The Castro: Rainbow Sidewalks, Margaritas + LGBT Community Shrine

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Here's your guide to San Francisco's gay district (no, not the "vibrant" or "colorful" or "proud" or whatever any number of coy discriptives real estate agents choose to call it), which you should use for both daytime and nighttime merriment. Enjoy.


Castro Theatre

Built in 1922 by designer Timothy L. Pflueger, who also designed Oakland's Paramount Theater, the Castro Theatre is now home to some of the City's most popular film festivals, cult movie classics, and screenings of black and white favorites from yesteryear. 429 Castro (at 17th Street)

ZGO

An acronym meaning Zen-Garden-Oasis, this shop specializes in niche perfumes (their selection of Comme Des Garçons and L'artisan Parfumeur is astounding), candles, and fragrant room diffusers. Take a whiff. 600 Castro (at 19th Street)

Buffalo Whole Food

Buffalo Whole Foods was hawking quinoa and vegan protein bars long before Whole Foods made it popular. An excellent local store with health- and nutrition-savvy workers. 598 Castro (at 19th Street)

Rainbow crosswalks

Completed in the summer of 2014, the neighborhood's crosswalks received a dramatic makeover. It sure does pop. Castro & 18th Streets

Mudpuppy's - Dog Wash & Grooming

The perfect spa for your best friend. Located next to a batch of eateries, simply drop little Sapphire off at the spa, partake in a nearby bottomless mimosa brunch, and then come back to a sparkling clean pooch! 536 Castro

Levi's

The official store for all your Levi's needs, with "tasteful" nods to the Castro's gay history. 525 Castro

Hortica

Super friendly, super knowledgeable staff can help figure out what plants work best in San Francisco's sometimes tricky climate. 566 Castro

Beso

Bisou's twin sister, this new Castro joint serves up tapas right under the Castro Country Club. The upper-esche alternative to grabbing a slice of pizza and hitting the bars. 4058 18th Street

Rainbow Walk of Fame

Twenty bronze sidewalk plaques honor LGBT individuals who left an important mark on both San Francisco and the world. Just look down to receive a history lesson. The aim of the project, according to the B.A.R., is "to educate visitors and residents of the city's gay neighborhood about often overlooked aspects of the LGBT community's contributions to the arts, sciences, and social policy through a select group of deceased men and women who lived openly as either gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender."

Harvey Milk's Camera Store

Before being commandeered by the HRC in 2011, this was the spot where assassinated SF supervisor Harvey Milk operated Castro Camera. It was also the epicenter of the neighborhood in the '70s, where young gays from square states would seek asylum, and acted as Milk's campaign headquarters. Simply put, it was "the mayor's office." (After closing in 1978, following Milk's death, it was, for a brief period, one of the best beauty shops in all of SF!) 575 Castro

Anchor Oyster Bar

Operated by the same owner since 1977, this fresh seafood eatery only recently landed on the Michelin Guide's coveted Bib Gourmand list (i.e., esteemed restaurants that serve two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less) for 2015. An excellent place for sustainably harvested fish, shellfish, crab. 579 Castro

LGBT Community Shrine

The window of the Bank of America on Castro and 18th doubles as a shrine for fallen members of the queer community. Castro & 18th Street

Knobs

The best reason to check out this men's clothing store is to stomp on the CATWALK that runs down the middle of the store. Genius. 432 Castro

Joe's Barbershop

No fuss, no muss. Joe Gallagher's little shop on Market Street offers quality cuts for a reasonable price. The cute barbers don't hurt, either. 2150 Market

A&G Merch

A Brooklyn based home furnishings store, this new-ish furniture store offers high quality, affordable stuff for your home. Very hip, very trendy. Cool stuff for the office, too. 2279 Market

Lookout

Sit on the balcony during happy hour and watch/judge passersby. This, among other things, is what makes the Lookout so great. 3600 16th Street

16th Street Mural

Everytime one looks at the 16th Street mural, they'll find something different. Check it out. 16th Street & Market

Books Inc.

Though we hear rumblings about the end of print, you wouldn't know it at Books Inc. The Castro locations (they have three in SF) keep shelves well stocked with an expertly curated selection. Staff recommendations are the main reason to check out one of the oldest booksellers in the west. 2275 Market

Sui GENERIS

This designer men's consignment store was like a breath of much-needed fresh air in the Castro, a neighborhood typically not known for any common sartorial sense. This place curates merchandise (Prada, CdG, Vince, et al.) for the discerning customer. 2265 Market St.

Hecho

A modern take on Mexican food, this new spot (from the owners of Hi Tops) offers such fare as whole scorpion rock cod, churro doughnut holes, and whimsical cocktails with south-of-the-border flair. Read 7x7's review on Hecho here. 2200 Market

Beck's Motor Lodge

This retro hotel makes a great stay for those who've come to the city for a little rest, relaxation, and fun. (We wish it had a pool, though!) The signage (seen above) is as iconic to the neighborhood as the rainbow flag and the windows at Twin Peaks. 2222 Market

Hand Job Nails & Spa

Incorrigible! Contrary to the name, this is where you go to get really good mani/pedis.

Photo courtesy of Moby Dick

Moby Dick

Oh, there are so many bars and clubs in the Castro from which to choose. The Cafe (for those who dance), Midnight Sun (for those outside the 415), and Q Bar (for those who like a harder kind of party) are nice. But Moby Dick's is for everyone. Cute, not-so-cute, young, not-so-young, dressed up, dressed down— Dick is like a salad bowl of gay men. You've got all types here. Even women! Bonus: pool table, pinball machines, and an aquarium over the bar. 4049 18th Street

Photo courtesy of Magnet

Magnet

After a night out on the town, you might want to get your dipstick checked. The staff of professionals and volunteers at Magnet will test you and give you excellent safe sex advice. Magnet also has classes on dating, self-defense, and much more. 4122 18th Street

Photo courtesy of Magnet

Frances

Hardly known as a gastronomic hotspot—especially when compared to the Mission or Divis—Frances helped change the food scene in SF, and it all happened right in the Castro. After opening in late 2009, the restaurant had two New York Times features written about it in its first year. What makes it so special? Well, as Jay C. Barmann, writing for 7x7, notes, "Perello elevated and redefined the notion of a San Francisco neighborhood restaurant, and with a few bacon beignets and world-class soups – not to mention the innovative pay-for-what-you-drink house wine service – she built a destination spot completely devoid of pretense, and clearly one with staying power." 3870 17th Street

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