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Best of the Bay 2013: BEST CULTURED CACAO


Born of owner Arcelia Gallardo and co-owner Amelia Gonzalez’ passion for Latin America’s rich pre-Colombian heritage, Casa de Chocolates offers spicy, artisanal iterations of the divine sweet, expertly accented by the flavors of Mesoamerica’s traditional food staples. The women’s dual interests in the culinary and cultural make for an exciting, informed menu — one can pick up a box of mole, passionfruit, guayaba, and tamarind-filled handmade bon-bons, or leave the realm of cacao entire for a silky pumpkin flan or a chipotle caramel. There is such a thing as a tequila-filled chocolate butterfly! Though many items, like a foot-wide dark chocolate rendering of the revered Aztec calendar, are available in the shop’s online store, you’ll have to make an in-person appearance for some specialties including a piquant glass of frozen Mexican chocolate, or standout tres leches cupcakes.

2629 Ashby, Berk. (510) 859-7221, www.casadechocolates.com

Best of the Bay 2013: BEST LUNCH PARTY IN THE USA


Perish all lunchtime thoughts of those tea-sipping, watercress sandwich-prone Windsors across the pond — in America, our royalty slurps down such delights as fried peanut butter and banana sandos. But, if you’re the worldly sort and prefer a slightly more elegant take on Elvis-inspired cuisine, point your pink Cadillac toward the Lunchpad. At this daytime sandwich pop-up inside new Hayes Valley wine bar Noir Lounge, one can king oneself with an “Almost Elvis,” Nutella and banana on pain de mie (with an add-bacon option, natch). Savory Lunchpad hits include twists on the classics (roast turkey with habañero candied bacon!) and specials (fried chicken sandwich). Oh, and fans of Hollywood royalty take note: A recent lox-and-eggs concoction paid tribute to Leonardo DiCaprio.

581 Hayes, SF. (415) 552-6647, www.thelunchpadsf.com



Don’t let the pious name fool you (behold its slogan: “The Holiest Place to Fall from Grace”). Follow Mission Street all the way up, past Safeway, past Spicy Bite, practically above the fog, to the beacon of neon at the top of the hill. At St. Mary’s Pub you’ll find an unpretentious watering hole with obliterating drink specials, plus some of the tastiest Bloody Marys around. If that ain’t enough to lure you there, lend your ears to the bar’s impeccable clutch of tunes that makes boozin’ even more enjoyable. Refreshingly un-douchey crowds come out for popular Jamaican oldies night Bangarang Crash, and other in-bar favorites include 1970s rock and old-school hip-hop spun on gen-yoo-wine vinyl. Is this what the Mission used to be like before it went all to hell? Hail Mary’s!

3845 Mission, SF. (415) 529-1325, www.stmaryspub.com

Best of the Bay 2013: BEST PALETA CLEANSER


So you’ve just gobbled down an incredible meal at Nopalito that began with a heaping bowl of melted-cheese-covered tortilla chips, followed by carnitas and several bites of your tablemate’s chicken mole. You sipped multiple mezcal-laced cocktails (try the Killer Bee). You are officially stuffed. But when the server comes around asking if you want dessert, there’s only one answer: yes, yes you want in on Nopalito’s housemade popsicles. These paletas hechas en casa may be the only dessert option at either of the restaurant’s two locations, but they’re a thick, rich cut above anything you’ll find in the corner store freezer. There’s a choice of flavors: seasonal fruit or chocolate-cinnamon — the latter like eating a big, ice-cold hunk of Mexican chocolate.

306 Broderick, SF. (415) 437-0303; 1224 Ninth Ave., SF. (415) 233-9966, www.nopalitosf.com

Best of the Bay 2013: BEST POPPED-UP BOTTLES


You know what this place could use? Some no-frills, open-to-all wine tasting. Enter Mugsy Wine Bar, a pop-up most often spotted at El Rio that knows how to class up a place without bringing down the mood, aided by sips from local vintners. The Mugsy tasting notes: “a wine bar with an emphasis on women, urban, and people of color winemakers” with a mouth-feel of “all-around enjoyment.” And this pop-up is pop-cultured. Witness, theme nights: “Mugsy is the New Black” (a play on Netflix smash-hit prison drama series, “Orange is the New Black”) for which the team brought out lesbian-owned Oakland winery Fraina Blanco. Then there was “Popping up for Pride” night, when bottles were uncorked from Alameda’s Rock Wall Wines and Urban Legend Cellars of Oakland. Hooray for local vino pride.


Best of the Bay 2013: BEST CELEB BREAD


Oh, you thought Food Network personality Tyler Florence was the celebrity most likely to appear at the elegant American bistro he owns in the Financial District? Nope. Before you even order off the classy-comfort-food menu, you’ll have your brush with fame. Instead of a bread basket (boring!), at your table will appear Wayfare Tavern’s popovers — crisp, golden brown, egg-battered treats so delicious you’ll be tempted to spoil your meal with multiple servings. (And so legendary that several staff members sport popover tattoos.) In August, Florence tapped a new executive chef in Joey Elenterio and word on the street is new menu items will follow, so this might be a grand time to make a reservation. Just keep those popovers coming, please!

