Best of the Bay 2009: Classics

Editors Picks

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Editors Picks: Classics

BEST LEFTOVER HEROES

Hey, are you gonna eat that? If the answer is "no," and you have a commercial kitchen of any kind, call Food Runners, the nonprofit associated with Tante Marie's Cooking School and its matriarch at the helm, Mary Risley. The volunteer-powered organization picks up leftovers from caterers, delis, festival vendors, hotels, farmers markets, cafeterias, restaurants, and elsewhere, and delivers still-fresh edibles to about 300 soup kitchens and homeless shelters. For more than 30 years, everything from fresh and frozen foods such as produce, meat, and dairy, to uneaten boxed lunches and trays of salads and hot food, to pantry staples ordered overzealously and nearing expiration has been saved from the compost heap and delivered to those who could use a free meal or some gratis groceries. The result has yielded untold thousands of meals and a complete cycle that reduces food waste, feeds the hungry, and preserves resources all around.

(415) 929-1866, www.foodrunners.org

BEST DARKEST KISS

Remember those freaky goth kids your church leaders warned you against in high school? The ones who wore black lipstick, shaved off all their eyebrows, and worshipped Darkness? Well, they grew up, moved to San Francisco, and got really effin' hot. If you don't believe it, head to the comfortingly named Death Guild party at DNA Lounge. Every Monday night, San Francisco's sexiest goths (and baby goths — this party is 18+) climb out of their coffins and don their snazziest black vinyl bondage pants for this beastly bacchanal, which has decorated our nightlife with leather corsets and studded belts since 1992. And even if you dress more like Humbert Humbert than Gothic Lolita, the Guild's resident DJs will have you industrial-grinding to Sisters of Mercy, Front 242, Bauhaus, Throbbing Gristle, and Ministry. Death Guild's Web site advises: "Bring a dead stiff squirrel and get in free." Free for you, maybe, but not for the squirrel.

Mondays, 9:30 p.m., $5. DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., SF. (415) 626-1409. www.deathguild.com

BEST BLACKBOARD THESPIANS

A completely adorable acting troupe made up of schoolteachers and schoolteacher look-alikes, the Children's Theatre Association of San Francisco — a cooperative project of the Junior League of San Francisco, the San Francisco Board of Education, and the San Francisco Opera and Ballet companies — has been stomping the boards for 75 years. What the players may lack in Broadway-caliber showmanship, they widely make up for with enthusiasm, handcrafted costumes and sets, and heart. For decades, the troupe has entertained thousands of public school students during its seasonal run every January and February at the Florence Gould Theater in the Palace of Legion of Honor. This year's production was a zany take on "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," which included a wisecracking mirror and rousing original songs. We applaud the CTASF's bravery for taking on some of the toughest critics in the business — those who will squirm and squawk if the show can't hold their eye.

www.ctasf.org

BEST AUTO REPAIR QUOTES

We're not sure if you can get a lube job at Kahn and Keville Tire and Auto Service, located on the moderately sketchy corner of Turk and Larkin. And if you can, we can't vouch for the overall quality, or relative price point of the procedure. But the main reason we can't say is also why we love the place so much. Instead of sensibly using the giant Kahn and Keville marquee to advertise its sales and services, the 97-year-old business has been using it since 1959 to educate the community with an array of quotations culled from authors as varied as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Gore Vidal — plus occasional shout-outs to groups it admires, such as the Quakers during their peace vigils a block away. Originally collected by founder Hugh Keville, the quotes range in tone from the political to the inspirational and tongue-in-cheek, and the eye-catching marquee was once described by Herb Caen as the city's "biggest fortune cookie."

500 Turk, SF. (415) 673-0200, www.kk1912.com

BEST EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE

The cozy Molinari Delicatessen in North Beach has been in business since 1896, just enough time to figure out that the secret to a really kick-ass sandwich is keeping it simple — but not too simple. The little piece of heaven known as the Molinari Special starts with tasty scraps, all the odds and ends of salamis, hams, and mortadella left over from the less adventurous sandwiches ordered by the customers who came before you. The cheese of your choice comes next, topped generously with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, roasted red peppers, and even pepperoncini, if you ask nicely. As for bread: we're partial to Dutch crunch, but rosemary, soft white, and seeded rolls are available. Ecco panino: you get a sandwich approximately as big as a baby's head — for only $6.25. It's never quite the same item twice, but always sublime.

