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  • Best Salon

    Grasshopper Salon

    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 a knack for transforming manes from unruly to outrageous. Their... More >>

  • Best Pot Club

    Hope Net

    Yes, it's true that this SOMA club has beautiful, high-quality marijuana — within the inner sanctum, green and purple buds sparkle with crystals. It's also true that patients are allowed to smoke at the club, either in the cozy, carpeted "chill room" or on the sunny patio out back. And it's a fact that it has lower prices than many other dispensaries in the city (an eighth of an ounce usually goes for between $35 and $60). But none of... More >>

  • Best Gardening Store

    Flowercraft Garden Center

    This gardener's mecca is on an unassuming stretch on Bayshore Boulevard, surrounded by dull warehouses and traffic rushing toward highway onramps. But step through the gate and you're in a deep green oasis, a quiet place where at least four cats prowl through the foliage and the chipper motto is "We Sell Happiness!" The knowledgeable staff members pride themselves on expertise with San Francisco's "microclimates," as delineated by the authoritative Western Garden Book, and they recommend plants accordingly. For the... More >>

  • Best Lap Dance

    Market Street Cinema

    Lap dancing has come a long way from its early days when customers paid naked dancers a dollar to just sit on their laps. Well, maybe not that far, conceptually speaking. Nowadays be prepared to give up more than a buck, but expect more than just a static buttocks upon said lap. The girls at Market Street Cinema have perfected the art of up-close, genitally focused, gyration and titillation. Market Street Cinema is a large, cavernous ex-movie house with a... More >>

  • Best Toy Store for Adults

    Double Punch

    Get your mind out of the gutter because, despite a potentially misleading store name, North Beach emporium Double Punch doesn't carry "adult toys," simply toys for adults. The last few years have seen much innovation in the art of creating vinyl figures, originating in Asia. Artists design across a huge spectrum that ranges from fantastical Japanese anime heroes and cuddly monsters to actual American pop culture icons. Price points range from about five bucks to over $100, but even the... More >>

  • Best Vending Machines

    JVD Global Inc.

    We struggled with this one — after all, at least one other store on Clement Street has a similar array of coin-operated magic, and there are a few good spots in Chinatown. But in the end, we give the nod to this odd little store that has two specialties: money transfers and toys. Their vending machines stand sentry just outside the door and also crowd the entryway, and each machine holds a trove of bizarre figurines in plastic eggs. The... More >>

  • Best Way to Volunteer

    One Brick

    There are never enough volunteers to serve our community needs, but it would be wrong to say that this is because there aren't enough kindhearted people around San Francisco. One Brick puts them together. Their simple yet ingenious approach eliminates three large concerns that keep many from volunteering: time, commitment, and confidence. The Web site features a calendar of volunteer activities that One Brick is participating in on any given day, from beach cleanups to shifts at food banks, and... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy Alternative Remedies

    Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy

    The concept of a pharmacy as a place to browse for the fun of it is a fairly non-existent one, except in the case of Cole Valley's Pharmaca (part of a small chain that also has Bay Area stores in Sonoma, Novato, Berkeley, and Mill Valley). Besides carrying a time-consuming selection of wellness and general interest magazines and beauty products, Pharmaca has a dizzying array of herbal remedies and dietary supplements. Customer care seems particularly important at the store, which... More >>

  • Best Ninja Supply

    Brendan Lai's Supply Co.

