Best Auto Shop

Does your car have a name? Do you baby it, treat it like a pet, miss it when it's in the shop? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you and your vehicle belong at SOMA's Cowden Automotive. Paul Cowden opened his immaculate shop in 1978 (he moved to this location in '82), and since then he has built a rabidly loyal following of foreign car owners. Much of the appeal is the friendly service: Most of the shop personnel are gay men or lesbians — no monosyllabic mechanics here — and no one will talk down to you if you can't tell your air filter from your engine block. Paul himself is a tall, dashing gentleman who can intelligently explain what's wrong and how to fix it — or, if your budget's tight, how long you can safely go without fixing. Consistently rated high in customer satisfaction polls, Cowden is the place to go if your Volvo's vacillating, your Honda's hacking, or your Toyota's touch-and-go. (Check the Web site for a 15-percent-off coupon for first-time customers.)

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