet smile and an even sweeter pandecoco. We won’t require 20 questions to tell you where: the place is Bread Basket, a starkly outfitted bakery famed for its thrillas from Manila. The neighborhood favorite is BB’s pandesal, swiped fresh out of the ovens while the packs of the bun-like lovelies are still aromatically steamy. Need to bring home a little something for dessert? The joint has cornered the market on delights made from the meat of the ube, or purple yam, which Bread Basket magically transforms into the bun fillings and feathery, marzipan-like candies that sit alongside its more familiar cookies and breads.

7099 Mission, Daly City. (650) 994-7741, www.breadbasketca.com



Tucked in a sliver of a space in the West Portal commercial strip is the tantalizing Que Syrah wine bar, founded and presided over with skill and affection by the team of Stephanie and Keith McCardell. Que Syrah is the perfect place to savor a glass of wine in a friendly neighborhood setting: quiet, unpretentious, and specializing in unusual wines from small production wineries from all over the world. Stephanie and Keith serve by the glass or in intriguing flights and provide expert notes about the wine, the winemakers, and the regions involved. Every Thursday night, an array of delectable tapas enliven the tastings — chef Val Desuyo takes inspiration from his regular trips to the restaurants of Barcelona. Plus: quarterly paella parties! Seafood paella and a glass from Penedès? Sì, sì!

230 West Portal Ave., SF. (415) 731-7000, www.quesyrahsf.com



Whatever queasy misgivings you may harbor about the phrase “mobile seafood shack” will instantly be dispelled once you’ve palmed (or tried to palm) a hefty Maine lobster roll from Sam’s Chowdermobile. We were turned on to this tender, brimming-over prize when one of our East Coast-native amigos texted “lobster roll = real deal” from Golden Gate Park, where you can find the edible aquarium on wheels most weekends. So we tried one for ourselves, and yep. Great lobster rolls at a reasonable price are surprisingly hard to come by ’round these Left Coast parts — we’re crabby that way. Luckily Sam’s, the mobile unit of Half Moon Bay resto Sam’s Chowder House delivers the goods. (The roll proper is enough to feed two — order a single-serving “shortie” if you want one all to yourself.) Prep yourself for crustacean heaven with a bowl of Sam’s New England chowder and a side of Old Bay fries for a true Eastern experience.



Best of the Bay 2010: Local Heroes




“The thing I love most in life is being a grandmother for social change.”

“If you mess up, you fess up — and then you fix it up.” That’s one of the motivational philosophies Sharen Hewitt, founder and executive director of the Community Leadership Academy and Emergency Response Project (CLAER) passes on to the people she works with. Her organization provides peer-to-peer empowerment and civic engagement programs as well as immediate crisis stabilization for victims of violence, helping them get the support they need. CLAER is based in Bayview, “but we serve the whole city, which unfortunately needs us more than ever,” she says.

A community leader and organizer for decades, Hewitt has been a critical and unyielding voice on housing, voter registration, education, employment, and political access issues. Her current focus has been on easing recent tensions between the African American and Asian American communities, weeding through the crowded field of candidates running for District 10 supervisor, and “insuring continuing dialogue about the development of sound public policy in the face of diminishing resources.”

“We celebrate diversity, and we try to raise the bar every day,” she says of CLAER. “San Francisco is the richest city in the richest state in the richest country in the world. It should be unlimited in its capacity to serve.” 




“My favorite thing about the Bay Area is the coast along Route 1. It consistently amazes me.”

Food revolutionary Iso Rabins has organized the most intriguing — and fun — food events of the last year, expanding his health code-defying Underground Market far beyond its original berth in a Mission District home. But his keystone contribution to the Bay Area is his ability to communicate his vision of feeding communities without the agro-industrial machine — by recognizing the soil-generated bounty available to all of us if we know where to look.

“The way our society is structured right now didn’t seem like it paid attention to our local community. I think food is a great way to break through that,” Rabins says. His brainchild is forageSF, an organization that promotes hunting and gathering through wild food walks, eight-course foraged meals, and retail opportunities for foragers who spend days picking through the woods, fields, and coastlines. In the locavore-freegan vein, Rabins calls attention to a world beyond shrink-wrap and leaden government regulations. And his message is being eaten up by change-hungry SF. “I really think you can do business and help people at the same time,” he says.




“Something I love about San Francisco is being able to take yoga classes with the best teachers from here to Timbuktu.”

Eleven years ago Katherine Priore was an English teacher in Cincinnati’s public school system. After a particularly stressful day in the classroom, she finally took a close friend’s advice by attending said friend’s yoga class. Priore was instantly hooked. “I had never experienced such profound internal stillness. My stress was alleviated and the stream of anxious, teaching-related thoughts vanished in those 90 minutes.” It was this eureka moment that set Priore on the path to creating Headstand, an organization providing youth in economically disadvantaged areas with access to yoga.

The organization’s ultimate goal is to create a shift in the education system whereby the physical, emotional, and psychological health of students has the same importance as the academic skills they’re building. Headstand aims to do its part by integrating yoga into the curriculum, not just as an elective but as a requirement. Over the past two years, the organization has offered 1,400 yoga classes to 660 youths in the East Bay and San Francisco, and this fall it plans to bring Headstand to San Jose and Houston. With a slew of evidence that Headstand is positively affecting the lives of its students, all signs point to the early success of the program and to the potential it may just be starting to fulfill.




“I love the Youth Speaks office. It doesn’t matter what I’m wearing or what I look like there.”

Odds were against Erica McMath Sheppard to be onstage at the Warfield this past March receiving thunderous applause from a sold-out crowd. But as McMath Sheppard’s powerful championship Youth Speaks Teen Poetry Slam spoken word performance put it, “I been helping myself my whole damn life .” Two things were clear under those bright lights: this woman has a story to tell, and the world’s going to hear it — no matter a difficult childhood, a disastrous trek through the foster care system, and eventual emancipation from her guardians at age 16.

In addition to her poetry laurels and longtime involvement with the Youth Speaks arts program, the Class of ’10 Leadership High graduate was senior class president, involved in the Black Student Union, and active in a slew of other extracurriculars — a record that earned her admission to Dillard University in New Orleans this fall. Does she consider herself a role model? “I’m not trying to be the voice for foster girls around the world,” she says. “But this is my dream.”




“It’s not always easy to live in San Francisco — but it sure is a hell of a lot of fun.”

A constant presence on the queer and charitable scenes for years, Donna Sachet will go to any lengths to call attention to worthy causes — including rappelling down 38 stories of the Grand Hyatt San Francisco to raise money for the Special Olympics.

As a performer and sparkling personality, Sachet MCs the popular Sunday’s a Drag weekly brunch spectacular at Harry Denton’s Starlight Room, hosts the live coverage of the Pride parade on television, writes a society column for The Bay Area Reporter, and attends pretty much every charitable event worth attending. (You can always spot her by her impeccably tailored red outfits — she is, after all, Scarlet Empress XXX of San Francisco’s Imperial Court.) Her annual holiday Songs of the Season event and Pride Brunch fundraiser, along with her involvement with the Bare Chest Calendar benefiting the AIDS Emergency Fund, have raised thousands of needed dollars.

“You just have to do it,” she tells us of her unflagging energy. “I love my community. But even if it’s not particularly about your own community, we’re all in this together.”




“When I paint, I focus completely on what I’m doing and everything else fades.”

Freshly minted Pro Bowl superstar Vernon Davis has shown immense prowess on the football field since being drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 2006. His career is on the upswing, and last season he tied the NFL all-time record for most touchdowns as a tight end. Davis’ success is the product of natural talent combined with drive and vision. He grew up in inner-city Washington, D.C., where a wise grandmother helped him dodge the environment’s potential pitfalls.

That same talent, drive, and vision extend beyond the goal posts into more esoteric realms. He’s an avid painter and seeks to be a role model for kids who might be afraid to explore their creativity. Earlier this year he launched the Vernon Davis Scholarship Fund, which will benefit a deserving Bay Area art student who would otherwise not be able to afford college. “I want to keep encouraging kids, especially in the inner city, to stay on track and pursue their dreams.”




“I love being around a really vibrant queer and progressive community.”

On March 8, labor activist Jane Martin helped organize a flash mob in the crowded lobby of San Francisco’s Westin St. Francis Hotel. The purpose was to spread the word about a worker-called boycott of the hotel and urge tourists coming in for Pride to stay elsewhere. For five raucous and entertaining minutes, members of Pride at Work/HAVOQ, One Struggle One Fight, and the Brass Liberation Orchestra burst through the doors to sing, play, and dance to Lady Gaga’s hit “Bad Romance,” warning bewildered patrons not to “get caught in a bad hotel.”

The result: A collaborative effort of young and innovative labor leaders like Martin became a viral YouTube sensation, reaching hundreds of thousands of viewers. Martin has been joining with hotel workers in picket lines and organizing around queer economic justice issues in the Bay Area since 2001. She led picket lines at the Omni Hotel to decry the company’s move of locking out thousands of workers. “To ultimately win was really exciting,” she said. “When the hotels backed off, that was really inspiring.”

She recently joined 1,000 in staging a protest at the home of GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman as part of her organizing work with the California Nurses Association. And, as always with Martin, there’s more in the works.




“The Bay Area embodies the American spirit more than anyplace else in the country. You can be who you are without any fear.”

San Francisco is a city of immigrants, a place where generations of people have come — from all over the country and all over the world — for a fresh start in a welcoming environment. But Mayor Gavin Newsom put that tradition at risk this year when he directed law enforcement agents to start referring juveniles charged with crimes to federal immigration authorities. It’s been a disaster — in one case, a 13-year-old charged with stealing 46 cents was turned over to the feds, and he and his mom, who is married to a U.S. citizen, both faced deportation, breaking up a family.

San Francisco Sup. David Campos has led the battle to protect the city’s sanctuary policy — and has taken on the larger issue of immigration reform. An immigrant who arrived in the United States from Guatemala at 14 (and who couldn’t get federal financial aid to go to college because of his status), Campos isn’t afraid to challenge the growing nativist movement: “What’s made this country great,” he told us, “is taking talent from all over the world and integrating it into society. Now the current climate precludes that.” 



Outdoors & Sports



SF Fog Rugby

The Fog is one of the only rugby clubs in the world that actively recruits people of color, gay men, and women — and somehow only incredibly hunky ones apply.

(415) 267-6100, www.sffog.org


Gold’s Gym

It’s the gayest, classiest, most fresh-smelling gym in the city. Get buff. Get ripped. Get Gold.

Various locations. www.goldgym.com


Monkey Yoga Shala

Bend, breathe, burn. Go bananas. Be like the monkey at Monkey Yoga Shala, the Bay Area’s premier simian yoga studio.

3215 Lakeshore, Oakl. (510) 595-1330, www.monkeyyoga.com



Learn how to bust moves and join the Rhythm Nation with the professional booty shakers at ODC — or just watch them in amazing performances.

351 Shotwell, SF. (415) 863-6606, www.odcdance.org


Kezar Stadium

It’s not as glamorous as it was back in the day, but Kezar is still the best place to kick balls and soak up vibes left over from the Summer of Love.

755 Stanyan, SF.


Hoop Girl

Shake off that flab, grind your pelvis, and work that ass with Christabel Zamor, the sexiest hula-hooping heroine in the world.



The Embarcadero

Embarco is the best place in the world for street skating. Just don’t tell the cops.

Pier 1, Embarcadero and Market, SF


Mission Pool

An impeccably maintained, old-school outdoor pool tucked into the heart of the Mission. The last of a dying breed.

1 Linda, SF. (415) 641-2841, www.sfgov.org


Linda Mar, Pacifica: Best Surf Spot

Linda Mar, Pacifica

The water’s cold, the waves are rough, and the weather is screwy, but our readers love a challenge.

Cabrillo Hwy. at Linda Mar Blvd., Pacifica.


Tilden Park

Trek through winding trails full of trees and wildlife at the oldest and most beautiful park in the East Bay.

Grizzly Park Blvd., Berk. (510) 562-PARK, www.ebparks.org


Baker Beach

Rock out with your cock out or jam out with your clam out at the best nude beach in the West.

Off Lincoln Blvd., Presidio, SF. www.nps.gov


Stinson Beach

Amazing (if often fog-drenched) views, cool spontaneous sand sculptures, and tons of hidden nooks and crannies for a private feel.

1 Calle del Sierra, Stinson. (415) 868-1922, www.nps.gov


Golden Gate Park

Accessibility is key at this beloved multifaceted venue, which offers several services specifically for the disabled.



Dolores Park

Panoramic views of the city, half-naked hotties, beer, sausage, and pot brownies. This ain’t your daddy’s picnic spot (well, maybe your sugar daddy’s)!

Dolores between 18th and 20th Sts., SF.


Fort Funston

Where else can a pup frolic in Pacific Ocean waves and then chill with his bitch on a grassy knoll when he’s done? Nowhere.

Skyline Blvd. at John Muir Dr., SF. www.fortfunstondog.org


Angel Island

Wind-sheltered and semiprivate, the campsites at Angel Island are the perfect remedy for the Fog City blues.



Twin Peaks

You can see everything from Twin Peaks: the sky, the city, the tourists, the tweakers!

Top of Twin Peaks Blvd., SF.


Ocean Beach

The sun may rise in the eastern skies, but it settles in a fine location: just off the shore of the O.B.

Great Hwy. between Geary and Sloat Blvds., SF.


Mt. Tamalpais

Your roof might be awesome, but if your landlord catches you up there, you’ll be homeless in no time. Skip the eviction and head to Mt. Tam.

801 Panoramic Hwy., Mill Valley. www.parks.ca.gov

Outdoors & Sports


OK, you know when you’re doing the elliptical at the gym, flipping idly through an US Weekly between fighting with some meathead over whether you’ve really been on the machine for 30 minutes? That’s your body getting stronger while your mind’s getting weaker. Combat your brain’s slow atrophy at vibrantBrains, the only gym devoted exclusively to the oft-ignored muscle inside your skull. Instead of sweat-drenched Nautilus machines, vibrantBrains is composed of computer stations with software to challenge different parts of your mind. Happy Neuron works out your cognitive and language skills, while Lumosity’s exercises work out your memory and attention capabilities. In between “workouts,” the vibrantBrains lounge offers tea, reading material, and a community of newly intelligent peers. Classes like “Minding Your Mind” and “Neurobics” are also offered. All software is proven scientifically to improve brain function, but vibrantBrains’ owners, Lisa Schoonerman and Jan Zivic, provide a personal touch that eases your wits into fitness.

3235 Sacramento, SF. (415) 775-1138, www.vibrantbrains.com


Banish preconceived notions about running clubs: people whose less-than-1-percent body fat is shellacked in sweat-wicking, high-tech fabrics; New Balance slaves to a stopwatch and heart monitor. Not so with the Hash House Harriers (or H3), a running club fueled more by beer and sexual innuendo than Gu and Cytomax. The Harriers’ motto is “A drinking club with a running problem.” A hash run is based on hare hunting, with the leading hasher laying out a trail that the rest follow. This entails more than improvising a route, however: the hasher must set up the keg and beer stops along the way. Punishments are doled out for not following the route, and they’re not just sore muscles. Down-downs, as they’re called, involve drinking all the alkie in your cup. Booze consumption along the way isn’t the only unorthodoxy; members choose some very interesting nicknames, which range from “Wet Nurse” to “Cum Guzzling Cockaholic.” If Bay to Breakers comes 51 times less a year than you’d like, join up now.

(415) 5-ON-HASH, www.sfh3.com


When most people hear “go,” they think of the opposite of “stop” or that middling ’90s rave movie. Well, there’s a lot more to “go” than green lights and Katie Holmes. Take, for example, Go, the 4,000-year-old Chinese board game. Go, or “Eastern Chess,” involves two players facing off over a wooden board with small black and white stones as their weapons. The game, once used in military training schools to teach strategy, is challenging, complex, and addictive. Where can you go to Go in San Francisco? You go to the San Francisco Go Club, where you can enter Go tournaments, get Go ranking verification, receive Go lessons, or simply throw down a challenge (“You wanna Go?!”). Go-ing since 1935, this organization, headquartered in an intimate little Richmond District space, is perfect for Go fanatics and first-time Go-phers alike. Even if chess, backgammon, and checkers aren’t doing it for you anymore, don’t give up on board games — Go further.

500 Eighth Ave., SF. (415) 386-9565, www.sfgoclub.com


Fear not, action stars. Just because you lost your stuntman (they’re first to go in a recession) doesn’t mean your movie has to suck. Head over to the Tat Wong Kickboxing Academy and learn those kung fu moves for yourself. Founded by Master Tat Wong — one of Inside Kung Fu magazine’s 100 Most Influential Martial Artists of the 20th century and host of TV’s “Kung Fu Theater” — the academy uses a combination of Chinese San Shou, American kickboxing, and Muay Thai techniques to instruct students of all ages in a huge former bank building on Clement Street. What does that all mean? It means that whether you’re an action star or an extra, you’ll be arrow-punching and tornado-kicking your way to tighter buns, mental discipline, and badass self-defense skills. And even if you’re not the next Jean-Claude Van Damme, Tat Wong’s cardio kickboxing classes may ensure you outlive him.

601 Clement, SF. (415) 752-5555, www.tatwong.com


Michael the Boxer: Best Uppercuts

If you thought You Don’t Mess with the Zohan was just another escapist summer film fantasy, think again. Ass-kicking hairstylists really do exist. Witness Michael Onello, the owner of Michael the Boxer, the only boxing gym and barbershop in the Bay Area. Michael is a third-generation barber and professional boxing trainer, highly qualified to dish out both buzz cuts and uppercuts. From the barber chair to the boxing ring, Onello’s SoMa shop is a blend of old-school service and new-school fitness. You can peruse Onello’s book, Boxing: Advanced Tactics and Strategies, during a hot lather shave and then, afterward, head into the ring to learn how to throw a haymaker. It’s boxing and barbering, all under one roof. But don’t let the Zohan comparisons give you the wrong idea. Michael’s not working — as a boxer or barber — for laughs. He’s simply the best double-threat in town. As Muhammad Ali said, “It’s not bragging if you can back it up.”

96 Lafayette, SF. (415) 425-3814, www.michaeltheboxer.com


On a late-night talk show, five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams recently referred to herself as a “tennis nerd,” meaning that when she isn’t playing tennis, she likes to watch it. All Bay Area tennis nerds should know about the Centre Court Pro Shop at San Francisco Tennis Club. For once you won’t have to trek through a maze of equipment for other sports to get to the array of shoes, clothes, and racquets. And if you glance at the TV by the front counter, you’ll likely see a recording of a classic match. Casual onlookers who were wowed by the epic “Greatest Match Ever” between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer can show their allegiance to the players associated with the sport’s renaissance by buying some new Babolat or Wilson gear. The shop has a ton of demo racquets, so any player — from weekend hacker to daily tennis nerd — can figure out through trial and error (and fun) which stick works best for hitting winners and upping their game.

645 Fifth St., SF. (415) 777-9010


When you’re winning, it doesn’t matter where you watch. “The Catch” in ’82 could have made prison walls disappear. Super Bowl XXIX (Niners 49, Chargers 26) gave that boiler-room sublet in the Tenderloin charm. Yes, winning throws a glow on your surroundings, but when you’re losing — the 49ers have finished below .500 for the last five seasons; the Giants, for the last three — it’s a different story. You want comfort. You want character. You want beer. Thankfully, there’s Green’s Sport’s Bar on Polk. It’s got all the essentials: 17 high-definition TVs, 18 draft beers, and vintage Sports Illustrated swimsuit editions on the walls. Friendly staff, fanatical patrons, and an interior covered with flags, jerseys, pucks, pictures, and pennants — your game at Green’s is a guaranteed “W” regardless of the score, and a perfect reminder that just because your team’s losing, you don’t have to be a loser.

2239 Polk, SF. (415) 775-4287


We’re perhaps a little too, er, unbalanced to stand upright enough on a surfboard and guide it through the roiling waves, but that doesn’t mean we’re not suckers for hotties in wetsuits. Often you’ll find us curled up with a cup of joe in the dunes of Ocean Beach or Pacifica (or, hell, southern Baja — we’re enthusiasts!) appreciating fine-bodied curler-tamers from afar and merrily offering freshly laundered towels and the pitiful results of our amateur clambake to those who return from the breakers unbroken. But enough about us. This award goes to Aqua Surf Shop for not only outfitting our heroic tsunami-herders with affordable boards, suits, and accessories, but also taking the whole surfwear trend in charitable directions with glamorous fashion shows at 111 Minna that benefit the Edgewood Center for Families and Children and feature the work of several primo local stylists and music makers. With a new Haight Street location to complement its original Ocean Beach store, Aqua keeps growing and growing, proving that surfers really are the gift that keeps on giving.

2830 Sloat, SF. (415) 282-9243; 1742 Haight, SF. (415) 876-2782, www.aquasurfshop.com


Skateboarding may be the coolest sport in the world, but its popularity has come with a price: the loss of authenticity and soul. The subculture used to be underground and dangerous, but thanks to corporate buyouts, heavy MTV coverage, and the X Games, it’s become as innocent as lacrosse. Luckily, Deluxe, a.k.a. DLX, the parent distribution company for Real Skateboards, Thunder Trucks, Spitfire Wheels, Krooked, and Antihero, keeps it real. With a focus on localized production — all boards, trucks, wheels, and clothes are actually made right here in the city — and a dedication to a distinctly San Franciscan brand of skate culture (flannels, beers, and raw street), Deluxe has managed to maintain some integrity as an alternative for the small sect of people who like to skate but hate the mall. Deluxe pros like Mark Gonzales, Dan Drehobl, and Peter Ramondetta are as far as you can get from corporate whores like Tony Hawk and Bam Margera, and the products Deluxe makes bear almost no resemblance to the shit they stock at Westfield Centre.

1111A 17th St., SF. (415) 468-7845, www.dlxsf.com


The Bladium isn’t joking when it bills itself as “big club, big energy.” Situated in a former aircraft hangar on an abandoned naval base, the 120,000-square-foot sports and fitness club has stellar views of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet and San Francisco. Inside, airy dance studios, two indoor soccer fields, an in-line hockey rink, a rock climbing wall, a boxing ring, basketball and volleyball courts, and a kids center mean there are plenty of ways to get hot and sweaty. Did we mention the well-stocked bar and grill where you can offset any potential weight loss from all that working out? The club’s belief in cross-training as the best way to stay healthy translates into plenty of exercise options for one low monthly fee. But beware the darling clothing store situated inside the club. That’s where you may lose the shirt off your back, in exchange for a racy lacy sports bra — all the better to show off your nascent abs.

800 West Tower Ave., Bldg 40, Alameda. (510) 814-4999, www.bladium.com


All the transportation experts say that when it comes to riding bicycles through big-city streets, there is safety in numbers. So if you’re among the majority of San Franciscans who still don’t pedal their way to work, there’s no better day to try it than Bike to Work Day, which occurs each May. This year, for the first time in San Francisco history, official traffic surveys that day counted more bicycles than automobiles during the morning commute on Market Street, a particularly astounding feat given that a court injunction has prevented the city from creating any new bike lanes or making improvements for the past couple of years. The day also features free coffee and other goodies from “energizer stations” (often staffed by very attractive “energizers”) around town and a Bike Home from Work afterparty, where you can flirt with the steel buns set and toast your merry mileage.



SFC Double Dutch: Best Non-Kinky Rope Skills

San Francisco has never been known for its wholesome use of rope — check Kink.com for a taste of “normal” SF-style rope play — but that’s all changing now that the Double Dutchesses are back on the scene. The DD girls, four supersexy city girls with mind-boggling rope skills, made a big splash a few years ago with their quirky jump rope routines and blood-drenched performance art skits. But despite DD’s efforts, the great double dutch resurgence never quite took off, probably because choreographed jump roping is hard as hell. The girls laid low for a while, working diligently on their routines, but now they’re back. Their new jump rope instruction organization, SFC Double Dutch, is dedicated to spreading the joy of jump rope. So untie your bondage slave and sign up for classes at CELLspace or Studio Garcia before they fill up. Uptown, downtown; everybody’s gettin’ down.

214 Clara, SF. (415) 618-0992, www.sfcdoubledutch.com


McKinley Park: Best Swingin’ on a Star

You might not have had the need — or the opportunity — to plan an over-the-top, no-holds-barred romantic date recently. Let’s face it: it’s hard to get a date in this city, let alone get one you’re actually excited about. But just when you’re least expecting it, someone wonderful lands in your lap, and you find yourself frantically trying to come up with something that will impress. May we suggest McKinley Park, a hidden gem atop Potrero Hill. It’s an ideal date stop: the swing set at the edge of the sleepy playground stunningly overlooks the entire city. Soaring through the night air, you feel as though you’ll launch into the stars. It’s even better to bike up to the park, despite the major hill climb required, as the rolling hills sloping down toward Third Street provide the best cycling roller coaster this city has to offer — with an ocean view.

20th Street at Vermont, SF


Even though the Presidio is gradually entering a slow hostile takeover by corporations (vanity museums, Lucasfilm) and big parking lots, it’s still San Francisco’s throwback to the past. The farther you get from the fancy park gates, the further back in time you travel. Near the coastal bluffs, time becomes completely irrelevant, making the Presidio the perfect place to reenact scenes from the greatest slacker movie of all time: The Big Lebowski. With a bowling ball, some beers, and a few other geeky friends, the Presidio Bowl becomes your personal set for faux nihilism and cutting repartée. Twelve lanes and a bangin’ snack bar (bacon-and-egg cheeseburgers, anyone?) sate you while the doobie wears off. And who can’t appreciate the value of an endless fountain of warm, imitation nacho cheese? Sadly, you’ll have to make the film’s emblematic White Russians yourself — the Bowl only serves beer, wine, and malt liquor. But there’s nothing wrong with ordering a glass of half-and-half on the rocks and doctoring it with your flask, is there?

93 Moraga, SF. (415) 561-2695. www.presidiobowl.com


If you don’t do a double take when you see a six-foot-four female impersonator screaming at a Muni driver on Market Street because he rear-ended her ’57 Chevy, congratulations. You’ve officially arrived as a proper San Francisco citizen. Where else is it considered commonplace to see a trolley hit a tranny? Yet even the most seasoned SF residents might turn their heads at this: grown men, dressed in skintight spandex and frilly lingerie, sprinting through Golden Gate Park with bikes hiked over their shoulders. This occasion, the Outlaw Cyclocross Race, is the unofficial annual opener for Northern California’s October–February cyclocross race season, in which dozens of hardcore, or ridiculous, cyclists cross-dress to avoid an entry fee. Zooming off in a cloud of dust, the froofy men (and a few tie-wearing women) race through a closed-circuit loop filled with steep hills and insurmountable logs. This slightly nonlegal event has kept itself well-hidden from permit-demanding eyes for almost 15 years. To find it, you’ll have to listen in the fall for strident yodels and ripping lace.


You celebrate the same birthday over and over. You’ve begun to contemplate Botox. And let’s not even talk about your waistline: Your muffin top runneth over. In our youth-centric, waif-y culture, where are the breaks for the older or plumper folks? The Double Dipsea Race is one. This 14.2-mile footrace, a round-trip between Stinson Beach and Mill Valley held in June, is age-handicapped: the oldest runners are given up to a 25-minute advantage over a scratch group of younger pups. The race has a few more swerves from convention. Women over 140 pounds and men over 200 can take special prizes. And runners who frequent those North Bay trails would do well to take note of the race’s permissible shortcuts. The race offers these corner-cutters because founder Walt Stack wanted to encourage women and older folks to participate. The course is still grueling — a 2200-foot nongradual elevation gain, uneven, rocky footing, and yes, the infamous 600-plus Mill Valley steps. Yet it offers a gorgeous and breathtaking (if you have any left to take) vista of the Pacific.



