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The Best Places for a Helping Hand in 2016
San Francisco magazine | Photo: Zipeng Zhu; Courtesy of Retailers | June 28, 2016
You need it, they've got it: Expert assistance for your hair, your home, your hybrid, and your unmentionables.
Dry Cleaner: Nice N’ Clean
1774 Sacramento St. (near Polk St.), 415-929-7323
You’d be forgiven for harboring suspicions that your dry cleaner isn’t really listening as he shoves yet another clothing pile down the counter. Nice N’ Clean puts that anxiety to rest. The proprietors go over your duds carefully, heed caveats about garments that need special care, and diligently mark problem areas with orange stickers. They’ll be clear about the limits of their powers over tricky stains—then proceed to battle those imperfections better than most. And if you’re new, owner Song will shake your hand and introduce herself.
Runner-up: Russ Cleaners & Laundry
Shoe Repair: Galletti Shoe Repair
22 Battery St. (near Pine St.), 415-398-5474
Galletti’s cobblers are shoe ninjas. Bring in a broken designer heel (from $80) or a sullied white leather flat (from $38.95), and you’ll get back something that looks and feels new again. It’s almost as though they broke into the shoe, put it back in order, and exited without a trace. Handed a pair of handmade Italian boots with a chafing issue that even the boot seller maintained was insignificant, a Galletti cobbler flattened the offending spot with three decisive chops. Remove your laces before you drop off your kicks, as detachables get separated easily.
Runner-up: Jack’s Shoe Repair
Tailor: Wah’s Fashion
833 Market St. (near 4th St.), Ste. 301, 415-543-7123
Cindy Wah is everything you want a tailor to be: exacting, patient, and honest (she can sew up a storm, but she can’t bend the laws of physics). Wah’s prices are good (from $12 for hemming), but her commitment to doing the job right is even better: Need to replicate part of a damaged dress with a hand-sewn detail? She’ll shove the machine aside and break out the needle and thread. Need an alteration that requires a fabric she doesn’t have on hand? She’ll send you to Britex Fabrics with instructions on what and how much to buy.
Wash and Fold: Rinse
Rinse makes schlepping dirty laundry a thing of the past. You set detergent and starch preferences via a smartphone app with Zen-like simplicity. If you’re out during the pickup and delivery window (8 a.m. to 10 p.m.), you can buzz in your valet remotely or leave behind a key in a Rinse lockbox. Three days later, your valet will hand you a compact stack of freshly fluffed and folded clothes (a 24-hour turnaround is $5 extra). At $1.75 per pound, Rinse is a bit pricier than a regular brick-and-mortar, but it makes up for cost with convenience.
Runner-up: Sparkle Laundry Services
Bra Fitter: True&Co.
Imagine a world where you can be fitted for a bra without a measuring-tape-wielding stranger sticking her nose in your décolletage. Actually, that’s not far off from the experience of ordering from True&Co., which sells a mix of brands alongside in-house pieces from lingerie designer Nikki Dekker. The San Francisco–based company can find the perfect bras for your shape, thanks to an algorithm that pulls in sizing data from more than two million women. With free returns (and free shipping on orders over $75), you won’t have to set foot in a sad beige dressing room ever again.
Runner-up: Les Cent Culottes
Salon: Barrow Salon
256 Sutter St. (near Claude Ln.), 4th Fl., 415-732-0356
The stylists at this Union Square salon share a look of undone glamour: red lipstick, shaggy bangs, wood-soled platforms, and tattoos galore. These protégées of owner Michelle Snyder, the mane magician behind the locks of Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, and Sienna Miller, staff a salon known for its effortlessly cool cuts (from $100) and envy-inducing color (from $110), including ombré balayage, razor-cut bobs, sun-kissed highlights, and tousled lobs. Bonus: The wallpaper-swathed bathroom is among the most Instagram-worthy in the city (and serves as the backdrop for countless “after” selfies).
Curly-Hair Stylist: Dianne Nola at Surreal You Hair Design
538 Irving St. (near 7th Ave.), 415-786-6402
Cutting curly hair is a bit like driving a Zamboni: It should really be left to the pros. Dianne Nola is a consummate pro. A curl specialist for the past 28 years, she trained in the vaunted DevaCurl method and is a master of the dry cut. When you sit down in her chair, she’ll begin by assessing your curl type and will finish with your undying loyalty (cuts $140–$210).
