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The best barber shop in Portland?
Admit it, boys, sometimes a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, and that means a shave and a cut, a beer, a seegar, and a shoe shine. Well, Portland's got a place to satisfy all your he-manly hair-cuttin' needs, the Old Portland Tonsorial Parlor (923 S.W. Washington St., 503/222-3717). There's no beating on drums here to heal your inner warrior, but there is a perfect pocket billiards table, a beer bar, and a big enough cigar selection to let you choose your poison in style. Located in the historic Pittock Block, it's the only barbershop/saloon combo in the state. It's 20 bucks for a cut, 15 for a shave, and 30 for the works. Hey, champ, you're worth it.
The best flea market in Providence?
Weekends are really the best time to shop for anything in Providence thanks to the flea market, where people dump their unwanted and misbegotten objects on the world at low prices. The Olneyville flea market (585 Atwells Ave.-75 Eagle St., no phone) is open on Saturdays and Sundays, and is filled with a truly nerve-racking array of tchotchkes with virtually no exchange value. Loved to death or just plain chewed up, the stuff in this junk-mart has hit the end of the line. Most of these objects will not even make so much as a blip on the radar of human desire in this universe, ever again. So be warned: If objects of this sort fill you with sadness or anxiety, stay at home. If you are brave, callous, or just need some vinyl boots, come here.
The best breakfasts in San Diego?
The pancakes at Big Kitchen (3003 Grape St., 619/234-5789) are so big it can take over an hour to eat. Judy Forman, theowner, is a generous soul--in many ways. The Big Kitchen makes a habit of hiring struggling actors, musicians, artists and down-on-their-luck folks, which is how Whoopi Goldberg wound up working there back in her own lean days. The habitues of the Big Kitchen range from local journalists to gay and lesbian activists to wealthy homeowners who live in the neighborhood around Balboa Park. The chorizo omelettes are a must.
Runner-up: Also worthwhile, if you're Downtown, is Cafe 222 (222 Island Ave., 619/236-9902), where winning pumpkin waffles, an endless cup, and friendly service make it a favorite with today's rawk kids.
The best musical sushi in San Francisco?
There is nothing quite like a wasabi-induced tearing jag accompanied by the soothing sounds of the Bay City Rollers. Flying Kamikaze's Rock 'n' Roll Sushi (3339 Steiner St., 415/567-4900) may be the only restaurant in the known universe to attempt this strange, yet savory combination. Thanks to a unique menu, which includes tapas-style items like pot stickers stuffed with ahi, and an honest-to-goodness bar at which you might consume alcohol while pondering your fresh-fish intake, Kamikaze's has made a lasting mark in a town where sushi is more common than oxygen. The music selection--Beatles, Pink Floyd, and the like--could use some updating, but the fish is delicious.
The best coffeehouse in Seattle?
Guess what? Seattle takes its coffee seriously. Seattle espresso jerks who think they should be rock stars and hate their boss have been known to ignore customers when asked giveaway soft-core questions like "Are you sure that's nonfat?" A cup of good black coffee still garners the most respect here. It's hard to pin down the best cup, but Espresso Roma in U District (4201 University Way, 206/632-6001; Capitol Hill, 202 Broadway Ave. E, 206/324-1866), is the pit stop of choice for both U-Dub students and post-grad dropouts. The U-District cafe has huge windows (for a comparatively sordid view of the lumpen proles, skate rats, and runaways who line the Avenue) and plenty of earth-toned spartan tables, while the Capitol Hill one is smaller but brighter.
The best open-mike poetry in Washington, D.C.?
For the past three years, D.C. poetry diva Toni Lightfoot has presided over the city's most consistently strong open reading series, which has moved into a new venue. Every Tuesday from 8 to 11 p.m., all manner of poetical types head to Mango's (2017 14th St. NW, near U St., 202/232-2104), a restaurant serving a Caribbean-based fusion of cuisines. First-timers, affectionately called "virgins," are greeted with overwhelming applause before they even begin to read. The second hour is often dedicated to a specific theme, such as haiku, politics, or O.P.P. (other people's poetry). When a poet reads, no one talks or moves around. Respect is key. Styles range wildly--political and lyrical to hip hop influenced, academic to black nationalist. Of course, there's always unfunny standup comedians and Hallmark entries, but there's a lot of good work too.