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  • Readers' Poll

    Best Manicures/Pedicures Silk Nail Salon Best Massages Kabuki Springs & Spa Best Hair Salon Spaghetti & Ravioli (S&R) Best Pet Supplies Noe Valley Pet Co. Best Garden Supplies Floorcraft Garden Center Best Sex Supplies Good Vibrations Best Place to Buy LPs Amoeba Music Best Music Supplies Guitar Center Best Lingerie Store Victoria's Secret Best Art Supplies Flax Art & Design Best Place to Buy CDs Amoeba Music Best Used Furniture Store No winner Best Hotel Phoenix Hotel Best Jewelry Store... More >>

  • Best Bookstore

    City Lights 261 Columbus (at Broadway), 362-8193, www.citylights.com Although it's a required stop on the Columbus Avenue tourist crawl, bordering Jack Kerouac Alley and Vesuvio Cafe, City Lights, founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, retains its pioneer spirit. The floors creak, which is nice, and the bookshelves look like they were built over time, on site, by Ferlinghetti himself. The bathroom is for staff only; the coffee bars are up the street. The history -- well, you probably know the history:... More >>

  • Best DVD Selection

    Amoeba Music 1855 Haight (at Stanyan), www.amoebamusic.com Amoeba's already known far and wide for its amazing array of LPs, CDs, 45s, and other musical forms, but equally impressive is its huge selection of DVDs. New, used, rare, and out-of-print titles are bought and sold by the thousands each week, keeping the turnover lively and the assortment fresh. And such an assortment it is: everything from westerns, musicals, and noir to cult animation, silents, and the collected oeuvre of Russ... More >>

  • Best Close Shave

    Jun Yu 32 Ross (at Jackson), 362-7776 It's getting more and more difficult to find a barber willing to soap up your kisser, scrape off your stubble, and slap on a little Vitalis for good measure, but Jun Yu performs this bygone ritual with professional panache on a regular basis. Make your way into his tiny, memento-crowded operation (Sinatra, Eastwood, and Como are among your predecessors), sink into the single chair, and place your physiognomy in his capable hands. You're... More >>

  • Best Magic Shop

    Misdirections 1236 Ninth Ave. (at Lincoln), 566-2180, www.misdirections.com When you have a hankering to divine the thoughts of others, escape from a straitjacket, saw a lady in half, or confound your friends and neighbors in general, head to this Inner Sunset temple to the art of prestidigitation. Everything you need to baffle, amuse, and amaze is on the premises: coin tricks, flash pots, magic wands, vanishing Coke bottles, see-through blindfolds, collapsible top hats, even a fine array of latex doves.... More >>

  • Best Record Store

    Open Mind Music 342 Divisadero (at Oak), 621-2244, www.openmindmusic.com The joy of discovery -- whether of great new material you'd never have come across or old stuff you've searched for forever -- is the best part of record-hunting at Open Mind Music. The store probably has less than half the stock of Amoeba, but here you can listen to vinyl before you buy it (unlike at Amoeba). With the humble motto "We don't always have what you're looking for, but... More >>

  • Best Alternative to Public Transportation

    City CarShare 131 Steuart (between Mission and Howard), Suite 205, 995-8588, www.citycarshare.com Since 2001, City CarShare has been trying to wean Bay Area folks off their dependence on owning a car, and with 4,000 members (up 30 percent from a year ago), it looks like the nonprofit is making headway. Like similar programs in cities such as Portland, Ore., Chicago, and Seattle, City CarShare provides green VW Beetles, Jetta wagons, pickup trucks, and other vehicles for round-the-clock rental -- you... More >>

  • Best Secondhand Clothes

    Clothes Contact 473 Valencia (at 16th Street), 621-3212 Clothes Contact is one of the few places in town where you can still purchase your couture not by label or fabric but by gross tonnage, a popular concept back in the pre-dot-com '90s. Used clothing, fabrics, buttons, and patches are carefully weeded of overt dreck and displayed throughout the store's cavernous interior in well-organized fashion. The quality is a step above your standard rummage store selection, with cool leather jackets, trench... More >>

  • Best Gender-Illusionist Supplies

    Retro Fit 910 Valencia (at 20th Street), 550-1530 Steven LeMay -- owner of Retro Fit and 1999 SF Weekly Wild Side Model Search winner -- is something of a fashion chameleon. On his boutique's calling card, he's pictured in four separate photos: as a skirt-suited lady of the 1940s, as a slacker dude complete with knit cap, as an attitudinal club girl in a miniskirt, and (a stroke of brilliance) as a drag king. It's an appropriate bit of advertising,... More >>

  • Best Jeans

    AB Fits 1519 Grant (at Union) and 40 Grant (at Geary), both 982-5726, www.abfits.com In the rapid-fire world of chic jeans, fit is everything, and the gurus at AB Fits know how to fit. The dressing rooms in the North Beach location contain no mirrors, and once you walk out, everything stops. The jeans are critiqued. "Let me see the rear," a salesperson commands. Judgments are passed, recommendations made, and additional pairs miraculously appear from the skilled staff. Other shoppers... More >>

  • Best Gifts

    Nest 2300 Fillmore (at Clay), 292-6199 Spend a few minutes in Nest, and one thing becomes instantly clear: The buyers are geniuses. This French-themed store is small, a shoe box compared to a big-box retailer, yet it sells nearly everything -- from clothing, bedding, and tableware to books, chandeliers, furniture, knickknacks, and wall art. Almost all of it is something you want, from the Kerry Castle quilts to the vintage cards, and the stock changes rapidly. Nest, which leans toward... More >>

  • Best Car Repair

    Cowden Automotive 875 Folsom (at Fifth Street), 777-9858, www.cowdenauto.citysearch.com We once had a 1987 Honda that Cowden Automotive perpetually kept two steps ahead of a systemwide failure. We'd bring it in with our dilemma ("We need to drive to Mammoth, possibly in a blizzard"), and Cowden's mechanics would fix just enough of the car to get the job done, as our wallet demanded. A broken wheel stud, for instance, never got repaired, and that's what holds the wheel to the... More >>

  • Best Cheap Bed

    HI-SF Fisherman's Wharf Fort Mason, Building 240, Franklin & Bay, 771-7277, www.sfhostel.org At $22 a night, the HI-SF Fisherman's Wharf hostel at Fort Mason is a happily inexpensive place to rest your head. Despite its name, the hostel is far removed from the waterfront mall. Housed in a historic two-story Civil War-era building next to a meadow -- a meadow! -- and perched on the Fort Mason cliff, it offers rooms with views of the bay and old military cannons... More >>

  • Best Graffiti Supplies

    Future Primitive Sound 597 Haight (at Steiner), 551-2328, www.futureprimitivesound.com Graffiti has come a long way in the past 30 years. Once an illicit juvenile pastime that drew the scorn of anyone over the age of 20, it has arguably become the most vibrant and visible of all modern forms of art. The style is now a primer for an ever-expanding niche dubbed "urban art," and has spawned hipster superstars such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Doze Green, and San Francisco's own Berry... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy Art

