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  • Best Starting Nine

    With the Giants off to a hot start and the A's fresh off two consecutive playoff appearances, optimism is running high in Bay Area baseball circles. That's nice, but there's a slight problem: It shouldn't be. The Giants, for all their strengths, are built around Barry Bonds, who has a .196 career batting average in the post-season. The A's have great pitching, but the team is so petrified of the New York Yankees that it stands little chance of reaching... More >>

  • Four Best Places to Get Your Asana in Shape

    Type-A Westerners now flock to the age-old tradition of yoga, which means "union" in Sanskrit. For better or worse, the 5,000-year-old system is currently in vogue with on-the-go multitaskers looking to de-stress, get in shape, and flirt with nirvana. A practice that provides guidelines on how to live a meaningful life, yoga touches on ethical conduct, meditation, nutrition, and sexual practice. But not surprisingly, Americans are most interested in its physical benefits. A low-maintenance workout that requires little more than... More >>

  • Best Sale

    One Half

    Take a store called One Half, whose motto is "Great Stuff at Great Prices," throw in a twice-yearly half-off sale and personable owners, and what do you get? A crowd of die-hard bargain shoppers waiting patiently out front exchanging lines such as, "I save up for months for this," "I postponed my vacation to be here today," and "I took the day off work not to miss this." One Half sells great quality bedding, household items, frames, gifts, and seasonal... More >>

  • Best Haircut

    Bruce Choy

    Stylist Bruce Choy doesn't cut hair -- he creates masterpieces of art that you wear on your head. Using special patented scissors (two to eight pairs of scissors welded together, manufactured in Japan), Choy has developed a unique technique that will produce only the most fashionable of results. During the approximately half-hour session, Choy, who can wield scissors in both hands, will snip, tousle, and layer your hair by cutting it dry, without a comb -- a technique that is... More >>

  • (Another) Best Reason to Be Glad You're a Woman

    Osento, a Spa for Women

    Osento dubs itself a "temporary refuge for women," and indeed, the spa, which mimics the tranquillity of Japanese bathhouses, is a relaxing and classy haven with every luxury an overstressed girl could want. For a sliding-scale fee of $10 to $20, paradise awaits. The dim and peaceful dressing room features three floor mats for resting, reading, and catnapping. An indoor hot tub lies through a nearby set of doors, where you can soak and sip chilled spring water with limes.... More >>

  • Best Place to Pound, Screw, and Grind

    Tool Lending Center

    You might expect to get a different kind of service by calling 467-TOOL, but the TLC available at the other end of this line stands for Tool Lending Center. The center offers more than 200 implements that you can rent for free -- from bull floats to pony clamps to kneepads -- and you could get hot just reading its Web site. Once you set up an account, you select your tools in person at the site and then check... More >>

  • Best Shop to Discover What Your Betters Are Dispensing Of

    Cathedral School Shop

    Dolce & Gabbana shoes. A Coach handbag. An Yves St. Laurent evening gown. The fact that these are sitting in the window display of a thrift store, of all places, says a lot about how the Cathedral School Shop goes about its business. Located at the foot of Nob Hill, the Cathedral School resells what socialites happen to consider dispensable -- off-season shoes, that Louis Vuitton clutch bag that Muffy had the gall to call "gauche," massive art books the... More >>

  • Best Car Rental Agency for Pedestrians and Cyclists

    Rent-a-Wreck

    The first thing you should know about Dan Pendergast is that he spent a couple hundred dollars earlier this year having a custom frame shop repaint his old bicycle. In other words, he cares about the same sorts of things this city's pedestrians and cyclists do. He comprehends, for instance, what a pain in the chamois shorts it can be when, on one of those few occasions when a bike won't take one where one wants to go, one finds... More >>

  • Best Asian Supermarket

    99 Ranch

    To shop at 99 Ranch is to realize America is indeed the world's great melting pot. The place looks like a Safeway, but in addition to mundane necessities such as coffee, milk, and sugar, 99 Ranch carries salted duck eggs, ong choy, Chinese rice wines, fresh noodles, sashimi-quality fish, and house-baked, dim sum-style pastries. The Daly City branch is one of many locations (others include Fremont, Richmond, Milpitas, and more than a dozen sites in Southern California). Here, the sprawling... More >>

  • Best Place to Get Smooth for Your Honey

    Prima Facie Skincare Salon

    While some may cringe at the prospect of having one's pubic or butt hair ripped out by the roots, for others it's a near-religious ritual -- agony endured for the ecstasy of smoothness. Fortunately, the friendly aestheticians at Prima Facie make the process as painless as possible by using a special warm wax that doesn't stick to the skin. Yeah, OK, it feels a little weird to stretch your knee up to your chin so a woman in a white... More >>

  • Best Beds

    The Four Seasons Mattress

    Finally, Four Seasons custom-designed-mattress addicts needn't go without during their stay by the bay. With the construction of the new luxury hotel last year arrived the Four Seasons' famed overstuffed mattresses, which have been touted and purchased by the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Julia Roberts. Instead of checking into a room, local mattress loyalists should consider buying one through the hotel; at $1,500 for a queen, it costs a little more than the price of a four-night stay and... More >>

  • Best Label Whore Epicenter

    Union Square

    With the economy in the pits and ex-dot-commers heading for the Peace Corps, blatant materialism may not be chic these days. But there are still closet fashion freaks out there -- you know who you are -- and Union Square will cater to your every designer whim like no other place in the city. From Gucci to Hermes to Louis Vuitton, from Ferragamo to Christian Dior -- sunglasses anyone? -- to Marc Jacobs, from Chanel to Diesel to Giorgio Armani,... More >>

  • Best Union Square Boutique

    Marc Jacobs

    There's no stopping fashion's "It" boy. The Vogue/VH1 Designer of the Year now creates three distinct collections (Marc Jacobs Signature, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton) and has fast become the top purveyor of urban chic (he's the guy responsible for bringing back the permanent-creased jean to its current rage). The Marc Jacobs Collection store -- the only one outside New York City -- is a flagship of funky extravagance. Here you'll find a luxuriously flowing silk dress in a... More >>