Barbershop: Dogpatch Barber and Shave
2632 3rd St. (near 23rd St.), 415-814-1117
After honing his skills for 15 years, hometown barber Christopher Eliares (aka Cream the Barber) opened his own salon in 2014. While the decor is slightly retro—wood-paneled walls, a barber’s pole—the styling techniques are cutting-edge. Eliares and his two co-barbers are known for their range: Sure, they’ll take a little off the top, but the trio are deft in all manner of techniques, including pompadours, fades, undercuts, lineups, portraits, and freestyle designs, plus shaves and beard trims (cuts $35; facial hair from $10). The cuts are meticulous and the vibe unpretentious.
Runner-up: J.P. Kempt Barber & Social
Mani-Pedi: Lux SF
490 Hayes St. (near Octavia St.), 415-255-4589
In a city full of slapdash nail stations, this seven-chair salon gives your digits the attention they deserve. Tailored treatments might include an exfoliating lime-and-ginger salt scrub by Bliss, a moisturizing shea butter wrap, or an antiaging paraffin wrap. And that’s all before the polish. The salon exclusively stocks so-called 5-free lacquers, which are free of common toxins. But that distinction isn’t limiting: The wall of polishes includes the latest collections from Deborah Lippmann, Smith & Cult, JinSoon, and more. Beyond the classic mani-pedi (from $65), the skilled technicians are known for their flawless half-moon designs. Champagne is on the house.
Runner-up: Q Spa
Day Spa: Remède Spa
125 3rd St. (near Harrison St.), 415-284-4060
In space-starved SoMa, this 9,000-square-foot, two-floor spa in the St. Regis hotel feels decadent. A private elevator is devoted solely to spagoers, which prevents robe-clad run-ins with the rest of the hotel’s guests. Services include a range of tailored massages (from $175), body treatments (from $160), and facials (from $185) using Intraceuticals and Omorovicza products. In addition to nine private treatment rooms, the facility features dual men’s and women’s steam rooms, saunas, hot tubs, and lounges. But the standout is the glass-encased infinity pool, which affords views of SFMOMA and YBCA.
Runner-up: Burke Williams Day Spa
Quickie Spa: Parlor Mini Spa
2418 Polk St. (near Filbert St.), 415-801-5758
Consider Parlor the Drybar of spas: a stylish pit stop for 30-minute facials, massages, manicures, pedicures, or waxing. The bilevel spa looks more like a chic cocktail lounge, with manicure stools lining a long marble bar top. The bar is surrounded by sheepskin-topped Bertoia chairs, industrial pendant lighting, and a small boutique. Farther back, you’ll find pedicure stations ($35), a room for facials (from $65) and waxing ($20–$90), and massage stations (from $15). All products are toxin-free, including Naturopathica skincare and Youngblood’s mineral makeup. The whole setup is so cozy that you’ll want to overstay your half hour.
Runner-up: The Spa at Loews Regency (express menu)
333 3rd St. (near Folsom St.), Ste. 205, 415-227-0331
You won’t find scented candles and fluffy bathrobes at Psoas. What you will find are massage therapists who know their way around and through a sports injury. The 30- to 90-minute massages (from $70) here are an interactive experience: The therapists communicate throughout, making you a participant in your healing. If you want to lie prone in silence, that’s fine—everything at Psoas is customized according to your comfort level. There’s a reason, in other words, that the waiting room is typically full of CrossFit survivors, as well as aching desk jockeys.
Runner-up: Earthbody Facialist
Dermaplus Skin + Body
1728 Union St. (near Octavia St.), Ste. 200, 415-885-6192
Unlike over-the-top facialists touting gimmicky ingredients (gold leaf? caviar?), Dermaplus’s unfailingly professional aestheticians are known for results-oriented skincare. At the small but spotless medspa, each facial is tailored to the client’s particular concerns, from combating weather damage and aging to minimizing discoloration and breakouts (from $110). Though the in-house line of products is botanicals-based, the spa also offers high-tech add-ons like laser genesis. (Products by Jan Marini, Obagi, and J. Sabatelli are incorporated as needed.) Each hour-long session is capped by a shoulder, neck, hand, and foot massage.
