As my dear friend Chriso aptly puts it, “Run for your life — it’s that Cher song again!” That’s right, this weekend is SF Gay Pride, one of the weekends here where (literally) buttloads of tourists visit to celebrate, drink, get laid, feel really good about the world, feel really sad about the world, and throw up in the street by my house. Oh, and they play that fucking Cher song a lot. Read this hilarious and spot-on essay by Heather Gold (via cutie David) to get yourself in the proper, slightly off-kilter Pride mood. I’ve had a lot of people email me with fun recommendations for my upcoming visit to London, so I’d like to return the favor, as it were.
I always cry at least once over Pride weekend because I get so choked up about how good I have it here, and many events and experiences conspire to reflect the beauty and strength of the human spirit. (I like long walks on the beach and holding hands, too, if you must know. I also like industrial accidents.) But then again, I cry when I watch reruns of Buffy, yet I think so do most of the hundreds of thousands of people celebrating gay pride in my city this weekend. I’m so grateful for it; the rest of America scares the shit out of me right now. I just hope we get fewer bomb threats this year.
So, as a native San Franciscan, bi-girl and semi-professional drunk, I’d like to welcome everyone with a little guide to my city, and a pathetic, pointless plea to lay off the Cher and “Hollaback Girl”, whatever the fuck that is.
Find yourself. Get your free wifi here. You can get local news/weather from SFGate, but they are very slow and conservative, so get your local culture/news from the potty-mouthed boozers at SFist. Do visit SF Gate’s Pride Page for events, places to stay, and their own “best” lists. Eros Guide has a wee writeup, too.
You’ll need this: Pride events calendar; Pride celebraiton map; San Francisco by neighborhood; Castro map, downtown map
Make a plan and follow it loosely, like your booty. For events and goings-on, pick up one or more of these free papers: Guardian, SF Weekly (Weakly), Bay Times (Gay Times), or a Pride Guide (the Pride Guide is super-basic). Pick and choose your nighttime activities; my complaint with the nightlife in San Francisco (other than the dearth of clubs) is that it’s very separtist — straight bars, a few lesbian bars, lots of gay bars, but very few mixed clubs. Check out events at the Center for Sex and Culture, Good Vibes, and the LGBT Center.
How to get around like the slut you are. You didn’t rent a car, did you? Oh no, you didn’t. If you’re in a car, you will see SF through a dirty windshield of anger, confusion and frustration, as portions of the city will be blocked off or simply impassable all weekend long. Leave your car on Market @ Castro Saturday after 3pm and it will get towed; don’t even think of parking it around downtown. Just ditch the car and take the MUNI underground, MUNI bus or beautiful vintage MUNI railcar ($1.25) — or hail a cab. SF is only seven miles square, so in many cases you might be able to just walk to your destination if you get frustrated. I always wear stylish walking shoes and carry my sky-high fetish heels; switch when you get to the party or club and check your shoes with your coat. You’ll be glad you did.
If cabbing, expect to pay around $10-$12 to get from one place to another; more if it’s Saturday night, and actually don’t even think you can get a cab (even if you call) Saturday night, unless you’re staying at a hotel with a taxi stand. Either way, get yourself a little map and familiarize yourself with the neighborhoods Castro, Haight, Lower Haight, Hayes Valley, Downtown and SOMA.
Eating is sexy; I’ve got recommendations in the pride-centric neighborhoods:
You’re in the Castro and you’re starving. Asqew is cheap, fast and good and has lots for vegetarians. Pasta Pomodoro is another highly recommended chain with yummy food; whole wheat pasta and lo-carb options as well. Just a Bite (Castro @ Market) has cheap walk-out pies and savory food; Fuzio’s is slightly fancier with excellent Italian/Asian fare and great cocktails. Nirvana is hands-down my haunt, though while not cheap has some really incredible Asian fusion creations, lots of vegan and veggie options and cocktails that will spank you, hard (I really like their Mango Mai Tai). The sushi at Osaka Sushi is some of the best in the city — my nipples are getting hard just thinking about their maguro/mango/shiso leaf roll dotted with kiwi/citrus/white wine sauce. Thailand Restaurant is a few doors down, and upstairs so you get an amazing view of the street, and they have superb Thai food. For fancy food I also like Tangerine and 2223 (which has sublime sunday brunch and kick-ass Bloody Mary’s). Squat and Gobble is a local chain with good prices and good food; rely on them, especially for great breakfast omlettes. Also don’t miss Chow, and World Sausage on Market has a zillion sausages (5-6 veggie options) and over a hundred beers, and low prices. Bombay India has decent Indian food, though not the best. Lime has very stylish mini-food and has been doing a drag party brunch on sundays. Breakfast/brunch in the Castro is going to be hell all weekend long; instead go to the Haight or Mission. My secret on busy weekends like this is to hop on the MUNI underground at Market and Castro and get on any inbound train. Two stops and I’m in West Portal; across the street from the station is a huge Squat and Gobble that is usually empty. The whole trip takes five minutes and costs $1.25.