558 Sacramento, SF. (415) 772-9060, www.wayfaretavern.com

Best of the Bay 2013: BEST WORMWOOD WARLOCKS


There aren’t many in the craft-spirit making movement who can boast of having a US Navy nuclear engineer as a master distiller. The story goes: Lance Winters came to St. George Spirits and presented founder Jörg Rupf with a homemade batch of whiskey in lieu of resume. He got the job, and under his watch, St. George churned out its single malt whiskey and a line of gins. In 2007, it became the first in the nation to legally release a wormwood liqueur, and continues to be well known for its excellent Absinthe Verte. In a retrofitted Alameda naval hanger turned HQ, test stills are charmed into producing oddball booze flavors including oysters, Dungeness crab, or even the company Christmas tree. “If we’re not pushing the limits of our creativity,” they explain, “our spirits aren’t going to be any different or better than stuff that’s already out there.”

2601 Monarch, Ala. (510) 769-1601, www.stgeorgespirits.com



“Pastries for lunch?” Your friends might scoff, but oh, what a surprise they’re in for upon entering this hidden gem tucked between office buildings and business folks. “Banh mi!,” they will exclaim, and although there will not be streamers or confetti to complement their shocked expressions, these little sandwiches will do the delighting in both taste and value. Muffins Muffins, tucked innocuously off Second Street, serves up delicious, made-to-order banh mi for as little as five bucks. The vegetarian option features some tasty faux meat with a tangy finish, topped with jalapeños and hugged by a soft bun. Carry your lunch to nearby Yerba Buena Gardens for a Financial District adventure that doesn’t require a suit or a fatty wallet.

123 Second St, SF. (415) 342-7588



The wait line to get into excellent Inner Richmond Burmese restaurant Burma Superstar is legendary — so legendary that most of us stopped considering it as a dinner option. So when, a few years ago, the owners announced they would be opening a “little sister” down the block named B Star Bar, we rejoiced. B Star Bar kept some of Burma Superstar’s favorites, like the lauded tea leaf salad, but it specialized in innovative Asian comfort food twists. Among the surprises: one of the best brunch menus in the city, including a delectable duck hash quesadilla, succulent tocino (bacon-like Asian jerk pork) with garlic rice, and a full selection of jooks (rice porridge) with all the fixings. But the real brunch superstar here is B Star Bar’s brunch “B Sprouts” — perfectly roasted Brussels sprouts tossed with furikake (rice seasoning), fish sauce, Parmesan, and popped rice that adds a cheery wake-up crunch. The diverse flavors combine so well, we could brunch on these little green gems forever (with mimosas, of course).

127 Clement, SF. (415) 933-9900, www.bstarbar.com

Best of the Bay 2013: BEST BARLEYWINE BLAST


Although it’s been absorbed to an extent by SF Beer Week, Toronado’s annual Barleywine Festival has been around much longer (20 years as of last February), and it eschews the exuberant trappings of most of its festival kin to focus strictly on what’s most essential — the booze. As strong as wine but brewed as a beer, barleywines fall beyond stouts, doppelbocks, and tripels on the strong beer spectrum, and are best savored slowly and with a degree of reverence, which Toronado facilitates with generous, inexpensive sample pours of over 50 varieties from around the world. And, dear hearts, the festival always falls on the weekend closest to Valentine’s Day, making it the perfect destination (or distraction) for the lovers and loners alike.

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

Best of the Bay 2013: BEST ZAP IN A GLASS


One of the most amazing recent dishes to smack the local foodie scene upside the head: Mission Chinese Food’s Chongqing chicken wings, the little crispy limbs buried in so many “explosive” chili peppers that one bite actually numbs your entire mouth. It’s the weirdest, most viscerally addictive experience on our menus. But what if we told you it was also available in cocktail form? Wow and ouch! The Alembic’s Nine Volt leapt onto the ever-innovative Haight Street bar’s summer cocktail menu this year (crafted by bar manager Danny Louie) and zapped us to attention. Served with white Szechuan peppers — yep, sourced from Mission Chinese — but gorgeously balanced with Aviation gin, green tea, and grape juice, this baby gives out a recharging tongue-in-the-socket thrill without any battery-acid stomach repercussions. Here’s hoping the Nine Volt sticks around through winter: we could use the heat.

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

Best of the Bay 2013: BEST BORSCHT IN BERNAL


Even if you don’t much care for piroshkis (although if that’s the case, we feel only sorrow in our hearts for you), the borscht will keep you coming back to Anda Piroshki. Tucked away in the local mini-mall of the Marketplace on Cortland, the counter’s proprietor Anna Tvelova keeps things simple by offering only a handful of menu options. The signature Anda Piroshki borscht is one of the tastiest we’ve ever encountered — no mushy puree, this savory-sweet beet soup is a chunky, earthy stew of slow-cooked veggies and copious dill simmered in a broth and sold in six-dollar pints so flavorful it’s hard to believe that they’re vegan. But they are.