  • Best Cheap Designer Clothes

    Marshalls

    You can keep your Loehmann's and Off Saks. You won't be able to browse filmy, pastel-colored disco tank tops by Armani there, priced to move at $19.99. And where else can you get a $29.99 set of all-cotton Ralph Lauren sheets, $10 Spode blue china plates, and $99 Prada beige-nylon space boots? Marshalls, of course. The beloved San Francisco store is a favorite with thrifty downtown worker bees for its designer and fashionably urbanite duds. Meanwhile, the Colma store is... More >>

  • Best Place to Shop for Housewares

    Bed, Bath and Beyond

    We can already hear the screeching about how this is a -- dare we say it -- chain store. Sorry, folks, but it's also a much better place to stock your apartment than any other we've run across. Here's why: The store makes sense. It carries exactly what you need, from shower curtains to lemon zesters to tweezers, all at good prices. They even have free parking. Don't look for trendy or high-end accessories here, because you won't find them... More >>

  • Friendliest Place to Buy Meat

    Divisadero Meat Market

    It's not exactly hip to be a carnivore in health-conscious San Francisco. But for those of us who enjoy the taste of animal flesh, the Divisadero Meat Market is a place where we'll always be welcome. Set in a diverse neighborhood whose inhabitants would just as soon buy pig ears as they would chicken breasts, the market offers both, as well as a wide range of other inexpensive meats. While you won't find choice filet mignon here (DMM doesn't have... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy a Blade

    North Beach Cutlery

    When your kitchen knife has lost its zing, or you're ready to upgrade to a better blade, North Beach Cutlery's the place to go. The selection, with prices anywhere from $4 to $140, is downright dazzling, ranging from tiny paring knives to 16-inch slicers. North Beach Cutlery carries top name brands, such as Wusthoff-Trident, F. Dick, Henckels, and Messermeister, which is why many neighborhood chefs can be found shopping here. Owner Antonio Fermo is something of a knife expert, having... More >>

  • Best Gift Shop for Children

    Kinokuniya Stationery and Gift

    Feel guilty spending next to nothing on a birthday present for your niece in Boston? Don't. Kids don't know or care how much a gift costs; all they want is something fun, unique, colorful, and cool. So unless you're trying to impress the child's parents, there's no reason to drop large sums at FAO Schwarz. Kinokuniya in Japantown has a nifty selection of multihued papers, stickers, pens, and other knickknacks imported from Japan. Most of the goodies are refreshingly inexpensive,... More >>

  • Best Place to Find an Intergalactic Police Force

    Heroes Club

    Here, superheroes, villains, and monsters are revered as art and stored behind glass -- everything from Ultraman to Hanuman to Optimus Prime to Frankenstein (if you don't see it at the shop, or on the Web site, it probably doesn't exist anymore). But while collecting models and action figures is a very serious hobby, there's no way to deny that the store itself is just a very well-organized toy box. Thankfully, the shop's mirthful proprietor will encourage your vision of... More >>

  • Best Web Surfing

    The Nikko Hotel Lobby

    There are a growing number of cafes and hotels around the city where you can surf the Internet through a wireless card installed in your laptop. The Hotel Nikko is the only one we're aware of where you can surf the Net, appreciate an elegant collection of modern Asian art, and tip back a cocktail all at the same time. While the Starbucks attached to the hotel lobby offers lattes and wireless access, we far prefer the martini/Web combo that... More >>

  • Best Travel Store

    Rand McNally Bookstore

    At Rand McNally, you can outfit yourself for a trip to almost anywhere that has potable water (and quite a few that don't). What makes the store so special is not merely the exhaustive combination of books, maps, electronics, accessories, and luggage to make your trip more enjoyable, but also the staff, who are extremely knowledgeable about their store. For a recent trip to Europe we loaded up with Time Out and Rough Guides, Streetwise maps, and a power transformer... More >>

  • Best Astrologer

    Susan Levitt

    Before shelling out cash for your weekly visit with your shrink, consider booking an appointment with astrologist, tarot card reader, and feng shui consultant Susan Levitt instead: Her clients claim she could have saved them from years of therapy. Unabashed in her enthusiasm for the metaphysical arts, Levitt is disarmingly welcoming. "People feel comfortable talking about their most private things and unclaimed issues they wish to transform," she asserts. The author of Taoist Astrology, Taoist Feng Shui, and the forthcoming... More >>

  • Best Bargain Hunting

    Alameda Point Antiques & Collectibles Faire

    Now that dot-com salaries have gone the way of the job market, those of us lucky enough to still have a home to decorate fear that our options are limited to IKEA or thrift stores. But at the Alameda Point Antiques & Collectibles Faire, secondhand shopping doesn't have to mean second-rate. Unlike many outdoor flea markets, this expo, which takes place on the first Sunday of every month, is a bargain hunter's dream, and everything for sale is the real... More >>

  • Best Discount Shopping Tour

    Savers

    Thrifting veterans pity the fools who shell out more than $5 for an old frock at city vintage boutiques. The favorite haunts of retro clothing hounds are usually out of town -- and carefully guarded. Yet Redwood City's thrift stores have been an open secret for a while. Off the quaint main drag downtown is one of the Bay Area's more popular thrifting spots, mostly because the pickings have been so plentiful, reliable, and heartwarmingly odd. You can begin... More >>

  • Best Costume Shop

    Costumes on Haight

    In other cities, a costume store can be a seasonal proposition, with a lot of downtime between Halloween, Christmas, and Easter. But San Francisco is not your average city: Its denizens like to party, and party in costume. Whether you're looking for a last-minute mustache to finish off a porn star outfit or a full kangaroo suit, Costumes on Haight has the goods. The store carries plenty of vintage clothes that you can buy or rent. A huge variety of... More >>

