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  • Best Jukebox

    Hemlock Tavern

    Yeah, yeah, a great jukebox is eclectic, something for everyone, blah blah blah. But trying to choose the "best" jukebox in a city as full of great bars and amateur music critics like San Francisco is just inviting some hard-drinking know-it-all to say you're full of it. Fortunately, something happened this year that rendered the selection a no-brainer: The owners of the Hemlock Tavern made their charmingly eclectic jukebox entirely free. The music machine at Hemlock's sister bar, Casanova, has... More >>

  • Best Weekly Live Show

    Bruno's

    Representatives from the massive Jazz Mafia outfit perform every Tuesday night at Bruno's in the Mission with different incarnations of the collective rotating weekly shifts. There can be 20 heads crowding the tiny stage in the cozy nightclub, depending on who's playing. If it's the Realistic Orchestra, you're looking at an 18-piece jazz, funk, and hip-hop ensemble. The Shotgun Wedding Quintet, who fuse electronic sampling with live instrumentation, require even more space. Other lineups, most of which are headed by... More >>

  • Best Place to Swoon the Night Away

    Harry Denton's Starlight Room

    If '30s elegance and big band, jazz, and upbeat dance music are what you're into, it's hard to beat the Starlight Room, high atop the Sir Francis Drake Hotel above Union Square. Elegance is key here, from the walnut-paneled elevators that whisk you up to the hotel's 21st floor, to the silk-draped chandeliers and burgundy velvet booths. And since the dance floor (which sports an old-fashioned mirror-glass glitter ball in the middle) is windowed on three sides, the city lights... More >>

  • Best Jazz Sanctuary

    Saint John Coltrane Church

    Don't let the black Jesus mural above the altar fool you. While Christian (affiliation: African Orthodox), this one-of-a-kind church, which has about three dozen congregants, is first and foremost about the music of its declared "saint," the late-great jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. Its Sunday services, from 11:45 a.m. to 3 p.m., includes a little sermonizing and a lot of Coltrane music (his Love Supreme album is a permanent part of the liturgy) served up by the church's own house band,... More >>

  • Best Punk Rock Cinema

    Other Cinema

    The sound always cuts out at some point. The theater is cramped, often cold, and let's face it: In winter, there are bugs. That's why curator Craig Baldwin's Other Cinema series may not be for everyone. But the every-Saturday-night-at-8:30 p.m. series presents small, beautiful films with enough soul and grit to keep you buoyed up and pissed-off for at least a week. That's why we're slapping it with the overused and outdated "punk rock" label: It's an angry, stylish, do-it-yourself... More >>

  • Best Indie Movie Theater

    Red Vic Movie House

    It's got those funky couches. It sells tasty snacks ranging from hot, buttery popcorn to organic treats. It's worker-owned and -operated. And for God sakes, it's just all bright red outside and lovable inside — kind of like the Clifford the Big Red Dog of theaters. The Red Vic actually shows good movies, too, screening everything from documentaries (with directors or producers present, when possible) to foreign films (think Pedro Almodóvar at his best). And the Red Vic doesn't take... More >>

  • Best Theater Company

    San Francisco Playhouse

    The black-box theater at 533 Sutter used to be a bit of a dump. But ever since SF Playhouse moved in and gave the place a lick of paint, the venue has been transformed both physically and artistically. Directors Bill English and Susi Damilano not only possess a slick aesthetic sense (the sets, which are usually designed by English himself, are among the most ingenious and well-crafted to be found anywhere), but they also know how to pick and cast... More >>

  • Best Drag Show

    The Cinch

    By crowning Charlie Horse as the best drag show, we don't mean to dethrone Trannyshack. That's just not possible. Like Oprah Winfrey, who no longer turns in Emmy-nomination bids after having won bushels of them, Heklina's genius drag revue has no equal and certainly no longer needs our pithy accolades. But if you're looking for something in a similar vein but on a weekend night, check out this night of condensed, sloppy, artistic, and bizarre drags numbers at one of... More >>

  • Best Hybrid Performance Venue

    CounterPULSE

    In a city known for the mixing of dance and movement with theater, music, spoken word, and any other performance discipline you can think of, CounterPULSE stands out as a great venue to get a peek at how a variety of local artists are pushing the performance boundaries. While every piece might not float your boat, the constant risk-taking and experimentation creates some of the most original and compelling performances the city has to offer. The range of what CounterPULSE... More >>

