Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018



Macy's has a fine men's department.
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Best Jewelry, Best Clothing Store Men and Women


Who says department store shopping is out of fashion? Not B.A.R. readers, who again have chosen Macy's as the best place to shop in San Francisco.

The famous retailer has long been supportive of the LGBT community, it hosts a yearly AIDS fundraiser called Macy's Passport, and during Pride last year, helped raise money for the Human Rights Campaign. It also teamed up with celebrity gay pastry chef Yigit Pura to house his French-inspired patisserie Tout Sweet.

Macy's Men's Store, 120 Stockton Street, and Macy's Union Square, 170 O'Farrell Street, San Francisco, (415) 397-3333.

Best Place to Buy Eyewear

Site for Sore Eyes

Looking for a new pair of designer glasses, or need to restock your contact lens prescription? Then head to Site for Sore Eyes, named best place to buy eyewear in this year's Best of the Gays poll.

The national chain, which started with one shop in Berkeley in 1979, has several locations in San Francisco, including in West Portal and downtown. It carries name-brand frames by Guess, Calvin Klein, and Tommy Hilfiger.

Site for Sore Eyes, 140 Battery Street, San Francisco, (415) 421-2020.

Best Bank

Wells Fargo

Perhaps it has something to do with images of chaps-attired, horse-handling stagecoach drivers galloping across the west, for when it comes to handling their money B.A.R. readers choose Wells Fargo. Named best bank this year, the storied institution began in San Francisco in 1852 during the heyday of the Gold Rush.

It has long been recognized as a good place to work for LGBT employees and supports a vast array of LGBT nonprofits and Pride events across the country.

Wells Fargo Castro branch, 557 Castro Street, San Francisco, (415) 621-0122.

Best Bookstore

Books Inc.

Once again, locally owned chain Books Inc. has been named the best place to purchase books by B.A.R. readers. Its Castro location is now the only full service general interest bookstore in the gayborhood and hosts numerous author readings and book signings throughout the year.

The company also traces its history back to the Gold Rush days of 1851, when Anton Roman struck it rich in Shasta City, California and started selling books. Over the next century the Gold Country shop moved locations, changed hands, was rebuilt after burning down, and eventually was re-christened as Books Inc. in 1946.

Books Inc., 2275 Market Street, San Francisco, (415) 864-6777.

Best Adult Store

Mr. S Leather

South of Market outpost Mr. S Leather continues to be a beloved place to shop for bondage and fetish gear by B.A.R. readers. This year the store earned the title of best adult store.

Its fans include those who make a pilgrimage to its warehouse-like building in person or out-of-towners who order online their sex toys, clothing, and other items from its extensive website. A portion of the proceeds from those sales is then filtered back into the LGBT community via donations to various nonprofits and sponsorship of leather events across the country.

Mr. S Leather, 385 8th Street, San Francisco, (415) 863-7764.

Bikes for all cyclists are available at Valencia Cyclery.

Best Bicycle Shop

Valencia Cyclery

Bicyclists looking for new wheels would best be advised to spin over to Valencia Cyclery, named the best bicycle shop in this year's Best of the Gays poll. The family bike shop in the Mission district caters to riders of all ages and abilities.

Opened in 1985, the shop prides itself on being a "down to earth business." For the last 17 years it has held an annual benefit sale for Project Open Hand, an HIV-focused food pantry, that features incredible markdowns and 10 percent of all sales donated to the nonprofit. More than $107,000 has been raised through the sales.

Valencia Cyclery, 1065 and 1077 Valencia Street, San Francisco, (415) 550-6600.

Best Vintage Clothing Store

Sui Generis

For the finest in recycled fashion, B.A.R. readers head to Castro clothing store Sui Generis. The sole winner this year in the best vintage clothing store category, this Market Street store continues to build on its success from opening a closet-sized shop five years ago.

Since then it has expanded into a larger storefront to showcase its men's collection and now has a smaller, designated store for women's fashions. Shopping at either has been dubbed a museum-like experience by fashionistas, and its merchandise runs the gamut from clothing to shoes to accessories.

Sui Generis, 2231 Market Street, (415) 437-2231 (men's); 2265 Market Street, (415) 437-2265 (women's). .