Runner-up: International Orange
Brow Shaper: Blink Eyebrows and Cosmetics
166 Geary St. (near Grant Ave.), Ste. 1305, 415-399-0789
This sleek salon has inspired a cult-like following for its meticulous brow “design.” Why design? There’s no wax involved. Each appointment begins with a thorough consultation, and first-timers are given a long-term plan for restoring uneven and thinned-out brows. The shaping pros at Blink rely solely on plucking and threading to achieve a more precise effect, and a single appointment can run 45 minutes. Rather than cookie-cutter brows, Blink’s shapers groom naturally face-flattering arches (from $45).
Runner-up: Eyebrows Anonymous
Waxer: Glamour Puss
2250 Union St. (near Fillmore St.), Ste. 304, 415-678-7952
Waxing is an awkward experience, but cheeky aesthetician Sara Holmes will put you at ease. She’s been cleaning up clients for more than a decade, earning a reputation reputation for being gentle and efficient. Her tiny salon offers head-to-toe threading, waxing, and sugaring services for both women and men ($36 for bikini waxing or sugaring). Though longer lasting, sugaring can be more painful, depending on your hair type—but Holmes’s expert technique makes the process palatable.
Runner-up: La Tira Wax Studio
Housekeeping: Sparkling Clean Agency
This agency’s online booking system makes it easy to try out cleaners before finding a favorite. The service provides a deep clean of all bedrooms, bathrooms, and living spaces ($165 for a two-bed, two-bath). Extra options, such as oven and fridge overhauls, are also available. Gifts like tea and chocolate will welcome you home, along with replacement cleaning supplies for those in-between spruces. The service’s eco-friendly products are safe around pets and children.
Runner-up: Zen Home
Rug Cleaner: Papillon Rug Care
900 Cabrillo St. (at 10th Ave.), 415-876-7847
Whether you’re a spill-prone coffee drinker, a new puppy owner, or an interior designer dead set on restoring dated rugs, Papillon Rug Care can help. Time-tested and approved, the 17-year-old outfit is run by technicians certified in the Auserhlian School of Oriental Rug Cleaning, a 100-hour program (no Auserhlian School dropouts here). Among those singing the company’s praises is a longtime curator for Ann and Gordon Getty—but Papillon will happily pick up and drop off at your humble abode, too (from $4 per square foot).
Runner-up: Nisei Rug Cleaners
Framing: Small Works SF
3320 18th St. (near Capp St.), 973-960-8903
After years as a veteran framer at Sterling Art Services, Andrew Berg launched his own custom frame business in 2012. He’s since amassed a following among artists, collectors, and gallerists for his museum-quality, closed-corner frames and custom finishes (from $150 for an 8-by-10-inch frame). The maple, oak, and walnut frames are innately beautiful without distracting from the art. And in an industry where raw materials are often thrown away, he’s eco-conscious, using nontoxic dryers and sustainable hardwoods. You can spot his work at restaurants, museums, and galleries around the Bay Area, including the Perennial, Penrose, Gagosian Gallery, Jessica Silverman Gallery, and BAMPFA.
Runner-up: Sterling Art Services
Computer Repair: San Francisco Computer Repair
151 Valencia St. (near McCoppin St.), 415-863-8820
If you’ve ever fried your motherboard or watched your laptop succumb to permanent sleep mode, you know that knowledgeable, honest computer repair pros are worth their weight in rose gold. Here the range of services includes OS installation, virus removal, data recovery, and laptop, desktop, screen, and printer repair (from $65 for diagnostics, which will be credited back to you if you approve the repair). They make speedy service a priority, and they’ll tell you up front if you’re better off with a new machine instead of a costly fix.
Runner-up: Grey Matter Technical Services
Car Mechanic: Luscious Garage
475 9th St. (near Bryant St.), 415-875-9030
It’s a rare car mechanic who’s good for both your car and your psyche. By that measure, Carolyn Coquillette and her team at Luscious are unicorns. The service is quick, attentive, fairly priced, and free of the condescension and inexplicable costs that often attend car repair. Although Luscious focuses on hybrids (it will service all cars), its real specialty is peace of mind that doesn’t come at a premium.
