Best Shoeshine San Francisco 2001 - John Salahudin (2nd and Market St.)
Second and Market streets
Wearing a dapper felt hat and dingy brown loafers, John Salahudin does tai chi behind his booth opposite the Men's Wearhouse at 601 Market. As you approach, he's got a smile and a suggestion. "Could use a little work there, yeah," he says in his gravelly voice, nodding to your smudged oxfords and motioning you up into a seat. If you'll listen, he'll tell you stories. One example: Twenty years ago he was a longshoreman on the waterfront, but he didn't like the swearing. "I wasn't raised like that," he insists. You can drop your shoes off to pick up later, but it's worth it to stay around: For $5 and about 10 minutes of your time, Salahudin provides one of the friendliest shines in the city.
Bob's Shoe Shine
Montgomery Street BART/Muni station
Waiting in line to buy a Fast Pass at the ticket booth, you might hear humming. Most likely it's Duane ("But everybody calls me Bob") over at Bob's Shoe Shine, keeping himself entertained. As folks sprint out the Post Plaza exit, Duane works patiently on a pair of dark ankle boots. Deciphering the pricing sign might be difficult: "Regular shoes" run $5, but boots are more complicated. "Shoe boots" -- those that come to your ankle -- are $6. "Regular boots" -- up to midcalf -- run $7. And "long boots" -- knee-high -- will set you back $10. Duane's never had anyone come in with thigh-highs, but there's no doubt he could handle that. Come when the booth opens at 7 a.m. to beat the rush.
Nordstrom's Men's Shoe Department
San Francisco Centre, 865 Market (at Fifth Street), 243-8500
Going to a mall for a shoeshine might seem like a sellout, but the guys next to Men's Shoes at Nordstrom work just as hard as any solo practitioner. Manny Pacamarra has worked this bench for 12 years, sharing his four-hour shift with Rick Bautista, a five-year veteran, or one of four other workers. Because the shiners at Nordie's get paid an hourly wage, they can charge just $1.25 per pair -- the cheapest in the city. But they still live by tips, which you give "out of the goodness of your heart," as Bautista explains. Nordstrom's booth is the poshest, too: It's got magazine racks and two wall phones. One added benefit: The stand is open until 8 p.m.