Pub date July 24, 2012


By Marke B.

Welcome to the Guardian’s Best of the Bay 2012!

This is our 38th annual celebration of the people, places, and things that make living here such a great experience. Inside, you’ll find a feast of winners in categories like Best Burrito, Best Band, Best Strip Club, Best Shoe Store, Best Place to Watch the Sunset, Best Drag Queen, and beyond.

More than 15,000 of our readers voted in our Best of the Bay Readers Poll for their local, independent favorites in more than 200 of these categories, including several new ones we added this year, like Best Yoga Teacher, Best Comedy Show, Best Food Festival, and Best Lunch.

You’ll find the results inside — as well as 150 Best of the Bay Editors Picks that highlight some Guardian favorites, old and new, that we think deserve some special recognition for lighting up our lives this year.

We’ve also included many enthusiastic quotes from our readers who responded to the question, “Best of the Best: What’s your favorite thing about living here?” We got tons of great answers! We wish we could run all of them. But rest assured, there’s a whole lot to love in the Bay.

This year, there was no question that the state of the economy had a profound effect. The Occupy movement continues to resonate here, even while many of the world’s biggest tech companies draw well-to-do people from all over the world. As the population of the Bay Area shifts and grows, debates about authenticity and integration have raged, and sometimes it seems like everyone’s at sixes and sevens.

And yet. The sheer gorgeousness, thriving alternative culture, and promise of freedom and acceptance that are unique to our shores continue to attract amazing characters, visionary dreamers, and explorers of both inner-cosmic and rugged outdoor terrain. We at the Guardian like to think of the Best of the Bay issue as a special document — a map charted through our crazy little corner of the universe, drawn up by people coming together to talk about the things we love.

In 1974, Esquire magazine asked us for ideas for its Best of the USA issue, which led us to 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 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-eight years later — and 45 years after we opened our doors — we’re still going strong.

Editing this year’s issue with Caitlin Donohue was a hoot. I shower grateful smooches on all our fabulous collaborators, especially creative aces Brooke Robertson and Mirissa Neff, diligent copy editor Emily Appelbaum, the Guardian staff, and the ever-supportive Hunky Beau, my own personal Best of the Bay.

But most of all we 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 great new things this year. Peace.



Chloe Fleury is a French illustrator who fell in love with international travel on a trip to California when she was 10 years old. She now lives in the inspirational Mission District, where she likes to transform flat sheets of paper into three-dimensional objects, sometimes even bringing them to life through stop-motion animation. Unfortunately, we were unable to animate Best of the Bay this year, but if you like the illustrations in this issue you can check out work that Fleury has done for the likes of Cosmopolitan, Warner Bros Records, Condé Nast Traveler, Chronicle Books, Target, and Anthology Magazine at




Caitlin Donohue, Marke B.


Brooke Robertson, Mirissa Neff


Graham Misenheimer


Chloé Fleury


Emily Appelbaum, Robert Avila, Soojin Chang, Yael Chanoff, Kimberly Chun, Cheryl Eddy, Nicole Gluckstern, Emily Hunt, Sean Hurd, Steven T. Jones, Ali Lane, Kelly Lovemonster, Phil McGrew, Virginia Miller, Tim Redmond, Cat Renz, Emily Savage, April M. Short, Ariel Soto-Suver, Ruth Tam


Rafi Aji, Gabriel Hurley, Gene X. Hwang, Virginia Miller, Brittany M. Powell, Anastacia Powers, Amber Schadewald, Ariel Soto-Suver, Trevor Traynor, Godofredo Vasquez


Emily Appelbaum