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San Francisco: Home to the Coolest Video Rental Shops Ever

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I was talking to a friend the other day about video rental places.  She marveled that they’re still around because of companies like Netflix, but I argued that there’s a certain charm in the routine of physically going into a movie place, browsing the shelves, and waiting for the moment when that one special flick will jump out and demand you take it home and watch it curled up on the couch with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Half-Baked.

I got to thinking about video stores in San Francisco and the three that immediately came to mind are not just video stores, but video stores combined with something else.  Maybe it’s because everyone loves a good combo (or a good gimmick?).  In any case, these places all happen to be gems and should be frequented regularly, and not just for the movies.

1. Faye’s Video & Espresso Bar – Faye’s is kind of a small place, but I’ve learned by now that “quality over quantity” is a cliché for a reason.  The selection of movies here might even be better than the coffee they serve, which is supposed to be great.  I don’t drink coffee, but I do know some caffiends (see what I did there?) who swear by it.  To keep you coming back, Faye’s has some good rental deals during the week, like $2 Mondays and 2-for-1 Wednesdays.  They also carry “The Holy Mountain,” a 1973 Alejandro Jodorowsky film that’s easily the weirdest shit I’ve ever seen in my life, both on mushrooms and off.  Check out the trailer and then go rent it.

3614 18th St. @ Guerrero [Mission]

2. Pet Central – I think I’ve taken every visitor I’ve ever had in the city to Pet Central because I love it so much.  The front of this place is a pretty intense Chinese video rental shop (fitting, as it’s located in Chinatown), but get past that section and you’re in pet supply heaven.  According to my pet-owner friends, the prices are lower than chain pet supply stores like Pet Food Express, which is cool.  Why you should go to Pet Central, though, is to see the PUPPIES they sell at the very back of the store.  There are other pets for sale there too, mostly reptiles and fish, but nothing warms my heart more than squeezing the face off a 10-week-old golden lab.  Be warned, however, that cute don’t come cheap – none of the puppies cost less than a grand.  Guess puppy mills are expensive.

660 Broadway btw Grant and Stockton [Chinatown]

3. Video Cafe – Video Cafe is a diner in the Richmond that used to be open 24 hours daily, but now that’s only true on the weekends.  Weekday hours are currently 7am – 3am, which still isn’t too shabby, considering you don’t have a lot of options at 2am on a Tuesday night at 21st Ave. and Geary.  The video rental part of this place is really pathetic, consisting of bad ’90s VHS tapes like “Point Break” and “Anaconda.”  However, this can be forgiven by the existence of the super-cheap beer they serve at all times, not just during happy hour – $1.75 domestic bottles and $1.95 imported.  The food is also good, but remember, it’s diner food (read:  drunk food), so don’t come in expecting the burger from Marlowe’s.

5700 Geary Blvd. @ 21st. [Outer Richmond]
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Christy Jovanelly - Cheapskate Commentator

Christy Jovanelly - Cheapskate Commentator

When Christy announced she was leaving her family's Southern California home and moving to San Francisco, her mom said, "Have fun in that den of sin." This is the only (however sarcastic) advice Christy has ever taken from her mom, who also told her to join and cover her eyes during sex scenes in movies. Christy puts her creative writing degree to good use by locating the typos on Chinese food menus and spends most of her time challenging friends to all-you-can-eat contests and trying to get that one bartender at Zeitgeist to smile.