Molinari Delicatessan, 373 Columbus, SF. (415) 421-2337

BEST PASSED-ON JEANS

Most clothes turn to garbage over time — but there are a few notable exceptions, timeless garments that actually gain value after being used up, tossed aside, and then rediscovered. Leather jackets are like that, so are cowgirl dresses and butt rock T-shirts. But none of that stuff maintains its integrity, or becomes more appealing when salvaged, like a great pair of jeans. And there's no place more in tune with this concept than the Bay Area. Why? Well, it's easy to say that we lead the thrifting pack simply because denim apparel was born here, but the truth is that we wouldn't be anywhere without Berkeley's denim guru, Carla Bell, who's been reselling Levi's and other denim products for 30 years. What began as a side project in Bell's garage has grown into a palace of fine thrifting: Slash Denim the first and last stop when it comes to pre-worn pants and other new and used articles of awesome.

2840 College, Berk. (510) 841-7803, www.slashdenim.com

BEST BALLER'S PARADISE

When you think about baseball and food, hot dogs inevitably come to mind, but that's just because marketers have been pumping them at stadiums for decades. Real baseball fans can see through the bull. Sure, they might shove a wiener in their mouth every now and again out of respect for tradition. But when a true fan gets hungry, she or he wants real food, not mystery meat. Baseball-themed restaurant and bar Double Play — which sits across from the former site of Seals Stadium and is celebrating its 100th birthday this year — makes a point of thinking outside the bun. D.P.'s menu features everything from pancakes and burritos to seafood fettuccine and steak, with nary a dog in sight. Otherwise, the place is as hardcore balling as it gets. Ancient memorabilia decks the walls, television sets hang from the ceiling, and the backroom contains a huge mural depicting a Seals versus Oakland Oaks game — you can eat lunch on home plate.

2401 16th St., SF. (415) 621-9859

BEST TSUNAMI OF SWEETS

Most small businesses fail within the first year of operation, so you know if a spot's been around a while it must be doing something right. For Schubert's Bakery that something is cakes and they've been doing them for almost 100 years. To say they're the best, then, is a bit of an understatement. When you purchase a cake from the sweet staff at Schubert's, what you're really getting is 98 years' worth of cake-making wisdom brought to life with eggs, sugar, flour, and some good old S.F. magic. Schubert's doesn't stop with cakes — no way. There are cherry and apple tarts, pies, coffee cakes, Danish pastries, croissants, puff pastries, scones, muffins, and more. If it's sinfully delicious, Schubert's has your back. Just be careful not to peruse their menu in the aftermath of a breakup or following the loss of a job. Schubert's may seem nice and sugary on the outside, but it gets a sick thrill out of sticking you where it hurts: your gut.

521 Clement, SF. (415) 752-1580, www.schuberts-bakery.com

BEST ARCHITECTURAL XANADU

If you compete in a category where you're the only contestant, does it still matter if you win? In the case of the Xanadu Gallery building, yes, it does. The building that houses the gallery is Frank Lloyd Wright's only work in San Francisco and provides a fascinating glimpse of him evolving into a legendary architect. The structure's most prominent feature is the spiral ramp connecting its two floors, a surprisingly organic structure that reminds viewers of the cochlear rotunda of a seashell and presages Wright's famous design for New York's Guggenheim Museum. Visitors are delighted and surprised upon entering the Maiden Lane building, as a rather small and cramped walkway into the gallery expands into an airy, sun-filled dome: the effect is like walking out from a dark tunnel into a puff of light. The Xanadu Gallery itself features an extensive collection of international antiquities, which perfectly complements this ambitious yet classic gem.

140 Maiden Lane, SF. (415) 392-9999, www.xanadugallery.us

BEST FIRST CUP OF COFFEE

As the poor departed King of Pop would say, "Just beat it" — to ultimate Beat hangout Caffe Trieste in North beach, that is. And while Pepsi was the caffeinated beverage that set Michael Jackson aflame, we're hot for Trieste's lovingly created coffee drinks. Founded in 1956 by Giovanni "Papa Gianni" Giotta, who had recently moved here from Italy, Trieste was the first place in our then low-energy burg to offer espresso, fueling many a late night poetry session, snaps and bongos included. Still a favored haunt of artists and writers, Trieste — which claims to be the oldest coffeehouse in San Francisco — augments the strident personal dramas of its Beat ghosts with generous helpings of live opera, jazz, and Italian folk music. You may even catch a member of the lively Giotta family crooning at the mic, or pumping a flashy accordion as part of Trieste's long-running Thursday night or Saturday afternoon concert series. Trieste just opened a satellite café in the mid-Market Street area, which could use a tasty artistic renaissance of its own.