Runner-up: Consumers Auto Body Repair
Locksmith: YES! Locksmith
Well aware that locksmiths who keep regular business hours are of little use, the licensed smiths at Yes! will come to you 24-7, in 30 minutes or less, regardless of where you are in the city. The technician can fix that sticky dead bolt or rekey your apartment in the time it would take a lesser service to call you back. Estimates are free, but charges for lockouts typically range from $125 to $195. At least you’ll be poorer on the right side of the door.
Runner-up: PickBuster Locksmith
Phone Repair: CellSavers
Got a cracked screen, an ailing battery, water damage, or, worse, a smartphone fished out of the toilet? On CellSavers’ website, select your device, describe the issue, and get a price quote on the spot. A technician will arrive at your doorstep within the hour, or you can choose a date and time that’s more convenient. (Prices aren’t cheap, but they’re competitive: A new screen for your iPhone 6 will run you $109.) All repairs have a lifetime warranty, so you’ll be able to hold the service accountable for its equipment and workmanship even after you’ve texted everyone to let them know you’re up and running again.
Runner-up: Bonjour Professional iPhone iPad Repair and Electronic Center
Bike Mechanic: Huckleberry Bicycles
1073 Market St. (near 7th St.), 415-484-6575
The right bike mechanic is often the one that’s along your commute route and not closed when you get a flat. Huckleberry is centrally located on the Market Street corridor and stays open till 7 p.m. on weekdays—and if you straggle in with a loose saddle or a tampered-with brake at 7:01, they’ll still wave you in. The shop is staffed with a gaggle of knowledgeable mechanics who won’t talk down to you or oversell. Just the opposite, really: If all you need is a lube or a bolt tightening, chances are they’ll wave you on free of charge. They’ll also schedule a tune-up ($75) in advance, but for those times when you find yourself waiting around, there’s an old Nintendo loaded with Super Mario and Tetris.
Runner-up: Warm Planet Bikes
Handyman: Reasonably Honest Mike’s
Before setting up shop as a wryly named handyman, Mike Watson was taking graduate classes in counseling—but abandoned that track for a motorcycle packed with tools. He now specializes in small jobs (such as replacing plugs) of $500 and under. Given that he’s tinkered his way through the guts of more than 2,000 units around town, Mike’s the guy you want on your side in the daily fight against entropy ($130 for the first hour; $65 per hour thereafter).
Runner-up: Craig Lipton, Maven Maintenance
Upholsterer: Save My Seat
275 6th Ave. (near Clement St.), Ste. 106, 415-515-6638
From her small, inviting Richmond district shop, Lauren Siegel restores this city’s sofas, ottomans, and footstools to their former glory—or does them one better, thanks to her library of eco-friendly fabrics. Siegel offers quotes by email; prices start around $75 for re-covering a simple dining chair seat, and around $750 for a wingback chair (cost of fabric not included). In the shop, you can page through the swatch samples at your own pace, with or without input from Siegel—though her shop dog,Pilot, is likely to make his opinion heard.
Runner-up: Attard Upholstering
Pest Control: Pestec Integrated Pest Management Providers
1555 Yosemite Ave. (at Jennings St.), Ste. 46, 415-671-0300
The City and County of San Francisco hired Pestec to handle pest management in 1998. Since then, the EPA-approved company has pioneered effective methods of managing creepy-crawlies with minimal pesticides, driving off bedbugs with industrial heaters, closing holes that rodents crawl through before setting traps, and busting out toxic chemicals only as a last resort.
Runner-up: Scent Tek
Babysitting Service: UrbanSitter
In techspeak, UrbanSitter has Yelpified the babysitter space. How? By allowing parents to rate and review a pool of childcare providers through its site and a corresponding app. The four founding parents have devised a sink-or-swim system whereby well-reviewed sitters’ results are most visible. Parents can search by neighborhood, pay rate, experience level, response time, and background checks, and can also see which sitters their Facebook friends have hired. The pay-by-app option is a welcome time-saver.
Driving School: Fearless Driver—Ann’s Driving School
650 Delancey St. (at Brannan St.), 415-777-8666
The $180 price tag for a two-hour driving lesson may seem as steep as Filbert Street, but new drivers are in capable hands with Judy Ann Lubland and her team of instructors. They’ve calmed the most anxious of students and helped them get comfortable with San Francisco’s unruly terrain, profusion of color-coded lanes, and unpredictable pedestrians. The classes aren’t geared solely to the 16-year-old newbie eager to take the minivan out for a spin: Fearless Driver offers specialized instruction for those suffering from autophobia, people with physical disabilities, and licensed drivers in need of a brushup.
