The Best of the Gays: Sex and Romance
Best Place for a First Date, Best Place to Breakup
The heart can be a fickle thing. It can beat wildly over a special someone at first glance and turn even the sourest puss into a lovesick puppy dog.
Then, just like that, the pounding stops and one's heart grows cold. The once-hot romance has suddenly fizzled and burnt out.
There may be no telling when love will strike or Cupid's powers will dwindle. But B.A.R. readers are sure of two things when it comes to matters of romance - where to start a courtship and where to end it.
The best place for a first date is the Castro's Cafe Flore, also named the best cafe in the 2012 Best of the Gays readers' poll. The Parisian-inspired coffeehouse, restaurant, and sunny-day hangout has been a favorite spot in the gayborhood since it opened its doors at the corner of Market and Noe streets in the early 1970s.
The relaxed setting, with its garden patio or greenhouse-like indoor area, is ideal for getting to know someone on a first date. The atmosphere lends itself to having a nice chat, and the cafe's full bar also helps lubricate the conversation.
Should a romantic spark be ignited, Cafe Flore is a good jumping off point for destinations elsewhere. Or a couple can settle in there for dinner and dessert.
Even better, should the date turn out to be a dud, the Castro's bars and clubs are steps away filled with other lonely hearts. Or a stranger at a nearby table may just turn out to be a better match.
"Since 1973, Cafe Flore is the bohemian crown jewel of the Castro where locals and tourists get cozy over American bistro fare and full bar service," restaurant spokesman Gary Virginia told the B.A.R. "The bustling, romantic setting is as famous for its cruising as it is for its popular carafe and nightly drink specials."
Once in a relationship whose time has come to say adieu, then B.A.R. readers find the best place to break the news to one's paramour is in Golden Gate Park.
The vast green space is hardly ever warm, with winds whipping off the Pacific Ocean cooling down the air temperature - fitting surroundings for a love gone cold.
Advantages include many locales filled with fellow park-goers to act as potential eyewitnesses should one's soon-to-be ex become distraught. Rain-free Sundays see a flood of walkers, bikers, skateboarders, dancers, and museumgoers traverse down the green space's JFK Drive, which is closed to vehicular traffic.
For those looking to have a more deep-seated, heart-to-heart about the breakup, quieter spots like the Rose Garden, John McLaren Memorial Rhododendron Dell, or the National AIDS Memorial Grove offer contemplative places to talk.
Best to avoid giving the bad news, though, inside the Victorian-styled wood and glass greenhouses of the Conservatory of Flowers or onboard a paddle boat at Stow Lake lest one's lover becomes so distraught their anger turns to rage.
Cafe Flore, 2298 Market Street, San Francisco. (415) 621-8579. www.cafeflore.com
Golden Gate Park. http://www.golden-gate-park.com/
Sex and Romance
Best Place to Get Married
San Francisco City Hall
Municipal buildings rarely, if ever, play a role in the wedding day fantasies of little brides (or grooms). Most are often associated with quickie marriages among couples needing to wed on the fly. But San Francisco’s ornate City Hall, with its soaring gold-leafed dome, continues to hold special significance for LGBT people.
Back in 2004 it was the location for a monthlong bonanza of same-sex marriages during what became known as the "Winter of Love." While those nuptials did not survive the legal wrangling they caused, the images of ecstatic gay and lesbian couples exchanging vows left an indelible imprint. For the second year B.A.R. readers named the building’s marbled Rotunda as the best wedding spot in San Francisco.
While same-sex marriage is currently illegal in California, LGBT couples can still book domestic partnership ceremonies in the landing outside of the Board of Supervisors’ chambers by contacting the city clerk’s office.
San Francisco City Hall, Office of the County Clerk, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place Rm. 168, San Francisco, (415) 554-4950 . http://www.sfgov2.org/index.aspx?page=13
Best Flower Shop
Church Street Flowers
Looking for a florist to handle your wedding day arrangements? Then B.A.R. readers suggest checking out Church Street Flowers. Tucked into a small brick storefront on the major thoroughfare near the corner of Market Street, the floral shop has been putting together bouquets for nearly two decades. Walk-ins looking to pick up some roses or tulips to brighten a loved one’s day are always welcome, or schedule a delivery to perk up a sullen friend’s mood. Church Street Flowers, 212 Church Street, San Francisco, (415) 553-7762. http://www.churchstreetflowers.com
Best Place to Buy Sex Toys
The Castro may be most associated with sex shops in the minds of many anti-gay critics, but locals know the best place to browse for adult items is a few blocks east in the Mission. B.A.R. readers once again named Good Vibrations as their favorite seller of dildos, lubes, condoms and all other products that can add a bit of spice to bedroom goings-on. The sex-positive store has been catering to the libidinous needs of Bay Area shoppers since 1977, and its online site offers a plethora of anal sex toys, masturbation aides and vibrators to a worldwide market. Locations are also on Polk Street and a new store recently opened in Oakland. Good Vibrations, 899 Mission Street, San Francisco, (415) 513-1635. www.goodvibes.com
Best Place to Buy Fetish Gear
Mr. S Leather
Those involved in kinkier exploits head South of Market to Mr. S Leather. There, a cornucopia of products awaits fetishists into the leather scene, uniforms, rubber, wrestling singlets, jockstraps, or nasty pig gear. The store also caters to female clientele with its Madame S boutique showcasing women’s fetish clothing. Mr. S Leather, 385 8th Street, San Francisco, (415) 863-7764. www.mr-s-leather.com
Best Adult Video Store
For 40-plus years men in search of the latest porn titles have sought out SOMA’s Folsom Gulch. Bay Area residents have named it the city’s best adult video store on various readers’ polls for years. This marks its first time winning a B.A.R. Best of the Gays award. Its all-male arcade, open 24 hours Fridays and Saturdays, is a particular draw for gay, bisexual, or straight men on the prowl. The store also opened across the street a member’s only, clothing optional sex club called the Gulch’s Playspace. Folsom Gulch, 947 Folsom Street, San Francisco, (415) 495-6402. Facebook.com/thegulch
Best Sex Club
When looking to hookup offline for sex the preferred place to go for B.A.R. readers is SOMA’s Blow Buddies. The sex club won this category outright this year after sharing the award in 2011. Also a members-only establishment, the club has provided a clean space for men to have sex where condom use is encouraged for the last 24 years.
With 6,000 square feet of play space, including a heated backyard area, Blow Buddies boasts it is the largest sex club in San Francisco. More than 250,000 men are members and enjoy its theme nights, such as Naked Buddies, Golden Shower Buddies, Underwear Buddies, and Bear Buddies. Blow Buddies, 933 Harrison Street, San Francisco, (415) 777-4323. www.blowbuddies.com<.italic>
Best Cruising Spot
Not as popular as it once was during the pre-Internet and smartphone app era, cruising for sex outdoors nonetheless has never gone out of style for some men. And in San Francisco those looking for a natural setting to locate a hookup should head over to Buena Vista Park, advise B.A.R. readers. For the second year in a row, this wooded hillside bordering the Haight and Corona Heights has garnered the Best of the Gays award for best cruising spot. But be forewarned, it could land you in jail on indecency charges, even in liberal San Francisco, and was the site of a gruesome death of a gay man last year. Buena Vista Park. http://sfrecpark.org/Parks.aspx