The Marketplace, 331 Cortland, SF. (415) 821-9905, www.andapiroshki.com

Best of the Bay 2013: BEST BEST “MADE” PIZZA


If San Francisco’s classier pizza joints ever threw down in some kind of mozzarella-fueled turf war, the smart money would be on Capo’s — the year-old North Beach joint that’s just as versed in Prohibition Era gangster culture as it is in tasty pizza. Chef Tony Gemignani clearly knows what he’s doing with his award-winning, Chicago-style pies (four choices of crust, from deep dish to “cracker thin”), but the man also has a flair for décor: hand-painted tin ceiling, a 1930s phone booth that actually functions, a bar that pays homage to the Golden Gate Bridge, and snappy red leather booths themed around gangsters of note — with memorabilia to match. Where else can you enjoy Quattro Forni (a pie specialty made using four ovens!) while admiring poker chips once owned by Al Capone? Nowhere else, wise guy. Capisce?

641 Vallejo, SF. (415) 986-8998, www.sfcapos.com

Best of the Bay 2013: BEST BUN NOODLIN’


Yes, you will do it in part for the Instagram. However, the hypebeasts were right on this one: Nombe’s ramenburger is something any self-respecting gourmand in this town has to try. (Curious folks waited over an hour to try one at the SF Street Food Festival, and no one laughed at them.) The burger of Wagyu beef and pork belly tucked between two ramen noodle buns is a culinary voyage, sometimes accompanied by miso, shiitake, and blue cheese if you’re looking for a true umami blast-off. Pro tip: come to Japanese-style izakaya Nombe on half-off wine bottle Wednesday and please, sort out the appropriate photo filter after you eat the thing. This is one burger that is best devoured straight from the kitchen, before the hype (or noodle) has had a chance to cool.

2491 Mission, SF. (415) 681-7150, www.nombesf.com

Best of the Bay 2013: BEST ALL-NATURAL SWEETIE


Juice may be the perky cheerleader in a made-for-tweens drama, but smoothies are the quiet girl that the plot eventually turns on — you know, the one with deeper substance, a touch of shy sweetness, perhaps a few creamy curves. Maybe smoothies aren’t hip to the cleansing trend, and maybe they don’t come packaged in a collectible glass bottle, but nobody puts them in the corner. The ingredient list for Morning Brew Cafe’s Happiness smoothie is deliciously minimal — avocado and whole milk — but your satisfaction will reach maximal heights. The silky combination of rich, ripe avo and thick dairy makes for a delicious sip and a full belly of healthy fat and vitamins. It’s a real meal, great as breakfast or post-workout replenishment. If you’re not a fan of the animal products, request almond milk and reap the additional protein benefits.

401 Sansome, SF. (415) 986-4206, www.morningbrew.com

Best of the Bay 2013 Editors Picks: Shopping




Editors picks are chosen by Guardian editors for special recognition for brightening the Bay Area experience.


Get that paper, paper, paper — printed. Holed up in a cozy garage with a cute dog and a hunky Vandercock proof press (a rare specimen last produced in the 1960s), the letterpress-loving ladies of Western Editions create and design paper goods for all occasions and situations, from badass business cards with handmade charm to colorful and direct wedding invites that may just get your flaky San Franciscan friends to actually attend the soirée. “Letterpress is magic,” is the motto of Western Addition residents Taylor Reid and Erin Fong, two friends turned business partners who are down to customize and open to suggestions, meaning you can make all the cute shit your ambitious heart desires, or purchase some one else’s great idea from their online store. Oh, hey, and they offer supercool DIY workshops, too — just in time for the holidays.

555 Rose, SF. www.westerneditions.com


We’re constantly on the hunt for the perfect outfit that will make it through our daily transition from work serf to night owl. Reversible scarves, tear-away skirts, all black outfits — those work OK. But what about then shoes? What pair of hoofers can glide us from the workbound bike lane to the underground dance floor? Welp, a local company has the solution to our woes: DZR Shoes, an SF-based (though they manufacture overseas) outfit that creates sneakers that can clip to all manners of pedal types, but look fly as all getout. Whether you go for high or low top, fully vegan design or whole grain leather, knee-high lace-up or slip-in, chances are you can find the kicks to complete your Lycra-free lane look in style. Our current favorite? The sleek, all-black Minna, designed by artist-DJ Jeremiah Bal.




Her eyes scanning the abandoned lots and hillsides of the Stinson area and East Bay, Louesa Roebuck of Louesa Roebuck Flora isn’t afraid to snoop, sneak, or hustle in the name of foraging for flowers. Her mission: fetch that wild flora and arrange it in ways that exemplify the plant’s natural majesty. Gleaning armloads of budding branches, floppy magnolias, brilliant poppies, sweet mallow, bright berries, and sharp citrus from both public and secret locations, Louesa finds beauty in imperfection, a sublime bouquet in nature’s fantastic mistakes. She lets the blooms and leaves curl, crawl, and droop as they will, showcasing the fascinating juxtaposition between life and slow, dreamy decay. Visit her tiny Hayes Valley shop to see the day’s treasures and meet some of the gorgeous plants living right beside you.