  • Best Bookstore to Find African-American Authors

    Marcus Books

    Despite the recent explosion of new African-American storytellers on the scene, trying to find books by and about African-Americans can be a true test of one's investigative skill. In many bookstores, you may find that small corner marked "African-American," with the works of a few well-known authors like Terry McMillan, but new, lesser-known writers are deemed unworthy of display. So, why hasn't someone capitalized on this growing market trend? Actually, someone has -- for the past 43 years. Dr. Raye... More >>

  • Best Shop to Visit When Your Apartment Is Smelling Funky

    Asakichi

    It's as small as a walk-in closet, so it's easy to miss Asakichi, which sells incense in all shapes and scents. But don't be deceived by the store's modest size -- Asakichi is absolutely packed with an amazing selection. Incense holders come in surprising and charming shapes (sleeping cats, cartoon bunnies), as well as more standard designs made of gorgeous Japanese ceramic. Incense -- which can cost from a few dollars to about $13 for a small package -- includes... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy a Bar of Soap

    Buu

    This closet-size shop carries "a little bit of everything," says the salesgirl, and she's right: housewares, gifts, bath products, aromatherapy items, women's clothing. The item that draws us through the door is the decadent bar soap by Votivo. It produces a rich, luxurious lather, but the pièce de résistance is the heavenly scent that fills the bathroom once the soap has been opened. We avoid perfumed products whenever possible, but Votivo's vanilla grapefruit combo is a grand exception. Grand in... More >>

  • Best Knife Sharpener

    Jivano's Cutlery Service

    If you're neither married nor a professional chef, you probably have crappy knives -- old, chipped, worn down, dull. But like a day spa for silverware, Jivano's Cutlery Service will rejuvenate them. Haul your battered blades to Jivano (first or last name? He won't tell), a long-haired, silent type, and he'll expertly clean them up, grinding and sharpening them on a stone at the back of his tiny 18th Street shop. Make an appointment and Jivano will meet you at... More >>

  • Best Furniture for Book Lovers

    Books & Bookshelves

    As with being too thin or too rich, you can never have too many bookshelves. Unfortunately, they're damned expensive. If you'd rather not spend multiple hundreds for the chichi rustic style of Pottery Barn or risk loading a decrepit antique with heavy volumes, stop by Books & Bookshelves, a modest corner shop with a surprisingly complete collection of unfinished shelves (plus tables, chairs, and other furniture). For about $150, you can get a simple six-shelfer that you can paint or... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy Affordable Art

    Califia Books

    Buying original art takes dough. Sure, you could wait for the annual S.F. open studios and buy the reasonably priced work of up-and-coming artists, but at any other time of year your best bet is artists' books at Califia. Hidden away up a staircase, across the hall from the legendary Crown Point Press, Califia is a bookstore and gallery in one. The unique works here are usually identifiable as books, but most break the mold in some way. There are... More >>

  • Best Unusual Textiles

    Satin Moon Fabrics

    Like the United Nations of fabrics, Satin Moon's overstuffed Clement storefront houses diverse material from India, China, Japan, and Italy (among other countries), but it's dominated by cloth from the United States. The stylish sisters who run the shop specialize in decorating fabrics -- plush velvets, sumptuous brocades, and high-quality wools -- that you can use for pillows, curtains, and upholstery. If you make your own clothes (or have them made), the store's selection of luxurious silks can't be beat;... More >>

  • Best Place to Print Photos

    Photoworks

    It's easy to get caught up in the whole digital camera thing -- especially if you travel a lot or have kids -- but printed photos speak a language that pixels never will. Here's proof: Pull your old point-and-shoot out of the closet, fill it with decent black-and-white film, shoot random pics around town (dogs in the park, construction sites, funny signs), and take the results to Photoworks. Ask for matte prints and sloppy borders, and when you pick up... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy Eclectic Gifts

    Market Between Sanchez and Castro

    We used to say we'd like to open a shop called Weird Random Shit and fill it with cool stuff we like. We'd display everything handsomely, and occasionally we'd even sell some of it. Now we don't have to, because a two-block stretch of Market Street has blossomed with three WRS shops, all of them gorgeous, eclectic, and different from one another. The Barking Frog has only been open since November, and though it specializes in detailed wooden furniture... More >>

  • Best Thing That Ever Happened to a City With Too Many Cars

    City CarShare

    Owning a car in San Francisco is a terrible bargain. Beyond the expense of buying the vehicle and paying insurance, traffic and parking are such deterrents that many car owners drive only often enough to avoid street-cleaning tickets. City CarShare premiered last year as an alternative, offering shared new VWs (mostly Beetles) on a per-use basis. Sure, it sounds a little steep -- a $25 sign-up fee, $300 deposit, $10-a-month membership, plus $2.50 an hour ($25 a day maximum) and... More >>

  • Best Place to Get Your Do Did

    Platinum Plus

    So you're the type of person who likes to keep your hair options limitless. Last month alone you changed your tresses so often and so radically that the Joneses just couldn't keep up. Then we may have found the hairdressers for you. In the last three years, the women of Platinum Plus -- Karen Moore, Kia Drissin, and Nancy Shelby -- have made quite a name for themselves as the Three Divas of Designer Hairdos. Specializing in African-American straight-hair solutions,... More >>

  • Friendliest Video Store

    Four Star Videos

    Proprietor Dave Ayoob took over this little business in the Bernal Heights hippie-yuppie district last year. He's purchased tons of new movies and has plenty to say about what is good and what sucks. Ayoob and the usually cordial staff seem to know most of their steady customers by name. With luck, you might get to be Customer of the Week (COW) and have your five favorite flicks listed in multicolored chalk on a blackboard for all the world to... More >>

  • Best Children's Hospital

    UCSF Children's Hospital

    The California Legislature recently passed a law conferring special recognition on the staff of the pediatric units at UCSF Medical Center for running a "hospital within a hospital." The children's hospital features medical support programs such as Child Life Services, which works with the entire family to prepare it for the traumas of surgery, chemotherapy, and, especially, getting stuck with needles, a seemingly small event that is greatly feared by many children, even in the terminal stages of their illnesses.... More >>

