Our Weekly Picks: October 10-16



Happy Hour at 251 Post

Stumbling on 251 Post Street feels a lot like clicking on a square in Minesweeper that opens up an awesome chunk of mine-free space. The entrance is nudged between a designer sunglass shop and high-end French clothing store, but it leads to six floors full of innovate artwork. Granted, the art might be in the same price range as the surrounding stores, but hey, admission is a lot cheaper than a museum. The happy hour will feature artist talks at four of the six galleries, including the Bay Area painter Brett Amory, whose simple but beautiful paintings are evocative of my lonelier dream visions. His work, focused on figures and buildings he encounters in Oakland and San Francisco, reduces everything down to the essence, creating empty spaces where buildings and figures seem to recede and appear before your eyes. (Molly Champlin)

5pm, free

251 Post Street Art Galleries, SF

(415) 291-8000


Dinosaur Jr.

We don’t need to tell you that Dinosaur Jr was one of the most influential alternative rock bands of the 1990s or that these dudes can really shred. We’ll just let their 28-year career attest to that. What we will tell you is that their new album is not to be overlooked or underestimated. These Dinosaurs have aged well. I Bet on Sky, their 10th full-length, is a loudmouthed snarl of a record. It features all the best quirks of Dinosaur Jr’s extensive catalogue: frightening amounts of fuzz, weirdly engaging hooks, and deep dark lyrics in J Mascis’ disengaged nasal yowls. Don’t forget to bring earplugs. (Haley Zaremba)

8pm, $32.50


1805 Geary, SF

(415) 346-3000



Lenora Lee Dance

The history of Chinese Americans in the Bay Area is not exactly a closed book. Over the years many artists — including dancers — have opened a few of its pages, but I can’t think of any choreographer who has taken an approach as simultaneously intimate and large scale as Lenora Lee. In her work, the personal and the political intertwine inextricably. As part of her fifth anniversary celebration she, and some very fine visual, musical and text collaborators, are presenting a triptych that is still in the making. “Passages: For Lee Ping To” is the most personal — based on Lee’s grandmother’s story; “Reflections” looks at conflicting ideas of maleness; and “The Escape”, a work on immigrant women. (Rita Felciano)

Fri/12-Sat/13, 8pm, $15–$25

Sun/14, 3:30pm

Dance Mission Theater

3316, 24th St., SF



The Raveonettes

The collaboration of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo feels like 1950s and ’60s rock’n’roll overlaid with electric noise and coupled with darker, more introspective lyrics. Their sound recalls grunge and captures a shoegazy moodiness that’s both mysterious and lyrical. The Danish duo has been making music together as the Raveonettes since 2001, has developed a cult following along the way, and has been credited with spawning somewhat of an American indie rock renaissance. Wagner relates Observator, the group’s recently released sixth album, to “a heavenly dream that you slowly realize is actually taking place in hell.” (Mia Sullivan)

With Melody’s Echo Chamber

9pm, $25


1025 Columbus, SF?

(415) 474-0365



Morbid Angel

Time was that Morbid Angel could do no wrong. Tampa was bursting with bands in the later Reagan years, but few combined brutality with complexity as well as guitarist Trey Azagthoth, drummer Pete Sandoval, and bassist-vocalist David Vincent. With the release of 2011’s Illud Divinum Insanus, however, that time officially ended. Industrial and electronic textures alienated fans, leaving them uncertain about the band’s new direction. Thankfully, having missed the Illud… sessions while recovering from back surgery, Sandoval is now back in the fold, which bodes well for a return to death metal roots on the band’s current tour. (Ben Richardson)

With Dark Funeral, Grave

9pm, $31


333 11th St., SF




Life is Living Festival

Even in the season of street fair, Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s Life is Living Festival stands out. The overarching theme for the fests — they take place in ‘hoods across the country, from Houston’s Emancipation Park to Chicago’s South Side to the Bronx — is bringing green to the black community, uniting the sustainability movement with a hip-hop sensibility. The fest overflows with hip-happenings: Oakland’s first youth poet laureate Stephanie Yun will take the stage, there’ll be a street art contest, a show by a local team of dunk artists, vegan Filipino food, free breakfast (a park tradition started by the Black Panthers), youth science exhibition, dancing, hip-hop cipher — oh, and Talib Kweli will DJ. The fest prides itself on being an uber-positive, multi-generational show of strength. You won’t go home frowning. (Caitlin Donohue)

10am-6pm, free Defremery Park 1651 Adeline, Oakl.


Alternative Press Expo

Besides, of course, the sweetly self-conscious parade of Optimus Prime, Misty from Pokemon, and Clockwork Android costumes, my favorite part of the dearly-departed Wonder Con was the sociology nerd comics panels. “Women in Comics,” “Social Justice in Comics,” the list goes on. Graphic novels present the perfect, neurosis-friendly media in which to delve into alternative culture, which is why the Alternative Press Expo will make you forget all those Hollywood blockbuster star panels. Go this year to delve into the best scribblers of alt culture, like the Hernandez brothers of Love and Rockets Latino punk fame, a queer cartoonist panel moderated by Glamazonia’s Justin Hall, and the chance to connect with a gajillion like-minded indie comic freaks. (Donohue)

11am-7pm; also Sun/14, 11am-6pm; $10 one day, $15 two day pass Concourse Exhibition Center 635 Eighth St., SF


Yerba Buena Night

Art allies in the Yerba Buena district are rallying together for another installment of Yerba Buena Night. The neighborhood will be full of people getting their musing-spectator on during the gallery walk, rocking out at the three main performance stages, and chatting with class at the champagne reception hosted by Visual Aid. Be sure to stop by 111 Minna to see surreal graffiti and pen artist Lennie Mace, who operates in both America and Japan, as well as some of Mike Shine’s paintings and props from Outside Lands (minus the live carny folk, unfortunately). Or visit Wendi Norris Gallery for beautifully bright but often gruesome narrative paintings by artist Howie Tsui: think pop-surrealist Mark Ryden with a Chinese influence. (Champlin)

3pm, free

Yerba Buena District

701 Mission

(415) 541-0312



David Byrne and St. Vincent

Old and young, man and woman, beauty and beast (albeit a hip beast with now slick, silver hair), David Byrne and St. Vincent make quite the unlikely pair. Despite, or maybe in light of these differences, their respective talents fit together like puzzle pieces in their joyously poppy and horn-laden collaboration, Love This Giant. The album, released in September, rings in like a call to action and touches on issues of wealth, prescribed and individual culture, love, and forgiveness. Aside from the fact that everyone loves a rock show backed with an eight-piece brass band, this is set to be a memorable night.(Champlin)

8pm, $63.50–$129

Orpheum Theater

1192 Market, SF

(888) 746-1799


The Sheepdogs

If you’re itching for some classic rock nostalgia but aren’t in the mood for the full-on experience (i.e. Dark Star Orchestra), check out The Sheepdogs. This Canadian quartet looks like they were pulled straight out of the ’70s and has been sonically influenced by rock icons like The Grateful Dead, Credence Clearwater Revival, and Steely Dan. These guys released a self-titled, debut album with Atlantic Records last month. (They released their first three albums independently.) The Sheepdogs thrive on three-part harmonies, produce extremely catchy tracks, and have been rumored to put on fun, blissful shows. (Sullivan)

With Black Box Revelation

7:30pm, $15

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF

(415) 861-2011


Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin

Not quite nu-jazz, math-rock, or classical minimalism, Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin attacks Reichian time signatures with the borderline robotic technical skill of a group of Juilliard grads, the undeniable groove of an airtight funk band, and the Steely Dan-worthy production values inherent to ECM, the venerable European jazz label to which they’re signed. Bärtsch’s piano playing is remarkably dynamic, flowing between resonant, open tones and muffled, percussive hammering, while generously layered drums, agile bass-plucking, and exotic woodwinds (contrabass clarinet, anyone?) create a dark, steely backdrop. Considering the Swiss ensemble’s masterful ability to anchor soulful acoustic instrumentation with a relentlessly electronic pulse, Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin is as compelling, and unmissable, as any live ensemble currently working. (Taylor Kaplan)

8pm, $20

Yoshi’s Oakland

510 Embarcadero West, Oakl.

(510) 238-9200


Vampyr with live score by Steven Severin

Get your Halloween on a little early this year with Steven Severin, founding member and bassist of Siouxie and the Banshees, who comes to haunt the city tonight with two special live performances of his new score to the classic 1932 horror film Vampyr. The third installment in Severin’s ongoing film accompaniment series “Music For Silents,” the darkly moody synthesizer score perfectly matches the surreal scenes on the silver screen, working in conjunction with the somewhat unorthodox style of filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer, who continued to use elements of the silent era, including dialogue title cards, even though the film was made at the advent of the talkies. (Sean McCourt)

7 and 9:30pm, $15

Roxie Theater

3117 16th St., SF


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Haight Street coffeshop plans to Slay at its upcoming Mission location


Stanza Coffee is expanding past its Haight Street, hole-in-the-wall roots and into the competitive SF coffee scene, with a badass, Bay Area exclusive espresso machine and a new location in the caffeinated-cool Mission district opening next month.

