The Best of San Francisco 2020

Celebrating the bars, clubs, restaurants, merchants, parks, and people who have persevered through this historically difficult year.

Historically speaking, SF Weekly’s annual Best of San Francisco issue drops in May. Historically speaking, it’s a massive issue — so big, that we break it into two distinct books. Historically speaking, in addition to giving you, our loyal readers, the opportunity to weigh in on your favorite bars, clubs, restaurants, coffee shops, merchants, parks, and people, we, the editorial staff of SF Weekly also pull back the curtain on ourselves and recommend our favorite watering holes, tea houses, and other hangouts.

But this has been an historically difficult year. And so here we are, bringing you our better-late-than-never Best of San Francisco 2020 edition… in December.

Reader’s Poll Winners

Arts & Entertainment

Bars & Clubs

Food & Dining

People & Places

Shopping & Services

Sports & Recreation

When the economy went into recession back in March, our advertisers — the aforementioned bars, clubs, restaurants, and merchants we love so much — had no choice but to cut back on spending, and pulled ads from our pages. In turn we had little choice but to pause the print edition for more than half of 2020. We were temporarily furloughed, and we had to say goodbye to a few members of our team.

We’ve been back in print for going on two months now, and we are thrilled about it. What’s more, we were incredibly excited to see how many of you voted. Beyond that, we are positively ecstatic to see that many of the businesses who had to dial back their 2020 advertising budgets, decided to take out spots in this week’s paper.

That’s not just because their dollars keep our lights on. It’s because we’re taking this as a good sign.

Though we still have some hard months ahead of us, the promise of a vaccine gives us hope. By the time our scheduled Best Of SF 2021 issue hits the streets, we expect this city to be well on its way to recovery. We expect that as we edge into the summer and fall of next year, the San Francisco businesses who were able to weather the pandemic will be humming along. And we expect that by this time next year, instead of figuring out whether we can safely operate a heat lamp underneath that old camping canopy, we’ll be singing “Auld Lang Syne” inside our favorite local bars.

It is in this spirit of hope and optimism that we bring you this year’s Best of San Francisco issue. Thank you so much for your readership and your support. Here’s to a brighter 2021. Cheers!

Editors’ Picks

Bars and Clubs

Best Not-So-Divey Dive Bar
The Lone Palm
3394 22nd St.

Is it a dive bar? A classy lounge? An ’80s art gallery? The Lone Palm, straddling the Mission and Noe Valley, is all the above. Its white table cloths and soft candle light bring out the details of its strange and kind of amazing art collection. The mood is so cool it’s easy to forget what — or how much — you’ve been drinking. (BS)

Best FiDi Tiki Bar
Pagan Idol 
375 Bush St.

Once normality returns, save yourself the trek up Nob Hill to the legendary Tonga Room and instead check out Pagan Idol in the lowlands of the FiDi. Located at Bush and Kearny, Pagan Idol’s Tiki decor transforms the modest space into an adventureland. The drink menu is lots of fun, too. There’s no place better to throw off the shackles of the corporate grind and settle into a cool, island groove. (BS)

Best Place to Get Your Off-the-Wagon Tom Waits On
Edinburgh Castle
950 Geary St.

Back before the novel coronavirus, plenty of Americans voluntarily assaulted their cardiovascular systems by willfully breathing in carcinogenic cigarette smoke. A select few imbibed and inhaled while pretending they knew how to sing and play the piano in the front room of Edinburgh Castle. While we wouldn’t recommend anyone comport themselves in such a manner, we can’t promise that we won’t make our way to this Tenderloin watering hole and trot out a drunken cover of “Tango Till They’re Sore” once this whole pandemic blows over. (NV)

Food and Drink

Best Deli Sandwiches
Roxie Food Center
1901 San Jose Ave.

If you’re hungry, Roxie is the place to go. Their dutch crunch rolls melt in your mouth — that is, if you can get your mouth around them. The Roxie Special has the whole kitchen sink, and will probably be good for three meals. Take your sandwich, and your windbreaker, across the street to Balboa Park for an urban outdoor dining experience. (BS)

Best Instagrammable Dessert
U-Dessert Story
3489 16th St.

U-Dessert Story’s desserts are the definition of “Instagrammable.” Mountains of tea-flavored  shaved ice, snowy coconut-dusted crepe cakes, decadently-layered banoffee pies — the list goes on! We promise the desserts taste just as good as they look. (GZL)

Best Matcha Latte
17 Kearny St.