  • Best Car Mechanic

    Ulysses Toich & Son

    We have taken our ramshackle vehicles to Ulysses Toich for a decade. He does good work, estimates correctly, and does not surprise you with grotesque overcharges. They broke the mold on Toich, who is, unlike many in his profession, honest. He works on cars in the open air or under a tin roof and has a couple of ramshackle buildings in which to store tools and supplies. Get there by a reasonable hour, and your car will usually be done... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy a Toy That Doesn't Require Batteries

    The Ark

    If every kid you know already has an Xbox, try taking a low-tech toy to the next birthday party you attend. The Ark offers the antithesis to the fluorescent-lit aisles of Toys "R" Us, a fact that's glaringly obvious from the moment you walk through the charming Dutch door and into the warm confines of its toy-lined wooden walls. The Ark deals in diversions that anyone over 20 remembers, from puzzles to puppets to pet sea monkeys. And you won't... More >>

  • Best Dog Walker

    Canine in the City

    The dog-walking industry seemed to explode over the last several years, perhaps because of the dot-com boom, which brought new pet-owning tech employees to town who worked long hours and could afford some hired help for their animals. We've met plenty of capable dog walkers on our jaunts to parks and beaches. But for us, Canine in the City proprietor Scott Malvestiti is the leader of the pack, and the dogs in his care agree. They adore him, sure, but... More >>

  • Best Customer Service by a Government Agency

    National Archives and Records

    Administration

    Pacific Sierra Region

    You don't have to be a records geek to know that the stuff in the National Archives -- essentially, the government's attic -- is really cool: prison files from Alcatraz Island, legal cases as far back as the building of the railroad, family records of immigrants and internment camp residents, World War II propaganda, maps of just about anything. The keepers of this little corner of the nation's history are overworked, underpaid, and incredibly dedicated to the preservation and retrieval... More >>

  • Best Place to Go After You've Had a Baby

    Day One

    Your new baby has finally arrived. You're excited, anxious, sleep-deprived, and frankly a little concerned that medical professionals have let you leave the hospital with this newborn. You've forgotten everything you learned in parenting classes, and nothing you were told in childbirth class has happened the way they said it would. In short, you need support, reassurance, help, something ... and not from your mother-in-law. Look no more. Strap the little bundle into a carrier and get yourself to the... More >>

  • Best Place to Shop for Gourmet Foods

    Draeger's Market

    We fully expected to give this award to a business within the city limits of San Francisco. Alas, we could not, in good conscience, say that any market in the city beats Draeger's for high-end, gourmet, can't-find-it-anywhere-else groceries. The store stocks practically every oddball fancy food known to mankind, which means you need only shop in one place before the important dinner party with notable guests. The meat is top of the line, produce is bright and perky, baked goods... More >>

  • Best Watch Repair

    Puffin's

    This little hole in the wall in the middle of the Union Street shopping district is well worth seeking out. Gather up your watches with dead batteries, broken bands, or more serious problems (we all have a collection) and hand them over to the doctor at Puffin's. A few days later, you'll return to find your timepieces in fine working order. They'll probably even have been cleaned. Should you be in the market for something different, take a few minutes... More >>

  • Best Place to Get Your Internal Organs Cleansed

    Sacred Space Healing Center

    You are what you eat -- and breathe for that matter. So unless you're a strict vegan living in a plastic bubble, that may mean you're a toxic mass of chemicals, environmental pollutants, drugs, meat products, and fats. In fact, "the average intestinal tract has as much bacteria as the septic tank under a house," according to the Sacred Space Healing Center's Web site. This one-stop shop for all of your holistic needs in the Lower Haight is an alternative... More >>

  • Best Place to Find the July 1967 National Geographic

    McDonald's Bookshop

    There are magazines piled all over this rambling, ramshackle, elephantine bookstore that happily describes itself as "a dirty poorly lit place for books." McDonald's opened its doors in 1926 and today boasts the largest selection of used magazines, books, and records in California. Wandering through this labyrinth of nooks, crannies, chambers, and mezzanines, all of them stacked floor to ceiling with vintage reading material, one might assume that organization isn't a priority, but the directory at the front of the... More >>

  • Best Places to Share Brotherly Love

    Though we couldn't possibly mention all the wonderful places to volunteer in this town, three stand out in our experience. And if none of these organizations hits home for you, visit www.volunteerinfo.org for more ideas. Habitat for Humanity San Francisco 78 Ocean (at Alemany), 406-1555, www.habitatsf.org Habitat for Humanity offers a hands-on way to combat substandard housing -- and also teaches you how to use power tools. We all know how bad the housing market is in the Bay Area;... More >>

  • Best Wedding Resources

    So you've decided to tie the knot. Now what? Despite all the horror stories, planning a wedding in the Bay Area can be quick, fun, and relatively inexpensive (pick two of those for best results). Seamstress Kath Hughes 2450 Geary (at Baker), 775-7113 Once you've found a site -- try Where to Get Married in the Bay Area by Reena Jana -- you'll need something to wear. If you're not into the poofy white meringue look, you might find having... More >>

  • Shopping & Services Readers' Poll

    Best Women’s Clothing Store Ambiance Best Men’s Clothing Store Macy’s Best New Boutique Martini Lounge Best Department Store Macy’s Best Shoe Boutique Gimme Shoes Best Vintage Store Wasteland Best Dry Cleaner Peninou Best Laundromat Brain Wash Best Lingerie Boutique Victoria’s Secret Best Selection of Jewelry Tiffany Best Massage Kabuki Springs Best Manicure/Pedicure 77 Maiden Lane Best Hair Salon Oxenrose Best New Furniture Store IKEA Best Used Furniture Store Busvan for Bargains Best Flea Market Alemany Best New Bookstore City Lights... More >>

