Download our Free Best Of App

Arts & Entertainment

  • Best Place to Explore Your Boundaries, Together


    The funny thing about "Lush" is that, once you've been there, and if you're part of a heterosexual couple, you'll never look at other couples the same way again. You'll see them in the supermarket, on the street, or holding hands in the park, and you'll wonder: Would these people get naked with us? Of course, this is just one… More >>
  • Best Nightclub

    111 Minna Street Gallery

    Nightclubbing is about a lot of things, but mostly it's about energy, and while this city is bursting with fine disco emporiums, in our opinion, the best is 111 Minna. The vibe is just better here -- you won't be frisked upon entering, the cover charge is never steep, and once inside you'll find a decidedly non-bridge-and-tunnelish, peaceful, hip crowd,… More >>
  • Best Gay Bar

    Red Grill & Whiskey Lounge

    Finally, a civilized place in the Castro that isn't stuck in 1978 or in the mind-set that a gay bar means a dark, hidden place with black paint and chain-link fence on the walls, sticky floors, a constant disco beat, Judy Garland memorabilia, and an attitude of sex, sex, sex. The delightful Red Grill is owned by the same people… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Movie House

    Balboa Theater

    Like the afternoon newspaper, a neighborhood movie house is a money-losing venture and a dying breed. The few that remain in San Francisco are on the chopping block -- except one little theater tucked deep in the Richmond District, the Balboa. It looked like even this holdout might disappear this year when the widow of the longtime owner (who died… More >>
  • Best Non-Regis Philbin Trivia Game

    "Trivia Night" at the Bitter End Bar & Grill

    It gets zany on Tuesday nights at this English-Irish sports pub on Clement Street, tucked between dim sum restaurants and vegetable markets in San Francisco's new Chinatown. A brash, middle-aged barmaid with a biting cockney accent and a doddering old man in a sailor's hat whom everyone knows as Capt. Liam host the weekly trivia showdown. It begins at 9… More >>
  • Best Danceable Music at a Gay Dance Club


    This is one place where a melody is actually heard on the dance floor. And that's a good thing. Not everyone in a gay club is strung out on Ecstasy, coke, or amphetamines, which is probably what you need to make the relentless heart-jolting bass and ear-splitting techno siren screams actually enjoyable. So it goes at sweaty environs like Universe… More >>
  • Best Place to Go Online Naked

    New Meat Campus Theater

    This formerly run-down, dingy -- downright scary -- gay porn theater in the Tenderloin has turned a new leaf under new owners. It's now one of San Francisco's cleanest, classiest (and most high-tech) sex clubs. Renovations and a good shampoo have made this theater worth sitting in again. Part pornographic film house, part sex club, the New Meat Campus Theater… More >>
  • Best New Locally Produced Documentary

    Scouts' Honor by Tom Shepard

    Tom Shepard's look at the Boy Scouts' gay ban, and how one straight, Bay Area Eagle Scout and his family organized to protest the policy, won this year's Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, along with the special Freedom of Expression Award. Shepard, 32, is a Stanford graduate and lives in San Francisco's Mission District. Scouts' Honor was his… More >>
  • Best Place for Old-Fashioned Fun

    Musée Mécanique

    Anyone who missed having the bejesus scared out of him by Laughing Sal, the menacing mechanical mascot that hovered over Ocean Beach's bygone amusement park, Playland, can visit her at Musée Mécanique, an old-fashioned arcade with 165 coin-operated amusement machines. Sal's taunting, toothless cackle aside, the Cliff House's downstairs entertainment center still incites loads of laughs thanks to four Gypsy… More >>
  • Best Underrated Bar

    Gold Mirror

    Who needs trendy retro bars when the real thing is behind the beckoning stainless-steel deco door of the Gold Mirror. Pull up one of the 20 stools and do the only decent thing: Pay homage to a classic and perfectly kitschy 1969 Italian restaurant bar with a stiff Old-Fashioned or Manhattan, served shaken and up. After one potent concoction, the… More >>
  • Best Place to Be a Pinball Wizard


    We don't love playing pinball at Thalassa because of the variety -- you can find more pinball games at Pier 39. No, we love Thalassa because of the quality of its four games. Any pinball aficionado knows that if a game's ramps, lights, and other gimmicks don't work, the pinball experience, well, sucks. But Thalassa's pinball games, maintained by a… More >>
  • Best Vocal Coach

    Faith Winthrop

    No local diva embodies San Francisco's soulful music scene more than veteran jazz singer/vocal coach Faith Winthrop. When North Beach's hungry i was the center of the city's entertainment scene in 1955, Winthrop was its house singer. By 1970 she was tapping her tambourine and leading the feel-good grooves during a five-year stint as director of Glide Memorial Church's choir.… More >>
  • Best Trend

    The Lack of "Blue Shirts" in Nightclubs

    We're still not sure what happened -- either last year's hordes of blue-shirted dot-commers moved on or they decided en masse to dress a bit funkier when out on the town. Either way, it's a good thing in our opinion (the folks at the Gap may feel differently), because there's something dispiriting about stepping into a club at 11 p.m.… More >>
  • Best Chill Bar Before 10 p.m.