601 Vallejo, SF. (415) 392-6739; 1667 Market, SF. (415) 551-1000, www.caffetrieste.com

BEST ON POINT EN POINTE

We're fans of the entire range of incredible dance offerings in the Bay, from new and struggling companies to the older, more established ones (which are also perpetually struggling.) But we've got to give tutu thumbs up to the San Francisco Ballet for making it for 76 years and still inspiring the city to get up on its toes and applaud. Those who think the SF Ballet is hopelessly encrusted in fustiness have overlooked its contemporary choreography programs as well as its outreach to the young and queer via its Nite Out! events. For those who complain about the price of tickets, check out the ballet's free performance at Stern Grove Aug. 16. This year the company brought down the house when it performed Balanchine's "Jewels" (a repertory mainstay) in New York. We also have to give it up for one of the most important (yet taken for granted) element of the ballet's productions: the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, which provides the entrancing accompaniment to the oldest ballet company in America.

www.sfballet.org

BEST INTENTIONAL MISNOMER

If the Spinsters of San Francisco have anything to say about it, spinsterhood isn't the realm of old women who cultivate cat tribes and emit billows of dust when they sneeze. Instead it's all about stylish young girls who throw sparkling galas, plan happy hours, organize potlucks, and do everything in their power to have a grand ol' time in the name of charitable good. Founded alongside the Bachelors of San Francisco, the Spinsters first meeting was held in 1929. In the eight decades that followed, the Spinsters evolved into a philanthropic nonprofit that supports aid organizations and channels funds back to the community. Specifications for prospective spinsters are quite rigorous: applicants must be college-educated, unmarried, and somewhere in the prized age bracket of 21 to 35. At the end of the year, members decide by ballot vote to heap their wealth and plenty into the coffers of a single chosen charity. Past recipients include City of Dreams, the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, and the Center for the Education of the Infant Deaf.

www.sfspinsters.com

BEST GHOSTS IN THE WOODWORK

Situated on the shore of Lake Merritt in Oakland, the Scottish Rite Center boasts hand-carved ceilings, grand staircases, and opulent furnishings — hardly the typical ambiance of your average convention center. But if the ornate woodwork isn't enough to distract you from whatever you came to the center to learn about, its history should: following San Francisco's 1906 earthquake, the East Bay saw a population explosion that quickly outgrew Oakland's first Masonic temple and led to cornerstone laying ceremonies at this shoreline site in 1927. Today the center's ballroom, catering facilities, and full-service kitchens — along with an upstairs main auditorium and one of the deepest stages in the East Bay — make it a favorite setting for weddings and seminars. It's also the perfect place to wonder how many ghosts crawl out of the woodwork at night, and trace the carved wooden petals that decorate the hallways with the tip of a chilly finger.

1547 Lakeside Dr., Oakl. (510) 451-1903, www.scottish-rite.org

BEST GEM OF A FAMILY

For more than seven decades, the name Manis has meant that a jewel of a jewelry store was in the neighborhood. Lou Manis opened Manis Jewelers in l937 at l856 Mission St. Three months after the Kennedy assassination in l963, he moved the store to 258 West Portal Ave. Manis Jewelers is still at this location, still a classic family-owned store with an excellent line of watches and jewelry, and still offers expert watch and clock repair, custom design, and reliable service. Best of all, that service is always provided by a Manis. Lou, now 89, retired six years ago, but his son Steve operates the store and provides service so friendly that people drop by regularly just to chat. Steve's daughter, Nicole, works in the store on Saturdays, changing batteries in watches and waiting on customers. She was preceded in the store by her two older sisters, Anna and Kathleen, and Steve's niece and nephew.

258 West Portal Ave., SF. (415) 681-6434

BEST NEVER FORGET

Since 1984, the Holocaust Memorial at the Palace of the Legion of Honor has been a contemplative and sad reminder of one of the biggest genocides in human history. The grouping of sculptures — heart-wrenching painted bronze figures trapped and collapsed behind a barbed-wire fence — sits alongside one of the city's most breathtaking views and greatest example of European-style architecture. Yet it has never, in our opinion, fully received its due as an important art piece and historical marker. The memorial was designed by George Segal, a highly decorated artist awarded numerous honorary degrees and a National Medal of Honor in 1999. Chances are that many Legion of Honor patrons — plus the myriad brides posed in front of the palace's pillars for their photo shoot — overlook this stark homage to the six million people exterminated by the Nazis during World War II. But it's always there as a reminder that as we look to the future, we must remember the past.

100 34th Ave., SF. www.famsf.org/legion