Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Shopping & Services

  • Best Ethnic Grocery

    Lucca Ravioli

    So how many different brands of olive oil do you need, anyway? If you're looking for more than, say, 15, check out Lucca Ravioli, a ninetysomething-year-old Italian-food treasure trove in the Mission. There's almost always a wait, so grab a number and start browsing. You'll need the time to figure out what you want to take home from among the four varieties of ravioli, six pastas, and four sauces that the shop makes on the premises daily. Not to mention... More >>

  • Best Newsstand

    Smoke Signals

    2223 Polk (at Vallejo), 292-6025 Smoke Signals is one of the best shops around for magazine junkies, expatriates looking for news from the Continent, and interior decorators (if its massive assortment of art and design journals is any judge). Most of the major tabloids and dailies from England, France, and Germany fill the racks in front of the store. Inside, though, it's mostly about magazines. If it's a glossy published in America, Smoke Signals probably has it, from the standard-issue... More >>

  • Best Florist

    Fioridella

    1920 Polk (at Jackson), 775-4065 Fioridella isn't your everyday flower shop. It has a feral, earthy feel about it, rich with deep colors, rough textures, and the irregular, diverse phantasmagoria of the great outdoors. The plum-colored, timber-and-terra-cotta setting is reminiscent of a country farmhouse, far from the pastels and pertly arranged blossoms of the typical florist. Big, coarse urns and hand-woven baskets spill over with orchid blossoms, daffodils, and flowering magnolia branches, while Mexican pottery, mouth-blown vases, and slippers of... More >>

  • Best Barber

    1987 Hyde (at Union)

    It isn't listed in the Yellow Pages and there's no sign over the door, but drop by this singular establishment on your way to a Swensen's double dip and you'll find yourself sporting one admirable haircut. There's more to the whole experience than a mere clip job, however. Settle into the comfortably dilapidated chair of honor and take in your surroundings: the vintage barbering tools; the beautiful wood carvings; the myriad tonics and lotions; the original artwork, figurative and otherwise.... More >>

  • Best Cooking Supplies

    Sur La Table

    For those of us who love to cook, Sur La Table is Candyland. The place is simply crammed with terrific kitchen stuff for every culinary occasion -- steaming mussels, chilling juleps, shaping cannoli, you name it. Parmesan knives, cantaloupe bowls, truffle shavers, and nutmeg mills share shelf space with a wide array of copper cookware, paella pans, cookie molds, herbs, spices, oils, and vinegars from every corner of the globe. Downstairs is a huge library of cookbooks and a display... More >>

  • Best Selection of Nero Wolfe Mysteries

    San Francisco Mystery Book Store

    4175 24th St. (at Diamond), 282-7444 Rex Stout's fictional detective -- the rotund, erudite, and perpetually ill-tempered hero of some 70 stories and novels -- is thoroughly represented (along with his smart-mouthed chronicler and aide-de-camp, Archie Goodwin) at the S.F. Mystery Book Store, a well-lit, low-ceilinged, meanderingly organized bibliotheca deep in the sinister recesses of Noe Valley. A quirky sensibility lurks behind this emporium of literary mayhem: There are shrines to Jim Thompson and Arthur Conan Doyle, and tables... More >>

  • Best Toy Trains

    Chan's Trains and Hobbies

    It doesn't matter how old you get, the clacketing, whistling lure of the model railroad is a lifelong ticket stub to the child within. Chan's is the place to indulge your inner trainaholic. Its narrow confines are packed top to bottom with all manner of railway paraphernalia: cars of great individuality; gorgeous old streamlined engines, some in the $1,000 range; a wide selection of Lionels, Thomases, Bachmanns, and Marklins; tracks in seven gauges; turf, tunnels, trees, bridges, and buildings for... More >>

  • Best Movie Memorabilia

    Show Biz

    Looking for a poster from Live and Let Die, a program from the 1988 Academy Awards, an 8-by-10 glossy of Donald Pleasence? Show Biz has everything the movie fanatic needs to decorate her rumpus room: posters, lobby cards, lunch boxes, refrigerator magnets, vintage stills, original screenplays, postcards by the gross, the occasional video, and a hundred thousand alphabetized glossies of your favorite stars. For the TV filbert there's a Barney Fife coffee mug, an I Love Lucy bedside lamp, a... More >>

  • Best Post Office

    Presidio Station

    Nothing is more frustrating than standing in line at the post office -- and for some reason the POs in San Francisco are worse than most. Those in the know, however, head to the Presidio Station, located past all those red brick buildings at the bottom of the base's main quadrant. Not only are the lines short, there's a stunning view of the bay and the Golden Gate from the parking lot.... More >>

  • Best Place to Learn How to Make the Perfect Pot of Coffee

    Capricorn Coffee

    Capricorn is perhaps best known for selling 50 kinds of coffee, but the specialty bean roastery also wants its customers to know how to brew the perfect pot of java. The SOMA store sells an amazing variety of French Press coffee makers and Italian-style espresso makers, plus accessories like milk steam wands and gold filters. The most useful item may be Capricorn's free guide to French Press brewing, which offers insights on the nuances of proper coffee-to-water ratios and water... More >>

  • Best Place to Get a Meaningful Gift

    Creativity Explored

    As a nonprofit art studio for disabled adults, Creativity Explored embodies the philosophy that "creative expression is a vehicle for personal growth." Last year, the studio opened a small gallery and gift shop to showcase the work of its artists. The original two- and three-dimensional artworks for sale in this colorful Mission storefront are remarkable for their honesty and artistry: bright paintings on Plexiglas, bunny-monsters inked onto cardboard, a stately building etched into gold foil paper, and more -- each... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy Your Veggies

    Golden Produce

    Golden Produce is a purveyor of glistening heads of lettuce, blood-red tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, and aromatic mangoes. The rows of gleaming produce are not only fresh, but refreshingly varied. Though the store is small, everything from fresh spices (parsley, dill, mint, and lemongrass) and organic Swiss chard to tangelos and frost-kissed artichokes can be found in the produce aisles. The store's shelves are lined with gourmet items like imported jams and Asian sauces. Bins of fresh, self-serve mozzarella and olives... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy Dead Animals

    Paxton Gate

    824 Valencia (at 19th Street), 824-1872 It's not every day that you find yourself desperately in need of a stuffed mouse dressed as a surgeon. But it's comforting to know that when the day comes, you'll know exactly where to go: Paxton Gate. Perhaps the finest boutique in the city for frustrated entomologists and taxidermists, this odd little retail store will satisfy all your shopping needs for dried butterflies, crispy beetles, reconstituted rodents, desiccated reptiles, and various other framed and... More >>

  • Best Neighborhood Market With a Social Conscience

    Harvest Ranch Market

    Health food stores rarely sell food. You can find the occasional bin of yogurt-covered raisins or dry-as-dirt "energy bars," but for actual health food -- you know, the kind you can make into a whole meal -- Harvest Market is the place. Opened 11 years ago by Gilles Desaulniers, Harvest is nothing short of a local phenom. Its 40 employees oversee a fresh salad bar (including couscous, pastas, noodles, and soups), bakery section, deli counter, organic produce display, and one... More >>

  • Best Way to Prepare for the Big One

    American Red Cross

    You know it's coming -- that inevitable moment when a couple of big San Andreas fault spurs interlock, struggle, and release their pent-up anger in the form of an earthquake. Not some piddly 4.2, but something on the order of 1906's 8.3, arguably the worst natural disaster in American history. Readiness is all, and the best way to attain it is with a visit to the Red Cross. The San Francisco chapter offers preparedness classes as well as pamphlets and... More >>