    The Canvas Gallery 1200 Ninth Ave. (at Lincoln), 504-0060, www.thecanvasgallery.com Unlike cafes that feature a few watercolors on the wall and call themselves galleries, the Canvas is a whopping 1,100 square feet of art space plus 2,900 additional square feet of cafe and lounge with more art interspersed. The point of all this fusion is to get apathetic coffee-sippers to notice that art can be an organic, integral part of their lives. The gallery showcases painting, sculpture, jewelry, textiles, photography,... More >>

  • Best Bed-and-Breakfast

    The Chateau Tivoli 1057 Steiner (at Golden Gate), 776-5462, www.chateautivoli.com If the painted lady is the quintessential San Franciscan signifier, the Chateau Tivoli is the exemplar of exemplars. Built in 1892, this Alamo Square fixture has a history that's also distinctly S.F.: In 1975, it operated as the Center for Release and Integration, a major organization in the New Age movement, and was covered in friezes of lotus flowers and unicorns. In the late 1980s, it underwent painstaking restoration, which... More >>

  • Best Jewelry Bargains

    San Francisco Giftcenter & Jewelrymart 888 Brannan (at Eighth Street), 861-7733, www.gcjm.com The enormous Giftcenter & Jewelrymart in SOMA houses more than 125 gem and jewelry sellers hawking their goods at rock-bottom wholesale prices. To enter you have to call one of the sellers and be put on the guest list, because the Jewelrymart's not open to the public. But once you get past the security guards, you can save anywhere from 30 to 50 percent on everything from costume... More >>

  • Best Furniture

    New Deal 1632B Market (at Gough), 552-6208, www.newdealhome.com New Deal may be the best all-purpose custom furniture and accessory store in San Francisco. A modest corner shop packed with gorgeous innovations by local and international designers, its contemporary, retro, and classic influences effortlessly mingle in big pieces that know how to work a room. Customers can flip through a catalog and peruse more than 150 sofa designs and 1,000 fabrics. Selections include cube-shaped, silk-covered ottomans and four-poster teak claw-foot beds... More >>

  • Best Sex Toys

    Good Vibrations 603 Valencia (at 17th Street), 522-5460, www.goodvibes.com Good Vibrations makes the business of fucking fascinating. Foreplay at the Mission District sex toy emporium begins with its trademark vibrator museum: a revolving display of a dozen quaint devices (such as eggbeater contraptions and pitiful attempts to model the penis) and chronological explanations of their history. The excitement builds with a creative selection of dildos and vibrators, ranging from rainbow strap-ons to the infamous Rabbit. The selection of novelty items... More >>

  • Best Cosmetics

    Lush 240 Powell (at O'Farrell), 693-9633, www.lush.com In the world of ubiquitous floral-reeking bath and body supplies, Lush peddles some of the most inventive products available. A U.K.-based company that deals in handmade, all-natural cosmetics, it's known for its frothy bubble baths (bath bombs that fizz and saturate your water with sweetly scented color) and scrumptious massage bars, whose essential oils glide onto your skin like frosting. In addition to bath products, fragrances, and hair and skin care items, Lush... More >>

  • Best Herbs and Natural Medicine

    The Scarlet Sage Herb Co. 1173 Valencia (at 23rd Street), 821-0997, www.scarletsageherb.com Scarlet Sage is a treasure trove of holistic knowledge, containing everything an herbal enthusiast could ever want -- sans the hollow New Age trappings. Don't get sidetracked by the voluminous selection of tarot decks and scented candles: Scarlet Sage is, first and foremost, a retail store specializing in medicinal herbs from Native American and Western European healing practices. Its owners display a passion for the healing properties... More >>

  • Best Salon

    Grasshopper 28 South Park (at Second Street), 495-0424, www.grasshopper-salon.com For a multisensory experience provided by some of the hottest style cognoscenti around, visit this tranquil South Park outpost, which is dressed to the max in Southeast Asian décor and bamboo plants. Aside from the fact that a cut at Grasshopper provides the luxury and serenity of a day spa experience, the salon boasts stylists who are constantly prepped with seminars on the minutiae of hair care, and who have... More >>

  • Best Urban Retreat

    One Taste 1074 Folsom (at Seventh Street), 503-1100, www.onetastesf.com This self-described "urban retreat center" is a rare slice of heaven crammed into a decrepit South of Market corner. A community center that focuses on mindful living in all its manifestations, One Taste offers a marketplace for physical and spiritual well-being that includes a cafe full of wholesome treats, an art gallery, a metaphysical bookstore, and airy yoga and massage studios. Its calendar is chock-full of community events, such as... More >>

  • Best Recreation/Learning Center

    Jewish Community Center of San Francisco 3200 California (at Presidio), 292-1200, www.jccsf.org After reopening last spring, the JCCSF, as it's affectionately known, startled regulars with the size of its new $60 million recreation and learning center, a three-story brick monolith on California Street. The schedule of activities is as thick as a college catalog, with just as many classes. There's a full spa, a gym, and two pools; classes and lectures on Jewish life and culture; as well as... More >>

  • Best Pet Store

    Bow Wow Meow 2150 Polk (at Broadway), 440-2845 As Donald Trump would say, the pet industry is a billion-dollar business. But most stores leave something to be desired: You either get an impersonal corporate box, an exclusive salon, or a crumbling hodgepodge run by a crazy cat lady. Bow Wow Meow is different -- or rather, it's a little bit of everything. Focusing on the family dog and cat, this pet store has a wide selection of the basics... More >>

  • Best Corporate Field Trip

    Sur La Table 77 Maiden Lane (at Grant), 732-7900, www.surlatable.com Most corporate field trips in the city are a bore. A bay cruise? Too cold. Motorized cable car ride? Too phony. But one store wisely appeals to the perennial fascinations of the corporate set: cooking shows and wine. After hours, Sur La Table opens its deluxe kitchen to business groups, letting clients learn the art of fine cooking under the tutelage of a chef. At least that's how it... More >>

  • Best Carwash

    Tower Hand Carwash 1601 Mission (at South Van Ness), 558-9274 We like ambition in a carwash, and Tower has it. The company has taken the "anything goes" philosophy of highway gas empires and stuffed it into a corner lot at the eternally jammed intersection of South Van Ness and Mission. Check out these features: a full cafe inside the minimart, serving Seattle's Best coffee, fresh breakfast pastries, and sandwiches; a patio with tables, benches, and wireless Internet; a gimmicky... More >>

