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  • Best Bookstore for Used Gardening Books

    Black Oak Books

    For a whole variety of reasons, Black Oak stands out among Berkeley's many stellar used bookstores. It's just the right size, has a back room whose aisles are perfect for the floor-sitters among us (count us in their undignified number), and has probably the best selection of used gardening books in the entire Bay Area. We once scored a virtually mint, hardcover copy of Graham Stuart Thomas' Perennial Garden Plants or the Modern Florilegeum that is now among our most... More >>

  • Best Place to Exchange Your Tuneage

    Amoeba Music

    Here's the situation: You've got a whole bunch of old Van Morrison CDs from an era in which you worshipped the man, but you don't listen to them much anymore. Adding to that storage problem, there's a stack of old rockers gathering a layer of dust on your bookshelf, along with some stuff friends gave you that you never really liked in the first place. And that's not to mention those Christmas albums from some party way back when. Grab... More >>

  • Best Old-Fashioned Toy Store

    Jeffrey's Toys

    How can a medium-sized, privately owned, downtown toy store compete with giants Toys "R" Us and FAO Schwarz? Jeffrey's Toys succeeds by specializing in timeless classics, such as collapsible push-up puppets, coloring books, yo-yos, Slinkys, and Magic 8 Balls. "We stock ordinary stuff that you just don't find in toy stores anymore -- the things I had as a kid," says owner Mark Luhn, 54. Jeffrey's has the city's largest selection of stuffed toys, and is the only toy shop... More >>

  • Best Childhood Nostalgia-Themed Gift Shop


    It would be easy to walk by this small storefront across from the Grand Hyatt, but once inside, one is astonished at the number, variety, and originality of the items. The store's primary focus is books, toys, and other product spinoffs featuring popular European children's characters from the 1920s to 1950s, such as Tintin (Belgium), Babar the elephant (France), and Noddy (England). Other favorites are Asterix and Obelix, the Little Prince, and Wallace & Gromit. Many items are imported directly... More >>

  • Best Barrel Scraping

    Clothes Contact

    The end of the line for the Retro City chain of vintage and used stores -- which includes La Rosa and Held Over -- Clothes Contact is the premier by-the-pound thrift in the Bay Area. Most of its items arrive in huge cardboard barrels from Germany, or Baltimore, or someplace where there are a lot of old clothes lying around. Once in the store they are lovingly arrayed: racks of slightly sagging car coats, trees of Bavarian mountain hats, rows... More >>

  • Best Bookstore for New Books

    The Booksmith

    An extremely cool staff who can help you find almost any book in print is one of the best reasons to shop at the Booksmith -- especially when you've dealt with the vacant stares or out-and-out rudeness of the employees at your local chain bookstore one too many times. The Booksmith has been a Haight-Ashbury fixture since 1976, and hosts a huge number of some of the city's most interesting readings and author appearances -- Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, James... More >>

  • Best Bookstore for Used Books

    Green Apple Books

    Green Apple's victory in this category is, well, hardly a stunning upset. After all, if our readers' poll is anything to go on (and we hope it is) it's San Franciscans' favorite used bookstore year in and year out. And the pleasures of Green Apple are many -- its well-organized stock is tucked into so many odd nooks, accessible by several pleasantly creaky staircases, that any normal person can easily spend a whole afternoon browsing unexpected title after unexpected title,... More >>

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