There was a time when San Francisco was ground zero for skate culture. Spots like the Justin Herman Plaza, Hubba Hideout, and Pier Seven cranked out pro after pro and bred a scene more stylish and full of big-city attitude than the world had ever seen. It was great for the city’s skaters who enjoyed fame, money, and industry-wide respect, but the corporations that owned the plazas, ledges, and staircases were unanimously pissed off. Ledges were capped, security guards were hired, and special laws were created to make sure San Francisco became as undesirable for skaters as an empty swimming pool for Olympian dog-paddlers. Most of the SF skate scene may have vanished since the attack, but it never died. The new Portero Del Sol Skatepark is proof. New pros, up-and-comers, and established vets like Max Schaff and Karma Tsocheff have been tearing that shit up since the cement dried back in April.

Utah and 25th St., SF.


If you’ve ever met someone from Pittsburgh, you’ve met a Steelers fan. Steel City natives are serious about sports. San Francisco has a surprisingly large number of Steelers bars, where transplants and trend-followers throw back brewskis at 10 a.m. on football season Sundays. But Giordano Bros. sandwich shop in North Beach makes you genuinely feel like you’re back in the ‘Burgh itself. It’s not uncommon to hear the hoots of former elementary school classmates running into each other, beer is available in buckets — and authentic Primanti Bros.–style sandwiches are served. These wonders are stacked with your choice of Italian meat (try the hot cappicola) and slathered with cheese, oil and vinegar, and french fries between thick-sliced Italian bread. (Add boiled egg for the full experience.) Four large TVs ensure everyone can see the game. When the Steelers win, Giordano’s proprietors pass around Iron City, a brew found only in Pittsburgh. Because, in Pittsburghese: “Every one of yinz Stillers fans gets a victory swig dahn ‘ere.”

303 Columbus, SF. (415) 397-2767, www.giordanobros.com


The folks at Fog City Wrestling want you to watch a luchador slam a Tom Cruise impersonator into the floor. They want you to see a Samoan take-down team (combined weight: 1,100 pounds) take on the “Reno Punks” in a swirling, convoluted drama of independent pro-wrasslin’. Sweaty, in-your-face, “maybe knock you over if you’re in the front row” wrestling has come back to San Francisco after what promoters Caesar Black and Steve Armani claim has been a 30-year absence. Fog City’s shows are packed with so many acts, highlights, and subplots that things get raucously confusing. With a full-size ring and professional sound and lights, it brings a high level of showmanship with a big ol’ plate of athleticism on the side. Wrestlers like Rikishi, the Mexican Werewolf, and Mister Primetime pull big-show moves — flying back flips, body slams, and pile drivers — just like them whut you see on the tee-vee.



As a San Francisco resident, it’s your born (or inherited, or adopted) duty to be a Giants fan. It doesn’t matter that baseball is boring or that scandal rocks the team every year that they don’t completely suck. But just going to a Giants game can be as sporty as playing baseball — and you don’t even have to enter the ballpark. Grab a pony keg and some friends, don your orange fright wig, set up camp on the stone benches across from the waterway by AT&T Park, and while away the afternoon or evening watching the kayakers on the bay wait to catch fly balls. You’ll almost be able to see the big screen where the game is projected. Or, if you actually care about what’s going on inside, press your eyeballs up to the right of the bicycle-parking check-in and you’ve got the best field-side seats in the park. Why pay $6 per Bud to watch the Giants lose when you can drink your own beer, listen to the cheers and jeers, and enjoy some amateur watersports?

Food & Drink




Blurring the line between rustic and contemporary Italian, this Mission newbie doles out specialty pizzas, inspired cocktails, and two dozen antipasti options.

1199 Valencia, SF. (415) 695-1199, www.berretasf.com

Runners up: Spork, Spruce


Sugar Café

Fresh-baked pastries and near-regal environs make Sugar Café a refined coffee shop by day, while moody lighting and seasonal cocktails turn it into a perfect after-work lounge.

679 Sutter, SF. (415) 441-5678, www.sugarcafesf.com

Runners up: Cafe Flor, Atlas Cafe


Saigon Sandwich

Three bucks and a quick stroll through Civic Center will get you one of Saigon’s crave-worthy banh-mi, the timeless combo of marinated pork, barbecue chicken, or tofu on a chewy baguette.

560 Larkin, SF. (415) 474-5698

Runners up: Little Saigon, Cafe Dolce



The charming Mission haunt continually wins over San Franciscans from all walks with seasonal ingredients, great service, and an incredible vino selection.

3621 18th St., SF. (415) 552-4055, www.delfinasf.com

Runners up: Incanto, Tomasso’s


Citrus Club

From spicy curry to garlic shiitake, when it comes to slurping noodles on the cheap, this Upper Haight noodle house has something for everyone.

1790 Haight, SF. (415) 387-6366

Runners up: Hotei, Mifune


Taqueria Can-Cun

So what keeps Can-Cun packed until the wee hours? Slightly seared tortillas wrapped around well-seasoned meat; close proximity to prime drinkin’ spots; and horchata that just won’t quit.

2288 Mission, SF. (415) 252-9560; 3211 Mission, SF. (415) 550-1414; 1003 Market, SF. (415) 864-6773

Runners up: El Farolito, El Metate


Cha Cha Cha

The sangria flows freely, the small plates are built for sharing, and the good-time vibes never stop at both Cha Cha Cha locations.

1801 Haight, SF. (415) 386-7670; 2327 Mission, SF. (415) 648-0504, www.cha3.com

Runners up: Andalu, Ramblas


Blowfish Sushi to Die For

High-tech decor meets Zen service at Blowfish, the Mission’s den of floppin’ fresh fish, where innovative sushi platters and anime-filled LCD screens are the norm.

2170 Bryant, SF. (415) 285-3848, www.blowfishsushi.com

Runners up: Ebisu, Tsunami


A la Turca

At A la Turca, delectable pita and perfectly seasoned lamb meet on the cheap, smack in the center of the Tenderloin.

869 Geary, SF. (415) 345-1011

Runners up: Cafe Troya, Bursa Kebab



San Francisco’s favorite South Indian restaurant, Dosa churns out some mean curries, aromatic rice dishes, and of course a variety of savory dosa, its namesake Indian crepe.

995 Valencia, SF. (415) 642-3672, www.dosasf.com

Runners up: Indian Oven, Shalimar



This authentic Peruvian spot serves up fresh ceviche, seared ahi, and herb-crusted rack of lamb to salivating diners.

24 West Portal, SF. (415) 759-8087; 2114 Fillmore, SF. (415) 447-2668; 3945 24th St., SF. (415) 695-0549; www.frescasf.com

Runners up: Limon, Mi Lindo Peru


Burma Superstar

With 22 ingredients, the rainbow salad here shows that this Inner Richmond joint pays attention to the details. Imagine what it does with ginger, curry, and basil.

309 Clement, SF. (415) 387-2147, www.burmasuperstar.com

Runners up: Mandalay, Pagan


Miller’s East Coast West Deli

Miller’s authentically conjures the Eastern Seaboard with mountainous Reubens, steamy matzo ball soup, and cheese blintzes in portions that are bigger than your face.

1725 Polk, SF. (415) 563-3542, www.millersdelisf.com

Runners up: Moishe’s Pippic, Mr. Pickles



With a menu full of eggs Bennies, loads of classic French options, and Bloody Marys by the pint, it’s no wonder that people happily wait hours for a brunch at Zazie.

941 Cole, SF. (415) 564-5332, www.zaziesf.com

Runners up: Tangerine, Boogaloo’s



Forward-thinking Specialty’s lets you order hearty sandwiches, fresh salads, and made-from-scratch soups online or at one of its seven citywide locations.


Runners up: Zuni, Chow


Cliff House

The cliff-side art deco joint offers classic cocktails, a refined old-school menu, and floor-to-ceiling windows for taking in stunning ocean vistas and the Pacific sunset.

1090 Point Lobos, SF. (415) 386-3330, www.cliffhouse.com

Runners up: Beach Chalet, Greens


Memphis Minnie’s

This Lower Haight staple serves up brisket and pulled pork so tender that urban tailgaters don’t even need the three delicious tabletop sauces available for slatherin’.

576 Haight, SF. (415) 864-7675, www.memphisminnies.com

Runners up: Everett and Jones, Big Nate’s



Situated in the geographic center of the city, Sparky’s is a 24-hour melting pot of urban carnivores and herbivores, with kitschy environs, a menu packed with diner staples, and bottomless cups of coffee.

242 Church, SF. (415) 626-8666

Runners up: Nopa, Grubstake


Gary Danko

White linens, a doting waitstaff, and a celebrity chef … dropping a whole paycheck at Gary Danko’s innovative Californian spot is easy.

800 N. Point, SF. (415) 749-2060, www.garydanko.com

Runners up: Boulevard, Kokkari


Tu Lan

Located near the intersection of Sixth and Market Streets, Tu Lan serves up the best dive meal around, with enormous portions, order-by-number efficiency, and authentic pho.

8 Sixth St., SF. (415) 626-0927

Runners up: Pakwan, Naan ‘N’ Curry


Octavia Lounge

Our readers are head over heels for the charms and attentions of the staff at fabulous cabaret-restaurant Octavia Lounge.

1772 Market, SF. (415) 863-3516, www.octavialounge.com

Runners up: Luna Park, Stinking Rose


Bob’s Donuts

Bob does most of his baking right before last call, endearing him to Tenderloin bar rats and music venue castoffs citywide.

1621 Polk, SF. (415) 776-3141 King Pin, Peoples Donuts


Ritual Roasters

Sleek, minimalist environs, an endless parade of MacBook Airs, and fair trade coffee make this the default destination for hipster techies.

1026 Valencia, SF. (415) 641-1024, www.ritualroasters.com

Runners up: Blue Bottle, Philz



The extensive selection of craft beers at Toronado can be bewildering. Fortunately, the bar lets you sample as many tasty local brews and fancy imports as it takes to make a decision.

547 Haight, SF. (415) 863-2276, www.toronado.com

Runners up: Monk’s Kettle, La Trappe



Taking the pretentiousness out of the vino experience, Bacar boasts a three-story wine wall and a book-size menu by the taste, glass, flight, and bottle.

448 Brannan, SF. (415) 904-4100, www.bacarsf.com

Runners up: Cav, Yield


Christine Rammey at Martuni’s: Best Classic Cocktails


Decorum stops with the slickly made manhattans, sidecars, and martinis: raucous show tunes, flamboyant crowds, and heaps of drunken revelry here break the mold.

4 Valencia, SF. (415) 241-0205

Runners up: Aub Zam Zam, Rye


Orbit Room

This stylish mid-Market spot can do things with basil, cucumber, and ginger that are positively subversive by classic cocktail standards.

1900 Market, SF. (415) 252-9525

Runners up: Bourbon and Branch, Cantina


Fog City News

Sure, Fog City peddles thousands of periodicals in its tiny Financial District locale, but cacao-lovers also drop by for one of the country’s largest chocolate collections.

455 Market, SF. (415) 543-7400, www.fogcitynews.com

Runners up: Edible Love Chocolate, Recchiuti



Locally grown veggies and organic Niman Ranch beef set Burgermeister’s charbroiled beauties apart, but freshly cut fries and fountain root beer put this place over the top.

86 Carl, SF. (415) 566-1274; 759 Columbus, SF. (415) 296-9907; 138 Church, SF. (415) 437-2874; www.burgermeistersf.com

Runners up: Barney’s, Big Mouth Burgers


Ike’s Place

The rock star of the San Francisco sandwich scene, Ike’s Place puts magic on bread: whether you like it stacked or Spartan, vegan or meaty, this Castro joint rocks the sammy like no other.

3506 16th St., SF. (415) 553-6888, www.ikes-place.com

Runners up: Hazel’s, Yellow Submarine


Acme Bread Company

Buttery croissants, chewy baguettes, and herby ciabatta bread make up the carb-laden menu at this Ferry Building favorite.

Ferry Building Marketplace, Embarcadero at Market, SF. (415) 288-2978

Runners up: Arizmendi, Tartine


That Takes the Cake

The fluffy homemade cupcakes at That Takes the Cake range from Southern red velvet to carrot cake — and conjure up blissful childhood memories of stuffing your face with frosting. Mmm, frosting.

2271 Union, SF. (415) 567-8050, www.saralynnscupcakes.com

Runners up: Kara’s Cupcake, Citizen Cupcake


Cheeseboard Collective

This Berkeley co-op serves up specialty pizza, baked goods galore, and an impressive menu of artisanal cheeses.

1512 Shattuck, Berk. (510) 549-3055, www.cheeseboardcollective.coop

Runners up: Cowgirl Creamery, Say Cheese


Samovar Tea Lounge

Serving up grounding doses of ritual and history with every fair trade, organic, and seasonal cup of loose leaf, Samovar also programs cultural-specific tea services.

498 Sanchez, SF. (415) 626-4700; Yerba Buena Gardens, Upper Terrace, 730 Howard, SF. (415) 227-9400, www.samovartea.com

Runners up: Leland Tea Company, Lovejoy’s Tea Room



Nothing kills a hangover like playing hooky from work, chain smoking Parliaments, and sucking back a Bloody Mary on Zeitgeist’s gigantic patio.

199 Valencia, SF. (415) 255-7505

Runners up: The Ramp, Home


Café Gratitude

Café Gratitude caters to the raw set without isolating the rest of us; sustainably farmed local ingredients and communal seating make this the best vegan bet around.

2400 Harrison, SF. (415) 824-4652, www.withthecurrent.com

Runners up: Cha-Ya, Millennium



From wood-roasted calamari to warm goat cheese crostini, the rustic-chic appetizers that come from Nopa’s open kitchen are organic bits of heaven.

560 Divisadero, SF. (415) 864-8643, www.nopasf.com

Runners up: Betelnut, Town Hall


Citizen Cake

Decadent chocolate ganache, a rotating cupcake roster, and cookies aplenty make this Hayes Valley café a primo dessert destination.

399 Grove, SF. (415) 861-2228, www.citizencake.com

Runners up: Mission Pie, Tartine


Ferry Building Farmers Market

Not many markets can hold a candle to creamy cheeses, craft breads, organic fruits and veggies, and specialty oils outside a San Francisco landmark.

Ferry Building Marketplace, Embarcadero at Market, SF. (415) 693-0996, www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com

Runners up: Alemany, UN Plaza


Eatwell Farms

For a seasonal dose of heirloom tomatoes, summer squash, and fresh basil, look no further than the local, certified-organic wares of Eatwell’s CSA program.


Runners up: Planet Organic, The Fruit Guys

Food & Drink — Editors Picks


An unpalatable shocker: despite the massive quantities of Filipino folks in the Bay Area, gourmet Filipino food has been nigh impossible to find. Sure, lumpia, those little egg roll–like wonders, are ubiquitous at street fairs, and that national dish of the Philippines, adobo (well-grilled meat slathered in the eponymous marinade and served over rice), can be found at many Hawaiian joints and Asian cultural festivals. But what about a classy take on the unexplored bounty that is Filipino cuisine? Palencia in the Castro reduces us to babbling superlatives with its inventive yet traditional dishes, including a melt-in-your-mouth sisig na boy, a combination of diced fried pork, cherry tomatoes, and green onions, and dreamy kare kare, oxtail stewed in peanut sauce with still-crisp vegetables. The interior, dotted with votive candles, trimmed in teakish wood, and edged with manila walls, appeals to a romantic notion of the islands. And yes, there’s heavenly adobo, either pork simmered in garlic sauce or chicken in coconut milk, with vinegar, fermented soy, crushed red peppers, and bay leaves. Palencia’s prices may call for a special occasion, but the tastes will linger long after the bill’s been paid.

3870 17th St., SF. (415) 522-1888, www.palenciasf.com


Remy Nelson of Mojo Bicycle Café

There are few combinations as simple and viscerally satisfying as reclining on the seat of your ’74 Monte Carlo enjoying a $10 hummer and a puff or two on the glass dick. I mean, you gotta relax, right? However, it’s all about trying new things, or putting together old things in new combinations. Like, picture this: the Monte Carlo is in the shop, and you’re pedaling down the road on the Schwinn Varsity 10-speed you inherited from your pops. You realize two things: (1) This bike rides like shit, and (2) Damn, I picked a bad week to give up crack and hookers — I’m really gonna need some strong coffee before my head explodes. Mojo Bicycle Café has got you covered: you can have your ride wrenched on while you glug an expertly poured triple cappuccino, perhaps noshing on a salad or sandwich while you make small talk with your sponsor. If you decide to give up on the Schwinn, you can peruse the selection of bikes for sale, including the new line of city cruisers by Swobo.

639A Divisadero, SF. (415) 440-2338, www.mojobicyclecafe.com


Calling Sabra Grill the “best glatt kosher meal in Chinatown” sounds like a backhanded bitchslap along the lines of Flight of the Conchords’ paean to the “most beautiful girl in the whole wide room.” But it’s no joke: Sabra is the city’s only restaurant with a full-time resident mashgiach (supervisor of adherence to kashrut, or Jewish dietary laws). Everything on the Israeli menu is generously portioned, and you can’t go wrong with the greaseless, well-spiced falafel tucked inside a perfectly pillowy pita with luscious tomatoes, crisp lettuce, saucy tahini, and pickles, washed down with a Maccabee beer. But don’t go on weekend nights: Sabra closes, of course, two hours before sundown on Friday and all day Saturday. Sabbath, sweeties, although a special for-Shabbat takeout menu is available.

419 Grant Avenue, SF. (415) 982-3656, www.sabragrill.com


The gaggle of teenagers at Sweetheart Cafe is here for the impressive selection of boba tea, coffee “freeze” drinks, shaved ices, slushies, and smoothies, plus perhaps a snack of popcorn chicken and a bag of muscat gummies to go. But the item that really puts the sweet in Sweetheart is the ginger milk, a Hong Kong creation of warm sweetened milk and fresh ginger juice, which gels the milk. Some versions of ginger milk have the texture of flan, but this one is more like cappuccino — served in a coffee cup, it has a thick, foamy cap of custard above warm, peppery, ginger-laced milk. It’s the perfect foggy–weather drink (and yes, that does include Irish coffee). If you’re feeling more dessert-minded, try it with the optional bird’s nest or harsmar (a topping made from the dried fallopian tubes of a frog, it has a glutinous texture and sweet flavor).

909 Grant Avenue, SF. (415) 262-9998


Indian food is pretty much the best stuff on the planet, but it’s hard to eat casually, like, say, when you’re really drunk and nowhere near a table with plates and cutlery. Most ravenous sots will forgo the greasy cartons of mixed sabzi and chicken masala in favor of something more drunk-friendly, like a burrito or a slice of pizza. But there are plenty of tikka freaks who’ll risk slimy fingers and curry-stained sheets just to get a bellyful of spicy brown-and-yellow glop. Well, they don’t have to. Zante, a pizza parlor in Bernal Heights run by an Indian chef with a doctorate in dough flipping, has been serving up handheld versions of classic Indian Cuisine for years. It sounds like magic, but Zante’s “Indian pizzas” are really just traditional dishes baked onto pieces of naan bread. Genius.

3489 Mission, SF. (415) 821-3949, www.zantepizza.com


The geoduck (pronounced goo-ey-duck) is a bivalve mollusk that lives deep under the sand, alerting potential predators of its presence with a geyser-like spray. This culinary delight, which can be up to three feet long, looks like a giant clam with a phallic protrusion sized to match. And like many foods that are difficult to obtain and reminiscent of human genitalia, geoducks are considered a culinary delicacy in some places. In this case, those places are Japan and especially China, where geoducks are prized for their savory flavor, crunchy texture, and rumored sexual performance-enhancing qualities. Despite San Francisco’s considerable Asian population, you can only find the suggestive dish in one local restaurant: Kim Thanh in the Tendernob, where tanks of geoducks line the front windows. Not ready to put something so big and foreign in your mouth? Kim Thanh’s salt-baked crab, seafood clay pot, and garlic noodles are great too.

607 Geary, SF. (415) 928-6627


Chef Thomas Peña knows his Mexican — he retains fond and obsessive memories of watching his mother and grandmother prepare traditional favorites in their kitchens, surrounded by family and an overwhelming feeling of comida community. Inspired a few years ago by a meal at a makeshift kitchen in a Mexico City market stall to pass on that sense of tradition to San Franciscans, Peña opened the achingly cute Regalito Rosticeria in the Mission, with its open kitchen, brightly colored walls, and snug dining area. All well and good, but does he bring the goods? Ah, si! His menu eschews fancy Californian flourishes and pumps up the basics: the handmade guacamole soothes and rocks, house favorite pollo regalito (a slow-roasted half chicken with a choice of lemon or chile-garlic marinade) leaps off the bone and into our salivating yappers, and, flawlessly, the chile verde — a stew of green chiles, pork, and green beans — mixes kick with comfort to a startling degree. Regalito means “gift” in Spanish, and we’re delighted to dig our warm tortilla into any of Peña’s bustling kitchen’s special deliveries.

3481 18th St., SF. (415) 503-0650, www.regalitosf.com


Cocktail ingredients seem to be getting more and more esoteric these days, with elderflower liqueur and kumquat garnishes taking the places long held by cheap vodka and nuclear maraschinos. Lingba Lounge’s Bowl of Monkeys may not be able to compete in the Cocktail as Art category, with its basic blend of dark rum, light rum, lime, amaretto, and pineapple juice (all mixers your mom has actually heard of), but it’s giving competitors a run for their money in the Cocktail as Gimmick race. How? With its “garnish,” a flame in the center of the plastic-monkey-rimmed vessel, plus a Polaroid photo taken to commemorate what will surely be a memorable night (especially if you finish the $24 drink, meant for two but big enough for four, on your own). Once you’ve had a Bowl of Monkeys, hit the dance floor and get your monkeys up in someone else’s bowl.

1469 18th St., SF. (415) 647-6469, www.lingba.com


Judging from the standard fare at most of the city’s Japanese restaurants, you might think the Japanese subsist solely on sushi and shabu-shabu. Not so! Japan is so full of weird and wonderful edibles, it would take a lifetime to eat your way through them all. But maybe you can start at Maki Restaurant, San Francisco’s premiere location for wappa-meshi. A “wappa” is one of those ubiquitous round wooden steamers you can find stacked to the ceiling at deep discount kitchenware shops on Clement Street, and wappa-meshi is said container filled with rice and meat, fish, or vegetables that are then steamed together. The flavor, like the best Japanese foods, is subtle and exquisite in its simplicity. Although the menu at Maki punches the pocketbook a little harder than noshing at No-Name used to, as a genteel taste of Kansai cuisine, you won’t find better.

Maki Restaurant, 1825 Post, SF. (415) 921-5215


Established in the fall of 2006 as a temporary culinary experiment by chef Thomas Keller, ad hoc is a delicious casual restaurant located just down the street from Keller’s famed flagship restaurant, French Laundry. The philosophy behind ad hoc is simple: a unique four-course prix-fixe menu is presented daily and served family-style in a cozy, convivial atmosphere. Current chef de cuisine Dave Cruz seems to specialize in comfort food staples like fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits or steak and potatoes, but endows them with haute cuisine flourishes. As with French Laundry, ad hoc’s emphasis is on fresh, organic ingredients and plenty of vegetables — so vegetarians are as welcome as carnivores. And while reservations are certainly recommended, the low maintenance hospitality of ad hoc allows you to experience the magic of Thomas Keller without the three month wait … or the exorbitant bill.

6476 Washington, Yountville. (707) 944-2487, www.adhocrestaurant.com


Chapeau!: Best Après-Dinner Smooch

Though Philippe Gardelle and his wife Ellen started their small Richmond District bistro, Chapeau!, 12 years ago, it remains one of the best sources of French cuisine in the city. Classic but far from pretentious, Chapeau! has a warm, rustic, bistro mood whose roots are more Provençal than Parisian. The menu offers a wide range of delectable dishes, from classic high-cuisine favorites like coq au vin or duck confit served with cabbage and smoked bacon as well as more traditional “peasant” fare like cassoulet. Monsieur Gardelle’s passion for food extends well beyond the plate. He is also the host and sommelier, laughing and drinking his way from table to table. After the meal, the bill comes to the table in a hat (the nominal “chapeau”) and the garrulous Gardelle will not let you leave without a kiss and a hug. As an indication of their success, the Gardelles recently purchased and renovated nearby hot spot Clementine.

1408 Clement, SF. (415) 750-9787


Caitlin Williams Miette with a pop
by Lollyphile: Best Candy for Grown-ups

People always talk about how San Francisco has more singles than any other place on the planet, but that’s just a nice way of saying that this city is full of aging hedonists who refuse to grow up. Marriage, cars, house payments? Yeah, right. Many San Franciscans are content to waste away their late 20s and early 30s in the pursuit of drink, fashion, casual sex, and candy. Yes, candy. With a population composed almost entirely of poorly groomed Peter Pans and tattooed Tinker Bells, it makes sense that the city would produce some of the best candy on the planet. Newest on the confectionary scene is Lollyphile, whose limited runs of gourmet lollipops satisfy the mature palettes of eternally young adults as much as they might make a real kid want to barf. But that’s beside the point. Flavors like bacon-maple and absinthe have been designed for the young at heart, not for those who are actually young.

(415) 690-5198, www.lollyphile.com


A stop by Taquería Can-Cun at 2 a.m. will prove that the Mission is certainly not hard-up for good nachos. But when it’s Wednesday and you’ve already had more than your weekly recommended servings of the Mexican food group, try the Phoenix Pub‘s European take on this layered delight — Irish potato nachos. The pub’s version matches steaming spuds, black beans, jack and cheddar cheeses, guacamole, and crème fraîche in one big cross-cultural medley. Plus, you get complimentary Irish soda bread with table service, or on request at the bar. Add frothy beer on tap, strong Long Island iced teas, and a room full of Steelers fans, and you’ve got a perfect Sunday afternoon — unless, of course, you’re loyal to the Patriots.

811 Valencia, SF. (415) 695-1811, www.phoenixirishbar.com


Kimchee — cabbage shreds fermented with garlic and chili peppers — is about as earthy as it gets. Despite its robust flavors, it need not be crude. Context is everything, and the context at Namu is all about spare, modern style. When a little heap of kimchee appears on your complimentary platter of banchan, it doesn’t look at all out of place — even on a serving dish that looks like something acquired at the SFMOMA gift shop. The geniuses behind the inner Richmond restaurant (a trifecta of brothers: David, Dennis, and Daniel Lee) are all about sophistication, and their restaurant glows like a dark jewel on a commercial stretch of Balboa otherwise lined with Russian bakeries, laundromats, and cheap Chinese restaurants. (You’ll know you’re there when you start having to navigate through clusters of thirtysomethings in sleek black clothes working their handhelds while waiting for tables to open up.) Don’t think you’ll be stuck just eating kimchee here, either. The mostly pan-Asian fare is stellar, as is the surprisingly good burger.

489 Balboa, SF. (415) 386-8332, www.namubar.com


All the Popeyes hopped up on all the spinach in the world couldn’t take Bakesale Betty. This fantastic bakery, famous for brilliant multitudes of chocolate chip cookies and gingersnaps, also serves an astounding fried chicken sandwich well worth a jaunt over the Bay Bridge. A veritable conveyor belt of young bakers on site assemble this breaded-poultry masterpiece with machinelike precision. Add freshly baked bread and jalapeño coleslaw garnish, and you’ve got a sandwich that has lunch-goers lined up around the block. But don’t let the wait scare you. Like any good grandmother, blue-haired Betty and her smiling staff keep the restless children (and hungry adults) occupied with refreshing lemonade slushies and complimentary cookies — not to mention hip-hop, indie rock, or electronic music playing loud enough to keep heads bobbing. Also try this Temescal hot spot’s chicken pot pie, egg salad sandwich, and fresh strawberry shortcake. Take it all to go or people watch at Betty’s genius ironing board patio.

