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Cat Club: Exposed brick walls, soft sofas, and industrial-chic fittings fight for decor prominence in this central SOMA dance club, while moody black-clad swirlers, tough hip-hop dykes, and nostalgic '80s Wavers fight for floor space in the two separate dance areas. But while so many new neighborhood venues fight to become mainstream hotspots that draw in rich, suburban weekend warriors, the Cat Club caters to a mostly underground clientele that's usually more gay, goth, or just plain weird than the kids down the street. 1190 Folsom, 703-8964, sfcatclub.com.
Cobb's Comedy Club: Almost every big-name stand-up comedian you can think of has performed at this local institution. A great place to catch stars on the rise and established names. 915 Columbus, 928-4320, cobbscomedy.com.
Dear Mom: The Mission District's trendier half extends itself eastward at Dear Mom, a newly hip hangout in the (now totally unrecognizable) old El Rincon location. There's a pool table and Pabst for those who dutifully maintain a downscale-twentysomething hipster profile, but it's the exposed wood and bare bulbs that give away the bar's fancier adult airs. Dear Mom, can we borrow some money? 2700 16th St., 625-3362, dearmomsf.com.
Delirium Cocktails: A change of name and management has turned this grubby Mission District haunt into a slightly less grubby Mission District haunt, with nightly DJs playing good ol' rock 'n' roll. The small, black-walled back room can get pretty hot and sweaty when the DJs are firing on all cylinders. With a motto like "service for the sick," we can dig it. 3139 16th St., 552-5525.
DNA Lounge: Looking like a spaceship from The Matrix with futuristic factory decor on two floors, the remodeled DNA has long been a fixture on this happening 11th Street block. Regular goth-industrial nights, weekly "Bootie" mash-up parties, cabaret shows, burlesque escapades, and miscellaneous house or hip-hop jams happen alongside occasional rock gigs and other special events. Some nights are all-ages and/or 18+, so check with the club before heading out. 375 11th St., 626-1409, dnalounge.com.
El Rio: With moderately priced (and heavily poured) drinks, a sprawling patio, and an intimate stage in a side room, this Mission District destination is a keystone of indie-hipster nightlife. DJs spin everything from country to funk, bands play everything from samba to punk, and the $1 Monday nights are the stuff of legend. 3158 Mission, 282-3325, elriosf.com.
Elbo Room: The Elbo Room ain't the rock Valhalla it once was, but a bar and pinball machines downstairs and a music venue upstairs provide entertainment that varies between DJ nights and live bands ranging from hip-hop to punk to funk to samba. There's never a cover charge for the downstairs bar, whose crimson-candlelit booths are often jam-packed with attractive scenesters. The second-floor music room, meanwhile, attracts a crowd as varied as the events themselves: hippies, hipsters, goths, rockers, hip-hop heads, salsa dancers, old-school soul twisters — name any demographic, they've all been here at one time or another. 647 Valencia, 552-7788, elbo.com.
Endup: A nightclub that (fortunately) stays up well past its bedtime, the Endup has a hard-earned reputation as an after-hours mecca that still holds up. Though somewhat dated in style, this venerable club's backyard grotto remains an urban oasis, with fountains and ferns and reverberating dance beats distracting from the fact that the highway runs right outside the gates. 401 Sixth St., 646-0999, theendup.com.
Esta Noche: A hub for the gay Latino community for more than two decades, Esta Noche offers its club patrons a refined DJ mix of Latin and house music and outrageous, gender-bending special events. 3079 16th St., 861-5757, estanocheclub.com.
F8: Formerly Icon Ultra Lounge, F8 retains Icon's glowing space-age lighting scheme, while DJs spin dubstep, drum 'n' bass, trap, and other bass-heavy brands of EDM. 1192 Folsom, 857-1192, feightsf.com.
Gold Dust Lounge: The Gold Dust has long been a San Francisco institution, heralded by the late Herb Caen as "the last of the authentic nightcapperies" — a rave that must have delighted owners Jimmy and Tasios Vovis, who've plastered it all over the walls. Unfortunately the original Union Square location closed in 2012 after a controversial dispute with the building's landlord, but the bar's beloved antique lamps and oil paintings were packed up and moved to a new Fisherman's Wharf space in early 2013. 165 Jefferson, 397-1695, golddustloungesf.com.
Hemlock Tavern: By showcasing some of the world's best underground indie-rock bands, this microvenue has quickly become one of the city's best. A crowded, clamorous bar up front — decorated with kitschy thrift-shop art, vintage beer paraphernalia, and some choice retro lamps — hides an intimate music room in back. There's also a terrarium-like smoking section off to one side, so you can get your nic fix without having to abandon your cocktail. The great (and free) jukebox selections, plus weekly punk DJs, fill out the hours when bands aren't playing. 1131 Polk, 923-0923, hemlocktavern.com.
Holy Cow: It's always a party at the famous Holy Cow. Watch frat boys and bachelorette-party girls freak nasty on the dancefloor as you sip half-price cocktails and groove to '80s music and R&B. 1535 Folsom, 621-6087, theholycow.com.
Hotel Utah: The Old West and indie music come together at the Hotel Utah Saloon, where a small stage, an antique bar, and a diversely stocked jukebox set the scene. A gigantic taxidermied elk head stares down upon drinkers in the main section, which is dominated by a beautiful old wooden bar on one side and a long row of picture windows on the other. The adjacent music area is split between a small balcony (shaped to look like the stern of a sailing ship) and an intimate downstairs section with a scattering of tables and corner booths. Meaty grub fills the menu during the day, while eclectic local bands and acoustic songwriters fill the calendar at night. 500 Fourth St., 546-6300, hotelutah.com.