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  • Best New Club

    Shine

    There's a shortage of good techno clubs in this town. If you don't agree, then you probably don't know what good, authentic techno is: thick, gut-rumbling beats that range from icy and industrial to warm and funky. This is music distinct from the cheese-ball house and trance emanating from various bridge-and-tunnel operations, and if there's anyone here who understands that, it's Will Linn. Linn is the founder of Blasthaus, a local collective that organizes everything from DJ events to art... More >>

  • Best Art Gallery

    Galeria de la Raza

    Nestled amid several blocks of taquerias, international phone bodegas, and hipster coffee joints, Galería de la Raza is perhaps the best gauge of the Mission Districts's vibrant cultural legacy. This interdisciplinary space, in which the art is more about inciting action than drawing attention to its value as cheeky commodity, features works by political and artistic lightning rods in the Chicano/Latino community. For more 30 years, the gallery — conceived by Chicano civil rights movement activists — has filled the... More >>

  • Best Indie Movie Theater

    Castro Theatre

    Once all the hysteria had died down after the Castro's firing of its longtime director of programming, Anita Monga, and replacing her with the owner's wife, Karen Nasser, we realized that the theater remains impressive. And we're grateful for that. Gone are the fears that this beautiful, historic spot would start showing Ice Age: The Meltdown five times a day. The family-owned movie house still screens some of the finest and most unusual films in the city. From a hefty... More >>

  • Best Corporate Movie Theater

    Embarcadero Center Cinema

    It has five screens and is part of Landmark Theatres (which is owned by the Samuel Goldwyn Co.), but the Embarcadero Center Cinema is anything but a sterile multiplex. First, there's the location: the top level of an outdoor mall, an open-air skyway far removed from the downtown bustle of the street. If you go on a weekend, you'll be practically alone, and being alone at a mall is one of the pleasures of the modern age, when a whole... More >>

  • Best Theater of the Absurd

    Dark Room Theater

    Nobody going to the Dark Room is going to the theatah, meaning no one is pulling out nice snacks and preordering wine for intermission (and God help you if you must use the bathroom during a show). But co-owners Jim Fourniadis and Ty Mckenzie aren't out to lure the highbrow Union Square crowd: They just want their kids. The duo ushers in weird shows by the truckload, such as Impossible Productions' improbable episodes of Batman and The Twilight Zone, along... More >>

  • Best Drag Bar

    Aunt Charlie's Lounge

    Drag shows can still feel punk as fuck in the right setting. A dive bar barely the size of a long bathroom line is an ideal space in which to crowd a bevy of bejeweled biddies as they strut the catwalk for your crumpled dollar bills. There's something wonderfully surreal about the aura at Aunt Charlie's, whether it's the eclectic parade of Hot Boxx Girls of all ages (and talent levels), the potent charm of the cheap drinks, or the... More >>

  • Best Trashy Art

    Recology San Francisco

    Some artists travel to Flax to get materials; others never get farther than their neighbors' trash cans. For the latter type, the golden gig is this program. Not only does the lucky artist get carte blanche to rummage through the city dump, a monthly stipend, and a 2,000-square-foot studio to work in, he also gets a solo show with pretty much guaranteed press coverage (nobody can pass up the garbage angle). Since 1990, more than 50 artists have filtered through... More >>

  • Best Place to Go Unplugged

    Swedish American Hall

    When Café Du Nord owner and all-around local music impresario Guy Carson started putting on shows at the street-level Swedish American Hall, certain concert-goers' first response was a firm "So what?" For starters, the place doesn't have a liquor license, plus it's seated, plus you get the feeling that it doubles as a bingo hall. But a performance in 2004 by Portland's M. Ward changed all that. The vaulted ceilings and stained-wood décor served as the perfect setting, both in... More >>

  • Best Place to Watch Stuff Burn

    The Crucible

    The "molten bronze pour" — a great phrase, huh? It carries an ancient air, evoking protective-garb-wearing strongmen sweating in a smoky, devilish atmosphere, gingerly turning hard metals into melted pools like 17th-century alchemists (or 20th-century steel workers). That guy can be you at the Crucible, where industrial arts classes have tantalizing names such as "Brown to Bronze: Direct Burn-Out Casting" and "Foundry Fundamentals: Hands-on Furnace Building." The center is the premiere spot to learn the various explosive trades, but the... More >>

