Every year, SF Weekly asks readers to pick their favorite bars, clubs, venues, restaurants, people, places, and fiendish thingies. And every year, without fail, we know-it-all media elites feel the need to insert ourselves into the conversation — you know, to make sure that you know just how cultured and hip we are.
God, we’re insufferable, aren’t we?
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Best Wounded Cowboy Croon
Andrew St. James and Cesar Marie, “Beverly Hills”
For nearly the entirety of their debut album, the two members who make up the local folk duo Juan Wayne sing in gloriously forlorn unison, warbling together in lovesick fashion under a dust-filled sky. That pathos reaches its peak on the chorus of their lead single, when the two croon “You look so good in Beverly Hills,” drawing out the lyric in a pinched drawl. The line has everything—bitterness, pain, love, regret, jealousy and wistful nostalgia. All the complex eddy of emotions that are present in every great song can be found in that one simple, unguarded moment of observation. (WR)
Best Spot to Absorb the Transformative Power of Rock and Roll
Stage Left, Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St
Bottom of the Hill is the best venue in the world and despite our country’s predictability idiotic willingness to reject science and reinvite new strains of a deadly pandemic, I WILL be returning to this venerable site this fall. Things tend to get pretty cozy in the tight confines of BOTH, but there always is a little sweet spot in front of the steps that lead up to the stage. It’s at a corner where you’re not staring directly at the band, so it tends to get overlooked by the revelers, but you can still hear perfectly fine, and you don’t feel completely crammed from that vantage point. Over the years, I’ve witnessed bands like Beach House, Vivian Girls, Handsome Furs, the Blow and Times New Viking from that very locale and that is exactly where I will beeline to when I’m back again at Bottom of the Hill. (WR)
FOOD & DRINK
Best Late Night Snack For Gluten Fiends
1621 Polk St
You’ve belted out the final verse of “Closing Time” and you’re looking for a bite to eat, but you simply can’t do El Farolito again (I mean, of course you could, but you’re looking to switch things up). Thankfully, this Polk street hole-in-the-wall is open 24 hours. You’ll sober up a bit in the cool early-morning air while you wait in the line that seems to perpetually stretch out the door. The fried dough will help lull you sleep and hopefully ward off the worst of your impending hangover. Family owned and operated since the 1960s, Bob’s cranks out freshly made apple fritters, bear claws, and of course, The Belly Buster, a giant donut for those whose eyes are bigger than their stomachs. (LS)
Best Savory Sweets Fit for a Sultan
700 Haight St.
Legend has it that Caliph Sulayman of Palestine’s Umayyad Dynasty loved kunafa so much, he would regularly wolf down 20 servings of the decadent cheese-filled pastry. You don’t have to travel back in time or across the world to enjoy this dish. It can be found in the Lower Haight, at Palmyra’s. Named after the ancient Syrian city, the unassuming, family owned and operated business offers Syrian-style cuisine, with juicy shawarma and a tangy garlic sauce that many like to ladle onto every sumptuous bite. But Palmyra’s crown jewel is their kunafa. Made in house with cheese, shredded filo dough, and topped with pistachio and syrup, it is best accompanied by a Turkish coffee. (SB)
Best Meat Lovers Private Party
North Beach Restaurant
1512 Stockton St.
Instead of dining under the stars, dine under hundreds of prosciutto hams hanging on hooks from the ceiling like fragrant chandeliers. Invite 25 of your closest carnivorous friends for a private feast including favorites like Pasta della Casa, Carpaccio, and of course, their renowned Prosciutto and Melon. The famous North Beach Restaurant at the corner of Stockton and Columbus has attracted local celebs, visiting sports icons and movie stars since the 1970s. Bring a jacket when you go to the Prosciutto Room because you are literally sitting in a candelabra bedecked meat locker. Vegans might want to sit this one out. (LS)
Best Place to Taste the Silk Road
Küsan Uyghur Cuisine
90 Charter Oak Ave.
Through its flavors, Küsan Uyghur Cuisine transports you to the cultural crossroads of The Silk Road. The Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic minority that hail from the northwest part of present-day China, in a region known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, which was once located on along a northern branch of the vast, ancient network of trade routes that connected Asia and the Middle East with Europe. In a warehouse on the edge of Hunter’s Point, Küsan Uyghur Cuisine brings you a taste of this crossroads. The hand-pulled leghman noodles are a customer favorite on Küsan’s halal and Asian fusion menu. Topped with lamb, vegetables, and a boldly flavored sauce, this spicy-salty delicacy is well-suited for any culinary adventurer. (SB)
Best Place to Get Trashy
354 11th St.
