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Bars & Clubs

  • Best Sound System (Live)

    The Independent

    As it morphed from punk palace Kennel Club to hip-hop sweatbox Justice League, this space has been home to its fair share of sonic history. It's reassuring to know that those making musical history here now are doing so with such good sound. The bass capabilities dazzle at the dancehall and reggae shows, the sharpness of the treble feels otherworldly during electronic musicians' laptop symphonies, and guitars come across as riveting at the Independent's rock concerts.... More >>

  • Readers' Poll Winners

    Bars and Clubs Best Dance Club DNA Lounge Best New Club 222 Hyde Best DJ Sergio Best Jazz Club Yoshi's SF Best Club Theme Night Bootie SF Best Bar Benders Best Bartender Barclay Spring at 222 Hyde Best Brewery Magnolia Best Cocktail Bar Bourbon & Branch Best Wine Bar Noeteca Best Sports Bar Kezar Pub Best Pickup Bar The Cafe Best Dyke Bar The Lexington Best Gay Bar Tie: The Café and Truck Best Karaoke Bar The Mint Best Hipster... More >>

  • Best Sound System (Club)

    222 Hyde

    The newly reopened 222 Hyde finally has a clean yet bass-booming sound system — featuring speakers from U.K. designer Turbosound — to suit memorable nights of thumping techno badness from the club's always-exciting rotation of local and out-of-town DJs. For a relatively small room, the sound-system upgrade makes an enormous difference. Most importantly, there's a drastic reduction in the ringing of your ears afterward, so the sound doesn't follow you home in the dark.... More >>

  • Best New Club

    Slate Bar

    The grooving ghosts are strong in this small but legendary space, which was previously home to the clubs Pink and Liquid. Som brings a fresher, classier air while retaining the good vibes of epic nights past — and marks a total transformation from the seedy street outside. Art installations and wine tastings mingle with club nights, and Som's discerning musical policy covers the best of classic dance genres like house as well as contemporary microgenres such as dubstep.... More >>

  • Best Place to Go Beyond Jazz

    Yoshi's San Francisco

    Those who enjoy their jazz served with a side of boom-bap have been flocking to Yoshi's to see shows that walk the line between jazz and hip-hop. The "Beyond Jazz" series recently paired Fatlip (formerly of the Pharcyde) with local funkateers Bayonics, who provided live instrumentation. Fillmore lifestyle boutique Brooklyn Circus brought through Talib Kweli's space-rock side project, Idle Warship; and now Dan the Automator's "Audio Alchemy" series is pairing DJs like Mixmaster Mike and Kid Koala with artists like... More >>

  • Best Indie-Rock "Club"

    Grace Cathedral

    There's no line outside, no bouncers, and no guest list for elite scenemakers. Yet fashionable young crowds still show up en masse. Where is this magical nightclub, you ask? Answer: It's not actually a club at all — it's EpiscoDisco at Grace Cathedral. Hipsters flock to the peak of Nob Hill every month for this series of free musical showcases, where bands like Bronze, Nodzzz, Pale Hoarse, and others play sparse indie folk and psychedelic electronica as the sounds echo... More >>

  • Best Club Night to Wear Flannel

    The Knockout

    The first Saturday of every month, divey hipster watering hole the Knockout becomes a time machine that transports all those people who were teenagers in the '90s back to their childhood bedrooms. But you can check your angst at the door (just don't forget your flannel before 11 p.m., otherwise you pay $5 cover) because this is a full-out eardrum-busting party where kids who never got the chance to live out their alternative music fantasies (or maybe they did, and... More >>

  • Best '60s Dance Monthly

    Paradise Lounge

    As long as baby boomers remain in positions of power in the media, the mythos of the '60s will never die. Free love, Woodstock, the bloated dinosaurs of classic rock — they've all been used to sell products ad infinitum. Luckily, here in San Francisco, there exists a wealth of DJs devoted to the more obscure delights of the era. Every second Friday at the Paradise Lounge since February 2009, "Ooh La La" highlights the garage-rock, girl-group, French pop, and... More >>