5098 Telegraph, Oakl. (510) 985-1213


Lime: Best Bottomless Morning After


There’s no reason to end your weekend on Saturday night — not when the sassy, gorgeous waitstaff at Upper Market’s Lime are serving bottomless mimosas for $7 on Sunday mornings. The brunch scene is something like a Hollywood movie set, though it’s hard to determine whether that film is more Sex and the City (beautiful people in Fendi shades) or Austin Powers (the chocolate brown and white leather decor is so groovy, baby). Either way, it works for the hungover twentysomethings who consistently fill the dining room, looking for a little protein and a lot of hair of the dog. The menu here is surprisingly good for a place built for a party, and the mini-burgers are perfect for eating even when your hands have the shakes. An extra bonus? You don’t have to bother changing out of the clothes you wore to the club last night — no one else has been home yet, either.

2247 Market, SF. (415) 621-5256, www.lime-sf.com


How glam can yogurt get? Pretty darn fancy-schmancy, according to the sleek, chic, and überstylin’ Jubili. The nation’s Pinkberry-spurred soft-style yogurt explosion continues unabated, but where are the real contenders to Pinkberry’s crown? The immaculate, moderne, and nightclubby Jubili seems to be the only true potential usurper, all with only a trio of flavors: original, peach, and strawberry sorbet. Perhaps it’s because the array of dry, cereal, and fresh fruit toppings is always a boggling delight to encounter. And why choose just one? Jubili ushers in My Parfait, a tall, cool serving of low-fat vanilla yogurt, two fruit toppings, and house granola. Next up, for all you closeted teens who never quite quit gobbling Cocoa Pebbles straight from the box: My Cereal, a serving of cold nubbins or hot oatmeal, milk or soy milk, and one topping. Perfect for spooning up while sitting beside fashiony Asian girls or twentysomethings wearing mouse ears and reading manga. Yami Yogurt — we never knew ye.

1515 Fillmore, SF. (415) 292-9955, www.jubili.com


Cantina is:

1) Filled with esoteric alcohols and weird brands you’ve probably never heard of,

2) Staffed by half of the city’s best cocktail geeks, and

3) Patronized by the other half of the city’s best cocktail geeks.

All of these factors combine to make it a bartender’s bar, the kind of place where mixologists entertain patrons with detailed explanations of just how Cynar, that herbaceous digestif, got its distinctive flavor (13 herbs, the most predominant being artichoke). This also means you can order a Pisco sour — the tangy, egg-white-shaken, grape-brandy-based beverage both Chileans and Peruvians claim as their national drink and argue they invented — while other Bay Area bars are still stuck on caipirinhas. Just don’t blame your hangover on the bartender. If you’re going to drink with the pros, you better prepare like the pros: water, chili-cheese fries from Grubstake, and a 3 p.m. wake-up call.

580 Sutter, SF. (415) 398-0195, www.cantinasf.com


The laws of the working drunkard state that if you’re gonna drink, you gotta eat. Thus, within walking distance of nearly every great SF bar, there sits an equally amazing food stand. The Mission has its taquerías; the Castro has its all-night diners; and most neighborhoods have late-night pizza and Thai. But SoMa’s got something special: Crepes A-Go-Go, which robs European burritos of their foreign mystique by serving them from a broken-down trailer, the way God intended. After a night of dancing and debauchery, hit up the shack near Harrison Street for down-and-dirty crepes. You won’t find delicate Suzettes here, but you can score just about any other variation on the theme. Sweet, savory, sickening? Yup. Equipped with multiple brands of hot sauce, vegetables, meat, assorted cheeses, and jumbo jars of Nutella, this French chuckwagon will have you digesting your hangover away before your head hits the pillow … or sidewalk.

350 11th St., SF. (415) 503-1294


Somewhere between a latke and a potato pizza, the brambory, a Czech culinary favorite, is both delicious and, in the Bay Area at least, rare. Enter Frankie’s Bohemian Café, where the crisp-bottomed delight is available in several incarnations. Every house specialty starts with a thick base of shredded potato and zucchini pancake, comparable to the comforting potato pancakes you find more easily on the East Coast, which is then topped with mozzarella and your choice of meat: carnitas, sausage and meatballs, BBQ shrimp, chicken and bell peppers, or steak and guacamole. The rest of the menu is decent, standard American fare, but beer options — available in giant steins — are better than average. Add to that a quirky European-cafeteria feel (the bar looks like a deli counter, and small tables are nearly obscured by too many chairs) and cheap prices ($9 for one brambory), and you might just forget you’re in Pacific Heights.

1862 Divisadero, SF. (415) 921-4725


If you belong to the club that believes chef Carlos Altamirano’s first restaurant, Mochica, set and continues to set the standard for Peruvian cooking in the city, you will probably want to join the club that believes his newer place in Bernal Heights, Piqueo’s, is quite as good in its way. Piqueo’s serves “traditional” Peruvian cuisine “with a California twist,” and whatever this means, it’s good. Certainly all the familiar elements of Peruvian food are in place, from those supersize corn kernels to an array of ceviches to desserts made with exotic tropical fruits — not to mention alfajores, the addictive butter cookies layered with dulce de leche. Piqueo’s raises the riveting, if deeply superfluous, question of whether a cuisine as innately rich in wondrous twists and turns as Peruvian needs any California tweakings. The likely answer is no, but chances are you won’t be inclined to complain either way. For one thing, your mouth will be full.

830 Cortland, SF. (415) 282-8812, www.piqueos.com


The Imperial Tea Court may have shed some authentic Chinese teahouse accoutrements (old men, pet birds) when it shuttered its original Chinatown location. But it continues to be San Francisco’s pre-eminent teahouse at its new location in the no-birds-allowed Ferry Building. It’s not for nothing that the Imperial Tea Court is the tea vendor of choice for many local high-end restaurants and hotels. It stocks almost 200 varieties of tea, ranging from basic blends for neophytes to ultrarare aged pu-erhs for aficionados. Most are available for on-site sipping; a gaiwan tea service only runs $5 and makes for a pleasant (yet fully caffeinated) respite from the crazed foodies surging through the Ferry Building Marketplace. And true tea lovers can pick up a few ounces to savor at home.

1 Ferry Building Plaza, #27, SF. (415) 544-9830, www.imperialtea.com


Nestled on a little neighborhood commercial strip four blocks from the Great Highway, the Sea Breeze Cafe looks like a dive. The decor falls somewhere between tacky and unimaginative, the low-budget tables are crammed into a small space (with a few on the sidewalk for alfresco dining during rare fog-free weather). But the lunchtime fare is outstanding and very reasonably priced. The emphasis is on American comfort food — omelets, sandwiches, burgers, and some creative organic salads. The dinner fare is more elegant and expensive, but for brunch, the place is fun, casual, and relaxed. The service is friendly and attentive, kids are welcome, and unlike a lot of upscale eateries these days, the Sea Breeze actually gives you a full plate of food. It’s a perfect place to stop after a walk in Golden Gate Park.

3940 Judah, SF. (415) 242-6022


Absinthe Brasserie and Restaurant:
Best Bar Whose Time Has Come


Being an American sucks in a lot of different ways. Perhaps worst of all is that absinthe has been illegal in this country for nearly 100 years. Our art and literary scenes have undoubtedly suffered because of the century-long ban on genius juice, and we haven’t been able to hold our own in global drinking contests for years. But those days are over. After dozens of court hearings and drug trials, the Association of American Drunkards has somehow managed to convince the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to re-legalize the production and distribution of the Green Fairy. Now Americans can get drunk and hallucinate at the same time, just like the boys across the pond. Get ready, world, the next batch of Hemingways, Picassos, and Van Goghs is about to hit the scene — and Absinthe Brasserie and Restaurant, with its green flights and psychedelic cocktails, is likely to be ground zero for the revolution.

398 Hayes, SF. (415) 551-1590, www.absinthe.com


While it might not have been the actual inspiration for Twin Peaks’ Double R diner, the Peninsula Fountain and Grill has a kooky nostalgia that puts David Lynch obsessives in the mood. Long referred to simply as the “Creamery,” this wood-paneled-and-chrome landmark in the center of Palo Alto has all of the trappings of a family-owned 1950s hang-out. There’s the ol’ Seaburg jukebox that still plays yesteryear’s hits, a working soda-jerk behind the bar, and red vinyl booths for cozying up with your sweetheart. On any given day, the restaurant is packed with Cardinal collegiates, hipster townies, and silver-haired couples ordering the daily specials. As for the menu: if there’s such a thing as Californian home-cookin’, the Creamery has perfected it. Choices include hearty omelets, homemade mac ‘n’ cheese, freshly caught salmon, daily specials like the fab lemon ricotta pancakes, and milkshakes that, alone, are worth the trip. A separate bakery serves fresh breads and cakes every day.

566 Emerson, Palo Alto. (650) 323-3131


Stepping into Izzy’s Steaks and Chops on Steiner Street near Chestnut is exactly like stepping into the living room of Grandpa-with-a-capital-G’s living room — you know, that stereotypical patriarch of yesteryear who liked wood paneling, manhattans, and steak. And like all grandparents’ homes, Izzy’s doesn’t seem to have changed in the past 20 years. The menu still offers big cuts of beef, potatoes au gratin, and creamed spinach, and the classic wine list features lots of full-bodied zinfandels — just as it did in the days before Atkins, South Beach, and the Master Cleanse. In fact, the only proof that Izzy’s has entered the modern age might be the photo on the wall of a seven-year-old Samantha Duvall posing with Ted Danson; now grown up, the daughter of Izzy’s original owner can be found chatting up regulars at the bar over an aptly chosen old-fashioned cocktail. The Marina may have left its unpretentious working-class roots behind, but Izzy’s hasn’t.

3345 Steiner, SF. (415) 563-0487, www.izzyssteaks.com


OK, let’s get this out of the way: The first person to say “you can’t get a real bagel outside of New York” is going to get it. We’re going to jump out of this newspaper and give you an old-fashioned beatdown. We’re sick of the same ol’ Big Apple bullshit about real bagels, and seeing the seasons change, and how it was so cold that one winter your uncle Maury became sterile. Face it, dillhole: you don’t live in New York anymore, and you grew up on Long Island, anyhow, so please, have a tall frosty mug of STFU. The House of Bagels in the Richmond serves a bona fide boiled bagel, which, when matched with the shop’s nova lox in either the standard two-ounce portion or the Jen’s True New York lox bagel sandwich four-ounce whopper, will bring a tear to ol’ Uncle “Ice Cube Nuts” Maury’s eye.

5030 Geary, SF. (415) 752-6000, www.houseofbagels.com


Who says sushi can’t be bar food? Not the folks at the Knockout’s Godzuki Sushi Happy Hour, which draws a laid-back, eclectic, friendly local crowd to the bar every Wednesday. Thanks to wonder duo Tim Archuleta and Erin Neeley of Ichi Catering (many know Tim from Tokyo Go Go), you can munch some swell sushi specials while enjoying Kirin on draft — or other beer, sake, and cocktail specials — plus some rock ‘n’ roll. Place your order with Taka, taking your pick of super-fresh rolls and nigiri, ranging from shiro maguro to inari, and famed specials like yuzu chicken wings. One perennial favorite is the spicy crab and scallop nigiri. Yum! The Knockout also just started Tuesday Raw Bar Night, with shrimp cocktails, oyster deals, and drinks — that means at least two weeknights of drinking that won’t require chili cheese fries.

3223 Mission, SF. (415) 550-6994


How is it possible that beer at the Bean Bag Coffee House is so cheap? Did the owner win a lifetime supply of imported brews on some game show and buy the café to unload them? Is it a state-subsidized effort to herd drinkers toward Divisadero Street? Once you order your $1.75 pint (of microbrew!), you won’t really care. Especially since you can also get a nice cup o’ joe, along with the light atmosphere and pleasant aromas of an espresso joint (as opposed to the darkness and rotting-hops smell of a bar). On top of its cheap beer, Bean Bag has a respectable food menu. While the culinary fare isn’t quite the value the draft options are, many items — like the burger and fried calamari — are as pleasing to your mouth as the pilsner prices are to your wallet.

601 Divisadero, SF. (415) 563-3634


While it might not be completely appropriate to tuck a Fra’Mani sausage into the waist of your pants and scream “peek-a-boo!” as you chase your lover around the kitchen table, it sure is entertaining (for you, at least). And filling lunchtime with lots of meaty double entendres is half the fun of eating Fra’Mani salumi. The other half, of course, is the salumi itself. Fra’Mani’s Paul Bertolli, who lived in Italy and trained under sausage maestros there, has been providing the Bay Area’s chichi-est restaurants with antipasto plate fixings for years. He makes cooked and cured salumi, as well as fresh sausages based on classic Italian recipes (as close to his grandfather’s as he can approximate). Everything at Fra’Mani is made and tied by hand, using the highest-quality, all-natural pork and casings that can be found. From the feather-light mortadella to chewy, salty, perfectly thin soppressata with just a hint of clove, Fra’Mani salumi are fun to play with — but they’re even better to eat.

1311 Eighth St., Berk. (510) 526-7000, www.framani.com


Think burgers and burritos have cornered the market on post-bar, pre-hangover food? Think again. Island Café in the Sunset has a nice, warm, Pacific Island alternative: Hawaiian food! What better way to battle the dark, the fog, and the burning in your belly from your hastily quaffed liquor at last call? It’s hard to argue with the appeal of kalua pork, chicken katsu, macaroni salad, or that pâté of the Pacific: Spam. (How do you think all those hard-partying Hawaiians manage to overcome their hangovers in time for their early-morning surf sessions?) And just in case your tastes fall a bit east of Honolulu, Island’s got the usual diner suspects, too — and all served 24 hours a day.

901 Taraval, SF. (415) 661-3303


There are plenty of places in the city that serve wings, but Kezar Pub serves ’em up with history. This former 49ers hangout gives patrons the option of buffalo or BBQ style, plus 15 televisions with killer satellite reception. And you can guarantee that most of your fellow diners and drinkers are sports fans — with Kezar Stadium, the original home of the football team, right across the street, people often find their way from soccer games, rugby matches, and Roller Derby tournaments directly into the warm, wood-paneled restaurant and bar. Those in the competitive spirit can play games of pool or darts in the back room, while thirsty folks can wash down their wings with one of the many beers on draft. Don’t forget to bring cash, though — while Kezar accepts trash talking, it doesn’t accept credit cards.

770 Stanyan, SF. (415) 386-9292


Is Milpitas the new Chinatown? It’s definitely the place to find the regional delicacies you can’t access easily in San Francisco, and Darda Seafood Restaurant will have you hopping in the car regularly to partake of its popular Chinese Islamic–style — or qingzhen — cuisine. The sizable space is oh-so-conveniently positioned next to the Highways 880 and 237 interchange, in a sprawling Chinese American strip mall. And the hordes of Silicon Valley Chinese, Indian, and Pakistani transplants converging on Darda and filling those huge round tables immediately tell the newbie that he or she found the place. Naturally lamb subs for pork — that otherwise ubiquitous über-Chinese ingredient — here, but oh, what lamb. It’s all fabulous: from the hefty sesame bread with green onions to the hot pots to the meats stewed with pickled cabbage. But the truly unique offering has to be the house-made, hand-cut noodles — soft yet toothsomely substantial, and best with lamb as fuel for riding your pony, or Honda Civic, across the steppes.

296 Barber, Milpitas. (408) 433-5199, www.dardaseafood.com


Presidio Social Club: Best Nuevo USO

When the USO was founded in 1941, its purpose was to give enlisted military personnel a home away from home. Which is exactly what Presidio Social Club does for us civilians — give us a 1941 home away from home. With classic ’40s decor and music, hosts and servers dressed according to period, and upscale twists on down-home classics like sloppy joes, mac ‘n’ cheese, and s’mores, it’s an ideal dining locale for those who remember the good old days — and those who just dress like they do. Make sure you don’t miss the mint smashed peas, a delightful alternative to mashed potatoes, or the cupcakes. None of this is country club fare, but it isn’t meant to be. Who wants to be that stuffy when you might be in a trench, or just in the Tenderloin, tomorrow?

Ruger Street, Building 563, Presidio, SF. (415) 885-1888, www.presidiosocialclub.com


Jesse Miner: Best Vegan Magician

San Francisco is quickly becoming a vegan wonderland. There are multiple natural foods stores in every neighborhood and numerous restaurants that cater specifically to those who shun all animal products. But vegans still suffer from the same impediments to eating fantastic, nutritious meals three times a day that the rest of us do: time constraints, tiny kitchens, and/or a distaste for cooking. Only thing is, it’s even more important for those who cut out entire food groups to pay attention to balancing their diet — one can not live on seitan stir-fry and Tofutti Cuties alone. Enter Jesse Miner, a personal chef who, for about the price of a meal at a fancy restaurant, will make meat-, egg-, and dairy-free meals for families and groups. With 15 years of experience, a degree in natural foods from Bauman College, and an internship at Millennium under his belt, he’s also adept at adjusting menus for other food restrictions, including wheat intolerance, diabetes, and raw food diets. And by the way, don’t miss his peanut butter squares and ginger snaps. (One can’t live on quinoa alone either.)



Where to take elementary-age picky eaters and discriminatingly stylish singles? Nonna knows best, and Gialina — a streamlined yet warmly minimalist, rosy-walled pizzeria that’s made a gastronomic beachhead in the adorable but otherwise culinarily challenged Glen Park village — is here to provide. Owner Sharon Ardiana — formerly of Lime, Boulevard, and the Slow Club — concentrates on a handful of scrumptious starters and salads, one or two roasts, and, last but definitely not least, delectable, slender-crust Neapolitan-style pizzas. It’s tough to choose just one when it comes to her pies, like wild nettle and prosciutto, pork belly and tomato, spigarello and sweet Italian sausage, and summer squash and sundried tomato. Top any with an egg, cooked perfectly soft and ready to be put to work sopping up with crust, and expect kids and coolios alike to emerge grateful and sated. Remarkably, Ardiana ups the modest-yet-well-executed ante even further with her desserts: the only thing better than the chocolate hazelnut sweet pizza are the house-made ices — expect an intense, refreshingly palate-cleansing jolt of ruby grapefruit or Meyer lemon.

2842 Diamond, SF. (415) 239-8500, www.gialina.com


La Ciccia: Best Sardinian Surprise

Yes, yes, North Beach contains some of the best old country–style Italian restaurants in this country and has become synonymous with said saucy fare — so much so, in fact, that one is often hard-pressed to find a superlative spicy meatball in other parts of San Francisco. But little olive-oiled outposts do, indeed, exist, and La Ciccia in Noe Valley is fantastic. It even fills a niche we never knew we yearned to see filled: that of Sardinian cuisine, a robust cookery chock-full of splendid seafood menu items and breezy preparations rife with sweet spices. Who knew we’d want to buy our taste buds a one-way ticket to the sparkling isle of Sardinia? Husband-and-wife team Massimiliano Conti and Lorella Degan work the kitchen and the floor, imbuing the cozy, seafoam-tinted space with a true family atmosphere, and the staff is beyond helpful, especially when faced with questions of pronunciation. (You try ordering the brilliant cocciula schiscionera — clams dusted with bread crumbs — without slipping on your drool.) The wine list is top-notch, the pecorino-drenched pizza a sa Sarda is justly lionized among foodies, and entrées like the tonnu in padella cun cibudda e zaffaranu, pan-seared ahi with saffron onions, float on delicate layers of Mediterranean flavor.

291 30th St., SF. (415) 550-8114, www.laciccia.com


In most Latin cultures, dinner isn’t just a meal — it’s an event. Which is exactly what going to Laurel’s feels like. The small Cuban restaurant, tucked away in Hayes Valley on an otherwise residential street, is festive and relaxed. Hosts and servers, of which there are only two or so on a given night, are friendly but in no hurry — and neither will you be as you sip sangria and nibble fried beef and plantains, all while chatting with a tableful of friends. Though a bit pricey, Laurel’s menu is packed with simple, fresh, savory items for vegetarians and omnivores: particularly good is the seafood-stuffed avocado appetizer, which may have several in your party wishing for a swift end to the travel embargo. And if all of that isn’t enough to get you dancing in the narrow aisle between tables, the upbeat music will. The host might even dance with you.

205 Oak, SF. (415) 934-1575


Loló: Best Turkish-Mexican Eclecticism

You might not expect Turkish and Mexican culinary elements to mix well — or at all. And yet it is just this combination, more a mutual influence on creative cuisine than a true fusion, that qualifies Loló to compete with (and triumph over) the Mission’s other new upscale foodie havens. The menu is full of inspired items like veal carpaccio, shrimp tacos with jicama shells, and empanadas stuffed with rare mushrooms — complemented by a fine wine selection. We especially admire the atmosphere, whose tone is set with whimsical, oftentimes downright silly decor and warm, attentive service. Separate rooms, one including a sit-down bar, can accommodate (in space and in mood) either a sizable dinner party or an intimate tête-à-tête, and an understated classiness means you’ll be equally comfortable in flip-flops or formalwear. Like the Mission itself, Loló blends seemingly disparate elements with eclectic, energetic results.

3230 22nd St., SF. (415) 643-5656


North Beach is a great place for wine and pasta, but don’t you wish you could visit the neighborhood without risking the carb overload and headache? And what’s with all the old-school gangster and beatnik stuff, anyway? Sometimes you just want to kick back with a nice pint of Belgian ale and suck down some clams, burgers, and fries in a space that doesn’t remind you of Jack Kerouac or Godfather movies. La Trappe, a Belgian brew house and restaurant with a weekly-changing roster of 20 drafts and more than 180 bottled selections, is located right around the corner from Washington Square Park, smack in the middle of North Beach. It’s a bilevel job with date-worthy seating upstairs and a huge bar area with couches and larger tables in the basement. Tasty nibbles on the menu include moules à la bierre (mussels in white beer sauce) and pancetta-wrapped shrimp, which you’ll want to wash down with some heady Euro imports, of course.

800 Greenwich, SF. (415) 440-8727, www.latrappecafe.com


San Francisco is a pretty cool town, but it’d be a whole lot cooler if it didn’t shut down so damn early. Most SF restaurants stop seating at 10 p.m., about three and half hours before the prudish citywide last call. A night of drinking for us, then, usually starts with time-saving snacks like tacos or pizza and inevitably ends with a bacon-wrapped hot dog from a street vendor or a box of mush from a late-night Indian spot. But there are ways around the usual drunk diet plan; you just have to know where to look. In the Financial District, look for Globe, one of San Francisco’s best late-night restaurants, with a menu that doesn’t feature a list of toppings or salsa choices — instead, the tiny New American restaurant serves veal, steak, seafood, and veggie dishes until 1 a.m., Monday through Saturday. The upscale menu changes seasonally, so the selections are always fresh, and the classy preparations complement Globe’s spotless-chic interior.

290 Pacific, SF. (415) 391-4132, www.globerestaurant.com


San Francisco is celebrated around the world as a culinary paradise, but all the foodie fanfare has a downside. Sure, you can easily find a $1 million filet or a fresh cut of fish with a side of locally grown organic asparagus. But what if you’d rather have a huge plate of barbecue ribs and an oxtail dripping with fresh grease and pepper sauce? For some real eatin’, head to the outskirts of the city, where underground BBQ houses fill the skies with the sweet smell of smoked flesh. San Francisco’s best unsung casa de carne is Johnson’s BBQ in Portola, an old-school Arkansas-style (meat smoked with apple, plum, and other fruitwoods) barbecue shack that serves the finest flesh in the land slathered with the most atomic hot sauce this side of the Mississippi. The pork is pulled and the chickens have all been choked. But nothing is ever gonna beat Johnson’s meat: it says so right on the window.

2646 San Bruno, SF. (415) 467-7655, www.realgoodque.com


If you dig Indian food — the curries, the dal, the tandoori-roasted breads — but also have somewhat, shall we say, elevated tastes, you will heart Metro Kathmandu, in the Metro Hotel. The cooking is Nepalese, and since Nepal is perched in the Himalayas near India … you see where this is going. There are some nice non-Indian touches on the menu, such as the momos, a lot like potstickers — and hey! China is Nepal’s other monster neighbor. But the food in the main is Indian-ish, and it’s fresh, carefully prepared, and wonderfully seasoned. It doesn’t cost much, either, and this helps boost the restaurant onto the top of the heap of value places. There are restaurants where you can spend somewhat less and get a lot less, but there are more places where you can spend way more but leave with the haunting sense that the additional spendage didn’t get you much. The password is dal, er, deal.

311 Divisadero, SF. (415) 552-0903, www.metrokathmandu.com


Prohibition may have ended in 1933, but the Volstead Act wasn’t completely repealed until the 1980s, when home brewing finally became legal again. That doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty of low-pro ale shacks operating throughout the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s in places like, oh say, Hunters Point. By the time the ban was lifted, countless backyard brewmasters had already refined their methods and were pumping out some of the best porters, lagers, ales, and wheat beers the world had ever tasted. Only, the world couldn’t really taste them because lingering laws concerning global distribution had created an ale-ogopoly of sorts. It wasn’t until the late ’90s that things finally settled and smaller breweries were able to get a piece of the market. Speakeasy Ales and Lagers, a San Francisco brew collective specializing in limited runs of specialty beers (including White Lightning and Hunters Point Porter), “officially” opened its doors in 1997 and has since gained a reputation as one of the best in the West.

1195 Evans, SF. (415) 642-3371, www.goodbeer.com

Sex & Romance



Café Jacqueline

Small, chic, and oh so French, this North Beach gem is an ideal spot to sip wine with your candlelit date while waiting for your made-to-order soufflé.

1454 Grant, SF. (415) 981-5565



Like Craigslist but without all those pesky non-sex-related categories, Eros is the definitive guide to escorts, strippers, BDSM partners, and “adult” dating.



The Cellar

This small subterranean dance club features reasonably priced drinks, theme parties, and singles nights.

685 Sutter, SF. (415) 441-5678, www.cellarsf.com


Foreign Cinema

Upscale cuisine, excellent cocktails, an adjacent art gallery, and a backdrop of films projected onto the wall in the outdoor patio make this a classy choice for a first night out.

2534 Mission, SF. (415) 648-7600, www.foreigncinema.com


Bathrooms at the Lexington Club

Girls like going to the loo together — especially at the Lexington, SF’s favorite lesbian bar.

3464 19th St., SF. (415) 863-2052, www.lexingtonclub.com


Dolores Park

On a sunny day, this sprawling, multifaceted public park is jam-packed with people. Once you finish the breakup talk, just hop to the next blanket over to find your rebound.

Dolores, between 18th and 20th Sts., SF


Dark Garden

This versatile shop offers quality custom corsets for all your costume, special occasion, and seduction needs.

321 Linden, SF. (415) 431-7684, www.darkgarden.net


San Francisco City Hall

Say your vows with simple sophistication in the rotunda of this gorgeous historic building.

1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, SF. (415) 554-4933, www.sfgov.org/cityhall


The Hot Tubs on Van Ness

Clean, comfortable, and calming, each room at the Hot Tubs offers a redwood sauna, a hot tub, a seating area, and controlled lighting and music.

2200 Van Ness, SF. (415) 441-8827, www.thehottubs.com


Church Street Flowers

Friendly petal peddlers offer a selection of quality blooms in traditional and creative arrangements.

212 Church, SF. (415) 553-7762, www.churchstreetflowers.com


Marriage Prep 101

This husband-and-wife team hosts informative, proactive, practical sessions to help your relationship succeed.

417 Spruce, SF. (415) 905-8830, www.marriageprep101.com


My Boudoir: Best Place to Buy Lingerie

My Boudoir Lingerie

The exquisite yet low-key purveyor of intimate finery delights shoppers with a diverse selection of reasonably priced, well-crafted bras, panties, teddies, and more.

2029 Fillmore, SF. (415) 346-1502, www.myboudoir.net


Good Vibrations

It’s famous for a reason: a great selection of toys, books, and accessories; helpful staff; and a comfortable atmosphere.