  • Best Flowers

    The San Francisco Flower Mart 640 Brannan (at Sixth Street), 392-7944, www.sfflmart.com In the early morning, this block-long market does a bustling wholesale trade; after 10 a.m., it's open to the public. But despite the crowds, there's an eerie small-town, Twilight Zone vibe that's tough to shake, what with the quaint main street, the corner coffee shop, the pleasant storefronts, each one identical, each one selling -- this town sells nothing but flowers! You half expect to stumble upon... More >>

  • Best Way to Show Guests Around

    GoCar Rentals 2715 Hyde (at North Point), (800) 914-6227, www.gocarsf.com Next time the family visits, strap everyone into a GoCar, the world's first GPS-guided talking vehicle, and let technology take over. These tiny, three-wheeled convertibles cover city history and tell drivers where to turn and which way to look. Witness the locations that GoCar -- and not you -- can drag your guests to: Fisherman's Wharf, Union Street, the Presidio, the Golden Gate Bridge, Ocean Beach, Golden Gate Park,... More >>

  • Best Tech Store

    Apple Store 1 Stockton (at Ellis), 392-0202, www.apple.com/retail/sanfrancisco Nobody had any right to expect Apple to build a store this cool, except maybe Mac users. From the metallic exterior to the airy interior, this slick gallery is a potent weapon to lure Windows users. Although most people head straight for the iPods and Bose headphones, plenty experience whiplash when they pass the Power Mac G5s and Cinema Displays and it dawns on them, "Hey, my computer doesn't look like... More >>

  • Best Kids' Stuff

    Miranda's Mama 3785 Balboa (at 39th Avenue), 221-5862, www.mirandasmama.com If you've got a bun in the oven, Miranda's Mama has a great selection of flattering and inexpensive shirts and pants for the expecting woman, but the store's most prominent feature is its assortment of new and used clothes, shoes, books, and toys for babies and young children. In fact, the shop is so packed with goodies that it's an easy place to lose track of your child. Miranda's also... More >>

  • Best Lingerie Store

    Alla Prima 539 Hayes (at Octavia), 864-8180 1420 Grant (at Green), 397-4077 Alla Prima is one of the only San Francisco stores to carry the gorgeous Italian lingerie line La Perla. But every undergarment at this boutique's two locations is a work of art. There are understated bras and panties you can wear every day, as well as dramatic pieces for extra-sexy occasions. It's not cheap -- a bra here can run you $100 -- but unlike the wares... More >>

  • Best Secondhand Kids' Clothes

    Chloe's Closet and Chloe's Other Closet 451A and 443 Cortland (at Moultrie), 642-3300, www.chloescloset.com There's nothing more frustrating than realizing your kid has outgrown her clothes before she's even worn them. And that particularly sucks when the garment is some über-pricey piece of cute from a specialty boutique. The solution? This Bernal Heights resale shop for kids. Most of the items on offer are in prime shape (although you may see a few pieces that are a little bit... More >>

  • Best Cheap Bay Cruise

    Local Commuter Ferries Golden Gate Ferry, 923-2000, www.goldengateferry.org Angel Island-Tiburon Ferry, 435-2131, www.angelislandferry.com Alameda/Oakland Ferry, (510) 749-5837, www.eastbayferry.com There's no shortage of fancy vessels willing to take you out on a little water trip, but it'll cost you: A real cruise generally runs around $35 per person. But should you schedule a trip on one of the local commuter ferries -- which are, after all, intended to be used as general transportation rather than as pleasure cruises -- you'll... More >>

  • Best Communal Baths

    Kabuki Springs & Spa 1750 Geary (at Fillmore), 922-6000, www.kabukisprings.com There's nothing like a good, hot soak to soothe your soul and set aside your troubles. And when that soak also includes a steam room, dry sauna, and complimentary sea salt body scrub, you've got nothing more to worry about besides staying awake in the sauna. Kabuki Springs' communal baths combine Japanese aesthetics with American-style spa extras like your choice of cucumber-, lemon-, or orange-infused waters, a bucket of... More >>

  • Best Costume Rental

    American Conservatory Theater Costume Shop 439-2379, www.act-sf.org Each Halloween San Francisco's costume shops overflow with folks looking to rent kitschy gear for an evening -- did you want to be a flapper, a chicken, or a medieval warrior? But the most elegant, amazing costumes by far are to be found at ACT's Costume Shop, an offshoot of the famed theatrical company, at which the clothing that swathed actors in past productions can be rented for about $100 per week.... More >>

  • Best Travel Bookstore

    Get Lost Travel Books 1825 Market (at Pearl), 437-0529, www.getlostbooks.com The experience of browsing in a great travel bookstore should feel like you're already on vacation. Get Lost is just that kind of trip. You can't beat its exhaustive collection of guidebooks (we found one on traveling by bicycle through Tibet, with mile-by-mile altimeter calculations), but it also has a creative assortment of armchair traveler prose by obscure and well-known authors as well as some unexpected finds. (Going to... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy 45s and 78s

    Amoeba Music 1855 Haight (at Stanyan), 831-1200, www.amoebamusic.com Most people have never even seen a 78 -- that old-style record once pressed in multiple colors, shapes, and sizes -- unless they happen to have musical pack rats for grandparents. And there are a great many who think a 45 is a gun rather than a 7-inch record that's still a favorite of indie punks. But at Amoeba, where there are hundreds of thousands of records, CDs, videos, and DVDs... More >>

  • Best Store for Japan-o-Philes

    Chamalyn 3491 19th St. (at Valencia) Schoolgirl heaven is at 19th and Valencia streets, and if you have any adolescent love of special snacks and ornate stationery, Chamalyn can be heaven for you, too. This new shop imports Japan's innocent oddities by the bushel; the small storefront holds zillions of tiny goodies, from lychee- and ume-flavored gum to itty-bitty "ground mustard triangle biscuits," an out-of-control selection of Pocky (a candy-coated stick cookie), and coconut-flavored sunflower seeds. Across from the edibles,... More >>

  • Best Place to Meditate While Shopping

    The Love of Ganesha 1601A Page (at Ashbury), 621-3071 Tucked a block off bustling Haight Street, the inviting Love of Ganesha sells eye-catching and inexpensive treasures from Tibet. The owner is wonderfully kind and often offers shoppers tea and pastries with which to warm up as they wander the store. Even more surprising and thoughtful is the ornately decorated meditation room, in which you can take off your shoes and sit peacefully surrounded by Hindu gods, fragrant incense, and... More >>

  • Best Consignment Store

    Cris 2056 Polk (at Broadway), 474-1191 You deserve to wear Prada. We know you do. And we also know you're not made of money. Few people are. Well, fortunately for the rest of us, those few are consigning their clothes to Cris. This little secondhand boutique on upper Polk Street sells designer duds (mostly for women) in excellent to new condition, for a fraction of what they'd cost off the rack. Don't believe us? We'll bet you a pair... More >>