    Movida Lounge

    On a recent visit to Movida at 9 p.m. on a Sunday, a local sitting at the bar told us Movida was so "chill" that his wife had come there to fetch him in her pajamas. That's the spirit of this cozy lounge, which celebrated its first birthday in April and is a stylish addition to the Haight/Fillmore area, known… More >>
  • Best Place to Impersonate a Torch Singer

    Lush Lounge

    The Tenderloin is famous for many things, but a piano lounge with class is not one of them. That's why the Lush Lounge is a much-needed shot in the arm for a neighborhood reputed more for its prostitutes than for its posh watering holes. The 1-year-old lounge, co-owned by bartenders Steve Black and Kenny Meade, blends retro-Hollywood glamour and modern… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Newspaper

    SF Herald

    SF Herald is the brainchild of Gene Mahoney, who started his "Monarch of the Monthlies" in 1998. It began primarily as a showcase for Mahoney's comic Good Clean Fun, which featured his often hilarious recountings of personal neuroses and San Francisco roommate culture. But in time the Herald has grown to become a witty and caustic journal of the Tenderloin… More >>
  • Best Old Wine in New Bottles

    Leah Garchik's The In Crowd

    For years, the Chronicle's Leah Garchik wrote a column on the back page of the Datebook section called Personals. It was a nice enough collection of offbeat news, quotes, and notes, mostly culled from other papers and mostly about celebrities. It was a light 'n' fluffy reprieve that bisected Datebook's two back-page columnists -- on the left, Jon Carroll, who… More >>
  • Best Legal High

    2202 Oxygen Bar

    If you're not savvy enough to trick a doctor into a prescription for medical marijuana, then get your high the legal way -- at 2202 Oxygen Bar. Any "drug" is expensive, and the O2 served up at this hip Mission bar is no different. At $10 a pop for a 10-minute session ($15 for 20 minutes and $25 for 40… More >>
  • Best Poetry Slam

    "Second Sundays" at Justice League

    "Second Sundays," the largest poetry slam in the city, is a beloved literary occasion for poets, poetry lovers, and anyone looking for a different way to spend a Sunday night. Huge crowds of hipsters, artists, and curious cats pack the Justice League in the Western Addition every second Sunday of the month for an energetic wordfest that's heavy on the… More >>
  • Best and Worst Karaoke Bar

    The Mint

    Most aspiring musicians and wannabe rock stars have already heard of the Mint, the infamous Castro karaoke joint. Stocked with a jampacked songbook, large television screens, and a separate stage area, plus a bar for curious onlookers, the Mint hosts karaoke every night of the week and is usually packed, with waits lasting well over an hour on weekends. It's… More >>
  • Best Film Programmer

    Craig Baldwin

    The depth and breadth of moviemaking in this country is beyond mind-boggling, but you'd never know it from the mainstream media's insatiable obsession with Hollywood. All the more reason to cherish Craig Baldwin, who has manned the rudder at the Other Cinema at Artists' Television Access for 15 years. A veritable force of nature, Baldwin has turned the Other into… More >>
  • Best Place for a Romantic Spin Around the Dance Floor

    Top of the Mark

    There's something classy about Old San Francisco, something that's worth giving up a place in line at the new dance club. Assuming, of course, that it's romance you're after. The 62-year-old Top of the Mark is just a downright lovely venue, with its panoramic views of the city and classic cocktail tables. Live music wafts from the stage every night… More >>
  • Best Underrecognized Cartoonist

    Jason Shiga

    The Bay Area has a long history of underground cartoonists, from '60s freaks like R. Crumb and S. Clay Wilson to '80s "second wave" artists like Dori Seda and Dan Clowes to current wonderkids Adrian Tomine and Ariel Schrag. Before long, Oakland native Jason Shiga will be added to that list. For the last six years, Shiga -- a Cal… More >>
  • Best Disco Ball

    The Top

    There are plenty of disco balls in San Francisco, but none shines as brightly as the mirrored orb at the Top. Due to precisely focused lighting and a smallish dance floor, the walls here are peppered with a perpetually revolving mosaic of bright, electric kisses, one of many reasons why the Top is one of the best DJ bars in… More >>
  • Best Indication That Size Doesn't Matter