Here is a general list of Castro restaurants.
You’re in the Haight and your blood sugar is plummeting. Hippies are closing in — noooo! Hurry and get to the best deli/cafe in SF, The Blue Front Cafe, where I’ve been a regular for over 10 years — cheap, with great coffee, salads, dolmas and hummus, out of this world falafels and sandwiches. If they’re too crowded, cross the street and get something from People’s Cafe — a little more hippie but good. El Balazo and Zona Rosa have drop-dead delicious Mexican food (mostly burritos). All You Knead had depressingly bad food; instead go to Squat and Gobble right nearby (there’s one in Lower Haight, too). The best brunch is at The Pork Store, which does have pork but also lots of options for veggies. For a delightful dinner get some African food at Massawa; the cheaper (and just as delicious) version is Axum Cafe, where I’ve gone for a decade for their beautiful smiles, terrific food and strong African beer. The best Thai food in SF is in Lower Haight at Thep Phenom — make a reservation.
Hungry in the Mission? If it’s brunch time, visit the other, bigger location of The Pork Store — it has a larger menu and lots of seating, with all kinds of weird/cool veggie options. I also love brunch at Boogaloos, though the wait can be long and it’s way too loud if you’re hung over. For dinner in the Mish, I like the Chinese food at Yum Yum House (they deliver for free) and the French specialties (savory crepes/seafood) at Ti Couz. I don’t eat in the Mission much in the evenings because I hate trendy eateries and it’s full of them (they never stay around long, either). The Mission is a mixed bag; some parts are totally str8 trendy-unfriendly, there are lots of dykes and artists and also plenty of trust-fund babies slumming it. All in the middle of a mostly poor-working class Latino neighborhood actively struggling with poverty and crime. On one street is velevt ropes and valet parking; two blocks over gangs and really sad young crack whores and junkies, all of which will break your jaw if they’re in the mood (this happened to a friend of mine). It’s not very safe for women at night, and I get hassled by guys on the street during the day. But there is some really awesone street art; also I’ve never been to Foreign Cinema but I hear the food is really good, and the snacks at the Oxygen Bar are good but what you really want to go there for is to try the oxygen and to see the weird people getting drunk while hooked up to oxygen tanks.
Hungry downtown? Expect to pay; don’t eat the overpriced Pride food unless you’re really desperate. My secret spots are Boudin Bakery (mediocre sandwiches, soup), Tony Baloney’s (1098 Howard st.; cheap and good falafel and sandwiches), the Sony Metreon has a remarkably great food court tucked in the back with all kinds of good food. Also there’s a huge Whole Foods with salad bar and fresh food; a Harvest Market with the same (191 8th @ Howard).
My favorite restaurants roundup:
Best coffee: Castro Cheesery (Castro)
Thai: Thep Phenom (Lower Haight)
Sushi: Tsunami — ginger sake and yummy ultra-hip artsy sushi (Western Addition)
Deli/Cafe: The Blue Front Cafe (Upper Haight)
Outdoor cafe: Cafe Flore (Castro)
Brunch: Savor (in yuppie hell, Noe Vally district; so worth it)
Chinese: Yum Yum House (Mission)
Pizza: Goat Hill Pizza (Potrero/SOMA)
French: Ti Couz (Mission)
Seafood: Catch (Castro)
Fancy, sexy and delicious: Millennium (Downtown)
Money is no object: The Slanted Door; Zuni Cafe (Waterfront; Middle Market)
Money is a big deal: Zona Rosa‘s and Asqew (Upper Haight; Castro)
Super-fun tranny performances and great Asian food/cocktails: Asia SF (SOMA)
Classic HTML page of San Francisco vegetarian restaurants here.
Let’s talk about sex and shopping, baby. First, shoes. San Francisco is a shoe mecca. The Haight is a shoe sophisticate’s wet dream, from cheap fetish shoes to bizarre Japanese creations and beyond to drag queen shoetopia. I like Fluevog’s, Luichiny (1529 Haight), Shoe Biz, Daljeets (fetish), and Piedmont (your absolute one-stop drag queen stripper shop). Men looking for great men’s shoes should shop in the Castro, especially at De La Sole.
