People and Places
Best Caltrain Voice
Sergio Cruz knows what early morning Caltrain commuters heading from S.F. to their jobs on the Peninsula and the South Bay want. The supersmooth conductor doesn't try to be an authority figure or hone his standup routine when he calls the stops and makes announcements. No jokes. No attitude. No shtick. Instead, he employs a soft, silky voice that somehow combines the best of Barry White and Ricardo Montalban. You'd swear there's harp music in the background when he's on the microphone. The calming delivery soothes the soul and makes the economy, the boss, and the hassles of commuting fade away.
Best Theater PR Person
Alongside the puzzle of the postlaundry lost sock, one of life's eternal mysteries has to be the hiring of PR specialists. Companies ostensibly employ press representatives to get word out about their services and products. But surprisingly few of these so-called professional communicators possess communications skills. In the world of arts PR, where theater, opera, and dance companies have to fight for dwindling column inches, knowing how to interact with journalists is key — and no one does the job better in the Bay Area than Erica Lewis-Finein. She represents several smallish San Francisco-based companies such as the Cutting Ball (whose co-artistic director dubs her "the best"), as well as the Aurora Theatre in Berkeley. Lewis-Finein approaches her job with professionalism, creativity, and a quiet sense of humor. She gets out the message without being pushy, is always responsive, comes up with excellent story ideas, and — most important of all — knows when to back off.
Sports and Recreation
Best Yoga Deal
City College Yoga Classes
50 Phelan (at Cloud), 239-3000
Most yoga studios charge more than $100 a month of yoga, with a full year ringing in at more than $1,000. Those prices are hard to swallow, even if you are paying for peace of mind and a tight bod. Enter the eminently affordable City College of San Francisco, which offers beginning, intermediate, and intensive classes. There's even a Senior and Restorative class. Main Campus classes take place in a yoga studio with bamboo floors and lots of natural light. Mission Campus classes take place in the same linoleum-floored, fluorescent-lit room as the dance classes. They can be crowded, but at $20 a unit (about $44 a semester for one weekly two-hour class after all the fees are added) it's easy to overlook the lack of luxury. Mats, blocks and straps, and woo-woo yoga music are provided gratis. Availability varies by semester, so check the catalog.
Arts and Entertainment
Best Food-Friendly Theater
The Exit Theatreplex
156 Eddy (at Mason), 931-2699
In a country where most performing arts venues won't sell you an alcoholic beverage, let alone let you bring it into the auditorium, the Exit Theatre's cafe space is a modest yet wonderful bastion of hospitality. Located in the heart of the Tenderloin in the same building as two of the Exit's main performance spaces, the cozy and cheerfully managed cafe serves theatergoers such unpretentious yet appetizing treats such as bountiful fruit and cheese plates as well as copious slices of quiche garnished with apple slices (both a steal at $5). There are also wine, beer, and sake. The booze may not be top-shelf, but the voluminous pours go down nicely alongside the cafe's seemingly bottomless supply of free pretzels. The best thing of all is that, unlike at many other venues in town, audience members can take food and drink to their seats.
Shopping and Services
My Boudoir Lingerie
2029 Fillmore (at California), 346-1502
Grandma panties, begone! My Boudoir Lingerie is a Pacific Heights boutique for your unmentionables that is as versatile as it is small. It sports an exquisite assortment of everything from frilly accoutrements to suitably trampy getups for your vixeny alter ego. Exclusive European brands like Princesse Tam Tam, Aubade, HUIT, and Chantelle grace the racks here. Cleavage-enhancing balconette bras, an impressive array of fishnets and thigh-high stockings, and filmy nighties will catch your fancy, but the devil is in the details. Pearls, intricate embroidery, lace-up seams, and strategically placed hooks put a visit to My Boudoir echelons above, say, an outing to your local Victoria's Secret. If you're in an adventurous mood, some of the pieces come with more details and are a bit more involved as far as putting 'em on and taking 'em off. Whatever the case, maximum femininity is the order of the day here, so as the friendly salespeople squeeze you into some seriously seductive undies, check your demureness at the door.
Best Place for Pulp Lit
8914 Post (at Hyde), 749-0554
Kayo boasts unexpurgated editions (many of them first editions) of some of the lowest-brow literature this side of the men's room. The material mainly hails from annals both obscure and lurid, from the 1930s to the 1970s. Most of the items are more depraved than an H.P. Lovecraft book. Titles by the likes of David Goodis, Ed Wood, and Peter Rabe share shelf space with Mad magazines and monster comics. The store is also a veritable cornucopia of collectors' items; its two floors are crammed with comic books, rare vintage magazines, hard-boiled fiction, and seedy sci-fi. Considering that Kayo has helmed counterculture lit in S.F. for the last 11 years, it's no wonder sleaze lovers like director John Waters get their regular dose of smut right here.
Eats and Treats
Washington Square Bar & Grill
1707 Powell (at Union), 433-1188
San Franciscans were shocked when the Washington Square Bar & Grill, a fixture in North Beach since 1973, disappeared on January 1, 2008 (after a brief "blue period" during which it was known as the Cobalt Tavern). Its regulars entered a period of mourning, now happily ended, as restaurateurs Liam and Susan Tiernan rescued the room from oblivion and reopened it in March. They rebuilt the place from the ground up to have it look just like it did before: white tablecloths, polished wood, gleaming brass. They rehired veteran bartender Michael McCourt, and once again there are piano players at night and jazz groups at Saturday and Sunday brunch. American comfort food (steak, chops, meat loaf, burgers, Caesar salad, pastas, french fries) dominates the menu, but it's the comfy atmosphere (and the drinks and music) that you're here for.