  • Best Starting Nine

    With the Giants off to a hot start and the A's fresh off two consecutive playoff appearances, optimism is running high in Bay Area baseball circles. That's nice, but there's a slight problem: It shouldn't be. The Giants, for all their strengths, are built around Barry Bonds, who has a .196 career batting average in the post-season. The A's have great pitching, but the team is so petrified of the New York Yankees that it stands little chance of reaching... More >>

  • Four Best Places to Get Your Asana in Shape

    Type-A Westerners now flock to the age-old tradition of yoga, which means "union" in Sanskrit. For better or worse, the 5,000-year-old system is currently in vogue with on-the-go multitaskers looking to de-stress, get in shape, and flirt with nirvana. A practice that provides guidelines on how to live a meaningful life, yoga touches on ethical conduct, meditation, nutrition, and sexual practice. But not surprisingly, Americans are most interested in its physical benefits. A low-maintenance workout that requires little more than... More >>

  • Best Sale

    One Half

    Take a store called One Half, whose motto is "Great Stuff at Great Prices," throw in a twice-yearly half-off sale and personable owners, and what do you get? A crowd of die-hard bargain shoppers waiting patiently out front exchanging lines such as, "I save up for months for this," "I postponed my vacation to be here today," and "I took the day off work not to miss this." One Half sells great quality bedding, household items, frames, gifts, and seasonal... More >>

  • Best Haircut

    Bruce Choy

    Stylist Bruce Choy doesn't cut hair -- he creates masterpieces of art that you wear on your head. Using special patented scissors (two to eight pairs of scissors welded together, manufactured in Japan), Choy has developed a unique technique that will produce only the most fashionable of results. During the approximately half-hour session, Choy, who can wield scissors in both hands, will snip, tousle, and layer your hair by cutting it dry, without a comb -- a technique that is... More >>

  • (Another) Best Reason to Be Glad You're a Woman

    Osento, a Spa for Women

    Osento dubs itself a "temporary refuge for women," and indeed, the spa, which mimics the tranquillity of Japanese bathhouses, is a relaxing and classy haven with every luxury an overstressed girl could want. For a sliding-scale fee of $10 to $20, paradise awaits. The dim and peaceful dressing room features three floor mats for resting, reading, and catnapping. An indoor hot tub lies through a nearby set of doors, where you can soak and sip chilled spring water with limes.... More >>

  • Best Place to Pound, Screw, and Grind

    Tool Lending Center

    You might expect to get a different kind of service by calling 467-TOOL, but the TLC available at the other end of this line stands for Tool Lending Center. The center offers more than 200 implements that you can rent for free -- from bull floats to pony clamps to kneepads -- and you could get hot just reading its Web site. Once you set up an account, you select your tools in person at the site and then check... More >>

  • Best Shop to Discover What Your Betters Are Dispensing Of

    Cathedral School Shop

    Dolce & Gabbana shoes. A Coach handbag. An Yves St. Laurent evening gown. The fact that these are sitting in the window display of a thrift store, of all places, says a lot about how the Cathedral School Shop goes about its business. Located at the foot of Nob Hill, the Cathedral School resells what socialites happen to consider dispensable -- off-season shoes, that Louis Vuitton clutch bag that Muffy had the gall to call "gauche," massive art books the... More >>

  • Best Car Rental Agency for Pedestrians and Cyclists

    Rent-a-Wreck

    The first thing you should know about Dan Pendergast is that he spent a couple hundred dollars earlier this year having a custom frame shop repaint his old bicycle. In other words, he cares about the same sorts of things this city's pedestrians and cyclists do. He comprehends, for instance, what a pain in the chamois shorts it can be when, on one of those few occasions when a bike won't take one where one wants to go, one finds... More >>

  • Best Asian Supermarket

    99 Ranch

    To shop at 99 Ranch is to realize America is indeed the world's great melting pot. The place looks like a Safeway, but in addition to mundane necessities such as coffee, milk, and sugar, 99 Ranch carries salted duck eggs, ong choy, Chinese rice wines, fresh noodles, sashimi-quality fish, and house-baked, dim sum-style pastries. The Daly City branch is one of many locations (others include Fremont, Richmond, Milpitas, and more than a dozen sites in Southern California). Here, the sprawling... More >>

  • Best Place to Get Smooth for Your Honey

    Prima Facie Skincare Salon

    While some may cringe at the prospect of having one's pubic or butt hair ripped out by the roots, for others it's a near-religious ritual -- agony endured for the ecstasy of smoothness. Fortunately, the friendly aestheticians at Prima Facie make the process as painless as possible by using a special warm wax that doesn't stick to the skin. Yeah, OK, it feels a little weird to stretch your knee up to your chin so a woman in a white... More >>

  • Best Beds

    The Four Seasons Mattress

    Finally, Four Seasons custom-designed-mattress addicts needn't go without during their stay by the bay. With the construction of the new luxury hotel last year arrived the Four Seasons' famed overstuffed mattresses, which have been touted and purchased by the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Julia Roberts. Instead of checking into a room, local mattress loyalists should consider buying one through the hotel; at $1,500 for a queen, it costs a little more than the price of a four-night stay and... More >>

  • Best Label Whore Epicenter

    Union Square

    With the economy in the pits and ex-dot-commers heading for the Peace Corps, blatant materialism may not be chic these days. But there are still closet fashion freaks out there -- you know who you are -- and Union Square will cater to your every designer whim like no other place in the city. From Gucci to Hermes to Louis Vuitton, from Ferragamo to Christian Dior -- sunglasses anyone? -- to Marc Jacobs, from Chanel to Diesel to Giorgio Armani,... More >>

  • Best Union Square Boutique

    Marc Jacobs

    There's no stopping fashion's "It" boy. The Vogue/VH1 Designer of the Year now creates three distinct collections (Marc Jacobs Signature, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton) and has fast become the top purveyor of urban chic (he's the guy responsible for bringing back the permanent-creased jean to its current rage). The Marc Jacobs Collection store -- the only one outside New York City -- is a flagship of funky extravagance. Here you'll find a luxuriously flowing silk dress in a... More >>