603 Valencia, SF. (415) 552-5460; 1620 Polk, SF. (415) 345-0400; 2504 San Pablo, Berk. (510) 841-

8987; www.goodvibes.com


Mr. S Leather/Madame S Boutique

Between the two of them, Mr. and Madame S can satisfy any of your leather or latex needs, be it for bondage clothing, kinky sex toys, or sexy bedroom hardware.

385 Eighth St., SF. (415) 863-7764, www.mr-s-leather.com, www.madame-s.com


Superstar Satellite

Home of independent, gay-themed, and top Hollywood movie releases, Superstar is also beloved for its collection of gay adult films.

474 Castro, SF. (415) 863-3333, www.castromoviestore.com


Lusty Lady

The world’s only unionized, worker-owned peep show, the Lusty is a perennial award winner.

1033 Kearny, SF. (415) 391-3991, www.lustyladysf.com



Spa by day and sex club by night, this clean Castro locale provides steam, saunas, showers, lube and condoms, and a diverse selection of music and porn for its male clientele.

2051 Market, SF. (415) 255-4921, www.erossf.com


Center for Sex and Culture

Is there anything the center doesn’t do? Workshops, classes, social gatherings, a library, archives, and special events are all part of its mission of providing the public with nonjudgmental, sex-positive education and support.

(415) 255-1155, www.sexandculture.org


Virgie Tovar

This sex educator, sexual enhancement coach, phone sex operator, and former radio host titillates readers with Destination DD: Adventures of a Breast Fetishist.

www.myspace.com/thevirgieshow, www.breastfetishist.com

Sex & Romance


Cake Gallery: Best Sweet Piece of Ass

Scoring a sweet piece of ass in SoMa has never been difficult, but finding it gushing with chocolate or vanilla? And in a box? For that you’ll have to head to the Cake Gallery, where a three dimensional ass-cake is actually one of the tamer selections on the menu. The policy here is to quickly whip up “anything your demented mind can imagine.” A giant penis spurting Bavarian jizz? Pssh. If you can’t conjure anything crazier than that for your sister’s Quinceañera, you can peruse an album of past creations for ideas: trannies swimming in rivers of piss, clam bumpin’ lesbians, and iconic cartoon characters engaged in bizarre sex acts are just the tip of the iceberg here. Think big! The only order that might get you a sidewise glance is a “normal” one.

290 Ninth St., SF. (415) 861-2253, www.thecakegallerysf.com


Most San Francisco foodies worth their salt wouldn’t consider dating someone who didn’t like oysters. Obvious body-part references aside, oysters are supposedly one of the saltiest, slipperiest, juiciest aphrodisiacs on the planet (due to high levels of libido-increasing zinc) — plus there’s something both sexy and classy about the whole process of eating them. The largest oyster festival on the West Coast, O’Reilly’s Oyster Festival, then, seems like a good place to take someone if you’ve got ulterior motives. With attractions like the “Shuck and Suck Competition” (winner gets innuendo-filled bragging rights for a whole year), cooking demonstrations, an oyster history exhibition, and live music, North Beach’s oystery weekend pretty much completely rocks. Add that other great aphrodisiac — beer — to the equation, and you’d better have some smooth moves planned for when the sun goes down.

Second weekend in May, Fort Mason’s Great Meadow, SF. www.oreillysoysterfestival.com


Let’s face it: San Francisco’s dating scene is exhausting. The excess of attractive, successful single people who live and date within the city limits practically guarantees that whoever you’re dating is probably dating someone else; and if someone wants to settle down with you, you’re not quite ready because your three other options are just too good to discard. That means there are a lot of first dates happening all over the city. And how many times can you go for a cup of coffee at an anarchist café, or dinner at a new trendy restaurant, or an indie show at a tiny dive? For an out-of-the-ordinary meet-and-greet, trek your asses up Diamond Heights (specifically, to Douglass Street between 19th and 20th) to the Seward Slides, sit on the empty pizza box you brought with you, and get ready to shoot headfirst down the awesomest hidden hillside slides in San Francisco. Plus, you’re less likely to run into your date’s other poly partners.

Seward and Douglass Sts., SF.


What’s more romantic than equality? A place to celebrate it right in the center of one of our favorite neighborhoods. That’s what we’ve got with Heart of the Castro Wedding Chapel, a charming locale for commitment ceremonies that opened on the heels of the California Supreme Court decision to allow same-sex marriage. The chapel is run by a collective of friends and activists striving to keep the institution legal while also providing dream weddings for couples who never thought they’d have one. Want something simple and elegant? Something crazy and kooky? The folks at Heart will help you plan it, and then they’ll host it in their lovely Victorian suite. Want a big party in December? Or quickie nuptials tomorrow afternoon? Either way, they’ll try to accommodate you. Indeed, they’re so dedicated to your happiness, they’ll even help you find a different venue if theirs doesn’t work for you. With reasonable prices and a great mission, we love Heart of the Castro so much it makes us want to marry them.

4052 18th St., SF. (415) 626-7743, www.heartofthecastro.com


Forget the Hallmark cards and expensive rings. Valentine’s Day was made for one thing only: boning. You know it, we know it, and all the animals on God’s green earth know it. If you need proof, book a spot at the SF Zoo’s annual Woo at the Zoo for a multimedia, champagne-soaked rundown of the myriad fornication styles the Coital Creator has bestowed upon Her beastly children. Gasp at the site of a horse’s schlong as it enters an unsuspecting mare. Wince at the violent lovemaking rituals of sharks. Imagine penguin orgies and simian BDSM parties. By the time the show’s over, your animal-loving date will be hornier than a bonobo and ready to get down, monkey-style, in the backseat of your Jaguar (or VW Rabbit, if that’s how you roll). If you hear screams of ecstasy in the parking lot after the show, listen closely — we bet some of ’em are human.

1 Zoo, SF. (415) 753-7080, www.sfzoo.org


OK, so the dancers on the Mermaids Cruise don’t actually dress like Disney’s Ariel, but they still do a pretty good job of satisfying whatever deep and dirty fetish you have for that under-the-sea siren. Book a spot for you and your friends any Friday or Saturday — or charter a private ride on another night of the week — and you’ll find yourself trapped on a boat for a two hours with an open bar and randy strippers like goth girl Candy, Brazilian kitten Cheetah, Southern belle Trillian, or hip-hop hottie Vanity. They may not have fish scales, but we bet men and women alike won’t be able to keep their eyes off the mermaids’ tails. Heteros, homos, singles, and couples are all welcome on the restored classic motor vessel. And if women aren’t your thing, the company has a Merman Cruise too.

(415) 859-7052, www.mermaidscruise.com


Want to pick up a hipster punk but can’t handle another night in the Mission. Your best bet is Hemlock Tavern, run by the same folks responsible for Valencia Street favorite Casanova. Located in Polk Gulch (otherwise known as the Tenderloin with higher rent), the Hemlock has a 360-degree bar, plenty of PBR, a pool table, an enclosed and heated smoking room, and bags of peanuts for a dollar — all well worth riding a fixed gear across town for. Plus, there’s often live music in a side room. When the giant red arrow on the wall lights up, you can pay a small cover to see the music or simply stay in the larger bar area and watch music-lovers in tight jeans and studded belts parade past you. Another bonus: this might be the only non-gay bar in San Francisco where the line for the men’s room is longer than the one for the ladies’, which means plenty of opportunity for hitting on cute hipster boys.

1131 Polk, SF. (415) 596-7777, www.hemlocktavern.com


Filbert Street Steps: Best Next Step in Your Relationship

It’s quite possible that the only thing cuter than twosomes of cooing birds are the cooing couples who watch them. For your own chance to go “awwww” with your amore, head over to the Filbert Steps. Yes, this is the locale for feel-good-movie-of-all-time The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, featuring the tiny cherry-headed conures that make their homes in the trees lining the steps for most of the year. To get there, take your sweetie and your fixie through the Broadway Tunnel to Washington Square Park, and head up Telegraph Hill to the base of Coit Tower. Check out the WPA murals on the way, then descend 28 stories down the wooden stairs until you hear distinctive squawks from the flock. Next? Look. Listen. Lock lips. What you do after that is between you, the birds, and the bees.

Filbert and Telegraph Hill Blvd., SF. www.coittower.org


The thing about shelling out for drinks when you aim to impress a hottie is that they go away so quickly (the drinks, definitely; the hottie, possibly). By the time your crush is rattling ice in the base of their empty vodka-cran-lime glass, the object of your financed affections may have moved on to the other end of the bar. But strike up a good rapport with someone at the Lucky 13, Zeitgeist, the R Bar, or Ace’s, and you can spend your hard-earned bucks on a longer-lasting investment with clearer purpose — and a better chance of big returns. The answer? Underwear bearing the bar’s logo. If your paramour accepts the gift, you know you’re on the same page — and possibly on your way to a private, postbar fashion show. Just make sure you get ones you like. After all, both rejection and romance can end with you having to wear them.


Smooth-talking, heavy-handed bartenders and a packed house of good-looking, hormonal twenty- and thirtysomethings boozing it up in muted, raucous style are part of what make Solstice a classic among booty-call bars. If you’ve already got a FWB, this place will get you in the mood — and do it in style. And if you’re simply looking for a bed buddy, you’ll have your pick of young execs with flushed cheeks, loosened ties, and skirts deliberately pushed up high-thigh. The menu’s got classy down-home bar food like Kobe beef sliders with sweet potato fries or gorgonzola mac ‘n’ cheese, so you can satisfy any “not before you buy me dinner” roadblocks. Add in that happy hour that starts at 5 p.m. and food is available until midnight (that’s seven hours to score), and you’re looking at pretty good odds. Speaking of looking good, everyone does after a bottle of wine, so take advantage of Monday’s half-off special.

2801 California, SF. (415) 359-1222, www.solsticelounge.com


Violet Blue: Best Violet Blue

Beloved San Francisco sex writer Violet Blue recently started seeing red when she realized porn actress Ada Mae Johnson had adopted her moniker in 2001 — using it to make 300 films, which earned her the coveted “Best New Starlet” award from Adult Video News in 2002. The conflict came to a head at the 2006 Exotic Erotic Ball, where confusion ensued when SF Violet Blue (her given name) and porn star Violet Blue both attended. Last year the writer of sex books and columnist for SFGate.com sued her doppelgänger to get Johnson to change her stage name. After the writer won an initial victory in the courts earlier this year, the porn star finally changed her name — first to Violetta Blue, then to Noname Jane. We’re happy for Blue, though we assume Noname doesn’t feel the same. She’s probably green with envy.

www.tinynibbles.com, www.myspace.com/nonamejane


Whoever thinks a DVD is the best way to see gay porn never watched it on 8mm. The undoctored color, the absence of grunting, the lurid, jumpy detail … how could you not prefer that to the glossy, homogenous automatons in contemporary adult films? Of course, finding gay porn by way of the DVD’s lasered predecessor isn’t easy — which is where Super8Man comes in. This 8mm-afficionado has collected an impressive number of such films, exhibiting the grainy fantasies at various clubs and venues — like Artists’ Television Access — throughout the city. So keep an eyeball out for this showman and his varied and nuanced delights. Perhaps you’ll even get to see his personal favorite: a madcap vignette of two guys fucking in a van while a wheel man zips them through town with the back doors swinging open. It’s like Disney’s North Avenue Irregulars with lube!

www.super8men.com, www.handbookmen.com


It’s said that vegetarians have the freshest smelling genitals around. But the folks at Millennium seem to know something about the way a flesh deficit affects a vegetarian’s sex life in other ways. Apparently, noncarnivores feel an intense yearning for a four-course meal and an all-night session of cruelty-free lovemaking every month. That’s why they host an Aphrodisiac Dinner and optional accompanying overnight package in a Love Suite at The Hotel California every Sunday closest to the full moon. Gone are the days of curry-scented, low-budget establishments and a grabass session in the VW bus — high-rolling horny vegans can now feast and fornicate in upscale style. You can opt only for the meal ($45), but we suggest the full package ($192) for a more satisfying dessert.

580 Geary, SF. (415) 345-3900, www.millenniumrestaurant.com


It isn’t just the jazz bands that are swingin’ in North Beach. Private club Twist offers couples the opportunity to engage in that other kind of swinging, away from home. Located in a two-story commercial space, Twist provides a club atmosphere for adults who want to play you-show-me-yours-I’ll-show-you-mine with style, sophistication, and secrecy — the club is invitation-only (apply online), very big on etiquette, and very specific about not giving away details about its patrons. No drugs are allowed, but unlike many sex clubs, there is a bar, though it’s BYO wine and beer (no hard alcohol). Visitors like the art on the walls; the washable black covers on couches and beds; and the supply of fluffy towels, condoms, and lube in every room. Voyeurs and exhibitionists love transparent room dividers, while shyer types like the downstairs dance floor and DJ. No single men are allowed, and couples are asked to arrive, participate, and leave together, so this is an especially appealing and safe place for single ladies. Plus, they get in free!

(415) 812-7221, www.twist-sf.com


Looking for a sexy gift? Or maybe a titillating mantelpiece? We suggest photos of you naked, in your favorite corset, or wrapped around your lover, taken at Erosfoto, the boudoir photography studio run by gallery-exhibited artist Suzanne Jameson. A far cry from mall-quality glamour photos, Jameson’s prints fuse fine art principles with her subjects’ ideas, making the result of each private session tasteful and uniquely sexy. Even better, Jameson’s an expert in helping the women and couples she works with feel comfortable. She encourages models to bring their own music, clothing, lingerie, jewelry, and props — or to borrow some from her extensive collection. She also can provide makeup and hair artists upon request — indeed, many brides-to-be kill two birds with one erotic stone by using portraits as nuptial gifts for their spouses and a chance to test out wedding day hair and makeup. The pictures aren’t cheap — it costs $600 for a two-hour session — but you’re welcome to split the cost with a friend who wants to pose too. You get a DVD with digital negatives, and you keep all rights to the photos.

1483 Guerrero, SF. (415) 706-5237, www.erosfoto.net


Stormy Leather: Best Daring Dress-Up Clothes

While roses and rosé may do it for some, others need latex and leather to get them in the mood. The latter lotharios need look no further than Stormy Leather. This SoMa warehouse is a dream for playing daring dress-up, carrying everything from sweet silk corsets to sadistic leather whips — and everything in between. We especially like its line of latex clothing, with styles ranging from Cat Woman to Marilyn Monroe–esque, and the selection of corsets, including the ruffled Colette and military-themed Sergeant. Since Stormy’s a manufacturer as well as a retailer, you can have items custom made to fit your size and preferences (yellow extra small? red silk 5X?) — and the knowledgeable staff to help you figure out what, exactly, those preferences are. What’s even sexier is how involved Stormy is in the community, providing classes in fetish play, hosting art shows, and sponsoring burlesque troupe Twilight Vixen Revue.

1158 Howard, SF. (415) 626-1672, www.stormyleather.com

City Living



N Judah Chronicles

Crazies, crashes, coins! Public transportation is way more exciting than the freeway. Share your tales of Muni woe (and whoa!) with blogger Greg Dewar.




Politics, current events, and culture coverage for people smart enough to distrust “the Voice of the West.” BeyondChron.org is the FUBU of local news sources.



Freddy Corbin, Temple Tattoo

Corbin’s work can be found on the arms and necks of hipsters from here to China. Intricate, original, and flawless. In a word: gangsta.

384 17th St., Oakl. (510) 451-6423, www.templeoakland.com


Black and Blue

The renowned female artists at B&B may not be able to pee while standing (we think), but they’ll man up to the needles any day. The best tattoos in town.

381 Guerrero, SF. (415) 626-0770, www.blackandbluetattoo.com


Gavin Newsom

Is it his creepy smile, his perfect hair, or his questionable policies and personal life that irritates everyone so much? Whatever it is, the dude fucking sucks.


Gavin Newsom

Er, time out. Newsom’s not that bad. He’s kind of sexy in a Zoolander sort of way, and he did stand up for gay marriage. Plus, he’s related to Joanna. Thumbs up, dude. You win.


Homeless Prenatal Program

Being homeless sucks, but homeless and pregnant? Come on! Luckily, HPP has been assisting homeless mothers-to-be with their situation since 1998.

2500 18th St., SF. (415) 546-6756, www.homelessprenatal.org


Nanci Price Scoular

Scoular’s abstract painting style is like an onion, revealing layer after layer of the artist’s struggle to belong.



Liberation Ink

Liberation Ink designs T-shirts and accessories for liberal arts majors, cute activists, and hippies with fashion sense. All profits support local grassroots organizations.

(415) 294-3196, www.liberationink.org



Wading through hordes of blissfully ignorant, clam-chowder-chomping tourists is never much fun, but sometimes the destination is worth it. Alcatraz is such a place — the best, in fact.



Broke-Ass Stuart

Stuart’s city guidebooks may fly off the shelves these days, but the dude’s still broke as shit. It doesn’t stop him from having fun, though, and it shouldn’t stop you either.



The Loin’s Mouth

Read about the ups and tragic downs (plus anonymous sexcapades!) of Tenderloin dwellers every month in The Loin’s Mouth.



Big Top Magazine

Circus freaks, sideshow performers, exhibitionists, and straight-up weirdos. Big Top Magazine gives a voice to them all. Finally!



Six Degrees

Dedicated to the sweet and sexy sounds of international genre-bending, Six Degrees offers the best in contemporary music from across the globe.




Like books? Pirates? Clever writing with a socially conscious twist? Dave Eggers and McSweeney’s wants you!



Dennis Richmond

In a perfect world, all news anchors would be like newly retired Richmond: cool, composed, and confident enough to rock the same mustache through decades of facial hair trends.



Check, Please! Bay Area

Regular Bay Area residents review San Francisco’s finest restaurants. No pretense, no expertise, no bullshit. Genius!



Energy 92.7 FM

Indie rock’s cool and all, but sometimes you just wanna bump Rihanna, Britney Spears, or Gunther. Cut a rug at Energy 92.7, the ass-movingest radio station in the Bay.



Folsom Street Fair

More cock than a chicken fight! More ass than a donkey show! Break out those chaps and grab some lube when the sprawling granddaddy of leather events hits in September.



Mighty Dog

Most dog walkers stop after a stroll, but Mighty will take Fido to the beach, give him a trim, and maybe even introduce him to some hot tail.

1536 Alabama, SF. (415) 235-5151, www.mightydogwalking.com


Little Ark
Grooming Shop: Best Pet Groomer

Little Ark Grooming Shop

Dogs make nice child substitutes, but they can get dirty as hell. Clean ’em up at Little Ark, the best groom shop in town.

748 14th St., SF. (415) 626-7574


Pets Unlimited

Sick pets suck. They whine all day, smell nasty, and repel potential lovers. Get them fixed up at Pets Unlimited.

2343 Fillmore, SF. (415) 563-6700, www.petsunlimited.org


Camp Galileo

Art, science, and outdoor activities for students from prekindergarten to entering fifth grade. Summer camp for creative types.

(415) 595-7293, www.campgalileo.com


Dr. Natasha Lee, Better Living Through Dentistry

Drugs and alcohol will do the trick temporarily, but if you really want a better life, fix your grill at Dr. Lee’s.

1317 Ninth Ave., SF. (415) 731-9311


Dr. Scott Swanson, Parkside Chiropractic

Need a backiotomy? Head to Parkside Chiropractic, where Dr. Swanson will snap your spine back into action.

2394 31st Ave., SF. (415) 566-7134, www.parksidechiro.com


Joshua Alexander, CMT

He will listen to your body and honor what he hears with a plethora of techniques, including energy work modalities ranging from Swedish and deep tissue to shiatsu and polarity.

Castro and Market, SF. (415) 225-3460, www.joshuaalexandercmt.com


Pat’s Garage

Cars may never be as environmentally friendly as bicycles, but they get substantially closer at Pat’s, San Francisco’s premier green auto shop. Plus, organic coffee!

1090 26th St., SF. (415) 647-4500, www.patsgarage.com


Dekko Salon

If you’re looking for a truly individualized experience, get your hair styled at swanky Dekko, San Francisco’s most luxurious hair and art gallery.

1325 Indiana, SF. (415) 285-8848, www.dekkosalon.com


Blue Turtle Spa

Cruelty-free skin products and beauty services for your worldly vessel. Animals shouldn’t have to suffer just so you can look pretty.

57 West Portal, SF. (415) 699-8494, www.blueturtlespa.com


Anthony’s Shoe Repair

There’s nothing worse than showing up to a party in a scuffed-up pair of kicks. Anthony will restitch, resole, and stretch your shoes back to freshness.

30 Geary, SF. (415) 781-1338


Cable Car Tailors

Throw your thrift store finds in a bag with some oversize slacks and wait for CC Tailors to work their magic.

200 O’Farrell, SF. (415) 781-4636



Where else can you find someone actively seeking a “sex-positive, 420-friendly, artsy-fartsy new housemate who likes cats and cooks vegan”?



San Francisco SPCA

Rescuing distressed pooches and wayward felines since 1868, this SPCA outpost offers a stunning array of humane services.

2500 16th St., SF. (415) 554-3000, www.sfspca.org



Drink beer, eat food, and wash duds with stand-up comedians, SoMa punks, live bands, and swingers from nearby One Taste Urban Retreat Center.

1122 Folsom, SF. (415) 861-3663, www.brainwash.com


Bike Kitchen

Give a man a bike; he’ll ride until it breaks. Give him the tools to fix a bike (the Bike Kitchen’s raison d’être); he’ll ride for life.

1256 Mission, SF. (415) 255-2453, www.bikekitchen.org

City Living


We love the independents, and it doesn’t get much more independent than pirate radio. West Add Radio, on 93.7 FM, features some of the most adventurous musical programming in the city — from minimal techno crew Kontrol and Green Gorilla Lounge’s M3 to Cobain in a Coma, a show about music, celebrity gossip, and homo drug culture with a cult following, and Pancake Radio, with prolific DJ Ryan Poulsen. The advantage to flying under FCC radar? Anything goes — the seven dirty words, explicit lyrics, inappropriate banter, obscure kraut rock — if you’re lucky enough to pick up the signal. Otherwise, you can access the live stream and podcast archive online. (Hurray for the Internet.) In addition to its radio programming, West Add has become known for its parties, most significantly the monthly Italo-disco Ferrari at Deco Lounge, but also quirky nights such as “Merry Crass-mas,” a tribute to CRASS. West Add has also started releasing the free zine WAR in collaboration with Aquarius Records. Radio’s not dead!



Driving in these eco-conscious times may be unfortunate, but since 2002, when artists Harrell Fletcher and Jon Rubin stenciled fortunes into each of its parking spaces, the North Beach Parking Garage has offered a curious kind of hope. Some fortunes are cookie classics (“Opportunity is fleeting”). Others are enticingly bawdy (“There is a party inside you” abutting “Your lovers [plural] will never wish to leave you”). Some contain road rage management tips (“It is often better to not see insult than to avenge it”) or reality checks (“Your trouble is that you think you have time”). The best of ’em trigger intriguing dilemmas for the superstitious — do you cast a shadow over your day by parking in “A whisper separates friends”? Do you wait for “You are not a has-been” to become free? If you need to come up for air, hit the garage’s roof: its lovely view of Saints Peter and Paul Church and the Transamerica Pyramid (along with nearby Chinatown clotheslines) will wipe your mind clear of ontological philosophizing.

735 Vallejo, SF. (415) 399-9564


The Melvin M. Sweig Interfaith
Memorial Labyrinth: Best Amazing Journey Inward

The ancient mystical tradition of the labyrinth lives on in front of Grace Cathedral with the ostentatiously named Melvin M. Swig Interfaith Memorial Labyrinth. Laid out in terrazzo in the meditation garden to the left of the cathedral entrance is a replica of the medieval 11-circuit labyrinth on the floor of Chartres Cathedral. A labyrinth is not a maze; there is but one path, and it leads to the center. Yet as with so many other things in life (childhood, religion, partying), the point is the journey. The walk through the labyrinth is surprisingly long and circuitous, one well suited to embodying your preferred metaphor. It’s difficult not to be contemplative as you slowly wend your way through the three stages of the labyrinth: purgation (the walk in), illumination (standing at the center), and finally, union (walking out). You may not have achieved perfect spiritual balance by the time you exit, but you can’t help feeling slightly more enlightened.

1100 California, SF. (415) 749-6300, www.gracecathedral.com


Most people just throw their broken electronics in the trash. If your conscience won’t let you contribute to the 220 tons of e-waste dumped annually in the United States alone, consider hauling the dot matrix printer you’ve been guiltily hiding in the basement for the past 15 years to an electronics recycling service. Green Citizen boasts of its ability to recycle “anything with a plug.” CEO James Kao acknowledges that the actual output of reusable material is often small — consider alkaline batteries, which must be carefully broken down to get at a mere 3 mg of zinc. But the larger advantage is the safe disposal of the toxic substances within your cast-off gadgets, which can leach into the soil if left in landfills. Green Citizen even assigns a unique serial number to every item it recycles, so its various parts can be traced all the way to their final destinations. There’s a small fee for certain items, usually well under $10, but you’ll be a bit more free of guilt. Now about all that consumption …

591 Howard, SF. (415) 287-0000, www.greencitizen.com


Forget the soothing new age music, bubbling indoor waterfalls, and arcane aromatherapy. Sometimes you’re broke, your back is full of knots, and all you want at the end of a rough week is a no-nonsense deep-tissue massage. At Jin Healing for Women a 60-minute full body will set you back $39 — or $30 if you buy a six-hour package. For that price, who cares if they don’t serve cucumber water or slather you in organic clay? The massage style falls somewhere between shiatsu and Swedish: the masseurs use oil, acupressure, and plenty of strength. The best part of the massage is arguably the hot towel treatment at the end. Some may complain that the place is too noisy — it’s not uncommon to hear the receptionist answering the phone or people talking outside — but it’s nothing that earplugs or an iPod can’t block out. While Jin Healing for Women is advertised as serving women only, some have found that men are not turned away if accompanied by a female friend or family member.

999 Powell, SF; 3557 Geary, SF. (415) 986-1111


It’s not easy being blue — especially if you’re short on green and your health insurance doesn’t cover mental health services. Or if you don’t have health insurance at all. Luckily, the California Institute for Integral Studies offers “mind-body-spirit” counseling and psychotherapy on a sliding scale based on your income. The friendly CIIS therapists are graduate students and postgraduate interns working under the supervision of an instructor. With five counseling centers across the city, each with its own specialty, CIIS has expertise in a wide range of “therapeutic orientations,” including somatic, transpersonal, psychodynamic, and gestalt, as well as more conventional modes of psychotherapy. The holistic approach and alternative fee system make CIIS an ideal counseling center for a city like San Francisco.



North Beach has come a long way since the days when Lawrence Ferlinghetti et al. drank gallons of cheap red wine at Caffe Trieste. Though it’s now more frat boy than the best minds of a generation starving, hysterical, and naked, North Beach does sometimes remember its poetic beat heritage. For a weekend each May, Kerouac Alley — recently repaved with cobblestones and stone tablets engraved with quotes by Western and Chinese poets — is home to dozens of emerging and established artists showcasing their recent work in the open air for Art in the Alley. Live music, painting, poetry, and sculpture bring back the creative bohemian buzz that enveloped North Beach before the blonde beer haze did, and the art is always on display at fab sponsor Vesuvio bar for a couple of weeks before the festival. Perhaps best of all, at the end of the alley is surreal karaoke bar Bow Bow’s, where bartender Mama Candy serves a mean Tokyo Tea. After some heady art and a couple of those, you’ll be shouting lines from Howl yourself.