  • Best Tea Shop

    Far Leaves Tea

    If your daily cup of Peet's is making you a little jittery, maybe it's time to try something green and leafy instead. At the forefront of the new tea craze is the Elmwood District's tiny Far Leaves Tea, which offers a vast and fragrant barrage of green and black teas, ranging from the semiherbal Moroccan Mint to the potent and subtle High Mountain (which is kept behind the counter, to protect small children). The shop regularly changes its selection, as... More >>

  • Best Religious Experience (Retail Variety)

    Psychic Eye Book Shop

    At Psychic Eye, it appears heaven's gate has burst open and spilled out every religion and New Age hobby under the sun. Spanning almost half a city block, this occult chain-supermarket offers books, candles, icons, games, and trinkets for every conceivable quest under the gilded firmament. Its self-described "metaphysical merchandise" includes a good selection of chalices, cauldrons, and skulls, as well as its own line of ritual kits, oils, and incense sticks. Try contacting the dead with the Eye's Ouija... More >>

  • Best New Dentist Looking to Build His Own Practice

    Ted Nguyen, D.D.S.

    tednguyendds@yahoo.com If someone is going to have to hover over your face, poke around in your mouth, and drill holes in your teeth, it might as well be someone who is nice to look at and who has good breath. Ted Nguyen is just that man, and he's taking patients. He's young, hip, well-dressed, handsome, and very reassuring as he fires up the drill and tells you to open wide. Most important, he operates with such a gentle touch that... More >>

  • Best Roots Music Store

    Down Home Music

    Even with all the recent competition online and in retail, this venerable East Bay record shop remains the Bay Area's single best source for roots music, be it jazz, blues, world music, "hard" country and bluegrass, doo-wop, or rock oldies. Grizzled, grumpy hippies will share their wealth of knowledge and guide you through a mountain of amazing albums -- ask the staff for recommendations and your world may never be the same. Down Home stocks thousands of imports and independent... More >>

  • Best Comic Book Store

    Comic Relief

    Despite the Clinton-era economic boom, the comic book industry has been taking a beating like a superhero's archnemesis. You'd never guess it, though, after dropping in at Berkeley's stupendous Comic Relief: Row upon row of immaculately kept reprints, graphic novels, back issues, and new stuff greet you, as well as one of the Bay Area's best selections of zines and pop culture journals. Although the employees typically have some raunchy punk-rock guilty pleasure booming out of the stereo, they make... More >>

  • Best Gift Shop

    Egg

    Dining at Eos is not the only reason to check out Cole Valley. Egg, the charming specialty gift and housewares store, brings a feeling of urban style and sophistication to the quaint, intimate neighborhood. Owner Marisa Lin, a recent transplant from New York City, presides over the nest, always ready to answer questions or offer helpful advice. Lin is an industrial designer, and her shop and its quirky window displays reflect her meticulous eye for detail, so it's the perfect... More >>

  • Best Place to Shop for Wedding Rings

    David Clay Jewelers

    Congratulations, you're engaged. Now everyone wants to see the Ring. And there's nothing like selecting the gems to amp up your stress level. That's why we like David Clay Jewelers. They're refreshingly down-to-earth and attitude-free. When you walk in the store, you don't get the "doesn't look like they can afford our stuff" patronizing gaze while the sales clerk looks for someone else who can. Nor, on the other hand, will you get the stalker treatment, as if you were... More >>

  • Best Place to Shop for Baby Gear

    The Right Start

    In a city where there are more places to buy accessories for dogs than there are for babies, the Right Start is a godsend. Yes, it's a chain, but it doesn't act like one. Located in tony Presidio Heights, the Right Start carries the latest and greatest stuff in the baby racket (which is akin to the wedding racket, only with more guilt): Peg Perego, Combi, Medela, Baby Bjorn, etc. The place has everything you need for feeding, bathing, strolling,... More >>

  • Best Neighborhood Butcher

    Drewes Brothers Meats

    If meat is your motto, ribs your raison d'être, then make a beeline (or, rather, take the J Church line) to Drewes Brothers Meats in outer Noe Valley. This century-old butcher shop may not be as immediately impressive as a trip to swanky meat markets like Bryan's in Laurel Village, but that's because there's not an ounce of pretension in the joint. Open since 1888, this old-fashioned store is the kind of place where the employees remember your name and... More >>

  • Best Boutique for Fashion-Forward Females

    Sybil

    If you're a fashion-conscious gal with a fat wallet, you simply can't walk down Haight Street without making a pit stop at this funky, ultra-hip women's boutique. Owned by Susan Jones, the same fashion hound who owns Back Seat Betty and Sybil on Union, this trendy shop caters to the seriously style-conscious woman who doesn't want to look like she just stepped out of a Banana Republic ad or a J. Crew catalog. Of course, looking good doesn't come cheap.... More >>

  • Best Monk-Staffed Mystic Christian Bookstore

    Archangel

    St. Francis taught the world to leave the flesh to rot and let the spirit soar, but in the meantime it's fun to collect posters and badges with pictures of martyred saints instead of decadent rock stars. At Archangel, robed Russian Orthodox monks with courteous smiles and copious facial hair sell books and icons for the budding Christian visionary. This Byzantine Borders is one-stop shopping for gorgeous prints, crucifixes, and Gregorian chant CDs. Several nights a week, they also serve... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy Embarrassing Albums

    The Jazz/Classical Counter at Amoeba Music

    Let's say you want to purchase a CD that is generally considered to be less than hip -- Billy Joel's The Nylon Curtain, for instance. Or maybe you've just discovered Fatboy Slim, three years after the rest of your peers, and you don't want anyone to know just how behind the times you are. Perhaps your barely teenage nephew's birthday is coming up and he desperately wants the new Mariah Carey record (for her singing abilities, natch). For you, trudging... More >>

  • Best Way to Pretend You're in a Foreign Disco While Staying at Home

    Medium Rare Records

    Going to a nightclub can be tough these days. You have to deal with the long wait in line, the budget-busting cover charge, the drunken pickup lines -- not to mention the music itself, which often leaves something, if not everything, to be desired. Unless you're a multimillionaire, it's even harder to hear the latest groovy club sounds from Japan, France, or Germany. Sure, there are plenty of local spots that highlight imported dance, trance, and techno music; but if... More >>

  • Most Eclectic Hardware Store

    Haji's Hardware

    Haji Najmabadi is a large, bearded, energetic Iranian who knows where everything in his cramped store is but guides you to it with spoken directions, from his place behind the register -- making you feel rather like a remote-controlled car. As his name implies, he's a Muslim who has traveled to Mecca ("I have had that pleasure three times, thank you"), and at the rear of the shop he sells a small selection of imported tapestries, tablecloths, jewelry, and lamps.... More >>

  • Best Motorcycle Shop

    Scuderia West

    Scuderia almost always has what you need, and if it doesn't the incredibly helpful staff will do their best to find someplace that does, thereby losing the sale but earning your loyalty. Or they'll special order a part and have it in for you in a few days. The employees must think it's the best shop too: There seems to be very little staff turnover -- the sure sign of a good employer. Scuderia does a commendable job with repair... More >>