If there’s any bar that sticks out like a sore thumb in SoMa’s sea of upscale pubs and craft cocktail bars, it’s Butter. This hoot of a honkytonk is celebrated for its tacky decor, trashy libations, and “trailer treat munchies.” Hundreds of bras dangle from the ceiling and a giant R.V. sets the tone for those of us who’d rather drink a PBR than a Pinot Noir. Take a trip back in time to when your palette was far less developed and sample the vodka and Sunny D (White Trash Driver), Pepsi and rum (Bitchin’ Camaro) or grape soda and vodka (After School Special). Deep fried twinkies, PB&J’s, Beanie Weenies, Spaghettios, Frito Pie, and tater tots pair exquisitely with the drinks and ambiance. Leave the wine snobs at home and have a ball at Butter. (LS)
Best Bougie Run For the Border
2337 Market St.
Tacorgasmico, also known as Simple Mexican Pleasures, the phrase that adorns its awning on Market Street, is nothing like Taco Bell. It’s a charming, middle market Mexican restaurant with lively decorations and friendly staff. If you order the quesadilla, however, be prepared to Live Más. The perfectly folded, perfectly browned food delivery package is like a Crunchwrap Supreme — only it’s made with high quality ingredients. Unlike lesser quesadilla-makers, Tacorgasmico puts everything — pico, avocados, cheese, and meat — under one tortilla. (Try it with the homemade corn tortilla and shredded chicken). Carry it around the Castro as you party and people watch. It’s like a road beer for your taste buds. (BS)
Best Place to Spend Your Rent Money on a Sandwich
1058 Folsom St.
Even in a City where we have become completely numb to astronomically high prices, a $21 sandwich still wets the eyes a little bit. But if you are spending that kind of lucre on a Deli Board sandwich, it is 100 percent worth it. The eatery on Folsom Street serves us absolutely scrumptious sandwiches, laden with all the good kinds of deli meat (pastrami, corned beef), gooey cheeses and delectable sauces, and they are always toasted to perfection. Upon that first bite, the reactions range from orgiastic ecstasy to transcendent bliss (I’m not being dramatic either.) Despite the ever-present lines at the popular eatery, Deli Board owner Adam Mesnick and his crew manage to churn out those sandos in no time, adding top-notch service to the top-notch tastes. (WR)
Best Liquor Store Hamburger
Lee’s Food Market
1397 Revere Ave.
Tucked between warehouses and a residential neighborhood is Lee’s Food Market, one of Bayview’s best kept secrets. Their juicy, mayo-and-mustard slathered double bacon cheeseburger is nothing less than a hangover cure sent from the heavens, dripping with grease and sauces and, if you so choose, salinated and spicy pickled jalapenos. Customers can choose between five different varieties of sliced cheeses and also have the option of adding egg or other proteins like sausage or pastrami. The real magic, however, is in the final assembly, whereby sloppy sauces are somehow combined with lettuce and tomato in such a way so that the texture of each individual ingredient manages to stay perfectly intact. (VI)
Most Instagrammable Takeout
Farmhouse Kitchen Thai
710 Florida St.
This “New Generation” Thai restaurant has always served up flavor-packed dishes, like their curry-marinated Tsunami Lobster or overflowing “Volcano Cup Noodle.” The presentation of these dishes has always been notable, too, as they typically use colorful plates decorated with edible flowers and bamboo leaves. However, the presentation of dishes from their take-out menu may be even better than the dine-in experience. Dishes are served in heaping piles separated by decorative plants and shells, with dyed-blue rice for additional color. Every takeout box appears as bounteous as a cornucopia and as flawlessly arranged as if it was served directly to the table. (VI)