Kerouac Alley, between Columbus and Broadway, SF. www.vesuvio.com


Women’s products and services are all about euphemism. Douche becomes a feminine cleansing product; a period becomes “celebrating one’s femininity.” And of course, the bikini wax, or Brazilian, is really a way to get hair off your cha-cha. Lonni of Lonni’s Punani dispenses with all niceties with the candid name of her Potrero Hill waxing service. Her motto? “Keeping San Francisco smooth one pussy at a time.” The name and motto may be blunt, even crass, but the end results will indeed leave a woman’s naughty bits smooth and ingrown-free. Lonni, a certified aesthetician and a pastry chef with a degree in sociology, forgoes mood lighting and new age music for bright environs, a rocking soundtrack, and fingers quick enough to make you forget she’s ripping hair off your most sensitive regions. (House calls are also offered.) And she doesn’t just stick to the punani: “manzilians” are happily performed as well.

1756 18th St., SF. (415) 215-7678, www.lonnispunani.com


Master artists don’t always work on canvas or paper. Steven R. Young, BCO, uses little plastic orbs as his canvases. And his work never appears in museums: you see it on people’s faces, and most of the time, he’s so good you never know it’s there. Young paints eyes — false eyes, replacements for people who have lost a real eye to accidents, disease, or surgery. The ocularist gets referrals from the top surgeons in the Bay Area, but his studio hardly looks like a doctor’s office: he has the TV blaring much of the time, and he jokes around with his customers, particularly kids. In the end, though, he’s all business as he replicates, by hand, with tiny, fine brushes, the exact look of a customer’s companion eye, restoring much comfort and confidence. His shop also handles the fabrication and custom fitting. The results can be uncanny — we’ve known people who went to Young for a prosthesis, and even from very close you couldn’t tell the fake eye from the real one.

411 30th St., Oakl. (520) 836-2123, www.stevenryoungocularist.com


Kelly Vogel at Float: Best Drug-Free Altered Stat

Sometimes other people are just too much to bear. And it’s always their fault, isn’t it? The guy at the liquor store forgets to stock your brand of cigarettes. Some yuppie in a fancy car nearly runs you off the road. Your manager fires you, your landlord evicts you, your friends diss you. Don’t you wish you could just make them all disappear for a while? Well, if you’ve ever seen the movie Altered States, you know all about sensory deprivation chambers, those weird water tanks psychology students use to study brain chemistry and sleep cycles. In a deprivation chamber you are utterly alone. Your body is suspended in warm water, your ears are submerged so you can’t hear a thing, and it’s totally dark, odorless, and soundproof. The entire world melts away, and you’re left with raw brain waves. Outside of a ketamine trip, it’s the most detached experience humanly possible. Lose yourself at Float, then, an art gallery with a room full of deprivation tanks.

1091 Calcot Place, Unit 116, Oakl. (510) 535-1702, www.thefloatcenter.com


Everybody’s meetin’ Down at Lulu’s — for new clothes and a new hairdo. Co-owners Seth Bogart (of raunchy electro-rap band Gravy Train!!!) and Tina Lucchesi set up shop two years ago and describe the Down at Lulu’s ambience as “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls takes a field trip to the candy factory.” Which is another way of saying that this is a place for hot-blooded people who aren’t afraid of color or taking a dare. They’ll cut you — and you’ll like it! They’ll bleach you and they’ll blow you — dry — and you’ll come back for more! If you’re a girl, you can find the purse you love while you’re waiting for your dye job to set. If you’re a pouty-lipped boy with shaggy hair, ask them to style you like Matt Dillon circa 1979 and you’ll be sure to send a rebel army of crushes over the edge. Down at Lulu’s, that’s where it’s at.

6603 Telegraph, Oakl. (510) 601-0964, www.downatlulus.com


Clancy Fear of Pedal Revolution:
Best Revolution on Wheels

You know, the hippies weren’t just dirty, fatuous potheads with annoying slogans and bad taste in clothes. They were also big into causes. You say you want a revolution? Well, c’mon — we all wanna change the world. There’s got to be an easier way than adopting a baby from Mali, you know? I mean, you’re gonna have to feed and water that kid for, like, 18 years — without the benefit of Brangelina’s army of nannies. How about this for a solution? Not only is Pedal Revolution a full-service bike shop, with both new and used rides, but it’s also a nonprofit that helps at-risk youth gain valuable skills to keep them off the streets. It accepts tax-deductible donations of bicycles, and for $30 a year you can become a member and work on your bike at the Community Membership Workbench, which will give you some skills and save you a bundle on repair costs. Also, the shop’s got really cool logo T-shirts, which means you can show you care without, you know, growing dreadlocks and playing hacky sack in Golden Gate Park.

3085 21st St., SF. (415) 641-1264, www.pedalrevolution.org


Burning Man has inspired and elevated some amazing Bay Area artists over the years, but Peter Hudson, a.k.a. Hudzo, has become a star both on and off the playa using a unique medium: stroboscopic zoetropes. Hudzo is a San Francisco carpenter and stagehand who has designed sets for the San Francisco Opera, Kink.com porn flicks, and the upcoming Milk movie. His first piece for Burning Man, Playa Swimmers, used strobe lights and precise molds of the human form to give the appearance of figures swimming in the desert sands. He’s returned every year with steadily more ambitious projects, which culminated last year in Homouroboros: a bicycle- and drum-powered carousel that conjured up the vision of a monkey swinging from limb to limb, then taking a bite from an apple delivered by a snake slithering down a vine. Installations in San Jose, Minneapolis, and other cities followed. Now Hudzo is busy putting together his next piece, Tantalus, working with a huge group of committed volunteers out of his SoMa home.



Imperial Spa: Best Purification Scrub-down

Housed in a fortresslike former bank building with a forbiddingly windowless exterior, Imperial Spa is easy to mistake for a more, ahem, sensual retreat than it is. This traditional Korean spa, however, turns out to be a model citizen, complete with hot and cold pools; an array of sauna rooms, including an ultratoasty “yellow clay fomentation” space; and its own unforgettable twist: a “purification” body scrub that essentially takes off the top layer of epidermis. Women lie on plastic-lined tables with little to hide behind apart from a teensy towel draped over the booty, while industrious ladies in black bras and panties soak them down, then proceed to zealously scrub every single part of the body with what feels like a scouring pad. And that means every part — parts that you never imagined being attacked with such vigor. Don’t be afraid; don’t be very afraid — you’ll never feel silkier than when you emerge, after an application of milky essential oils, cleaner than you’ve ever felt. Men are also welcome, although their purification scrub is administered by a man, minus the bra and panties.

1875 Geary, SF. (415) 771-1114, www.imperialspa.biz


It’d be far too easy and predictable for the Guardian to give Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius a sarcastic Best of the Bay award for spending the last year beating up the homeless and their advocates in a succession of articles. But Nevius reached a new level of hilarity April 10. When the controversial Olympic torch made its way to San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom was so worried pro-Tibetan demonstrators would clash with supporters of Beijing and the Olympic Games that he clandestinely diverted the torch’s route at the last minute. The result, according to Nevius, is that the swelling crowds of people who were defending China near the ballpark, where the torch was originally expected to pass, didn’t threaten the critics of China’s human rights record. In other words, Nevius seemed to imply that Newsom saved free speech. Uh, yeah. All the red flags in the world are no match for the colossal figures who appeared in San Francisco to support Tibet and condemn Beijing — including actor Richard Gere and motherfucking Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Tutu, you might recall, sleeps with a Nobel Peace Prize around his neck. The pro-Tibet movement doesn’t need Gavin Newsom. Nice try, though, Nevius.


Ever-lurking danger in the streets means that many city kids barely leave their own block, let alone experience the pleasure of long bike rides. But thanks to Cycles of Change, East Bay youth are learning how to venture through the urban jungle and beyond safely on two wheels. The 10-year-old collective, headed by Maya Carson and Grey Goykolevzon, draws inspiration from the famed Bikes Not Bombs project and other like-minded organizations. Run in the basements of approximately 13 Alameda County schools, COC takes kids on training rides and shows them how to obey the rules of the road and navigate safe routes from home to school. Serious bike club members pedal up into the hills on longer rides and also learn marketable skills like bicycle repair and how to run their own after-school programs. The organization, soon to be a nonprofit, would love you to donate any unwanted nonrusty, functional bikes to its bike shop in Alameda.

(510) 595-4625, www.cyclesofchange.org


It takes a girl to understand the issues other girls face today regarding relationships, body image, pregnancy, and parents who don’t understand, or can’t help, or worse, abuse them. It also takes a girl who’s worn those shoes to know how to help another girl get where she wants to go. For the past 10 years, the young women who run GirlSource have been training local low-income teens for their future, by teaching them how to build a Web site, digitally edit photos, take leadership roles, and express themselves through writing. The results are impressive. After receiving SAT prep and counseling on all the teen issues that can thwart potential co-eds, most of the girls participating in the program go on to attend college, where GirlSource continues to support them. Some of them come back to offer peer counseling to new girls coming up, thus completing an important cycle in creating better community.

1550 Bryant, Ste. 675, SF. (415) 252-8880, www.girlsource.org


Before you run down to Best Buy for a new laptop or television set, check out Midtown Loan, San Francisco’s most respected and experienced (50 years in the biz!) pawnshop and cash-advance boutique, for better deals. Conveniently located on beautiful Sixth Street, right where the Civic Center and Tenderloin neighborhoods join up with SoMa at Market Street, Midtown Loan stocks only the finest used jewelry, timepieces, diamonds, tools, and electronics. But that’s not all. Midtown Loan is a working person’s dream come true: a place where you can actually trade your unwanted luxury items for cold hard cash and even get a cash advance on your next paycheck while you’re at it. Got an extra MacBook Pro lying around? A Rolex you never wear? Throw the whole bundle into a dirty backpack and run down to Midtown Loan before your snooty neighbors catch on.

39 Sixth St., SF. (415) 362-5585, www.midtownloan.net


The Unity Foundation, a lively nonprofit, was founded in 1976 to keep the flames of the l960s alive and “promote world peace, cooperation, and unity.” Its founder and president, Bill McCarthy, is a classic ’60s entrepreneur, renowned for producing the stunningly successful 20th- and 30th-anniversary Summer of Love celebrations in Golden Gate Park. Unity accomplishes its ambitious mission through cultural and educational events, media campaigns, and a monthly television program on SF Access, channel 29, called Positive Spin, which is produced by McCarthy himself. Unity hosts annual Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for children in the Mission District, organizes a weekly street-cleaning program, and has thrown three Unity Fairs in the Mission. The foundation also puts together special public service announcements for the United Nations and presents UN-specific segments on its TV program. McCarthy recently set up his own camera crew to get exclusive coverage of a speech by UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon at San Francisco’s World Affairs Council. The United Nations Association, a grassroots UN support group, has recognized Unity with its top national citizenship award.

744 Treat, SF. (415) 550-1092, www.unityfoundation.org


Isn’t it time you stopped just eating healthy and started eating with a conscience? Eat with the Seasons can help you do just that. The community-supported agriculture program, developed a few years ago by farm-family descendant Becky Herbert, delivers locally grown, sustainably produced, high quality organic foods to a drop-off point near you. In conjunction with farms located in San Benito and Santa Cruz counties, Eat with the Seasons assembles personalized produce boxes stamped and sealed with your name on them. Every week you choose what seasonal fresh produce you feel inclined to graze on, how many cage-free eggs you want to fry up, the amount of fair trade coffee you can slurp down, and how much grass-fed beef you fancy barbecuing. Then the Seasons folks collect it all, wrap it up, and deliver it to various drop-off locations in the Bay Area. That means next Sunday you can sleep in without worrying about being late to the farmers market snatch-and-grab.

(831) 245-8125, www.eatwiththeseasons.com


Owing to an unfortunate blip in city zoning laws, alleyways less than 32 feet wide don’t count as — or get spruced up as — streets, and for years Chinatown’s alleys were dark, dirty, and dangerous. Enter Adopt-an-Alleyway, whose youthful volunteers, all from local high schools and colleges, beautify and monitor the neighborhood’s walkways, issuing regular “alleyway report cards” to the local press. AAA also runs the Chinatown Alleyway Walking Tour, which squires you along the back streets under the guidance of locals aged 16 through 23. You’ll get a dose of sightseeing and some interesting nuggets of history — such as the fact that Waverly Place was once known as Fifteen-Cent Lane because of its multiplicity of cheap, queue-braiding barbers, and that Spofford Alley was home to Sun Yat-sen’s secret revolutionary headquarters. You’ll also get honest opinions about an aging neighborhood from young people interested in civil rights and housing issues, and who provide an emotional connection and a real sense of place to tourists, of all people. You may, however, also get a good-natured lecture on litter (meddling kids).

(415) 984-1478, www.chinatownalleywaytours.org


When you walk into the lovely surroundings of the Mindful Body holistic health, fitness, and well-being studio in Pacific Heights, the first thing you notice is the silence. The receptionists speak like calm kindergarten teachers, and you find yourself moving more carefully and opening doors as if they might break. The place oozes relaxation — even the bathrooms, equipped with shower stalls and clean robes, smell ultra-aromatherapeutic. “Through a consistent practice of ‘mindful’ or focused activities, we learn how to tap into our inner intelligence and make choices leading to a life of integrity, fulfillment, peace and harmony,” says founder Roy Bergmann. OK, then! As long as it comes with a back rub. Yoga classes for $15 (with price breaks for memberships and packages) and $70-per-hour massages are definitely a draw here, and the services offered, including the not-as-scary-as-it-sounds Chinese organ massage, or chi nei tsang, are top-notch and myriad. But it’s the highly qualified and serenity-minded staff that really make the Mindful Body a bargain. The friendly teachers, facilitators, and masseurs are worth their weight in Zen.

2876 California, SF. (415) 931-2639, www.themindfulbody.com


In an ideal world, every public school in America would have a music program, complete with appreciation classes, live performances, instruction in playing instruments, and a full curriculum of classical, contemporary, and multicultural styles. Until this utopian vision is realized, though, at least we have Adventures in Music, the San Francisco Symphony’s fantastic community education program. Operating in partnership with the San Francisco Unified School District, the program has been working with students in first-through-fifth grades for five years, training teachers to integrate music into their classrooms, providing kids with instruments and educational supplies, presenting participatory in-school performances four times a year, and bringing classes on a field trip to Davies Symphony Hall for a special concert. AIM encourages students to learn musical concepts and terminology, to become familiar with the sight and sound of different musical instruments, and to understand critical listening as well as music as a medium of artistic expression. And yes, AIM’s education bridges musical genres, ranging from Western classical to traditional Chinese.

(415) 552-8000, www.sfsymphony.org


Western medicine is great for acute problems — like, say, restarting your ticker after a heart attack. But for chronic, systemic, or difficult-to-diagnose ailments, the Eastern approach still seems to have the market cornered on treatments that actually work. (This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.) Acupuncture, acupressure, herbal remedies, medical qigong, and a variety of movement and body work techniques ease the pain of sleep disorders, headaches, chronic fatigue, and joint injuries for many. Which is why we love Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College, a Berkeley institution that not only trains future practitioners but also provides consistent, affordable clinic services to the community. Student workers are skilled and well supervised — but if you’re still not comfortable with them, you can work with a pro for a slightly higher price. The relief you may find from your migraines or your tennis elbow, though, will be priceless.

2250 Shattuck, Berk. (510) 666-8234, www.aimc.edu


They say that once you learn how to ride a bike, you’re pretty much set for life — until the tire pops, your bar tape frays, and the shifting gets a little funky. A bicycle repair class can be a daunting thing, but Dan Thomases’s Bike Maintenance in Three Parts,” offered every three months or so, clears an essential path toward demystifying your rock hopper or 10-speed. The three-part series is run out of Box Dog Bikes, a Mission shop co-owned by Thomases, and takes you from repairing flats to replacing cables and trueing wheels. The Sunday-evening classes are cheap, and more important, small — making for lots of individualized instruction and talk therapy between you, Thomases, and your bike. Thomases says he was inspired by his dentist dad, who schools his patients on preventative maintenance. “I’m hoping the classes will give people an idea of what it takes to be responsible for your bike.”

494 14th St., SF. (415) 431-9627, www.boxdogbikes.com




Green Apple

With thousands of dirt-cheap books, CDs, and DVDs, Green Apple is worth visiting for the witty staff picks alone.

506 Clement, SF. (415) 387-2272, www.greenapplebooks.com

Best Independent Bookstore runners up: Books, Inc., City Lights

Best Used Bookstore runners up: Dog-Eared Books, Aardvark



Mainstream comics are represented at Isotope, but its raison d’être is small-press, independent, and self-published varieties.

326 Fell, SF. (415) 621-6543, www.isotopecomics.com

Runners up: Whatever, Al’s Comics


Fog City News

Nibble designer chocolates while you sift through a staggering selection of magazines, including more than 700 foreign titles.

455 Market, SF. (415) 543-7400, www.fogcitynews.com

Runners up: Issues, Farley’s



This Mission District shop, specializing in fantasy, horror, and science fiction, hosts an author nearly every week.

866 Valencia, SF. (415) 824-8203, www.borderlands-books.com

Runners up: Babylon Falling, Get Lost


Amoeba Music

A Bay Area institution, Amoeba features a formidable vinyl collection and bargain bins overflowing with cheap used CDs.

1855 Haight, SF. (415) 831-1200; 2455 Telegraph, Berk. (510) 549-1125; www.amoeba.com

Best Place to Buy Vinyl runners up: Grooves, Open Mind

Best Place to Buy CDs runners up: Rasputin, Streetlight Records


Le Video

Conceived when the Parisian owner couldn’t find the cult and foreign films she craved, Le Video is known for its large, eclectic inventory.

1231 Ninth Ave., SF. (415) 566-3606, www.levideo.com

Runners up: Lost Weekend, Faye’s



Ambiance junkies love the store’s dedicated staff and massive selection, stretching across several budget octaves and featuring brands like Free People, BCBG, and Betsey Johnson.

1458 Haight, SF. (415) 552-5095; 3985 24th St., SF. (415) 647-7144; 1864 Union, SF. (415) 923-9797;

Runners up: Crossroads Trading Co., Brownies Vintage



Indie Industries

The pared-down Berkeley storefront features prints, graphic tees, hoodies, and dresses by in-house artisans, plus anime-inspired kitsch.

2003 Milvia, Berk. (510) 549-3285, www.indieindustries.com

Runners up: Cable Car Clothiers, Five and Diamond


Chloe’s Closet

Visit Chloe’s for the big selection, sweet Bernal Heights location, and homey atmosphere that’s earned it accolades four years running.

451 Cortland, SF. (415) 642-3300, www.chloescloset.com

Runners up: Little Fish, Pumpkin


Nicacelly: Best Local Designer


Nicacelly’s designs are as colorful and eclectic as San Francisco itself — imagine a schizophrenic geisha sightseeing in Thailand while moonlighting as a hip-hop DJ. You can find her styles at True, Upper Playground, and Density, among other locations.


Runners up: Linda Pham, Sunhee Moon


Brownies Vintage

Brownies has an unusual specialty: deadstock vintage that’s never been washed or worn. The unassuming shop also carries new styles by local and independent designers.

2001 Milvia, Berk. (510) 548-5955, www.brownies-vintage.com

Runners up: La Rosa, Painted Bird


Thrift Town

Thrift Town’s not your tame little vintage boutique — it’s a massive beast of a thrift store, with a huge selection and dizzyingly low prices.

2101 Mission, SF. (415) 861-1132, www.thrifttown.com

Runners up: Community Thrift, Out of the Closet


Shoe Biz

If Kelly of YouTube fame were to shop at any of these footwear outlets, he/she could have only one response: these shoes rule.

1446 Haight, SF. (415) 864-0990; 877 Valencia, SF. (415) 550-8655; 3810 24th St., SF. (415) 821-2528,


Runners up: Gimme Shoes, Rabat



Propeller mixes whimsy, beauty, and function in its showroom, featuring items like ceramic deer-head wall hangings, a chair made to look duct-taped, and dishes that look like they’re in motion.

555 Hayes, SF. (415) 701-7767, www.propellermodern.com

Runners up: Zonal, Monument



Perfect for buying your home’s centerpiece item or simply getting inspiration, Monument has an impressive selection of modern and deco furniture.

572 Valencia, SF. (415) 861-9800, www.monument.1stdibs.com

Runners up: The Apartment, X-21


Alemany Flea Market

Smaller than Alameda’s but more charming, the Sunday Alemany market is a haven for hipsters seeking ironic art, vintage housewares, old tools, and antique art-projects-to-be.

100 Alemany, SF. (415) 647-2043

Runners up: Alameda, Ashby


Cole Hardware

Friendly staff, an impressive selection, and convenient locations have made this independently owned shop a Bay Area favorite since 1920.

956 Cole, SF. (415) 753-2653; 3312 Mission, SF. (415) 647-8700; 70 Fourth St., SF. (415) 777-4400

2254 Polk, SF. (415) 674-8913; www.colehardware.com

Runners up: Brownie’s, Cliff’s


Ambassador Toys

A wonderland of toys, puzzles, coloring books, vintage race cars, collectible dolls, and other unique gifts for kids, Ambassador further charms shoppers with free gift wrapping.

186 West Portal, SF. (415) 759-8697; 2 Embarcadero Center, lobby level, SF.

(415) 345-8697, www.ambassadortoys.com

Runners up: The Ark, Mr. Mopps


Natural Resources

Encouraging mindfulness in pregnancy and child rearing, Natural Resources is an eco-boutique as well as an educational resource.

1367 Valencia, SF. (415) 550-2611, www.naturalresourcesonline.com

Runners up: Day One, Chloe’s Closet


Bernal Beast

Locals love Bernal Beast’s courteous staff, merchandise selection, unique treats (antlers as a chew toy!), and fantastic raw food section.

509 Cortland, SF. (415) 643-7800, www.bernalbeast.com

Runners up: Best in Show, Noe Valley Pet Co.


Paxton Gate

A more eclectic selection of bones, stones, taxidermy, rare plants, and oddball collectibles than Paxton’s could only exist in a gothic novel.

824 Valencia, SF. (415) 824-1872, www.paxtongate.com

Runners up: Heartfelt, Wishbone


Sports Basement

Whether it’s yoga mats, running shorts, tennis rackets, or basketballs you need, this is the place to get them — and often at warehouse prices.

1590 Bryant, SF. (415) 575-3000; 610 Mason, SF. (415) 437-0100; www.sportsbasement.com

Runners up: See Jane Run, Lombardi’s



It’s difficult to find a retailer with a better selection of outdoor gear, from trek shoes to white-water rafting oars — and the return policy for members is unmatched.

840 Brannan, SF. (415) 934-1938, www.rei.com

Runners up: Sports Basement, Wilderness Exchange


Mike’s Bikes

Mike’s does sell bikes and gear, but it’s best known and loved for its knowledgeable, reliable, and friendly service staff.

1233 Howard, SF. (415) 241-2453, www.mikesbikes.com Valencia Cyclery, American Cyclery


Rainbow Grocery

Featuring organic produce at good prices, natural bath and body products, and a selection of vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and other specialty items, Rainbow pleases a full spectrum of shoppers.

1745 Folsom, SF. (415) 863-0620, www.rainbowgrocery.org

Runners up: Elephant Pharmacy, Spring

Shopping — Editors Picks


Sui Generis: Best Sui, Sharp and Sweet

Despite the vast numbers of stylish males who haunt our fair burg, shopping for menswear in San Francisco can be a real downer. You’re either pummeled with dopey high-end “designer” street labels à la G-Star or forced to piece together a credible look from scattershot resale sources — not a bad option in itself, except that every other subculturally fashion-conscious Y-chromosomer is usually elbowing you out of the way to get to the good stuff. Enter Sui Generis, a boutique of impeccably vetted men’s vintage wear on Church Street (another location, featuring dressier consignment duds, recently opened on Market Street). The Generis gentlemen hand-select a dossier of ultrasharp hand-me-down duds that poke the up-on-it eye with longing — rare and perfect tees, plaids of fondest dreams, jeans that scream “do me,” fedoras, scarves, footwear, more — and force us to re-evaluate our look every time we glance up at its display windows. A good thing, then, that Sui’s also manageably affordable. And one-of-a-kind cache is part of the value: no chance of running into your twin from Rolo or Nomads, here.

218 Church, SF. (415) 436-9661; 2265 Market, SF. (415) 437-2265, www.myspace.com/suigeneris_sfo


Sure, Valencia Cyclery has a whole store full of bikes, locks, tools, lubricants, and clothes at their 1077 Valencia showroom, but what makes them so magical is the 1065 Valencia repair shop. They opened in 1985, which means if you need a roller cam on an early Suntour mountain bike brake, a rebuild kit for a Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub, or just a hard-to-find nut with an odd thread pitch, you’re stoked. The back rooms have shelves and drawers full of every imaginable wingding and doohickey for your two-wheeled best friend — and if what you need isn’t there, the manager will order it. The mechanics are actually people you’d trust to work on your bike, not ham-handed hacks with their thumbs on backwards. And best of all, they explain things in plain English, not cooler-than-thou biker-ese.

1065 and 1077 Valencia, SF. (415) 550-6600, www.valenciacyclery.com

Sara Brownell and Nici Williams of
Brew Holster Cult: Best Beer Helmet


You’d think hipsters would’ve come up with an answer to beer helmets ages ago. But it wasn’t until saucy AC/DShe rock ‘n’ roll vixens Nici and Sarah began to face technical tippling difficulties at their shows — including drenched T-shirts and wet amps — that the Brew Holster was born. The studded leather gun sling, created by the girls in their backyard chop shop, kept the rockers’ drinks close and off their clothes while still looking badass. So how to join the Brew Holster Cult? Simply buy one off the Web site and wear it to backyard BBQs, outdoor concerts, all-night barhops, or wherever you need to rock out with your cock out or jam out with your clam out — without losing your booze. Brew it to it!



Quaint, antique- and decor-store-lined Jackson Square got a little chicer — and a little more fashionista-friendly — when Carrots moved into the gracious hood. Sisters Melissa and Catie Grimm named their sublime boutique, tongue firmly placed in cheek, after the petite veggies that built their family’s business, Grimmway. Yet we couldn’t be further from the farm amid Carrots’ lofty yet elegant, European-inspired mix of antiques and industrial decor touches. Visitors are welcome to sip an espresso beneath the zinc 19th-century chandelier while browsing the wares of such covetable young designers as Thakoon, Stella McCartney, Narcisco Rodriguez, Vanessa Bruno, and Peter Som. Men can also find fashion respite courtesy of such desirables as Band of Outsiders, Obedient Sons, and Rag & Bone. The free mini carrot-cake cupcake isn’t your only reward for stopping by and discovering the ideal piece.

843 Montgomery, SF. (415) 834-9040, www.sfcarrots.com


Chances are, if you’re at all familiar with the Bay Area metal scene, you’ve crossed paths with Shaxul, proprietor of Shaxul Records. In addition to distributing and releasing local and rare metal albums, Shaxul hosts a monthly radio show on KUSF (all-metal, natch) and runs a snug storefront on Haight Street, boldly perched opposite the megasize Amoeba Records. The walls are black and decorated with all manner of posters and T-shirts (including a particularly rad High on Fire tee that is sold out on every Internet vendor you might think of). The shelves are packed with vinyl (them things you put on a record player, kids!), CDs, DVDs, and more. And you ain’t gonna find no wimpy selections here: Shaxul almost exclusively stocks bands with names that’d scare your grandma, with brutal sounds to match. Both current (Saros, Hammers of Misfortune, Asunder) and classic (Death, Exodus, Testament) acts are well represented. Emo kids stay home! Everyone else, horns up.

1816 Haight, SF. (415) 831-5334, www.shaxulrecords.com


Helen Keller once said, “Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.” Which may be true, but she forgot to add that it can also be used to accumulate money, secure a long life, and get back at your ex for blowing your housemate. The aromatic candles, incense, and powders at Yoruba Botanica, a Santeria store in the Mission District, have been imbued with a potent form of South American sorcery, so choose your scents wisely. You don’t want to mistakenly buy a death candle for your arthritic grandmother, or some romance dust for your creepy bi-curious roommate. A consultation with one of the women who run Yoruba Botanica will ensure you get the correct smell for your purposes. And for a small fee, they’ll take you in back, read your fortune, and maybe even tell you how to score more ass.