597 Hayes, SF. (415) 686-5482, www.louesaroebuck.com


Like a sweater for your insides, the names warm your gray matter: Broichladdich, Glayva, Mackillop’s, Benriach, Balvenie, Glenmorangie. Standing in the sweetly crammed back bottle room of downtown’s Whisky Shop can be a meditative experience for scotch lovers — the selection of malts and blends vies for the city’s best, with employees as helpful as their kilts are fetching. And should the Whisky Shop staff’s sartorial motif inspire, the front portion of the store is stocked with a rainbow of tartan, wool, and waxed fabric wardrobe. Score kilts and genuine, betasseled fur sporrans you’ll use to stash your new perfectly heart-shaped silver flask. And possibly a novelty gift or two — the Whisky Shop is also flush with crest-adorned coasters, canned haggis, and artisan lotions from the United Kingdom.

360 Sutter, SF. (415) 989-1030, www.whiskeyshopusa.com



While there can be no debate that surf shops, in general, are selling a lifestyle, few are hawking a way of living as healthy as Mill Valley’s beloved Proof Lab. Need proof? The nine-year-old store (whose owners used reclaimed and reused materials wherever possible in its construction) stocks the best in sustainable men’s and women’s clothing, surfboard brands, and skateboard fixins, of course. But it also hosts a passel of community-minded offerings: sustainability workshops, toddler art classes, a native plant nursery, a biodiesel fuel station. On the lot next door you’ll find a teaching garden co-founded by Proof where one can take the occasional canning seminar, and buy fresh local produce. Plus: a new Equator coffee bar, to keep you up for those waves.

244 Shoreline Highway, Mill Valley. (415) 380-8900, www.prooflab.com



We bow down to the business acumen and sharp eye for trends possessed by Floss Gloss duo Aretha Sack and Janine Lee. These two California College of the Arts grads eschewed inward-looking artistic exploration, instead embarking on a mission to paint the world with the sizzling neons and kick-ass, vintage-inspired shades that haunt their minds eye. Their canvas? The fingernails of the Bay Area’s young, hip, and gifted. How did they take their line of animal cruelty-free nail polishes from late-night study sessions to indie and corporate retailers around the globe? (All while remaining 100 percent free of DBPs, formaldehyde, and other harmful chemicals — these colors may scream “heavy metal,” but contain none.) Let us count the ways: perfect nacho cheese orange and bikini coral lacquers; irresistibly chic tones like Party Bruise, Dimepiece, Black Holy, Faded, Pony, and Blood, Suede, and Tears; endless pop-up nail salons, hard work … and the knowledge that you can do anything when you’ve got a perfect 10 to point the way.




It is a satisfying, luxurious — if fundamental — satisfaction, settling in to make dinner with a hiss-sharp passel of well-honed knives. Fans of cutting-edge pleasures will want to slip into Nob Hill’s Town Cutler, a well-hewn, immaculately organized shop of blades both wildly fabulous (a $1,050 Wilburn Forge Japanese chef knife, its silver nickel sharp marbled and lovely) and craftily utilitarian (a $100 handleless Takeda Kogotana meant for woodworking). Owner Galen Garretson will sell you these, sharpen the utensils you already own, teach you to work your own knives in a sharpening tutorial or informative class, and even help you get a handle on blunter culinary objects — the back of Town Cutlery is an elegantly hung array of those most-unsharp kitchen friends: spoons.

1005 Bush, SF. (415) 359-1519, www.towncutler.com



These are the facts: Reading is cool, books are rad, free books are even radder, and the best combo of all of these is the Bay Area Free Book Exchange. At any given moment, the space — run cooperatively by a cadre of indie booksellers and printed-page junkies — houses some 10,000 books, all free for the taking. (“It’s like an ever-changing treasure hunt among thousands of books,” its website declares, and we have to agree.) Since opening in May 2009, the Exchange has given away over 350,000 books during its weekend hours, with an ultimate goal of handing out a million, and beyond! Since it survives on donations, consider adding your own previously-read tomes to the stacks proudly bearing this stamp: “Not for Resale, This is a Free Book.”

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



A compellingly curated combination of artwork by some of San Francisco’s eye-catching countercultural artists — with noteworthy post-industrial tinge courtesy of the Burning Man diaspora — and intriguing flea market finds by diligent shoppers with an eye for the urban aesthetic, Carousel Consignment SF is an oasis of great pre-found finds. This welcoming and decidedly funky Mission whirl, set in motion by co-owners Kelley Wehman and Illy McMahan (who bonded over their passion for all things circus and vintage), can turn a quick fly-by into an afternoon-long exploration. Furniture, toys, lighting, textiles … Its quirky assemblage of wares preserves its surroundings’ penchant for the wacky and weird.

2391 Mission, SF. (415) 821-9848, www.carouselsf.com



You know how it goes: surfing the www.aves of one’s sleek laptop, a stray image distracts. Suddenly, you’re no longer typing that return email — your mind has fixed on a different kind of click entirely. For you, sweets, SoMa brand Crave‘s line of tech-happy sex toys. Designed and produced by Ti Chang and Michael Topolovac, and assembled in the land of SF startup, each of the company’s gorgeous, whisper-quiet specimens have all the design and functionality of your favorite Apple toy. Our favorite is the Duet, a vibe with a double-pronged, silicone clitoral approach available in gold plating and with the option of eight or 16 GB of data storage thanks to a USB charging battery. That’s right: there is a USB port up in this vibrator. Adventurous souls can wear their pleasure out in public: Crave’s “Droplet” lariat necklace doubles as discreet nipple vibrators.



