Best of the Bay 2009

Our 35th annual guide to the people, places, and things that make the Bay great
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Illustration by Barbara Pollak

BEST OF THE BAY 2009:
>>READERS POLL WINNERS
>>EDITORS PICKS: CLASSICS
>>EDITORS PICKS: CITY LIVING
>>EDITORS PICKS: FOOD AND DRINK
>>EDITORS PICKS: ARTS AND NIGHTLIFE
>>EDITORS PICKS: SHOPPING
>>EDITORS PICKS: SEX AND ROMANCE
>>EDITORS PICKS: OUTDOORS AND SPORTS
>>LOCAL HEROES

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Best of the Bay 2009: Rediscovery

By Marke B.

marke@sfbg.com

The perfect journey is

no need to go ...

— A. R. Ammons, The Snow Poems

Welcome to the San Francisco Bay Guardian's Best of the Bay 2009! This is our 35th annual celebration of the people, places, and things that make living here such a ridiculous joy, a behemothic shout-out to everything Bay-you-tiful — from Best Jazz Club and Best Asian Restaurant to Best Burlesque Act and beyond.

As usual when putting this tribute together, we couldn't help thinking about how the Bay has changed, yet how resilient its remarkable denizens have remained. Times are rocky, y'all. Local businesses, charitable nonprofits, and arts institutions — already the "little guys" fighting against the onslaught of big-box blanding, intellectual dumbing-down, and commercial cynicism — are more endangered than ever. And we don't need to tell you that stretching a dollar has become a whole new exercise regimen. We call it "subprime yoga." Look for our infomercial on the HGN network.

But economic reality can't quash our native creative spark. That ebullient Bay ingenuity bubbles up no matter what — evidenced in the recent gourmet food cart, street fair, and spontaneous party explosions. You can find someone "doing their thing" on almost every street corner these days, and local businesses are pulling out the stops in terms of specials, outreach, and overall friendliness. Forget those odiously snobbish buzzwords like "staycation" and "funemployment" — for anyone but the still rich, the current squeeze is nothing to laugh about. But in typical Bay Area spirit, citizens are ingeniously rediscovering all the vast, affordable pleasures available to us in our own shared backyard, embarking on a journey of rediscovery, relishing the comforts of home with renewed vigor and determination.

The Guardian has been celebrating that special brand of dynamism for years. In 1974 Esquire asked us for ideas for its Best of the U.S.A. issue, and the we responded by publishing the original Best of the Bay. Made by the people of the Bay Area for the people of the Bay Area, it's our annual chance to celebrate the people and places that make this city great. We were the first weekly paper to print a regular "best of" issue. Thirty-five years on — and 43 years after we opened our doors — we're still going strong.

Inside this issue you'll find the results of our Readers Poll — more than 8,000 people voted this year, and there were a few surprise upsets in some of the categories. Also within are our Editors Picks, where we shine a little light of recognition into some of the bay's more brilliant corners.