    The Bay Area has one of the most ardent martial arts communities in the country, so there's a legitimate need for a great shop that carries everything from truncheons to butterfly swords for those who have the right skill to use them. Named after the late gentleman who opened the store almost 30 years ago, a Kung-Fu Hall of Famer best known for practicing the Seven Star Praying Mantis form of the art, Brendan Lai's Supply Co. has most of... More >>

  • Best Clown School

    Clown Conservatory

    There are a lot of clowns in San Francisco, and they number more than just the bozos you encounter tooling around town on an average day. Indeed, with multiple schools dedicated to the comic relief of the circus world located right here, we are actually somewhat of a world-renowned haven for clowns. The Clown Conservatory gets high marks for instruction (whether acrobatics, comedic timing, or business) as well as job placement for the worthy talents that emerge. Those who are... More >>

  • Best Corner Market

    Mama's Market

    Mama's is basically everything anyone could ask for in a corner market. It's clean. It opens early. The shop has the New York Times and local papers near its hot coffee and pastries for those who don't want to stand in line at a cafe. Mama's sells a remarkably good selection of everything from sausage and cheese to wine and ice cream. It also has a stash of convenient things — including shampoo, soap, lip balm, and cat food —... More >>

  • Best Tender Loving Pet Care

    Mission Pet Hospital

    At some animal hospitals, veterinarians start to seem more like interrogators than caregivers, hurling questions at pet owners like, "When was the last time you trimmed those claws?" or "So, you noticed this problem a while ago?" But at Mission Pet Hospital, the staff actually tries to cheer up worried pet parents while helping their furry friends. The staff is well trained and helps people learn more about whatever is ailing their pets, whether it be feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)... More >>

  • Best Computer Saviors

    Lazarus Data Recovery

    There's a scene in Star Wars that anyone scrambling for help in the midst of a computer meltdown should be able to understand. It's the one where a desperate Princess Leia turns to R2-D2 so the little droid can deliver her message of, "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope." Lazarus Data Recovery is a bit like R2-D2 and Obi-Wan rolled into one shining beacon of hope. If it seems like all of the life is gone from a... More >>

  • Best 10-Minute Massage

    Blush Nail Spa

    The Blush Nail Spa massaging pedicure chairs are awfully comfortable, especially after the staff drapes a warm aromatherapy neck pillow around your shoulders. Then they bust out this heated mango-scented lotion and sweetly ask, "Would you like a 10-minute massage?" Who in their right mind is going to say no to that? Seriously, don't even think about it. It's like 10 minutes of relaxing, mango-infused leg heaven. By all means, don't go expecting some deep tissue therapeutic treatment, but do... More >>

  • Best Place for a Man to Get Waxed

    Nickel Spa

    The term "boyzilian" might make a few people giggle, but at Nickel Spa in the Castro, man-waxing is a serious beauty matter. Nickel is one of the few places that offer waxing services for every possible inch of the male body. "If there's hair there, we'll wax it" should be the unofficial motto of the men-only spa's waxing experts. While the back is the most requested body part for waxing, the boyzilian, extended bikini, and "manscaping" (body trimming with clippers)... More >>

  • Best Bikini Line Rip

    Benefit Cosmetics

    All too often a trip to the bikini waxer feels like a session in an especially cruel torture chamber. But at the Benefit Cosmetics shop on Fillmore Street, waxers truly have a gift for a quick and relatively painless bikini line (or eyebrow) rip. If you get to the lovely little shop early enough for pre-waxing — and the cosmetics counter in front isn't too swamped — the friendly crew may even sit you down in one of their princess-like... More >>

  • Best Public Transit Stress Reliever


    In the past, catching public transport in San Francisco meant standing on a street corner for 20 minutes wondering when the next bus would arrive, or if, indeed, it would arrive at all. Things began to change in 1999 when the city started experimenting with the NextBus automated tracking system. Until recently, the system was only of limited use as it worked only on a few routes. But now that it's expanding citywide, NextBus is taking much of the stress... More >>

  • Best Muni Adventure

    Marin Headlands Visitor Center

    Locals and visitors alike should take advantage of this little known treasure of a bus line that, for the humble $1.50 fare, takes hikers, bikers, and nature lovers (or simply those in need of a short respite from life in the big city) up into the gorgeous Marin Headlands. Starting at the Caltrain Depot, and only running on Sundays and holidays, the bus picks folks up throughout downtown, up Van Ness and Lombard to the Golden Gate Bridge, and then... More >>

