With good prices, knowledgeable staff, a focus on freshwater life, and a unique selection of tropical fish, the shop is not only proof that aquarium stores need not be weird and dingy, but that your home fish tank can be a thriving ecosystem rather than a plastic environment with a bubbling castle (OK, a thriving ecosystem with a bubbling castle). Part pet store, part live art gallery, Aqua Forest is worth a visit even if you're not in the market for a sailfin leopard pleco.
1718 Fillmore, SF. (415) 929-8883, www.adana-usa.com
BEST FRIDGE FILLERS ON A BUDGET
Remember when we all joked that Whole Foods should be called Whole Paycheck? Little did we realize the joke would be on us when the only paper in our purses would be a Whole Pink Slip. In the new economy, some of us can't afford the luxury of deciding between organic bananas or regular ones we're trying to figure out which flavor of ramen keeps us full the longest. Luckily, Duc Loi Supermarket opened in the Mission just in time. This neighborhood shop is big, bright, clean, well stocked, cheap, and diverse, with a focus on Asian and Latino foods. Here you can get your pork chops and pig snouts, salmon and daikon, tofu and tortilla chips and still have bus fare for the ride home. In fact, young coconut milk is only 99 cents a can, a whole dollar less than at Whole Foods.
2200 Mission, SF. (415) 551-1772
BEST PLACE TO DISS THE TUBE
Some people go their entire lives buying replacement 20-packs of tube socks from Costco, socks whose suspicious blend of elastic, petroleum products, and God-knows-what signals to wearers and viewers alike: Warm, shwarm! Fit, shmit! Style, shmyle! Other people, even if they keep their socks encased in boots or shoes, want to know that their foot coverings are just one more indicator of their fashion and common sense. Those people go to Rabat in Noe Valley, where the sock racks look like a conjuring of the chorus of "Hair": "curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty, oily, greasy, fleecy, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen, knotted, polka-dotted, twisted, beaded, braided, powdered, flowered, and confettied; bangled, tangled, spangled, and spaghettied." Furthermore, the socks are mostly made from recognizable materials like wool, cotton, or fleece. As for you sensible-shoe and wingtip types, not to worry. Rabat also stocks black and white anklets and nude-colored peds.
4001 24th St., SF (415) 282-7861. www.rabatshoes.com
BEST BOOKS FOR KIDS YOU DON'T KNOW
Don't let the small storefront at Alexander Book Company deter you this three-story, independent bookstore is packed with stuff that you won't find at Wal-Mart or the book malls. We're particularly impressed with the children's collection and with the friendly, knowledgeable staff. If you're looking for a birthday present for your kid's classmate, or one for an out-of-town niece or nephew or you just generally want to know what 10-year-old boys who like science fiction are reading these days ask for Bonnie. She's the children's books buyer, and not only does she have an uncanny knack for figuring out what makes an appropriate gift, chances are whatever the book is, she's already read it.
50 Second St., SF. (415) 495-2992, www.alexanderbook.com
BEST PLACE TO SELL THE CLOTHES OFF YOUR BACK
If you think Buffalo Exchange and Crossroads are the only places to trade your Diors for dollars, you're missing out. Urbanity, Angela Cadogan's North Berkeley boutique, is hands down the best place to consign in the Bay.