New Ikea is a hit with readers: Besties

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Wednesday October 25, 2023
Share this Post:
Ikea's first San Francisco store, located at 945 Market Street, opened in August. Photo: Cynthia Laird
Ikea's first San Francisco store, located at 945 Market Street, opened in August. Photo: Cynthia Laird

It might be the Swedish meatballs. Or maybe it's the fact that after you have assembled much of the furniture on your own, you derive a sense of accomplishment when the project is completed. Whatever the reason, Bay Area Reporter readers gave a big thumbs up to Ikea, the Swedish-based home furnishings retailer that opened a store August 23 on Market Street near the Powell BART/Muni station in downtown San Francisco. It took first place in the best place to buy furniture category in the B.A.R.'s readers' poll.

Unlike many of the retailer's other stores, the company's first San Francisco location focuses on small-space living and storage. Smaller items can be taken home, while larger ones will be delivered, as media outlets reported when the store opened.

A coworking space on the third floor is expected to open in 2024.

And yes, there are two delis, including a second-floor cafe that sells the aforementioned meatballs.

Ikea, 945 Market Street, San Francisco. (888) 888-4532.


Room and Board

Best Bank or Credit Union

San Francisco Federal Credit Union

San Francisco Federal Credit Union is a repeat winner this year. SF Federal Credit Union offers a full range of financial services, from checking accounts and online banking to vehicle and home loans. When you become a member, you're a part owner of the credit union, which gives you rights to elect members of the board.

Main branch: 770 Golden Gate Avenue (at Gough) San Francisco. (415) 775-5377.


Bank of America

Joe's Barbershop owner Joe Gallagher stands in the shop, which is a favorite of readers. Photo: Rick Gerharter  

Best Barber Shop/Salon
Joe's Barbershop
Joe's Barbershop is a repeat winner in 2023. This popular establishment has been serving the Castro since 2004, when Joe Gallagher decided to open up shop. Gallagher continues to be "very proud" of the shop, and credits his loyal customers. Stop by for a trim, or make an appointment.

Joe's Barbershop, 2150 Market Street, San Francisco. (415) 255-9096.

Castro Barber Lounge

Best Bicycle Shop
Mike's Bikes
A new winner this year is Mike's Bikes. Located in the heart of the South of Market district, it's a stepping stone to some of the best cycling in Northern California, its website states. The shop has a wide selection of bikes for all terrains, including electric ones. Its bike techs can provide tune-ups, and an event calendar has information on exciting rides in the Bay Area.

Mike's Bikes, 1233 Howard Street, San Francisco. (415) 241-2453.

Valencia Cyclery

Fabulosa Books owner Alvin Orloff  

Best Bookstore
Fabulosa Books
Alvin Orloff, a gay man, has owned Fabulosa Books since 2021, when he bought the former Dog Eared Books in the Castro and rechristened it. Fabulosa is a repeat winner and, since he took over the business, Orloff has made the store into his own. This year, Orloff has fought back against homophobic and transphobic book bans in conservative states by sending boxes of LGBTQ-themed books to community centers and other organizations, as the B.A.R. previously reported.

"We're eager to keep up the fight," Orloff told the B.A.R. "Book bans are not slowing down and we're in for the long haul."

Orloff was especially grateful to the community and Fabulosa's customers, "for helping with this crusade." Patrons are invited to buy books for the boxes that the store then ships at its expense.

"We love, love, love our community," Orloff said.

Fabulosa Books, 489 Castro Street, San Francisco. (415) 658-7015.

Green Apple Books

The Apothecarium on Market Street was voted best cannabis dispensary. Photo: Scott Wazlowski  

Best Cannabis Dispensary
The Apothecarium
Long a favorite of readers, the Apothecarium retains its top spot in the poll this year. Its mission is to provide members with quality cannabis in a welcoming environment with empathy, education, and ongoing support, its website states. "Our dispensaries are known for emphasizing education and customer service for seniors, first-time dispensary visitors, and patients with serious medical conditions," the website states. "We focus on providing our guests with in-depth, one-on-one consultations from highly trained cannabis consultants. We also provide free cannabis education events that are open to the public."