998 Valencia, SF. (415) 826-4967


The Mission Indie Mart, a roaming thrift store, local design showcase, and barbecue that takes place monthly in backyards and at dive bars throughout the Mission District was dreamt up by Kelly Malone, a tattooed hipster chick with three lifelong obsessions: DIY fashion, hard drinking, and good times. Sadly, while her hobbies did wonders for her social life, they caused quite a stir at the Gap, where Malone had been working for more than 10 years. So she set up her own business. Her brainchild has become a staple of Mission dwelling: a monthly opportunity to mingle with artists, musicians, fashion designers, misfits, and fall-down drunks like the founder herself, whose hourly announcements at MIM evolve throughout the day from straightforward information to inebriated performance art. Her best line to date: “The bathrooms are in the back, the T-shirts are in the corner, and the vodka is in my belly. Now come on stage and let’s get naked, bitches. Wooo!”



Charlie’s chocolate factory may be pure fiction, but Miette Confisserie is pure magic. This Hayes Valley confectioner, sister to the Ferry Building’s Miette Patisserie, brings European decadence and childlike devotion to the candy-shop concept. Walls are lined floor-to-ceiling with apothecary jars filled with imported boiled sweets, Dutch licorice, saltwater taffy, fine chocolates, and buttery caramels — all of which can be packaged in custom boxes tied with satin ribbons. But you don’t have to take your treats home. Miette hosts children’s birthday parties, complete with ballerinas, storytelling, and pony rides. Not a breeder? Adults can play too, with private evening fetes featuring champagne and cotton candy. Either option is ideal, considering Miette’s decor is as winsome as its sweets: if the perfectly salted walnut shortbread doesn’t charm you, the black-and-white checkerboard floor surely will.

449 Octavia, SF. (415) 626-6221


Alternative economies sound nice in political lectures at the University of California, Santa Cruz, but they rarely thrive in real life. Sure, there are little free markets that crop up in cities across the world, but they’re usually full of questionable scavengers, dirty hippies, and slumming rich kids temporarily rebelling against “the Man.” And then there’s the stuff they trade — the idea that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure just doesn’t hold water when you see the usual pile of broken plates, outdated VCRs, and defunct Web site promo T-shirts. But thanks to the hipsters behind SwapSF, one experimental trade economy seems to be working. Their secret? Alcohol and music, of course. SwapSF is a seasonal warehouse party that charges $5 and a bag of clothes for entry. It’s a small price to pay for access to dope beats, an open bar, and all the cool togs your friends bought and never wore.



Many people are frightened of French wine, particularly the indecipherable and austere-looking labels — but not you. When your friend goes to a Halloween costume party as an uncorked bottle of Château d’Yqem, you are savvy enough to be amused. You are also savvy enough to know where to find deals on French (and other European) wines — which can still be found despite the dollar’s collapse against the euro: The Wine House. The warehousey setting on the northern foot of Potrero Hill assures you that it’s not ambience or fancy shelving you’re paying for. The staff is knowledgeable, helpful, and friendly. And there are plenty of offerings from Burgundy, Bordeaux, and lesser-known winegrowing regions, especially those in the south of France. Many wines are priced near $5 a bottle, making them competitive with Trader Joe’s plonk. Best of all are regular case discounts, from 10 percent on up, along with occasional case specials (often on fine Côtes du Rhône) even more drastically discounted.

129 Carolina, SF. (415) 355-9463, www.winesf.com


Ensure the longevity of both your children and the world they’ll grow up in at Mabuhay Kids, an eco-friendly baby boutique in Noe Valley named for the Filipino phrase for “long life.” Sporting eco-friendly, safe, and stylish attire from global and local designers, Mabuhay (pronounced “ma-boo-hi”) is a must for JAKC’s organic baby blankets, Stubby Pencil Studio’s soy crayons, and much more. Why trick out your toddlers with gun-toting G.I. Joes or sweatshop OshKosh B’Gosh overalls when you can provide them with sustainably harvested rubber tree tricycles or duds from Ses Petites Mains, who make organic French fashions for little ladies? In light of massive baby product recalls, this is a shop whose wares you can trust — whether your moppet’s got ’em on her bod or in his mouth. Plus, for Noe dwellers, it’s just one biodiesel stroller ride away.

195 Church, SF. (415) 970-0369, www.mabuhaykids.com


A bookstore that sells mysteries shouldn’t be clean and well-lighted. It should look and smell and feel like it came out of the dark streets of Victorian London. And although the San Francisco Mystery Bookstore isn’t by any means dingy or dank, it’s got that wonderful cluttered feel of a place owned by someone who loves books and tolerates a bit of chaos. There are paperback mysteries everywhere — in the shelves, on the windowsill, stacked up by the cash register, tucked away in the back. They’re brand-new, used, or very old and valuable. There are selections by famous authors and some by writers you’ve never heard of. And best of all, the people who work there are as obsessed with whodunits as we are — they seem to have read everything by everybody and are happy to talk, recommend, critique, or chat. Or are they?

4175 24th St., SF. (415) 282-7444, www.sfmysterybooks.com


Bike Yard: Best Bargain Beater Motorcycles

The Bike Yard is every would-be sick boy’s dream come true: a used bike dealership, run by Francisca Feribert, a petite German mechanic who repairs totaled motorcycles and sells ’em cheap. Surrounded by ivy-covered brick warehouses and highway overpasses, the Yard feels like a piece of the country plopped down on the east side of Potrero Hill. Motorcycles and scooters in various states of repair look like they’ve been poured into the cyclone-fenced lot, where they’ve washed up against the sides of a gypsy caravan-style wagon, a small, corrugated metal workshop, racks of tires, and a tattered, sun-bleached Winnebago — all protected by Feribert’s guard goose, Helga. This licensed dealership even handles registration and sells helmets, so you can get riding as soon as you’ve got the scrill. Plus, beaters are especially good for first-timers, who need not wreck a $1,000 ride the first time they drop it.

851 Tennessee, SF. (415) 821-3941, www.bikeyardsf.com


If you like Banana Republic’s simple, well-fitting, flattering clothes but not its reputation for using child labor and cutting down old-growth forests, you’ll love Sunhee Moon. This independent local designer with a “less is more” attitude uses such high quality fabrics and tailored, classic designs that you’ll hardly bat an eyelash at the price tags (tops run between $48 and $118). Women of all body types can find basics in simple, solid colors that somehow manage to maintain a hip, San Francisco-style sensibility. These are cute, modern clothes for home-based creative types who want to feel a bit dressed up, or for professionals working in the Financial District — who are probably the people who can afford to shop here regularly. But if you’re sick of ill-fitting T-shirts and corporate-shopping guilt, an occasional splurge at Moon is well worth the sacrifice.

2059 Union; 3167 16th St.; 1833 Fillmore, SF. (415) 922-1800, www.sunheemoon.com


Whether you’re headed to Club Meat at DNA Lounge, a Fall Out Boy concert, or simply a party full of squares where you’ll be the token “edgy” guy, there’s nothing to make a man feel sexy like a smudge of black kohl around the eyes. But who wants to defile his delicate emo lids with chemical-laden mainstream makeup? Not you. That’s where Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy comes in. This Cole Valley cosmetic emporium features shelf after shelf and wall after wall of beauty products that won’t take a toll on either the planet or your face. There’s even a male makeup artist to give you tips, as well as a dizzying array of browsing-friendly herbal remedies, magazines, and health-related tchotchkes to occupy your friends who refuse to wear guyliner. Oh, and ladies can shop here too.

925 Cole, SF. (415) 661-1216, www.pharmaca.com


Any savvy shopper knows you have to refuel midday if you want to hit all the sales before closing. But there’s no need to resort to food courts and burger stands. Tucked away down Claude Lane, just blocks from Union Square, is Café Claude. Dining at the clandestine café is like spending an afternoon in Paris — arguably the best shopping city in the world — and has similarly replenishing effects (without the price or carbon footprint of a flight to France). Sit inside to enjoy a daily special amid the zinc bar, period travel posters, and vintage tables all rescued from an actual Parisian café. Or refuel with soupe l’oignon, salade Niçoise, and charcuterie et fromage on the petite heated patio. Weary shoppers can also enjoy a full bar and daily happy hours from 4 to 6 p.m. After all, you might need a glass of Sancerre — or a shot of St. Germain — before you take a second glance at your receipt from Neiman Marcus.

7 Claude Lane, SF. (415) 392-3505


It’s likely you’ve never stepped inside Lark in the Morning, unless you’re a musician with highly specialized needs. (Bagpipe reeds? Musical saws? Chinese opera gongs? It’s got ’em.) Time to change that! Though it does most of its business via mail order and its Web site, Lark recently moved from tourist-choked Fisherman’s Wharf to cozier digs in the Mission District, where the diverse inventory of ethnic instruments covers the walls, fills floor space, and hangs from every available ceiling hook. Adventurous beginners (including kids) and pros alike can find what they need here. And unlike certain big-chain instrument stores, Lark is staffed by musicians who are excited to share their knowledge with fellow artists, budding and otherwise. Just don’t test-drive anything by playing “Smoke on the Water” or “Dueling Banjos” — the staff might have to pull a Wayne’s World on you and request a song they aren’t subjected to on a daily basis.

1453 Valencia, SF. (415) 922-4277, www.larkinthemorning.com


Like Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” vision of a sunny pleasure dome filled with caves of ice, Rare Device, that bright little Hayes Valley shop on Market Street, exhibits gorgeous and amazing things. Things, (as the poem says, of course), of rare device. This San Francisco find is actually the sister of a Brooklyn establishment running under the same moniker, and both focus on designer objets d’art from around the world. Stop by once and your list of must-gets could go something like this: Japanese tea cups carved from single blocks of wood, a mouth-blown wine glass with an inverted stem, and a linen silk-screened pillow for your dreamy head. Things you must give as gifts range from the perplexing knitted bowl with a porcelain center to the mind-blowingly obvious bottle opener that says “open.” Well, how else are you going to pop the lid of that milk of paradise at the next housewarming party?

1845 Market, SF. (415) 863-3969, www.raredevice.net


In Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, it is the magic of nature, experienced privately, that transforms Mary and Colin into blossoming children. Though Vines Café is not officially a secret, the quaint coffee house and gallery’s proximity to the typically quiet Thomson’s Nursery next door seems to have a similar effect on patrons. Sitting on the patio of the converted Victorian, one might find time standing still: hummingbirds hover midair to drink nectar from red-flowered pineapple sage while bees and butterflies flit from the lavender to the lemon geraniums to the foxglove plants below. ‘Tis a place that seems built for writing in a diary, reading a fanciful novel, or sketching a whimsical landscape. And if contemplation isn’t your thing, you can occupy yourself by browsing Vine’s antique jewelry gallery upstairs or choosing which petunias you’ll take home with you. Just don’t tell Mr. Craven where you got ’em.

1113 Lincoln, Alameda. (510) 522-8489


Babylon Falling: Best Bookstore for Aspiring Activists

Mark Twain said, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read,” which means that if you ever want to actually learn anything from books, you’re gonna have to get some decent lit. But you don’t need to waste your time surfing on Amazon or searching through library stacks (gasp!) — the rebel academics at Babylon Falling have already done all the work for you. If you really want to learn how to be as subversive as Che Guevara or Chuck D, pop into Babylon and check out its selection of revolutionary literature, graphic novels, art, and music. Babylon also carries a huge assortment of toys, artwork, clothing, and DVDs to complement its collection of more than 3,000 book titles. Plus, it hosts readings, art shows, and signings by literate revolutionaries from the Bay Area and beyond. Babylon will never fall if its citizens learn to read good. You can quote us on that.

1017 Bush, SF. (415) 345-1017, www.babylonfalling.com


Jeremy’s is what all fashion discounters should aspire to be — fluorescent lights, foul dressing rooms, and lack of mirrors be damned. Brick-lined, filled with well-weathered wood and retro fixtures, built like an aging beauty of a department store, and chock-full of full-tilt high fashion and fun bargains, Jeremy’s is catnip to the clothes fiend who has all the desires of an haute couture client but few of the funds. It’s all here, kids: Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Missoni, McQueen, Chanel, Marc Jacobs, Marc Jacobs, Marc Jacobs — all well-edited and last season or older. You wouldn’t guess it, of course. The men’s collections are similarly high style, though often much more pecked over. Pity the poor manly fashionisto in search of a deal elsewhere — you’ll find them here. Also worth perusing are the always delightful collections of unique shoes and boots, junior lines (often culled from Anthropologie and its ultracute, vintage-inspired brand), and accessories, jewelry, bags, and housewares. Items come and go, but, man, do they speed out of the store when Jeremy’s all-store sales are in full effect.

2 South Park, SF. (415) 882-4929; 2967 College, Berk. (510) 849-0701, ww.jeremys.com


Toss the tacky Axe body spray, lose that horrid Aveda sheen, forget dropping oodles of dough on some designer-brand swill that looks better in its fancy bottle then on your handsome man-skin — Nancy Boy products are the real deal when it comes to male image enhancement. Manufactured locally and distributed from a lovely shop in Hayes Valley that also functions as a gallery of rare and covetable glassware, the all-natural line for men features several enormously popular products for local luxury lovers, including an inimitable signature replenishing shave cream infused with natural steam-distilled extract of fresh cucumbers (“not some ‘idea of cucumber’ concocted in some chemistry lab,” the makers assure us), a wildly fab lavender laundry detergent, and myriad other beauty products — not just for metrosexuals and A-gays! They work on scruffy hipsters and women too! — that we never thought we’d come to depend on so much. An extra treat: co-founder Eric Roos’ occasional hilarious, politically satirical newsletter that keeps us in stitches. Who knew beauty could be so spot-on?

347 Hayes, SF. (415) 552-3802, www.nancyboy.com


Jeannine Giordan believes that pet stores are places humans should want to shop in, and that pet food should be made of ingredients animals actually want to eat. So radical! So revolutionary! And, in the case of Giordan’s brand new pet boutique Hazel and Gertie’s, so cute! Housed on the bottom floor of a Victorian on 22nd Street, the shop is clean, airy, and punctuated by tastefully, carefully collected displays of products for four-legged friends, from beds for your beagle to collars for your chartreux. Most impressive, though, is the selection of pet foods, including healthy, organic items by California Natural, Innova, Newman’s Own, and Wysong and raw food by San Francisco–based smallbatch. But Hazel and Gertie’s — named for Giordan’s dogs — is more than just a store. It’s also the outpost for Giordan’s dog-walking business, Gooddog, as well as a self-serve washing station (tub, water, towel, apron, and all-natural soap provided for $15). Giordan even gives referrals for other pet-related services.

3385 22nd St., SF. (415) 401-9663, www.hazelandgerties.com


You refuse to get your wedding dress off the rack, so why buy your guestbook at Target? Especially when Kozo Arts can make you a custom book as special as your ceremony? This small bindery in Cow Hollow specializes in Japanese-style journals, invitations, scrapbooks, photo albums, and guest books, all handmade by one of Kozo’s five artisans. You choose from a wall of gorgeous screen-printed Chiyogami papers, pick a matching imported silk binding fabric, and order the size and page count you want — and you soon have a one-of-a-kind volume for documenting your once-in-a-lifetime event. The small, charming shop on Union Street also has a selection of premade books in its most popular styles, including journals decorated with pink and white flowers and bunnies, a basic red cherry blossom print, and various colored backgrounds embossed with Japanese parasols that are great as gifts. And don’t miss the scrap bin, full of beautiful leftover papers and fabrics perfect for DIY projects.

1969A Union, SF. (415) 351-2114, www.kozoarts.com


Porto: Best Garden of Fashion

We can’t decide which we like better: the imported Italian fashions Porto sells or the building it houses them in. It’s undeniable that the clothes for women are chic, distinctive, and well made. We love the asymmetrical details on Sathia tees and dresses, the fun and flirty sportswear by Deha, the innovative skirts and tops from MC Planet, and the unique detailing on everything by Vasalli. But we especially love how the shop is tucked away from the bustle of Union Street down a long corridor, and how natural light floods the airy, two-story building. Add the adjacent rooftop garden, where Porto’s friendly, helpful owner might let you sip bubbly between purchases, and you might forget about the clothes altogether. That is, until you check out the fabulous sale racks. One visit here and you’ll never need Urban Outfitters again.

1770 Union, SF. (415) 440-5040, www.portoboutique.com


If you like the bold colors, interesting shapes, and exotic romance of Moroccan design, but don’t want your home to look like a college dorm or a swingers’ lounge, you’ll love Tazi. This Hayes Valley showroom is stocked full of Moroccan furniture, textiles, clothing, and accessories — all with a sleek, modern edge. Think mosaic patio tables, bright sofas, metalsmithed lanterns, leather poufs (ottomans), and antiqued doors — most handmade, and all of unmatched quality. Though the Linden Street studio specializes in working with retailers, bars, and restaurants, the staff will also happily help individuals supplement their wardrobe with a gorgeous leather purse, or solve complicated spatial issues with mix-and-match furniture pieces. Plus, Blue Bottle’s just down the street. You can’t get that in Morocco.

333 Linden, SF. (415) 503-0013, www.tazidesigns.com


When Sheila Moon started racing bicycles in 1993, very few companies made cycling clothes designed to fit women. “I started asking friends in bike shops if women’s clothing would be a good idea, and they all looked at me like I was crazy,” she said. Moon went for it anyway. Now, after six years in business, she’s distributed in 32 states, plus Canada, and her extensive line includes caps, jerseys, shorts, and knickers for women and men, with separate styles for professional cyclists and regular ol’ riders. She’s moved her SoMa design studio to a live/work loft in Oakland, but everything is still stitched and shipped from San Francisco. Locals can find styles like her women’s riding britches on her Web site and at shops like Sports Basement, City Cycle, and Mojo Bike Café. And daily commuters should keep an eye out: Moon’s got even more bike-to-boardroom threads in her fall line. (Hint: skirts!)






This mid-Market foodie haven proves that industrial-chic decor, organic ingredients, and a kick-ass oyster bar are a timeless combo.

1658 Market, SF. (415) 552-2522, www.zunicafe.com


Gold Dust Lounge

World-class jazz, absurdly low happy hour prices, and a storied history have kept the Gold Dust a Union Square mainstay since 1933.

247 Powell, SF. (415) 397-1695


Community Music Center

With campuses in the Richmond and Mission districts, the Community Music Center has been making music education accessible to all since 1921.

544 Capp, SF. (415) 647-6015, www.sfcmc.org


Intersection for the Arts

The Bay Area’s original alternative arts venue, Intersection for the Arts, has been going against the grain since 1965.

446 Valencia, SF. (415) 626-2787, www.theintersection.org


City Lights Bookstore: Best Classic Retail Shop

City Lights Bookstore

Responsible for legitimizing the paperback and making San Francisco the center of the literary universe, Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s North Beach shop remains fiercely independent.

261 Columbus, SF. (415) 362-8193, www.citylights.com


Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco’s postcard perfect landmark, only northern exit, and beacon for destination suicides, this iconic suspension bridge has been rockin’ that orange vermillion hue since 1937.

Hwys. 101 and 1, SF. www.goldengate.org


Coit Tower

Coit Tower, the art deco phallic symbol on Telegraph Hill, has been proudly crowning San Francisco since 1933.

1 Telegraph Hill, SF. (415) 362-0808


San Francisco City Guides

This all-volunteer army of local history buffs doles out free walking tours that delve deep into the heart of San Francisco’s past.

100 Larkin, SF. (415) 557-4266, www.sfcityguides.org


Armistead Maupin

Armistead “Teddy Bear” Maupin’s iconic Tales of the City newspaper series has been published in novel form, turned into a television series, and translated into 10 languages.



Richard Diebenkorn

The driving force behind the West Coast’s flirtation with figurative painting by way of abstract impressionism, Diebenkorn found inspiration in his Berkeley surroundings.



Carlos Santana

Revered by guitar buffs, fusion enthusiasts, and stoners everywhere, Santana began his career during the peak of the ’60s rock era and produced the last No. 1 single of the 20th century (“Smooth”).



Wavy Gravy

With his tie-dyed armor, clown nose, and perpetual force field of bubbles, Wavy Gravy — living ice cream flavor, Woodstock MC, and ’60s impresario — now flies his activist freak flag over Camp Winnarainbow.



Harvey Milk

As the first openly gay man elected to public office, Milk helped usher in a new politics — smashing glass ceilings for minority candidates everywhere, igniting the local LGBT rights movement, and establishing San Francisco as a town without closet doors.


“I Left My Heart in San Francisco”

Whether it’s Tony Bennett or Frank Sinatra crooning about the fog that chills the air and the little cable cars climbing halfway to the stars, there’s nary a dry eye when this tune climaxes.



In this 1958 gumshoe thriller, Hitchcock introduced the world to San Francisco the character, complete with impossibly steep hills, panoramic views, and gorgeous architecture.

Classics — Editors Picks


Alternative theater is a precarious vocation at best, even in an alternative kind of town. Venues come and go, companies founder and fold, everyone wants to move to New York, and hardly anyone breaks even. Despite the tough climate, one stalwart survivor of the downtown downturn continues to expand — and celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The EXIT Theatre has been a haven for experimental small productions since its 1983 inaugural performance in the lobby of a nearby residential hotel, and has supported the advancing artistic endeavors of a host of Bay Area faves including mugwumpin, RIPE, Cutting Ball, Art Street Theatre, Crowded Fire, Banana Bag and Bodice, foolsFURY, stealth DIVA Sean Owens, and master illusionist Christian Cagigal. Founder and host of the annual San Francisco Fringe Festival, the EXIT attracts performers and audiences from around the world. Additional festivals such as the DIVAfest, Labor Fest, and the fondly remembered Absurdity Theatre Festival keep them coming back for more.

EXIT Theatre, 156 Eddy, SF. (415) 673-3847, www.theexit.org


In a mega-festival concert world where a bottle of water can cost more than $5, we’re lucky to have Rock Medicine, a nonprofit emergency response service celebrating its 35th anniversary that hands out earplugs, patches up cuts and scrapes, and gets over-excited and dehydrated kids back to the show — all for free. Made up of volunteer paramedics, doctors, and other helpful, rockin’ citizens, the Rock Medicine program is run by the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic, part of the free love legacy of the 1960s. As the concerts of the famous era got bigger and more and more kids flocked to the Bay Area, concert mogul Bill Graham contacted clinic head Skip Gaye, and Rock Medicine was born. Now the organization tries to be present at every humongous musical shindig that takes place, with representatives usually located at a table bearing a giant jug of Gatorade. Rest assured, you’ll never surf the mosh pit without some helpful medical back-up.



Laughing Sal at Musée Mécanique:
Best Place to Score Crank

In the style of London’s Madame Tussauds or the Musée de la Magie of Paris, San Francisco’s own Musée Mécanique is dedicated to exhibiting the beauty of childhood esoterica. Dan Zelinsky’s private collection of hand-cranked musical instruments, antique arcade machines, and automated guignols — many that date from the turn of the century — give visitors a wondrous pre-digital toy experience. Among the many objets d’art, highlights include the automated Drinking Man, who imbibes spirits at the drop of a quarter only to have the liquid recirculate to the cup through his arm; Naughty Marietta, who is seen through the hand-cranked Cail-O-Scope in various states of undress; Laffing Sal, one of the most famous and frightening exhibits purely because of her laugh, and the Orchestrion, a mechanical orchestra that plays a hideously enchanting racket. While some may find these strange machines and life-like dolls less entertaining than disturbing, the Tim Burton weirdo in us adores them.

Pier 45, shed A, Fisherman’s Wharf, SF. (415) 346-2000, www.museemechanique.org


Most rehab centers are cushy, designed for spoiled brats whose parents, managers, or partners are so sick of desperate phone calls and missing jewelry they’ll pay any price for a month of addict-free peace. But what addicts really need is a place that takes no shit and offers real results, providing a path to self-sustenance and a community dedicated to change. That’s what the Delancey Street Foundation, a privately-funded rehab center, has been supplying to San Francisco’s hard life crowd for more than three decades. Unlike many other such facilities where the failure rate is as hopeless as Britney Spears’ attempt to raise children, Delancey Street boasts a 98 percent success rate. And it’s free. All you have to do is show up and prove your dedication to self-improvement. If you pass the test, you’re given a room and an apprenticeship at one of the organization’s 12 former-addict-run enterprises. Selling Christmas trees, frothing lattes, and moving furniture may not be a catered month by the ocean, but it works.

600 Embarcadero, SF. (415) 957-9800, www.delanceystreetfoundation.org


Where can you see a hip-hop dance troupe, a moving human sculpture in Indian classical style, and a Scottish highland romp dedicated to the Celtic god of fire, all in the same short weekend? The San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival was founded in 1978, the first city-funded multicultural dance event in the country. Since then it’s played host to some 14,000 artists performing in more than 100 genres at various locales. This year the festival celebrated its 30th anniversary with flair, expanding its season to four weekends and adding new programming, like film screenings and dance classes. A $100,000 grant enabled festival directors to fly artists in from overseas for the first time. Sadly, Ethnic Dance Fest comes but once a year, but the auditions held in January at the Palace of Fine Arts are open to the public — audience members can expect a standing-room-only, casual atmosphere, and a different act every 10 minutes.

(415) 474-3914, www.ethnicdancefestival.org


There is much to celebrate about the ever-static interior of the beloved House of Shields as it begins its second century of operation. The yellowing Charles McCabe clipping on the wall tells no lies when it proclaims, “Time Stands Still at the House of Shields.” But our favorite relic is not the ruggedly handsome Victorian back bar, the ornate wood paneling, or even the long closed tunnel connecting the old basement speakeasy to the Palace Hotel across the street. And although we enjoy the quirky music programming at this downtown live venue (everything from live blues standards to “twee pop punk”), there’s something more. Discreetly tucked away in the men’s room is the largest single-user urinal we’ve ever seen. No chance of missing the mark with this one. Laid on its back, the mammoth porcelain plumbing fixture could double as a short bathtub. They just don’t make ’em like they used to.

39 New Montgomery, SF. (415) 392-7732, www.houseofshields.com


Jeff Fairclough of Mark Harrington Glass:
Best Crystal Cover-up

So you’re house-sitting at a friend’s swank Noe Valley Victorian, and you decide it couldn’t do any harm to have a few people over and crack a few beers. Before you know it, a misfired attempt to crowd-surf off the billiard table knocks a priceless Wedgwood bowl on the floor, dashing it to pieces. You may not be as screwed as you think. Mark Harrington Glass in the Mission has been repairing glass, crystal, and china by hand since 1932. Co-owner Linda Gotelli says they stay afloat because they’ve cultivated a “niche” in glasswork: they do everything by hand. This is safer for the glass and allows them to take on odd-sized objects, like a five-foot tall antique Italian olive oil jar. Gotelli says she expects her customers to be honest, but admits that the company offers “invisible repairs” capable of fooling all but the most knowledgeable antiquers.

286 Sanchez, SF. (415) 931-6809, www.markharrington.com


The Swedes get to take credit for Ikea and H&M; Legos and modern furniture go to the Danish; the Norwegian cruise around glorious fjords. Finns export Finlandia, while the Icelandic claim Björk and ram scrota soup as their own. If these many accomplishments don’t make Bay-transplanted natives of those consonant-heavy countries lucky enough, they also get a shared cabin in Tahoe (replete with ski boats), a cabin in Clear Lake, and a loft in the city that hosts fabulous parties. All this comes with membership in the Young Scandinavians Club, a 58-year-old organization that encourages pride in Nordic heritage and tons of drinking and wakeboarding with tall, tan, white-toothed, blonde people. So dig into your family genealogy and find old Swedish grandpa Gustaf, or marry Henrik, that green-card-seeking Norwegian, to join. People who have lived in a Scandinavian country for more than six months are also invited into the club. Just say ja.