Runner-up: Winsen Driving School
Summer Camp: Tree Frog Treks
2112 Hayes St. (at Cole St.), 415-876-3764
There’s no better way to get your kids to unplug than acquainting them with a teeming congregation that includes a Burmese python, an Indonesian blue-tongued skink, and—of course—plenty of frogs. Tree Frog Treks has been introducing city kids to these critters since 1999, when classroom educator Chris “Mr. Science” Giorni founded the company. During weeklong day camps with themes like “Climate Pirates,” “Space Frogs,” and “Boogers, Bugs, and Boas,” held at Golden Gate, Precita, Piedmont, and John McLaren Parks, kids explore the natural world, meet animals, and perform science experiments.
Runner-up: Circus Center
Swim School: La Petite Baleen
933 Old Mason St. (at Marine Dr.), 866-896-3603
At La Petite Baleen, swim lessons are akin to college courses. For a $99 monthly “tuition,” kids can enroll in one of four levels of coursework, complete with homework assignments and progress reports. All teachers undergo a rigorous month of training, and children aged three and up benefit from a four-to-one student-teacher ratio (six-to-one for younger kids). The Baby and Me class, designed for tots between 2 and 16 months, is particularly popular. It’s taught in a pool heated to a bath-like 90 degrees.
Runner-up: Jewish Community Center of San Francisco
College Prep: Grey Guidance
1728 Union St. (near Gough St.), Ste. 106, greyguidance.com
Adopting a one-size-doesn’t-fit-all approach, Emily Grey Goldman goes beyond the usual student-counselor sit-down to meet students on their own terms—which might include texting, Twitter and Facebook messages, and Skype. Goldman homes in on her students’ needs, strengths, and weaknesses to devise the best strategy for them. Starting at $200, her in-person or virtual sessions cover topics ranging from developing a list of universities to sharpening college essays and facing down those Kafka-esque FAFSA forms.
Runner-up: HigherGrounding College Counseling
Dog Walker: DoggieWalks
Nicole Spooner is much more than a dog walker. She’s a pet-sitter, a vet technician with training chops, and, most important, someone who understands the needs of both dogs and owners. Spooner’s group walks are organized by personality and size and take place in off-leash areas where dogs get to run free for an hour (from $25). She’ll also do day care and overnight visits, and she keeps a trainer on staff to help your pooch with any number of behavioral issues.
Runner-up: Citizen Hound
Dog Groomer: Doggie Day Spaw
920 Harrison St. (near 5th St.), Ste. 6, 415-933-0991
Dogs don’t like getting groomed nearly as much as humans do, which is understandable: If we were put into a cage and manhandled at a salon, we wouldn’t be that into it, either. Rhonnie Roberts doesn’t have cages at her SoMa live-work loft, and she’s earned a loyal clientele by offering an array of services more typically associated with a people-variety spa. Here your pup can get everything from a customized mud treatment ($20) to a blueberry-and-vanilla “furcial” ($7) to a temporary tattoo (really! $15). Of course, pooches can also get a plain old shampoo and haircut (from $65). Whatever you choose, your dog will be ready for its best-in-show close-up.
Runner-up: The Dog Barber
Obedience School: San Francisco SPCA
243 Alabama St. (at 16th St.), 415-554-3000
Whether your dog has impulse control issues, antisocial tendencies, trouble walking on a leash, a proclivity for peeing in the house, or the behavior of, well, a puppy, the San Francisco SPCA can help: It offers a smorgasbord of dog-training classes (starting at $125) for pretty much any canine condition under the sun. Class size is kept small, which helps dogs—and their humans—succeed. But it’s not all work and no play: You can also bring in your pup for agility and sport-oriented classes designed with the maxim in mind that a tired dog is a good dog.
Runner-up: Dog Gone Good!
Kennel: High Tail Hotel
2275 Revere Ave. (near Industrial St.), 415-913-7101
Whereas most boarding facilities will clobber you with hidden “à la carte” costs if you don’t want your dog to sit in a cage all day, High Tail is free of both cages and hidden charges. Instead, day boarding (from $39) gets your pup unrestricted time in a 2,000-square-foot indoor dog park, along with two 20-minute leashed walks. It’s the same deal for overnight boarders, who can sleep wherever they like: High Tail provides crates, beds, and blankets. The incredibly friendly staff—who are onsite 24 hours a day—are worth wagging about, too.
