21 Club: The 21 Club is one of the last remaining bastions of Tenderloin dive bar living. This small liquor den — at the untouristy intersection of Turk and Taylor — serves stiff drinks and frothy beers to a diverse crowd of both grizzled old-timers and bohemian youth. The walls are crammed with dusty mementos and non-ironic kitsch that complement a jukebox laden with musical memories from decades gone by. Although the overhead TV is usually tuned to sports or the primetime movie du jour, sometimes the most intense drama happens right outside the 21 Club's front door — here in the heart of the Tenderloin, life itself is a round-the-clock tragicomedy. 98 Turk, 771-9655.
500 Club: The 500 Club is a lounge in the old-fashioned meaning of the term: Rather than boasting sleek modern furniture and slick modern cocktails, this longtime Mission District standby features retro leather booths, back-to-basics drinks, and classic rock and country on the jukebox. Sadly, the pool table is no more — they needed the extra space to pack 'em in on weekends. A more favorable and flavorful recent development, however, is the opening of Clare's Deli next door, meaning you can now get delicious sandwiches and snacks delivered to your seat in the bar. 500 Guerrero, 861-2500, fivehundredclub.com.
Aunt Charlie's Lounge: Boys, girls — what's the diff? Guys become gals as part of Aunt Charlie's "Hot Boxxx Girls" lip-sync show every Friday and Saturday night. During the day, this place is a Tenderloin dive bar — albeit one more gay than the neighbors — while nighttime events attract both old drag queens and ghetto-fab young hipsters. 133 Turk, 441-2922, auntcharlieslounge.com.
BeatBox: This location can claim more identities than Sybil, having been called Studio Z, Fat City, Siberia, and other names over the past few years. After a brief incubation and renovation period, the name has changed once again — to BeatBox — with a newly updated interior whose boxy, brick-walled forms are reminiscent of the neighborhood's recent industrial past. 314 11th St., 500-2675, beatboxsf.com.
Bender's: Sure, it burned — but a little fire can't keep rock 'n' roll down forever. With some new paint, a fresh supply of cheap beer, and a restocked jukebox blaring the scrungy S.F. bands of past & present, Bender's has resurrected itself to rock anew. Bands often prop themselves on the elevated corner steps and blast the Pabst out of your hands. The two pool tables are in constant use. And even the new paint job is finally starting to return to its faded former self. 806 S. Van Ness, 824-1800, bendersbar.com.
Boom Boom Room: Couches and cocktails complement a blues and funk boogie, which makes shaking it on the checkerboard dancefloor an old-fashioned must. Nightly, up-and-coming national acts play sweaty, steamy sets on the venue's small stage — always a rollicking time. 1601 Fillmore, 673-8000, boomboomblues.com.
Bottom of the Hill: This indie-slash-punk rock club is a revered local institution with all the staples you'd expect: kitschy retro decor, sticker-smothered bathrooms, and nightly entertainment that ranges from loud-as-hell to what-the-hell-was-that. A smoker's patio in back offers a welcome respite from the crowds and noise inside, or, for another form of distraction, you can scope the old event calendars from years gone by and try to count how many musicians played this small stage before moving on to huge theaters or even arenas — you'll run out of fingers before you run out of bands. 1233 17th St., 621-4455, bottomofthehill.com.
Brick & Mortar Music Hall: The former Coda Nightclub is back and stirring up a stew of new live music. Brick & Mortar's eclectic calendar presents funk, soul, jazz, rock, hip-hop, classical music, and more in a small, open space on the northernmost edge of the Mission District. 1710 Mission, brickandmortarmusic.com.
The Chapel: Housed in a stately 1917 former mortuary with rich red walls, high ceilings, and clear sight lines, the Chapel is a worthy bar, restaurant, and live music venue. Touring bands hit the stage often, and the Chapel is the official West Coast home of New Orleans' Preservation Hall Jazz Band, but the 400-capacity room also hosts top local talent. With Cajun food and the kind of cocktail menu you'd expect in 2014 San Francisco, this is one of the better spots on the new Valencia Street. 777 Valencia, 551-5157, thechapelsf.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.