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  • Readers' Poll

    Best Manicures/Pedicures Silk Nail Salon Best Massages Kabuki Springs & Spa Best Hair Salon Spaghetti & Ravioli (S&R) Best Pet Supplies Noe Valley Pet Co. Best Garden Supplies Floorcraft Garden Center Best Sex Supplies Good Vibrations Best Place to Buy LPs Amoeba Music Best Music Supplies Guitar Center Best Lingerie Store Victoria's Secret Best Art Supplies Flax Art &… More >>
  • Best DVD Selection

    Amoeba Music

    Amoeba's already known far and wide for its amazing array of LPs, CDs, 45s, and other musical forms, but equally impressive is its huge selection of DVDs. New, used, rare, and out-of-print titles are bought and sold by the thousands each week, keeping the turnover lively and the assortment fresh. And such an assortment it is: everything from westerns, musicals,… More >>
  • Best Close Shave

    Jun Yu

    It's getting more and more difficult to find a barber willing to soap up your kisser, scrape off your stubble, and slap on a little Vitalis for good measure, but Jun Yu performs this bygone ritual with professional panache on a regular basis. Make your way into his tiny, memento-crowded operation (Sinatra, Eastwood, and Como are among your predecessors), sink… More >>
  • Best Magic Shop

    Misdirections Magic Shop

    When you have a hankering to divine the thoughts of others, escape from a straitjacket, saw a lady in half, or confound your friends and neighbors in general, head to this Inner Sunset temple to the art of prestidigitation. Everything you need to baffle, amuse, and amaze is on the premises: coin tricks, flash pots, magic wands, vanishing Coke bottles,… More >>
  • Best Record Store

    Open Mind Music

    The joy of discovery -- whether of great new material you'd never have come across or old stuff you've searched for forever -- is the best part of record-hunting at Open Mind Music. The store probably has less than half the stock of Amoeba, but here you can listen to vinyl before you buy it (unlike at Amoeba). With the… More >>
  • Best Alternative to Public Transportation

    City CarShare

    Since 2001, City CarShare has been trying to wean Bay Area folks off their dependence on owning a car, and with 4,000 members (up 30 percent from a year ago), it looks like the nonprofit is making headway. Like similar programs in cities such as Portland, Ore., Chicago, and Seattle, City CarShare provides green VW Beetles, Jetta wagons, pickup trucks,… More >>
  • Best Secondhand Clothes

    Clothes Contact 473 Valencia (at 16th Street), 621-3212 Clothes Contact is one of the few places in town where you can still purchase your couture not by label or fabric but by gross tonnage, a popular concept back in the pre-dot-com '90s. Used clothing, fabrics, buttons, and patches are carefully weeded of overt dreck and displayed throughout the store's cavernous… More >>
  • Best Gender-Illusionist Supplies

    Retro Fit

    Steven LeMay -- owner of Retro Fit and 1999 SF Weekly Wild Side Model Search winner -- is something of a fashion chameleon. On his boutique's calling card, he's pictured in four separate photos: as a skirt-suited lady of the 1940s, as a slacker dude complete with knit cap, as an attitudinal club girl in a miniskirt, and (a stroke… More >>
  • Best Jeans

    AB Fits 1519 Grant (at Union) and 40 Grant (at Geary), both 982-5726, In the rapid-fire world of chic jeans, fit is everything, and the gurus at AB Fits know how to fit. The dressing rooms in the North Beach location contain no mirrors, and once you walk out, everything stops. The jeans are critiqued. "Let me see the… More >>
  • Best Gifts


    Spend a few minutes in Nest, and one thing becomes instantly clear: The buyers are geniuses. This French-themed store is small, a shoe box compared to a big-box retailer, yet it sells nearly everything -- from clothing, bedding, and tableware to books, chandeliers, furniture, knickknacks, and wall art. Almost all of it is something you want, from the Kerry Castle… More >>
  • Best Car Repair

    Cowden Automotive

    We once had a 1987 Honda that Cowden Automotive perpetually kept two steps ahead of a systemwide failure. We'd bring it in with our dilemma ("We need to drive to Mammoth, possibly in a blizzard"), and Cowden's mechanics would fix just enough of the car to get the job done, as our wallet demanded. A broken wheel stud, for instance,… More >>
  • Best Cheap Bed