  • Best All-in-One Shoe Store

    Shoe Pavilion

    (in Potrero shopping center), 934-0810 Looking for dress shoes? Tennis shoes? Boots? Men's shoes? Women's shoes? You can find all that and more at Shoe Pavilion. There's an incredible selection of styles and colors, and most important, the store seems to stay stocked in those midrange sizes that always sell out fast. Some department stores haven't had our size in a favorite line of tennis shoe even on repeated visits. And we scoured the city for a suitable pair of... More >>

  • Best Vet

    Irving Street Veterinary Hospital

    1434 Irving (at 16th Avenue), 664-0191 What struck us immediately about Irving Street was that the staff didn't insist our 83-pound dog be lifted onto the cold metal examination table. They tended to him on the floor, crouching to his level. Also, the vet -- Dr. Dean Beyerinck, our personal favorite here -- asked questions about his personality and interactions with other animals, taking an interest in our pet as an individual. Finally, the practice is open to homeopathy and... More >>

  • Best Alterations

    Danny's Cleaners

    Replacing a button is about as adventurous as many people get when it comes to sewing, so they often have to resort to the seamstresses/tailors at dry cleaners. That means taking a big chance with service and workmanship, which can sometimes be haphazard. Danny's Cleaners is different, and it's clear from the moment you enter the store that Grace, the woman you'll often find behind the counter, knows what she is doing. She'll pin your clothes as you model them,... More >>

  • Best Boutique for Larger Women

    Harper Greer

    OK, ladies, this one's for all you women who are large and in charge and tired of waiting for clothing designers to recognize you exist. Is it too much to ask for great designs that don't forget that women come in all shapes and sizes? Since opening its doors, Harper Greer's clothing lines have featured classic designs and sleek cuts for the working woman size 14 and up. "We're often asked by well-dressed women in size 6, who stop to... More >>

  • Best Poke in the Eye

    Dr. Rochelle Slamovich

    It sometimes seems that the city offers two options for eye doctors: chichi boutiques where everything costs $250 or harried technicians with a stylistic selection equivalent to a spinning rack at Rite Aid. "Dr. Slam" is neither. A gen-u-ine local -- she graduated from Lowell and Cal and has been practicing downtown since 1982 -- Dr. Slamovich strikes a balance between efficiency and quality. Her elegantly bespectacled frame buyer, Margo Novak (who also staffs the front desk), strives for eyeglass... More >>

  • Best Place to Get Your Hair Did

    Nappy or Not

    If you're African-American and new to the Bay Area, you're probably asking around for the best place to get your do did. Well here it is: Whether your hair's bone straight, braided, or all nature, child, Nappy or Not is the place to treat your tresses. It is the best-known salon for African hair designs, especially if you're sporting your do the way God gave it to you. Nappy or Not knows how to keep it real, specializing in today's... More >>

  • Best Place to Get Your Foot Fetish On

    Foot Worship

    Foot Worship's specialty is sex-sational, top-of-the-line fuck-me pumps: 5- to 6-inch heels for fashion slaves or anyone looking for the perfect pumps for clubbing. Owner Hank Wolney claims Foot Worship was inspired by watching the television show Married With Children, although he seems much happier with his customers than Al Bundy ever was. His clientele is made up of 60 percent dancers, 25 percent men/ trannies, and 15 percent people who just enjoy the look of high heels. Go ahead,... More >>

  • Best People to Call When You're Locked Out

    The Lock & Safe Doctor

    Lock yourself out of your home on a Friday night and most locksmiths will take an hour and a half or longer to get to you, if they're willing to come at all. Then they'll charge you $100 or more just for showing up. While the Lock Doctor also charges for house calls (the company's fee is $80), the serviceman arrives within 30 minutes and does top-notch work at top speed. The result? You get back into your home quickly,... More >>

  • Best Way to Green Up Your Life

    Showplace Florist and Showplants

    Showplace owner Michael Bonnici is one in a million. He will not only deliver stunning plants and trees to your doorstep (and up your stairs) when you call in an order, he'll even bring options for your consideration if you're not sure what you want. He stocks everything from palms and ficus, priced from $10 to $750, to houseplants like peace lilies, scheffleras, or dracaenas, priced from $10 to $125. He also carries an assortment of containers and baskets on... More >>

  • Best Realtor

    Anne Heller

    Anne Heller has one quality that truly sets her apart from other real estate agents: She listens. Then she delivers. Taking your criteria into consideration, she first shows you five or six properties for sale in your price range to get your reaction. Then she gets serious, lining up prospects according to your wants, needs, and desires. The result? You actually see places you like, places you might consider buying. And for all you other realtors out there, isn't that... More >>

  • Best Painters

    Kazakoff Inc.

    In a city where it's almost impossible to get a contractor -- any contractor -- to show up when scheduled or even give you a bid, these painters are a godsend. Rick Kazakoff now runs the business his grandfather started in 1941, and family pride shines through. Rick and his painters not only do outstanding work, they arrive on time (or call if they're running a mere 10 to 15 minutes behind schedule), and clean up after themselves every single... More >>

  • Best Vintage Browsing

    Timeless Treasures

    If you're in the market for a distressed dresser, an old wrought-iron bed frame, just the right knickknack for your living room, or simply a little inspiration, Timeless Treasures is the store for you. Don't let its small size fool you. The place is crammed with, yes, treasures, with many more sitting in owner Joan O'Connor's warehouse. And if she doesn't have what you want there, just let her know what you're looking for, give her the dimensions, and she'll... More >>

  • Best Kiss-Ass Department Store

    Nordstrom

    Shopping isn't always about acquisition. Sometimes it's about doing something nice for yourself. So why not shop in a feel-good atmosphere, where you can not only buy what you need but boost your self-esteem in the bargain? Nordstrom has a simple philosophy: The customer always comes first. And there are times that that can be better than a fistful of St. John's wort. At Nordstrom, while you're trying on clothes in the dressing room, your salesperson will check on you... More >>

  • Best Girlie-Girl Boutique

    Girl Stuff

    Girl Stuff, wedged between the William Cross Wine Merchants and the Beauty Company Supplies & Salon on Polk, is the perfect place to discover that unique, handcrafted accessory you won't find in large department stores. The shop is cozy and quaint, with all the makings for the ultra-feminine: beaded flip-flops, candles, essential oils, crystal hair clips, travel totes, and one-of-a-kind jewelry. A showcase features beautiful necklaces (made of semiprecious stones and antique medallions), bracelets, and earrings by Sage, a current... More >>

  • Best Pet Shop

    Bernal Beast

    Ever since Sammy's Pet World sold out to Petco and became a dull, unpleasant place to shop, Bernal Beast has assumed the mantle as the best place in town to accessorize your dog. This friendly neighborhood emporium has got it all: leashes, chains, collars, Kongs, leather quirts, squishy toys. Your dog's favorites, though, are bound to be the chewables -- even if humans may find them a bit, um, disturbing. There are petrified bull dicks, pigs' noses, lambs' ears: the... More >>

  • Best Place to Sauté on a Saturday Morning

    HomeChef Cooking School

    If your culinary specialty is a mean bowl of cereal, drop by HomeChef Cooking School for a little advancement. For neophytes, the Essentials Cooking Series ($349) -- 12 classes covering everything from sauces to pizza to cakes -- will let you dazzle your friends at dinner parties. Or, if 12 classes is too much, try the Condensed Essentials sequence, a six-class cram on the key techniques for $249. HomeChef offers courses in the evenings and on weekends; a recent Condensed... More >>