Best “I’m not Drinking in Public!” To-Go Beverage
Sangria from Wayfare Tavern
558 Sacramento St.
Every bar in town seems to have mastered the to-go cocktail this past year, and for good reason: most of our shaking, twisting, and garnishing techniques are not up to snuff, and canned beer and bottles of wine only entertain for so long. The problem is far too many restaurants committed to the fancy aesthetics of professional cocktails, too, inevitably revealing to everyone you walk past that you are, indeed, getting drunk – which is fine when you’re taking drinks to Dolores, but not so fun when you’re rushing through a crowd of judgemental businessmen to get to your friend’s place in the TenderNob. Wayfair tavern’s bottled Sangrias, however, look like a trendy herbal lemonade more than they do a boozy drink, and are packaged in unassuming glass bottles that survive being thrown in a purse or backpack. We recommend their rose sangria, which comes with raspberries, strawberries, dill and mint. (VI)
SHOPPING & SERVICES
Best Crafty Free-for-All
2150 Newcomb Ave.
Need a new notebook? SCRAP has hundreds at pennies a piece. Picking up jewelry-making? SCRAP has plenty of unique beads to inspire your creativity. Redecorating on a budget? SCRAP has all the National Geographics you could want to fill your empty bookshelves. SCRAP is a nonprofit that provides reusable materials to spur creativity, selling thousands of random crafty knick knacks at prices that simply can’t be beat. They’ve been helping San Franciscan students engaged in distance learning this past year by donating art and school supplies through various education-focused community organizations, too — one of many programs they’ve created over the years to help underserved populations find their creativity. Support by donating cash, craft supplies, or just shopping there for yourself! (VI)
Leavenworth and Sutter
I’ve lived in San Francisco for more than 16 years, and throughout that time, I’ve never been that far from this beguiling little intersection in Lower Nob Hill. It’s close enough to the Tenderloin to retain some authentic grittiness without the grime and it has that Nob Hill charm sans the snobbery (I’ve lived in both neighborhoods, so I’m allowed to shit-talk them equally.) I don’t know if it’s the stately white brick nature of the Regina Tower apartments, the three coffee shops/diners on competing corners (including the legendary greasy spoon Golden Coffee) or the tasteful sprinkling of greenery that dots the landscape)—for some reason, this intersection has always felt like a real CITY neighborhood. San Franciscans tends to have an urban inferiority complex (folks, LA REALLY doesn’t care about us), but these hidden gems remind me that our city is more than just Golden Gate Bridge and the cable cars. (WR)
Best Treasure Chest For Adults
150 Valencia St.
This gem on Valencia is packed with art, furniture, lamps, glassware, dinnerware, mirrors, and other novelties items from the ’70s, ’80s, and beyond. The rich collection of paintings bear signatures of artists from San Francisco and elsewhere. Be careful, it’s easy to get lost in Stuff — and to spend your entire paycheck on vintage decor and home goods. (SB)
Best COVID-safer Shopping Experience
Love on Haight
1400 Haight St.
By now, we know that COVID transmission is mostly airborne — i.e., it’s much more likely we’ll contract it by spending time indoors with an infected person than by touching something an infected person touched sometime before. But shopping for clothes sure does involve a lot of touch, and, if you’re trying on items, it can be a little nerve wracking not knowing who’s also tried on that article of clothing before you. Luckily the popular tye-die destination Love on Haight was using UV Lamps since before 45 made ultraviolet cool again — only, unlike the former president once advised, they’re using UV lamps to disinfect clothes rather than encouraging Americans to shine a UV light inside our bodies. Every changing room, along with clothes customers try on but don’t buy, is thoroughly disinfected with UV lamps between uses. (VI)
Best Alternative Co-Working Space
Mechanics Institute Library
57 Post St.
If you’re a struggling writer, a starving artist, or just somebody who wants a quiet, beautiful place to catch up on emails, the Mechanics Institute Library is the place for you. Just $120 gets you access to its excellent print and online resources, and, more importantly, to the Institute’s university library-style space on Post and Montgomery. (Fortunately, membership at the 165-year-old institution is no longer limited to mechanics.) The MIL, as it is fondly known, also offers classes and talks for members, as well as access to the adjoining Chess Room, where the Bay Area’s best players square off. Of course, the MIL is no WeWork. There’s no ping-pong table or kegerator, and talking about IPOs, NFTs, UX — or anything, really — is frowned upon. Snoozing, however, is permitted. (BS)
FITNESS & RECREATION
Best Highs and Lows of S.F.