Best Shoe Store

De La Sole

Ho-hum is not a word associated with De La Sole, a repeat winner of the best shoe store category. This gay-owned Castro business has won a devoted following for carrying hard-to-find styles to grace customers' feet. It stocks both men's and women's shoes, which run the gamut from ultra-high-end leather boots to more moderately priced sneakers.

De La Sole, 549 Castro Street, San Francisco, (415) 255-3140.

Best Place to Get Fit

Fitness SF

It appears its decision to part ways with Gold's Gym last fall, due to donations the company's founder made to anti-gay groups, and become its own mini Bay Area chain impressed B.A.R. readers, as Fitness SF won top honors among fitness buffs in this year's poll.

The family-owned company now has four locations, two in San Francisco and one each in Oakland and Marin. It describes its Castro gym as a "neighborhood institution" and boasts "if you want to be part of the community this is where you need to be."

Special offer: Mention this listing for a free one-day pass to Fitness SF for a friend or family member.

Fitness SF Castro location, 2301 Market Street, San Francisco, (415) 348-6377.

Best Place to Buy a Car

San Francisco Honda

When in need of a new vehicle, B.A.R. readers recommend heading over to San Francisco Honda. Owned by the Boas family since 1971, it was the second Honda franchise to open in northern California. Business has been brisk ever since, and the dealership near the Civic Center, where it has been located for the last 35 years, recently was remodeled to better serve customers.

Special offer: Mention this listing for complimentary first maintenance visit with new vehicle purchase or lease.

SF Honda, 10 South Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, (415) 913-5165.

Best Auto Mechanic

Cowden Automotive

Having trouble with a foreign car you own? Best to take it in for a tune-up at Cowden Automotive Foreign Car Repair, named best auto mechanic by B.A.R. readers this year.

Started more than three decades ago by Paul Cowden, the business has grown from a one-man shop into a 10-bay facility with the latest in diagnostic equipment and automotive technicians trained to fix modern foreign cars such as Subarus, Hondas, and Volkswagens.

Cowden Automotive, 875 Folsom Street, San Francisco, (415) 777-9858.

Good Vibrations has a variety of sex toys.

Best Place to Buy Sex Toys

Good Vibrations

Vibrators, dildos, and butt plugs may get all the attention at Good Vibrations, once again winner of this category. But the 35-year-old store does so much more than just sell sex toys. It offers how-to advice both in-store and online so its customers make the most of the items they buy, and its website features a live chat option where a personal shopper can answer any questions submitted.

For the last eight years the store has also sponsored its Quickies film fest, showcasing seven-minute or less erotic tales on celluloid that are screened at a live event. And it hosts a yearly Sex Summit that brings together policy wonks and activists to discuss the latest trends in sexual politics, health, education, and culture. There's also a store in Oakland.

Good Vibrations, 899 Mission Street, San Francisco, (415) 513-1635.

Best Sex Club

Blow Buddies

Going strong for 25 years, Blow Buddies has survived into the Internet age when other sex clubs closed and remains open today despite the emergence of smartphone hookup apps. It is no wonder this members-only SOMA sex club is a perennial winner with B.A.R. readers.

Apart from providing a safe, sex-positive space for men to meet and comingle, the club sponsors events such as the Up Your Alley and Folsom Street fairs.

Blow Buddies, 933 Harrison Street, San Francisco, (415) 777-4323.

Best Cruising Spot

Folsom Gulch

It could be that headlines about a grizzly murder there, or reports of trees being thinned out, ruined last year's winner Buena Vista Park as the place to go to cruise. Or maybe it was getting too cold at the hilltop park and men wanted to find a warmer, indoor spot to size each other up. For getting top nods this year as the place to see and be seen when looking for sex is SOMA shop Folsom Gulch.

Part of the Adult Megastores chain on the West Coast, the store features all-day arcade passes with in and out privileges. It promises that it is "a great place to meet people in the city." On weekends its PlaySpace across the street (962 Folsom) draws a male-only crowd.

Folsom Gulch, 947 Folsom Street, San Francisco, (415) 495-6402.

Simply the Best!

See all the other winners in Best of the Gays 2013. (read more)

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