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  • Best DIY Vertical Garden


    It's the best of both worlds: city living and growing your own garden. Living Wall Panels from PlantsOnWalls contain all hardware needed to start an outdoor vertical garden of strawberries, basil, or whatever you choose, ranging in size from one that can fit on a fire escape ($44) to ones that rival small billboards ($198). If you want to bring the outdoors in, try the Living Wall Kits that keep all plant elements in a galvanized steel frame that hangs... More >>

  • Best Reimagined Bookstore

    The Booksmith

    Even in literary-rich San Francisco, it's harder and harder to find a decent bookstore. We've lost Cody's, Stacey's, and A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books, and even corporate giant Borders has gone bankrupt. When the great 31-year-old establishment Booksmith changed ownership in 2007, we thought, as with many other businesses on Haight, it would lose its homegrown charm. Instead, it got even better. The new owners gutted the clogged entranceway, feng shui-ed the interior, and gave it a cool Victorian... More >>

  • Best Literary Money Drain

    Dog Eared Books

    The outdoor bins of cheap and free books along Valencia Street draw you in, but the area just past the register is the quarry: two tables tastefully festooned with pile after overstock pile of serious modern literature in sleek reprint editions. These are the books you've been meaning to read but never bothered to buy, or read and lost long ago and never thought worth replacing. At these prices, though, you start to reconsider. The lesser Vladimir Nabokovs for $5,... More >>

  • Best Free Weekly Writing Practice

    Cafe La Boheme

    The most intense writing practice in San Francisco is also the most open. Anyone who wants to be a writer walks in, sits down, and puts at least two "prompts" into a hat. One is picked randomly. All attendees write, and then read their work aloud. No one gives feedback. Then someone else picks a prompt from the hat. Repeat for an hour. The practice sessions, every Friday at noon for about a year, are the brainchild of filmmaker Alice... More >>

  • Best Start-Up Trafficking in Groupon-esque Shopping


    Far be it from us to peddle clichés, but plenty of conscientious Bay Area consumers would kill to know where freeze-dried açai berry powder, sustainable sushi-quality seafood, and baby clothes crafted from organic fabrics can be purchased for half their normal price. The answer is Blissmo, a San Francisco–based website dedicated to connecting benevolent businesses with the savvy consumers keen on supporting them. Headed by partners Sundeep Ahuja and Ian Johnstone, the 10-month-old operation offers time-sensitive discounts on products via... More >>

  • Best Website for a Cheapskate to Plan the Weekend


    Quoth Primus: "Funny thing about weekends when you're unemployed. They don't quite mean so much. Except you get to hang out with all your working friends." These days, you don't need to be unemployed to respect the notion of a frugal weekend. Enter FunCheapSF. The site's moniker is self-explanatory, but we'll recapitulate nevertheless. You'll find art openings, film screenings, concerts, and many a party here. And woe to the office that finds its holiday party listed on the site and... More >>

  • Best Astoundingly Cheap Liquor Store

    Parkview Market

    Whenever wine, liquor, or beer companies change their label colors or bottle shapes, distributors know who wants their suddenly outmoded merchandise: Suhail Saba, the owner of the Parkview Market. "I buy it all, I buy everything," he says with a laugh. "I have a huge basement." And bargain basement prices. If you don't mind buying "same liquor, different bottle," as Saba puts it, you can get Sauza Hacienda tequila for $13.99 (retail: $27.99); Bushmills or Bulleit for $19.99; and any... More >>

  • Best Place for Someone Else to Grow Your Own


    Do you have an evil landlord, a lack of lights, a hopelessly brown thumb, or an otherwise inability to grow your own medical marijuana? Enter Potspace, as in space for your pot. A collective of patients will, for a nominal fee, tend a cannabis plant for you from seedling to flowering female. Vegetating is done outdoors in the sun, provided it's not the rainy season, and flowering is under the lights in tightly controlled conditions. All you need to do... More >>

  • Best Hash for That Ass

    Vapor Room

    The ancient art of hash consuming wasn't always an oral tradition. That's backward thinking. Medicinal benefits are gleaned from the cold-water extract whether it is smoked, eaten, or used as a suppository. Laugh if you want to: The Vapor Room has at least one patient who swears by the last method of consuming the cold-water-pressed extract for his particular malady. While we've never medicated in that fashion, we're not one to judge — or argue with the results — except... More >>

  • Best Camera Rental Shop

    Pro Camera Rental and Supply

    Be plagued by camera envy no longer. If you can't shoot like a professional, you can at least act like one, with a pro-looking rig hooked up by the fonts of knowledge behind the counter. The crew here makes its living behind the lens, from stunning studio work to money shots at poorly lit shows, dizzying special events, and dazzling society galas. They can recommend from experience which Canon and Nikon digital SLRs fit your needs, whether it's for an... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy a Conversation Piece