Runner-up: Mr. Muggles’ Dogs
Bridal Salon: Loho Bride
550 15th St. (at Utah St.), Studio 19, 415-525-4544
Brides seeking respite from ball-gown-and-tiara overload will find it at Loho, which has been a game changer for indie-minded brides since it opened in 2014. Owner Christy Baird stocks off-the-beaten-path looks—beaded boho stylings and raw edges—from designers like Houghton and Rue de Seine (prices typically range from $2,500 to $5,000). Loho hasn’t thrown femininity out the window; you can still get a chiff on skirt or a strapless number. But you can also find wedding-industrial-complex scarcities like peasant necklines, crop-top-and-skirt combos, and—gasp!—sleeves.
Runner-up: Amy Kuschel
Florist: Brown Paper Design
Danielle Rowe grew up nurturing dahlias in her parents’ backyard garden and creating artful kitchen table arrangements. After cutting her teeth on floral gigs big (as a buyer for Whole Foods) and small (as an event producer for Radeff Design Studios), in 2007 she launched Brown Paper Design, a Berkeley- and S.F.-based event design company specializing in flowers and decor. Her tapestry-draped tablescapes are modern and slightly wild, often incorporating flowering branches, daffodils, jonquils, Sally Holmes roses, and (of course) dahlias. Though there’s no minimum budget, her services tend to run to 15 percent of the overall wedding cost.
Runner-up: Studio Choo Florists
Bakery: Jasmine Rae Cakes
1890 Bryant St. (at Mariposa St.), Ste. 309, 415-621-2464
Jasmine de Lung is an artist whose medium happens to be cake. Though she can turn out a traditional tiered confection, she thrives on breaking out of the frilly white prison, creating cakes cantilevered like a Frank Gehry or finished with a naturalistic edge of cut paper. Layers of moist cake and buttercream are sweet, but not overly so. De Lung requires a $1,200 minimum; per-slice prices start at $9.
Runner-up: A Spoonful of Sugar
Caterer: Fork & Spoon
2565 3rd St. (at 22nd St.), Ste. 336, 415-552-7130
Lobster BLTs. Beef pigs in a blanket. Crispy rock shrimp frites with okra. Jennifer Spiegel and Jonathan Beil craft wedding food you actually want to eat. But food (from $200 per guest) is just a part of what they do. Before opening the business, Spiegel worked as a stylist for Metropolitan Home and the Los Angeles Times, and Beil cooked at local hotspots like Postrio and Geordy’s. All good reasons to entrust Fork & Spoon with flower arrangements, decor, lighting, and even the wedding cake, which they bake and adorn in-house.
Runner-up: LRE Catering
Photographer: Gavin Farrington
Even though it’s likely to be one of the most extensively documented events of your life, your wedding day doesn’t have to feel like a contrived photo shoot. Gavin Farrington’s approach is photojournalistic but not dispassionate: He’ll catch you in your own spontaneous intimate moments, not attempt to stage-direct you into them (from $6,300). Looking to save? Consider hiring one of his associates solo (from $3,900). Whichever way you go, you’ll benefit from Farrington’s watchful eye in post-processing: For every hour of shooting, he and his crew spend about 10 hours editing.
Runner-up: Melanie Duerkopp
DJ: Boutique DJs and Entertainment
Just as important as the must-play list at your wedding? Your do-not-play list. These guys will honor both, without trying to slip “Brick House” into the rotation while you’re in the bathroom. Several of Boutique’s DJs have played festivals like Coachella and Outside Lands, so there’s pretty much nothing your relatives could do to faze them. These are MCs who can read a room and nudge the energy level up or down like they’ve got a finger on a fader (from $1,299).
Runner-up: DJ Sol
Wedding Band: Wonder Bread 5
For couples who want to branch out from the safe choice—that’d be the popular dance band the 415s—Wonder Bread 5 are no demure lounge singers. When you hire them (from $5,000), you’re not getting musical chameleons in bow ties: You’re getting five guys who shamelessly boogie down alongside your guests. The band definitely has a shtick (they have an affinity for tracksuits), but it’s a wholehearted, endearing shtick.