    HI-SF Fisherman's Wharf Hotel

    At $22 a night, the HI-SF Fisherman's Wharf hostel at Fort Mason is a happily inexpensive place to rest your head. Despite its name, the hostel is far removed from the waterfront mall. Housed in a historic two-story Civil War-era building next to a meadow -- a meadow! -- and perched on the Fort Mason cliff, it offers rooms with… More >>
  • Best Graffiti Supplies

    Graffiti has come a long way in the past 30 years. Once an illicit juvenile pastime that drew the scorn of anyone over the age of 20, it has arguably become the most vibrant and visible of all modern forms of art. The style is now a primer for an ever-expanding niche dubbed "urban art," and has spawned hipster superstars… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Art

    The Canvas Gallery - CLOSED

    Unlike cafes that feature a few watercolors on the wall and call themselves galleries, the Canvas is a whopping 1,100 square feet of art space plus 2,900 additional square feet of cafe and lounge with more art interspersed. The point of all this fusion is to get apathetic coffee-sippers to notice that art can be an organic, integral part of… More >>
  • Best Bed-and-Breakfast

    The Chateau Tivoli

    If the painted lady is the quintessential San Franciscan signifier, the Chateau Tivoli is the exemplar of exemplars. Built in 1892, this Alamo Square fixture has a history that's also distinctly S.F.: In 1975, it operated as the Center for Release and Integration, a major organization in the New Age movement, and was covered in friezes of lotus flowers and… More >>
  • Best Jewelry Bargains


    The enormous Giftcenter & Jewelrymart in SOMA houses more than 125 gem and jewelry sellers hawking their goods at rock-bottom wholesale prices. To enter you have to call one of the sellers and be put on the guest list, because the Jewelrymart's not open to the public. But once you get past the security guards, you can save anywhere from… More >>
  • Best Furniture

    New Deal

    New Deal may be the best all-purpose custom furniture and accessory store in San Francisco. A modest corner shop packed with gorgeous innovations by local and international designers, its contemporary, retro, and classic influences effortlessly mingle in big pieces that know how to work a room. Customers can flip through a catalog and peruse more than 150 sofa designs and… More >>
  • Best Sex Toys

    Good Vibrations 603 Valencia (at 17th Street), 522-5460, Good Vibrations makes the business of fucking fascinating. Foreplay at the Mission District sex toy emporium begins with its trademark vibrator museum: a revolving display of a dozen quaint devices (such as eggbeater contraptions and pitiful attempts to model the penis) and chronological explanations of their history. The excitement builds with… More >>
  • Best Cosmetics

    Lush 240 Powell (at O'Farrell), 693-9633, In the world of ubiquitous floral-reeking bath and body supplies, Lush peddles some of the most inventive products available. A U.K.-based company that deals in handmade, all-natural cosmetics, it's known for its frothy bubble baths (bath bombs that fizz and saturate your water with sweetly scented color) and scrumptious massage bars, whose essential… More >>
  • Best Herbs and Natural Medicine

    The Scarlet Sage Herb Co.

    Scarlet Sage is a treasure trove of holistic knowledge, containing everything an herbal enthusiast could ever want -- sans the hollow New Age trappings. Don't get sidetracked by the voluminous selection of tarot decks and scented candles: Scarlet Sage is, first and foremost, a retail store specializing in medicinal herbs from Native American and Western European healing practices. Its owners… More >>
  • Best Urban Retreat

    One Taste 1074 Folsom (at Seventh Street), 503-1100, This self-described "urban retreat center" is a rare slice of heaven crammed into a decrepit South of Market corner. A community center that focuses on mindful living in all its manifestations, One Taste offers a marketplace for physical and spiritual well-being that includes a cafe full of wholesome treats, an art… More >>
  • Best Recreation/Learning Center

    Jewish Community Center of San Francisco

    3200 California (at Presidio), 292-1200, After reopening last spring, the JCCSF, as it's affectionately known, startled regulars with the size of its new $60 million recreation and learning center, a three-story brick monolith on California Street. The schedule of activities is as thick as a college catalog, with just as many classes. There's a full spa, a gym, and… More >>
  • Best Pet Store

