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  • Best Neighborhood Movie House

    Balboa Theatre

    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 in 1995) began making it known that she wasn't interested in carrying the torch much longer. She is in her... More >>

  • Best Underrated Bar

    The Gold Mirror Italian Restaurant

    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 panda clock with wandering eyes and the mirrors surrounded by red neon on the bar's ceiling are sure to inspire... 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 comfort, with acerbic movie-star quotes on the walls, lush foliage hanging from the ceiling, and a TV above the bar... More >>

  • Best and Worst Karaoke Bar

    The Mint Karaoke Lounge

    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 the perfect place to go if you're a second-rate singer looking to bask in your 15 (more like 3 1/2)... 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 of the week, including jazz and swing from some of the city's classic bands, as well as from new faces.... More >>

  • Best African Reggae Club

    Club Oasis

    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 jam that makes everyone welcome: You're sure to dance away your troubles in this extremely diverse crowd of music lovers.... More >>

  • Best Place to See a Movie and Drink Beer

    Parkway Theater 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, and drink good beer on tap (or wine by the glass), with nothing to clean up afterward! They show... More >>

  • Best Combination Lesbian Bar, Pool Hall, and Beer Garden

    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 of the room, and with the low-key atmosphere in the bar, it practically guarantees a stress-free pool-shooting experience. As if... 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 allows bicyclists to enjoy a frosty pint in the garden on a warm day within eyeshot of their precious steeds.... More >>

  • Best Beat Era Evocation

    City Lights Books

    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 and The Last Cannoli among them), postcards of James Joyce, Richard Wright, and other icons, a scattering of armchairs for... 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 mad spiritual forebear Señorita Carlotta is buried. Then head north to Union Square (Geary and Stockton), one-time site of Ransohoff's... More >>

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