If you like matcha, know that Asha carries some of the best. The Bay Area tea house is all about responsibly sourcing artisan teas from Asia for the freshest, richest flavors. They’re also known for experimenting with seasonal fruit purees — blood oranges, fuji apples, raspberries, and mangoes. (GZL)

People and Places 

Best New Park
Crane Cove Park

San Francisco’s legendary collection of parks keeps getting better. Crane Cove Park, which opened this fall on the Dogpatch shoreline, is like a new Aquatic Park with a wading area and places to launch kayaks and paddleboards — all the more important as the city’s climate becomes more like L.A.’s. Some preserved industrial relics, including vestiges of the construction of BART’s transbay tube, round out the atmosphere.  (BS)

Best Covid Test Site
Pier 30
599 The Embarcadero

Why get a COVID test at a dreary old clinic, when you could get one with sweeping bay views? San Francisco’s free, easy testing program picked a picturesque spot at Pier 30, right beneath the Bay Bridge. (BS)

Best New Building
950 Market St. 

Buildings on Market Street should act like it. Serif, a new condo and hotel building between Union Square and the Tenderloin, pays homage to its location. The rounded flatiron design is in conversation with Flood Building a couple of blocks away. And it’s white, textured facade marks a nice contrast from the flat, glassy fronts of so many new buildings. (BS)

Shopping and Services

Best Corner Store
Shufat Market
3807 24th St. 

This year, Noe Valley lost a community icon, Mike Omar, the owner and founder of Shufat Market. But the store keeps chugging along, with Mike’s family still running things. As always, the little corner store has surprisingly good selection, and super friendly service. (BS)

Best Thrift Store
Buffalo Exchange on Valencia 
1210 Valencia St.

This store packs a lot of kooky stuff into very little real estate. Whether you’re shopping for a costume or a fashion piece, you’ll find it at this particular Buffalo Exchange. Maybe there’s just something in the air on Lower Valencia… (BS)

Best Stationery Store
Mai Do
Japan Center Building, 1581 Webster Street, #218

Mai Do is the go-to place for multicolored UniBall Signo .38mm gel pens, for uniquely illustrated postcards, and for every type of notebook imaginable. It’s truly a treasure chest of stationery jewels. (GZL)

Best Record Store to Impress Your Hipster Friends
835 Larkin St.

A pristine original pressing of Sticky Fingers, replete with a physical zipper? Meh. A copy of Yesterday and Today with the “butchered babies” cover art? Whatever. If you really want to flex on your vinyl-loving homies, you’re better off hitting up RS94109, where you’ll find more than just the rare and collectable. This Tenderloin shop specializes in in extreme music of the dark variety — from gritty, noisy electronic to grinding, chaotic metal. One of the priciest items currently listed on the RS94109 Discogs page is a mint condition pressing of Detroit minimal techno pioneer Jeff Mills’ The Purpose Maker EP. (NV)

Sports and Recreation 

Best Socially Distanced Workout 
Crosstown Trail

It’s not quite the city’s 49-mile circumference, but the Crosstown Trail’s 17 miles and about as many hills is sure to put your glutes to the test. Seeing San Francisco’s micro-climates and micro-neighborhoods along a path that largely avoids car traffic is special indeed. From Candlestick Point to Lands End, the crosstown trail is an urban hiker’s dream.  (BS)

Best Slow Street
The Great Walkway

The city’s shared streets program — limiting, or banning car traffic on several long stretches of road — has been one of the few bright spots of the pandemic. The crown jewel of the lot is the Great Highway, henceforth to be known as the Great Walkway. A terrifying raceway for cars has been transformed into a linear playground, complete with kids on roller skates, power-walkers, funny costumes, and lots and lots of bikes. The road even hosted a protest or two. Here’s hoping the cars never come back. (BS)

Best Way to Get Around

For those fortunate and gutsy enough to be able to ride bikes in San Francisco, BayWheels, the city’s bikeshare provider, has been a game changer. Now that their dockless e-bikes are available throughout the city, no hill is too steep (well, almost) and no neighborhood too distant. If streets were redesigned to make cyclists feel safe and comfortable, almost everybody would want to give these turbo-charged two-wheelers a spin. (BS)

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