    Bow Wow Meow

    As Donald Trump would say, the pet industry is a billion-dollar business. But most stores leave something to be desired: You either get an impersonal corporate box, an exclusive salon, or a crumbling hodgepodge run by a crazy cat lady. Bow Wow Meow is different -- or rather, it's a little bit of everything. Focusing on the family dog and… More >>
  • Best Corporate Field Trip

    Sur La Table - CLOSED

    Most corporate field trips in the city are a bore. A bay cruise? Too cold. Motorized cable car ride? Too phony. But one store wisely appeals to the perennial fascinations of the corporate set: cooking shows and wine. After hours, Sur La Table opens its deluxe kitchen to business groups, letting clients learn the art of fine cooking under the… More >>
  • Best Carwash

    Tower Hand Car Wash

    We like ambition in a carwash, and Tower has it. The company has taken the "anything goes" philosophy of highway gas empires and stuffed it into a corner lot at the eternally jammed intersection of South Van Ness and Mission. Check out these features: a full cafe inside the minimart, serving Seattle's Best coffee, fresh breakfast pastries, and sandwiches; a… More >>
  • Best Flowers

    The San Francisco Flower Mart

    640 Brannan (at Sixth Street), 392-7944, In the early morning, this block-long market does a bustling wholesale trade; after 10 a.m., it's open to the public. But despite the crowds, there's an eerie small-town, Twilight Zone vibe that's tough to shake, what with the quaint main street, the corner coffee shop, the pleasant storefronts, each one identical, each one… More >>
  • Best Way to Show Guests Around

    GoCar Rentals 2715 Hyde (at North Point), (800) 914-6227, Next time the family visits, strap everyone into a GoCar, the world's first GPS-guided talking vehicle, and let technology take over. These tiny, three-wheeled convertibles cover city history and tell drivers where to turn and which way to look. Witness the locations that GoCar -- and not you -- can… More >>
  • Best Tech Store

    Apple Store 1 Stockton (at Ellis), 392-0202, Nobody had any right to expect Apple to build a store this cool, except maybe Mac users. From the metallic exterior to the airy interior, this slick gallery is a potent weapon to lure Windows users. Although most people head straight for the iPods and Bose headphones, plenty experience whiplash when… More >>
  • Best Kids' Stuff

    Miranda's Mama 3785 Balboa (at 39th Avenue), 221-5862, If you've got a bun in the oven, Miranda's Mama has a great selection of flattering and inexpensive shirts and pants for the expecting woman, but the store's most prominent feature is its assortment of new and used clothes, shoes, books, and toys for babies and young children. In fact,… More >>
  • Best Lingerie Store

    Alla Prima

    Alla Prima is one of the only San Francisco stores to carry the gorgeous Italian lingerie line La Perla. But every undergarment at this boutique's two locations is a work of art. There are understated bras and panties you can wear every day, as well as dramatic pieces for extra-sexy occasions. It's not cheap -- a bra here… More >>
  • Best Secondhand Kids' Clothes

    Chloe's Closet and Chloe's Other Closet 451A and 443 Cortland (at Moultrie), 642-3300, There's nothing more frustrating than realizing your kid has outgrown her clothes before she's even worn them. And that particularly sucks when the garment is some über-pricey piece of cute from a specialty boutique. The solution? This Bernal Heights resale shop for kids. Most of the… More >>
  • Best Cheap Bay Cruise

    Local Commuter Ferries Golden Gate Ferry, 923-2000, Angel Island-Tiburon Ferry, 435-2131, Alameda/Oakland Ferry, (510) 749-5837, There's no shortage of fancy vessels willing to take you out on a little water trip, but it'll cost you: A real cruise generally runs around $35 per person. But should you schedule a trip on one of the local commuter… More >>
  • Best Communal Baths

    Kabuki Springs & Spa

    There's nothing like a good, hot soak to soothe your soul and set aside your troubles. And when that soak also includes a steam room, dry sauna, and complimentary sea salt body scrub, you've got nothing more to worry about besides staying awake in the sauna. Kabuki Springs' communal baths combine Japanese aesthetics with American-style spa extras like your choice… More >>
  • Best Costume Rental