  • Best Cheap Designer Clothes

    Marshalls

    You can keep your Loehmann's and Off Saks. You won't be able to browse filmy, pastel-colored disco tank tops by Armani there, priced to move at $19.99. And where else can you get a $29.99 set of all-cotton Ralph Lauren sheets, $10 Spode blue china plates, and $99 Prada beige-nylon space boots? Marshalls, of course. The beloved San Francisco store is a favorite with thrifty downtown worker bees for its designer and fashionably urbanite duds. Meanwhile, the Colma store is... More >>

  • Best Place to Shop for Housewares

    Bed, Bath and Beyond

    We can already hear the screeching about how this is a -- dare we say it -- chain store. Sorry, folks, but it's also a much better place to stock your apartment than any other we've run across. Here's why: The store makes sense. It carries exactly what you need, from shower curtains to lemon zesters to tweezers, all at good prices. They even have free parking. Don't look for trendy or high-end accessories here, because you won't find them... More >>

  • Friendliest Place to Buy Meat

    Divisadero Meat Market

    It's not exactly hip to be a carnivore in health-conscious San Francisco. But for those of us who enjoy the taste of animal flesh, the Divisadero Meat Market is a place where we'll always be welcome. Set in a diverse neighborhood whose inhabitants would just as soon buy pig ears as they would chicken breasts, the market offers both, as well as a wide range of other inexpensive meats. While you won't find choice filet mignon here (DMM doesn't have... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy a Blade

    North Beach Cutlery

    When your kitchen knife has lost its zing, or you're ready to upgrade to a better blade, North Beach Cutlery's the place to go. The selection, with prices anywhere from $4 to $140, is downright dazzling, ranging from tiny paring knives to 16-inch slicers. North Beach Cutlery carries top name brands, such as Wusthoff-Trident, F. Dick, Henckels, and Messermeister, which is why many neighborhood chefs can be found shopping here. Owner Antonio Fermo is something of a knife expert, having... More >>

  • Best Gift Shop for Children

    Kinokuniya Stationery and Gift

    Feel guilty spending next to nothing on a birthday present for your niece in Boston? Don't. Kids don't know or care how much a gift costs; all they want is something fun, unique, colorful, and cool. So unless you're trying to impress the child's parents, there's no reason to drop large sums at FAO Schwarz. Kinokuniya in Japantown has a nifty selection of multihued papers, stickers, pens, and other knickknacks imported from Japan. Most of the goodies are refreshingly inexpensive,... More >>

  • Best Place to Find an Intergalactic Police Force

    Heroes Club

    Here, superheroes, villains, and monsters are revered as art and stored behind glass -- everything from Ultraman to Hanuman to Optimus Prime to Frankenstein (if you don't see it at the shop, or on the Web site, it probably doesn't exist anymore). But while collecting models and action figures is a very serious hobby, there's no way to deny that the store itself is just a very well-organized toy box. Thankfully, the shop's mirthful proprietor will encourage your vision of... More >>

  • Best Web Surfing

    Hotel Nikko

    There are a growing number of cafes and hotels around the city where you can surf the Internet through a wireless card installed in your laptop. The Hotel Nikko is the only one we're aware of where you can surf the Net, appreciate an elegant collection of modern Asian art, and tip back a cocktail all at the same time. While the Starbucks attached to the hotel lobby offers lattes and wireless access, we far prefer the martini/Web combo that... More >>

  • Best Travel Store

    Rand McNally Bookstore

    At Rand McNally, you can outfit yourself for a trip to almost anywhere that has potable water (and quite a few that don't). What makes the store so special is not merely the exhaustive combination of books, maps, electronics, accessories, and luggage to make your trip more enjoyable, but also the staff, who are extremely knowledgeable about their store. For a recent trip to Europe we loaded up with Time Out and Rough Guides, Streetwise maps, and a power transformer... More >>

  • Best Astrologer

    Susan Levitt

    Before shelling out cash for your weekly visit with your shrink, consider booking an appointment with astrologist, tarot card reader, and feng shui consultant Susan Levitt instead: Her clients claim she could have saved them from years of therapy. Unabashed in her enthusiasm for the metaphysical arts, Levitt is disarmingly welcoming. "People feel comfortable talking about their most private things and unclaimed issues they wish to transform," she asserts. The author of Taoist Astrology, Taoist Feng Shui, and the forthcoming... More >>

  • Best Bargain Hunting

    Alameda Point Antiques & Collectibles Faire

    Now that dot-com salaries have gone the way of the job market, those of us lucky enough to still have a home to decorate fear that our options are limited to IKEA or thrift stores. But at the Alameda Point Antiques & Collectibles Faire, secondhand shopping doesn't have to mean second-rate. Unlike many outdoor flea markets, this expo, which takes place on the first Sunday of every month, is a bargain hunter's dream, and everything for sale is the real... More >>

  • Best Discount Shopping Tour

    Savers

    Thrifting veterans pity the fools who shell out more than $5 for an old frock at city vintage boutiques. The favorite haunts of retro clothing hounds are usually out of town -- and carefully guarded. Yet Redwood City's thrift stores have been an open secret for a while. Off the quaint main drag downtown is one of the Bay Area's more popular thrifting spots, mostly because the pickings have been so plentiful, reliable, and heartwarmingly odd.You can begin at Savers,... More >>

  • Best Costume Shop

    Costumes on Haight

    In other cities, a costume store can be a seasonal proposition, with a lot of downtime between Halloween, Christmas, and Easter. But San Francisco is not your average city: Its denizens like to party, and party in costume. Whether you're looking for a last-minute mustache to finish off a porn star outfit or a full kangaroo suit, Costumes on Haight has the goods. The store carries plenty of vintage clothes that you can buy or rent. A huge variety of... More >>

