"Best of the Bay? I'm anxiously awaiting the results, as our fair city appears to be on the decline. Please help rekindle my love for SF!" wrote Seamus of Sunnyside when we asked Guardian readers to tell us about their own bests of the Bay. OK, Seamus, here goes ...
Welcome to the San Francisco Bay Guardian's Best of the Bay 2008! This is our 34th annual celebration of the people, places, and things that make living here awesome with a capital "yay," a megastellar shout-out to everything Baylicious — from Best Vietnamese Sandwich to Best Quirky Specialty Store, to Best Burlesque Troupe and beyond.
As we worked on this year's issue, we couldn't help but notice a few things. Change is in the air. A major election is right around the corner. Freedom is on everyone's lips — and people are making their voices heard. We're finally having that malevolent weed in the Oval Office removed! Seriously, it was totally messing up our lawn. Gross.
In honor of this spirit of liberty and choice, we chose as our theme "A Celebration of Bay Area Independence." Not just independents — all local businesses honored here are independently owned and operated. But also independence, as in get out there and vote. Speak out! It's not too late to do something about the global situation, and the individuals and organizations you'll read about inside are doing their best to turn this mess around and make the world a little lovelier.
We've also changed up a few things ourselves, like adding a bunch of new categories in our readers poll and placing your choices above the Editors Picks in each section for easier reference. Thanks to the more than 7,000 of you who voted in our Best of the Bay readers poll this year, there were several stunning upsets — change is in the air indeed! Due to popular demand, we've published the top two runners-up in the hotly contested Food and Drink, Shopping, and Nightlife and Entertainment categories online at www.bestofthebay.com . We wish everyone could win. We're mushy like that.
More change: we asked you to tell us in your own words about what you love most about the Bay — and received a sparkling tsunami of responses. We've printed some of our favorites throughout. Our Editors Picks (Best Cerebral Workout, Best Floating Lap Dance, Best Monumental Urinal, etc.) attempt to shine a little light into the brilliant corners of the Bay experience. And as for Seamus' fear of the Bay's decline, well, we can only say that we found way too much evidence of mind-blowing vitality to include here.
In 1974 Esquire magazine asked us for ideas for its Best of the USA issue, and the Guardian responded by publishing the original Best of the Bay. Made by the people of the Bay Area for the people of the Bay Area, its 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-four years on — and 42 years after we opened our doors — we're still going strong.
Editing this year's installment was something no one could possibly do alone. I had the extreme privilege of working with the frabjous Guardian staff and an amazing smorgasbord of local talent to get 2008's Best of the Bay out the conceptual door.
I shower grateful smooches on them all, especially my right-hand cheese puff Molly Freedenberg, creative wizard Mirissa Neff, amazing illustrator Caitlin Kuhwald, our steadfast advertisers, and the ever-supportive Hunky Beau, my own personal Best of the Bay.
But most of all we thank you, dear reader, for pouring your unique pluck and zing into this great community, for keeping the doors of hope open, and for never giving up the fight. Peace.
BEST OF THE BAY STAFF
BEST OF THE BAY EDITOR
ASSOCIATE ART DIRECTOR
LOCAL HEROES EDITOR
COVER AND ILLUSTRATIONS
Jon Beckhardt, Bruce B. Brugmann, Kimberly Chun, Paula Connelly, Duncan Scott Davidson, Sam Devine, Cheryl Eddy, Deborah Giattina, Marcia Gagliardi, Nicole Gluckstern, Johnny Ray Huston, Chris Jasmin, Steven T. Jones, Justin Juul, Laurie Koh, Ella Lawrence, Erik Morse, Scott Owen, Sarah Phelan, Tim Redmond, Paul Reidinger, Julie Ross Godar, G.W. Schulz, Stephen Torres, Amanda Witherell
Brandon Joseph Baker, Samantha Berg, Pat Mazzera, Rory McNamara, Neil Motteram, Arlene Romana, Charles Russo
SENIOR COPY EDITOR
Laura Neil, Lynn Rapaport, M.P. Klier
Dona Bridges, Vanessa Carr, Candice Chan, Philip Eil, Colleen McCaffery, Marianne Moore, Ailene Sankur
CELEBRATE WITH US!
The Guardian's annual Best of the Bay party is legendary — and this one's gonna be a doozy. Jello Biafra MCs! 1015 Folsom hosts! It's free! Shmooze with all the winners. Dig performances by Ahmad Raashan, Hot Tub, and many more. Plus a "Freedom to Undress" burlesque extravaganza. Thursday, Aug. 7, 8 p.m., 1015 Folsom, SF. www.sfbg.com/bobparty  *
ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR
All illustrations in this issue were hand-painted by Oakland artist Caitlin Kuhwald, who honed her skill for depicting everyday people with humor and sweetness while earning her BA in illustration at California College of the Arts and her MFA at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She now teaches illustration at CCA and has published her work in a number of newspapers and magazines, including Rolling Stone, Spin, and Nylon. See more of Kuhwald's paintings, drawings, and illustrations at www.caitlinkuhwald.com