    Moving Sale

    Nowhere else in San Francisco can the entrance chamber to a darkroom, a confessional door from a Catholic church, and a staggering mishmash of ancient televisions, forgotten radios, lamps, chairs, tables, and telephones be stacked from floor to ceiling in a cavernous warehouse space, each and every one of them available for purchase, if of origins forever unknown. Your living room will never be the same after a visit to Moving Sale, especially if it's too much IKEA and not... More >>

  • Best Netflix Alternative

    Top Video World

    Getting DVDs in the mail is fine and dandy, but waiting for your mail carrier to show up so you can swap out seasons of Dexter or advance the plot of True Blood is hella lame. Wouldn't it be great if, at the end of the movie, you could just go back to the video store and pick out five more DVDs? Instant gratification isn't dead, and Top Video World has your number. Grab up to five titles at a... More >>

  • Best Local-Grown Threads

    Superfly Custom Apparel

    Ever wonder where you cop those so-so-nice neighborhood-themed hoodies and T-shirts, or whether or not your 'hood will receive this royal treatment? The designs come from the mind of city native Alfredo Arana, who has kept his career local and dedicated it to spicing up San Francisco with the one-of-a-kind locally flavored threads. The duds for folks who know their Avenues from their Crocker Amazon are just the beginning: For the finest in 100 percent original designs for your own... More >>

  • Best Place for, Ahem, a Green Thumb

    Green Goddess Hydroponics

    Growing tomatoes in the house, are you? Or rutabagas in the bathroom? Ah, indoor fruit — always a fine choice, when farm to plate just won't do. Look, we don't care what you're cultivating in your closet. Your shoots will prosper, roots will dig deep, and flowers will bloom long as the garden after visiting the indoor masters at Green Goddess. This Tenderloin hole-in-the-wall is new enough that staff members are happy to offer return customers some killer deals on... More >>

  • Best Place to Wig Out

    Gypsy Rosalie's

    Wigs are not a whim for all of us. As wild and woolly as they can be, for some, wigs are a necessity, and providing exactly the right touch in proper head-covering has sustained Rosalie in the business for 50 years. Whether it's a 10-foot-tall green wig for Pride or a safe and sane brunette look for work and play, Rosalie — and her omnipresent cat, whose taste is impeccable, might we add — has you and your pate covered.... More >>

  • Best Literary Clothing

    Get Thee to the Nunnery

    Calling the stunning designer threads from yesteryear found here "secondhand" is a little bit like calling Jackie O "some guy's wife" — gauche and inadequate both, it simply will not do. The panache and style that once graced the cover of Life magazine can live on in your closet with some of the one-of-a-kind wares available here, though leaving the truly fabulous in feminine finery to ferment behind closed doors would be a travesty. Trust the eye of the seasoned... More >>

  • Best Gift Shop for Japanese Wares

    San Francisco Film Society – New People Cinema

    New People will persuade you that you need a necklace with an ice cream sundae on it, a smiley-faced toothpick holder, and a round, puffy speaker to plug into your iPod and dangle out of your pocket — all in the same shopping trip. The retail cornerstone of the 2-year old complex in Japantown that also features an anime movie theater has managed to put a stranglehold on cuteness for an area already dripping with kawaii.... More >>

  • Best Bike Shop for Customer Service

    Freewheel Bike Shop

    Ordinarily, we'd be loath to send you to a bike shop known as a hot spot for fixie kids and roadies. Of cycling's many tribes, these two are among the most exclusionary, and condescending. And both tend to congregate at this North of Panhandle storefront known for its deep stock of fixie-kid favorite Velocity Deep-V rims, and mechanics' facility with the kind of bikes often adorned with $3,000 power meters. But despite the Freewheel clientele's reputation for pretension, staffers Dustin,... More >>

  • Best School

    Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center

    Out of work? No problem. Start a food truck or a cookie stand, your friends who love eating over at your place say. Okay. But how? That's where Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center comes in. The local nonprofit exists to transform hapless business newcomers such as yourself into spreadsheet-slinging, hiring-and-firing mini-tycoons, or at least launch you in that direction. The idea is to provide biz beginners with training, support services, and help guiding business from the idea, to start-up to growth phase.... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy Barefoot Shoes

    Nomadic Outfitters

    Since the publication of journalist Christopher McDougall's wildly popular 2009 book, Born to Run, the barefoot-running craze has firmly taken hold in the U.S. One sign of this trend has been the proliferation of "barefoot shoes" (admittedly something of an oxymoron) such as the Vibram FiveFingers, a sort of rubber-soled glove for the foot. The benefits of even this level of protective footwear are debated among barefooting buffs; some argue that the documented biomechanical benefits of running barefoot are most... More >>

  • Best Knife Sharpener

    Saucy Joe's Sharpening Co.