  • Best Bar Dance Party

    Edinburgh Castle

    This dance party gets the records spinning every second and fourth Wednesday of the month. While the red Christmas lights could come across as gauche, they prove to be casually intimate as you and other stylish fauxhemians are transported to 1964. That's right: The Shirelles, the Sapphires, the Poppies, and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas abound. Whether you're tragically hip or completely clueless, once you've tried the handy selection of whiskeys and taken in the sounds, there's no way you... More >>

  • Best Bizarre Nightlife Experience

    Supperclub San Francisco

    Deep in the bowels of this San Francisco nightlife smorgasbord lives a strange and magical blue zebra-bunny. He wears a beard and stiletto heels, and if you ask him the cross-streets of his own establishment, he might just say, "It's the corner of asshole and buttcrack." That's how crazy the zebra-bunny is, which isn't totally surprising, considering that his two-chambered lair contains one upscale dungeon filled with disco balls and one ethereal white dining area populated with giant beds and... More >>

  • Best Golf Bar

    Tee Off Bar and Grill

    Golf bars don't mean argyle, knickers, and Caddyshack jokes, even though all are welcome at the bar with the AstroTurf floor, one block from the Lincoln Park Golf Course. Here, exotic animals are the highlights of an exotic menu, which, depending on availability, has been known to include ostrich burgers and quail drumsticks. Regulars from the golf crowd and beyond also come in for staples like chicken-fried steak; mac-and-cheese-and-pancetta skillet; mixed-green salad with pear and pineapple; 28-ounce porterhouse steaks; and... More >>

  • Best Dive Bar in a Nice Neighborhood

    Nob Hill Tavern Sports Bar

    Steps from the clatter of cable cars and the hubbub of Huntington Park's socialites, bench-sitters, and mansion-dwelling dog-walkers is a welcoming oasis devoid of pretense, Prada, and anything else associated with snobby wealth that starts with P. Nob Hill Tavern is also for the proles who enjoy three pool tables, four dartboards, and a foosball setup. Three dollars will buy you a draft beer at any hour of the day, and multiple TVs mean those who follow teams from Los... More >>

  • Best Upscale Bar Food

    The Bell Tower

    Eating in a bar doesn't mean having to eat bad food. The fine folks at Bell Tower realized this, and created a bar with a great menu. The late-night, light-fare menu features eclectic selections like escargot and baked brie alongside familiar favorites like hot wings, pulled-pork sandwiches, and fish and chips, which are available nearly all night at the bar and surrounding tables. There's a more serious menu featuring salmon and steak for those patrons who eat during regular hours.... More >>

  • Best Swanky Bar

    Bix Restaurant

    The operative word here is "swanky," not "elegant" or "stylish" or "dashing" but a combination of all three, with a hint of ostentatious swagger thrown in. Bix harks back to the days of the Rat Pack and Nick and Nora Charles, and midnight cocktails sipped to the rhythms of the King Cole Trio. Hidden up a brick-and-cobblestone Gold Rush alley, its interior is as opulent as a Pacific Heights mansion, but the vaulted entrance, high ceilings, and elegant pale-rose wainscoting... More >>

  • Best "Mad Men" Experience

    The Occidental Cigar Club

    When you want to embrace your inner Don or Betty Draper and ingest a little nicotine with your martini, Manhattan, or old-fashioned, head for the Occidental, one of the few bars in the city where a guy or a doll can light up a Lucky with impunity. The setting is classic green-lampshade-and-dark-mahogany with pressed-tin ceilings, vintage photos, enormous ashtrays, affable barkeeps, and only a faint aroma of smoldering tobacco (the establishment's ventilation system is first-rate). There's a humidor with 15... More >>