You dress like a ho if you’re doing it right. Piedmont is a nice place for slutty stripperwear and they have every kind of pastie you can imagine, but I find them overpriced for clothing I hope gets ripped off me later, so I go down the street to Goth/fetish New York Apparel (lots of the same stuff, cheaper, plus Lip Service clothes), who also has a huge selection of inexpensive tights and legwear.
Fetish, rubber, corset, leather and S/M pervs need to pay a requisite visit to Dark Garden, Stormy Leather and Mr. S Leathers (awesome leatherfag shop); across the street is Madame S (women’s boutique).
Be prepared for sex at all times. You must pay a visit to one Good Vibrations store; they have the best selection of harnesses and dildos and dirty/erotic books in town. For cheap lube (and more kinds than you’d ever imagine), visit any of the porn stores in the Castro — there’s a lube price war going on, people, and many of these stores are taking a loss with their low prices just to get people in the door. Take advantage. To get cheap vibrators, you’ll find some in the boy-centric Castro shops, but the real bargains and selection are in North Beach at “adult bookstores” sugh as Big Al’s (556 Broadway) and Adult Media (Kearney & Clay). Also visit famed local LGBT bookstore A Different Light for books and magazines both naughty and cool.
Get a lap dance for your strap-on. You’ll want to visit North Beach anyway, because it’s cool and beautiful, has the awesome Cafe Prague, and my favorite strip club is there, the Hungry I. The Hungry I is a fairly typical strip joint but is couples’ and women-friendly and no silicone in sight. The women tend to be friendly and not-skinny, sometimes Goth and tattooed. The Lusty Lady is a peep show with hot, smart women, but if you want cheap and fun lapdances where you can get drunk (on overpriced swill), get your dyke ass over to the Hungry I (and bring me!). We have a couple all-male strip clubs of note which are primarily for a gay male clientele, but are generally friendly toward women, bois and mixed-gender couples — they endure bachelorette parties, so they’re seasoned enough to appreciate any clientele that is polite, isn’t screaming in their faces, and tips well. I’ve waited on performers from Nob Hill Adult Theatre, and I grilled them on these topics… again, if you go, take me with you!
Visit a sex club, or three. But what you want is a sex club? Look at this list on Eros Guide for an assortment of local sex clubs and bars; here is Eros Guide’s complete San Francisco listings of everything from massage to shopping. The Power Exchange is a giant three-floor sex club (top floor men only; bottom floor dungeon spaces and theme rooms for all genders/orientations but primarily str8 and MTF trans); no alcohol is served and I don’t recommend that women wind up around outside the club alone after dark. For dungeon play, visit The Citadel (women’s night friday); also check out this (sadly poorly written) guide to local lesbian and dyke bars and don’t forget Wild Side West in your travels. If you’re a gay man looking to have sex in SF, well, you’re *so* going to get laid. I’m not a gay man (outside the bedroom) so I’m not hip on all the gay sex clubs, but I have heard fun stories about Eros and Blow Buddies. Check this list for gay leather bars. There are dozens of gay bars, especially in the Castro and in SOMA, so you’ll have your pick by flavor and mood — and contoversy. Here’s a nice guide to gay male SF, especially bars; here’s one for LGT.
If you’re looking for fun MTF tranny bars, you’ll want to hit Polk street for Diva’s (Motherlode is downstairs), Esta Noche, the End Up, and The Stud is home to tuesday night’s Trannyshack so you’ll be treated warmly there as well — for some serious girl trouble, check out Hecklina’s site.
Do something during the day. Lastly, if you find yourself on saturday wanting to have a truly lovely San Francisco experience, I highly recommend that you visit the Farmers’ market at the gorgeous Ferry Building Marketplace downtown on the water. Incredible views will make the coffee and pastry you just bought taste that much yummier, and it’s just amazing to wander around all the shops and ogle all the sexy fresh produce. If it’s art you’re looking for, do not miss the Shooting Gallery’s 3rd Annual Erotic Art Show (huge potfolio online) — it’s incredible. For the *hardcore* fetishists, the SF Apple store downtown is kinda like that, too.
My big plan so far:
Trans march, Sisters of Perpertual Indulgence stalking, Ex-Boyfriends at Cafe DuNord friday night; saturday going to a house party, maybe seeing Pepperspray at Cafe DuNord, possibly going dancing at The Cafe if I can get in, getting drunk, having some kind of sexual adventure. Sunday, taking my hangover to the Civic Center after parade time, meeting up with friends, mooching maragritas.
The post Welcome to San Francisco appeared first on Violet Blue ® | Open Source Sex.