Hike From Noe Valley and Bac
Views, shopping, and cardio? The urban hike from Noe Valley, to the top of Twin Peaks, down into a hidden canyon, on to the small neighborhood of Glen Park and back again, has it all. With a few fun stops in the middle, including Lovejoy’s Tea Room and Canyon Market. Take in the highest highs and lowest lows of San Francisco. (SB)
Best Place to Never Grow Up
Seward Concrete Street Slides
Tucked away in a small neighborhood park are two slippery slopes of concrete that will send you straight to Never Neverland. Built in 1973, the exhilarating Seward Street Slides were designed by 14-year-old competition winner Kim Clark. So if you want to feel like a kid again, grab a piece of cardboard from the pile, remember to keep your arms and legs on its surface at all times, and fly straight on ’til morning! (Well… not exactly… the slides actually close at 5 p.m.). There’s only one hitch: adults have to BYOC — bring your own child. (SB)
Best Escape From the City Within the City”
83 Marina Green Dr.
Located on a small jetty on the San Francisco Bay, the Wave Organ is an acoustic sculpture played by the ocean. The Wave Organ was built in collaboration with the Exploratorium in 1968 and constructed with pieces of stone and marble from a demolished cemetery. As waves crash against the rocks, a series of pipes convey the sounds of the rolling tides. The structure’s stone benches and steps offer a peaceful view overlooking the bay that far too many locals neglect to take advantage of. (LS)
Best View of the City Without the Crowds
Billy Goat Hill
2442 Castro St.
Let Google direct the tourists to Twin Peaks so us locals can find a better, more private spot to bask in glorious San Francisco vistas. Located in a quiet residential area in Noe Valley, Billy Goat Hill offers one of the best views of the city — without the chaotic crowds and traffic. The entrance to this hidden wonder is at the bottom of the hill at Laidely and 30th street. It’s a steep, yet scenic 500 foot climb up wooden steps surrounded by lush greenery and wildflowers. A bench on the highest plateau overlooks downtown and the Golden Gate Bridge. (LS)
BARS & CLUBS
Best Bar and Museum Rolled into One
The Interval at Long Now
2 Marina Blvd.
Our moms were right. Reading is fun! Especially with a craft cocktail in hand. Located at Fort Mason, The Interval at Long Now is an astounding concoction of library, coffee shop, museum, seminar space, and bar. Featuring a floor-to-ceiling library, this unique spot features a constantly shifting modern art display and is a meeting point for the Long Now Foundation, an intellectual group for forward thinkers who regularly host featured speakers. In morning hours, the Interval is a quiet cafe and reading spot with incredible views of the bay. By night, a “Night at the Museum” after hours upscale bar experience awaits. (LS)
Best Recreation Activity In A Bar
Ping Pong Table at Finnegans Wake
937 Cole St.
Yeah, we’ve all played some pool and chucked a few darts at our local watering hole, but have you ever tried playing ping pong after a half-dozen beers? Shit is real fun. Finnegans Wake in Cole Valley is one of the few local establishments boasting a ping pong table, and you’d be hard-pressed to find an afternoon activity more fulfilling than practicing your backspin in the bar’s backdoor patio as the sun sets. Unlike pool, ping pong requires a healthy bit of hand eye coordination, so it’s not really one of those endeavors that gets easier as you get more buzzed, which makes those later games REAL interesting. Still, you might work up a sweat while drinking beers—that counts as exercise, right? (WR)
Editor’s Picks are by Veronica Irwin, Will Reisman, Benjamin Schneider, Lily Sinkovitz, Sienna Barnes and Nick Veronin.