Part-owner and general manager of Stanza, young Aaron Caddel approached the vacant Haight Street building almost a year ago. Stanza Coffee opened in April, serving Redlands-based roaster Augie’s Coffee to a less-than-frenzied reception. A new coffee place in San Francisco isn’t exactly anything to write home about, after all. However, the quickly increasing business developments indicates good news for the little coffee bar that could. 

While the shop’s decor has a unique dose of rustic glam more akin to a wine bar, featuring heavy red curtains, burnt red walls, wood floors, and a series of wine barrel cafe tables positioned next to the window, Caddel envisions a battalion of interior, exterior, and branding changes for a more comfortable environment. He foresees a lighter, more cohesive color scheme for the dark walls, tables that are more conducive to laptop work, a brighter outside sign, window art with Stanza’s new logo, and maybe even some couches for meandering coffee shop chit-chat. 

Perhaps the most dramatic of developments is Stanza’s upcoming addition of a new, Mission district location at 3126 16th Street by early October. While Stanza’s Haight location stocks both roasts and a wine tasting room, Caddel assures me that the store is really “a coffee shop, not a wine bar.” Indeed, it seems that the rack of locally-sourced MJ Lord’s wines lining the back wall of the shop is merely a pleasant afterthought. The coffee bar menu, including a steaming cup of Ethiopian pour-over accompanied by a Mission Beach Cafe golden raisin-stuffed, vegan bran muffin, or the sweet, slow-drip-cold-brew iced coffee is enough. Luckily for self-proclaimed “coffee purist” Caddel, the Mission front will be more concentrated on the caffeine.

In fact, the Stanza team recently purchased the sole Bay Area distribution rights to the infamous Slayer espresso machine, a hulking, expensive, and wholly badass piece of coffee instrumentation manufactured in Seattle. Caddel tells me this new location will be much more focused on hosting a comfortable (think couches and a back patio) and community-oriented environment: while Haight Ashbury’s combination of hippie-punks and tourists make for a fairly transient customer base, the excited manager can barely contain his enthusiasm when describing the steady clientele he anticipates at the new location. 

Caddel recently closed down a potentially lucrative Union Square pop-up cart due to the fast-paced business’ quick turnover time and ensuing lack in presentation and quality, a product degradation that he says simply “hurt [his] soul.” The vision for the new storefront focuses equally on product and presentation in order to give coffee the contemplation and appreciation the Stanza team believes it’s due. 

Stanza Coffee and Wine Bar

Open Mon.-Fri 6:30am-9pm; Sat.-Sun. 7:30am-9pm

1673 Haight, SF

(415) 529-1592





Day of action for free Muni passes for youth Balboa BART Station, 401 Geneva Ave, SF; 1:30pm, free. POWER has been working for years to get free Muni passes for youth, but the fight is not over. Come help keep the pressure on in a campaign that aims to "shift local, regional, and national mass transit priorities towards the needs of working class communities of color and to bring an analysis of race, class, and gender to bear on transportation planning decisions," starting with free Muni for youth in San Francisco.

Norman Yee happy hour Rio Grande, 1108 Market, SF; 6pm, free. Connect with some politicians at this happy hour, which District 6 Sup. Jane Kim is throwing for District 7 candidate Norman Yee. Yee is currently on the school board and hopes to represent District 7, which spans from Judah in the north to Lake Merced.


Speak-out and march for Derrick Gaines Arco gas station, 2300 Westborough Blvd., South San Francisco; Derrick Gaines was just 15 years old when he was killed on June 5, 2012 by an officer of the South San Francisco Police Department. Police approached Gaines and a friend, who they say were "looking suspicious." Police say Gaines ran away from them and drew a gun. Family and friends don’t buy it. They will meet at the site of Gaines’ death, the Arco gas station, in a continuing campaign to demand justice.

Icarus 10-year anniversary concert El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF; 6pm, $5-25. The Icarus Project is celebrating a decade of redefining mental illness by "navigating the space between brilliance and madness." Learn more about the Bay Area-born group in our story "Still Soaring" (9/12/12). Join them for live music, poetry, and an open mic.


Out from the Wreckage Thrillhouse, 3422 Mission, SF; "The collected, rejected, and recent works of punk artist Heather Wreckage." Her art has fueled revolutionary movements and counterculture at places like the Slingshot Collective, Occupy Oakland, and Hellarity House. Her zine, Dreams of Donuts, is on its 15th edition. Celebrate Wreckage with live music and zine bartering Saturday.

Third annual Castro nude-in Jane Warner Plaza, 17th and Castro, SF; Noon, free. It’s that time again. Come celebrate and defend the right of the Castro’s nude dudes and everyone who likes to be naked in public space. Of recent concern: cops unhappy with the public donning of cock rings. Decorated or not, nude-in organizers say, cocks should be able to fly free. So come support, nude or not- you can even dig up your Guardian butt guard from last year!

Self respect and community defense people’s forum Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street, Oakl; 12pm, free. Registration is at noon with events at 1, 3, and 6pm in this all-day forum on self-defense in the face of racial profiling and violence. In the wake of a report from The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement that shows that "every 36 hours a black man, woman, or child is murdered by the police, private security guards, prison guards or vigilantes in the US," this forum will discuss the history and current state of racial profiling and violence and how to launch a movement of people protecting themselves and their communities.


Effective Animal Advocacy 101 371 10th St., SF; 1pm, free. Farm Sanctuary works to help animals by spreading the word about going vegetarian or vegan. They launch their Compassionate Communities national tour in San Francisco Sunday. Join them for a vegan lunch and workshop on "Effective Animal Advocacy 101," and be sure to pick up some leaflets explaining the merits of "going veg."


Nonprofit workers’ victory party El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF; 6pm, free. San Francisco nonprofit workers, represented by SEIU 1021, won a 2 percent increase in funding and prevented layoffs this year. Celebrate with the SEIU nonprofit division at El Rio, with DJ Carnita of Hard French.

On the Cheap Listings


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Humpday happy hour Good Vibrations, 2504 San Pablo, Berk.; 1620 Polk, SF. 6:30-7:30pm, free. The strap-on: a necessity to many, mind-boggling to others, both to some. In Berkeley, tool over to your local Good Vibes for this guided shopping event where experts will talk to you about what you need to look for in a falsie friend. At the chain’s Polk Street location, GV employees will demystify the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon. What will it take for you to recreate a scene with your own Christian Grey? Chances are, you’ll find the tools you need here.


"Captured: Specimens in Contemporary Art" Bedford Gallery, Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Dr., Walnut Creek. (925) 295-1417, Through Nov. 18. Opening reception 6-8pm, $5. Trend watch! Throughout our history, humans have appropriated the natural world as raw material for our bizarre artistic impulses. Nowhere is this more true than in Walnut Creek, where a new exhibit opens showcasing reassembled taxidermy, curiosity cabinets, and specimen boxes.

Geoff Manaugh talks applied topology Banatao Auditorium, Sutardja Dai Hall, UC Berkeley. (510) 495-3505, 5-7pm, free. Things we know: Manaugh used to be a senior editor at Dwell Magazine, and a contributing editor at Wired UK. Currently, he runs a think tank for the Columbia University architecture department. Today’s UC Berkeley talked will be, according to the press release, about "burglary, tunneling, and urban perforation." In other news, UC Berkeley can sometimes create really confusing press releases.

Fillmore Fashion Night

MADison Avenue party Cartoon Art Museum, 655 Mission, SF. 7-9pm, $5-500. Celebrate the closing of "What, Me Worry?: 60 Years of Mad Magazine" at this little downtown shrine to the drawn and funny. Early 1960s attire is encouraged – in fact, you’ll get your date in for free if you’re both wearing Mad Men-style flair.


Paralympics viewing party LightHouse for the Blind, 214 Van Ness, SF. (415) 694-7350, 6-8pm, free. RSVP recommended. This center for the visually-impaired is celebrating its brand-new entertainment center with this party for the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Yes, there will be pizza.

"Party Like It’s 1906" One City One Book launch party The Green Arcade, 1687 Market, SF. 7pm, free. It’s always a good idea to celebrate author-sociologist Rebecca Solnit, and no day better than today, when the SF Public Library launches a citywide reading of her community-forged-in-disaster book A Paradise Built in Hell. It’s the eighth time the library’s encouraged the city to read together, and today Solnit will be on hand, and snacks they were noshing around the time of the 1906 SF earthquake will be available like oysters, sourdough bread, and beer.

Night Market Public Works, 161 Erie, SF. 5-9:30pm, $5. "Bacon Crack" chocolates, vegan soul food, and champagne funnel cakes go fabulously with a ukulele chanteuse — as any attendee of Forage SF’s upcoming Night Market will be able to attest. The organization dedicated to promoting ultra-local nourishment has been striking gold with this recurring nightlife-snack event, at which local small vendors rub elbows with the Bay’s musicos, DJs, and of course, party-hard foodies. Check out Uni and Her Ukulele, the 29th Street Swingtet, and Izzy*Wise.