  • Best Pulp Fiction

    Kayo Books 814 Post (at Leavenworth), 749-0554, www.kayobooks.com Little wonder why Kayo Books is a favorite of classic kitschmeisters like filmmaker John Waters. It's a store full of wondrous impulse buys with a gift for almost anyone, and it doesn't feel caked in dust despite a focus on older media. Specializing in paperbacks circa 1940 to 1970, Kayo offers a healthy selection not only of well-maintained pulp fiction and outrageous sleaze (hidden in discreet drawers), but also of back... More >>

  • Best Cybercafe

    Brain Wash Cafe and Laundromat 1122 Folsom (at Langton), 255-4866, www.brainwash.com This South of Market hangout gets our vote as the coolest cybercafe this side of Amsterdam. What else can you say about a place where you can chow down on buffalo wings or Chinese chicken salad after stuffing your dirty laundry into a washer? You can also surf the Net, play one of the pinball machines in the back, or enjoy a brewski from the cafe/bar's selection of... More >>

  • Best Party Supply Store

    Angray Fantastico 559 Sixth St. (at Bryant), 982-0680 You've already spent an arm and a leg on liquor, so why cough up a lung for decorations, plates, cups, and napkins? Thank God for Angray Fantastico, a cut-rate warehouse filled with party odds and ends near the Flower Mart. Here you can find everything from tiki torches to tablecloths for much less than you'd pay at your neighborhood party store. It's also the perfect place for those who want to... More >>

  • Best Affordable Acupuncture

    American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine 450 Connecticut (at 19th Street), 282-9603, www.actcm.edu San Francisco's best-kept health care secret for anyone on a budget and in need of relief, ACTCM's clinic offers a full array of acupuncture and massage, six days a week, performed by interns at various learning stages. The interns are fully supervised by highly skilled instructors schooled in both China and the United States; once you enter their world, your chart stays on file, so no... More >>

  • Best Welding Supplies

    Airgas 525 23rd St. (at Illinois), 648-9353, www.airgas.com The new Bay Bridge span may be a boondoggle, but if exploited properly by natives, it could solve the region's outsourcing problem. Thousands of jobs in areas such as financial services, engineering, programming, and other San Francisco specialties are in the process of being shipped to Bangalore and Manila over fiber optic lines. The solution: Use the bridge project as a source of hundreds of relatively high-paying welding jobs. To get... More >>

  • Best Mexican Art Store

    Polanco 393 Hayes (at Gough), 252-5753, www.polancogallery.com From vintage statues of saints from the time of the conquistadors to gorgeous papier-mâché skeletons from contemporary Mexican artists, Polanco's folk and fine arts from south of the border are eye-popping. Although the store has been a favorite of serious collectors since it opened in 1990, it also houses many fine pieces at affordable prices for beginners and people looking for funky gifts. This is the place for Day of the Dead... More >>

  • Best Place to Learn a Romance Language

    San Francisco Italian Athletic Club 1630 Stockton (at Union), 781-0165, www.sfiac.org Put to rest your questions about what goes on behind the heavy wooden door and red-and-white facade of this North Beach institution and step inside for un po' di cultura e apprendimento. In the spring, fall, and winter, the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club offers weekly classes taught by instructors who are either native speakers or have more degrees than you do. Or both. Classes are a reasonable size,... More >>

  • Best Jazz Vinyl

    Groove Yard 5555 Claremont (at Forest), Oakland, (510) 655-8400 Though there are plenty of good rationalizations -- aesthetic and auditory -- for collecting jazz on vinyl, the pursuit often gets vilified as inherently pretentious, like knowing how to fox trot or writing a villanelle. We'd like to yank the white ear buds out of those businessmen on BART who tap their toes to 20 gigs of digitized swing and drag them into Groove Yard. The place is like something... More >>

  • Best Used Bookstores

    The good used bookstore is a civic necessity: You can tell a town or a neighborhood is in decline when such shops start disappearing. The Castro District hasn't been the same since its used shop shut down several years ago. A phantom experience in hyperspace isn't right either. We like to pick up a volume to get its heft, and to check for loose bindings, foxed corners, and the snail trail of ink scrawls and yellow highlighter. Good used... More >>

  • Best Hippie Shop

    The Sword and Rose 85 Carl (at Cole), 681-5434 The best part about this occult shop is getting there. First you walk gingerly between two buildings and into a verdant, cozy patio. At the rear you come to a little hobbit hole surrounded by vines. Open the door and you enter a dimly lit, tiny, wonderful-smelling oasis of calmness. There are armchairs, altars to Isis, a table in the corner for tarot readings, and a whole wall of house-made... More >>

  • Best Flea Market Stereo Equipment

    Mission Village Market 2955 18th St. (at Alabama) Maybe it's an addiction to high-volume Supertramp, or perhaps the habit of falling asleep with the stereo on, but in the last few years we've worn out one piece of rinky-dink, Third World audio equipment after the next. It's a budget audiophile's cruel chicken-and-egg situation: We buy cheap gear because we're broke, and the new gear breaks because it's cheap. But we finally interrupted the cycle after happening upon Mission Village... More >>

  • Best Hardware Store

    E.M. Hundley Hardware Co. 617 Bryant (at Fourth Street), 777-5050, www.hundleyhardware.com Hundley is a hardware store in the most literal of senses, its showroom floor a veritable explosion of knobs, hooks, pulls, handles, hinges, doorstops, and bath setups (matching towel bars, shelves, soap dishes, toothbrush holders, mirrors, etc.), with some cleaning supplies thrown in as well. It's not for the faint of heart -- our initial visit lasted about an hour, and all we did was browse, so we... More >>

  • Best Toy Shopping for Adults

    Kidrobot 1512 Haight (at Ashbury), 487-9000, www.kidrobot.com Toys aren't just for children anymore, and Kidrobot exists so that you can benefit from this simple and wonderful fact. The store (which also has locations in New York and Los Angeles) showcases vinyl figurines of all sizes and styles made by a wide range of cutting-edge artists. The toys are part of a trend popularized in Asia that has begun to capture the cosmopolitan American imagination. Many of them are displayed... More >>

  • Best Piñatas

    Piñata Art Studio & Gallery 4268 Mission (at Silver), 333-8001 The piñatas displayed at this tiny Excelsior storefront are so beautiful and festive that you almost hate to whack the hell out of them with a baseball bat. Handcrafted in a back-room workshop, they hang from the walls and rafters in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, just waiting for your next fiesta: burros, parrots, caterpillars, witches, hula girls, wedding bells, a big 49ers football, even the spitting... More >>

  • Best Emergency Dog/Cat Sitters

    Fetch! Pet Care 563-3824, www.fetchpetcare.com Fetch! Pet Care, founded by a Berkeley businessman and now spreading like wildfire throughout the state, is not your typical pet-sitting operation. For one thing, it handles crisis extraordinarily well. For example, we were recently away for two weeks in Southeast Asia and discovered via e-mail that our cat-sitting arrangements had fallen through. It was mighty difficult to enjoy our mangosteen breakfast thinking of poor Kitty all alone with a dwindling food supply in... More >>

