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  • Best Women's Clothing Boutique


    This is our favorite women's clothing store in San Francisco -- and definitely the one that offers the best total shopping experience. Metier is elegant without being chichi and carries beautiful, unusual pieces you won't find on the racks at Macy's. Plus, it's a good bet the store will have that knockout item you crave; and, since the store stocks… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Men's Designer Clothing

    Saks Fifth Avenue Men's Store, Designer Sportswear, Fifth Floor

    If you pine for Prada or go goo-goo for Gucci, this is the place for you. It's also a better spot than a hip-boy hair salon to catch up on the previous week's activity at "Universe" or "Pleasuredome" -- complete with an upbeat, deep-house musical backdrop. And it saves a fellow scouring the many men's boutiques in the Union Square… More >>
  • Best Bookstore for Used Gardening Books

    Black Oak Books

    For a whole variety of reasons, Black Oak stands out among Berkeley's many stellar used bookstores. It's just the right size, has a back room whose aisles are perfect for the floor-sitters among us (count us in their undignified number), and has probably the best selection of used gardening books in the entire Bay Area. We once scored a virtually… More >>
  • Best Place to Self-Publish a Book


    If you write a book -- with or without illustrations -- and format it using one of the popular desktop publishing programs such as QuarkXPress for Macintosh, simply copy your work onto a disk, bring it to Copyworld, and its staff will do the rest. In three to five working days, Copyworld will messenger you a proof copy of your… More >>
  • Best Record Store

    Open Mind Music

    No disrespect to the massive barns of Amoeba Music or the lovingly catered new-music boutique of Aquarius Records, both of which are perpetual faves amongst the wise music shoppers around town, but since 1994 this shop in the Western Addition has been quietly holding down a smart middle ground. It's big enough to carry all the major releases but small… More >>
  • Best Place to Exchange Your Tuneage

    Amoeba Music

    Here's the situation: You've got a whole bunch of old Van Morrison CDs from an era in which you worshipped the man, but you don't listen to them much anymore. Adding to that storage problem, there's a stack of old rockers gathering a layer of dust on your bookshelf, along with some stuff friends gave you that you never really… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy a Guitar

    Guitar Solo

    The urge to strum can be a powerful one, so when you can't ignore the acoustic gitbox's siren song any longer, check out this cozy Richmond landmark, where the wannabe Django, Guthrie, or Andres Segovia will find everything he needs in a friendly and well-informed setting. There are guitars of every size and brand name -- Martins, Lowdens, Raimundos, Artesanos… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy an Exotic Musical Instrument

    Clarion Music Center

    In the market for a Chinese gong, an Indian harmonium, a Japanese shakuhachi, or a Tibetan singing bowl? Flex your multicultural musical muscle at this well-stocked bazaar of cymbals, tablas, sitars, taiko drums, and much more. The focus is on instruments from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, with percussion instruments a specialty, but there's an entire room dedicated solely… More >>
  • Best Musical Museum Where You Can Touch (and Buy)

    Lark in the Morning

    Irish drums, inexpensive guitars, lyres, mandolins, hurdy-gurdies, musical saws, electric bagpipes, bodhrans, ocarinas, dulcimers, and all types of bells and whistles clutter this music shoppe, founded in 1974 and now the force behind a mini-world music and dance festival and even an annual eight-day music camp (held in Mendocino). Even if you don't have a musical bone in your body… More >>
  • Best Kite Shop

    Kite Flite

    A Frenchman flying a fabulous kite on windy Ocean Beach last fall told us about this shop, and once over the tediousness of a trip to Pier 39, we were fast converts. For starters, forget about the days of $5 Superman triangular numbers you'd breathlessly run not less than two blocks to get up into the air before they slammed… More >>
  • Best Old-Fashioned Toy Store

    Jeffrey's Toys

    How can a medium-sized, privately owned, downtown toy store compete with giants Toys "R" Us and FAO Schwarz? Jeffrey's Toys succeeds by specializing in timeless classics, such as collapsible push-up puppets, coloring books, yo-yos, Slinkys, and Magic 8 Balls. "We stock ordinary stuff that you just don't find in toy stores anymore -- the things I had as a kid,"… More >>
  • Best Childhood Nostalgia-Themed Gift Shop


    It would be easy to walk by this small storefront across from the Grand Hyatt, but once inside, one is astonished at the number, variety, and originality of the items. The store's primary focus is books, toys, and other product spinoffs featuring popular European children's characters from the 1920s to 1950s, such as Tintin (Belgium), Babar the elephant (France), and… More >>
  • Best Boutique in an Alley