KALX 50th anniversary art exhibit opening Rock Paper Scissors Collective, 2278 Telegraph, Berk. 6-9pm, free. For a half-century, UC Berkeley’s been home to 90.7 FM, a.k.a. KALX, where John Lennon talked People’s Park riots and Green Day crashed when they came to town. Come tonight to check out a collection of KALX paraphernalia, flyers, and historic photos.


All You Can Dance Alonzo King Lines Dance Center, 26 Seventh St., SF. 1-5pm, $5. Don’t know jack about dancing? Take a four-hour crash course today, with a sampling of mini-courses on ballet, flamenco, Chinese movement, hip-hop, modern, and more. Teachers will be on hand to possibly turn you on to a whole new beat of your heart.

Babylon Salon Cantina, 580 Sutter, SF. 7pm, free. Explore the Bay at this evening of readings – you’ll hear tales from a special education classroom, from assassinated journalist Chauncey Bailey’s finals days and ensuing trial, plus words from the "refreshingly off-kilter" (according to the NY Times Book Review) Lysley Tenorio. Cash bar on-site.


The Last Picture Show free screening Berkeley Underground Film Society, The Tannery, 708 Gillman, Berk. 7:30, donations suggested. Small town life examined, in this film about Anarene, Texas, and a bunch of kids just trying to get along. High school honey Jacey is the babe every one wants, but will the perfect sweetheart be enough to counteract the slow death of the town she calls home?


Jefferson Graham’s "Video Nation: A DIY Guide to Planning, Shooting, and Sharing Great Video" The Booksmith, 1644 Haight, SF. (415) 863-8688, 7:30pm, free. These days, it’s all about video. Author Graham knows it – that’s why he compiled this book on how to create the best footage for bloggers, web show hosts, and small business owners. The USA Today columnist and tech video host shares how to get your clip to go viral.

Women’s comedy night The Layover, 1517 Franklin, Oakl. 7pm, free. Sponsored by downtown Oakland’s sex-positive community shop Feelmore510 (a Best of the Bay 2012 winner!), this evening is for female-focused yucksters. Grab a drink, peruse the art that covers the Layover’s walls, and ready yourself for quips.

Pass the vegan deep-fried pizza fritters



Pleasurable it is, to announce the announcement of Hella Vegan Eats occupying Dear Mom (2700 16th St., SF. (415) 625-3362)’s rotating pop-up kitchen spot this Sat/1. Our Street Food Festival favorites will be whipping up deep-fried butternut squash pizza nuggets (our words, not theirs), an old-fashioned doughnut stuffed with beet burger, green curry coconut rice tamales, and more from 6pm-1am. Plus, animal product-free cupcakes from West Oakland’s Fat Bottom Bakery

And, brunch! The same day, 11:30am-5pm (feel free to sleep in, see) for a menu including vegan french toast with coconut “bacon,” fried banana, strawberry, and maple-peanut butter syrup. Also: mini-burritos. It’s not all vegan, but Mission Mission wants you to know that Dear Mom is in the middle of a veritable Pop-Up Jubilee.

The ladies are raising funds for a food truck, too. Check out their cute video: 

Sugar high


DEATH BEFORE DIET San Francisco has a hell of a sweet tooth, judging by all the dessert-themed trucks, artesinal chocolate shops, and curious ice cream flavors dribbling all over everything. For fans of sour and gummy candy who’d prefer a slightly more old-timey experience than the aisles of Walgreens can provide, we also have quite a few candy-focused shops. We sidestepped the prodigious chocolate offerings (for the most part) and tested treats at four of ’em.


Fiona’s Sweetshoppe Tucked into a teeny FiDi storefront, Fiona’s maximizes its snug space with four rows of shelves lined with candy-filled jars. The slogan here is “bewitching candy,” and the selection (much of it imported from Europe and the UK) doesn’t disappoint. Customers can browse a selection of UK candy bars (Cadbury purists rejoice), buy scoops in bulk, or pick up pre-made, ribbon-tied bags of the shop’s most popular wares.

We sampled: Australian Mango Licorice (Fiona’s has a large selection of licorice in different flavors and shapes; this variety is super-soft, chewy, and fruity — and vegan); Lemon Fizzballs (the favorite of the three: lemon drops with a powdery, sour-then-sweet coating); and, bending the chocolate rule a bit, Chocolate Limes (individually-wrapped, citrus hard candy with a dab of chocolate inside). 214 Sutter, SF;


The Candy Store Russian Hill’s beacon of sugary goodness went national, briefly, thanks to a pop-up stint in Target stores earlier this year. Locals can still hit up the airy space for stylishly packaged indulgences (dark chocolate sea salt caramels are a favorite), lollipops (in sizes ranging from “oversized” to “Godzilla-sized”), nostalgic chocolate bars (Nut Goodies, Mallo Cups), and … ohhhh yeah … jars of sour and gummy goodness.

We tried: Sour Skulls (imported from Sweden, home of extreme metal and, apparently, extremely sour candy); Cinnamon Bears (more sweet than hot); Gummi Filled Whales (marshmallow-y and adorable); and one Gummi Fried Egg (a fruit-flavored conversation piece). 1507 Vallejo, SF;


Miette Miette peddles its picture-perfect baked goods at San Francisco’s Ferry Building, Oakland’s Jack London Square, and Larkspur’s Marin County Mart. But candy fans taking a cake break should make a beeline to the Hayes Valley location (449 Octavia, SF). While the retro-styled space (with super-cute seasonal window displays) does feature a pastry case with Miette’s famed cupcakes, cakes, and macarons — the main attraction is pretty obvious: fancy chocolate bars, decadent malt balls, and jars upon jars of bite-sized sweets.

We tasted: Butter Waffles (waffle-shaped hard candy with a refined butterscotch flavor); Sour Apple Belts (a childhood classic); and Lemon Verbena Drops (is it weird to call a candy “sophisticated”? Because these are.) Various Bay Area locations, SF; Shaw’s San Francisco Just two Muni stops from the Castro is West Portal, with its Main Street USA vibe. Situated under a red-and-white awning, Shaw’s — around since 1931 — needs not try to emulate an old-school candy shop, since it already is one. No swish sweets here; in addition to ice cream, fudge, and chocolate truffles, Shaw’s stocks novelty items like Pop Rocks and mounds of sold-by-weight gummies and sour candy, including recognizable items like Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids. We inhaled: sour apples, cherries, peaches, and watermelon slices (all fresh, flavorful, soft, and chewy), with a few chocolate-covered gummy bears (a best-seller) for good measure. 122 West Portal, SF;

Feeding a movement


Keith McHenry was in Tampa, feeding fed-up (and hungry) Republican National Convention protesters, when we spoke by phone. Next he’ll head to Charlotte to do the same for those protesting the Democrats, and then to New York for Occupy Wall Street’s anniversary on Sept. 17.

Everywhere he goes, he’ll feed the masses home-cooked vegetarian meals. But unlike the other protesters, McHenry helped invent the system that gets them fed. He helped to found Food Not Bombs, the organization that salvages food that would otherwise be thrown out, cooks it up, and serves free, tasty meals in public squares throughout the world.

McHenry served the first meal in Boston Common in 1980, then moved to San Francisco a few years later, bringing the movement with him. Now, there are 500 chapters in the United States and hundreds more throughout the world.

“We provided food for 100 days at the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine,” McHenry recalls. “We fed a two-year occupation in Sarajevo. We provided food at Camp Casey,” Cindy Sheehan’s anti-war stakeout at then-President George W. Bush’s ranch.

The FNB approach to hunger is pretty simple: There’s enough food to go around, it’s just not distributed right. So activists find ways to distribute food that would otherwise be thrown out. San Francisco FNB gets donations of extra, unsold food from places like Rainbow Grocery and Other Avenues food co-op.

It was started by anti-nuclear activists, thus the “Not Bombs” part. But there’s more to their analysis than a cry for peace. As the group states, “For over 30 years the movement has worked to end hunger and has supported actions to stop the globalization of the economy, restrictions to the movements of people, end exploitation and the destruction of the earth and its beings.”

A typical Food Not Bombs operation features a table with a vegetarian or vegan meal, maybe some produce, and anti-war and other leftist literature and banners. In 1988, this is what was on the table when the San Francisco Police Department cracked down on Food Not Bombs, arresting dozens for serving food at the entrance to Golden Gate Park at Haight and Stanyan.

“We had our sign such that when you walked in at the corner of Haight you would see the words Food Not Bombs for a block and a half,” McHenry recalls. “What was good about that was you had tourists, and local business people, and local workers, and you had the people in the Golden Gate Park, all coming together to eat at that place. It was really perfect.”

FNB still serves there on Saturdays, but that perfection was disrupted by a high profile series of arrests in 1988, then again a few weeks ago, when Parkwide, the Recreation and Parks Department’s new bike rental program, set up in their old spot.

Food Not Bombs still runs into conflicts with police and courts. Last year, McHenry was one of 24 arrested in Orlando, Florida, spending 19 days in jail after protesting an ordinance making it a crime to feed the homeless in the city’s downtown.