  • Best Sommelier


    The best thing about San Francisco being such a tightly knit restaurant town? When a respected chef like Frances' Melissa Perello opens a new place, she can pick off prime talent, which is how Frances landed one of the city's best, least intimidating sommeliers. An ex-partner in Daniel Patterson's Coi, Einbund made the leap from fine dining to American rustic. At Frances, Einbund has assembled a globe-spanning list every bit as well proportioned as the dining room, yet priced for... More >>

  • Best Friendly Wine Bar

    Rosebowl Florist and Wine Shop

    The Rosebowl has to be the tiniest, friendliest, most fragrant wine bar in the city. Tucked behind the fountain at Opera Plaza, it's a cozy, sweet-smelling place to buy a bouquet or a boutonniere, but the shop's centerpiece is the seven-stool bar in back where gregarious owner Deidra O'Merde spins stories and pours the grape juice. The bar's focus is on little-known family wineries O'Merde has discovered in her travels throughout the state: Dehlinger's Russian River chardonnays, Rancho Sisquoc's Santa... More >>

  • Best Wine Program


    Michael Mina conceived RN74, set in the year-old Millennium Tower condominium complex and named after a motorway wending through France's Burgundy region, as a casual wine bar. But it turns out that the luxury restaurateur has a hard time staying casual. Wine director Rajat Parr's studious, recherché wine program includes five-figure bottles as well as fantastic glasses under $10. The unique "Last Call" board, designed to look like it was stolen from a train station, lists outrageous special values. Chef... More >>

  • Best Cutting-Edge Cocktail Menu

    15 Romolo

    Over the past few years, the craft of cocktail-mixing has attained the level of art form. Today's star bartenders crush fruit, ignite citrus peel, muddle tropical herbs, and intoxicate a thirsty public with an abundance of envelope-pushing complexity. 15 Romolo, a darkly elegant saloon tucked up an alley light years from the razzle-dazzle of Columbus and Broadway, stirs up libations visionary enough to bewitch the most jaded tippler. The Spaghetti Western, for instance, combines American rye and Campari with organic... More >>

  • Best Gin Selection

    Tsunami Sushi & Sake Bar

    Plenty of bars stock enough different whiskies to choke a highlander or a Kentucky colonel, but who slakes the thirst of gimlet, martini, and Singapore Sling devotees? The complex botanical pleasures of gin are celebrated in abundance at Tsunami, a brick, glass, and blond-wood sushi joint a block from AT&T Park. An impressive 58 different gins are offered in a variety of cocktails and configurations: light, aromatic genevers; sweet Old Toms; a full-bodied Plymouth; dry London gins. Sure, you can... More >>

  • Best Cheap Margaritas

    Red Jack Saloon

    The margaritas may taste like gasoline, but you'll be surrounded by dive bar locals while getting thoroughly sloshed at this hideaway bar in North Beach. The decorations range from Christmas-lights-all-year-round chic to what-the-hell-is-that-picture-of classy. It's like a special little reprieve from tourists with their noses in maps and their heads up their asses. You get a hefty pint of margarita, which is so strong it sears the lining of your throat as you drink it. The drinks are only $4.50,... More >>

  • Best Liquor Store for Connoisseurs


    With cocktail culture all the rage at San Francisco saloons, the drinking classes inevitably will want to take their hobby home with them. So where do you track down the fine spirits needed for a do-it-yourself Sazerac or old-fashioned? It was the paucity of retail outlets devoted exclusively to decent liquor that led the proprietors of beloved S.F. speakeasy Bourbon and Branch to open their downtown bottle shop, Cask. The place is a paean to the history and culture of... More >>

  • Best Beer Bottle Selection

    City Beer Store

    Craig and Beth Wathen, the couple that runs this SOMA hole-in-the-wall bottle shop, take painstaking care to stock the widest selection of hard-to-find beers from the most interesting breweries. And if the beer isn't distributed in San Francisco, they aren't above driving hundreds of miles to fetch a case themselves. While this is technically a bottle shop, guests are invited to drink their newfound bounty three steps below street level by paying a more-than-reasonable "corkage" fee of $1. But the... More >>