    Six Brady

    Never mind Maiden Lane and its ladies who lunch with Danielle Steel -- Six Brady is where the girls with a little cash to spare go to shop for funky designer frocks without the downtown hoopla. Fun and fashion forward, John Michaud's little boutique is a near-hidden treasure, wedged between Louie Hair Salon and Bell'occhio (a ribbon shop) on teeny-tiny… More >>
  • Best Fabulous Escape From Boring Clothes


    Ready to ditch those boy clothes for something femme but not too precious? Tired of having a closet filled with nothing but black? If your answer to either question is yes, this is the place for you. The sensational iridescent silks, taffetas, brocades, and hand-dyed, embroidered pieces -- all designed by artist Christina Kim -- are soft and comfortable to… More >>
  • Best Clothing for Clubbers

    Villains Vault

    Trance-y house beats pumping through the speakers in this massive shop have a way of urging shoppers of any gender to buy, buy, buy. The clothing on these racks will practically dance its way onto your lap -- with the assistance of your credit card, of course -- and only a very disciplined (ahem, boring) urbanite can walk out of… More >>
  • Best Inexpensive Attention-Getting Get-Ups


    Hey, it's not haute couture, but that wouldn't jive too well on the Haight, anyway. X-Generation is filled with fun, hip, girly-girl clothes, and the prices are more like those of an outlet store. Formerly located in the more obscure Yerba Buena Square at Fifth and Howard (where the big customer-draw is the Burlington Coat Factory), X-Generation moved shop to… More >>
  • Best Clothing Store at Which to Rediscover Your Individuality


    Tons of boutiques all over town carry a predictable selection of designers and manufacturers who've already been given the Official Marketing Gal Stamp of Approval: William B.? Check! Trina Turk? Check! Daryl K? Check! Earl Jeans? Check! But if you're tired of looking exactly like all those scary little blond ponytails from the Marina (tight black pants, baby blue shirt,… More >>
  • Best Hand-Knit Sweaters and More

    Margaret O'Leary

    This store, which built its business selling handcrafted sweaters in chenille and textured yarns, has diversified, and, in addition to sweaters, now stocks its own clothing line and carries other hip designers including Three Dots and the splendid Rozae Nichols. There is a fabulous array of threads on hand in taffeta, silk, linen, leather, and suede. As it's grown into… More >>
  • Best Selection of Three Dots T-Shirts

    The Grocery Store

    Some women have a sickness: They adore and collect Three Dots T-shirts the way other people adore and collect Beanie Babies. These women -- and we know who we are -- actually get staff at boutiques that carry the coveted, California-designed T-shirts (cut small, rendered in soft, high-quality cotton, and available in styles ranging from long-sleeve crew necks to skimpy… More >>
  • Best Cool Leather Garments

    Lava 9

    Lava 9 actually manufactures a lot of the styles the store carries, so its prices are good: We got a funky short jacket here for $250, and we've been asked several times, "Ooh, is that Gucci?" Besides jackets, the store has plenty of pants, vests, bags, belts, and case after tempting case of stylish silver jewelry. Staff are friendly, and… More >>
  • Best Pokémon Store

    Update Gift Shop

    If you've caved in to the Pokémon craze and bought trading cards and action figures for all 150-plus characters, don't worry: There's more. The Update Gift Shop in Chinatown has Pokémon literally wall to wall, from 50 cents up -- Pokémon stuffed toys, windup toys, bathtub toys, books, comics, coloring books, posters, stickers, pencil cases, key chains, photo albums, writing… More >>
  • Best Place to Get New Old-School Toys

    Sparky's Trading Co.

    Sparky's Trading Co. is serious about vintage. In addition to serving as a purveyor of throwback threads, the Haight store sells classic, re-created tin toys that hearken back to the pre-plastic, pre-World War II era of toy-making. Ironically, Sparky's pledge to the old-school manifests itself in a concentration on the futuristic, and its vast selection of tin toys -- one… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy a Goldfish

    Hung Ming Aquarium and Pet Shop

    Located in the heart of Chinatown, the 3-year-old Hung Ming is the size of a supermarket, with four separate floors for pets, pet supplies, fish, and a Chinese video store at the top. Its tanks range in price from $4 to $2,200. At the entrance is a sunken pool displaying the store's specialty -- the robust Japanese koi goldfish, the… More >>
  • Best Place to Adopt a Critter