  • Best Inexpensive Shoe Store

    Aldo

    We know it's a trying time. You pay $1,800 a month for your studio apartment, your PG&E bill -- lord! -- rests unpaid atop a stack of credit card statements, and your severance is, well, dwindling. Sure, shoes are a luxury item, but if you're a shoe person -- and there are many of you out there -- you know how important they are in making a good outfit great (say, for a job interview) or, at the very least,... More >>

  • Best Secondhand Boutique

    Cris

    2056 Polk (between Broadway and Pacific), 474-1191 Cris is the city's best solution for that incurable clotheshorse who loves designer labels but can't quite budget designer prices. The store is beautifully merchandised by color, so locating that red cashmere sweater you've been longing for is a breeze. And the clothes are -- surprise! -- clean (are you listening, Buffalo Exchange?), so musky odors will not accompany you home with your purchase. Cris offers an extensive collection of labels, including Dolce... More >>

  • Best Intellectual Window-Shopping

    Acorn Books

    Since Acorn Books moved to the corner of California and Polk a few years back -- up from its Lower Polk Gulch digs -- it's taken a rightful place as one of the stateliest booksellers around Nob Hill, if not in the Bay Area. Classy enough to know its way around signed first editions but proletarian enough to sport shelves and shelves of battered paperback science-fiction and mystery novels, it regularly sucks in the foot traffic that oft-imposing antiquarian sellers... More >>

  • Best Socially Conscious Selection of Books

    Modern Times Bookstore

    Aptly named after Charlie Chaplin's anti-Nazi film Modern Times, this spacious bookstore has been providing stimulating brain food to the democratically minded masses since 1971. Thankfully, the shop has so far survived the monopolistic depredations of Amazon.com, Borders, and other profit-grubbing purveyors of mindless pop babble. Modern Times, on the other hand, has entire book and magazine sections devoted to globalism, imperialism, gay-and-lesbianism, real actual literature, radical philosophy, out-there poetry, and the best in science fiction. If you're wondering how... More >>

  • Best Guilt-Free Indulgence for Car Lovers

    City CarShare

    If you've finally accepted that automobile ownership is linked to pretty much every malaise suffered by this town, yet you still love to drive, we may have found the service for you. City CarShare is a sort of by-the-hour car rental agency that may just help end the relationship between automobile use and urban congestion. To use the service, you first have to be approved by City CarShare's insurance company and put down a $300 deposit; but once you're signed... More >>

  • Best Traditional Car Rental Agency

    Rent-a-Wreck

    While City CarShare is mighty handy for small trips, at 45 cents a mile it becomes prohibitively expensive for longer voyages. For those, the carless will have to visit a rental car agency -- and will learn once again why most people in this city insist on owning cars. The big rental agencies will try to shove expensive insurance, gas fill-ups, and model upgrades down your throat. Usually, by the time you're done renting a $39.99-a-day car, it ends up... More >>

  • Best Place to Repair Your Exhaust System

    Ron's Berkeley Muffler

    There's nothing more alarming than the sound of your muffler clanking to the street behind you while you're driving down the road. Even if your muffler's or exhaust system's issues are a little less dire, a visit to family-owned Ron's Berkeley Muffler (now in Oakland) will reassure you that a few honest mechanics really do still exist. While you watch, the owner happily looks up the needed items in a fat book full of part numbers and prices, assuring a... More >>

  • Best Mushroom Source

    Mycological Society of San Francisco

    When that grilled portobello appetizer no longer satisfies your 'shroomistic cravings, call in the experts at the MSSF. Founded in 1950, it's the largest amateur mycological association in North America. Members go on field trips in search of feral fungi, prepare monthly meals heavy on the wild mushrooms, attend study groups and cultivation classes, and in general indulge their passion for the marvelous mushroom at every opportunity. Fungus Fairs have been held once or twice a year since 1971, and... More >>

  • Best Place to Spice Up Your Kitchen

    Kamei Household Wares

    Stocked to the eaves, Kamei Household Wares is the store to go to when you're looking to add color, grace, and a little bit of kitsch to your kitchen. The shop's narrow aisles are packed with gorgeous but inexpensive Japanese ceramic rice and soup bowls decorated with exquisite cherry blossom patterns, simple stripes, or solid colors. Kamei also carries rice makers of all makes and models, clay pots, gigantic woks, steamers, and traditional Japanese tea sets. But the best part... More >>

  • Best Way to Get a Free Tree

    Friends of the Urban Forest

    Despite the profound impact this nonprofit organization has had on the appearance of our fair city, few people know of the services it provides. Friends of the Urban Forest, founded in 1981, is "committed to the belief that trees are a critical element of a livable urban environment." The group's mission is simply to plant trees throughout San Francisco. Working with other community groups and city government, FUF has planted over 33,000 street trees here, accounting for almost a third... More >>

  • Best Auto Shop

    Cowden Automotive

    Does your car have a name? Do you baby it, treat it like a pet, miss it when it's in the shop? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you and your vehicle belong at SOMA's Cowden Automotive. Paul Cowden opened his immaculate shop in 1978 (he moved to this location in '82), and since then he has built a rabidly loyal following of foreign car owners. Much of the appeal is the friendly service: Most of the... More >>

  • Best Shoeshine

    John Salahudin (2nd and Market St.)

    In this age of layoffs and stock slumps, a shoeshine might seem like a luxury. After all, with a can of Kiwi and an old rag you could do the job yourself. But those pounding the pavement might do well to stop at one of these booths and have a professional polish. Unlike an amateur, legitimate shoeshiners won't get black polish on your socks. But more important, for the price of a burrito you can hear the story of a... More >>

  • Best Services for Lazy People

    Netflix, NextBus, Waiters on Wheels, Webvan

    It's risky to write about Web-based anything. For all we know, any of these local companies could be out of business by the time you read this. But we hope they hang around, because they're great for shut-ins like us. NetFlix www.netflix.com A movie lover's dream, the Los Gatos-based company delivers DVDs by mail for $19.95 per month (you can hang onto three at a time). Keep them as long as you want -- you get a new title... More >>

  • Best Movers

    Delancey Street Moving & Transportation

    Every moving company has a gimmick. Whether it claims to be staffed by starving students or Irish brawn or "one big man," each of the city's 75-plus movers wants to stand apart. Delancey Street Moving & Transportation is different. Situated inside the Delancey Street Foundation, a nonprofit group that helps former substance abusers and ex-cons get clean and find jobs, the hauler does good works while it does good work. All of its profits go to support the foundation. As... More >>

  • Most Intelligent Sex Shop

    Good Vibrations

    If you're in the market for a dildo or a Vegas-inspired vinyl harness, spare yourself the sleaze of North Beach's Broadway and head straight to Good Vibrations in the Mission District. The brainchild of Joani Blank (owner of Down There Press, a publishing company), the shop was opened in 1977 to educate women about sex, while providing a comfortable alternative to conventional "adult" shops. Twenty-four years later, Good Vibrations has branched into a worker-owned cooperative with a second store in... More >>

  • Best Magic Shop

    House of Magic

    As with every eerie feat of prestidigitation, there's more to House of Magic than meets the eye. It may look like a particularly schlocky gag shop dripping with rubber hamburgers and joy buzzers, but look closer and you'll behold a fine selection of paraphernalia for the professional magician, including sleight-of-hand apparatuses and the implements for yet grander illusions. How-to books and instructional videos are available for the beginner, and in addition to ventriloquists' dummies and multicolored handkerchiefs you'll find a... More >>