Last week, FNB held its world gathering at Occupy Tampa’s tent city, serving daily breakfast and dinner while planning the future of the movement. Occupy Tampa has only grown in recent weeks as it hosts people in town to protest the RNC. Sharing food and shelter, making art, and protesting politicians doing the bidding of greedy corporations is McHenry’s vision made reality — and one he got to see bloom last fall with the birth of Occupy.

As McHenry tells it, he and others from Food Not Bombs have been part of a decade-long buildup to the “occupy” tactics that erupted into the world in 2011. “I was promoting the idea of occupation ever since a meeting that was held in 2003 after Cancun,” he said. Protests at the World Trade Organization meeting in Cancun were part of a growing trend of disrupting international conventions in which political and business leaders make agreements that further exploitation and neo-liberalism. But McHenry says that more was needed.

“There was a group of us that got together and said these one-off events, like summits, were just becoming more disempowering rather than successful,” he said.

After years of calling for occupations, the notion clicked last fall. “We had seen the Arab Spring, so that made it that much easier to imagine the occupation concept. And the Spanish occupations were just then happening.”

“That’s a common thing,” McHenry said. “People try all these different ways of organizing and then all at the same time, the same thing will start to click. And there’s no real way to say, ‘oh, it started here, it started there, this person started it.'”

When Occupy encampments sprang up, Food Not Bombs was behind many of the kitchens and food sharing efforts — it even had a guide to building a tent city kitchen at

“In the beginning of some of the first occupations like Chicago, DC, Wall Street, we made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, because we didn’t know if we would get busted,” McHenry said. “We ended up behind the scenes helping provide free meals to the occupations.”

McHenry said he hopes the spirit of occupying grows again. “It’s so important,” he said. “It would be great if we could regroup and retake public space.”


Jesus-free food


“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” Jesus supposedly said way back when. In San Francisco, there are a multitude of churches that offer free food to the hungry (find a handy list at

But what follows is a list of secular organizations that share food — for the planet, for self-determination and providing for community outside of the system, for healthy food untainted by hormones, pesticides and GMOs, for food not grown by exploited workers, and for many other reasons, these groups bring food straight to the people.


Where: Parque Niños Unidos, 23rd St. and Treat. When: Sundays, 1-3pm. Numbers given out at around noon. The Free Farm Stand gives out food and flowers grown at the Free Farm on Eddy and Gough, where local volunteers grow and harvest produce. They also share local organic surplus produce left over from several farmer’s markets and produce brought in from neighbors and from locally gleaned fruit trees.

The philosophy of the Free Farm is food sovereignty. Why should anyone go hungry, or go broke, feeding themselves and their kids? Instead, they figure, they should get for free what the earth gives. They facilitate this by offering the farm’s harvest — as well free sprouts and plants, that people can use to grow food themselves.

“The solution to the problem of hunger is to share the abundance that’s out there and to encourage people to grow food and share some with those in need.” said a Free Farm Stand organizer. “We can set up neighborhood networks of people growing food and sharing their surplus.” The Free Farm Stand is a step towards that vision.


Where: Tuesday, 16th and Mission, Thursday, Turk and Taylor. When: 6pm. Some of the folks at Better Days to Come have God in mind, but the organization’s founder, Leonard Fulgham, came from not the churches but the prisons. As its mission statement says, “Mr. Fulgham began mentoring many of the younger inmates, while having the unique opportunity to hear their stories. Many of their stories outlined how they landed in the prison community and why they continued to return. Being homeless upon release back into society is a commonly known contributing factor to these ex-offenders being hungry while being starved by the lack of job training and vocational skills.” Fulgham passed away March 24, 2012, and in his memory, the organization began serving two hot meals a week.


Where: Civic Center Plaza at Hyde and Market. When: Tuesdays 5:45-7pm. Curry Without Worry serves vegetarian food, mostly Nepali and mostly with five courses, in San Francisco every week. It does the same at its other branch in Kathmandu. Shrawan Nepali once owned a restaurant, Taste of the Himalayas, but used the proceeds to start Curry Without Worry and eventually sold it when “I realized I was not a businessmen.” Instead, he’s a man who feeds people a vegan five-course meal, which includes a sauce made from timur, herbs that grow in his Himalayan hometown but are rare in the US. “Our mantra is healthy food for hungry souls,” says Nepali.


Where and when: Monday, UN Plaza at 6:30pm and 16th and Mission at 7pm. Wednesday, UN Plaza at 6pm. Thursday: 16th and Mission at 7pm. Saturday: Haight and Stanyan at 5pm. After 30 years, Food Not Bombs still serves almost daily in San Francisco at a few locations throughout the city. Volunteers cook meals then bring them out to the people, bringing home the message that there’s enough to go around and you shouldn’t need money to feed yourself. The Saturday team still shares food at Haight and Stanyan, where Food Not Bombs first parked three decades ago.


Where: In front of the Bank of America at 2701 Mission. When: Thursday, 5pm until food runs out. Occupy-related people, carrying on from the giant Food Bank of America action on Jan. 20, when the Bank of America at the Embarcadero locked its doors after activists set up a food table and hung two interactive banners where passers-by could write what fit under the category “person” and what fit under the category “corporation.” They hung a third banner saying Food Bank of America, hundreds ate a hot meal, and the concept caught on. Now, people who have been gathering food donations for Occupy and otherwise give away fresh produce and hand out information about credit unions weekly in front of the bank.


Where: Mendell Plaza, at Third and Oakdale. When: Every third Sunday, 10-2. A few organizations, including the Black Star Riders Coalition and the Kenneth Harding Jr. Foundation, work together to put on this food giveaway every other week. It takes place in Mendell Plaza, the square that some have renamed Kenny’s Plaza after Harding, who was killed in the plaza at 19 years old after a dispute with SFPD officers over bus fare. “First, we definitely want to honor Kenny, that’s why we got there,” said Tracey Bell-Borden, one of the organizers of the Community Feed. “But there’s been a lot of activity in that area for a long time. So it’s really about healing the community,” she said. “We have to take care of our community.”

Eat to the beat


EAT BEAT Good food was never the part of the concert plan. In high school, the punks and shredders ate giant Pixy Stix, filled to the plastic brim with unnaturally purple sugar dust — purchased from the all-ages venue snack counter — followed by late night Del Taco red burritos slathered in Del Scorcho and stuffed with crinkle fries. Flash forward a decade or so, and the vegan Malaysian nachos with spicy peanut sauce and pickled veggies from Azalina’s were all I could talk about after Outside Lands, save for the requisite “oh my god” Metallica utterance.

I wasn’t the only one. From every corner of that packed festival, people — and of course, bloggers — were raving about The Whole Beast (featuring pop-ups from the Michael Mina Group) tucked away by Choco Lands, Andalu’s fried mac and cheese, and Del Popolo’s massive, industrial-looking rustic pizza truck.

While the higher-end meal options have now been going strong at Outside Lands for a few years — and, granted, food has long been a part of the festival equation — the gourmet pop-up thing, and locally-sourced, quality food offerings are on the menu more and more in brick-and-mortar music venues in San Francisco. Last week, the Great American Music Hall hosted an event dubbed the Great American Pop-Up. Seems it’s more open to experimentation in the slower summer months.

The one-off (for now) event was a family affair for the Great American Music Hall. There were six pop-up food vendors set up in between the grand bronze pillars of the Tenderloin venue, chosen by security guard Drake Wertenberger, who stepped forward at a managers meeting to coordinate. Jessica DaSilva, who works in the box office at both GAMH and sister-venue Slim’s, was there selling imaginative sweet treats for Milk Money/Dora’s Donuts Shut Yer Hole Truck, including a strawberry cheesecake push-pop, and the chewy chocolate raspberry cookie I devoured. There was also local, sustainable sushi by Ricecrackersushi, some colorful Asian fusion dishes via Harro-Arigato & Ronin, and a whole lot of sausages sliced by the Butcher’s Daughter.

It felt nearly illicit to be in the venue without the anticipation of a live set, like we were sneaking in. And the warmer lighting opened up the intricacies of the architectural design. But this event was focused squarely on the food, with the tables pushed out onto the floor, and a flannel-clad DJ spinning inoffensive hip-hop while munching on something from a paper plate.

Last year, Slim’s created something similar, but broke it down to one chef at a time hosting rotating gourmet pop-ups once a week for the month of August. Those too were more about the unique food offerings, less about music. There were dinners served in the venue by Jetset Chef Alex Marsh and Cathead’s BBQ (which now occupies its own legitimate space down the street from the venue).

GAMH and Slim’s both already serve dinner nightly at live shows, but publicist Leah Matanky tells me there were no hard feelings from the in-house restaurant staff.

On regular show nights even, Matanky says she’s seen an increase of interest in gourmet food at the venues. “We have seen our kitchen sales numbers increase noticeably over the last couple of years. We’ve started running nightly food and drink specials that include things we don’t normally offer and people have really responded to that. We still offer the full array of bar food…but you can also get gourmet specialties like the baked polenta pizza with smoked mozzarella or the grilled tri-tip steak with garlic-herb potatoes.”