To some, a house full of Alex Pardee visual art would reap naught but disturbed sleep and missed meals. A living dream catcher made of exposed sinew and dripping eyeballs dangling from tendons, ready to snatch a soul; a roaring “Sharkasus” with razor teeth, four legs, and wings; an endless parade of your favorite horror icons rendered somehow even more terrifying by his spindly, precise strokes. But given the fact there are now two Bay Area shops stocked primarily with his prints, originals, and tees — in addition to the unnerving yet painterly work of other artists like Dave Correia — plenty of us are digging it. While shopping for the creep-craver in your life, you’ll do no better than the Oakland or Lower Haight location of Zero Friends, which has become a ground zero of sorts for the street art marketing scene.

419 Haight, SF. (415) 418-9912; 489A 25th St., Oakl. (510) 735-9405 (open first Fridays of the month or by appointment only); www.zerofriends.com



Should you need a custom cabinet, a staircase rehab, perhaps a new cupola on your clock tower, you can turn to Clipper Construction’s Mathieu Palmer. But 501 Waller, the storefront Palmer owned and used as storage space — as he told local blog Haighteration — wasn’t the best use of a neighborhood-facing corner shop. Enter Palmer’s friend Dan Daniel, who created Clipper Repair from this clutter, a friendly place for fixing up, designing, or refurbishing anything you could imagine: lamps, cabinets, antique furniture, electrical things. The interior is a gorgeously organized wonderland of screws, nails, tools, gears, and random curiosities. And then! Garret Peters turned Clipper’s back storage room into a bike shop called Wiggle Bikes, conveniently located off the Wiggle, our crosstown thoroughfare for the two-wheeled. Could there be a more useful stop-off for lovers of sustainable transportation and reuse than the Clipper Repair-Wiggle Bikes complex?

501 Waller, SF. (415) 621-4733, www.clipper-construction.com



You could find no better brand rep than Swagger Cosmetics‘ Blake Karamazov. The tiny club kid (who came to us a few years ago fresh from the female drag-friendly land of Seattle) rarely leaves the house without her face immaculately, fantastically done — think ruby red 4mm glitter lips, sherbet orange eyebrows, or an exaggerated, smoky cat eye. The woman lives for everyday drag queen. But as a vegan, Karamazov bridled at many heavily pigmented makeup lines. Lucky us, because the Sanrio-obsessed entrepreneur started designing her own one-woman line of glitters, lipsticks, eye shadows — and most recently, fake eyelashes — manufactured 100 percent sans animal cruelty. Having recently made up one of her genderbending idols James St. James, there’s no question this babe’s got swag. Check her wares online, and don’t miss her wildly popular, glam inspiring Instagram game.



You don’t care if they work from home or not — the neighbors are taking too much pleasure from your lax approach to towels on the post-shower strut from the bathroom, and you sense an overeager, extra pair of peepers when you and your sweet are snuggled up watching Jessica Lange chew the scenery on American Horror Story: Coven. Thank goodness for Christine and Jeff Vidall, whose Art Shade Shop has been keeping neighborly boundaries firm in a densely-packed city since 1934. Wood slats, pleated blinds, sunbrellas, fabric coverings — this Castro couple has it all, perfect for the moment you need more privacy than those gorgeous bay windows will afford on their own. The basement shop (nook, really) also offers bead and reel clutch mechanisms, bottom-up lock pulleys, and Hauser roller shades. If you don’t know what any of that is, they’ll gladly install it all for you anyway.

698 14th St., SF. (415) 431-5074, www.artshadeshop.com



And then there are times when you just need a retreat from harsh illumination. Perhaps the fluorescent bars at the office seared your retinas too deeply today, or maybe you wish to give your date a softly lit, haloed-in-shadow version of ever-romantical you. These are the moments in which you’ll be grateful for Lamp Shades SF and its colorfully appointed showroom, ready to shield you from the ever-burning light. A leopard topper for that candlestick fixture? Modern puce shades for the chandelier in the foyer? A pair of matching onyx horse head bedside numbers? You will find them all here. Bring the base or bulb for which you need a topper, ring the doorbell to be allowed entrance, and let the decidedly unshady staff help you select the level of lighting best suited for your look.

199 Potrero, SF. (415) 431-6720



If you’re looking for a vintage instrument with a personal touch, Panhandle Guitar hits all the right chords. Rock fiends will swoon for the intimate, nicely overstuffed shop’s collection of prime and shiny vintage guitars, basses, amps, and effects. Panhandle buys old instruments too — on consignment, or trade-in — and offers on-site repairs. Owner Robert Williams is known for his encyclopedic knowledge, and there’s a laid-back and welcoming vibe we dig, charmed by store windows cluttered with neon signs and a child mannequin in an oversized Panhandle Guitar T-shirt. Guitar Center this is not; the stated store hours seem more like vague suggestions of when it might be open, and Mondays are simply listed as “some times” open with a smiley face. This kind of store is sadly uncommon these days — a unique, owner-run vendor of rare instrumental goods, tuned into the needs of fellow artists.