    Radio Khartoum

    When people talk about small record labels, they usually refer to number of releases, size of pressings, and amount of staff members. In all these respects, the Oakland-based label Radio Khartoum is rather minute -- since 1997, owner and sole employee Alexander Bailey has put out only nine releases, the largest pressing being the minuscule 1,500 copies of the Hepburns'… More >>
  • Best Place to Read Snarky Comments About the Local Music Scene

    SF Indie List

    The image of the Internet as an "information superhighway" has always been a little far-fetched, if not outright preposterous. But, if you can get past the idea of bits of knowledge zooming back and forth from brain to brain, there's much that can be learned from some serious mouse-clicking. Take, for instance, the SF Indie list, a Web bulletin board… More >>
  • Best High-Concept Band

    The Clap Band

    Ever noticed that a lot of great pop songs feature hand claps? Have you wondered what it would sound like if the bands got rid of all that extraneous stuff like guitars, drums, and organ? The Clap Band has. On their Rodent Records debut single, Oakland's Axel Geddes and Hal Pearlman use only their hands for musical backing, slapping palms… More >>
  • Best Hoax Zine That Isn't One

    The Nature of Aether

    Given San Francisco's rampant cynicism, it's no wonder that a home-produced pamphlet like The Nature of Aether would be treated with a certain amount of scorn. A treatise on the so-called aetheric plane, which can be used by aspiring mentalists to make the world conform to their every whim, sounds like a crock, to be sure. Especially when you see… More >>
  • Best Result of Operation Desert Storm

    The White Ring Some bands just want to play loud music, drink some beers, and hook up with hoochie mamas after the show. Not the White Ring. These five Oakland lads, who met while fighting Saddam Hussein's evil hordes, have a message. Actually, they have quite a few. Standing at the forefront of the East Bay's Christian rock movement (which includes such other… More >>
  • Best Rental-Market-Defying Theater

    The Exit Theater

    Within the last year, as the rental market peaked and performance spaces closed their doors with a sound like clattering rain, the Exit Theater managed to add another two stages to its pair of rooms on Eddy Street. First, in the original building, they built a small cafe, with space for compact shows and staged readings. And in June they… More >>
  • Second Best Local Magazine

    The Bark

    What started four years ago as a newsletter advocating an off-leash park in Berkeley has blossomed into a full-fledged magazine, published quarterly and recognized by the Utne Reader as the Best of the Alternative Press for lifestyle coverage. Even Esquire thinks The Bark is cool. And so do we. Though the "modern dog culture magazine" focuses on, well, dogs, it… More >>
  • Best Radio Station

    KUSF-FM (90.3)

    In the future, all radio stations will be college radio stations. Their playlists will consist of a schizophrenic pastiche of synthesized show tunes and Cistercian chants; DJ patter will lean toward pranky irreverence and away from shticky polish. Until then we have KUSF, the tiny station broadcast out of the Jesuit University of San Francisco. Though it is nominally a… More >>
  • Best African Reggae Club


    Catering to a 30s-and-over crowd, this Oakland bar/dance club is not for you die-hard club kids. But if you enjoy a Caribbean beat and dance hall music to wind and grind your booty to, this is the place. Aside from a smoking DJ, Oasis offers live music and a huge patio for dancing under the stars. It's a hot, Afro-Caribbean… More >>
  • Best Video Store for the Camp/Cult Connoisseur

    Video Control

    If you're that one person in the office who understands why Ms. Divine wants "cha-cha pumps" or who looks around for Kathleen Turner in panic every time you see someone wearing white shoes after Labor Day, then, boy, is Video Control for you. If you've spent hours traipsing the city in search of those hard-to-find classics like FrankenHookers, Orgy of… More >>
  • Best Nightclub for a Religious Experience

    "Mass" First Sunday of the month at Ten 15 Folsom

    Mass is a little bit of heaven in a nightclub. The incredible sound system, the unbelievable light shows, and the surge of hot, sweaty men gyrating to the sounds of DJ Phil B. will make you want to attend religiously. In fact, the reason it is only held once a month is that like everything else, too much of a… More >>
  • Best Big Easy Contact

    Zydeco/Cajun Dance

    Listen, cher, do you love the Big Easy style? Does the sound of Cajun music make you want to kick up your heels? Promoter Dana DeSimone offers phone and online listings of the Bay Area's major zydeco and Cajun live music, dances, dance lessons, radio programs, online broadcasts, and related happenings. Indeed, he also books the bands at Alameda's Eagle… More >>
  • Best Place to Boogie With Celts