  • Best Tanning Salon

    Brown Sugar Airbrush Tanning Boutique

    Now that it's officially lethal to lie in the sun without a floppy hat, Ray-Bans, and several coats of SPF 57, how can the melanin-challenged attain that beautifully bronzed look favored by the toned and robust from Copacabana to Stinson? Brown Sugar offers the perfectly safe airbrush tanning option, but with a difference: Instead of entering a booth, stumbling around in an ocher nimbus, and emerging with an uneven epidermal palette of brown, beige, and orange, an actual person applies... More >>

  • Best Retail Therapy


    Having a terrible day at the office? A relationship is on the rocks? Never fear. Shopping at Therapy is just as likely to raise the spirits as a trip to some counselor's couch. Therapy is brimming with awesome clothes, amazing shoes, and especially lovely bags. The front of the shop always has a wide selection of random gifts — including things like librarian action figures, candy cigarettes, and nicely scented soaps — so you can be thoughtful of others while... More >>

  • Best Free Samples

    Kiehl's San Francisco Store

    There's a reason that Kiehl's has developed a cult following since it was created more than 150 years ago. No, it's not the amazing customer service — although the staff members seem to be perpetually helpful and genuinely nice people. At Kiehl's, it's all about the free samples. Meaning that somebody stopping in to buy their deliciously scented Grapefruit hand and body cleanser (with its profits going to benefit YouthAIDS) can walk away with a sample of Abyssine Eye Cream... More >>

  • Best Spa


    There's no sauna, fancy locker-room amenities, shelves of overpriced miracle salves, or attitude-shlepping front-desk girls, but Soothe, an unpretentious Upper Haight pampering haven, offers a gentle reprieve from careworn lives to rival any of the city's hoity-toity spa pretenders. You can forget the froufy products and $500 treatments — this teeny, one-room outpost is all about pure, barebones, feel-good service. Soothe's founder, London Elise, is a Good Samaritan and Jill-of-all-trades who waxes, massages, and soothes irritated skin back into tip-top... More >>

  • Best Hair Stylists

    Edo Salon & Gallery

    Wrapped around the corner of Haight and Steiner in the eclectic Lower Haight neighborhood sits Edo Salon with its creed to merge fashion, design, and art. The massive windows and perpetual afternoon sunlight provide an excellent setting for the constantly rotating art gallery, and perhaps it's this light that allow the stylists to see so clearly into the desires of their clients and the current fashion. Über-hip in a sort of nerdy-'80s-Mission-bluegrass-tattooed way, the ambiance and the stylists at Edo... More >>

  • Best Makeup Store

    The Apartment

    There's a dearth of stores in San Francisco that operate in the middle ground between thrift store and high-end antique store. What we yearned for was a place where you can furnish your flat with stylish vintage finds on an otherwise-IKEA budget. We were thrilled to discover the Apartment, which contains an ever-changing array of eclectic furniture (and tchotchkes) behind its cheery yellow-painted façade. Owner Lann Ballard stocks items (including garden furniture, paintings, and light fixtures) ranging from the turn... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy Junk Jewelry

    Forever 21

    We'll still cruise the racks at Claire's and H&M, but our heart belongs to the amazing accessory displays at Forever 21, specifically those found at the flagship store, located in an architecturally impressive building downtown built as a bank in 1921. If you see something you like among the baubles and trinkets, grab it: It may not be here tomorrow, as stock cycles in and out daily. Prices range from $2.80 (for earrings) and rarely top $10. Solid-colored plastic fakelite... More >>

  • Best Record Store

    Amoeba Music

    The idea of "big box store" gets a bad rap, assuming that a consumer outlet is bad just because the place is cavernous, packed with a dizzying selection of merchandise, and made of unadorned concrete. Ninety-nine percent of the time huge stores do suck, whether because they're full of things no one needs, or because they're screwing their employees, or because those employees could give a shit about helping you find what you're really looking for. Amoeba, which has existed... More >>