  • Best Cult Brew


    Every California brewmaster these days seems to want to be a Belgian monk — one who still rocks out to Megadeth and rides to Mass on his hog. We're still scarred from some of the saccharine, piercingly bitter hop-heavy Belgian-style dubbels and tripels we've tasted. But North Coast's Le Merle, a Fort Bragg beer that makes it onto most of the cult beer lists in town, is the perfect fusion between American and Belgian brewing traditions. A saison-style beer, the... More >>

  • Best Microbrewery

    Elizabeth Street Brewery

    Every month or so, Richard and Alyson Brewer-Hay invite friends, neighbors, and beer lovers in general to drop by their Noe Valley home and sample the brews they've been cooking up in 5- and 10-gallon batches since 2003. A few years back, their rumpus room was converted into a pub for the reality program. This friendly wood-and-brick nook, decorated with framed photos, armchairs, a dartboard, and many many beer bottles, is the ideal setting to enjoy free samples of Quincy's... More >>

  • Best Place to Drink Around the Globe

    Tommy's Joynt

    In an age when pubs ply patrons with 200 esoteric Belgian offerings at insane prices, isn't it nice to know you can drink beer from well over 30 countries and rarely drop more than $5 per beer to do so? Bar and beer manager Zack Katzman is Tommy's Joynt founder Tommy Harris' third cousin, helping keep this breweriana-laden watering hole in the family for 63 years. Among the selection of 100-plus bottles, barflies can globe-trot through the alphabet of beer... More >>

  • Best Brewery Tour

    Speakeasy Ales and Lagers

    Venture to the geographic equivalent of San Francisco's underground, Hunters Point, on Fridays, when one of the city's last working breweries opens its doors to the public for free tours and a very happy hour. Unlike at Anchor Steam Brewery, there's no need to reserve weeks in advance or wait in line. Speakeasy's friendly staff will gladly show you the bags of raw mash and let you smell all the fresh hops you want. The payoff at the end of... More >>

  • Best Beer and Trivia

    Church Key

    It's no easy task to get locals to a bar in North Beach when there's no good Muni service. So if a 10-page beer menu isn't enough, every Tuesday night Church Key turns to the can't-lose one-two punch of pot pie and trivia. For $10, you get a delicious pot-pie-of-the-week (be it beef and cheese, chicken and veal, or, sometimes, one suitable for vegetarians) that'll have you wishing the pot were half as deep and twice as wide just to... More >>

  • Best New Tiki Bar

    Smuggler's Cove

    As the fate of the Tonga Room, San Francisco's classic tiki bar, hangs in the balance, one of the most vocal advocates for saving it is Martin Cate, cofounder of Alameda's Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge and now proprietor of Smuggler's Cove. While there are no simulated thunderstorms at Cate's new hot spot, he's definitely shaking up the city's cocktail scene with his geeky dedication to premium rums, tropical juices, and other tiki-era ingredients. The Hayes Valley hideway has an immersive... More >>

  • Best Old S.F. Pub

    Blooms Saloon

    The Dashiell Hammett days that saw this bar first open its doors in the 1930s are long gone, but there's more than a taste of film noir fog left at Bloom's, perched as it is below a window advertising private investigator services on the main drag of one of San Francisco's old-time working-class neighborhoods. Nearby lofts signal gentrification, but skinny jeans come not here, where a wood-paneled phone booth is labeled "Irish Cell Phone Closet" and the famous view over... More >>

  • Best Piano Bar

    Lefty O'Doul's

    The piano bar is a dying institution ripe for resuscitation, a happier, friendlier retro-karaoke experience where an interactive audience is gathered around a live musician instead of a glorified jukebox, and a good time is had by all. The institution is alive and well at Lefty O'Doul's, where piano man Frank O'Connor tickles the ivories every night at 9 and coaxes warbling and camaraderie from the assembled crooner-tipplers. The playbook tends toward the lounge lizard–like, with "Dust in the Wind,"... More >>