  • Best Ethnic Grocery

    Lucca Ravioli Company

    So how many different brands of olive oil do you need, anyway? If you're looking for more than, say, 15, check out Lucca Ravioli, a ninetysomething-year-old Italian-food treasure trove in the Mission. There's almost always a wait, so grab a number and start browsing. You'll need the time to figure out what you want to take home from among the four varieties of ravioli, six pastas, and four sauces that the shop makes on the premises daily. Not to mention... More >>

  • Best Newsstand

    Smoke Signals

    2223 Polk (at Vallejo), 292-6025 Smoke Signals is one of the best shops around for magazine junkies, expatriates looking for news from the Continent, and interior decorators (if its massive assortment of art and design journals is any judge). Most of the major tabloids and dailies from England, France, and Germany fill the racks in front of the store. Inside, though, it's mostly about magazines. If it's a glossy published in America, Smoke Signals probably has it, from the standard-issue... More >>

  • Best Florist

    Fioridella

    1920 Polk (at Jackson), 775-4065 Fioridella isn't your everyday flower shop. It has a feral, earthy feel about it, rich with deep colors, rough textures, and the irregular, diverse phantasmagoria of the great outdoors. The plum-colored, timber-and-terra-cotta setting is reminiscent of a country farmhouse, far from the pastels and pertly arranged blossoms of the typical florist. Big, coarse urns and hand-woven baskets spill over with orchid blossoms, daffodils, and flowering magnolia branches, while Mexican pottery, mouth-blown vases, and slippers of... More >>

  • Best Barber

    1987 Hyde (at Union)

    It isn't listed in the Yellow Pages and there's no sign over the door, but drop by this singular establishment on your way to a Swensen's double dip and you'll find yourself sporting one admirable haircut. There's more to the whole experience than a mere clip job, however. Settle into the comfortably dilapidated chair of honor and take in your surroundings: the vintage barbering tools; the beautiful wood carvings; the myriad tonics and lotions; the original artwork, figurative and otherwise.... More >>

  • Best Cooking Supplies

    Sur La Table

    For those of us who love to cook, Sur La Table is Candyland. The place is simply crammed with terrific kitchen stuff for every culinary occasion -- steaming mussels, chilling juleps, shaping cannoli, you name it. Parmesan knives, cantaloupe bowls, truffle shavers, and nutmeg mills share shelf space with a wide array of copper cookware, paella pans, cookie molds, herbs, spices, oils, and vinegars from every corner of the globe. Downstairs is a huge library of cookbooks and a display... More >>

  • Best Selection of Nero Wolfe Mysteries

    San Francisco Mystery Book Store

    4175 24th St. (at Diamond), 282-7444 Rex Stout's fictional detective -- the rotund, erudite, and perpetually ill-tempered hero of some 70 stories and novels -- is thoroughly represented (along with his smart-mouthed chronicler and aide-de-camp, Archie Goodwin) at the S.F. Mystery Book Store, a well-lit, low-ceilinged, meanderingly organized bibliotheca deep in the sinister recesses of Noe Valley. A quirky sensibility lurks behind this emporium of literary mayhem: There are shrines to Jim Thompson and Arthur Conan Doyle, and tables... More >>

  • Best Toy Trains

    Chan's Trains and Hobbies

    It doesn't matter how old you get, the clacketing, whistling lure of the model railroad is a lifelong ticket stub to the child within. Chan's is the place to indulge your inner trainaholic. Its narrow confines are packed top to bottom with all manner of railway paraphernalia: cars of great individuality; gorgeous old streamlined engines, some in the $1,000 range; a wide selection of Lionels, Thomases, Bachmanns, and Marklins; tracks in seven gauges; turf, tunnels, trees, bridges, and buildings for... More >>

  • Best Movie Memorabilia

    Show Biz

    Looking for a poster from Live and Let Die, a program from the 1988 Academy Awards, an 8-by-10 glossy of Donald Pleasence? Show Biz has everything the movie fanatic needs to decorate her rumpus room: posters, lobby cards, lunch boxes, refrigerator magnets, vintage stills, original screenplays, postcards by the gross, the occasional video, and a hundred thousand alphabetized glossies of your favorite stars. For the TV filbert there's a Barney Fife coffee mug, an I Love Lucy bedside lamp, a... More >>

  • Best Post Office

    Presidio Station

    Nothing is more frustrating than standing in line at the post office -- and for some reason the POs in San Francisco are worse than most. Those in the know, however, head to the Presidio Station, located past all those red brick buildings at the bottom of the base's main quadrant. Not only are the lines short, there's a stunning view of the bay and the Golden Gate from the parking lot.... More >>

  • Best Place to Learn How to Make the Perfect Pot of Coffee

    Capricorn Coffee

    Capricorn is perhaps best known for selling 50 kinds of coffee, but the specialty bean roastery also wants its customers to know how to brew the perfect pot of java. The SOMA store sells an amazing variety of French Press coffee makers and Italian-style espresso makers, plus accessories like milk steam wands and gold filters. The most useful item may be Capricorn's free guide to French Press brewing, which offers insights on the nuances of proper coffee-to-water ratios and water... More >>

  • Best Place to Get a Meaningful Gift

    Creativity Explored

    As a nonprofit art studio for disabled adults, Creativity Explored embodies the philosophy that "creative expression is a vehicle for personal growth." Last year, the studio opened a small gallery and gift shop to showcase the work of its artists. The original two- and three-dimensional artworks for sale in this colorful Mission storefront are remarkable for their honesty and artistry: bright paintings on Plexiglas, bunny-monsters inked onto cardboard, a stately building etched into gold foil paper, and more -- each... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy Your Veggies

    Golden Produce

    Golden Produce is a purveyor of glistening heads of lettuce, blood-red tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, and aromatic mangoes. The rows of gleaming produce are not only fresh, but refreshingly varied. Though the store is small, everything from fresh spices (parsley, dill, mint, and lemongrass) and organic Swiss chard to tangelos and frost-kissed artichokes can be found in the produce aisles. The store's shelves are lined with gourmet items like imported jams and Asian sauces. Bins of fresh, self-serve mozzarella and olives... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy Dead Animals

    Paxton Gate

    824 Valencia (at 19th Street), 824-1872 It's not every day that you find yourself desperately in need of a stuffed mouse dressed as a surgeon. But it's comforting to know that when the day comes, you'll know exactly where to go: Paxton Gate. Perhaps the finest boutique in the city for frustrated entomologists and taxidermists, this odd little retail store will satisfy all your shopping needs for dried butterflies, crispy beetles, reconstituted rodents, desiccated reptiles, and various other framed and... More >>

  • Best Neighborhood Market With a Social Conscience

    Harvest Ranch Market

    Health food stores rarely sell food. You can find the occasional bin of yogurt-covered raisins or dry-as-dirt "energy bars," but for actual health food -- you know, the kind you can make into a whole meal -- Harvest Market is the place. Opened 11 years ago by Gilles Desaulniers, Harvest is nothing short of a local phenom. Its 40 employees oversee a fresh salad bar (including couscous, pastas, noodles, and soups), bakery section, deli counter, organic produce display, and one... More >>

  • Best Way to Prepare for the Big One

    American Red Cross

    You know it's coming -- that inevitable moment when a couple of big San Andreas fault spurs interlock, struggle, and release their pent-up anger in the form of an earthquake. Not some piddly 4.2, but something on the order of 1906's 8.3, arguably the worst natural disaster in American history. Readiness is all, and the best way to attain it is with a visit to the Red Cross. The San Francisco chapter offers preparedness classes as well as pamphlets and... More >>