    The Animal Connection

    We understand that sometimes a person can feel there's something missing from her life. And it's at those times that you need a critter most -- perhaps a bumble bee dart frog, or some other darling little croaker. We recommend a trip to the Outer Sunset, home to the Animal Connection. This isn't your run-of-the-mill pet store: There are no… More >>
  • Best Pet Store

    B&B Pet Supplies

    Now that Sammy's has gone the way of the chains (it's become a Petco), it's even more important to support your local pet store. B&B, last year's winner in this category, retains the title, with seemingly an even wider selection of food, pet care products, accessories, and toys (edible and otherwise) for the nonhuman companion in your life, besides unbeatable… More >>
  • Best Place to Get a Haircut and Buy Pet Supplies


    Granted, a hair salon that sells 25-pound bags of dog food on the side might not strike you as the best place to go for highlights or a cut. But Garbo's isn't your typical salon/pet supply store (the pet supply side of the shop is actually called Amore). Margarita Rodriguez, one of the two stylists, greets every customer with a… More >>
  • Best Holistic Veterinarian

    Irving Street Veterinary Hospital

    Years ago my cat developed a condition that rendered him unable to pee. I brought him to my veterinarian on Fillmore Street, who gave me two choices: I could wait and hope the blockage passed on its own, or I could pay thousands of dollars for a very painful-sounding operation. Neither option sounded very appealing, so I took the cat… More >>
  • Best Plant Man on Mission and 24th

    The Plant Man on Mission and 24th

    A houseplant is, undeniably, a good thing. It produces oxygen. It adds color and complexity to your home, this magnificent living creature that asks only for a pot of dirt, a little water, a few rays of sunshine, and perhaps a kind word or two in return. Yes, owning a houseplant does show an ability to commit, and once you're… More >>
  • Best Knobs and Pulls


    Lou-Anne Bauer has found success doing one thing and doing it very well. In her case that one thing was opening a store called Bauerware that sells nothing but cabinet knobs and pulls. Before experiencing Bauerware, most people consider the knob little more than a nondescript necessity. But one visit to the store and they suddenly realize the wild possibilities… More >>
  • Best IKEA


    IKEA… More >>
  • Best Chinese Antiquities

    Han Palace Fine Arts

    If you think Chinatown shopping is limited to new, mass-produced goods from Asia, you haven't seen this one-of-a-kind store, located two blocks up from touristy Grant Avenue. Han Palace sells museum-quality Chinese antiquities, of which the most striking are life-size figures of animals from the Han Dynasty of 2,000 years ago. Pretty much the entire contents of the store can… More >>
  • Best Professional Portrait for Cheap

    Uncle Mame

    Want to see yourself or a loved one lovingly rendered in the medium of your choice, then gilt-framed and hanging in the parlor or boardroom? If you're pompous but poor, there's a solution to your portraiture woes: The aggressively pop Uncle Mame features a photo booth-like contraption that "draws" your picture. For a mere couple of bucks you can sit… More >>
  • Best Place to Hole Up Incognito

    Adelaide Inn

    On those specific occasions when pulling down the shades and switching off the phone just doesn't cut it, a change of venue is in order: a snug little hideaway, quirky yet professionally run, friendly but not fawning, inexpensive though not untidy, but with enough neighboring urban grit to match your mood. The Adelaide is all of that. Nestled at the… More >>
  • Best Telescope Store

    Scope City

    Located in the North Point Centre minimall, this store has the largest se- lection of telescopes, microscopes, and binoculars in Northern California. Part of a chain, it has state-of-the-art telescopes ranging in price from $120 to $33,000 and binoculars from $75 to $5,000. One popular item is the computerized NexStar "go-to" tele-scope, which can automatically locate any known star once… More >>
  • Best Postcard Store

    Quantity Postcards

    For 20 years, visitors to upper Grant Avenue in North Beach have been dazzled by the visual overload of Quantity Postcards, one of the campiest stores in the city. The walls are completely lined with postcards, in thousands of designs, ranging from cheesy antiques to the latest styles, though most are of a humorous bent. Prices are 25 to 85… More >>
  • Best Place to Get Your Car Smogged

    Auto Lab

    It's easy to miss this unassuming auto repair shop in the industrial milieu of South Van Ness, but it's worth seeking out Auto Lab when that biannual smog inspection notice arrives in the mail. Be sure to ask for Henry when you arrive. He'll pre-test your car for free, and of course he'll be happy to fix it if it… More >>
  • Best Place to Get a Lube Job and Achieve Nirvana