  • Best Gay(ish) Bar


    The Castro is not known for swank hangouts that serve inventive cocktails. The neighborhood's watering holes are more famous for things like the cage dancers at Trigger, the underdressed twinks at Badlands, or the scruffy guys on the prowl at Moby Dick. But 2009 saw the emergence of Blackbird, a bar resembling a Pacific Heights joint that just happens to be crammed full of gays. The crowd is a little more mixed than your average Castro bar — let's say... More >>

  • Best Drag Bar

    Esta Noche

    Latino cultures are famously obsessed with machismo, which makes it all the more impressive that one of the most rollicking drag bars in a town of rollicking drag bars is an old Mexican joint in the heart of the Mission. Esta Noche is the sort of place where queens take their shit seriously. The bar features nightly tranny and drag shows, and DJs spin Latin pop throughout the week. It's something of an aberration, situated at the locus of hipster... More >>

  • Best Place for Hipster-Homo Commingling

    S.F. Eagle

    When the annual International Bear Rendezvous hits San Francisco, the Eagle's sprawling patio swarms with burly, leather-bechapped men looking for a muscular lover or maybe a little rough trade. Yet this gay biker roadhouse is also one of the friendliest, most open hangouts anyone — even a scrawny straight hipster — could want. Witness the Eagle's weekly "Thursday Nite Live" event, a celebration of alternative music and lifestyles where rock bands like Thee Oh Sees, Saviours, and Wooden Shjips pack... More >>

  • Best Bar to Inspire Conversation

    Radio Habana Social Club

    This tiny bar is chock-full of wonderfully weird conversation pieces, and its close quarters and warm-glow lighting make it easy to strike up a chat with just about anybody. Sip sangria and nibble on a tamale while you contemplate the plastic doll with a revolver for a head and a clown riding on its back, which hangs like a freaky mobile from the ceiling. What does that symbolize, exactly? Is that a crutch or an assault weapon on the wall?... More >>

  • Best Irish Bar

    The Irish Bank

    Buried in a little alley off Bush Street, the Irish Bank is a place where large groups of people come for whiskey and yelling after work. The Irish beverage selection includes pints of Smithwick's, Harp, and Magners Cider (all $5.50 a pint), and a tasty Irish coffee with Tullamore Dew whiskey, plenty of cream, and Caffe Trieste coffee ($7). Beverages can be gulped indoors, in the company of antiques, photographs, and even church pews. The traditional English and Irish fare,... More >>

  • Best Place to Get Drunk on a Waterbed

    Kozy Kar

    Theme bars aren't the most fail-safe entrepreneurial ventures, but if you're going to give one a try, covering your watering hole with titty shots is probably a smart bet. It's a wonder, then, that no reputable S.F. taverns had taken this approach until 2009, when Kozy Kar opened on Polk Street. If Scooby and Shaggy joined forces with Hugh Hefner to paint the town red, this is probably where they'd spend most of the night. The bar is decorated like... More >>

  • Best Place to Get Pissed

    Pissed Off Pete's

    Another trendy, price-gouging clip joint (er, excuse us: "ultralounge") taking over your neighborhood? Not if Pete has anything to say about it. He'll be stewing in his juices — or, at least, cheap American beer — down at Pissed Off Pete's in the defiantly unhip Excelsior District. Despite the bar's name, however, Pete's is not actually a seething pit of angst. Free monthly comedy shows lighten the mood, and garage rockers often plug their ratty amps into the wall behind... More >>

  • Best Musical Eavesdropping

    Nap's 3

    Got enough petty cash for a pint of beer, but not enough for the door charge at El Rio? Or simply don't want to fight the crush of Mission District hipsters? Try this option: Nap's backyard is directly adjacent to El Rio's — only a chain-link fence separates the two patios — but while El Rio is regularly packed and clamorous, Nap's backyard is often empty. Thus you can avoid the El Rio crowds (and the cover charge) and sit... More >>