  • Best Tea Shop

    Far Leaves Tea

    If your daily cup of Peet's is making you a little jittery, maybe it's time to try something green and leafy instead. At the forefront of the new tea craze is the Elmwood District's tiny Far Leaves Tea, which offers a vast and fragrant barrage of green and black teas, ranging from the semiherbal Moroccan Mint to the potent and subtle High Mountain (which is kept behind the counter, to protect small children). The shop regularly changes its selection, as... More >>

  • Best Religious Experience (Retail Variety)

    Psychic Eye Book Shop

    At Psychic Eye, it appears heaven's gate has burst open and spilled out every religion and New Age hobby under the sun. Spanning almost half a city block, this occult chain-supermarket offers books, candles, icons, games, and trinkets for every conceivable quest under the gilded firmament. Its self-described "metaphysical merchandise" includes a good selection of chalices, cauldrons, and skulls, as well as its own line of ritual kits, oils, and incense sticks. Try contacting the dead with the Eye's Ouija... More >>

  • Best New Dentist Looking to Build His Own Practice

    Ted Nguyen, D.D.S.

    tednguyendds@yahoo.com If someone is going to have to hover over your face, poke around in your mouth, and drill holes in your teeth, it might as well be someone who is nice to look at and who has good breath. Ted Nguyen is just that man, and he's taking patients. He's young, hip, well-dressed, handsome, and very reassuring as he fires up the drill and tells you to open wide. Most important, he operates with such a gentle touch that... More >>

  • Best Roots Music Store

    Down Home Music

    Even with all the recent competition online and in retail, this venerable East Bay record shop remains the Bay Area's single best source for roots music, be it jazz, blues, world music, "hard" country and bluegrass, doo-wop, or rock oldies. Grizzled, grumpy hippies will share their wealth of knowledge and guide you through a mountain of amazing albums -- ask the staff for recommendations and your world may never be the same. Down Home stocks thousands of imports and independent... More >>

  • Best Comic Book Store

    Comic Relief

    Despite the Clinton-era economic boom, the comic book industry has been taking a beating like a superhero's archnemesis. You'd never guess it, though, after dropping in at Berkeley's stupendous Comic Relief: Row upon row of immaculately kept reprints, graphic novels, back issues, and new stuff greet you, as well as one of the Bay Area's best selections of zines and pop culture journals. Although the employees typically have some raunchy punk-rock guilty pleasure booming out of the stereo, they make... More >>

  • Best Gift Shop

    Egg

    Dining at Eos is not the only reason to check out Cole Valley. Egg, the charming specialty gift and housewares store, brings a feeling of urban style and sophistication to the quaint, intimate neighborhood. Owner Marisa Lin, a recent transplant from New York City, presides over the nest, always ready to answer questions or offer helpful advice. Lin is an industrial designer, and her shop and its quirky window displays reflect her meticulous eye for detail, so it's the perfect... More >>

  • Best Place to Shop for Wedding Rings

    David Clay Jewelers

    Congratulations, you're engaged. Now everyone wants to see the Ring. And there's nothing like selecting the gems to amp up your stress level. That's why we like David Clay Jewelers. They're refreshingly down-to-earth and attitude-free. When you walk in the store, you don't get the "doesn't look like they can afford our stuff" patronizing gaze while the sales clerk looks for someone else who can. Nor, on the other hand, will you get the stalker treatment, as if you were... More >>

  • Best Place to Shop for Baby Gear

    The Right Start

    In a city where there are more places to buy accessories for dogs than there are for babies, the Right Start is a godsend. Yes, it's a chain, but it doesn't act like one. Located in tony Presidio Heights, the Right Start carries the latest and greatest stuff in the baby racket (which is akin to the wedding racket, only with more guilt): Peg Perego, Combi, Medela, Baby Bjorn, etc. The place has everything you need for feeding, bathing, strolling,... More >>

  • Best Neighborhood Butcher

    Drewes Brothers Meats

    If meat is your motto, ribs your raison d'être, then make a beeline (or, rather, take the J Church line) to Drewes Brothers Meats in outer Noe Valley. This century-old butcher shop may not be as immediately impressive as a trip to swanky meat markets like Bryan's in Laurel Village, but that's because there's not an ounce of pretension in the joint. Open since 1888, this old-fashioned store is the kind of place where the employees remember your name and... More >>

  • Best Boutique for Fashion-Forward Females

    Sybil

    If you're a fashion-conscious gal with a fat wallet, you simply can't walk down Haight Street without making a pit stop at this funky, ultra-hip women's boutique. Owned by Susan Jones, the same fashion hound who owns Back Seat Betty and Sybil on Union, this trendy shop caters to the seriously style-conscious woman who doesn't want to look like she just stepped out of a Banana Republic ad or a J. Crew catalog. Of course, looking good doesn't come cheap.... More >>

  • Best Monk-Staffed Mystic Christian Bookstore

    Archangel

    St. Francis taught the world to leave the flesh to rot and let the spirit soar, but in the meantime it's fun to collect posters and badges with pictures of martyred saints instead of decadent rock stars. At Archangel, robed Russian Orthodox monks with courteous smiles and copious facial hair sell books and icons for the budding Christian visionary. This Byzantine Borders is one-stop shopping for gorgeous prints, crucifixes, and Gregorian chant CDs. Several nights a week, they also serve... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy Embarrassing Albums

    Amoeba Music

    Let's say you want to purchase a CD that is generally considered to be less than hip -- Billy Joel's The Nylon Curtain, for instance. Or maybe you've just discovered Fatboy Slim, three years after the rest of your peers, and you don't want anyone to know just how behind the times you are. Perhaps your barely teenage nephew's birthday is coming up and he desperately wants the new Mariah Carey record (for her singing abilities, natch). For you, trudging... More >>

  • Best Way to Pretend You're in a Foreign Disco While Staying at Home

    Medium Rare Records

    Going to a nightclub can be tough these days. You have to deal with the long wait in line, the budget-busting cover charge, the drunken pickup lines -- not to mention the music itself, which often leaves something, if not everything, to be desired. Unless you're a multimillionaire, it's even harder to hear the latest groovy club sounds from Japan, France, or Germany. Sure, there are plenty of local spots that highlight imported dance, trance, and techno music; but if... More >>

  • Most Eclectic Hardware Store

    Haji's Hardware

    Haji Najmabadi is a large, bearded, energetic Iranian who knows where everything in his cramped store is but guides you to it with spoken directions, from his place behind the register -- making you feel rather like a remote-controlled car. As his name implies, he's a Muslim who has traveled to Mecca ("I have had that pleasure three times, thank you"), and at the rear of the shop he sells a small selection of imported tapestries, tablecloths, jewelry, and lamps.... More >>

  • Best Motorcycle Shop

    Scuderia West

    Scuderia almost always has what you need, and if it doesn't the incredibly helpful staff will do their best to find someplace that does, thereby losing the sale but earning your loyalty. Or they'll special order a part and have it in for you in a few days. The employees must think it's the best shop too: There seems to be very little staff turnover -- the sure sign of a good employer. Scuderia does a commendable job with repair... More >>