1221 Fell, SF. (415) 552-1302, www.panhandleguitarsf.com



When Cable Car Clothiers — venerable haberdasher to dashing gents since 1946 — announced it was vacating its Sansome and Bush location in 2012, our hearts sank. Was this incredible emporium of all things Mad Men-Rat Pack-Nautical Chic-Dressy Preppy about to vanish, like so many other San Francisco institutions? Where, oh where, would we get our crushable Trilby fedoras, handsomely polka-dotted navy blue ascots, and elaborate cherry-handled horsehair brush sets? Never fear: the relocation a few blocks away signaled a snazzy revamp. Jonathan Levin, grandson of original Clothier Charles Pivnick, had returned to the family business, determined to pump some classy 21st Century zazz into the joint. The large, handsome new showroom retains all the charm of the former space — but decks it out in voluminous racks and shelves of exquisite menswear treasures. Another reason to spend your entire afternoon here: the in-store barbershop with master barber Nicky and associates providing hot lather and straight razor shaves, hot toweling, scissor hair cuts, and more. You want full-service swank? This is the place, my man.

110 Sutter, SF. (415) 397-4740, www.cablecarclothiers.com


Wiggle your bike down to this sweet little corner shop near Duboce Park for lessons in fine and lovely things. Aline’s Closet is the three-year-old queendom of a one Aline Dazogbo, a seamstress whose French-inflected takes on dresses, skirts, and blouses may just lead you to the customized wardrobe item of your dream. Dazogbo designs and creates nearly everything in the shop: yoga pants, handbags, column skirt-tube top combos, and more. Though many items are ready-to-wear, a rack along one wall of the sunny store showcases the garments she can tailor-make just for you: a lace-paneled velvet slip, a clingy, cap-sleeved onesie. Should her sweet, sassy patterns stray even one iota from your fantasy outfit, don’t fret: Dazogbo loves to help customers concoct one-of-a-kind wearables based out of nothing more than their own visions.

101 Pierce, SF. (415) 312-3468, www.alinescloset.com



Powerful chrome and polished enamel parts, operated by hand, executing a series of swift cuts and swooping motions. Classic design masterfully crafted, all building to — gasp! — the perfect slice of salami. Welcome to the world of Emilio Mitidieri, the man who brings the Bay Area’s venerable Emiliomiti “culinary toys” to life. Though his company is playfully named, Mitidieri’s creations mean business — wood fire and gas brick ovens that yield perfectly cooked pizza pies, pasta machines that extrude dreamy strands of fettuccini, and specimens like the Slicer Mito 300, an elegantly crafted meat slicer that mimics the classic designs of the deli of yesteryear. Mitidieri has been supplying restaurants and dedicated chefs with the tools needed for success for decades now, so chances are you’ve already sampled some of his playful perfection topped with marinara or nestled in a hoagie roll.




Bolivian-born David Forte’s SoMa workshop has one mission: to light up your life, and colorfully at that. Opened in 1971, Forte’s San Francisco Stained Glass Works is the place to go for those who would have blooming lilies twinkling above a front door, or an Art Deco Emerald City to enliven the upper strata of one’s workspace. The shop turns out devotional works for pane-minded churches and synagogues and extravagantly lovely flatware sets. Others flock to learn the craft themselves. A course on glass fusing and a stained glass 101 are both offered by Forte’s staff, not to mention monthly space rentals for artists in need of a communal glass grinder, firing kiln, and place to indulge a penchant for transcendent translucents.

1246 Howard, SF. (415) 626-3592, www.sfsgw.com



Local artist Amos Goldbaum hand-draws and hand-prints some of the most recognizable, SF-centric t-shirts (and hoodies, tanks, and baby onesies) available on the streets — literally, on the streets, since he also hand-sells his wares from wire racks on Valencia, near the Ferry Building, at street fairs like the recent Castro Street Fair, and other open-air spots. Goldbaum’s complete repertoire goes far beyond the familiar tourist-friendly landscapes he’s known for: his web portfolio is packed with psychological, fantastical illustrated scenes you’d spot immediately in a gallery — but probably never witness out a Muni window. When it comes to uniquely Bay gifts, though, you won’t want to miss his quirky, amazingly detailed and vibrant line-drawing takes on local landmarks like Dolores Park, with old-school playground intact, and Bernal Hill — or his illo of the old-timey Sutro Baths, complete with Cliff House aflame in the background.




Inside the massive American Steel building, a relic of Oakland’s industrial past repurposed and managed mostly for the Burning Man art world, there’s a beautifully intricate two-story Western saloon made from recycled materials, originally built as the Dustfish Bordello for Black Rock City in 2009. In the intervening years, the structure has matured into what is now known as American Steel’s Oaktown Hall, an art gallery and event space that became a hub this year for a variety of ventures within what its organizers call the salvage and reuse arts. Skate ramps! Haitian art tours! Crazy, old-timey auctions! The hall is a gathering place and focal point for those who would find creative reuses for so-called junk, and build relationships among West Oakland’s diverse communities.