The Apothecarium, 2029 Market Street, San Francisco. (415) 500-2620.

Eureka Sky

Trader Joe's is known for its great cheese selection, as well as seasonal and unique items. Photo: Cynthia Laird  

Best Grocery Store
Trader Joe's
Another longtime favorite with readers, Trader Joe's can't be beat for its selection of wines, cheeses, salads, and other unique and seasonal items. With the increase in food prices over the past year or so due to inflation, Trader Joe's prices often are the most economical.

Trader Joe's, 555 Ninth Street, San Francisco, (415) 863-1292. Also various Bay Area locations.

Rainbow Grocery

Fitness-SF is the readers' choice for best gym. Photo: Cynthia Laird  

Best Gym
Fitness SF
Fitness SF in the Castro is a regular winner in this category. The over 16,000 square foot facility offers two floors of tools and equipment to keep a person's workout fresh and challenging, according to its website. From free weights to cardio, the gym has it all. The gym also offers nationally certified personal trainers at an additional cost. "With a grassroots approach towards cultivating our staff and members, our mission is to lift up the local community," its website states. "Together we will make the San Francisco Bay Area a happier, healthier place to live."

Fitness SF Castro, 2301 Market Street, San Francisco, (415) 348-6377.

24 Hour Fitness

Best Health Care Provider
Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser is a repeat winner this year. The health care provider has long supported the LGBTQ community. It was in the news recently, however, for some labor issues as health care workers waged a three-day strike. But the outcome was a major contract win that will see wages rise for Kaiser's lowest-paid workers over four years.

Additionally, Governor Gavin Newsom announced October 12 a settlement with California Department of Managed Health Care and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc. to make significant changes to the plan's delivery of behavioral health care services. The settlement agreement includes a $50 million fine and requires Kaiser Permanente to take corrective action to address deficiencies in the plan's delivery and oversight of behavioral health care to enrollees.

Kaiser Permanente. Locations throughout the Bay Area.


Best Pharmacy
Walgreens has been providing pharmacy services in the Castro and elsewhere for decades. In particular, the Castro store and pharmacy are open 24 hours (with a break from 1:30 to 2 a.m.), according to its website. People can also get COVID and flu vaccines.

Walgreens, 498 Castro Street, San Francisco. (415) 861-3186.

CVS Specialty

Best Thrift Store
Out of the Closet
Out of the Closet is back in the winner's circle this year. Owned and operated by the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, there are outlets in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley. The stores offer eye-catching items and select locations offer HIV testing. According to its website, 96 cents of every dollar made goes into providing HIV services in the U.S. and around the world.

Out of the Closet, 1295 Folsom Street, San Francisco. (415) 558-7176.

Community Thrift

Cliff's Variety is a mainstay in the LGBTQ Castro neighborhood. Photo: Scott Wazlowski  

Best Variety Store
Cliff's Variety
There's no stopping Cliff's, a Castro neighborhood institution and longtime winner in this category. Co-owner Terry Asten Bennett is the current president of the Castro Merchants Association, and the store has long been involved in the neighborhood. It sells many unique items and carries seasonal merchandise and decorations for the holidays.

"We are so appreciative of the support of our community," Bennet stated in a Facebook message.

Check it out for the holidays — or any day.

Cliff's Variety, 479 Castro Street, San Francisco. (415) 212-8400.

Just for Fun

Best Vintage/Consignment Shop
Crossroads Trading Co.
Customers can browse through racks of curated secondhand finds that are not only fashionable, but also sustainable, the company's website states. "We buy, sell, trade and consign fashion every day and our inventory is continuously changing. From this season's trends to one-of-a-kind vintage finds, we aim to carry the best of everything: women's and men's clothing, accessories, and shoes." Stores are located in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and San Jose.

Crossroads Trading Co. Stores are located around the Bay Area.

Buffalo Exchange

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.