  • Best Place to Ogle Vinyl

    Groove Merchant Records

    Sorry, digital download enthusiasts: MP3s just don't have sex appeal. And those that are quick to proclaim that vinyl is dead as a musical format have probably never seen how pretty and youthful it looks in the bins at Groove Merchant, a discerning purveyor of lovely collectable jazz, funk, and boogie-oriented records since 1989. Flipping through too many $1 records in the warehouse-like environment of some stores often leads to the acquisition of a fine layer of icky dust on... More >>

  • Best Place to Find Narcocorridos


    Discolandia is one of those music stores somebody can wander into, hum a few bars of the Latin song that you've been looking for, then wait as the helpful shop keeper rushes around to find the right CD. Chances are good that Discolandia will not only find the right version of the song but will even offer to play it in the store — so you can hear for yourself that perfect rendition of "Historia de un Amor" by Eydie... More >>

  • Best Theater Ticket Deals

    TIX Bay Area

    Many people don't go to the theater because they think it's too expensive. But a visit to TIX Bay Area will prove them wrong. The TIX booth on Union Square is the place to go to get seats for a song. Run by Theatre Bay Area (TBA), the local performing arts umbrella organization, both the booth and TBA's Web site sell half-price tickets on the day of the performance or in advance to a wide array of shows in and... More >>

  • Best Video Store

    Four Star Video

    In a city with so many great video stores, it's the little things that count. Four Star Video certainly has the basics covered, but this film treasure trove in Bernal Heights also has a section devoted to British TV, so if you want to spend the weekend watching alternating episodes of The Duchess of Duke Street and The Black Adder, you can. (Just don't wonder why you don't have very many friends.) And there's the special satisfaction that comes from... More >>

  • Best Place to Rent Movies for Free

    San Francisco Main Library

    Sure, Netflix delivers to your door, but you've gotta pay for that laziness. How about a service that ships those flicks close to your homestead for free? Go to the San Francisco Public Library's Web site and you can request a movie from its catalog and have the DVD delivered to the branch nearest you. If your cult classic or new release isn't on their shelves, you can reserve a future copy or put in an order for consideration of... More >>

  • Best Radical Bookstore

    Bolerium Books

    Bolerium Books is the wiser older sister of some other, more irritating radical bookstores we could name. You won't stumble into Bolerium on your way to the touristy head shop, for example. In fact, you might miss it altogether. It's up three flights of narrow stairs above a paint shop, and you have to buzz to get in. (Hint: Say something intelligent into the intercom, like "Uh, bookstore?") Once you find it, though, you're in a nerdy left-wing page-turner's paradise.... More >>

  • Best Neighborhood Bookstore

    Bird & Beckett

    Crammed with literature both popular and obscure, Bird and Beckett Books and Records stands as a pillar of the Glen Park community and a gathering place for the local intelligentsia. Leftist-existentialist volumes seem be stacked everywhere, and you'll smell the anti-war ambience as soon as you enter, but this is San Francisco, and we're OK with that. The shop opened in 1999, and while times are tough for independent bookstores, Bird and Beckett's got the support of a loyal neighborhood... More >>

  • Best Hidden Bookstore

    Book Bay Fort Mason Bookstore,

    Our frequent finds at the Book Bay Main, a snug used bookstore operated by the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, tucked just inside the Grove Street entrance of the main library branch in Civic Center, led us to take a trek to its other location, the Book Bay Fort Mason. We stumbled upon a real treasure (containing lots of other real treasures). The store moved to new quarters in December, more than doubling its retail space (to more... More >>

  • Best Neighborhood Clothing Shop

    Lower Haters

    True, the youthful gallery/clothing store Upper Playground is a block away and they, too, love to represent their vibrant Lower Haight digs with a selection of street art and fashion wares that celebrate the area's natural and artificial funkiness. The newer boutique Lower Hater has a similarly rooted aesthetic in DJ/music culture, but it goes just one step beyond by emblazoning their fierce hood pride right on the storefront with a puntastic name. Original items like Lower Hater sticker packs... More >>