Mountain View’s infinitely larger Shoreline Amphitheater also recently got an in-house food upgrade. So the story goes, when the GM of Shoreline dined at Calafia in Palo Alto, Chef Charlie Ayers pointed out the stadium’s lackluster food, and was then summoned to create a tastier menu. Ayers now has a “Snack Shack” at Shoreline that generates $8,000 per show, selling vegan lentil bowls, pork bowls, and salad wraps with Dino kale and feta cheese.

At the bars-with-bands level, El Rio seems to also be upping its epicurean pop-ups. Along with the now-frequent Rocky’s Fry Bread (side note: Rocky is also in the band Sweat Lodge, which often plays El Rio) stand, there’s Piadina homemade Italian flat bread, and the occasional Mugsy pop-up wine bar, which offers bubbly and red wine varieties.

There was an entirely separate event that took place Aug. 4 in San Francisco, which combined all of this: the high-end food, the live music, the ubiquitous pop-ups. It was a food and music festival (Noisette) at a brick-and-mortar venue (Public Works, where it moved after switching venues from Speakeasy Brewery).

The event was put on by Noise Pop Industries. The production company, which does Noise Pop and the Treasure Island Festival, began dipping into independent food culture a few years back with the Covers dinners, pairing well-known chefs with corresponding cover songs for a relatively small group. Noise Pop’s Stacey Horne came up with the Noisette concept after talking with DJs Darren and Greg Bresnitz of New York promotion company Finger on the Pulse, who do an event out there called Backyard Barbecue, which also pairs live music and gourmet food.

From the beginning, the Dodos were the first choice of headliners at Noisette. Merrick Long is a “professed foodie,” has worked in the restaurant business, and was on a panel at SXSW talking about food and music. Horne says they chose chefs that do things a little differently, and are more attuned to the pop-up mentality.

“Something that struck me at Noisette that I loved was that we were eating such good food and then were able to wander over and hear amazing music. It wasn’t one or the other. It was nice to have that as an option,” Horne says. “The chefs we’re focusing on are kind of the indie version of that world, and that’s what Noise Pop has always been interested in, independent music, independent film and art. It just seems like a logical extension.”

Noise Pop is also again looking to do a variation on the Covers dinners with the upcoming Treasure Island Festival. Sound Bites is more of a passed appetizer event with little bites inspired by the bands playing at the festival.

So what does it all mean? Are we, as the generalized concert-going public, getting soft, both physically from all those readily available treats, and mentally because we’ve expanded beyond a minimalist punk rock lifestyle? Should we all go back to Pixy Stix and Del Scorcho hangovers?

“Look, the reality is that most nights that you go to hear a band in a club, there’s no food or if there is food, it’s not going to be anything great. So you can still have your punk rock experience, but something like Noisette and other events like ours that are popping up around the country are just offering another type of event, and people are interested in it, as we’re seeing,” Horne says.

I guess, if you want to see your life as a black and white cookie, you’ll see this change as against type. Or maybe if you’re in the teenage angst subset, you’re just getting in to the greasy post-concert routine. But perhaps this mashup is just another trend — participate if you will. It goes far beyond the music scene, to the way Americans eat now, looking for quality, locally sourced food, seeking creative options.

“Speaking for myself personally, I still love going to see shows,” Horne says, “but if I can have both things in one place, it’s win-win.”

Is it Saturday yet? 5 (vegetarian-abled) Street Food Festival snacks we can’t wait for


The Bay’s press has been salivating ever since July 26, when La Cocina‘s Street Food Festival hosted a passel of media types at Fort Mason Center with tables upon tables of the snacks that we’ll all get to freak out over at the festival on Sat/18. Read on for some of our favorite snacks that we’re having a hard time holding off on until Saturday.

Bonus! If mornings aren’t your deal, you’ve got options this year. On Fri/17, you can jet down to the Alemany Farmer’s Market for the fest’s Night Market. 25 vendors will be selling sub-$10 treats, including American Masala Farm’s Suvir Saran serving up Indian food, Ryar Farr from 4505 Meats, and Tijuana’s Javier Plasencia of Mision 19. Plus, craft beer and cocktails.


Go early on Saturday. Lines for vendors, which range from La Cocina participants who have hardly sold commercially before to some of SF’s hautest eateries, tend to be pretty long by lunch time, and this is one fest that does not award the fashionably late. You’ll also be able to pick up a paper copy in the Guardian on newsstands today. Here’s some treats you’ll wanna queue up for as soon as you fall out of bed, veggie-friendly all. We dare you to do all five — tweet their photos to @sfbg if you do and we’ll figure out some kind of reward for gluttonous you. 

1. El Buen Comer esquites

Something about corn, cheese, and mayo soup sounds vaguely unsettling, but take it from an avowed mayonaise h8r, these are cups of pleasure and you want at least one. La Cocina graduate Isabel Caudillo makes them, bringing this Mexico City recipe straight to SF bellies. Perfect if Saturday gets chilly (please no.)

2. Chiefo’s Kitchen moi-moi

Chiefo Chukwudebe makes these West African firm cakes made of pureed black eyed peas, topped with tomatoes, onions, peppers, and carmelized onions. The deliciously chewy version that was being sampled at Fort Mason was topped with flakes of corned beef, but vegetarian versions were available. 

3. Hella Vegan Eats pad thai egg rolls

The plucky Tiffany and Sylvee Esquivel of this rad catering outfit didn’t give their Street Food Fest offering quite as catchy a moniker as some of their repetoire (“vegans are better lovers” lasagna comes to mind), but no matter — this Asian-inspired nuggets are the kind of stoner snack you normally only dream of. Noodles inside egg rolls? *Eyes roll back into head, Homer Simpson-scruff sprouts instantly* Much props to these ladies for the hundreds of free vegan cookies they baked for the Dyke March this year, by the way. 

4. Clairesquares‘ deep-fried caramel pop

One quibble about these devilish, gooey, troublesome-in-a-good-way dessert snacks — is that spear in the center really necessary? After all, the first time you crunch into one the thing is going to require two hands so that it doesn’t fall off the wooden skewer onto the — NOOOOOOOOO! — ground. That’s not what you want, so this is your official reminder to pay attention to sugar bomb of satiation. Clairesquares is the brainchild of Ireland’s Claire Keene, who re-interprets traditional recipes into decadent desserts that have popped up all over town in the last few years. 

5. Sweets Collection artisan Jello shots

I went on the record last year over how much I love these things. Nothing combines a love of pastels and a love of getting drunk more than Rosa Rodriguez’s mouthfuls of booze and condensed milk flower. They are magic, and you can find them at the Street Food Festival bars, waiting for you cheefully when you’re done eating the fest’s more nutritious options. 


Street Food Festival Night Market

Fri/17 6-9pm, $25 entry

Alemany Farmer’s Market (free shuttle leaves from 25th St. and Mission, SF)

100 Alemany, SF

Street Food Festival

Sat/18 11am-7pm, free entry

Mission District (Folsom from 20th to 26th St., 21st and 25th Sts. from Treat to Shotwell, Cesar Chavez Elementary School parking lot, Parque de los Ninos Unidos and Jose Coronada Playgrounds), SF

The good, the bad, and the delicious at Outside Lands


Recovered yet? We’re almost there. It was a frenzied, foggy, dusty and memorable weekend at Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park. There were sonic high points that brought us to tears, and bathroom lines that did the same. Here are our favorite moments, a photo slideshow of awesome performances — and the niggling things that got under our skin.


The powerful, still-relevant punch of a perfectly orchestrated Metallica performance; the band still slays in 2012. It was everything a show of that magnitude should be, with legendary metal sing-alongs, wailing guitars, James Hetfield’s signature growl, bass solos, and fan favorites “Master of Puppets,” “One,” and “Blackened,” along with a barrage of even more headbanging hits, pyrotechnics (shooting fireballs on cranes that actually seemed to warm the freezing crowd below), and timed lasers, colorfully slicing through the fog.

Whimsical Father John Misty‘s sexy, subdued tummy-revealing dance moves on the Panhandle Stage; also his opening song “Funtimes in Babylon” (which has him drawling “Look out Hollywood, here I come”) along with the moment when the crowd thought that song had ended, so it applauded, and he replied “shut up!” and finished out the tune.

Neil Young switching to acoustic guitar to play heartbreaking classic “The Needle and the Damage Done,” after 10 minutes of slow, harsh guitar-beating noise (as one fan eloquently put it, “masterbating with his guitar”).

Following his comedy set, David Cross (in Tobias Funke facial hair, as he’s thankfully currently back shooting the revived Arrested Development) and fiance/Joan of Arcadia actress Amber Tamblyn in a traditional festival floppy hat, taking in Neil Young together.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse playing  “Hey Hey, My My.”  Specifically the line: “It’s better to burn out than to fade away and stuttering the “f-f-f-f-f-fade” dramatically.

The spicy, peanut-sauced vegan Malaysian nachos with braised tofu and pickled vegetables from the Azalina’s booth paired with a Hobo Wine Co. Pinot from Wine Lands, eaten cross-legged in the wet grass among thousand of hungry revelers.

The Nerdist (a.k.a Chris Hardwick) curated comedy lineup in the beautiful circular red Barbary tent, including gut-bustingly awesome comedienne-podcast host Michelle Buteau; in particular, Buteau’s subtle knock on the white dude with dreads, and her impressions of her new Dutch husband.