    Prostitutes have long claimed the title for the world's oldest profession, but we're guessing the lusty ladies must have been neck-and-neck with the burly dudes who beat copper into knives and other tools. There's still something very blast-from-the-past about paying a visit to Saucy Joe, an itinerant merchant who parks his mobile knife-sharpening truck around the city like a Renaissance-era peddler. He will sharpen anything from a pocket knife ($5 if it's under 4 inches) to a meat grinder ($15)... More >>

  • Best Taxidermy You Can Wear

    Loved to Death

    When you notice the chandelier made of human bones in the window, you'll know you've found Loved to Death. Inside the store is an impressive and Goth-inspired array of skulls, teeth, feathers, and miscellaneous body parts of any bird, insect, or four-legged creature you can imagine. Recent arrivals included an albino raccoon ($525) and a squirrel riding a hare, rodeo-style, which at $650 is a steal. Rotating upstairs art exhibits include a random blue velvet casket and a warning sign:... More >>

  • Best Hat Store

    Alternative Design Studio - ADS Hats

    Sometimes you just need something fabulous for your thinker. Maybe it's a fedora. Maybe it's a vintage froufrou cap. Or maybe you aren't even sure what it is, you only know you want a hat and you want it now. ADS Hats is your spot. It has roll-up hats, brimmed hats, Bailey caps, and even a crochet novelty collection. If the hat you seek is inexplicably nonpresent, the staff will custom-make it for you. In addition to hats designed by... More >>

  • Best Wax

    Bernal Heights Nails Care

    There are some things you absolutely should not do yourself. But who to permit to cover your nether regions with hot wax? All we can say is nobody does it better than Mai at Bernal Heights Nails Care. She's a cute little lady who has been waxing in Bernal Heights for more than a decade. Not only will Mai rip your shrubs out so fast that they'll tickle, she'll smile and make small talk with you the whole time. You... More >>

  • Best Comic Book/Art Store Hybrid

    Mission: Comics & Art

    There weren't many comic-art hybrid stores to choose from for this award, but that's sort of the point. The guy who runs Mission: Comics & Art opened the place in 2008 because he wanted to create a place where art could inform comic books as well as the other way around. The result is an organized, comfortable, well-run store with a vast collection of graphic novels, art and illustration books, children's comics, trade paperbacks, and more. The store also doubles... More >>

  • Best Late-Night Delivery

    Red Sea Market

    It's after midnight, you're too lazy to leave the apartment, and you're wanting, needing, a Snickers bar, a bottle of NyQuil, a roll of toilet paper, and maybe a slice of pizza or a piroshki or two. Solution: Call the incredibly affable folks at Red Sea and they'll fix you up. This corner grocery is more than a corner grocery — there's a deli counter with Middle Eastern specialties plus a pizza oven that produces marvelous thin-crust pies — but... More >>

  • Best Tourist Trinket Shop

    Warming Hut

    This classy alternative to the Chinatown and Fisherman's Wharf souvenir schlock shops has everything in-the-know tourists need to impress the folks back home. Postcards, mugs, and T-shirts embossed with the GGNRA's lovely Deco poster art. Books on Mark Twain, Playland-at-the-Beach, the Giants, and the best local places to surf, hike, and birdwatch. Water-powered clocks and solar-powered lanterns. Handcrafted soaps and candles. Cookbooks from local restaurants, Prohibition Brewery beer mugs, DVDs of Vertigo and The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. Recycled... More >>

  • Best Magazine Selection

    Cafe De La Presse

    When you're jonesing for a little bound-and-glossy action and Time, Newsweek, and Tiger Beat just don't do it for you anymore, head to the city's premier Parisian bistro and take in the dazzling selection of high-end magazines from around the globe. Some 300 periodicals, most of them European fashion magazines dripping with style and attitude, are displayed in burnished mahogany bookcases, ready for perusal and purchase. Nothing goes better with cafe au lait and croissants than the latest issues of... More >>

  • Best Paperie


    Tweets and blogs and IMs and e-mail are perfectly fine when you want to communicate as soullessly as possible, but when it's time to mark a special occasion or let someone know you care, always opt for the wood pulp. Cherish has everything you need to make your message meaningful: papers in every hue from lily white to beetle black; notebooks, invitations, and cards for every imaginable occasion; wrap patterned in stripes, polka dots, skulls, and biplanes; and sparkle, glue,... More >>

  • Best Tiny (Non-Used) Bookstore

    Browser Books

    Considering its cozy dimensions, it's remarkable how much highly browsable reading matter is packed into this venerable (35-year-old) Pacific Heights hangout. Although the selection isn't elephantine, you're more likely to come upon some hard-to-find treasure among Browser's narrow aisles than at one of those three-story global-consortium pulp retailers. The well-organized inventory features an especially impressive array of books on food, philosophy, travel, poetry, and history as well as towering shelf after towering shelf of classic and contemporary literature. There's a... More >>