Runner-up: Tainted Love
Wedding Planner: Alison Events
185 Arkansas St. (at Mariposa St.), Studio B, 415-567-7605
It takes a virtuoso planner to conduct the hundred-piece orchestra that is a wedding in a way that feels low-key. Grand piano on the forest floor? Sure. Casu-glam ottomans for a ceremony on the beach in Tulum? A breeze. Alison Rinderknecht and her staff of three are masters of designing settings that feel natural and inevitable, never clichéd or tacked on. Rinderknecht charges a minimum of $30,000 for a level of service that paves the way for everything from a weekend at a wine country ranch to a full-blown foreign destination wedding.
Runner-up: Shelter Co.
The first rule of real estate (and gyms) is location, location, location, and Equinox has three of the best in the city. But don’t let the pretty facades fool you: Within each of these state-of-the-art facilities you’ll find butt-kicking group workouts that more than justify the hefty membership fees ($190 per month at Pine Street and Union Street, $200 at Market Street). In an era of $30-a-pop boutique fitness classes, Equinox’s options—Precision Running, Real Deal Boxing, Performance Cycling—give the one-and-done studios a run for their money.
Kickboxing: Cardio Kick, Koret Health and Recreation Center
University of San Francisco, 2130 Fulton St. (corner of Parker Ave. & Turk St.), 415-422-6811
Make no mistake: You will be incredibly sore the day after Deirdre Jones’s fast-paced, 45-minute class set to hip-hop, EDM, and heavy metal. But despite her intensity, Jones is the ideal instructor for beginners. She offers optional modifications for every move and shouts encouragement throughout the class. And unlike other, sweat-free instructors, she actually does the workout alongside her charges. Non-Koret members can attend class on a day pass ($20), which also grants access to the rest of the facility, including the Olympic-size pool.
TRX: TRX Training Center
1660 Pacific Ave. (near Van Ness Ave.), 415-655-4797
Founder Randy Hetrick created the resistance trainer—those yellow straps hanging from the ceiling at your gym—as a way to stay fit while he was deployed as a Navy SEAL. It’s the key to lean muscle, better balance, and a super-strong core. Hetrick’s invention eventually spawned a group-fitness trend and Nob Hill’s TRX Training Center. More than a strap-centric studio, it’s the resistance-training company’s headquarters, where you’ll find the newest, most innovative TRX workouts. Classes ($25 each) range from cardio-focused boot camps to strength-only sessions and yoga combos, so there’s something for everyone.
Cardio: Barry’s Bootcamp
236 King St. (near 4th St.), 415-546-3996; 2246 Lombard St. (near Steiner St.), 415-500-2693
Your first hour-long class at Barry’s Bootcamp is a crash course in badassery. Yes, the trainers are motivating and ripped, but that’s to be expected. What’s noteworthy here is the growing number of regulars who hit 12.5-mile-per-hour treadmill sprints with ease and answer the challenge of increasingly heavy weights, all while welcoming newcomers (classes around $32). Whether you’re tiptoeing into fitness or a regular gym rat, the staff will applaud your success.
Runner-up: Uforia Studios
CrossFit: Flagship Athletic Performance
“I’ll never be a CrossFitter,” you swear as you scroll past video—ugh, video!—of box jumps and dead lifts in your Facebook feed. Don’t let the diehards intimidate you. Book a class at one of Flagship’s two locations and you’ll squat, press, and row with the city’s friendliest CrossFit fanatics (from $225 per month). In addition to the training options ranging from intro to pro level, Flagship offers conditioning classes. Whether you’re a CrossFit virgin or a regular, coaches here are encouraging and dedicated to helping you perfect your form.
Runner-up: San Francisco CrossFit
Yoga: CorePower Yoga
215 Fremont St. (at Howard St.), 415-200-4137
Tired of the same old flow between your om and namaste? CorePower Yoga shakes up the routine in YogaSculpt classes ($25), mixing free weights, squats, lunges, and curls with vinyasa poses. (Fear not, yogis: There are traditional and hot vinyasa classes, too.) This shiny new studio boasts three spacious practice areas, a boutique with plenty of Lululemon and Alo, and fully stocked locker rooms with showers. Need a prework or midday stretch? Stop by and sweat it out.
Runner-up: Yoga Tree
Originally published in the July issue of San Francisco