Stevie Wonder, telling the crowd that he loved all his seven children – and all of their mothers – the same. Especially since one of his daughters was there as a backup singer.

The moment when it seemed like every red-blooded ticket-holder was there to see the great Alabama Shakes, filling in the the grassy bowl of the Sutro Stage more so than any other act on that stage. Pure mayhem.

Charming British soul singer Michael Kiwanuka (a one-time tour opener for Adele) answering fan questions in the All Access tent (full disclosure: SFBG’s Caitlin Donohue hosted the interviews).

Pacific Brewing Laboratory’s subtly fruity hibiscus saison at Beer Lands – a standout among a wide variety of unique Beer Lands offerings.

Ninja from Die Antwoord’s bouncy pelvic thrusts – wearing nothing but Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon boxers – singing about “rubbing his dick” on “XP€N$IV $H1T.” (The bass-thumping point basically being: screw fancy stuff.) Followed by tiny bleached firecracker Yo-Landi popping back out on stage in gold lame tights and a huge gold jacket to shake her ass singing that she’s a “Rich Bitch.”

Santigold thanking the bananas in goggles.

Portugal.The Man‘s reverberating rendition of “Ain’t No Sunshine.”

Sincere and personable singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten telling the crowd a heartfelt story about making mistakes and how they influenced her to write the next song, then supposedly messing up a guitar part during said song (“All I Can” with lyrics “we all mistakes”). But no one caring, because she was so endearing.

Chocolate Lands, with strawberry and apple skulls covered in chocolate hanging from the trees. And the moment when when the Inspector Gadje brass orchestra and red sequined cheerleaders performed among a thoroughfare crowd munching those sweet chocolatey treats sold below the skulls.

Jack White and Tom Morello performing seemingly impromptu concerts in that same wooded area.

Beck giving the antsy masses what they wanted early: “Devils Haircut” the second song in, followed immediately by “Loser.” Letting those who overbooked start making their way to the next act. 

Andrew Bird‘s rotating phonograph-ish stage-craft (edit: we now know it was a Janus Horn) and his soaring whistle, cutting through the rolling fog.

The mathy, intricate instrumental bliss and swelling peaks, tension and release, of Explosions in the Sky on the main stage, as hippies slowly hula-hooped along.

All the offerings from San Francisco’s Pica Pica Maize Kitchen: the gluten-free maize’wich, fried plantains, and crispy yuca fries  –  the best handheld foods for proper band-watching stance.

All the bands and comedians – every single one, regardless of age, gender, background, or genre distinctions  – commenting on the chilly San Francisco weather, seeing as how it’s summertime, people! Not getting sunburned.


Crowds seemed epic this year, though there might not be any getting around that. The park felt stuffed, almost (but not quite) suffocating, with swarms of people funneling out every wooded orifice.

That girl whose wine we accidentally knocked over during Metallica’s set; it’s Metallica, put down the wine, or at least get over it and quit with the non-verbal shaming, Ms. Stink Eye.

So much corporate sponsorship, ads and booths for cell phones and cars and all kinds of technology one needn’t think about during a music festival.

There just has got to be a way around the Porta-Potty, right? Isn’t there a company out there that can make a more suitable moveable toilet, something with a smidge more dignity? That’s corporate sponsorship we could um, get behind. 

6 locally-made treats to snag at Bluxome’s Meet Market


Why does a new farmers market make us salivate so here in the city? Something something foodie frenzy, something something voracious next-big-thing-icitis. Fact of the matter is, such small-scale food resources keep popping up and we’re going to go along for the ride. Tomorrow on Sat/28, Forage SF’s Underground Market is back — but if you can’t stomach the lines or prefer a glass of red with your cover admission, head to urban winery and tasting room Bluxome Street Winery for its so-called Meet Market.

To aide in your shopping amidst the table of artisan food and garden supplies, Bluxome will be selling glasses of its vino, the perfect companion to the gourmet popsicles, empanadas, and traditional Indian spreads that will abound. Everything goes well with wine, right? Here are six of the local producers you’ll find. 

The Meet Market Sat/28, noon-5pm, free. Bluxome Street Winery, 53 Bluxome, SF. 


Cocotutti’s products resemble its name — that is, they are adorable little clouds of sugary delight you want to repeat over and over again. Its collection of truffles and bonbons include flavors like hot chocolate, raspberry, ginger, and cappuccino, while its series of caramels offers hints of vanilla bean and orange-chocolate confit. Browsing Cocotutti’s wares, you’ll see the adjective “roasted” used a lot, which by our reckoning is usually codeword for “delicious.” It’ll be offering wine and chocolate pairings on Saturday at Bluxome? Parfait. 

Pop Nation

Clever name aside, there’s nothing cheesy about Pop Nation’s collection of totally vegan, gluten-free popsicles. The company’s year-round flavors are strawberry lemonade, banana pudding, mango coconut with black sesame, watermelon mint, and sea-salted dark chocolate. However, you can also bet on a few seasonal additions (let’s cross our fingers for bourbon and peach, Mexican chocolate, lemon lavender cake, PB&J and — mainly because we’re curious how it pans out in popsicle form — peanut butter and fluff).

El Sur

Latin America-raised and Paris-educated Cordon Bleu chef Marianne Despres provides everything one could possible want from an empanada; that is, an plethora of mouth-watering, savory ingredients and an overload of gooey cheese. Food purists can try the beefy traditional empanada, while the more fusion cuisine-inclined can feast on the French-infused Parisienne empanada, which is filled with prosciutto, chives, five kinds of cheeses, and other morsels. 

Sumana’s Soul Spreads

You’ve tasted tamarind sauce and gobbled down chutney, but what is rotu pacchadi? It’s a traditional South Indian spread that was good enough to convince chef Sumana Pathi to quit a gig as software engineer and become a chef. The spread is traditionally used as an appetizer, but it can also be Americanized to be served as whatever the heck you desire, from a sandwich spread to a dip. 

Kevin and Gail’s Chili Palace 

This writer is endowed with a peculiar affinity for homey bowls of warm food and dishes so spicy they make her eyes pop out, and so Kevin and Gail’s Chili Palace’s offerings seems mighty tasty. After winning over 15 chili cook-offs with its celebrated chili verde and, most recently, taking home the Marin County Fair award for best chili con carne, chefs and owners Kevin and Gail are now settling back into the world of farmers markets, serving up chili that’s steaming and ready-to-eat, and also hawking frozen packages perfect for taking home. 


Urban Farmgirls

A San Francisco love story if we’ve ever heard one. Owner and creator Tina Calloway thought up the name for her company while working at the Bernal Heights Community Garden with her daughter, and the company unfolded just as the name would suggest. Its urban farming meets girly-girl aesthetic is evident in Calloway’s line of living wreaths of succulents, earthy artisan pots, and vertical garden boxes. They maintain an English garden, old-fashioned charm, despite being up-to-the-minute terrarium-trendy. 




The new Mission Bowling Club is one badass bowling alley. There’s no funky smell or dated dinginess (charming for some, we know) in this open and industrial space, which boasts a large front patio, a bar area, and two dining areas — both downstairs near its six lanes and upstairs overseeing all the striking action. With its retro-fetish crowd and quirky flourishes, you could dismiss the whole thing as Mission hipster — but never has bowling food been taken to such gourmet heights. The menu was designed by none other than that Mission Chinese Food and Mission Street Food wunderkind, Anthony Myint. Cheer on bowlers from comfy couches while sipping a dreamy cocktail, or pick up that spare accompanied by a plate of ratatouille, some crisp pork belly, a beloved Mission burger — or its worthy vegan kale-and-chickpea alternative.

3176 17th St., SF. (415) 863-2695,




In this era of Paula Deen-Anthony Bourdain warfare and endless glossy spreads of chefs-cum-rockstars-without-the-rock, you are to be excused for not caring about yet-another celebrity chef writeup. But stay your cleaver. Oakland’s own Bryant Terry considers himself an activist who uses comestibles as a medium for social change, not TV dinner promotion. Terry’s beautiful, seasonally sensitive vegan cookbooks — his latest is The Inspired Vegan (Da Capo Lifelong Books, $19, 240pp) — contextualize recipes so that the connection between eating healthy and having healthy communities is clear. He also tours the country educating audiences about vegan lifestyle and cooking, with a focus on minority communities, and makes no bones about the fact that he thinks families could stand to spend more time in the kitchen together.

Best of the Bay 2012: BEST ART SQUAWK


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

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

Best of the Bay 2012 Editors Picks: Shopping


Best of the Bay 2011 Editors Picks: Shopping


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

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



Guardian photo by Brittany M. Powell

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

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



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

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


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

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



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

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



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

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



Guardian photo by Godofredo Vasquez/SF Newspaper Co.

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

525 Clement, SF. (415) 666-3699



Guardian photo by Amber Schadewald

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

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


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

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



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

982 Post, SF.



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

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



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

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



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

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



Photo by Godofredo Vasquez/SF Newspaper Co.

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

2272 Shafter, SF. (415) 970-9718



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

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


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

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



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

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



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

Various Bay Area locations.