  • Best All-in-One Shoe Store

    Shoe Pavilion

    (in Potrero shopping center), 934-0810 Looking for dress shoes? Tennis shoes? Boots? Men's shoes? Women's shoes? You can find all that and more at Shoe Pavilion. There's an incredible selection of styles and colors, and most important, the store seems to stay stocked in those midrange sizes that always sell out fast. Some department stores haven't had our size in a favorite line of tennis shoe even on repeated visits. And we scoured the city for a suitable pair of... More >>

  • Best Vet

    Irving Street Veterinary Hospital

    1434 Irving (at 16th Avenue), 664-0191 What struck us immediately about Irving Street was that the staff didn't insist our 83-pound dog be lifted onto the cold metal examination table. They tended to him on the floor, crouching to his level. Also, the vet -- Dr. Dean Beyerinck, our personal favorite here -- asked questions about his personality and interactions with other animals, taking an interest in our pet as an individual. Finally, the practice is open to homeopathy and... More >>

  • Best Alterations

    Danny's Cleaners

    Replacing a button is about as adventurous as many people get when it comes to sewing, so they often have to resort to the seamstresses/tailors at dry cleaners. That means taking a big chance with service and workmanship, which can sometimes be haphazard. Danny's Cleaners is different, and it's clear from the moment you enter the store that Grace, the woman you'll often find behind the counter, knows what she is doing. She'll pin your clothes as you model them,... More >>

  • Best Boutique for Larger Women

    Harper Greer

    OK, ladies, this one's for all you women who are large and in charge and tired of waiting for clothing designers to recognize you exist. Is it too much to ask for great designs that don't forget that women come in all shapes and sizes? Since opening its doors, Harper Greer's clothing lines have featured classic designs and sleek cuts for the working woman size 14 and up. "We're often asked by well-dressed women in size 6, who stop to... More >>

  • Best Poke in the Eye

    Dr. Rochelle Slamovich

    It sometimes seems that the city offers two options for eye doctors: chichi boutiques where everything costs $250 or harried technicians with a stylistic selection equivalent to a spinning rack at Rite Aid. "Dr. Slam" is neither. A gen-u-ine local -- she graduated from Lowell and Cal and has been practicing downtown since 1982 -- Dr. Slamovich strikes a balance between efficiency and quality. Her elegantly bespectacled frame buyer, Margo Novak (who also staffs the front desk), strives for eyeglass... More >>

  • Best Place to Get Your Hair Did

    Nappy or Not

    If you're African-American and new to the Bay Area, you're probably asking around for the best place to get your do did. Well here it is: Whether your hair's bone straight, braided, or all nature, child, Nappy or Not is the place to treat your tresses. It is the best-known salon for African hair designs, especially if you're sporting your do the way God gave it to you. Nappy or Not knows how to keep it real, specializing in today's... More >>

  • Best Place to Get Your Foot Fetish On

    Foot Worship

    Foot Worship's specialty is sex-sational, top-of-the-line fuck-me pumps: 5- to 6-inch heels for fashion slaves or anyone looking for the perfect pumps for clubbing. Owner Hank Wolney claims Foot Worship was inspired by watching the television show Married With Children, although he seems much happier with his customers than Al Bundy ever was. His clientele is made up of 60 percent dancers, 25 percent men/ trannies, and 15 percent people who just enjoy the look of high heels. Go ahead,... More >>

  • Best People to Call When You're Locked Out

    The Lock & Safe Doctor

    Lock yourself out of your home on a Friday night and most locksmiths will take an hour and a half or longer to get to you, if they're willing to come at all. Then they'll charge you $100 or more just for showing up. While the Lock Doctor also charges for house calls (the company's fee is $80), the serviceman arrives within 30 minutes and does top-notch work at top speed. The result? You get back into your home quickly,... More >>

  • Best Way to Green Up Your Life

    Showplace Florist and Showplants

    Showplace owner Michael Bonnici is one in a million. He will not only deliver stunning plants and trees to your doorstep (and up your stairs) when you call in an order, he'll even bring options for your consideration if you're not sure what you want. He stocks everything from palms and ficus, priced from $10 to $750, to houseplants like peace lilies, scheffleras, or dracaenas, priced from $10 to $125. He also carries an assortment of containers and baskets on... More >>

  • Best Realtor

    Anne Heller

    Anne Heller has one quality that truly sets her apart from other real estate agents: She listens. Then she delivers. Taking your criteria into consideration, she first shows you five or six properties for sale in your price range to get your reaction. Then she gets serious, lining up prospects according to your wants, needs, and desires. The result? You actually see places you like, places you might consider buying. And for all you other realtors out there, isn't that... More >>

  • Best Painters

    Kazakoff Inc.

    In a city where it's almost impossible to get a contractor -- any contractor -- to show up when scheduled or even give you a bid, these painters are a godsend. Rick Kazakoff now runs the business his grandfather started in 1941, and family pride shines through. Rick and his painters not only do outstanding work, they arrive on time (or call if they're running a mere 10 to 15 minutes behind schedule), and clean up after themselves every single... More >>

  • Best Vintage Browsing

    Timeless Treasures

    If you're in the market for a distressed dresser, an old wrought-iron bed frame, just the right knickknack for your living room, or simply a little inspiration, Timeless Treasures is the store for you. Don't let its small size fool you. The place is crammed with, yes, treasures, with many more sitting in owner Joan O'Connor's warehouse. And if she doesn't have what you want there, just let her know what you're looking for, give her the dimensions, and she'll... More >>

  • Best Kiss-Ass Department Store

    Nordstrom

    Shopping isn't always about acquisition. Sometimes it's about doing something nice for yourself. So why not shop in a feel-good atmosphere, where you can not only buy what you need but boost your self-esteem in the bargain? Nordstrom has a simple philosophy: The customer always comes first. And there are times that that can be better than a fistful of St. John's wort. At Nordstrom, while you're trying on clothes in the dressing room, your salesperson will check on you... More >>

  • Best Girlie-Girl Boutique

    Girl Stuff

    Girl Stuff, wedged between the William Cross Wine Merchants and the Beauty Company Supplies & Salon on Polk, is the perfect place to discover that unique, handcrafted accessory you won't find in large department stores. The shop is cozy and quaint, with all the makings for the ultra-feminine: beaded flip-flops, candles, essential oils, crystal hair clips, travel totes, and one-of-a-kind jewelry. A showcase features beautiful necklaces (made of semiprecious stones and antique medallions), bracelets, and earrings by Sage, a current... More >>

  • Best Pet Shop

    Bernal Beast

    Ever since Sammy's Pet World sold out to Petco and became a dull, unpleasant place to shop, Bernal Beast has assumed the mantle as the best place in town to accessorize your dog. This friendly neighborhood emporium has got it all: leashes, chains, collars, Kongs, leather quirts, squishy toys. Your dog's favorites, though, are bound to be the chewables -- even if humans may find them a bit, um, disturbing. There are petrified bull dicks, pigs' noses, lambs' ears: the... More >>

  • Best Place to Sauté on a Saturday Morning

    HomeChef Cooking School

    If your culinary specialty is a mean bowl of cereal, drop by HomeChef Cooking School for a little advancement. For neophytes, the Essentials Cooking Series ($349) -- 12 classes covering everything from sauces to pizza to cakes -- will let you dazzle your friends at dinner parties. Or, if 12 classes is too much, try the Condensed Essentials sequence, a six-class cram on the key techniques for $249. HomeChef offers courses in the evenings and on weekends; a recent Condensed... More >>