    Quality Service Center

    You gave in. You had to. You made the investment in that SUV, or maybe just that spunky little sports car you've had your eye on. But that's OK, because you know the trade-off here in the Bay Area -- you deal with never-ending traffic, astronomical gas prices, and all the other hassles that come along with petroleum-consuming vehicles. And… More >>
  • Best Place to Put Yourself Back Together

    The Sports Medicine Shop

    Twist an ankle? Pull a muscle? Bad chair hurt your back? This is the place for you. A daily stream of weekend warriors, professional athletes, and regular folks are either sent here by a medical professional or wander in on their own. And for good reason: As the name implies, the Sports Medicine Shop has it all, with a knowledgeable… More >>
  • Best Free Acupuncture

    American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine

    These free clinics are based on China's tradition of "community medicine," in which doctors serve large numbers of people at a time. The treatment consists of a constellation of needles stuck in each ear for an overall body tuneup, and a few more poked anywhere from the scalp to the pinkie toe to address the patient's specific symptoms. The treatment… More >>
  • Best Barrel Scraping

    Clothes Contact

    The end of the line for the Retro City chain of vintage and used stores -- which includes La Rosa and Held Over -- Clothes Contact is the premier by-the-pound thrift in the Bay Area. Most of its items arrive in huge cardboard barrels from Germany, or Baltimore, or someplace where there are a lot of old clothes lying around.… More >>
  • Best Place to Get Eyeballed

    Urban Eyes

    Albert Lee and Lawrence Tom aren't your parents' optometrists. They are fun and energetic and even stylish. But they are serious about their profession, keeping up on recent developments in eye surgery and such. They ask the right questions, do a thorough exam, discuss all of your options without any prodding, and make you feel as if they've got all… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy a Wig

    Rosalie's New Looks

    One would think that the best wigs in town could be found in the Castro, but one would be wrong: All the in-the-know drag queens buy them here -- the collage of photos on Rosalie's wall is proof. In fact, just step in and you'll be thrown back to some melding of the kitschy '50s and the kinky '60s in… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Skin Care Products


    Buying skin care products can be so hit-or-miss: You can stop at a drugstore, and hope the cleanser you select isn't designed for an acne-prone teenager, or you can visit a big-name cosmetic counter at a department store, and hope the salesperson isn't out-and-out lying to you. At Sephora, however, the selection is vast, the salespeople are incredibly well-informed --… More >>
  • Best Place to Shop for Makeup


    Forget that the company's so hip it needn't pay a supermodel millions to peddle its products -- one visit to the M"A"C store will convince even the most makeup-wary that cosmetics can be a fun indulgence. Single eye shadows cost $12, a lipstick costs $13.50, and brushes range from $11 for an eyeliner brush to $62 for a blue squirrel… More >>
  • Best Funky Laundromat

    Doo Wash Cafe

    We've all seen laundromats that double as cafes, but Doo Wash takes the idea an extra step. Located across the street from the soon-to-be-renamed Joe DiMaggio Playground (if his lawyer will get over it), the laundromat boasts not only self-service washing machines and dryers, but a full-service laundry and dry-cleaning business, nine video games, electronic basketball, and a TV lounge… More >>
  • Best Bookstore for New Books

    The Booksmith

    An extremely cool staff who can help you find almost any book in print is one of the best reasons to shop at the Booksmith -- especially when you've dealt with the vacant stares or out-and-out rudeness of the employees at your local chain bookstore one too many times. The Booksmith has been a Haight-Ashbury fixture since 1976, and hosts… More >>
  • Best Bookstore for Used Books

    Green Apple Books

    Green Apple's victory in this category is, well, hardly a stunning upset. After all, if our readers' poll is anything to go on (and we hope it is) it's San Franciscans' favorite used bookstore year in and year out. And the pleasures of Green Apple are many -- its well-organized stock is tucked into so many odd nooks, accessible by… More >>
  • Best Antiquarian Bookshop

    Tall Stories

    Tall Stories is like a new secret hide-out for the bookworms who as children would sneak away someplace to spend an afternoon reading. To get into the store, you have to press a buzzer on the ground floor, then walk up a couple of flights of stairs. There's not even much of a sign -- just an open door with… More >>
  • Best Bookstore for the Frustrated Architect in You

    Builders Booksource

    Builders Booksource stocks thousands and thousands and thousands of titles on home design, architecture, landscape architecture, construction, and guides to do-it-yourself projects of all levels of complexity, from pouring concrete for a small patio to building an entire house out of straw bales, but its range extends far beyond. The shop also has government publications such as those dealing with… More >>

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