  • Best Mid-Week Swing Dancing

    Verdi Club

    If you're looking to get an authentic taste of swing dancing, you can do no better than Tuesday nights at the Verdi Club. The evening starts off with a half-hour intro into the basics of swing dancing, lead by Bay Area swing veteran Hep Jen. Then the Stompy Jones six-piece band takes the stage, pumping out infectious jump blues. Students from the classes offered before the dance fill the space, many decked out in the fashion of the era. A... More >>

  • Best Comedy Club

    The Purple Onion

    Located in the heart of North Beach, the Purple Onion has one of the most refined pedigrees of any comedy club around. Phyllis Diller, Barbra Streisand, and Woody Allen all once trod the venue's diminutive boards. Robin Williams has even been known to drop in on occasion to try out new material on unsuspecting crowds. Yet the place remains quirky, cozy, and resoundingly unpretentious with its dimly lit nooks, elegant round tables, and old-fashioned bar. These days, when you walk... More >>

  • Best Club to Dance with a Baller

    Gravity

    An urban club with a sophisticated environment, the Marina's Gravity offers the feel of a neighborhood bar with a big-city vibe. The club's warmth, elegance, and luxury is grown-up without being pretentious, which draws some of the most discerning local club connoisseurs: football and basketball players. The club's intimate dance setting features soul, house, funk, hip hop, and disco. Monday nights, ballers like Vernon Davis, Keith Lewis, Baron Davis, and other 49ers and Warriors show up on the raised dance... More >>

  • Best Place to Get Your Mash On

    Slide

    Wednesday nights, musician Chris Clause and DJ Solomon create a musical mash-up that makes the scenesters groove. Evenings are started off active as clubgoers shoot down a giant slide right into the bar (unless you're wearing a dress or a skirt, then it's stairs for you!), and an array of DJs keeps the well-groomed crowd shaking it until the wee hours. Gents, here's a tip: There are more chicks here than dudes. Bottle service and an ample dance floor distinguish... More >>

  • Best Serial Party

    Milk Bar

    A veritable Justice League of talented DJs converge at Upper Haight DJ bar Milk once a month for "Superfriends," a club night where rock and dance jams rub up against funk and hip-hop anthems for fun-loving partygoers. Resident DJs Vin Sol and Morse Code are two of San Francisco's leading mixtape jocks, offering collections that range from slow-burning soul and reggae to themed smorgasbords like Morse Code's recent Hard Crack Candy, which is pure confectionery theory set to music. The... More >>

  • Best Salsa Club

    Cafe Cocomo

    There are several great salsa clubs in San Francisco, but what makes Café Cocomo stand out above the rest this year — and makes it a perfect destination for you and your salsa-curious family and friends — is their Monday nights. Once a week, Cocomo opens their doors to those new to salsa, offering two hours of beginning and just-beyond-beginning classes and then an open run of the dance floor. It's a fantastic way to get a taste of what... More >>

  • Best Literary Lunchtime

    111 Minna Gallery

    Between all the numbingly stupid memos, spreadsheets, and conference calls that must be executed during a typical workday in a typical office, it can feel like you're speaking a pointless alien language between the hours of 9 and 5. Thankfully S.F.'s tireless champion of translated literature, the Center for the Art of Translation, feels your pain. That's why they offer the consistently delightful Lit'n'Lunch series, featuring weekday lunchtime talks by top translators of world literature, from former U.S. Poet Laureate... More >>

  • Best Reading Series with Cookies

    Main Library, Latino/Hispanic Community Meeting Room

    The library is a somewhat staid environment for the Radar Reading Series. Maybe that's why its curator, Michelle Tea, goes to such lengths to encourage the crowd to talk back. After the readers finish their selections, they ready themselves for a Q&A. One might think feisty San Francisco audiences would fire away without needing an incentive to do so, but Tea offers homemade cookies to anyone who asks a question. Former featured readers have included nonfiction superstar Mary Roach, novelist... More >>

  • Best Double-Wide Gallery

    White Walls Gallery

    White Walls Gallery and the Shooting Gallery have many things in common — dazzling shows by young, edgy artists, to name a biggie — but the best is the gaping, fat hole in the wall that connects the two storefronts. When passing through it, most people don't realize they've crossed into an entirely different business, with its own Web site and shows. The combined 4,000-square-foot space primarily draws an urban, street-art line, with White Walls taking big names like Sam... More >>