    American Conservatory Theater

    Each Halloween San Francisco's costume shops overflow with folks looking to rent kitschy gear for an evening -- did you want to be a flapper, a chicken, or a medieval warrior? But the most elegant, amazing costumes by far are to be found at ACT's Costume Shop, an offshoot of the famed theatrical company, at which the clothing that swathed… More >>
  • Best Travel Bookstore

    Get Lost Travel Books 1825 Market (at Pearl), 437-0529, The experience of browsing in a great travel bookstore should feel like you're already on vacation. Get Lost is just that kind of trip. You can't beat its exhaustive collection of guidebooks (we found one on traveling by bicycle through Tibet, with mile-by-mile altimeter calculations), but it also has… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy 45s and 78s

    Amoeba Music

    Most people have never even seen a 78 -- that old-style record once pressed in multiple colors, shapes, and sizes -- unless they happen to have musical pack rats for grandparents. And there are a great many who think a 45 is a gun rather than a 7-inch record that's still a favorite of indie punks. But at Amoeba, where… More >>
  • Best Store for Japan-o-Philes


    Schoolgirl heaven is at 19th and Valencia streets, and if you have any adolescent love of special snacks and ornate stationery, Chamalyn can be heaven for you, too. This new shop imports Japan's innocent oddities by the bushel; the small storefront holds zillions of tiny goodies, from lychee- and ume-flavored gum to itty-bitty "ground mustard triangle biscuits," an out-of-control selection… More >>
  • Best Place to Meditate While Shopping

    The Love of Ganesha

    Tucked a block off bustling Haight Street, the inviting Love of Ganesha sells eye-catching and inexpensive treasures from Tibet. The owner is wonderfully kind and often offers shoppers tea and pastries with which to warm up as they wander the store. Even more surprising and thoughtful is the ornately decorated meditation room, in which you can take off your shoes… More >>
  • Best Consignment Store


    You deserve to wear Prada. We know you do. And we also know you're not made of money. Few people are. Well, fortunately for the rest of us, those few are consigning their clothes to Cris. This little secondhand boutique on upper Polk Street sells designer duds (mostly for women) in excellent to new condition, for a fraction of what… More >>
  • Best Pulp Fiction

    Kayo Books

    Little wonder why Kayo Books is a favorite of classic kitschmeisters like filmmaker John Waters. It's a store full of wondrous impulse buys with a gift for almost anyone, and it doesn't feel caked in dust despite a focus on older media. Specializing in paperbacks circa 1940 to 1970, Kayo offers a healthy selection not only of well-maintained pulp fiction… More >>
  • Best Cybercafe

    Brain Wash Cafe and Laundromat

    This South of Market hangout gets our vote as the coolest cybercafe this side of Amsterdam. What else can you say about a place where you can chow down on buffalo wings or Chinese chicken salad after stuffing your dirty laundry into a washer? You can also surf the Net, play one of the pinball machines in the back, or… More >>
  • Best Party Supply Store

    Angray Fantastico

    You've already spent an arm and a leg on liquor, so why cough up a lung for decorations, plates, cups, and napkins? Thank God for Angray Fantastico, a cut-rate warehouse filled with party odds and ends near the Flower Mart. Here you can find everything from tiki torches to tablecloths for much less than you'd pay at your neighborhood party… More >>
  • Best Affordable Acupuncture

    American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine

    San Francisco's best-kept health care secret for anyone on a budget and in need of relief, ACTCM's clinic offers a full array of acupuncture and massage, six days a week, performed by interns at various learning stages. The interns are fully supervised by highly skilled instructors schooled in both China and the United States; once you enter their world, your… More >>
  • Best Welding Supplies

    Airgas 525 23rd St. (at Illinois), 648-9353, The new Bay Bridge span may be a boondoggle, but if exploited properly by natives, it could solve the region's outsourcing problem. Thousands of jobs in areas such as financial services, engineering, programming, and other San Francisco specialties are in the process of being shipped to Bangalore and Manila over fiber optic… More >>
  • Best Mexican Art Store