(415) 346-7450, www.ysc.org


The Hotel Utah Saloon looks like it was hastily assembled out of whatever was lying around — a giant stuffed deer thrusts its head and shoulders through the wall near the door, while the second floor gallery seems to float on the stern of a small wooden boat. You get the feeling that if you came back the next day you might find it completely rearranged, or vanished altogether. This isn’t surprising in a place as old as the Utah, which celebrates its 100th birthday this year. In the early evening, the bar fills with regulars trading anecdotes with tattooed, comely, competence-oozing barmaidens. Around 9 p.m., the music starts and a younger set drifts in. Over the years, the unpretentious Utah has hosted Robin Williams, musical outfit Cake, and countless local bands — yet the door will rarely set you back more than $8. The food runs a tad pricey, but the fried cheese sandwich (“fried cheese” sandwich or “fried” cheese sandwich? Our lips are sealed) is worth it and ample enough for two.

500 Fourth St., SF. (415) 546-6300, www.hotelutah.com


A daytrip to Port Costa is not usually on anyone’s must-do list, unless you ride a Harley, in which case you’re probably already there. This Best of the Bay pick aims to change that. Tucked along the lazy meander of the Carquinez Strait, Port Costa (pop. 250) is exactly the sort of place time forgets. What isn’t forgotten in Port Costa is the art of having a good time — most evident when bellied up to the bar at the Warehouse Café. Filled to bursting with the fanciful detritus of saloon decor such as leather booths, elegantly fringed lampshades, a campy tribute altar to Marilyn Monroe, 1980s-era video games, and a 9-foot tall polar bear in a glass case, the 100+ year-old former grain warehouse also features live music and barbeque on summer Sundays and an everyday list of more than 400 international beers, which you get to pick out of an enormous walk-in cooler on your own — if you ask nicely first.

Warehouse Café, 5 Canyon Lake, Port Costa. (510) 787-1827


Forget that shady dude in the Haight: the best people to score shrooms with are the members of the Mycological Society of San Francisco, a nonprofit formed in 1950 to promote an exchange of information about gathering and eating mushrooms. (Sorry, but we’re not talking about the mushrooms that go with psychedelic felt posters.) The society welcomes any newcomers interested in moving past the white button salad staple to learn about where to gather mushrooms and how to detect poisonous specimens. Lectures and meetings held by professional mycologists are held monthly, and group gathering expeditions provide a chance to bond in the outdoors with your fellow enoki enthusiasts. An adjunct culinary society hosts potluck dinners every month, with every dish, from the chanterelle salad to the candy cap mushroom cookies (trust us, they’re delish) featuring the fungi among us. And don’t forget the biannual fungus fairs, which help the public learn more-l (groan) about mushrooming and mycology.



Skateboarding may have been born on the streets of Los Angeles, but the sport and/or lifestyle would’ve been destined to a future of irrelevance — remember Rollerbladers? — had it not been hijacked more than 25 years ago by the San Franciscan gangstas who run Thrasher Magazine. The founders of the lo-fi zine — now a globally distributed glossy — dedicated themselves to defining what it meant to be a skateboarder as opposed to a surfer bro who occasionally rode around on a piece of wood. The current editorial team, headed by local legend Jake Phelps, carries on that tradition today, infusing a distinct SF feel into modern global skate culture. Thanks to Thrasher‘s coverage of underground music, fashion, and events, skateboarding has grown into a full-fledged subculture with its own set of rules, a truly bizarre crew of nonconformist leaders, and an indisputable spot at the top of the pop culture food chain.



For 30 years the Inner Sunset’s Milano Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant has been helping folks get their piece of the pie. It’s a real-deal mom-and-pop pizza joint where an old TV flickers above the clinking of plates and glasses and the rumbling of the streetcar. The staff buzzes about while friends sit at tables eating heartily, drinking $5 pitchers of IPA, and conversing amiably. Photos line the walls — and this is what really makes Milano special: three decades’ worth of San Francisco memories. Old-time regulars hold up Milano T-shirts, athletes show off regional title trophies, and would-be actors and actresses stare with dramatic intent. There are sepia-toned shots of the owners’ family and a loving memorial to Jack and Dolores, namesakes of the Jack and Dolores Special (Canadian bacon, garlic, onions, feta, and pesto). Many autographed pics of local music acts whose members have worked at Milano are also displayed, including one of DJ Shadow, taken at Milano by Annie Leibovitz for Rolling Stone. But even if you never become quite that famous, at least there’s a hot slice waiting for you.

1390 Ninth Ave., SF. (415) 665-3773


No other Bay Area film production house possesses the charm, history, and long-term awesomeness of Francis Ford Coppola’s 39-year-old art collective turned premier cinematic dream factory, American Zoetrope. The legendary company has put out some of the world’s most acclaimed titles (the Godfather trilogy, Apocalypse Now, Lost in Translation), nurtures local up-and-coming directors and screenwriters, and represents the apex of the classy side of San Francisco’s movie industry. Coppola’s reach doesn’t stop with film, of course. His empire has grown to include an award-winning literary magazine, a distinguished winery, and a restaurant and bar called Café Zoetrope in the fabulously triangular and historic Sentinel Building, American Zoetrope’s operational home base (and also where the Kingston Trio recorded many of their hits, the Caesar salad was reportedly invented, and the Coppola family has its pied-à-terre). Coppola’s team congregates at the bar after work to drink with other esteemed locals like Lawrence Ferlinghetti or chat with legendary tale-spinning bartender Peter.



Café Du Nord turned 100 this year, but the roster of live performers that enlivens this well-appointed, intimate, literally underground music venue remains anything but musty. Forward-thinking (if history-respecting) music makers Rykarda Parasol, Nada Surf, and Raised by Robots joined spunky old-schoolers like Rickie Lee Jones, Was (Not Was), and the Lady Tigra on the schedule this year, and the sometimes raucous Porch Light storytelling series, organized by writers Beth Lisick and Arline Klatte, keeps San Francisco’s literary scene on its toes. Located beneath the Swedish American Hall, Du Nord features several holdovers from its speakeasy days, including trapdoors and an elaborate system of tunnels, and the ghosts of illicit-grog-swilling artists, working girls, and con men are said to sometimes join in the modern-day revelry. Yet updates abound: owner Guy Carson is building a daytime café and gallery adjacent to the music hall; featuring musicians’ art in exhibits that tie in with shows, it’s slated to open in mid-September.

2170 Market, SF. (415) 861-5016, www.cafedunord.com


Need staples? Forget Staples — or any of those other impersonal office supply Borgs from Planet Big Box. For every kind, shape, size, and width of pencil, pen, notebook, or eraser you need, we have Patrick and Company, a 135-year-old purveyor of business necessities that’s been providing all manner of indispensable items since San Francisco was a set of tin shacks in the sand dunes (well, at least the outer reaches of it). Long before the Great Quake hit, the Patrick family was keeping lowly company clerks up to their visors in ticker tape and hand-cranked calculators. But the five Bay Area Patrick’s locations don’t limit themselves to stocking the manila-tinged totems of daily drudgery — they also feature a wide variety of colorful and collectible stickers and other yummy must-wants that add a splash of color to your beige cubicle. Plus: office furnishings! OK, we know, office supplies may not be the most exciting things in the world (to some), but at Patrick and Company they at least come with a history.

Various locations. www.patco.net

Nightlife and Entertainment



Red Vic

From rock docs to cult classics, this Upper Haight co-op’s schedule has kept its cozy couches filled with popcorn-munching film buffs since 1980.

1727 Haight, SF. (415) 668-3994, www.redvicmoviehouse.com

Runners up: Castro, Roxie


Balboa Theater

Packing the house with film festivals, second-run faves, indie darlings, and carefully chosen new releases, this Richmond gem offers old-school charm with a cozy neighborhood vibe.

3630 Balboa, SF. (415) 221-8184, www.balboamovies.com

Runners up: Castro, Kabuki Sundance


Un-Scripted Theater Company

The Un-Scripted improv troupe elevates comedy from one-liners and shtick to full-fledged theatrical productions with a talented cast and eccentric sensibilities.

533 Sutter, SF. (415) 869-5384, www.un-scripted.com

Runners up: ACT, Shotgun Players


Hot Pink Feathers

Blurring the line between cabaret and Carnaval, this burlesque troupe drips with samba flavor (and feathers, of course).


Runners up: DholRhythms, Fou Fou Ha!


Creativity Explored

The cherished nonprofit provides a safe haven for artists of all ages, abilities, and skill levels while making sure that great works remain accessible to art lovers without trust funds.

3245 16th St., SF. (415) 863-2108, www.creativityexplored.org

Runners up: 111 Minna, Hang


De Young

Golden Gate Park’s copper jewel boasts stunning architecture, one hell of a permanent collection, and an impressive schedule of rotating exhibitions.

50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, SF. (415) 750-3600, www.famsf.org/deyoung

Runners up: Asian Art Museum, SF MOMA



From aerial circus arts to metalsmithing, fire dancing to roller-skating parties, CellSPACE has had its fingers all over San Francisco’s alternative art scene.

2050 Bryant, SF. (415) 648-7562, www.cellspace.org

Runners up: SomArts, 111 Minna


DNA Lounge

DNA scratches just about every strange dance floor itch imaginable — from ’80s new wave and glam-goth to transvestite mashups and humongous lesbian dance parties.

375 11th St., SF. (415) 626-1409, www.dnalounge.com

Runners up: Temple, 1015 Folsom


Bottom of the Hill

San Francisco’s quintessential “I saw ’em here first” dive, Bottom of the Hill consistently delivers stellar booking, cheap drinks, and great sound.

1233 17th St., SF. (415) 621-4455, www.bottomofthehill.com

Runners up: Slim’s, The Independent


Club Six

Six blurs the line between high and low, offering an upstairs lounge in which to see and be seen and a basement dance floor for those who want to show off their b-boy prowess.

60 Sixth St., SF. (415) 531-6593, www.clubsix1.com

Runners up: Poleng, Milk



Nothing says “Bay Area” quite like Yoshi’s masterful combo of classic cocktails, inventive maki rolls, and world-class jazz acts.

510 Embarcadero West, Jack London Square, Oakl. (510) 238-9200; 1330 Fillmore, SF. (415) 655-5600; www.yoshis.com

Runners up: Jazz at Pearl’s, Biscuits and Blues


Cafe Cocomo

Smartly dressed regulars, smoking-hot entertainment, and plenty of classes keep the Cocomo’s floor packed with sweaty salsa enthusiasts year-round.

650 Indiana, SF. (415) 824-6910, www.cafecocomo.com

Runners up: El Rio, Roccapulco


Annie’s Social Club

The club maintains its cred by presciently booking on-the-rise punk and hardcore bands and adding a sprinkle of punk rock karaoke, photo-booth antics, and ’80s dance parties.

917 Folsom, SF. (415) 974-1585, www.anniessocialclub.com

Runners up: Thee Parkside, 924 Gilman



Where the drunken masses head after last call, the aptly named Endup is probably the only club left where you can rub up against a fishnetted transvestite until the sun comes up. And after.

401 Sixth St., SF. (415) 646-0999, www.theendup.com

Runners up: Mighty, DNA Lounge


El Rio

“Cash is queen” at this Mission haunt, but you won’t need much of it. El Rio’s infamous happy hour — which lasts five hours and begins at 4 p.m. — consists of dirt cheap drinks and yummy freebies.

3158 Mission, SF. (415) 282-3325, www.elriosf.com

Runners up: Midnight Sun, Olive


500 Club

A mean manhattan might not be the hallmark of a typical dive, but just add in ridiculously low prices, well-worn booths, and legions of scruffy hipsters.

500 Guerrero, SF. (415) 861-2500

Runners up: Broken Record, Phone Booth


Bourbon and Branch

Mirrored tables, exclusive entry, fancy specialty cocktails, and a well-appointed library root this speakeasy firmly in “upscale” territory.

501 Jones, SF. (415) 346-1735, www.bourbonandbranch.com

Runners up: Red Room, Bubble Lounge


Brain Farts at the Lookout

“Are you smarter than a drag queen?” Brain Fart hostesses BeBe Sweetbriar and Pollo del Mar ask every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at this gay hot spot. Maybe.

3600 16th St., SF. (415) 431-0306

Runners up: Castle Quiz (Edinburgh Castle), Trivia Night (Board Room)


Lucky 13

Bargain drinks, a popcorn machine, and Thin Lizzy, Hank 3, Motörhead, and Iggy on heavy rotation: Lucky 13 never disappoints.

2140 Market, SF. (415) 487-1313

Runners up: Phone Booth, Lexington Club


The Mint

It may be nigh impossible to get mic time at this mid-Market mainstay, but once you do, there are hordes of adoring (read: delightfully catty) patrons to applaud you.

942 Market, SF. (415) 626-4726, www.themint.net

Runners up: Encore, Annie’s Social Club


Bearracuda at Deco

Bears at the free buffet, bears on the massage table — bears, bears everywhere, but mostly on the dance floor at this big gay biweekly hair affair in the Tenderloin.

510 Larkin, SF. (415) 346-2025, www.bearracuda.com

Runners up: The Cinch, The Stud


Lexington Club

With a pool table, a rotating gallery of kick-ass art, and regular rock DJ nights, this beer-and-shot Mission dive has been proving that dykes drink harder for more than a decade.

3464 19th St., SF. (415) 863-2052, www.lexingtonclub.com

Runners up: Cockblock, Wild Side West



Say hello, wave good-bye: Heklina’s legendary trash drag mecca hangs up its bloody boa in August, but it’s still the best bang for your tranny buck right now.

Stud, 399 Ninth St., SF. (415) 252-7883, www.trannyshack.com

Runners up: AsiaSF, Diva’s


Curt Yagi

Multi-instrumentalist Curt Yagi has been making the rounds at local venues, strumming with the swagger of Lenny Kravitz and the lyrical prowess of Jack Johnson.


Runners up: Jill Tracy, Kitten on the Keys


A Band Called Pain

If you didn’t get the hint from their name, the Oakland-based A Band Called Pain bring it hard and heavy and have lent their distinct brooding metal sound to the Saw II soundtrack and Austin’s SXSW.


Runners up: Thumper, Death Angel


Lazer Sword

Rooted in hip-hop but pulling influences from every genre under the sun, the laptop composers seamlessly meld grime and glitch sensibilities with ever-pervasive bass.


Runners up: Kush Arora, Gooferman


Beeda Weeda

Murder Dubs producer and rapper Beeda Weeda may make stuntin’ look easy, but he makes it sound even better: case in point, his upcoming album Da Thizzness.


Runners up: Deep Dickollective, Zion I



San Francisco outfit and Absolutely Kosher artists the Ex-Boyfriends dole out catchy power pop with a shiny Brit veneer and a dab of emo for good measure.


Runners up: Gooferman, Making Dinner



A mainstay at festivals, parties, and Slim’s cover-band nights, ZooStation storm through the U2 catalog (they take on more than 140 of the band’s tunes).


Runners up: AC/DShe, Interchords


The Fucking Ocean

Fuck Buttons, Holy Fuck, Fucked Up, Fuck, indeed: the time is ripe for band names that can’t be uttered on the airwaves, and the Fucking Ocean leads the pack. George Carlin would be so proud.


Runners up: Stung, Gooferman



Ian Chang, aka DJ Smoove, keeps late hours at the Endup, DNA Lounge, 111 Minna, Mighty, and underground parties all over, pumping out power-funk breaks.


Runners up: Jimmy Love, Maneesh the Twister


Adrian and the Mysterious D, Bootie

Five years in, the Bay’s groundbreaking original mashup party, Bootie, has expanded coast-to-coast and to three continents. This duo displays the power of tight promotion and superb party skills.

DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., SF. (415) 626-1409, www.bootiesf.com

Runners up: NonStop Bhangra crew, Mike Gaines (Bohemian Carnival)


Twilight Vixen Revue

Finally, someone thinks to combine pirates, wenches, classic burlesque, and foxy lesbians. This all-queer burlesque troupe has been waving its fans (and fannies) since 2003.


Runners up: Sparkly Devil, Hot Pink Feathers


Katya Ludmilla Smirnoff-Skyy

Gorgeous costumes, a glamorous backstory, and a jam-packed social calendar are reasons enough to catch this opera diva, but it’s her flawless mezzo that keeps fans hurling roses.


Runners up: Charlie Horse, Cookie Dough


Marga Gomez

One of America’s first openly gay comics, San Francisco’s Marga Gomez is a Latina firebrand who’s equally at home performing at Yankee Stadium or Theatre Rhinoceros.


Runners up: Robert Strong, Paco Romane


Vau de Vire Society

Offering a full-on circus assault, the wildly talented and freakishly flexible troupe’s live show delivers plenty of fire performances, aerial stunts, and contortionism.


Runners up: Teatro Zinzani, Pickle Family Circus


Hotel Utah

One of the city’s strongest breeding grounds for new musical talent, Hotel Utah’s open mic series opens the floor for all genres (and abilities).

500 Fourth St., SF. (415) 546-6300, www.hotelutah.com

Runners up: Queer Open Mic (3 Dollar Bill), Brain Wash


Hubba Hubba Review: Best Cabaret/Variety Show

Hubba Hubba Revue

Vaudeville comedy, tassled titties, and over-the-top burlesque teasing make the Hubba Hubba Revue the scene’s bawdiest purveyor of impropriety.


Runners up: Bohemian Carnival, Bijou (Martuni’s)


Writers with Drinks

This roving monthly literary night takes it on faith that writers like to drink. Sex workers, children’s book authors, and bar-stool prophets all mingle seamlessly, with social lubrication.


Runners up: Porchlight Reading Series, Litquake


Laura at Hotel Utah

Whether you just bombed onstage at open mic night or are bellied up to the Hotel Utah bar to drink your sorrows away, the ever-so-crushworthy Laura is there with a heavy-handed pour and a smile. She’s even nice to tourists — imagine!

500 Fourth St., SF. (415) 546-6300, www.hotelutah.com

Runners up: Chupa at DNA Lounge, Vegas at Cha Cha Cha

Nightlife and Entertainment — Editors Picks


There’s just something about the inimitable Jill Tracy that makes us swoon like a passel of naive gothic horror heroines in too-tight corsets. Is it her husky midnight lover’s croon, her deceptively delicate visage, her vintage sensibilities? Who else could have written the definitive elegy on the “fine art of poisoning,” composed a hauntingly lush live score for F.W. Murnau’s classic silent film Nosferatu, joined forces with that merry band of bloodthirsty malcontents, Thrillpeddlers, and still somehow remain a shining beacon of almost beatific grace? Part tough-as-nails film fatale, part funeral parlor pianist, Tracy manages to adopt many facades yet remain ever and only herself — a precarious and delicious balancing act. Her newest CD, The Bittersweet Constrain, glides the gamut from gloom to glamour, encapsulating her haunted highness at her beguiling best.



Can’t wait for the annual Berlin and Beyond film fest to get your Teuton on? The San Francisco Goethe-Institut screens a select handful of German-language films throughout the year at its Bush Street language-school location. For a $5 suggested donation, you can treat yourself to a klassische F.W. Murnau movie or something slightly more contemporary from Margarethe von Trotta. Flicks are subtitled, so there’s no need to brush up on verb conjugations ahead of time. And the Bush Street location is within respectable stumbling distance of many Tendernob bars, not to mention the Euro-chic Café de la Presse, should your cinematic adventure turn into an unexpected Liebesabenteuer. Unlike SF filmic events offering free popcorn, free-for-all heckling, or staged reenactments of the action, Goethe-Institut screenings need no gimmickry to attract their audiences — a respectable singularity perhaps alone worth the price of admission.

530 Bush, SF. (415) 263-8760, www.goethe.de


Despite all the countless reasons to give in to despair — the weight of the world, the headline news, those endless measured teaspoons — sometimes you just have to say fuck it and get your freak on. No party in town exemplifies this reckless surrender to the muse of moving on better than the frenetic, freewheeling proslava that is Kafana Balkan. No hideaway this for the too-cool-for-school, hands-slung-deep-in-pockets, head-bobber crowd. The brass-and-beer-fueled mayhem that generally ensues at Kafana Balkan, often held at 12 Galaxies, is a much more primitive and fundamental form of bacchanal. Clowns! Accordions! Brass bands! Romany rarities! Unfurled hankies! The unlikely combination of high-stepping grannies and high-spirited hipsters is joined together by the thread that truly binds: a raucous good time. Plus, all proceeds support the Bread and Cheese Circus’s attempts to bring succor and good cheer to orphans in Kosovo. Your attendance will help alleviate angst in more ways than one.



There’s no doubt about it — we San Franciscans love to play dress-up. From the towering Beach Blanket Babylon–esque bonnets at the annual Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Easter Sunday to the costumed free-for-all of All Hallows Eve, the more elaborate the excuse to throw on some gay apparel, the more elaborate the apparel. This makes the annual Edwardian Ball tailor-made for San Francisco’s tailored maids and madcap chaps. An eager homage to the off-kilter imaginings of Edward Gorey, whose oft-pseudonymous picture books delved into the exotic, the erotic, and the diabolic within prim and proper, vaguely British settings, the Edwardian Ball is a midwinter ode to woe. From the haunting disharmonies of Rosin Coven to the voluptuous vigor of the Vau de Vire Society’s reenactment of Gorey tales, the ball — which now encompasses an entire three-day weekend — is a veritable bastion of dark-hued revelry and unfettered fetish.



We love Stephen Elliott. The fearless writer, merciless poker opponent, and unrepentant romantic’s well-documented fall from political innocence — recounted in Looking Forward to It (Picador, 2004) and Politically Inspired (MacAdam/Cage, 2003) — has kept him plunged into the fray ever since. Like most other ongoing literary salons, Elliott’s monthly Progressive Reading Series offers a thrilling showcase of local and luminary talent, highlighting up-and-comers along with seasoned pros — shaken, stirred, and poured over ice by the unflappable bar staff at host venue the Make-Out Room. All of the proceeds from the door benefit selected progressive causes — such as, most recently, fighting the good fight against California state proposition 98. Books, booze, and ballot boxing — a good deed never went down more smoothly or with such earnest verbiage and charm.



When it comes to opportunities to see live independent music, most Bay Area venues hang kids under 21 out to dry. Outside of 924 Gilman in Berkeley and the occasional all-ages show at Bottom of the Hill, the opportunities are painfully sparse. But thanks to members of Bay Area show promotion collective Club Sandwich, the underground music scene is becoming more accessible. Committed to hosting exclusively all-ages shows featuring under-the-radar local and national touring bands, Club Sandwich has booked more than a hundred of them since 2006, ranging from better-known groups like No Age, Marnie Stern, and Lightning Bolt to more obscure acts like South Seas Queen and Sexy Prison. Club Sandwich shows tend to cross traditional genre boundary lines (noise, punk, folk, etc.), bringing together different subcultures within the Bay Area’s underground music scene that don’t usually overlap. And the collective organizes shows at wildly diverse venues: from legitimate art spaces like ATA in San Francisco and Lobot in Oakland to warehouse spaces and swimming pools.



Pabst Blue Ribbon, American Spirits, track bikes, tattoos, stretchy jeans, slip-ons, facial hair, Wayfarers. Blah, blah, blah. If you live in the Mission — and happen to be between 22 and 33 years old — you see it all, every night, at every bar in the hood. Boooring. If you’re sick of all the hipster shit, but not quite ready to abandon the scene entirely, take a baby step over to the Broken Record, a roomy dive bar in the Excelsior that serves gourmet game sausage, gives away free beer every Friday(!), rents out Scrabble boards, and isn’t afraid to drop the attitude and get down with a goofy night of beer pong or a bar-wide foosball match. The cheap swill, loud music, and street art will make you feel right at home, but the Broken Record’s decidedly Outer Mission vibe will give you a much-needed respite from the glam rockers, bike messengers, “artists,” and cokeheads you have to hang out with back in cool country.

1166 Geneva, SF. (415) 255-3100


Every June, the Brava Theater quietly morphs into the center of the known universe for queer women of color. And what a delectable center it is. Over the course of three days, the Queer Women of Color Film Festival, produced by the Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project, screens more than 30 works by emerging filmmakers for a raucously supportive audience — an audience that happens to be cute as all hell. In fact, some would call the festival the cruising event of the year for queer women of color. Of course, the films are worth scoping too. Students of QWOCMAP’s no-cost Filmmaker Training Program create most of the festival’s incredible array of humorous and sensitive films, which explore topics such as romance and family ties. For festivalgoers, this heady mixture of authentic representation, massive visibility, and community pride (all screenings are copresented with social justice groups) is breathtakingly potent. It’s no wonder a few love connections are made each fest. Want just a little more icing on that cake? All screenings are free.

(415) 752-0868, www.qwocmap.org


The San Francisco Film Society is best known for putting on America’s oldest film fest, the San Francisco Film Festival. But the organization also hosts a TV show, publishes an amazingly vibrant online magazine, and throws a slew of events throughout the year under its SF360 umbrella, a collection of organizations dedicated to covering film in San Francisco from all angles. There’s SF360 movie nights held in homes across the city, Live at the Apple Store film discussions, and special screenings of hard-to-see films held at theaters throughout the Bay Area. But our favorite SF360 shindig is its monthly SF360 Film+Club Night at Mezzanine, which screens underground films to a room of intoxicated cinephiles who are encouraged to hoot, holler, and at times — like during the annual R. Kelly Trapped in tha Closet Singalong — flex their vocal cords. Past Film+Club screenings have included a B-movie skate-film retrospective, prescreenings of Dave Eggers’s Wholphin compilations, and an Icelandic music documentary night, at which, we’ll admit, we dressed up like Björk.



Project Bandaloop: Best Horizontal Mambo on High

Normally when one mentions doing the horizontal mambo, nudges and winks ensue. But when Project Bandaloop gets together to actually do it, the group isn’t getting freaky, it’s getting wildly artistic — hundreds of feet up in the air. The aerial dance company creates an exhilarating blend of kinetics, sport, and environmental awareness, hanging from bungee cords perpendicular to tall building walls. The troupe is composed of climbers and dancers, who rappel, jump, pas de deux, and generally do incredibly graceful things while hoisted hundreds of feet up in the air. Founded in 1991 and currently under the artistic direction of Amelia Rudolph, Project Bandaloop’s company of dancer-athletes explores the cultural possibilities of simulated weightlessness, drawing on a complete circumferential vocabulary of movement to craft site-specific dances, including pieces for Seattle’s Space Needle and Yosemite’s El Capitan. (Once it even performed for the sheikh of Oman.) Now, if there were only a way to watch the rapturous results without getting a stiff neck.

(415) 421-5667, www.projectbandaloop.org


From the sidewalk, Bacchus Kirk looks like so many other dimly lit San Francisco bars. Yet to walk inside is to step into a little bit of Lake Tahoe or the Haute-Savoie on the unlikely slopes of lower Nob Hill. With its raftered A-frame ceiling, warm wood-paneled walls, and inviting fireplace, the alpine Bacchus Kirk only needs a pack of bellowing snowboarders to pass as a ski lodge — albeit one that provides chocolate martinis, raspberry drops, and mellow mango cocktails rather than hot cocoa, vertiginous funicular rides, and views of alpenhorn-wielding shepherds. This San Francisco simulation of the après-ski scene is populated by a friendly, low-key crowd of art students, Euro hostelers, and diverse locals — no frosty snow bunnies here — drawn by the congenial atmosphere, the pool table, and that current nightlife rarity, a smoking room. Tasty drinks and lofty conversation flow freely: if you leave feeling light-headed, you won’t be able to blame it on the altitude.