  • Best New Monthly Art Show

    111 Minna Gallery

    At regular art openings, artists usually act no different than guests, glancing at the walls, balancing drinks, and figuring out savvy things to say to one another. At Sketch Tuesdays, however, the artists do what they do best — paint, draw, and sometimes sculpt, in full view of all comers. Organized by Sacha Eckes, Sketch Tuesdays is a more informal, less intense version of Southern Exposure's Monster Drawing Rally. Every third Tuesday, a dozen or more artists pile into booths... More >>

  • Best Free Arts Gala

    Red Poppy Art House

    We know you find yourself continually making excuses for not seeing enough arts and performance events: "I don't have enough time," "It's too far away," and the perennial whiny favorite, "It's too expensive" (even though two or three drinks will easily pay for a ticket to some brilliant black-box theatre). Well, we have some news for you: The Mission Arts & Performance Project is in the city's most accessible neighborhood, it happens every two months on a Saturday night, and... More >>

  • Best Indie Arts Space

    Intersection for the Arts

    It's not true that all multidisciplinary arts spaces are dilettantish — but experience has proven the stereotype generally irrefutable. Luckily, the exception is Intersection for the Arts. The city's oldest alternative arts space (42 years, to be exact), Intersection is unsurprisingly the stalwart among its struggling nonprofit brethren. Its sustained reputation for cutting-edge programs with a populist tinge has to do with the fact that there's no real repertory — everything always seems so damn fresh. There's the barebones genius... More >>

  • Best Outdoor Art

    Balmy Alley

    Almost any casual stroll through the Mission District can result in a face full of high-grade graffiti, such as the glorious, blow-you-off-your-feet lettering jewels that recently appeared on a disreputable stretch of Florida Street at 16th. But you don't have to hunt the streets to find good public art. Mural-drenched Balmy and Clarion are two havens of vibrant urban paintings that have been granted a pass as part of the city's "beautification" efforts. The delightfully brick-paved Balmy came of age... More >>

  • Best Spot to Leave Kids Nearly Unattended

    Japanese Tea Garden

    Created specifically for the northwest corner of the de Young Museum's Osher Sculpture Garden, Three Gems, is the first of several "skyspace's" by James Turrell. Though this glorified cement hole in the ground's artistic qualities are debatable, we can't overstate its role as a great place to keep kids distracted with minimal supervision. The sculpture is in essence a simplified walled maze. A main entrance corridor branches out into two pathways that meet in a circle, with an entranceway to... More >>

  • Best Purging of Teenage Stupidity

    Make-Out Room

    Somebody else's humiliation never felt so much like catharsis. At this event, which happens more or less monthly at the Make-Out Room, willing subjects climb up on stage with their old diaries, love letters, and teenaged attempts at poetry clutched in their clammy fists. Before an eager, voyeuristic crowd, the readers rewind history and let their younger selves spill their guts — they profess undying love for that curly-haired guy in math class, tell of horribly fumbled sex acts, and... More >>

  • Best Unusual Museum

    Chinese Holocaust Museum

    In a city where unusual is the usual, it's hard to come up with something that would be considered provocative. San Francisco's got plenty of whimsically educational museums, like the hands-on playtime that defines the Exploratorium. But nothing beats an unflinching look at the physical and psychological aspects of sheer brutality. What we are truly short on are museums that also educate on the unpleasant aspects of history that must not be repeated, such as the Museum of Tolerance in... More >>

  • Best Place to Channel Kerouac

    The Beat Museum

    Perfectly situated at the nexus of Grant, Columbus, and Broadway, where Kerouac, Corso, Rexroth, and Ferlinghetti changed American literature 50 years ago, the Beat Museum celebrates those potent days when modern jazz, postwar angst, and the bohemian essence of North Beach nurtured the Beat Era into explosive existence. Books, photographs, manuscripts, and memorabilia from curator Jerry Cimino's extensive collection fill the shelves and display cases of this shrine to beatific hipstertude, including a signed first edition of Ginsberg's Howl, a... More >>

  • Best Place for Lesbian Tourists

    Lexington Club

    There's almost literally no place like it in the world, and definitely no place like it that's 10 years old. The Mission District's world-famous Lexington Club is "Your Friendly Neighborhood Dyke Bar," and owner Lila Thirkield and her staff take each word of that phrase seriously. It's a good-natured joint, not fancy, and it's full of swilling lesbians. But this community center of sorts does more than pour strong drinks for pretty ladies: It's often the first stop on international... More >>

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