  • Best Bookstore to Find African-American Authors

    Marcus Books

    Despite the recent explosion of new African-American storytellers on the scene, trying to find books by and about African-Americans can be a true test of one's investigative skill. In many bookstores, you may find that small corner marked "African-American," with the works of a few well-known authors like Terry McMillan, but new, lesser-known writers are deemed unworthy of display. So, why hasn't someone capitalized on this growing market trend? Actually, someone has -- for the past 43 years. Dr. Raye... More >>

  • Best Shop to Visit When Your Apartment Is Smelling Funky

    Asakichi

    It's as small as a walk-in closet, so it's easy to miss Asakichi, which sells incense in all shapes and scents. But don't be deceived by the store's modest size -- Asakichi is absolutely packed with an amazing selection. Incense holders come in surprising and charming shapes (sleeping cats, cartoon bunnies), as well as more standard designs made of gorgeous Japanese ceramic. Incense -- which can cost from a few dollars to about $13 for a small package -- includes... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy a Bar of Soap

    Buu

    This closet-size shop carries "a little bit of everything," says the salesgirl, and she's right: housewares, gifts, bath products, aromatherapy items, women's clothing. The item that draws us through the door is the decadent bar soap by Votivo. It produces a rich, luxurious lather, but the pièce de résistance is the heavenly scent that fills the bathroom once the soap has been opened. We avoid perfumed products whenever possible, but Votivo's vanilla grapefruit combo is a grand exception. Grand in... More >>

  • Best Knife Sharpener

    Jivano's Cutlery Service

    If you're neither married nor a professional chef, you probably have crappy knives -- old, chipped, worn down, dull. But like a day spa for silverware, Jivano's Cutlery Service will rejuvenate them. Haul your battered blades to Jivano (first or last name? He won't tell), a long-haired, silent type, and he'll expertly clean them up, grinding and sharpening them on a stone at the back of his tiny 18th Street shop. Make an appointment and Jivano will meet you at... More >>

  • Best Furniture for Book Lovers

    Books and Bookshelves

    As with being too thin or too rich, you can never have too many bookshelves. Unfortunately, they're damned expensive. If you'd rather not spend multiple hundreds for the chichi rustic style of Pottery Barn or risk loading a decrepit antique with heavy volumes, stop by Books & Bookshelves, a modest corner shop with a surprisingly complete collection of unfinished shelves (plus tables, chairs, and other furniture). For about $150, you can get a simple six-shelfer that you can paint or... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy Affordable Art

    Califia Books

    Buying original art takes dough. Sure, you could wait for the annual S.F. open studios and buy the reasonably priced work of up-and-coming artists, but at any other time of year your best bet is artists' books at Califia. Hidden away up a staircase, across the hall from the legendary Crown Point Press, Califia is a bookstore and gallery in one. The unique works here are usually identifiable as books, but most break the mold in some way. There are... More >>

  • Best Unusual Textiles

    Satin Moon Fabrics

    Like the United Nations of fabrics, Satin Moon's overstuffed Clement storefront houses diverse material from India, China, Japan, and Italy (among other countries), but it's dominated by cloth from the United States. The stylish sisters who run the shop specialize in decorating fabrics -- plush velvets, sumptuous brocades, and high-quality wools -- that you can use for pillows, curtains, and upholstery. If you make your own clothes (or have them made), the store's selection of luxurious silks can't be beat;... More >>

  • Best Place to Print Photos

    Photoworks

    It's easy to get caught up in the whole digital camera thing -- especially if you travel a lot or have kids -- but printed photos speak a language that pixels never will. Here's proof: Pull your old point-and-shoot out of the closet, fill it with decent black-and-white film, shoot random pics around town (dogs in the park, construction sites, funny signs), and take the results to Photoworks. Ask for matte prints and sloppy borders, and when you pick up... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy Eclectic Gifts

    Market Between Sanchez and Castro

    We used to say we'd like to open a shop called Weird Random Shit and fill it with cool stuff we like. We'd display everything handsomely, and occasionally we'd even sell some of it. Now we don't have to, because a two-block stretch of Market Street has blossomed with three WRS shops, all of them gorgeous, eclectic, and different from one another. The Barking Frog has only been open since November, and though it specializes in detailed wooden furniture imported... More >>

  • Best Thing That Ever Happened to a City With Too Many Cars

    City CarShare

    Owning a car in San Francisco is a terrible bargain. Beyond the expense of buying the vehicle and paying insurance, traffic and parking are such deterrents that many car owners drive only often enough to avoid street-cleaning tickets. City CarShare premiered last year as an alternative, offering shared new VWs (mostly Beetles) on a per-use basis. Sure, it sounds a little steep -- a $25 sign-up fee, $300 deposit, $10-a-month membership, plus $2.50 an hour ($25 a day maximum) and... More >>

  • Best Place to Get Your Do Did

    Platinum Plus

    So you're the type of person who likes to keep your hair options limitless. Last month alone you changed your tresses so often and so radically that the Joneses just couldn't keep up. Then we may have found the hairdressers for you. In the last three years, the women of Platinum Plus -- Karen Moore, Kia Drissin, and Nancy Shelby -- have made quite a name for themselves as the Three Divas of Designer Hairdos. Specializing in African-American straight-hair solutions,... More >>

  • Friendliest Video Store

    Four Star Video

    Proprietor Dave Ayoob took over this little business in the Bernal Heights hippie-yuppie district last year. He's purchased tons of new movies and has plenty to say about what is good and what sucks. Ayoob and the usually cordial staff seem to know most of their steady customers by name. With luck, you might get to be Customer of the Week (COW) and have your five favorite flicks listed in multicolored chalk on a blackboard for all the world to... More >>

  • Best Children's Hospital

    UCSF Children's Hospital

    The California Legislature recently passed a law conferring special recognition on the staff of the pediatric units at UCSF Medical Center for running a "hospital within a hospital." The children's hospital features medical support programs such as Child Life Services, which works with the entire family to prepare it for the traumas of surgery, chemotherapy, and, especially, getting stuck with needles, a seemingly small event that is greatly feared by many children, even in the terminal stages of their illnesses.... More >>