  • Best Lingerie Store

    Agent Provocateur

    It may be one of the most expensive lingerie lines around, but Agent Provocateur renders fine couture-detailed underthings in luxe materials like silk and chiffon that's worth the often triple-digit price tags. A favorite of saucy stars like Christina Aguilera, AP has the power of putting ordinary women in touch with their dirrrty side. It's the filet mignon to Frederick's of Hollywood burgers. They've even got a maternity line, so pregnant vixens don't have to sacrifice their hotness for those... More >>

  • Best T-Shirt Shop

    My Trick Pony

    My Trick Pony prides itself on making T-shirt dreams come alive. Bring in an image or just an idea and bring out a finished garment (like a tee, hoodie, pants, etc.) created to personal specification. Luckily, the shop doesn't rely strictly on its customers' imaginations, providing plenty of in-house and featured guest designs for those that walk in with a blank slate. In fact, My Trick Pony is a small gallery space in itself, exhibiting the work of a different... More >>

  • Best Belt Buckles

    Booty Boutique

    Because Kyra Brown knows that belts are more than just a utensil for keeping pants properly hitched, she treats belt buckles as the small pieces of unusual and expressive art — and, sometimes, as the wallets and stash boxes — that they were meant to be. She uses a broad base of materials, from seed beads to scorpions, to create fashion plates reminiscent of the bottom-heavy '70s, yet resplendent with the craftsmanship and dark wit that could only come from... More >>

  • Best Spot for Sneaker Heads


    Huf is the mecca for kids who get hard-ons when they see rare pairs of Nike SB Dunks. Pro skater and store founder Keith Hufnagle carved a new standard when he opened the store in 2002, making Huf a staple for limited-edition sneakers and exclusive collaborations with companies like Nike, Vans, and Adidas. When they released the Nike Hufquakes last year, it was like the Star Wars for shoe geeks with sneaker fiends camping out overnight just to drop $100-plus... More >>

  • Best Ladies' Thrift

    Thrift Town

    Exquisitely surly service, that pervasive, weird noise that comes from the roof, and the masses of hipster and/or impoverished humanity gathered on a weekend: Thrift Town is not for the faint of thrift-shopping heart. Its men's section is horribly picked over, its jewelry counter is disorganized, and the first-floor knick-knacks are appealing but overpriced. But if you're a girl with a taste for the weird and fairly cheap, TT's ladies vintage rack rules. While you could find cheaper scores digging... More >>

  • Best Men's Thrift

    Clothes Contact

    For a town that's been home to generations of wittily-dressed men, S.F. is rather impoverished as far as a one-stop thrift-shop for cool men's clothes. Maybe our well-dressed citizens recycle their castoffs to friends, or maybe they're buried with Egyptian-style caches, taking their best outfits on to the next world. There's certainly not enough cheapo men's fashion-detritus kicking around town, but Clothes Contact is an always reliable source for standard-issue vintage. Their buy-by-the-pound pricing scheme encourages experimentation with lighter fabrics,... More >>

  • Best Place to Find Tranny Gear and $400 shirts

    Polk Gulch

    From Felicity's Fetishes, where you can fulfill your most forbidden fantasies with some extremely risqué erotic lingerie and a few "sumpthin'-sumpthin's," to American Rag on Van Ness, a Japanese-based fashion store specializing in designer clothes (Ben Sherman, Marc Jacobs, Earnest Cut & Sew, Tsubi) and vintage pieces, shopping in the Polk Gulch neighborhood is a true embodiment of the diversity that San Francisco has to offer. One Polk Street resident, a restaurant busser by night, spends his afternoons shopping at... More >>

  • Best Weird Gift Store

    Paxton Gate

    Fossilized shit — it's for the man who has everything. But what about the lady? Hmm ... how about the skeleton of a domestic cat? Or a beaver skull, complete with buck teeth? Maybe a penis bone, a dead beetle, or a bird-eating tarantula? A knobby starfish? A civet skull? Perhaps one of artist Jeanie M's fanciful, fucked-up taxidermy mice, dressed like the pope? At the freakishly addictive Paxton Gate, all of these are reasonably priced (most way under $75),... More >>