1960 Mandela Parkway, Oakl. (415) 794-1827, www.oaktownhall.com



It has been remarked that West Portal is quite the happy village in the middle of this teeming city. We concur. Tucked into the side of a hill topped by a Twin Peak, slung happily along a leafy central promenade, the neighborhood is not the worst model for Main Street, USA. Tip and Top Vacuum & Shoe Service, particularly seen in this light, is an all-American gem. Bring in your dirt sucker for a fix-me-up and the capable staff will get it back to dirt bunny-busting in two shakes of a dusty rug. And like any good member of a small community, Tip and Top is a multitasker, as evident from the boots in the window. The shop also repairs shoes, and will even custom-cobble you a boot or slipper. To recap: Tip and Top fixes vacuums and shoes, it’s cute as a button, and you kind of need to check it out.

173 W Portal, SF. (415) 664-9320



All over the news last year: Medical marijuana dispensaries in San Francisco and other cities were being shut down by a spasm of overzealous and anachronistic enforcement by the federal government (see “Why?” 8/14/12). But a wave of young clubs were undaunted by the headlines. Indeed, many went through the entirely navigable local approval process for cannabis clubs and threw open their doors, come what may from Kamala Harris, Eric Holder, and the rest of the “drug warriors.” Among the best of the bunch? Bloom Room, an elegant establishment just a stone’s throw from hoity-toity Mint Plaza and the Chronicle Building in the heart of downtown. “Where medicine blooms wellness follows” is its somewhat logically fuzzy yet totally cromulent motto. Bloom Rooms got great weed — strains like Grape Romulan (I), Girl Scout Cookies, Chem Dawg, Pink Lemonade, and a special Bloom Blend — at decent prices, weighed out by super-nice and knowledgeable employees, in a classy, exposed brick interior. Here’s hoping Bloom’s given enough room to put down some roots.

471 Jessie, SF. (415) 543-7666, www.bloomroomsf.com



“I’ve had it with these cheap sons of bitches who claim they love poetry but never buy a book,” SF literary legend Kenneth Rexroth once supposedly said. Many share his sentiment when it comes to music — especially as our city rapidly empties itself of neighborhood record stores (and book stores, too, for that matter). Rexroth himself used to live above Jack’s Record Cellar, one of our longest-operating vinyl concerns — since 1951! — and also one of the most poetic spots in the city. Packed with the rarest of 33s, 45s, and, miraculously, stacks of so-desirable-we-can’t-stand-it 78s, Jack’s has all the jazz you want — plus soul, opera, country, doo-wop, standards, and classic pop. Memorabilia papers the walls, and piles of records spill out onto the aisles. Like many spots in the area, it’s more of a relaxed hangout than a capitalist venture. Conversation is prized over cash receipts. Open hours are spare and unpredictable. Saturday afternoons are a good bet, proprietor Wade Wright might be there to let you in. Unlike Rexroth, he values the love over the sale.

254 Scott, (415) 431-3047



After a 25-year stint on 16th Street in the now-teeming Valencia Corridor, and years of rumors of impending closure, a steep rent increase nearly caused literary, cultural, and artistic hub Adobe Books to shut its doors for good. But supporters launched a fundraising campaign using crowd-funding platform Indiegogo and succeeded in raising $60,000, enough to secure a new home on 24th Street — which, along with the re-situated Modern Times Bookstore, has become somewhat of a haven for gentrification-fleeing libraries. “Adobe has been such an important part of our lives as artists, writers, book lovers, and Mission dwellers,” the bookstore and gallery’s boosters wrote, in what turned out to be a wildly successful pitch. “We couldn’t see the Mission without it.”

3130 24th St, SF. (415) 864-3936, www.adobebackroomgallery.com




The organization has offered lectures and panel talks on key policy issues to Bay Area audiences for years, but the Commonwealth Club of California’s Climate One series deserves a shout-out for bringing the most pressing environmental issues of our time to the fore. Climate One was founded by Commonwealth Club Vice President Greg Dalton in 2007 after he visited the arctic circle in a Russian icebreaker boat and saw firsthand the effects of climate change on life in that part of the world. So far, the series has brought together public officials, academic experts, key business players, and advocates for serious, in-depth conversations on everything from fracking and the implications of rising sea levels to “Corn, Cows, and Cars.” The result: scary stuff, but with a reach toward actual solutions. Educate thyself with a Climate One talk at the Club’s San Francisco headquarters or download a podcast from a recent event.




Clamber up to the Queen Anne Victorian home on a quiet Richmond corner to find some of the best free health care in the city. For 20 years, the SF Free Clinic has tended to the uninsured and underinsured, doing the work that our great federal government is only just now starting to get to. Started in 1993 by Tricia and Richard Gibbs, two general practitioners who wanted to make the connection between low-income San Franciscans and the city’s high quality health resources, the facilities offer preventative health screenings, vaccines, and non-emergency care. Services like free diabetes screenings are aided by health facilities and pros from across the city who lend a hand at the California Street location. Example: renowned yoga instructor Betty Roi offers a regular healthful yoga class. The SF Free Clinic has seen more than 70,000 patient visits since it opened its doors, a staggering number that shows how valuable the clinic is to the city’s health and wellness.