  • Best Leather Stores

    Mr. S Leather and Mrs. S Leather

    Butt plugs? Cock rings? Stun guns? Anything else? Your imagination is unlikely to reach its limits within the walls of Mr. S — or Mrs. S, its next-door, female-oriented twin. Remarkably, the SOMA leather store manages to cater to old campaigners and novices in the arts of bondage and fetish play. Whether you're after a $7.95 roll of PVC tape (always helpful for securing ankles together) or a $999.95 neoprene straitjacket, there's nothing you won't find here, and there's no... More >>

  • Best Mushroom DIY Kit

    Far West Fungi

    One of the most original DIY kits we've found is the mushroom Mini-Farm from Far West Fungi. The next best thing to mushroom hunting, and far less dangerous, they come in shiitake (the easiest to grow) and tree oyster. The kits ($19.50 each) are cultivated from the fungi at the store's Moss Landing farm, but don't smell much different from the mushrooms they grow. You can purchase them at Far West Fungi's retail outpost at the Ferry Building or order... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy Taxidermy Animals

    Paxton Gate

    Dead has never looked so alive. A small yellow chick with wings stretched out ($98), a mouse Hamlet midrecital ($105), a European beaver standing on a log ($650), all forever caught in one pose. With artistic oddities, jewelry, animal skeletons, and plants, Paxton Gate looks more like a vintage natural science museum that doubles as a shop. The taxidermy collection at this Valencia Street store ranges from $78 for a Mexican tourist mouse in sombrero to $3,500 for a roaring... More >>

  • Best CSA Farm Share

    Eatwell Farm

    A lot of thought goes into shopping for local, sustainable produce — sometimes much more than we'd like — but thankfully there's someone to do the hard work for us. Delivered to San Francisco via various neighborhood drop points, Eatwell Farm's Community Supported Agriculture farm shares provide an 8-to-15-pound box of seasonal vegetables, fruits, and edible roots for dues that break down to $27 a week (eggs are an optional $8 a dozen). The farm's website lists details on the... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy Futuristic Music Gear (and Learn How to Use It)


    Any trust-funder can charge a fancy new Dave Smith synth or Korg Kaoss Pad to mommy's credit card. But becoming skilled in the use of today's incredibly capable computer music instruments is a whole other bag of beats. That's where Robotspeak comes in. These knowledgeable folks are happy to sell you whatever devices you want, and they carry a variety of gear that includes the most elaborate computer interfaces and the simplest cables. But where the basement shop really shines... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy Vintage Music Gear

    Real Guitars

    When it comes to the tools of rock 'n' roll, it's sadly true that they just don't make 'em like they used to. A Fender amp that comes factory-sealed in the box will rarely sound as sweet and juicy as an old Silverface. But old gear is unreliable and fussy — and it's hard to know if you're getting something that actually works, right? Maybe if you're hunting on Craigslist, but not if you shop at Real Guitars. The experts... More >>

  • Best Bike Shop for the Urban Rider

    Box Dog Bikes

    It's not the biggest, the fanciest, or even the most DIY, but Box Dog wins our hearts for being a shop that perfectly combines everything the urban rider really needs. Obviously, it sells bikes — fancy ones; entry-level ones; good ones for riding around this hilly, chaotic metropolis; and good ones for riding around the world to other exotic metropoli. It sells gear: racing gear, touring gear, safety gear, weather gear, and other gear. But where Box Dog really excels... More >>

  • Best Art Classes & Studio

    Mission Gráfica

    By Mollie McWilliams There's nothing more DIY than creating your own art. For those interested in the medium of screen printing, it used to be nearly impossible to find a studio to work in. Since its inception in 1977, Mission Gráfica has provided space to make prints and posters in its studio on the fourth floor of the ever-vibrant and creatively charged Mission Cultural Center for the Latino Arts. Founded by artists and activists in San Francisco's Latino community, Mission... More >>

  • Readers' Poll Winners

    Best Store for Tech The Apple Store Best Massage Kabuki Springs and Spa Best Manicures/Pedicures Silk Spa Best Hair Salon Barber Lounge Best Optometrist Through the Hayes Optometry Best Dentist Natasha Lee Best Lingerie Store Dollhouse Bettie Best Men's Clothing Unionmade Best Women's Clothing Ambiance Best Dry Cleaning Laundry Locker Best Shoe Store Shoe Biz Best Jewelry Store Shreve and Co. Best Boutique Urban Bazaar Best Furniture Store Room & Board Best Thrift Store Thrift Town Best Head Shop Puff... More >>

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