  • Shopping & Services

    Best Bookstore City Lights 261 Columbus (at Broadway), 362-8193, www.citylights.com Although it's a required stop on the Columbus Avenue tourist crawl, bordering Jack Kerouac Alley and Vesuvio Cafe, City Lights, founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, retains its pioneer spirit. The floors creak, which is nice, and the bookshelves look like they were built over time, on site, by Ferlinghetti himself. The bathroom is for staff only; the coffee bars are up the street. The history -- well, you probably know... More >>

  • Readers' Poll

    Best Manicures/Pedicures Silk Nail Salon Best Massages Kabuki Springs & Spa Best Hair Salon Spaghetti & Ravioli (S&R) Best Pet Supplies Noe Valley Pet Co. Best Garden Supplies Floorcraft Garden Center Best Sex Supplies Good Vibrations Best Place to Buy LPs Amoeba Music Best Music Supplies Guitar Center Best Lingerie Store Victoria's Secret Best Art Supplies Flax Art & Design Best Place to Buy CDs Amoeba Music Best Used Furniture Store No winner Best Hotel Phoenix Hotel Best Jewelry Store... More >>

  • Best DVD Selection

    Amoeba Music

    Amoeba's already known far and wide for its amazing array of LPs, CDs, 45s, and other musical forms, but equally impressive is its huge selection of DVDs. New, used, rare, and out-of-print titles are bought and sold by the thousands each week, keeping the turnover lively and the assortment fresh. And such an assortment it is: everything from westerns, musicals, and noir to cult animation, silents, and the collected oeuvre of Russ Meyer, all carefully organized, alphabetized, and maintained... More >>

  • Best Close Shave

    Jun Yu

    It's getting more and more difficult to find a barber willing to soap up your kisser, scrape off your stubble, and slap on a little Vitalis for good measure, but Jun Yu performs this bygone ritual with professional panache on a regular basis. Make your way into his tiny, memento-crowded operation (Sinatra, Eastwood, and Como are among your predecessors), sink into the single chair, and place your physiognomy in his capable hands. You're cranked back into a horizontal position,... More >>

  • Best Magic Shop

    Misdirections Magic Shop

    When you have a hankering to divine the thoughts of others, escape from a straitjacket, saw a lady in half, or confound your friends and neighbors in general, head to this Inner Sunset temple to the art of prestidigitation. Everything you need to baffle, amuse, and amaze is on the premises: coin tricks, flash pots, magic wands, vanishing Coke bottles, see-through blindfolds, collapsible top hats, even a fine array of latex doves. Learn Newton's Nightmare, the Silver Sanctum, the... More >>

  • Best Record Store

    Open Mind Music

    The joy of discovery -- whether of great new material you'd never have come across or old stuff you've searched for forever -- is the best part of record-hunting at Open Mind Music. The store probably has less than half the stock of Amoeba, but here you can listen to vinyl before you buy it (unlike at Amoeba). With the humble motto "We don't always have what you're looking for, but we usually have the things you didn't know... More >>

  • Best Alternative to Public Transportation

    City CarShare

    Since 2001, City CarShare has been trying to wean Bay Area folks off their dependence on owning a car, and with 4,000 members (up 30 percent from a year ago), it looks like the nonprofit is making headway. Like similar programs in cities such as Portland, Ore., Chicago, and Seattle, City CarShare provides green VW Beetles, Jetta wagons, pickup trucks, and other vehicles for round-the-clock rental -- you can get your auto from one of 40-plus locations (known as... More >>

  • Best Secondhand Clothes

    Clothes Contact

    Clothes Contact 473 Valencia (at 16th Street), 621-3212 Clothes Contact is one of the few places in town where you can still purchase your couture not by label or fabric but by gross tonnage, a popular concept back in the pre-dot-com '90s. Used clothing, fabrics, buttons, and patches are carefully weeded of overt dreck and displayed throughout the store's cavernous interior in well-organized fashion. The quality is a step above your standard rummage store selection, with cool leather jackets, trench... More >>

  • Best Gender-Illusionist Supplies

    Retro Fit

    Steven LeMay -- owner of Retro Fit and 1999 SF Weekly Wild Side Model Search winner -- is something of a fashion chameleon. On his boutique's calling card, he's pictured in four separate photos: as a skirt-suited lady of the 1940s, as a slacker dude complete with knit cap, as an attitudinal club girl in a miniskirt, and (a stroke of brilliance) as a drag king. It's an appropriate bit of advertising, given that the store has an amazing... More >>

  • Best Jeans

    AB Fits 1519 Grant (at Union) and 40 Grant (at Geary), both 982-5726, www.abfits.com In the rapid-fire world of chic jeans, fit is everything, and the gurus at AB Fits know how to fit. The dressing rooms in the North Beach location contain no mirrors, and once you walk out, everything stops. The jeans are critiqued. "Let me see the rear," a salesperson commands. Judgments are passed, recommendations made, and additional pairs miraculously appear from the skilled staff. Other shoppers... More >>

  • Best Gifts

    Nest

    Spend a few minutes in Nest, and one thing becomes instantly clear: The buyers are geniuses. This French-themed store is small, a shoe box compared to a big-box retailer, yet it sells nearly everything -- from clothing, bedding, and tableware to books, chandeliers, furniture, knickknacks, and wall art. Almost all of it is something you want, from the Kerry Castle quilts to the vintage cards, and the stock changes rapidly. Nest, which leans toward an antique French look, attracts... More >>

  • Best Car Repair

    Cowden Automotive Inc

    We once had a 1987 Honda that Cowden Automotive perpetually kept two steps ahead of a systemwide failure. We'd bring it in with our dilemma ("We need to drive to Mammoth, possibly in a blizzard"), and Cowden's mechanics would fix just enough of the car to get the job done, as our wallet demanded. A broken wheel stud, for instance, never got repaired, and that's what holds the wheel to the car. The staff was candid with us, an... More >>

  • Best Cheap Bed

    San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf Hostel

    At $22 a night, the HI-SF Fisherman's Wharf hostel at Fort Mason is a happily inexpensive place to rest your head. Despite its name, the hostel is far removed from the waterfront mall. Housed in a historic two-story Civil War-era building next to a meadow -- a meadow! -- and perched on the Fort Mason cliff, it offers rooms with views of the bay and old military cannons pointed toward the water. Trees are scattered throughout the property, and... More >>

  • Best Graffiti Supplies

    Graffiti has come a long way in the past 30 years. Once an illicit juvenile pastime that drew the scorn of anyone over the age of 20, it has arguably become the most vibrant and visible of all modern forms of art. The style is now a primer for an ever-expanding niche dubbed "urban art," and has spawned hipster superstars such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Doze Green, and San Francisco's own Berry McGee (who currently has a prominent piece displayed... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy Art