4900 California, SF. (415) 750-9894, www.sffc.org

Best of the Bay 2013: BEST NEW DRONE HIVE (WITH BUZZ)


Face it: cafes do not want an all-day camper leeching off their wi-fi (and scaring away their customers), and people working on their laptops want a place to work where they don’t have to keep buying single espressos just to get that last report done. Now we out-of-office worker bees can bow to our caffeine-overlords guilt-free: The Workshop Cafe is a spot where laptop use is not only condoned, its encouraged. In fact, calling it a cafe may be a misnomer — it’s really a hip and sleek public office space that a cafe snuck into and never left. (And it’s already looking to expand to a location near you.) Each table is equipped with rows of outlets to charge your gear, and there’s a smartphone app to order coffee without moving your rump. Cubbies deep inside the FiDi coffee joint-cum-workspace come equipped with white boards and markers for impromptu meetings, and widescreen monitors await your PowerPoint-laden laptops. Workshop even offers scanning and printing services: no need to head to FedEx or Kinko’s or whatever the heck they call themselves these days. Pro tip: there are free portable batteries to plug your laptops into if you want to toil at the tables outside. For only two bucks an hour, you can work as long as you like, minus snide looks from annoyed baristas. Now we can work forever! Free time, what’s that?

180 Montgomery, SF. (415) 322-1048, www.workshopcafe.com

Best of the Bay 2013: BEST BAR FOR A SECOND DATE


Fancy foodie joints, indie movies, trendy pop-ups, and all that jazz: all great ways to unwind the weirdness of date No. 2, but when it’s a Tuesday, you worked all day, and exhausted yourself in yoga, let’s be real: you’re hangry and horny. This evening out requires two things immediately: food and liquor. Forget trying to be impressive, go with our proven routine. We call up the Little Chihuahua on Divisadero, order something to go, and walk your awkward and excited date next door to The Page — one of the few chill, homey spots left on the rapidly developing (and stressing out) “Divisadero Corridor” — where one can snag a bar stool, drink some whiskey, and feast on your delicious assortment of salsas and burrito fare. This neighborhood staple is cool with your takeout as long as you promise to clean up your foils and spills — and generously tipping your bartender never hurts. Your date will be well fed, your confidence levels will be on the up, and the night is young. It’s time to turn the page on this.

298 Divisadero, SF. (415) 255-6101, www.thepagebar.com

Best of the Bay 2013: BEST EYE ON THE OCEAN


Perched above Sutro Baths near Ocean Beach, on a cliff whose face always seems to be exploding with colorful blooms, the exceedingly graceful 4,050 sq. ft. National Park Service visitor center at Point Lobos known as Lands End Lookout is one of our new favorite places in the world. (Although it’s closed as of this writing due to the government shutdown, boo.) Opened earlier this year, it contains a smart little cafe, oodles of info on the area’s environmental features, wildlife, and historical hot spots, and a nature-loving staff. Most people will come here at a starting point of an energizing down to the or through the surrounding hills. But the low and angular yet surprisingly capacious design of the Lookout itself, by EHDD, fits so perfectly into its Point Lobos surroundings (and puts further to shame the industrial barn-like Cliff House next door) that you may find yourself lingering beyond a cappuccino to enjoy the light and light-filled space, waves frothing on the rocks far below.


Best of the Bay 2013: BEST SCHOOL OF THRASH


Between competing coffee shops and obscured by the whirl of growing foot traffic on Divisadero Street sits an old Victorian, surrounded by a fence, upon which hangs a hand-painted sign. The SF Skate Club‘s mission says it all: “[The club] strives to provide a safe, positive, and fun environment for youth of diverse backgrounds to pursue their passion to skateboard.” Skate Club creators, skateboarder Shawn Connolly and educator Thuy Nguyen, are on their grind to use skateboarding as a medium of youth empowerment and community building, and their school is a hub of fast friendship and solid ollies. Summer, weekend, and after-school programs for kids of most ages are offered which teach the basics and tricks. The school also organizes mobile outings, and hosts drop-in visits from professionals. If its pupils’ enthusiasm is any indication, after just a few months it’s already on a roll.

635 Divisadero, SF. (415) 572-2065, www.sfskateclub.com

Best of the Bay 2013: BEST HOME RUN


If you’re a local baseball fan and you haven’t yet run the Giant Race, you’re missing out, and not just because race entry includes a bobblehead (this year: sparkle-eyed Sergio Romo decked out in running gear) and a shiny medal (also this year: an homage to the World Series ring … with glitter, because WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS). The late summer race, which benefits Project Open Hand and offers nearly pancake-flat 5K, 10K, and half-marathon distances, begins just outside AT&T Park but ends on the field. Sure, certain parts of the sacred grass are roped off, but the bulk of the diamond is open for post-race stretching, hydration, and field-of-dreams fantasies galore. Die-hards take special note: There are companion Giant Races in San Jose and Scottsdale, too. No AT&T Park finish, obviously, but think of the superfan bragging rights!