  • Best Karaoke

    Bow Bow Cocktail Lounge

    Leave the Mint to the posers, frat boys, and bridge-and-tunnel crowd and head instead to this scarlet and black retro-Chinatown cubbyhole, where owner-barkeep Candy Wong presides over a fun-loving lineup of crooners, belters, and wannabe divas. Every night around 9, a colorful cast of characters — wizened locals, adventuresome hipsters, and throwbacks drawn by the plumes of cigarette smoke and the sound of rattling dice — make music or mincemeat out of "We Are Family," "What's New Pussycat," "Mack the... More >>

  • Best New Reading Series

    Rickshaw Stop

    San Francisco has a surprising number of good reading series for those who know where to look, but there's always room for more, and local author James Warner has brought us a great new one. The monthly InsideStoryTime is housed at the Rickshaw Stop, a bar and restaurant best known as a haven for top DJs and local indie rock talent. With plush couches facing the stage in a relaxed, lounge-y atmosphere, InsideStoryTime feels less like a literary reading than... More >>

  • Best Outdoor Cinema

    Dolores Park

    As a kid growing up in the Midwest, Sean Boyle would go to summer movie screenings with his sisters, with films projected onto the outside of the local middle school wall. Last year, he and some friends decided to create their own free walk-in movie theater in Dolores Park. They learned how to set up a large movie screen by reading Home Theater for Dummies, and put one up (with speakers) on the south side of the park. Dolores Park... More >>

  • Best Semiprivate Club

    Otis

    Coyishly concealed on Maiden Lane with no sign, no listed phone, and no obnoxious club beats blaring from the doors, this semiprivate club initially comes off as a tad too high-end for us regular club-goers. But once you step inside this cozy but exquisitely adorned little spot, the friendliness of the wait staff wins you over, as does the tan-and-gold peacock-inspired décor. The booze isn't nearly as pricey as you'd expect, and nightly specials help you get your drink on.... More >>

  • Best Bar for Watching Bears and Bands

    S.F. Eagle

    Where else but at the Eagle can you catch homoerotic biker flicks with one glance and gaze upon the newest spastic punk act with the next? Since it started hosting "Thursday Nite Live" shows years back, the leather bar (and home to an occasional mud wrestling contest) continues to be one of the comfiest rock clubs in town. Standing there, beer in hand, you can hear anything from hippie freak folk to tough-guy butt rock to flaming power pop. And... More >>

  • Best Jukebox

    Buddha Lounge

    A great jukebox is eclectic, offering enough variety to complement every conceivable mood. The Buddha's jukebox is very eclectic. One recent afternoon the ambient sound meandered from Prince's "When Doves Cry" to Patsy Cline's "Crazy" to Mary J. Blige's "One" to Dean Martin's "On an Evening in Roma," with no end in sight. With careful planning, the amateur DJ can bookend a set of Sam Cooke with a little Led Zeppelin and a jigger of the Pixies, Outkast chaser. Or... More >>

  • Best Art TV Show

    KQED-TV

    Local programming is often the bane of viewer-supported television. But in this town the genre has been taken over by geniuses, namely producers Marie K. Lee and her team. The idea behind Spark is simple: Profile local artists with short interviews, studio visits, and lots of pictures. But the choice of subjects, the seamless production, and the loose (but not distractingly wacky) editing set this show apart. Our favorite segments include "Paint x 3," featuring Robert Bechtle, Hung Liu, and... More >>

  • Best Year-Round Mardi Gras

    Monte Carlo Restaurant & Bar

    Mardi Gras is more than just a date on the calendar or the last blowout before 40 days of Lent; it's a state of mind, and that jazzy, rambunctious Big Easy spirit is what drives and defines the Monte Carlo, a lively nightspot in the Bayview. Beads, carnival masks, and purple, green, and gold décor are the dominant motif. The kitchen serves up crab-andouille gumbo, fried-shrimp po' boys, and the silkiest, smokiest red beans and rice this side of Opelousas.... More >>

  • Best Carioca Experience

    Canto Do Brasil

    Rio de Janeiro is one of those great bird of paradise cities that gets into your bloodstream upon contact and, like Venice and New Orleans, won't let you go. Even honorary Cariocas (Rio natives) aren't immune to the sultry vibrations, the captivating music, the coming together of jungle, mountain, and curving white seashore. Satisfying a Rio craving 7,000 miles from the source is problematic, but Canto do Brasil, a stylish Brazilian restaurant in Hayes Valley, brings a little bit of... More >>