    The Canvas Cafe and Gallery

    Unlike cafes that feature a few watercolors on the wall and call themselves galleries, the Canvas is a whopping 1,100 square feet of art space plus 2,900 additional square feet of cafe and lounge with more art interspersed. The point of all this fusion is to get apathetic coffee-sippers to notice that art can be an organic, integral part of their lives. The gallery showcases painting, sculpture, jewelry, textiles, photography, and video, with a focus on emerging locals. If you... More >>

  • Best Bed-and-Breakfast

    Chateau Tivoli

    If the painted lady is the quintessential San Franciscan signifier, the Chateau Tivoli is the exemplar of exemplars. Built in 1892, this Alamo Square fixture has a history that's also distinctly S.F.: In 1975, it operated as the Center for Release and Integration, a major organization in the New Age movement, and was covered in friezes of lotus flowers and unicorns. In the late 1980s, it underwent painstaking restoration, which included the replacement of its grand oak staircase. Now... More >>

  • Best Jewelry Bargains

    San Francisco Giftcenter & Jewelrymart

    The enormous Giftcenter & Jewelrymart in SOMA houses more than 125 gem and jewelry sellers hawking their goods at rock-bottom wholesale prices. To enter you have to call one of the sellers and be put on the guest list, because the Jewelrymart's not open to the public. But once you get past the security guards, you can save anywhere from 30 to 50 percent on everything from costume jewelry to watches to gemstones. It's easy enough to get on... More >>

  • Best Furniture

    New Deal

    New Deal may be the best all-purpose custom furniture and accessory store in San Francisco. A modest corner shop packed with gorgeous innovations by local and international designers, its contemporary, retro, and classic influences effortlessly mingle in big pieces that know how to work a room. Customers can flip through a catalog and peruse more than 150 sofa designs and 1,000 fabrics. Selections include cube-shaped, silk-covered ottomans and four-poster teak claw-foot beds that are as imposing as thrones. Charming... More >>

  • Best Sex Toys

    Good Vibrations

    Good Vibrations 603 Valencia (at 17th Street), 522-5460, www.goodvibes.com Good Vibrations makes the business of fucking fascinating. Foreplay at the Mission District sex toy emporium begins with its trademark vibrator museum: a revolving display of a dozen quaint devices (such as eggbeater contraptions and pitiful attempts to model the penis) and chronological explanations of their history. The excitement builds with a creative selection of dildos and vibrators, ranging from rainbow strap-ons to the infamous Rabbit. The selection of novelty items... More >>

  • Best Cosmetics

    Lush

    Lush 240 Powell (at O'Farrell), 693-9633, www.lush.com In the world of ubiquitous floral-reeking bath and body supplies, Lush peddles some of the most inventive products available. A U.K.-based company that deals in handmade, all-natural cosmetics, it's known for its frothy bubble baths (bath bombs that fizz and saturate your water with sweetly scented color) and scrumptious massage bars, whose essential oils glide onto your skin like frosting. In addition to bath products, fragrances, and hair and skin care items, Lush... More >>

  • Best Herbs and Natural Medicine

    The Scarlet Sage Herb Co.

    Scarlet Sage is a treasure trove of holistic knowledge, containing everything an herbal enthusiast could ever want -- sans the hollow New Age trappings. Don't get sidetracked by the voluminous selection of tarot decks and scented candles: Scarlet Sage is, first and foremost, a retail store specializing in medicinal herbs from Native American and Western European healing practices. Its owners display a passion for the healing properties of herbs and a desire to educate people through an impressive array... More >>

  • Best Urban Retreat

    One Taste

    One Taste 1074 Folsom (at Seventh Street), 503-1100, www.onetastesf.com This self-described "urban retreat center" is a rare slice of heaven crammed into a decrepit South of Market corner. A community center that focuses on mindful living in all its manifestations, One Taste offers a marketplace for physical and spiritual well-being that includes a cafe full of wholesome treats, an art gallery, a metaphysical bookstore, and airy yoga and massage studios. Its calendar is chock-full of community events, such as... More >>

  • Best Recreation/Learning Center

    Jewish Community Center of San Francisco

    3200 California (at Presidio), 292-1200, www.jccsf.org After reopening last spring, the JCCSF, as it's affectionately known, startled regulars with the size of its new $60 million recreation and learning center, a three-story brick monolith on California Street. The schedule of activities is as thick as a college catalog, with just as many classes. There's a full spa, a gym, and two pools; classes and lectures on Jewish life and culture; as well as a long list of art, dance,... More >>

  • Best Pet Store

    Bow Wow Meow

    As Donald Trump would say, the pet industry is a billion-dollar business. But most stores leave something to be desired: You either get an impersonal corporate box, an exclusive salon, or a crumbling hodgepodge run by a crazy cat lady. Bow Wow Meow is different -- or rather, it's a little bit of everything. Focusing on the family dog and cat, this pet store has a wide selection of the basics (litter, food, toys, bowls, and beds) as well as... More >>

  • Best Corporate Field Trip

    Sur La Table

    Most corporate field trips in the city are a bore. A bay cruise? Too cold. Motorized cable car ride? Too phony. But one store wisely appeals to the perennial fascinations of the corporate set: cooking shows and wine. After hours, Sur La Table opens its deluxe kitchen to business groups, letting clients learn the art of fine cooking under the tutelage of a chef. At least that's how it starts. After a lesson in safety and cutting skills, groups... More >>

  • Best Carwash

    Tower Hand Car Wash

    We like ambition in a carwash, and Tower has it. The company has taken the "anything goes" philosophy of highway gas empires and stuffed it into a corner lot at the eternally jammed intersection of South Van Ness and Mission. Check out these features: a full cafe inside the minimart, serving Seattle's Best coffee, fresh breakfast pastries, and sandwiches; a patio with tables, benches, and wireless Internet; a gimmicky tower housing a wireless phone store; and a gas pump... More >>

  • Best Flowers

    San Francisco Flower Mart

    640 Brannan (at Sixth Street), 392-7944, www.sfflmart.com In the early morning, this block-long market does a bustling wholesale trade; after 10 a.m., it's open to the public. But despite the crowds, there's an eerie small-town, Twilight Zone vibe that's tough to shake, what with the quaint main street, the corner coffee shop, the pleasant storefronts, each one identical, each one selling -- this town sells nothing but flowers! You half expect to stumble upon sod-based aliens incubating under compost.... More >>