925 Bush, SF. (415) 474-4056, www.bacchuskirk.org


Plenty of bars around town call themselves pooch-friendly — as if a pampered shih tzu housed in a Paris Hilton wannabe’s purse, its exquisitely painted paw-nails barely deigning to rest atop the bar, represents the be-all and end-all of canine cocktail companionship. The Homestead, however, goes the extra mile to make four-legged patrons of all shapes and sizes at home with its “open dog” policy. Permanently stationed below the piano is a water dish, and the bar is stocked with an ample supply of doggie treats. At slack times, the bartenders will even come out from behind the bar to dispense said treats directly to their panting customers. Talk about service! As for the bipeds, they will undoubtedly appreciate the Homestead’s well-worn 19th-century working-class-bar decor (complete with a potbellied stove!) and relaxed modern-day atmosphere. It’s the perfect spot to catch up with old friends — either furry or slightly slurry — and make a few new ones.

2301 Folsom, SF. (415) 282-4663


Bartender Visa Victor: Best Visa to Martini Victory

When überfancy personalized cocktails started popping up all over town, it was only a matter of time before we of the plebeian class started demanding our fair share. Looking to be poured something special, but can’t afford a drink at Absinthe? Want to sample a few stupendously constructed tipples in the Bourbon and Branch vein with limited ducats? Score: Visa Victor the bartender has what you want. Once a journeyman slinger, Visa has started filling regular shifts — typically Wednesdays and Sundays — at Argus Lounge on Mission Street. What he offers: his own DJ, a well-populated e-mail list of fans, and an array of unique ingredients including rare berries, savory herbs, and meat. Yes, meat — his recent bacon martini turned out to be not just an attempt to tap into the city’s growing “meat consciousness” but damn good to boot. And hey, we didn’t have to take out a phony second mortgage to down it.


Pesky Internet jukeboxes are everywhere: any decent night out can be ruined by some freshly 21-year-old princess bumping her “birthday jam” incessantly. The old-school jukebox, on the other hand, has the oft-undervalued ability to maintain a mood, or at least ensure that you won’t be “bringing sexy back” 27 times in one evening. Aub Zam Zam in the Upper Haight maintains an exceptional jukebox chock-full of timeless blues, jazz, and R&B slices. Selections include Robert Johnson, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Taj Mahal … the list of smooth crooners and delicate instrumentalists goes on and on. This is in perfect keeping with Aub Zam Zam’s rep as a mighty fine cocktail lounge, established in the 1940s. New owner Bob Clarke has made the place a lot more welcoming than it was in the days of notoriously tyrannical founder Bruno, who proudly boasted of 86ing 80 percent of the Zam Zam’s would-be customers. But Clarke’s kept at least one thing from Bruno’s days besides mouthwatering drinks: his favorite juke jams.

1633 Haight, SF. (415) 861-2545


It’s hard to tell if the entity known as Something with Genitals is a comedy act or a cultural experiment designed to monitor human behavior under unusual circumstances. Take, for example, the night one member of this duo, sometimes trio, of dudes made his way through the crowded Hemlock Tavern on cross-country skis. When he finally maneuvered himself onto the stage, the lights went out and the show was over. Sometimes no one gets onstage at all. Instead the audience gets treated to one of the group’s ingeniously simple short films, which are way better at summing up every one-night stand you’ve had than a regular joke with a punch line. Check out their video on MySpace of a guy who strikes up a conversation with a shrub on some Mission District street, invites it to a party, offers it a beer, asks it to dance, shares some personal secrets and heartfelt dreams, then proceeds to drunkenly fuck it, and you’ll wonder if they’ve been reading your diary. Funny uh-oh, not funny ha-ha.



Even if you’re not in the market for stock footage — the chief focus of Oddball Film + Video, which maintains an archive crammed with everything from World War II clips to glamour shots of TV dinners circa 1960 to images of vintage San Francisco street scenes — you can still take advantage of this incredible resource. Director and founder Stephen Parr loves film, and he loves the unusual; lucky for us, he also loves sharing his collection with the public. RSVPs are essential to attend screenings at the small space, which in recent months has hosted such programs as “Shock! Cinema,” a collection of hygiene and safety films (Narcotics: Pit of Despair) from bygone but no less hysterical eras, and “Strange Sinema,” featuring yet-to-be-cataloged finds from Oddball’s ever-growing library (a 1950s dude ranch promo, an extended trailer for 1972 porn classic Behind the Green Door). Other past highlights have included programs on sex, monkeys, India, and avant-gardists and nights with guest curators like Los Angeles “media ecologist” Gerry Fialka.

275 Capp, SF. (415) 558-8117, www.oddballfilm.com


It doesn’t get much sweeter, in terms of massive multistage music gatherings soaked with mucho cerveza and plenty of sunshine: looking out over the bay at our sparkling city from the top of a Ferris wheel as Spoon gets out the jittery indie rock on the main stage below. That was the scene at last year’s inaugural two-day Treasure Island Music Festival, a smooth-sailing dream of a musical event presented by the Noise Pop crew and Another Planet Entertainment. The locale was special — how often do music fans who don’t live or work on the isle ever get out to that human-made spot, a relic from the utopian era of “We can do it!” engineering and World’s Fairs. The shuttles were plentiful and zero emission. The food was reasonably priced, varied, and at times vegetarian. About 72 percent of the waste generated by the fest was diverted to recycling and composting. Most important, the music was stellar: primo critical picks all the way. This year’s gathering, featuring Justice, Hot Chip, and the Raconteurs, looks to do even better.



Pristine walls couldn’t get much more white-hot than at Ratio 3 gallery. Chris Perez has a nose for talent — and an eye for cool — when it comes to programming the new space on Stevenson near SoMa. The curator has been on a particular roll of late with exhibitions by such varied artists as psychedelia-drenched video installationist Takeshi Murata, resurgent abstractionist Ruth Laskey, and utopian beautiful-people photog Ryan McGinley, while drawing attendees such as Mayor Gavin Newsom and sundry celebs to openings. Perez also has a worthy stable of gallery artists on hand, including local legend Barry McGee (whose works slip surprisingly well among recent abstract shows at the space), rough-and-ready sculptor Mitzi Pederson, op-art woodworker Ara Peterson, and hallucinatory dreamscape creator Jose Alvarez. Catch ’em while the ratio is in your favor.

1447 Stevenson, SF. (415) 821-3371, www.ratio3.org


When edgy director of programming Bruce Fletcher left the San Francisco Independent Film Festival (IndieFest), fans who’d relied on his horror and sci-fi picks were understandably a little worried. Fortunately, Fletcher’s Dead Channels: The San Francisco Festival of Fantastic Film proved there’s room enough in this town for multiple fests with an eye for sleazy, gory, gruesome, unsettling, and offbeat films, indie and otherwise. There’s more: this summer Dead Channels teamed up with Thrillpeddlers to host weekly screenings at the Grand Guignol theater company’s space, the Hypnodrome. “White Hot ‘N’ Warped Wednesdays” are exactly that — showcasing all manner of psychotronica, from Pakistani gore flick Hell’s Ground to culty grind house classics like She-Freak (1967). Come this October, will the Dead Channels fest be able to top its utterly warped Hump Day series? Fear not for the programming, dark-dwelling weirdos — fear only what’s on the screen.



Everyone knows when Adobe Books’ backroom art openings are in full swing: the bookstore is brightly lit and buzzing at an hour when most other literature peddlers are safely tucked in bed, the crowd is spilling onto the 16th Street sidewalk, and music might be wafting into the night. Deep within, in the microscopic backroom gallery, you might discover future art stars like Colter Jacobsen, Barbra Garber, and Matt Furie, as well as their works. Call the space and its soirees the last living relic of Mission District bohemia or dub it a San Francisco institution — just don’t try to clean it up or bring order to its stacks. Wanderers, seekers, artists, and musicians have found a home of sorts here, checking out art, bickering over the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the time line of Mission hipster connections that runs along the upper walls, sinking into the old chairs to hang, and maybe even picking up a book and paging through.

3166 16th St., SF. (415) 864-3936, adobebooksbackroomgallery.blogspot.com


DJ Cheb i Sabbah at Bollyhood Café: Best Hello Mumbai

India produces more movies than any other place on the planet, although you’d scarcely know it from the few that make it stateside. But the American Bollywood cult is growing, and Indian pop culture is dancing its eye-popping way into San Francisco’s heart with invigorating bhangra club nights and piquant variations on traditional cuisine. Bollywood-themed Bollyhood Café, a colorful dance lounge, restaurant, and bar on 19th Street, serves beloved Indian street food–style favorites, with tweaked names like Something to Chaat About, Bhel “Hood” Puri, and Daal-Icious. The joint also delights fans of the subcontinent with nonstop Bollywood screenings and parties featuring DJs Cheb i Sabbah and Jimmy Love of NonStop Bhangra. The crowd’s cute, too: knock back a few mango changos or a lychee martini and prepare to kick up your heels with some of the warmest daals and smoothest lassis (har, har) this side of Mumbai.

3372 19th St., SF. (415) 970-0362, www.bollyhoodcafe.com


Sheila Marie Ang at Bubble Lounge: Best Pop ‘N’ Chill

When people get older and perhaps wiser, they begin to feel out of place in hipstery dive bars and tend to lose the desire to rage all night in sweaty dance clubs. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to party; it just means they’d rather do it in a more sophisticated setting. Thank goddess, then, for Bubble Lounge, the Financial District’s premier purveyor of sparkling social lubricant. For a decade, this superswanky champagne parlor has dazzled with its 10 candlelit salons, each decked out with satin couches, overstuffed chairs, and mahogany tables. BL specializes in tasters, flights, and full-size flutes of light and full-bodied sparkling wines and champagnes. But if poppin’ bub ain’t your style, you can always go the martini route and order a specialty cocktail like the Rasmatini or the French tickler — whatever it takes to make you forget about the office and just chill.

714 Montgomery, SF. (415) 434-4204, www.bubblelounge.com


Reggae may not be the hippest or newest music in town, but there are few other genres that can inspire revolutionary political thought, erase color lines, and make you shake your ass all at the same time. Grind away your daily worries and appreciate the unity of humanity all night long on both sides of the bay — second Saturdays of the month at the Endup and fourth Saturdays at Oakland’s Karibbean City — at Reggae Gold, the Bay Area’s smoothest-packed party for irie folk and dance machines. Resident DJs Polo Moquuz, Daddy Rolo, and Mendoja spin riddim, dancehall, soca, and hip-hop mashup faves as a unified nation of dub heads rocks steady on the dance floor. Special dress-up nights include Flag Party, Army Fatigue Night, and the Black Ball, but otherwise Reggae Gold keeps things on the classy side with a strict dress policy: no sneakers, no baseball caps, no sports attire, and for Jah’s sake, no white T-shirts. This isn’t the Dirty South, you know.



Its a wonder no one thought of it before. Why not combine green business practices with a keen sense of after-hours dance floor mayhem, inject the whole enchilada with shots of mystical spirituality (giant antique Buddha statues, a holistic healing center) and social justice activism (political speaker engagements, issue awareness campaigns), attach a yummy Thai restaurant, serve some fancy drinks, and call it a groundbreaking megaclub? That’s a serviceably bare-bones description of Temple in SoMa, but this multilevel, generously laid out mecca for dance music lovers is so much more. Cynical clubgoers like ourselves, burnt out on the steroidal ultralounge excesses of the Internet boom, cast a wary eye when it was announced that Temple would set up shop in defunct-but-still-beloved club DV8’s old space, and feared a mainstream supastar DJ onslaught to cover the costs. Temple brings in the big names, all right, but it also shows much love for the local scene, giving faves like DJ David Harness and the Compression crew room to do their thing. The sound is impeccable, the staff exceedingly friendly, and even if we have to wade politely but firmly through some bridge and tunnel crowd to get to the dance floor, we can use the extra karma points.

540 Howard, SF. www.templesf.com


Blow Up: Best Bangers and Flash

Disco, house, techno, rave, hip-hop, electroclash … all well and good for us old-timers who like to stash our pimped-out aluminum walkers in the coat check and “get wild” on the dance floor. But what about the youth? With what new genre are they to leave their neon mark upon nightlife? Which party style will mark their generation for endless send-ups and retro nights 30 years hence? The banger scene, of course, fronting a hardcore electro sound tinged with sweet silvery linings and stuttery vocals that’s captured the earbuds and bass bins of a new crop of clubbers. Nowhere are the bangers hotter (or younger) than at the sort-of weekly 18-and-over party Blow Up at the Rickshaw Stop, now entering its third year of booming rapaciousness. Blow Up, with resident DJs Jeffrey Paradise and Richie Panic and a mindblowing slew of globe-trotting guests, doesn’t just stop with killer tunes — almost all of its fabulously sweat-drenched, half-dressed attendees seem to come equipped with a digital camera and a camera-ready look, as befits the ever-online youth of today. Yet Blow Up somehow leaves hipper-than-thou attitude behind. Hangovers, however, often lie ahead.



It may not be the Saudi tradition of dueling poets, in which two men swap lines until one can’t think of any more couplets (and is severely punished), but the Literary Death Match series, put on by Opium magazine, is San Francisco’s excellent equivalent, though perhaps less civilized. Try to remember the last poetry reading you attended. Tweedy professors and be-sweatered Mary Oliver acolytes, right? Literary Death Match is not this mind-numbing affair. It’s competitive. It’s freaking edge-of-your-seat. And everyone’s drunk. Readers from four featured publications, either online or in print, do their thing for less than 10 minutes, and guest “celebrity” judges rip participants apart based on three categories: literary merit, performance, and “intangibles” (everything in between). Two finalists duke it out to the literary death until one hero is left standing, unless she or he’s been hitting up the bar between sets. Who needs reality television when we’ve got San Francisco’s version — one in which literary aspirations breed public humiliation, with the possibility of geeky bragging rights afterward?

Various locations. www.literarydeathmatch.com


Drag queens — is there nothing they can’t make a little brighter with their glittering presence? Squeeze a piece of coal hard enough between a perma-smiley tranny’s clenched cheeks and out pops cubic zirconium, dripping with sparkling bon mots. Yet not all gender illusionists go straight for ditzy comic gold or its silver-tongued twin, cattiness. Some “perform.” Others perform. And here we must pause to tip our feathery fedora to she who reps the platinum standard of awe-inspiring cross-dressing performance: Miss Juanita More. No mere Streisand-syncher, class-act Juanita dusts off overlooked musical nuggets of the past and gives them their shiny due. Despite punk-rock tribute trends and goth night explosions, Juanita’s focus stays primarily, perfectly, on that sublime subcultural slice of sonic history known formerly as “race music” and currently as R&B. Her dazzling production numbers utilize large casts of extras, several acts, and impeccable costumery that pays tribute to everything from Scott Joplin’s ragtime to Motown’s spangled sizzle, dirty underground ’70s funk to Patti LaBelle’s roof-raising histrionics. When she’s on spliff-passing point, as she so often is, her numbers open up a pulse-pounding window into other, more bootyful, worlds.



That cracked and funky dubstep sound surged through Clubland’s speakers last year, an irresistible combination of breakbeats energy, dub wooziness, sly grime, intel glitch, and ragga relaxation. Many parties took the sound into uncharted waters, infusing it with hip-hop hooks, Bollywood extravaganza, roots rock swing, or “world music” folksiness. But only one included all those variations simultaneously, while pumping local and international live acts, fierce visuals, multimedia blowouts, and an ever-smiling crowd of rainbow-flavored fans: Surya Dub, a monthly lowdown hoedown at Club Six. The Surya crew, including perennial Bay favorites DJ Maneesh the Twister and Jimmy Love, and wondrous up-and-comers like Kush Arora, Kid Kameleon, DJ Amar, Ripley, and MC Daddy Frank on the mic, describes its ass-thumping sound as “dread bass,” which moves beyond wordy genre description into a cosmic territory the rumble in your eardrums can surely attest to. Surya Dub keeps it in the community, too, helping to promote a growing network of citywide dubstep events and spreading their dread bass gospel with parties in India.



Very few things in this world are gay enough to warrant the Nor Cal Barney modifier “hella,” but for tattooed karaoke-master Porkchop’s sort-of-monthly series at Thee Parkside, Porkchop Presents, the term seems an understatement. At least three times a season, the mysterious Porkchop gathers her posse of scruffy boozehounds and butt-rockin’ hipsters to the best little dive bar in Potrero for a daylong celebration of the gayest shit on earth. Past events have included Hella Gay Karaoke, Hella Gay Jell-O Wrestling, a Hella Gay Beer Bust, and the all-encompassing nod to gaydom, Something Hella Gay, an ongoing event during which gay folks go drink-for-drink to see who’s the gayest of them all. Join Porkchop and her crew of lowbrow beer snobs at Thee Parkside for arm wrestling competitions, tattoo-offs, and hella gay sing-along battles. You probably won’t win anything because the competition is so stiff and the rules are so lax, but you can rest assured that the smell of stale cigarettes, cheap beer, and sweaty ass will stay in your clothes for at least a week after the show. And that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?

Best of the Bay 2008


“Best of the Bay? I’m anxiously awaiting the results, as our fair city appears to be on the decline. Please help rekindle my love for SF!” wrote Seamus of Sunnyside when we asked Guardian readers to tell us about their own bests of the Bay. OK, Seamus, here goes …

Welcome to the San Francisco Bay Guardian‘s Best of the Bay 2008! This is our 34th annual celebration of the people, places, and things that make living here awesome with a capital “yay,” a megastellar shout-out to everything Baylicious — from Best Vietnamese Sandwich to Best Quirky Specialty Store, to Best Burlesque Troupe and beyond.

As we worked on this year’s issue, we couldn’t help but notice a few things. Change is in the air. A major election is right around the corner. Freedom is on everyone’s lips — and people are making their voices heard. We’re finally having that malevolent weed in the Oval Office removed! Seriously, it was totally messing up our lawn. Gross.

In honor of this spirit of liberty and choice, we chose as our theme “A Celebration of Bay Area Independence.” Not just independents — all local businesses honored here are independently owned and operated. But also independence, as in get out there and vote. Speak out! It’s not too late to do something about the global situation, and the individuals and organizations you’ll read about inside are doing their best to turn this mess around and make the world a little lovelier.

We’ve also changed up a few things ourselves, like adding a bunch of new categories in our readers poll and placing your choices above the Editors Picks in each section for easier reference. Thanks to the more than 7,000 of you who voted in our Best of the Bay readers poll this year, there were several stunning upsets — change is in the air indeed! Due to popular demand, we’ve published the top two runners-up in the hotly contested Food and Drink, Shopping, and Nightlife and Entertainment categories online at www.bestofthebay.com. We wish everyone could win. We’re mushy like that.

More change: we asked you to tell us in your own words about what you love most about the Bay — and received a sparkling tsunami of responses. We’ve printed some of our favorites throughout. Our Editors Picks (Best Cerebral Workout, Best Floating Lap Dance, Best Monumental Urinal, etc.) attempt to shine a little light into the brilliant corners of the Bay experience. And as for Seamus’ fear of the Bay’s decline, well, we can only say that we found way too much evidence of mind-blowing vitality to include here.

In 1974 Esquire magazine asked us for ideas for its Best of the USA issue, and the Guardian responded by publishing the original Best of the Bay. Made by the people of the Bay Area for the people of the Bay Area, its our annual chance to celebrate the people and places that make this city great. We were the first weekly paper to print a regular “best of” issue. Thirty-four years on — and 42 years after we opened our doors — we’re still going strong.

Editing this year’s installment was something no one could possibly do alone. I had the extreme privilege of working with the frabjous Guardian staff and an amazing smorgasbord of local talent to get 2008’s Best of the Bay out the conceptual door.

I shower grateful smooches on them all, especially my right-hand cheese puff Molly Freedenberg, creative wizard Mirissa Neff, amazing illustrator Caitlin Kuhwald, our steadfast advertisers, and the ever-supportive Hunky Beau, my own personal Best of the Bay.

But most of all we thank you, dear reader, for pouring your unique pluck and zing into this great community, for keeping the doors of hope open, and for never giving up the fight. Peace.



Marke B.


Mirissa Neff


Molly Freedenberg


Ben Hopfer


Tim Redmond


Jake Balakoohi


Caitlin Kuhwald


Jon Beckhardt, Bruce B. Brugmann, Kimberly Chun, Paula Connelly, Duncan Scott Davidson, Sam Devine, Cheryl Eddy, Deborah Giattina, Marcia Gagliardi, Nicole Gluckstern, Johnny Ray Huston, Chris Jasmin, Steven T. Jones, Justin Juul, Laurie Koh, Ella Lawrence, Erik Morse, Scott Owen, Sarah Phelan, Tim Redmond, Paul Reidinger, Julie Ross Godar, G.W. Schulz, Stephen Torres, Amanda Witherell



Brandon Joseph Baker, Samantha Berg, Pat Mazzera, Rory McNamara, Neil Motteram, Arlene Romana, Charles Russo


Diane Sussman


Laura Neil, Lynn Rapaport, M.P. Klier


Dona Bridges, Vanessa Carr, Candice Chan, Philip Eil, Colleen McCaffery, Marianne Moore, Ailene Sankur


The Guardian‘s annual Best of the Bay party is legendary — and this one’s gonna be a doozy. Jello Biafra MCs! 1015 Folsom hosts! It’s free! Shmooze with all the winners. Dig performances by Ahmad Raashan, Hot Tub, and many more. Plus a “Freedom to Undress” burlesque extravaganza. Thursday, Aug. 7, 8 p.m., 1015 Folsom, SF. www.sfbg.com/bobparty *


All illustrations in this issue were hand-painted by Oakland artist Caitlin Kuhwald, who honed her skill for depicting everyday people with humor and sweetness while earning her BA in illustration at California College of the Arts and her MFA at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She now teaches illustration at CCA and has published her work in a number of newspapers and magazines, including Rolling Stone, Spin, and Nylon. See more of Kuhwald’s paintings, drawings, and illustrations at www.caitlinkuhwald.com

Best of the Bay 2009: Local Heroes



As staff attorney at the Asian Law Caucus, Angela Chan has been at the forefront of a yearlong effort to ensure that all undocumented juveniles have the right to due process in San Francisco.

That effort began last summer, shortly after Mayor Gavin Newsom, who had just decided to run for governor, announced that undocumented juveniles henceforth would be reported to federal authorities the minute they are booked on suspicion of having co

mmitted a felony — and before they can access an immigrant-rights lawyer.

These changes primarily affect Latino youth, but Chan, whose Cantonese-speaking parents ran a restaurant in Portland, Ore., sees the broader connections to other immigrant communities.

“I grew up in an immigrant community in a white working-class neighborhood,” Chan explained. “I saw the barriers — language, culture, racism, xenophobia — and I realized that there was not a lot of power and awareness. I learned to appreciate civil rights.”

As a teenager, Chan was determined to become an attorney. The temporary passage of California Prop. 187 — prohibiting undocumented immigrants from using social services, health care, and public education — intensified her determination. Chan graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School, and has been able to focus on this particular juvenile justice battle thanks to a Soros Justice Fellowship and the ALC’s “innovative, fluid, creative, and client-centered vision.”


“I’ve tried different ways of challenging inequality — direct confrontation, anger — but I’ve found the best way is through policy, and being very educated and strategic,” Chan said.

She said she’s hopeful that Sup. David Campos has the votes this summer to pass veto-proof amendments to the city’s undocumented-youth protection policy. As she put it: “People are starting to understand the difference between the juvenile and adult justice system and the issues around due process.” (Sarah Phelan)




Take a look at just a few of the things Julian Davis has done: He ran the 2008 public-power campaign. He’s on the board of San Francisco Tomorrow. He’s president of the Booker T. Washington Community Service Center. He’s a founder of the MoMagic Collaborative, which fights youth violence in the Western Addition. He’s on the board of the San Francisco Housing Development Corporation. He’s been appointed by the Board of Supervisors to serve on the Market-Octavia Citizens Advisory Committee. He’s a founder of the Osiris Coalition, which is working to ensure that public-housing tenants have the right to return to their homes after renovations. He’s hosted countless events for charities and political campaigns.

Then think about this: he’s only 30.

Davis grew up in Palo Alto, and moved to the corner of Haight and Fillmore after getting bachelor’s and master’s degrees in philosophy from Brown University. Philosophers weren’t exactly in demand at the time, so he wound up “playing my guitar on the streets for burrito money” while starting a PhD program at Stanford.

He also saw three people shot to death on his corner. “And I realized,” he explained, “that the academic life wasn’t going to be for me.”

Davis started organizing against community violence, and, inspired by Matt Gonzalez’s mayoral campaign, ran for supervisor in 2004. That got him started in local politics. He’s headed to law school at Hastings this fall, and it’s a safe bet that he’ll be a leader in the progressive political community for years to come. (Tim Redmond)




“He’s a visionary. He’s very determined. He never gives up.”

That’s how Ken McIntire, executive director of San Bruno Mountain Watch, describes David Schooley, who founded the Mountain Watch nonprofit four decades ago.

“For many years, David led every Sierra Club hike, organized every restoration party, and even took the bus to community fairs up and down the Peninsula so he could set up a table and distribute fliers about San Bruno Mountain,” McIntire recalls.

Now snowy-haired and allegedly semiretired, Schooley, 65, remains as nimble as a goat when it comes to hiking across his beloved mountain, which rises and cuts across the Peninsula just south of San Francisco in San Mateo County — and whose ecosystem has been identified as one of 18 global biodiversity hotspots in need of protection

Schooley’s love for the mountain — which is covered with low-growing grasses, coastal sage, and scrub year-round and is dotted with wildflowers each spring — led him to found SBMW in 1969 and fight the expansion of the Guadalupe Valley Quarry and the growth of nearby Brisbane. Both were threatening to destroy the biggest urban open space in the United States and the habitat of rare butterflies, including the San Bruno elfin.

As Schooley explains, while the mountain is often hit with strong gusty winds and enveloped in thick fog, it is a great butterfly habitat and the last fragment of an entire ecosystem — the Franciscan region — the rest of which has been buried beneath San Francisco’s concrete footprints.

Two years ago, Schooley had the pleasure of once again finding the tiny raspberry-colored elfin caterpillars on some sedum (its host plant) on the north-facing upper benches of the quarry.

“It’s a miracle,” Schooley told me at the time, delighted by this living example of nature’s ability to overcome human-made damage on the mountain.

At the time, Schooley was hoping the state park system would annex the property where the elfins were found. That hasn’t happened yet. But as McIntire says of Schooley (who dreams of a wildlife corridor that runs from the bay to the ocean), “David is always pushing for more open space around the mountain, for more nature and less development, and trying to reach a bigger audience.” (Sarah Phelan)




The San Francisco Mime Troupe is the conscience of the city, our proudest export, and — as it celebrates its 50th year — perhaps our most enduring sociopolitical institution. That’s a lot of kudos to heap on an artists’ collective, particularly one that delivers its theatrical social satire with such over-the-top comedy and music, but it isn’t a statement that we make lightly.

The SFMT embodies the very best San Francisco values — limitless creativity, a hunger for justice, courage under fire, an uncompromising commitment to creating a better world, and a progressive missionary zeal — and offers a powerful and entertaining reminder of those values every July 4, when it presents its new show in Dolores Park.

After it sings (and preaches) to the progressive choir of San Francisco, the troupe hits the road, visiting such less-than-enlightened outposts as the Central Valley and rural Northern California, delivering important messages to audiences that need to hear them most. “First of all, it’s humorous, so that breaks down a lot of barriers from the get-go,” SFMT general manager Jenee Gill tells us.

But even here in the early ’60s, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission tried to use obscenity laws to ban the SFMT from performing in public parks. The troupe successfully fought the commission in court, setting an important free speech precedent. Modern San Francisco has grown up with the SFMT showing us the way forward with its uniquely high-stepping, knee-slapping, consciousness-raising style, and we’re a better city for it. (Steven T. Jones)

All local heroes photos by Pat Mazzera