  • Best New Club Night

    222 Hyde

    The city's newest club night, "Icee Hot," is the brainchild of DJs Disco Shawn, Low Limit, Ghosts on Tape, and Rollie Fingers. Collectively, the globe-trotting beat aficionados import fresh talent from overseas for the monthly party, like buzzworthy funk and bass music producers Shortstuff and Martin Kemp, who assist in the sweaty, late-night delivery of future house, garage, and wonky beat tunes through 222 Hyde's awesome soundsystem. Icee Hot's offering of free admission before 10:30 p.m., and charging only $5 thereafter,... More >>

  • Most Original DJ

    Bus Station John

    Finally, the real reason you should hop out of your leopard-print Snuggie and jump into those inappropriate short shorts on a Thursday night. While DJ Bus Station John presents obscure retro-electro vinyl at "Le Perle Degli Squalor" at the Hot Spot on the first Saturday of each month, it's at the smutty, kitschy Aunt Charlie's Tubesteak Connection where he shines brighter than that disco ball your mother never wanted you to see. Focusing on pre-bathhouse-era beats, Bus Station John is... More >>

  • Best Musical Microstate

    Bissap Diaspora

    You won't need to get your passport stamped — and you certainly won't need to deal with nettlesome T.S.A. agents demanding you surrender your shoes, belt, and laptop — but visiting the corner of 19th and Mission streets is still like traveling to another country. The stretch of 19th Street between Mission and South Van Ness is where Bollyhood Cafe and Little Baobab share the sidewalk; at night you can go between the locations (collectively nicknamed "Baobab Village") and hear... More >>

  • Five Best Classic Cocktails

    Zare at Flytrap

    Mai tai at Zaré at Fly Trap -- Zaré's top-shelf rendition of Trader Vic's most famous creation involves freshly squeezed lime juice, spicy-smoky Appleton Estate Jamaican rum, a shot of Cointreau, and Small Hand's artisanal almond-apricot orgeat, stirred with ice and served on the rocks with a halved lime and a sprig of mint. It's a sweet, floral, citrusy triumph. Irish coffee at the Gold Dust Lounge -- Despite its red-plush gilded-bordello tourist-trap trappings, the Gold Dust is one of... More >>

  • Q&A: Anthony Bedard, Hemlock Tavern Live Music Booker

    Hemlock Tavern

    By Jennifer Maerz Photograph by Julie Michelle What are all the bands you've been in over the years? Going back to 1989, my first band in San Francisco was Icky Boyfriends. Then I went on to play in Leather Uppers, Resineators, the Roofies, Mr. & Mrs. & Mr. Evil, Mr. & Mr. & Mr. & Mr. & Mr. Evil, Fisherman's Famous San Francisco Burlesque, Bride of Ozzy, and the mercifully short-lived Pro Gear/Pro Attitude (with Utrillo Kushner). Currently playing in... More >>

  • Profile: Anna Conda, Drag Queen

    By Hiya Swanhuyser Photograph by Troy Holden Like many residents of our fair city, Glendon Hyde left his hometown (in his case, Pittsburgh) to escape abuse "because of my gayness." Hyde, who moved here in 1996, is now a quintessential San Francisco character — a drag queen known as Anna Conda. His blond stage persona was Miss Trannyshack 2004, but he's dressed in street clothes when we meet, and we joke about whether I could possibly have recognized him out... More >>

  • Profile: Paul Carr, Technology Writer

    By Alexia Tsotsis Photograph by Eartha Goodwin Within minutes of coming to San Francisco, tech writer Paul Carr knew he wanted to live here. "Never have I arrived in a city and felt so quickly at home. Of course, there's the technology stuff, but then there's the fact that you can travel around and go to different weathers," he says, referring to S.F.'s microclimates. "I'm a Brit, so we're obsessed with the weather." Before joining notable technology blog TechCrunch, Carr... More >>

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