  • Best Way to Show Guests Around

    GoCar Rentals 2715 Hyde (at North Point), (800) 914-6227, www.gocarsf.com Next time the family visits, strap everyone into a GoCar, the world's first GPS-guided talking vehicle, and let technology take over. These tiny, three-wheeled convertibles cover city history and tell drivers where to turn and which way to look. Witness the locations that GoCar -- and not you -- can drag your guests to: Fisherman's Wharf, Union Street, the Presidio, the Golden Gate Bridge, Ocean Beach, Golden Gate Park,... More >>

  • Best Tech Store

    The Apple Store

    Apple Store 1 Stockton (at Ellis), 392-0202, www.apple.com/retail/sanfrancisco Nobody had any right to expect Apple to build a store this cool, except maybe Mac users. From the metallic exterior to the airy interior, this slick gallery is a potent weapon to lure Windows users. Although most people head straight for the iPods and Bose headphones, plenty experience whiplash when they pass the Power Mac G5s and Cinema Displays and it dawns on them, "Hey, my computer doesn't look like... More >>

  • Best Kids' Stuff

    Miranda's Mama 3785 Balboa (at 39th Avenue), 221-5862, www.mirandasmama.com If you've got a bun in the oven, Miranda's Mama has a great selection of flattering and inexpensive shirts and pants for the expecting woman, but the store's most prominent feature is its assortment of new and used clothes, shoes, books, and toys for babies and young children. In fact, the shop is so packed with goodies that it's an easy place to lose track of your child. Miranda's also... More >>

  • Best Lingerie Store

    Alla Prima

    Alla Prima is one of the only San Francisco stores to carry the gorgeous Italian lingerie line La Perla. But every undergarment at this boutique's two locations is a work of art. There are understated bras and panties you can wear every day, as well as dramatic pieces for extra-sexy occasions. It's not cheap -- a bra here can run you $100 -- but unlike the wares at other lingerie purveyors, Alla Prima's products will last for years if... More >>

  • Best Secondhand Kids' Clothes

    Chloe's Closet and Chloe's Other Closet 451A and 443 Cortland (at Moultrie), 642-3300, www.chloescloset.com There's nothing more frustrating than realizing your kid has outgrown her clothes before she's even worn them. And that particularly sucks when the garment is some über-pricey piece of cute from a specialty boutique. The solution? This Bernal Heights resale shop for kids. Most of the items on offer are in prime shape (although you may see a few pieces that are a little bit... More >>

  • Best Cheap Bay Cruise

    Local Commuter Ferries Golden Gate Ferry, 923-2000, www.goldengateferry.org Angel Island-Tiburon Ferry, 435-2131, www.angelislandferry.com Alameda/Oakland Ferry, (510) 749-5837, www.eastbayferry.com There's no shortage of fancy vessels willing to take you out on a little water trip, but it'll cost you: A real cruise generally runs around $35 per person. But should you schedule a trip on one of the local commuter ferries -- which are, after all, intended to be used as general transportation rather than as pleasure cruises -- you'll... More >>

  • Best Communal Baths

    Kabuki Springs & Spa

    There's nothing like a good, hot soak to soothe your soul and set aside your troubles. And when that soak also includes a steam room, dry sauna, and complimentary sea salt body scrub, you've got nothing more to worry about besides staying awake in the sauna. Kabuki Springs' communal baths combine Japanese aesthetics with American-style spa extras like your choice of cucumber-, lemon-, or orange-infused waters, a bucket of icy-cold washcloths to stimulate the skin, cucumber slices to relieve... More >>

  • Best Costume Rental

    American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.)

    Each Halloween San Francisco's costume shops overflow with folks looking to rent kitschy gear for an evening -- did you want to be a flapper, a chicken, or a medieval warrior? But the most elegant, amazing costumes by far are to be found at ACT's Costume Shop, an offshoot of the famed theatrical company, at which the clothing that swathed actors in past productions can be rented for about $100 per week. The cost is relatively high, but it's... More >>

  • Best Travel Bookstore

    Coffee & Power

    Get Lost Travel Books 1825 Market (at Pearl), 437-0529, www.getlostbooks.com The experience of browsing in a great travel bookstore should feel like you're already on vacation. Get Lost is just that kind of trip. You can't beat its exhaustive collection of guidebooks (we found one on traveling by bicycle through Tibet, with mile-by-mile altimeter calculations), but it also has a creative assortment of armchair traveler prose by obscure and well-known authors as well as some unexpected finds. (Going to... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy 45s and 78s

    Amoeba Music

    Most people have never even seen a 78 -- that old-style record once pressed in multiple colors, shapes, and sizes -- unless they happen to have musical pack rats for grandparents. And there are a great many who think a 45 is a gun rather than a 7-inch record that's still a favorite of indie punks. But at Amoeba, where there are hundreds of thousands of records, CDs, videos, and DVDs ripe for the pillaging, you can see 45 and... More >>

  • Best Store for Japan-o-Philes

    Chamalyn

    Schoolgirl heaven is at 19th and Valencia streets, and if you have any adolescent love of special snacks and ornate stationery, Chamalyn can be heaven for you, too. This new shop imports Japan's innocent oddities by the bushel; the small storefront holds zillions of tiny goodies, from lychee- and ume-flavored gum to itty-bitty "ground mustard triangle biscuits," an out-of-control selection of Pocky (a candy-coated stick cookie), and coconut-flavored sunflower seeds. Across from the edibles, packages of perky microscopic stickers line... More >>

  • Best Place to Meditate While Shopping

    The Love of Ganesha

    Tucked a block off bustling Haight Street, the inviting Love of Ganesha sells eye-catching and inexpensive treasures from Tibet. The owner is wonderfully kind and often offers shoppers tea and pastries with which to warm up as they wander the store. Even more surprising and thoughtful is the ornately decorated meditation room, in which you can take off your shoes and sit peacefully surrounded by Hindu gods, fragrant incense, and candles. Once refreshed and ready to explore, you'll find... More >>

  • Best Consignment Store

    Cris

    You deserve to wear Prada. We know you do. And we also know you're not made of money. Few people are. Well, fortunately for the rest of us, those few are consigning their clothes to Cris. This little secondhand boutique on upper Polk Street sells designer duds (mostly for women) in excellent to new condition, for a fraction of what they'd cost off the rack. Don't believe us? We'll bet you a pair of $110 Marc Jacobs red velveteen... More >>

  • Best Pulp Fiction

    Kayo Books

    Little wonder why Kayo Books is a favorite of classic kitschmeisters like filmmaker John Waters. It's a store full of wondrous impulse buys with a gift for almost anyone, and it doesn't feel caked in dust despite a focus on older media. Specializing in paperbacks circa 1940 to 1970, Kayo offers a healthy selection not only of well-maintained pulp fiction and outrageous sleaze (hidden in discreet drawers), but also of back issues of publications such as Playboy, Rolling Stone,... More >>