    From vintage statues of saints from the time of the conquistadors to gorgeous papier-mâché skeletons from contemporary Mexican artists, Polanco's folk and fine arts from south of the border are eye-popping. Although the store has been a favorite of serious collectors since it opened in 1990, it also houses many fine pieces at affordable prices for beginners and people looking… More >>
  • Best Place to Learn a Romance Language

    San Francisco Italian Athletic Club

    Put to rest your questions about what goes on behind the heavy wooden door and red-and-white facade of this North Beach institution and step inside for un po' di cultura e apprendimento. In the spring, fall, and winter, the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club offers weekly classes taught by instructors who are either native speakers or have more degrees than… More >>
  • Best Jazz Vinyl

    Groove Yard

    Though there are plenty of good rationalizations -- aesthetic and auditory -- for collecting jazz on vinyl, the pursuit often gets vilified as inherently pretentious, like knowing how to fox trot or writing a villanelle. We'd like to yank the white ear buds out of those businessmen on BART who tap their toes to 20 gigs of digitized swing and… More >>
  • Best Used Bookstores

    The good used bookstore is a civic necessity: You can tell a town or a neighborhood is in decline when such shops start disappearing. The Castro District hasn't been the same since its used shop shut down several years ago. A phantom experience in hyperspace isn't right either. We like to pick up a volume to get its heft,… More >>
  • Best Hippie Shop

    The Sword and the Rose

    The best part about this occult shop is getting there. First you walk gingerly between two buildings and into a verdant, cozy patio. At the rear you come to a little hobbit hole surrounded by vines. Open the door and you enter a dimly lit, tiny, wonderful-smelling oasis of calmness. There are armchairs, altars to Isis, a table in the… More >>
  • Best Flea Market Stereo Equipment

    Mission Village Market

    Maybe it's an addiction to high-volume Supertramp, or perhaps the habit of falling asleep with the stereo on, but in the last few years we've worn out one piece of rinky-dink, Third World audio equipment after the next. It's a budget audiophile's cruel chicken-and-egg situation: We buy cheap gear because we're broke, and the new gear breaks because it's cheap.… More >>
  • Best Hardware Store

    Hundley is a hardware store in the most literal of senses, its showroom floor a veritable explosion of knobs, hooks, pulls, handles, hinges, doorstops, and bath setups (matching towel bars, shelves, soap dishes, toothbrush holders, mirrors, etc.), with some cleaning supplies thrown in as well. It's not for the faint of heart -- our initial visit lasted about an hour,… More >>
  • Best Toy Shopping for Adults

    Kidrobot 1512 Haight (at Ashbury), 487-9000, Toys aren't just for children anymore, and Kidrobot exists so that you can benefit from this simple and wonderful fact. The store (which also has locations in New York and Los Angeles) showcases vinyl figurines of all sizes and styles made by a wide range of cutting-edge artists. The toys are part… More >>
  • Best Piñatas

    Piñata Art Studio & Gallery

    The piñatas displayed at this tiny Excelsior storefront are so beautiful and festive that you almost hate to whack the hell out of them with a baseball bat. Handcrafted in a back-room workshop, they hang from the walls and rafters in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, just waiting for your next fiesta: burros, parrots, caterpillars, witches, hula girls,… More >>
  • Best Emergency Dog/Cat Sitters

    Fetch! Pet Care

    Fetch! Pet Care, founded by a Berkeley businessman and now spreading like wildfire throughout the state, is not your typical pet-sitting operation. For one thing, it handles crisis extraordinarily well. For example, we were recently away for two weeks in Southeast Asia and discovered via e-mail that our cat-sitting arrangements had fallen through. It was mighty difficult to enjoy our… More >>
  • Best Bookstore

    City Lights

    Although it's a required stop on the Columbus Avenue tourist crawl, bordering Jack Kerouac Alley and Vesuvio Cafe, City Lights, founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, retains its pioneer spirit. The floors creak, which is nice, and the bookshelves look like they were built over time, on site, by Ferlinghetti himself. The bathroom is for staff only; the coffee bars are… More >>

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