  • Best Car Mechanic

    Ulysses Toich & Son

    We have taken our ramshackle vehicles to Ulysses Toich for a decade. He does good work, estimates correctly, and does not surprise you with grotesque overcharges. They broke the mold on Toich, who is, unlike many in his profession, honest. He works on cars in the open air or under a tin roof and has a couple of ramshackle buildings in which to store tools and supplies. Get there by a reasonable hour, and your car will usually be done... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy a Toy That Doesn't Require Batteries

    The Ark

    If every kid you know already has an Xbox, try taking a low-tech toy to the next birthday party you attend. The Ark offers the antithesis to the fluorescent-lit aisles of Toys "R" Us, a fact that's glaringly obvious from the moment you walk through the charming Dutch door and into the warm confines of its toy-lined wooden walls. The Ark deals in diversions that anyone over 20 remembers, from puzzles to puppets to pet sea monkeys. And you won't... More >>

  • Best Dog Walker

    Canine in the City

    The dog-walking industry seemed to explode over the last several years, perhaps because of the dot-com boom, which brought new pet-owning tech employees to town who worked long hours and could afford some hired help for their animals. We've met plenty of capable dog walkers on our jaunts to parks and beaches. But for us, Canine in the City proprietor Scott Malvestiti is the leader of the pack, and the dogs in his care agree. They adore him, sure, but... More >>

  • Best Customer Service by a Government Agency

    National Archives and Records

    Administration

    Pacific Sierra Region

    You don't have to be a records geek to know that the stuff in the National Archives -- essentially, the government's attic -- is really cool: prison files from Alcatraz Island, legal cases as far back as the building of the railroad, family records of immigrants and internment camp residents, World War II propaganda, maps of just about anything. The keepers of this little corner of the nation's history are overworked, underpaid, and incredibly dedicated to the preservation and retrieval... More >>

  • Best Place to Go After You've Had a Baby

    Day One

    Your new baby has finally arrived. You're excited, anxious, sleep-deprived, and frankly a little concerned that medical professionals have let you leave the hospital with this newborn. You've forgotten everything you learned in parenting classes, and nothing you were told in childbirth class has happened the way they said it would. In short, you need support, reassurance, help, something ... and not from your mother-in-law. Look no more. Strap the little bundle into a carrier and get yourself to the... More >>

  • Best Place to Shop for Gourmet Foods

    Draeger's Market

    We fully expected to give this award to a business within the city limits of San Francisco. Alas, we could not, in good conscience, say that any market in the city beats Draeger's for high-end, gourmet, can't-find-it-anywhere-else groceries. The store stocks practically every oddball fancy food known to mankind, which means you need only shop in one place before the important dinner party with notable guests. The meat is top of the line, produce is bright and perky, baked goods... More >>

  • Best Watch Repair

    Puffin's

    This little hole in the wall in the middle of the Union Street shopping district is well worth seeking out. Gather up your watches with dead batteries, broken bands, or more serious problems (we all have a collection) and hand them over to the doctor at Puffin's. A few days later, you'll return to find your timepieces in fine working order. They'll probably even have been cleaned. Should you be in the market for something different, take a few minutes... More >>

  • Best Place to Get Your Internal Organs Cleansed

    Sacred Space Healing Center

    You are what you eat -- and breathe for that matter. So unless you're a strict vegan living in a plastic bubble, that may mean you're a toxic mass of chemicals, environmental pollutants, drugs, meat products, and fats. In fact, "the average intestinal tract has as much bacteria as the septic tank under a house," according to the Sacred Space Healing Center's Web site. This one-stop shop for all of your holistic needs in the Lower Haight is an alternative... More >>

  • Best Place to Find the July 1967 National Geographic

    McDonald's Bookshop

    There are magazines piled all over this rambling, ramshackle, elephantine bookstore that happily describes itself as "a dirty poorly lit place for books." McDonald's opened its doors in 1926 and today boasts the largest selection of used magazines, books, and records in California. Wandering through this labyrinth of nooks, crannies, chambers, and mezzanines, all of them stacked floor to ceiling with vintage reading material, one might assume that organization isn't a priority, but the directory at the front of the... More >>

  • Best Places to Share Brotherly Love

    Though we couldn't possibly mention all the wonderful places to volunteer in this town, three stand out in our experience. And if none of these organizations hits home for you, visit www.volunteerinfo.org for more ideas. Habitat for Humanity San Francisco 78 Ocean (at Alemany), 406-1555, www.habitatsf.org Habitat for Humanity offers a hands-on way to combat substandard housing -- and also teaches you how to use power tools. We all know how bad the housing market is in the Bay Area;... More >>

  • Best Wedding Resources

    So you've decided to tie the knot. Now what? Despite all the horror stories, planning a wedding in the Bay Area can be quick, fun, and relatively inexpensive (pick two of those for best results). Seamstress Kath Hughes 2450 Geary (at Baker), 775-7113 Once you've found a site -- try Where to Get Married in the Bay Area by Reena Jana -- you'll need something to wear. If you're not into the poofy white meringue look, you might find having... More >>

  • Shopping & Services Readers' Poll

    Best Women’s Clothing Store Ambiance Best Men’s Clothing Store Macy’s Best New Boutique Martini Lounge Best Department Store Macy’s Best Shoe Boutique Gimme Shoes Best Vintage Store Wasteland Best Dry Cleaner Peninou Best Laundromat Brain Wash Best Lingerie Boutique Victoria’s Secret Best Selection of Jewelry Tiffany Best Massage Kabuki Springs Best Manicure/Pedicure 77 Maiden Lane Best Hair Salon Oxenrose Best New Furniture Store IKEA Best Used Furniture Store Busvan for Bargains Best Flea Market Alemany Best New Bookstore City Lights... More >>

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