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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Hunt for Good Jukeboxes in the Dogpatch, Nob Hill, and the Marina

Posted By on Tue, May 3, 2011 at 7:34 AM

Some jukeboxes in this town -- and by extension, the bars that house them -- don't fit neatly into a neighborhood bar scene flush with musical options. Maybe there isn't a clump of musty bars sporting the machines along one particular street, or perhaps these watering holes don't represent the hood as a whole. But we'd be remiss if we simply left those out of our Juke Hunt. Do they not offer beer-drinking atmosphere? Do they not accept quarters and spit out musical memories? Below, we review a few jukes that stand alone in their vicinity.

Jerry lives at the Dogpatch Saloon
  • Jerry lives at the Dogpatch Saloon

1. The Dogpatch Saloon is the type of bar every neighborhood craves: Full selection of libations, killer bloody marys, ample seating, and plenty of casual entertainment -- live jazz and home-cooked chili on Sundays, and of course, the everyday comfort of a jukebox. The machine in this wide-open bar along Third Street is packed with soulful and bluesy singers. There are discs by Nina Simone, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Sarah Vaughan, Tom Waits, and Louis Armstrong. Any of these, chosen wisely, would enhance the already enjoyable atmosphere.

To suit a slightly harder-rocking crowd, the saloon also has discs by the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin and Grateful Dead. The Dead, in fact, has a special presence in the small area surrounding the jukebox. There's a picture of Jerry Garcia hovering nearby (alongside framed black and whites of other musicians), a few Dead records, and someone even slapped a "Jerry Lives" sticker on the box itself.

The music fits the speed of the bar, and there's plenty of variety, though not a whole lot of modern music besides Norah Jones. And who wants to be the one spinning Norah Jones in a saloon?

Juke rating: 4 drinks.

2. Walk into a bar called California Dreamin', and you expect to find the Mamas and the Papas on the jukebox. Thankfully, this Nob Hill lounge does not disappoint. What you may not expect is a solid mix of CDs from the '60s through the current day: classic rock and pop albums, fuzzy folk, beloved punk acts, '80s new wave. I walked in to Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" and was blitzed by a good dozen more excellent tracks.

Some standouts include Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen, Cat Power, the White Stripes, Portishead, the Misfits, Prince, CCR, Violent Femmes, and the Smiths. The most random option: Poison the Well.

At California Dreamin', the music is unpredictably enjoyable, the snacks are plenty (peanuts or tortilla chips), and the house specialty cocktails are super-sweet -- like tooth decay sweet.

Juke rating: 4 drinks

3. Tucked between a quaint Chinese restaurant and a coffeehouse (er, a Starbucks) and within spitting distance of a Pottery Barn, Marina Lounge is not the type of spot where you'd expect to find a classy jukebox. Thanks to a mostly upscale clientele and forward-moving technology trends, many other bars and lounges in the Marina have fallen prey to hosting those shiny, soulless digital jukes. But not the Marina Lounge.

Its offerings are fairly standard, and not terribly pleasant: David Bowie, the Kinks, Tom Waits, Neil Young, Peter Gabriel. There's an inordinate amount of Grateful Dead and Jimmy Buffett for the aging hippies and margarita-loving yuppies of the crowd. There are also a few head-scratchers like Brooks & Dunn and George Thorogood.

The bar has the bonus of a pool table and a few old arcade games, but even that wouldn't keep a listener here past a couple of drinks -- there are just too many misses to keep up with the hits.

Juke rating: 2 drinks

Well, after visiting the Haight and the Mission, the Tenderloin and Richmond, Castro, North Beach, Bernal Heights, the Dogpatch and Marina -- we've about rounded up the city's jukebox offerings. Next up: we highlight the best of the best in an all-city battle for genuine jukebox glory.

Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown, follow Emily Savage @TofuandWhiskey, and like us at

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