  • Best Cybercafe

    Brainwash Cafe & Laundromat

    This South of Market hangout gets our vote as the coolest cybercafe this side of Amsterdam. What else can you say about a place where you can chow down on buffalo wings or Chinese chicken salad after stuffing your dirty laundry into a washer? You can also surf the Net, play one of the pinball machines in the back, or enjoy a brewski from the cafe/bar's selection of eight beers on draft. Kicking back is a virtue here, if... More >>

  • Best Party Supply Store

    Angray Fantastico

    You've already spent an arm and a leg on liquor, so why cough up a lung for decorations, plates, cups, and napkins? Thank God for Angray Fantastico, a cut-rate warehouse filled with party odds and ends near the Flower Mart. Here you can find everything from tiki torches to tablecloths for much less than you'd pay at your neighborhood party store. It's also the perfect place for those who want to make their own wedding centerpieces. And when Halloween rolls... More >>

  • Best Affordable Acupuncture

    American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine

    San Francisco's best-kept health care secret for anyone on a budget and in need of relief, ACTCM's clinic offers a full array of acupuncture and massage, six days a week, performed by interns at various learning stages. The interns are fully supervised by highly skilled instructors schooled in both China and the United States; once you enter their world, your chart stays on file, so no matter who you get, he'll know what you've already had done. It's easy... More >>

  • Best Welding Supplies

    Airgas 525 23rd St. (at Illinois), 648-9353, www.airgas.com The new Bay Bridge span may be a boondoggle, but if exploited properly by natives, it could solve the region's outsourcing problem. Thousands of jobs in areas such as financial services, engineering, programming, and other San Francisco specialties are in the process of being shipped to Bangalore and Manila over fiber optic lines. The solution: Use the bridge project as a source of hundreds of relatively high-paying welding jobs. To get... More >>

  • Best Mexican Art Store

    Polanco Gallery

    From vintage statues of saints from the time of the conquistadors to gorgeous papier-mâché skeletons from contemporary Mexican artists, Polanco's folk and fine arts from south of the border are eye-popping. Although the store has been a favorite of serious collectors since it opened in 1990, it also houses many fine pieces at affordable prices for beginners and people looking for funky gifts. This is the place for Day of the Dead fans and for anyone who loves the... More >>

  • Best Place to Learn a Romance Language

    San Francisco Italian Athletic Club

    Put to rest your questions about what goes on behind the heavy wooden door and red-and-white facade of this North Beach institution and step inside for un po' di cultura e apprendimento. In the spring, fall, and winter, the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club offers weekly classes taught by instructors who are either native speakers or have more degrees than you do. Or both. Classes are a reasonable size, about 20 students to a room. Even better, they're cheap:... More >>

  • Best Jazz Vinyl

    Groove Yard

    Though there are plenty of good rationalizations -- aesthetic and auditory -- for collecting jazz on vinyl, the pursuit often gets vilified as inherently pretentious, like knowing how to fox trot or writing a villanelle. We'd like to yank the white ear buds out of those businessmen on BART who tap their toes to 20 gigs of digitized swing and drag them into Groove Yard. The place is like something out of a jazz elitist's dream: rows of pristine... More >>

  • Best Used Bookstores

    Green Apple Books

    The good used bookstore is a civic necessity: You can tell a town or a neighborhood is in decline when such shops start disappearing. The Castro District hasn't been the same since its used shop shut down several years ago. A phantom experience in hyperspace isn't right either. We like to pick up a volume to get its heft, and to check for loose bindings, foxed corners, and the snail trail of ink scrawls and yellow highlighter. Good used... More >>

  • Best Hippie Shop

    The Sword and the Rose

    The best part about this occult shop is getting there. First you walk gingerly between two buildings and into a verdant, cozy patio. At the rear you come to a little hobbit hole surrounded by vines. Open the door and you enter a dimly lit, tiny, wonderful-smelling oasis of calmness. There are armchairs, altars to Isis, a table in the corner for tarot readings, and a whole wall of house-made incense. The tarot readings are thorough, sliding scale, and... More >>

  • Best Flea Market Stereo Equipment

    Mission Village Market

    Maybe it's an addiction to high-volume Supertramp, or perhaps the habit of falling asleep with the stereo on, but in the last few years we've worn out one piece of rinky-dink, Third World audio equipment after the next. It's a budget audiophile's cruel chicken-and-egg situation: We buy cheap gear because we're broke, and the new gear breaks because it's cheap. But we finally interrupted the cycle after happening upon Mission Village Market. Hoity-toity antique hunters won't find much within... More >>

  • Best Hardware Store

    Hundley Hardware

    Hundley is a hardware store in the most literal of senses, its showroom floor a veritable explosion of knobs, hooks, pulls, handles, hinges, doorstops, and bath setups (matching towel bars, shelves, soap dishes, toothbrush holders, mirrors, etc.), with some cleaning supplies thrown in as well. It's not for the faint of heart -- our initial visit lasted about an hour, and all we did was browse, so we recommend having a good idea of what you're looking for before... More >>

  • Best Toy Shopping for Adults

    Kidrobot 1512 Haight (at Ashbury), 487-9000, www.kidrobot.com Toys aren't just for children anymore, and Kidrobot exists so that you can benefit from this simple and wonderful fact. The store (which also has locations in New York and Los Angeles) showcases vinyl figurines of all sizes and styles made by a wide range of cutting-edge artists. The toys are part of a trend popularized in Asia that has begun to capture the cosmopolitan American imagination. Many of them are displayed... More >>

  • Best Piñatas

    Piñata Art Studio & Gallery

    The piñatas displayed at this tiny Excelsior storefront are so beautiful and festive that you almost hate to whack the hell out of them with a baseball bat. Handcrafted in a back-room workshop, they hang from the walls and rafters in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, just waiting for your next fiesta: burros, parrots, caterpillars, witches, hula girls, wedding bells, a big 49ers football, even the spitting image of SpongeBob SquarePants. The studio also makes custom piñatas, given... More >>

  • Best Emergency Dog/Cat Sitters

    Fetch! Pet Care

    Fetch! Pet Care, founded by a Berkeley businessman and now spreading like wildfire throughout the state, is not your typical pet-sitting operation. For one thing, it handles crisis extraordinarily well. For example, we were recently away for two weeks in Southeast Asia and discovered via e-mail that our cat-sitting arrangements had fallen through. It was mighty difficult to enjoy our mangosteen breakfast thinking of poor Kitty all alone with a dwindling food supply in faraway foggy San Francisco, knowing... More >>

  • Best Bookstore

    City Lights Books

    Although it's a required stop on the Columbus Avenue tourist crawl, bordering Jack Kerouac Alley and Vesuvio Cafe, City Lights, founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, retains its pioneer spirit. The floors creak, which is nice, and the bookshelves look like they were built over time, on site, by Ferlinghetti himself. The bathroom is for staff only; the coffee bars are up the street. The history -- well, you probably know the history: the first paperback bookstore, Beat magnet, Howl publisher.... More >>

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