  • Best Inexpensive Shoe Store

    Aldo

    We know it's a trying time. You pay $1,800 a month for your studio apartment, your PG&E bill -- lord! -- rests unpaid atop a stack of credit card statements, and your severance is, well, dwindling. Sure, shoes are a luxury item, but if you're a shoe person -- and there are many of you out there -- you know how important they are in making a good outfit great (say, for a job interview) or, at the very least,... More >>

  • Best Secondhand Boutique

    Cris

    2056 Polk (between Broadway and Pacific), 474-1191 Cris is the city's best solution for that incurable clotheshorse who loves designer labels but can't quite budget designer prices. The store is beautifully merchandised by color, so locating that red cashmere sweater you've been longing for is a breeze. And the clothes are -- surprise! -- clean (are you listening, Buffalo Exchange?), so musky odors will not accompany you home with your purchase. Cris offers an extensive collection of labels, including Dolce... More >>

  • Best Intellectual Window-Shopping

    Acorn Books

    Since Acorn Books moved to the corner of California and Polk a few years back -- up from its Lower Polk Gulch digs -- it's taken a rightful place as one of the stateliest booksellers around Nob Hill, if not in the Bay Area. Classy enough to know its way around signed first editions but proletarian enough to sport shelves and shelves of battered paperback science-fiction and mystery novels, it regularly sucks in the foot traffic that oft-imposing antiquarian sellers... More >>

  • Best Socially Conscious Selection of Books

    Modern Times Bookstore

    Aptly named after Charlie Chaplin's anti-Nazi film Modern Times, this spacious bookstore has been providing stimulating brain food to the democratically minded masses since 1971. Thankfully, the shop has so far survived the monopolistic depredations of Amazon.com, Borders, and other profit-grubbing purveyors of mindless pop babble. Modern Times, on the other hand, has entire book and magazine sections devoted to globalism, imperialism, gay-and-lesbianism, real actual literature, radical philosophy, out-there poetry, and the best in science fiction. If you're wondering how... More >>

  • Best Guilt-Free Indulgence for Car Lovers

    City CarShare

    If you've finally accepted that automobile ownership is linked to pretty much every malaise suffered by this town, yet you still love to drive, we may have found the service for you. City CarShare is a sort of by-the-hour car rental agency that may just help end the relationship between automobile use and urban congestion. To use the service, you first have to be approved by City CarShare's insurance company and put down a $300 deposit; but once you're signed... More >>

  • Best Traditional Car Rental Agency

    Rent-a-Wreck

    While City CarShare is mighty handy for small trips, at 45 cents a mile it becomes prohibitively expensive for longer voyages. For those, the carless will have to visit a rental car agency -- and will learn once again why most people in this city insist on owning cars. The big rental agencies will try to shove expensive insurance, gas fill-ups, and model upgrades down your throat. Usually, by the time you're done renting a $39.99-a-day car, it ends up... More >>

  • Best Place to Repair Your Exhaust System

    Ron's Berkeley Muffler

    There's nothing more alarming than the sound of your muffler clanking to the street behind you while you're driving down the road. Even if your muffler's or exhaust system's issues are a little less dire, a visit to family-owned Ron's Berkeley Muffler (now in Oakland) will reassure you that a few honest mechanics really do still exist. While you watch, the owner happily looks up the needed items in a fat book full of part numbers and prices, assuring a... More >>

  • Best Mushroom Source

    Mycological Society of San Francisco

    When that grilled portobello appetizer no longer satisfies your 'shroomistic cravings, call in the experts at the MSSF. Founded in 1950, it's the largest amateur mycological association in North America. Members go on field trips in search of feral fungi, prepare monthly meals heavy on the wild mushrooms, attend study groups and cultivation classes, and in general indulge their passion for the marvelous mushroom at every opportunity. Fungus Fairs have been held once or twice a year since 1971, and... More >>

  • Best Place to Spice Up Your Kitchen

    Kamei Household Wares

    Stocked to the eaves, Kamei Household Wares is the store to go to when you're looking to add color, grace, and a little bit of kitsch to your kitchen. The shop's narrow aisles are packed with gorgeous but inexpensive Japanese ceramic rice and soup bowls decorated with exquisite cherry blossom patterns, simple stripes, or solid colors. Kamei also carries rice makers of all makes and models, clay pots, gigantic woks, steamers, and traditional Japanese tea sets. But the best part... More >>

  • Best Way to Get a Free Tree

    Friends of the Urban Forest

    Despite the profound impact this nonprofit organization has had on the appearance of our fair city, few people know of the services it provides. Friends of the Urban Forest, founded in 1981, is "committed to the belief that trees are a critical element of a livable urban environment." The group's mission is simply to plant trees throughout San Francisco. Working with other community groups and city government, FUF has planted over 33,000 street trees here, accounting for almost a third... More >>

  • Best Auto Shop

    Cowden Automotive Inc

    Does your car have a name? Do you baby it, treat it like a pet, miss it when it's in the shop? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you and your vehicle belong at SOMA's Cowden Automotive. Paul Cowden opened his immaculate shop in 1978 (he moved to this location in '82), and since then he has built a rabidly loyal following of foreign car owners. Much of the appeal is the friendly service: Most of the... More >>

  • Best Shoeshine

    John Salahudin (2nd and Market St.)

    In this age of layoffs and stock slumps, a shoeshine might seem like a luxury. After all, with a can of Kiwi and an old rag you could do the job yourself. But those pounding the pavement might do well to stop at one of these booths and have a professional polish. Unlike an amateur, legitimate shoeshiners won't get black polish on your socks. But more important, for the price of a burrito you can hear the story of a... More >>

  • Best Services for Lazy People

    Netflix, NextBus, Waiters on Wheels, Webvan

    It's risky to write about Web-based anything. For all we know, any of these local companies could be out of business by the time you read this. But we hope they hang around, because they're great for shut-ins like us. NetFlix www.netflix.com A movie lover's dream, the Los Gatos-based company delivers DVDs by mail for $19.95 per month (you can hang onto three at a time). Keep them as long as you want -- you get a new title... More >>

  • Best Movers

    Delancey Street Moving & Transportation

    Every moving company has a gimmick. Whether it claims to be staffed by starving students or Irish brawn or "one big man," each of the city's 75-plus movers wants to stand apart. Delancey Street Moving & Transportation is different. Situated inside the Delancey Street Foundation, a nonprofit group that helps former substance abusers and ex-cons get clean and find jobs, the hauler does good works while it does good work. All of its profits go to support the foundation. As... More >>

  • Most Intelligent Sex Shop

    Good Vibrations

    If you're in the market for a dildo or a Vegas-inspired vinyl harness, spare yourself the sleaze of North Beach's Broadway and head straight to Good Vibrations in the Mission District. The brainchild of Joani Blank (owner of Down There Press, a publishing company), the shop was opened in 1977 to educate women about sex, while providing a comfortable alternative to conventional "adult" shops. Twenty-four years later, Good Vibrations has branched into a worker-owned cooperative with a second store in... More >>

  • Best Magic Shop

    House of Magic

    As with every eerie feat of prestidigitation, there's more to House of Magic than meets the eye. It may look like a particularly schlocky gag shop dripping with rubber hamburgers and joy buzzers, but look closer and you'll behold a fine selection of paraphernalia for the professional magician, including sleight-of-hand apparatuses and the implements for yet grander illusions. How-to books and instructional videos are available for the beginner, and in addition to ventriloquists' dummies and multicolored handkerchiefs you'll find a... More >>

Search Best Of Awards