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

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



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

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



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

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


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

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



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

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



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

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



Guardian photo by Godofredo Vasquez/SF Newspaper Co. 

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

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

The Feds are watching — badly


So, you’re a law enforcement officer in training for participation on a local Joint Terrorism Task Force. Or a student at the United States Military Academy at West Point, involved in the counterterrorism training program developed in partnership with the FBI. Or you’re an FBI agent training up to deal with terrorist threats.

Get ready for FBI training in dealing with Arab and Muslim populations.

Take note that “Western cultural values” include “rational, straight line thinking” and a tendency to “identify problems and solve them through logical decision-making process” — while “Arab cultural values” are “emotional based” and “facts are colored by emotion and subjectivity.”

Be advised that Arabs have “no concept of privacy” and “no concept of ‘constructive criticism'” and that in Arab culture it is “acceptable to interrupt conversations to convey information or make requests.”

“Westerners think, act, then feel,” an FBI powerpoint briefing notes, while “Arabs feel, act, then think.”

Those are some of the most dramatic examples of racial profiling and outright racist stereotyping revealed in thousands of pages of documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Bay Guardian, the ACLU of Northern California and the Asian Law Caucus.

The documents show a pattern of cultural insensitivity, sometimes bordering on the ridiculous, not only tolerated by promoted as official instructions by the FBI. The records also show a broad pattern of surveillance of people who have engaged in no criminal activity and aren’t even suspected of crimes, but have been targeted because of their race or religion.

Pieces of this story have come out over the past year as the ACLU has charged the FBI with racial profiling and Attorney General Eric Holder has insisted it’s not happening. And some of the documents — which are not always properly dated — may be a few years old.

But none of it is ancient history: All of the material has been used by the FBI in the past few years, under the Obama administration.

This is the first complete report with the full details on a pattern of behavior that is, at the very least, disturbing — and in some parts, reminiscent of the notorious (and widely discredited) COINTELPRO program that sought to undermine and disrupt political groups in the 1960s.

The information suggests that the federal government is using methods that are not only imprecise and xenophobic but utterly ineffective in protecting the American public.

“This is the worst way to pursue security,” Hatem Bazian, professor of Near East Studies at UC Berkeley, told us.


Dozens of documents attempt to describe “Arabs and Muslims” but other groups aren’t left out of the sweeping stereotyping and blatant racism and xenophobia that the FBI has used in its training guides. One training presentation is titled “The Chinese.” The materials give such tips as “informality is perceived as disrespectful.” The presentation warns “expect your gift (money) to be refused” but advises to give “a simple gift with significant meaning- tangerines or oranges (with stems/leaves.)” But “never give a clock as a gift! (death!)”

And if those in the training on “The Chinese” find themselves in “interactions with the opposite sex,” then “touching, too many compliments, may imply a romantic liaison is desired — be careful!”

The vast majority of the “cultural awareness” training materials imply that the authors believe that the law enforcement personnel receiving the training will never be female or interact with female members of the groups they describe. Some warn repeatedly to never ask Arabs how “females in their family” are doing in polite conversation.

A presentation on “Arab and Muslim culture” compares the western thought process with that of all Arabs. According to the FBI, westerners are “rational” thinkers; Arabs, on the other hand, are “emotion based.” A slideshow on cross-cultural interrogation techniques says, “It is characteristic of the Arabic mind to be swayed more by words than ideas and more by ideas than facts.”

Bazian said the FBI’s generalizations about the Arab intellect are “ideological constructs reflective of the orientalist discourse.”

“Many of these individuals have not done any primary sociological, psychological, or historical work in the Arab/Muslim world,” said Bazian, who works on UC Berkeley’s Islamophobia Research & Documentation Project. “What they basically do is take a text from a particular historical period and pick these points and put it as reflective of contemporary Muslim society. Most of these statements have no basis in any critical analysis. They’re not rooted in any type of research.”

Included in the FBI’s recommended reading list for counterterrorism agents-in-training is the “Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam,” in which “Islam expert Robert Spencer reveals Islam’s ongoing, unshakeable quest for global conquest and why the West today faces the same threat as the Crusaders did.”

It’s not exactly an academically sound piece of work, Bazian told us. Spencer and his cohorts are “political hacks,” the professor said. “They come from neo-con backgrounds. Even saying ‘extreme right wing’ is giving them credit; they’re way down below the cliff. They create this contrast between western society and the rest of the world based on a nostalgic idea of western society.”

Arab culture is often the target these days, but the rhetoric recalls that used during the Chinese Exclusionary Act era, and toward Latinos in the United States today, Bazian said.

“They pick on the weakest, most vulnerable people in western society at a particular time and lay blame on them,” he said.

The FBI’s xenophobic approach to interrogation training—which involves warning new agents that “If an Arab is scared, he will often lie to try to avoid trouble”—is not even productive, Bazian said.

“If you go to people with professional training in interrogation and investigation, they’ll say none of this gives them access to security. If anything, it creates a greater global misunderstanding.”


And the creation of misunderstanding doesn’t stop there. The FBI is also involved in an intelligence-gathering method known as racial mapping. Racial mapping involves local FBI offices tracking groups in their “domains” based on race and ethnicity.

In blog post, the ACLU writes, “Empirical data show that terrorists and criminals do not fit neat racial, ethnic, nation-origin or religious stereotypes, and using such flawed profiles is a recipe for failure.” In the Counterterrorism Textbook read by all trainees the FBI seems to agree, warning multiple times that there is no such thing as a typical terrorist and that making assumptions based on stereotypes is dangerous and unproductive.

Yet the FBI files we’ve acquired reveal that the bureau consistently does just that. Though the Department of Justice prohibited race from being “used to any degree” in law enforcement investigations in 2003, a convenient and potentially unconstitutional exception allows racial profiling in national security matters.

When the FBI created its Domestic Investigation and Operations Guide in 2008, it used that loophole to permit the mapping of racial and ethnic demographic information and to keep tabs on “behavioral characteristics reasonably associated with a particular criminal or terrorist element of an ethnic community,” the ACLU reported.

Communities in San Francisco have been the victims of this prejudicial loophole more than once. In 2009, the ACLU reported that the FBI justified mapping and investigating the Chinese American population in the city because “within this community there has been organized crime for generations.” Likewise, the bureau collected demographic data on the Russian population because of the “Russian criminal enterprises” known to exist in San Francisco.

The loophole, however, may not even apply to these investigations in the first place.

According to Michael German, a 16-year veteran of the FBI and senior analyst with the ACLU, these investigations don’t fit the national security description. “In intelligence notes on Chinese and Russian organized crime, those are not national security issues,” German told us. “Those are all clearly criminal investigations.”

German has brought attention to another troubling use of racial mapping — documents revealing that the FBI’s Atlanta bureau tracks Georgia’s African American population.

The stated reason is a threat of black separatist groups; the documents name the New Black Panther Party and the Black Hebrew Israelites as the black separatist groups that pose a threat.

German wrote about this problematic practice in a May 29 article on the website Firedoglake.

“The problem with these documents,” German told us, “is that it’s not black separatists or alleged black separatists who are being tracked — it’s the entire black community in Georgia.”

“Those individuals and those communities are being targeted only for their race,” German said. “Were it not for their race they wouldn’t be part of that assessment. There is no reason to do that, accept to treat that community differently than the way it treats other communities. It’s problematic from a constitutional standpoint.”

The New Black Panther Party was founded in Dallas and has mostly East Coast chapters. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate United States hate groups, “The group portrays itself as a militant, modern-day expression of the black power movement (it frequently engages in armed protests of alleged police brutality and the like), but principals of the original Black Panther Party of the 1960s and 1970s— a militant, but non-racist, left-wing organization — have rejected the new Panthers as a ‘black racist hate group’ and contested their hijacking of the Panther name and symbol.” The Black Hebrew Israelites is another fringe group, an apocalyptic group whose ideology holds that black Americans are God’s chosen people.

Both groups have written and spoken record of racist and violent rhetoric, but record of violent or criminal acts are hard to find.

“I’d say they’re a fairly small part of the radical right, and generally quite small. As far as we know, there is virtually no connection between these groups and criminal activity,” Mark Potok, a senior fellow with the SPLC, told the Guardian.

According to Potok, the center’s list of hate groups in operation in 2011 includes four organizations classified as black separatist, which, between them, have 140 chapters. Those chapters are counted as 140 of the list’s 1,018 groups.

“Most of the rest of the list are white supremacist groups,” Potok notes. “There are some exceptions — anti-gay groups and anti-Muslim groups.” After a quick count, Potok found 688 groups to be “straight-up white supremacist.”

The majority of these hate groups may be white supremacist — but the FBI is not involved in tracking white populations.

Last October, the FBI’s press office responded to the ACLU’s concerns with racial mapping. “These efforts are intended to address specific threats, not particular communities,” the agency’s statement reads.

“These domain management efforts seek to use existing, available government data to locate and better understand the communities that are potential victims of the threats. There must be an understanding of the communities we protect in order to focus our limited human and financial resources in the areas where those resources are most needed.”

With that defense, resources continue to pour into racial mapping efforts.