  • Best Chinatown Walking Tour

    Wok Wiz Chinatown Walking Tours and Cooking Center

    Looking for a place to ditch your visiting relatives for an afternoon? They'll thank you if you drop them off at Shirley Fong-Torres' Wok Wiz Chinatown Walking Tour. On the daily tours, visitors follow Fong-Torres and her Cantonese-speaking tour guides around Chinatown to learn about neighborhood history, taste Chinese dim sum, and visit local herbalists. The tour passes through some of Chinatown's most historic alleys where Fong-Torres might pop into the open backdoor of a restaurant kitchen and invite the... More >>

  • Best Neighborhood Walking Tour

    Alternate Soundtrack City Tours

    Beyond the tinted windows of the double-decker red tour buses that bumble through the city, the streets of San Francisco offer invisible cultural phenomena and flavors of each neighborhood that can only really be tasted by hitting the pavement. Neighborhood Public Radio's Alternate Soundtrack City Tours takes a conceptual approach to understanding the city, broadcasting neighborhood tours every weekend over a guerrilla-style FM transmitter. Past tours have included a jaunt through what used to be Woodward's Garden, an eccentric Gold... More >>

  • Best Homebrew and Winemaking Supplies Shop

    Brewcraft of San Francisco

    A sign at the door of San Francisco Brewcraft tells visitors not to bring cellphones inside. Just turn yours off. They'll never know. Two feet in the door, boxes, buckets, barrels, and coils of copper tubing nearly block the way, but don't grumble and gripe, for these are all very essential elements in the making of homebrewed beer, and no other shop in the city carries such inventory. Deeper inside, you'll finds tanks of malt extract, bins of dried barley,... More >>

  • Best Penny-Squishing Machine

    Musée Mécanique

    You may think all penny-squishing machines are alike. They all take your 51 cents and return to you a flattened copper oval, and they're all located at tourist traps. How different can they be? For collectors, it's a matter of deep importance. Is the contraption a rare hand-crank model, or the more common and less exciting automatic type? Is the design an old, good one, or a newer commercial-looking thing advertising a sports team? Regardless, the penny itself should be... More >>

  • Best Pen Refills

    The Gables Stationery

    Your ancient pen is out of ink. You try to refill it. But nothing works. It seems as if there's nobody you can talk to. Roxanne Hill understands. "The older generation, the kind with walkers, that's all they come in for," Hill says. "They depend on us for that sort of thing." Hill's family has been putting precision writing instruments back in working order since they bought this stationery store on Geary Boulevard back in 1969. When Hill took over... More >>

  • Best Way to Foil the Parking Ticket Industrial Complex

    Project 20

    You paid the meter but neglected to curb your wheels. You overslept and didn't move your car for the street sweepers. You're allergic to metal and can't carry the two pocketfuls of coins it takes to fill up a meter these days. Whatever the reason, if you drive in San Francisco, you inevitably get parking tickets, and fork over 35 or 50 bucks to the city with alarming regularity. But there's a little-known loophole for people who are short on... More >>

  • Shopping & Services Readers' Poll

    Readers' Poll Winners:

    Best Massage: Kabuki Best Manicure/Pedicure: Silk Best Hair Salon: Madusalon Best Lingerie Store: My Boudoir Best Men’s Clothing: Macy’s Best Women’s Clothing: Ambience Best Shoe Store: DSW Best Jewelry: Beadissimo Best Furniture: IKEA Best Antique Store: The Apartment Best Thrift Store: Thrift Town Best Pet Store: Bernal Beast Best Video Store: Netflix Best Record Store: Amoeba Best Tech Store: The Apple Store Best Newsstand: Fog City News Best New Bookstore: Green Apple Books Best Used Bookstore: Green Apple Books Best... More >>

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