  • Best Producer

    Exit Theatre

    There's no stopping Christina Augello. This formidable local theater impresario has been largely responsible for rescuing San Francisco theater-goers from the clutches of pointless touring Broadway shows and stolid repertory fare. As the artistic director of Exit Theatre since its inception 23 years ago, Augello (a quirky performer in her own right) has consistently thrown open her doors on the cusp of the Tenderloin to some of the edgiest companies around. The beauty of her programming is its unmitigated eclecticism.... More >>

  • Best Lesbian Dance Night

    Rickshaw Stop

    Back in 2000, DJs DNR and China G were bored with a lesbian club scene that seemed to play only hip hop, house, and Latin tunes. Determined to imbue the dyke-dance world with some much-needed oomph, the ladies started "Rebel Girl," a bimonthly event at which they could spin female-fronted rock, punk, '80s pop, and old-school hip hop acts. In November of that year, the duo moved "Rebel Girl" to 26 Mix and also started "Bad Reputation," a night that... More >>

  • Best Listening Room

    The Rite Spot Cafe

    As soon as you enter the Rite Spot Café, it's apparent that this quaint Mission District hang is a cut above the other small dives in the area. It's the perfect combination of neighborhood bar and charming hideaway, with friendly-but-don't-fuck-with-me bartenders, white tablecloths, and an affordable, delectable menu of mostly Italian comfort food. But even with those charms, the strong suit of the place is the live entertainment; the setting frequently draws in some of the area's best musicians for... More >>

  • Best literary drinking

    Make-Out Room

    Ah, the reading series, that venerable Bay Area institution. Just stick some writers in front of a mike and watch the fireworks detonate, right? Wrong, so wrong. Many a literary event has fallen by the wayside from a lack of good TNT. But Other magazine editor Charlie Anders' "Writers With Drinks" continues on, five years strong. What's her secret? Variety! As she writes on her Web site, "Variety is more than just the name of Prince's favorite girl-singer sidekick." You're... More >>

  • Best Community Art Center

    CELLspace

    A sprawling 10,000 square feet of pristine warehouse, CELLspace is the kind of place that makes you marvel at art's democratic possibilities. The "CELL" part stands for the unduly techy-sounding Collectively Explorative Learning Labs, but the space is an arts and education mecca that reaches people through a variety of mediums: arts and crafts, drawing, painting, theater, performance, dance, and some seriously creative activism. Low rental fees, novel seminars, and dirt-cheap events that cater to the city's many tastes and... More >>

  • Best Dance Company

    Dance Mission Theater

    Choreographer Krissy Keefer is a rabble-rouser, and her company, Dance Brigade, has been at the helm of issue-oriented performance for the past two decades. The group's motley assortment of multidisciplinary works includes pieces that meld art and politics into an effortless goulash of sexy movement — covering topics ranging from violence against women to the psychological implications of war. Keefer's provocative raison d'�tre is archetypes that apply to modern women. Dance Brigade shows are unabashed in their sexuality and opinions,... More >>

  • Best Lunchtime Music Series

    St. Patrick's Church

    Few things offer such immediate relief from the daily grind as taking a long lunch to soak up some culture at St. Patrick's Catholic Church, which continues the noontime concert series of classical music originally held at Old Saint Mary's Church. The series, taking place every Wednesday, brings in some of the most exciting recital programs and chamber music in the city for a meager suggested donation of $5. Recent highlights have included clarinetist Bruce Foster, doing a tranquil program... More >>

  • Best Live Music Nights

    Mezzanine

    Last year was a great one for local alternative music. Bands like Scissors for Lefty, the Cuts, and the Ex-Boyfriends (to name just a few) earned national attention for their varying takes on the '80s-fueled alt-rock sound that's swept the country. Before these acts played Conan, however, they played here. Having just celebrated its first anniversary, the "California Homegrown Music Series" is the place to catch Bay Area bands on their way up, and it has found a great home... More >>

  • Best Live Music Nights

    Thee Parkside

    "If it's twang it's our thang." So goes the motto of "Twang Sundays," which pretty much sums up this Sunday afternoon series of local music. Country, western, Americana, y'all-ternative, and rockabilly, as played by bands like the Pine Box Boys, the Robber Barons, and many more, comprise the fare. And Thee Parkside's patio offers benches and Ping-Pong for those who take their Buck Owens with a spoonful of midday sun. Ease into your Sunday for the low, low price of... More >>

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