Welcome to the Guardian's Best of the Bay 2011! This is our 37th annual celebration of the people, places, and things that make living here such a great experience — from Best Burrito and Best Local Band to Best Strip Club, Best Shoe Store, Best Drag Queen, and beyond.
More than 15,000 of our readers voted in our 2011 Best of the Bay Readers Poll for their favorites in more than 200 categories. You'll find the results inside — as well as 150 Editors Picks that highlight some Guardian favorites, old and new, that we think deserve special recognition for lighting up our lives this year.
Our theme for 2011 is "Beautiful Rebels" -- and inside this year's Best of the Bay, we've highlighted eight of our favorite "beautiful rebels" who we think are helping change the Bay Area for the better. Throughout its history, the Bay Area has attracted wave upon wave of people looking to create something unique. From Barbary Coast explorers to Belle Epoque, Jazz Age, and Beatnik free spirits, from hippies and queer and civil rights pioneers to tattooed 1990s swing kids and Burning Man visionaries, to today's global tech innovators and their DIY, local, organic, small-batch counterparts.
We seem to be living in a time when a certain conservatism and conformity reigns, when speaking out gets you pilloried in the comments section and big-box consumerism squeezes out charming idiosyncrasies. That's why we wanted to take this Best of the Bay opportunity to celebrate the Bay Area's proud perseverance in remaining the weirdest, oddest, most interesting and rewarding place in the world, somewhere where "freak" is a compliment and "out there" equals "gorgeous."
In 1974, Esquire magazine asked us for ideas for its Best of the USA issue, which led to us publish 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 opportunity to celebrate the people and places that make this city great. We were the first weekly paper to publish a regular "best of" issue. Thirty-seven years on — and 45 years after we opened our doors — we're still going strong.
Editing this year's installment was a hoot. I shower grateful smooches on all my collaborators, especially my right-hand amiga Caitlin Donohue, creative wiz Mirissa Neff, amazing illustrator Renee Castro, photographer Ben Hopfer, the Guardian staff, and the ever-supportive Hunky Beau, my own personal Best of the Bay.
But most of all I thank you, dear reader, for your generous participation, for making the Bay Area such an astounding place to live, and for turning us on to some great new things this year.
Best of the Bay 2011 co-editor
ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR
Like the Guardian, Renee "Lady Reni" Castro is native to the Bay Area — really. Born in Oakland, Castro's heritage stems from the Ohlone Native American tribe. (You can't get more local than that.) Her background serves as inspiration for much of her art, especially her subjects' clothing and their deeply-rooted connections to the natural world. Her other influences for her illustrations in this year's "Beautiful Rebels"-themed Best of the Bay include Mexican and Spanish folklore, broken-hearted femmes fatales, disheveled muses, and erotic heroines. Castro's current projects include commissions for SF companies the Loin and Peasants and Travelers, shows in local galleries, plus an apprenticeship at Amor Eterno Tattoo in Oakland, where you're welcome to drop by and see her.
BEST OF THE BAY STAFF
BEST OF THE BAY EDITORS
Marke B., Caitlin Donohue
ASSISTANT ART DIRECTOR
Jackie Andrews, Emily Appelbaum, Rebecca Bowe, Richard Boyce, Kimberly Chun, Angelina Kravich, Cheryl Eddy, Nicole Gluckstern, Sean Hurd, Steven T. Jones, Heather Mack, Virginia Miller, Carly Nairn, Sarah Phelan, Julie Potter, Tim Redmond, Paul Reidinger, Kat Renz, Charles Russo, Amber Schadewald, Ariel Soto-Suver, Diane Sussman, Hannah Tepper, Christopher Trenchard
BEST OF THE BAY PHOTOGRAPHY
Francesca Balaguer, Stephen Heraldo, Ben Hopfer, Eric Lynch, Virginia Miller, Ariel Soto-Suver, Erik Anderson
Emily Appelbaum, Diane Sussman