    An Bodhran

    In a city rife with Irish watering holes, it's exciting to find one that stands apart from the rest like An Bodhran (pronounced Bah-ron). This bar, named after a traditional Irish drum, is unique in its energy and the diversity of its patrons, to say nothing of its weekend nights that feature pumping techno music not commonly found in Irish… More >>
  • Best Place to See a Movie and Drink Beer

    The Parkway Theater - CLOSED After visiting the Parkway Theater for the first time, one wonders why nobody else is doing anything like this in the Bay Area. Well, the fact is, the Parkway is doing what the proprietors call "picture, pub, and pizza" with such excellence that it's just as well. The concept is simple: Watch a movie in comfortable chairs, eat some pizza,… More >>
  • Best Combination Lesbian Bar, Pool Hall, and Beer Garden

    The Wild Side West

    The Wild Side West is not your run-of-the-mill lesbian bar. Proprietresses Nancy White and Pat Ramseyer have created a homey watering hole that draws clientele as eclectic as the bar's décor. The walls are adorned with paintings of nudes and a charmingly bizarre collection of knickknacks and memorabilia. A pool table bedecked in smooth, red felt lies in the center… More >>
  • Best Bicycle Bar


    Zeitgeist has long been known as a "biker bar," attracting a variety of motorcycle enthusiasts and other leather-sporting patrons. It should be emphasized, therefore, that Zeitgeist is an equal-opportunity biker bar, welcoming operators of the non-motorized variety with equally open arms. An enormous custom-built bicycle rack with room for dozens of cycles adorns the beer garden behind the bar. That… More >>
  • Best Dive Bar

    RJ's Sports Bar

    God knows we have our choice of local dive bars, but we have yet to find one that can hold a candle to RJ's Sports Bar. Where else can you watch your favorite sporting event, re-lax in the overly comfy pleather sofas and chairs, and be doted on by two of the sweetest bartenders in town? We stumbled on this… More >>
  • Best New Neighborhood Bar


    Charlie's is a lot of things: It's a great place to dine. It's a great place to have a drink. It's a great place to see and be seen. It's a great place to -- ahem -- make a new friend. In short, it's the best thing to happen to Union Street in a long time. Charlie's central Union Street… More >>
  • Five Best Offbeat Museums

    It's all very well and good to stroll through SFMOMA and the Academy of Sciences acknowledging the artifacts of our prosaic existence, but do any of those daubs and dinosaur bones speak to the grandeur of the offbeat? Just as a civilization can be judged by the things it leaves unsaid, it's the obscure and the esoteric that most sharply… More >>
  • Best Jam Session

    Jazz Jam Cafe

    There was a time when Dizzy, Miles, Sonny, and Milt would greet the Lower Fillmore dawn with improvisational blasts of after-hours brilliance at Jimbo's Bop City and other venues. Today, half a century later, the local jazz scene is but a shadow of that halcyon era. There are a few places that are keeping the give-and-take artistry of the jam… More >>
  • Best Merry-Go-Round

    Children's Playground

    The sweet bird of youth is endangered no more when you swing aboard a merry-go-round and partake of its simple pleasures: the lights, the music, the giddy, spiraling sensations. Golden Gate Park's is a beauty: Built in 1912 by the Herschell-Spillman Co. of New York, it dazzled visitors to the 1939-40 World's Fair on Treasure Island and was brought to… More >>
  • Best San Francisco Movie

    Bullitt (1968)

    For anyone whose first exposure to San Francisco was during the 1960s, Bullitt is irresistibly evocative. Steve McQueen, the coolest star of the decade, plays a maverick cop who bucks the system, favors paisley pajamas, and resides in a mod one-bedroom apartment at Taylor and Clay. (His girlfriend is miniskirted Jacqueline Bisset, an import, obviously, from swinging London.) At the… More >>
  • Best Beat Era Evocation

    City Lights

    Where else? The publishers of Howl still maintain that healthy authority-questioning outlook that made the beats so reviled and celebrated during the somnolent '50s, offering up three floors of mostly paperbacked volumes on an array of subjects eclectic enough for the thirstiest intellectual. There's a Little Press Alcove with a couple of hundred magazines, pamphlets, and booklets (Dead in Memphis… More >>
  • Best Vertigo Tour

    Mission Dolores

    Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) offers us a dazzlingly beautiful, dangerously precipitous San Francisco obsessed with its own memories and prevalent phantoms. Much of it was filmed at actual locations across the city, lending the film the cachet of authenticity and the locations a lingering hint of mythology. Begin your tour at Mission Dolores (16th Street and Dolores), where Kim Novak's… More >>

Search Best Of Awards

Best of Award Graphics

©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.