Black separatist organizations are not the only groups to be targeted for political beliefs. Groups such as “anarchist extremists” and “animal rights/environmental extremists” are also, according to the FBI, groups to watch out for.

A training presentation for the Bay Area’s Joint Terrorism Task Force includes a list of those groups: “animal rights/eco terrorism, anarchists, white separatists, black separatists, militia/sovereign citizens, and ‘lone offender’.”

How do you spot a potential “animal rights extremist”? According to the documents, “ideology and concepts” found among this group includes a “complete vegan lifestyle,” and activities include the promotion of “anti-capitalist literature.” In other words, your roommate is probably a terrorist.


Racial mapping is not the only FBI practice that targets people just for being members of groups “associated with crimes.” The FBI routinely gathers information on Muslims through deceptive “community outreach” programs.

Memoranda we’ve obtained reveal that FBI agents, operating under the guise of community outreach, attended various events hosted by local Muslim organizations in order to gather intelligence between 2007 and 2009.

When agents attended Ramadan Iftar dinners in San Francisco, they wrote down participants’ contact information and documented their conversations and opinions. At an alleged outreach event at CSU Chico, they recorded a conversation with a student about the Saudi Student Association’s activities and even took the student’s picture. That information was sent to the FBI in Washington, DC, the ACLU reported.

Writing down information on individuals’ First Amendment activities—in this case without any evidence that they were notified or asked—violates the federal Privacy Act, the ACLU says. Using access to community events to gather personal information undermines the FBI’s stated effort to form relationships with Muslim leaders and community members.

And covert surveillance can also have an immediate and hazardous impact on the unwitting subjects.

“It’s becoming more of a public discourse that these FBI background checks are affecting immigration status, the ability to send money back home, and generally creating an environment of fear,” said Miriam Zouvounis, membership coordinator with San Francisco’s Arab Resource and Organizing Center.

The organization has helped clients who have been detained for months because their names were mistakenly placed on a no-fly list, and others whose immigration processes have taken up to ten years because they were erroneously perceived as threatening, Zouvounis said.

“The process of information collecting on covert and overt levels is accelerating, and definitely a present reality in San Francisco. People don’t want to be civically engaged if that material’s being used against them,” she said.


“Extremism online is the most serious international terrorist threat in the world.” Or so says FBI training materials in a presentation entitled “Extremism online,” meant for those training to be online covert employees. The documents teach OCEs to scan through comment threads and enter chat rooms, searching for people whose speech may be “operational.”

This surveillance has led to investigations.

Some of the documents are individual files and summaries of individual files, and many note that the person (often someone who was convicted, so the name isn’t redacted in the documents) was “detected via the Internet.” Some examples: “Mohamad Osman Mohamud, detected via the Internet, discussing Jihad plans” and “Hosam Smadi, detected via the Internet: online chats.” Both men were 19 when they were convicted of crimes.

These men — and the many more who have not been accused of any criminal activity but are likely under surveillance or investigation by OCEs — could have been “detected via the Internet” in a variety of ways, according to German.

“It could be that the chats were open source, or that an informant was in the chat room, or a person participating simply turned them over to the FBI, none of which would require any legal process,” German explained.

“It could also be monitored under FISA [ the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] or traditional criminal wiretaps, which would require court warrants (secret ones under FISA). Finally, the stored chat logs retained on third party servers could have been obtained with Patriot Act Section 215 orders, or what’s called a “D” order under the Stored Communications Act (if held for over 180 days),” German detailed in an email.

So what kind of speech are OCEs looking out for to peg potential terrorist threats? The Extremism Online presentation has a list of “major themes and language used in online extremist writings,” which includes Islam-related terms such as “Caliphate, Al-Ansar, Al-Rafidah, Mushrik, and Munafiq” as well as the Arabic words “Akhi, Uhkti, Ameen, Du’aa, Shari’ah, and Iman” (brother, sister, amen, prayer, Islamic law, and faith.) Other words the agents are told to look out for: “crusaders, hypocrites, dogs and pigs,” and any discussion of “occupation of Muslim lands.”

The FBI can really get into your business if agents confiscate your possessions. Personal computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices, according to the documents, are routinely checked out at Regional Computer Forensics Labs.

The nearest one to San Francisco is in Menlo Park, where employees brag of having investigated thousands of pieces of data.

Law enforcement routinely confiscates property after arrests, and if local cops are involved with the FBI through the Joint Terrorism Task Forces or other partnerships, they may very well send the belongings of those arrested to be checked out at a local RCFL. But there are other ways the FBI can obtain your electronics.

“Certainly the FBI has the authority to obtain computers and other devices with search warrants, either traditional search warrants where the individual is given notice or expedited warrants where the person isn’t aware,” German told the Guardian, noting that the second type of warrant is the preferred method, for obvious reasons, when the Feds plan to search a confiscated computer.

“The FBI also works with immigrations and customs enforcement, so laptops and other devices seized at the border the FBI can gain access to. There are myriad ways they can get them.”


A 2009 FBI memorandum on investigating suspected terrorists reveals that the Bureau encourages its agents to implement a “disruption strategy” that German wrote is “eerily reminiscent” of the COINTELPRO tactics used to stop political organizers in the1960s. “If the risk to public safety is too great, or if all significant intelligence has been collected, and/or the threat is otherwise resolved, investigators may, with substantive desk coordination and concurrence, implement a disruption strategy,” one memo reads. Investigators can conduct interviews, make arrests, or use any number of other undefined “tools” to “effectively disrupt subject’s [sic] activities.” Such disruption strategies have been used in the past to investigate and shut down First Amendment-protected activity, German said. The reintroduction of such tactics could open the door for a major breach of the subjects’ constitutional rights.


“After September 11th, 2001, the FBI realigned its mission and purpose to reflect the global and domestic threats that face the US,” begins an orientation packet for members of Joint Terrorism Task Forces. “FBI director Robert M. Meuller III defined the following as the top ten priorities (in order of importance) that confront the Bureau today,” Number one on the list: Protect the United States from terrorist attack.

Indeed, after 9/11, the FBI prioritized terrorism investigations, a shift from the previous focus on criminal investigations. Classified as national security threats, these investigations are not subject to the same type of privacy and anti-racial discrimination protections that other criminal investigations might be.

Terrorist threats, apparently, are to be found in mosques, in online conversations that involve criticism of US foreign policy, in entire populations of African Americans or Chinese Americans in given areas. In recent years, simply speaking Arabic online or being black makes a person a suspect and potential target of surveillance.

Look out America, especially members of that celebrated “melting pot.” The feds are watching.

Poverty Scholars Unite


This post has been updated. RYME orientation is July 3, not June 27.

July 3 will begin another session of Poor Magazine’s revolutionary youth media education program, or RYME.

Poor Magazine was founded in 1996 as a way to bring together poor people to produce media, teach and learn, and create community. From their space in the Mission, they have launched the printed Poor Magazine, Poor News Network TV and Poor Radio, published dozens of books at Poor Press, and hold programming throughout the year.

One such program is People Skool, sessions for and by the people. Poor rejects status indicators like degrees and job titles in favor of expertise based on experience. People are esteemed as Indigenous Scholars, Poverty Scholars, Youth Scholars, and Mama Scholars share their knowledge at People Skool.

The RYME session is “a multi-generational , mutli-lingual skool,” according to Tiny Gray-Garcia, Poor Magazine’s co-founder.

The program will “teach our children and families back their stolen indigenous languages through art and project based learning– this summer we will be teaching media, radio, music, art and journalism with a focus on eldership, indigenous herstories and histories ” Gray-Garcia said in an email.

Tuition for the program is based on ability to pay, and can range from $90 – 500. There are full scholarships and stipends provided for youth in poverty.

At tomorrow’s orientation, youth can learn about the program, which runs through July 31, and a “healthy homemade lunch” with “vegan and meat options provided” will be served, Gray-Garcia said.

Revolutionary Youth Media Education orientation/registration

July 3, 4pm, free

Poor Magazine

2940 16th St., #301, SF

Youth scholars from last summer’s RYME program conduct interviews outside City Hall

El Rio Presents: Fabulosa, my kind of party

El Rio Presents: Fabulosa, the 5th annual benefit for women’s and LGBT charities.  Clear your schedule for the weekend of July 20-23 for what is sure to be a weekend you won’t want to miss.  Come out to enjoy a women-inspired weekend full of music by DJ Brown Amy of Hard French, an outdoor film exhibition by Frameline and QWOCMAP, attend workshops, craft fairs and get a relaxing massage. 

Festival is open to all ages and genders and all proceeds will benefit women’s and LGBT charities. Camping spots, bunkhouse beds, and meal plans, including gluten-free, vegan, and omnivore options are still available for this magical weekend on a gorgeous, green-facility ranch.  Events take place at the Walker Creek Ranch, a campsite just 40 miles North of San Francisco.  Escape from the city for a weekend and come out and enjoy what will sure to be a good time, all while benefiting a great charity!  

To get discounted weekend passes or day passes, and for more information about the event click here.

Friday thru Sunday, June 20-22 @ Walker Creek Ranch, Petaluma, CA | tickets start at $20/day or $180 weekend including meals!