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Pilsner Inn: At the busy corner of Church and Market in the Castro sits this casual neighborhood sports bar with simple wood tones, a pool table, pinball, and a garden patio. This is more of a straight-friendly gay bar, reminiscent of a small town bar that supports the community pool, softball, and bowling leagues. Trophies and plaques adorn the walls along with a strong, yet random, puffin theme (if you get the chance, you should query the bartender), as well as a few old-school touches such as a hanging surfboard and classic telephone booth. The patio can accommodate large groups with dark wood benches (with built-in ashtrays) lining the garden and a cornered-off porch for more intimate groups. The patio is well-lit with a transparent canopy, and it never gets smoky even when it's crowded on Friday night. The seating is well-designed so everyone has space, yet it all feels very intimate and social at the same time. A strong rosemary smell, babbling fountains, and Christmas lights help keep the mood calm, juxtaposing the lively but poised position inside, where the '80s hair metal streams from the jukebox. 225 Church, 621-7058, pilsnerinn.com.
Powerhouse: Having club nights with names like "Nipple Play" (nipple fetish night), "Underwear" (panty fetish night), and "Wrasslin'" (wrestling fetish night where grown men sport high school wrestling outfits and try pinning each other to a mat), it's safe to say that this isn't the place you want to take Mom and Dad when they come to town. It is, however, the place to go if you're looking for a daddy and a dirty time. DJs spin a mix of house and techno every night, and the back room/dancefloor, rife with leering men lurking in the shadows, is appropriately dark. 1347 Folsom, 552-8689, powerhouse-sf.com.
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Public Works: Tucked into an alley at the northern edge of the Mission District — look for a Banksy stencil and a bunch of other great street-art murals on the outside wall — Public Works is a multi-use space that hosts art shows, DJ dance events, live music, and more on its two floors. It's become one of the city's hippest hangouts in only a short period of time, attracting diverse crowds that include queer party fanatics, electro-house hipsters, exploratory foodies, gallery crawlers, and other San Franciscans looking for the latest in artsy underground entertainment. 161 Erie, 932-0955, publicsf.com.
The Riptide: With its roaring fireplace, wood-paneled walls, hearty drinks, and amazing free live music calendar, the Riptide is a cozy home away from home for many. DJs spin punk, ska, and metal on Wednesday through Friday nights, with folk, bluegrass, and Americana bands and players taking over Saturdays and Sundays. Homemade vittles on Friday evening, surf videos on the TV, and a friendly staff make this a perfect after-beach warm-up spot. 3639 Taraval, 759-7263, riptidesf.com.
Ruby Skye: One of San Francisco's most well-heeled dance clubs, this multilevel venue is host to steamy house-music and trance DJs (with several special guests and events each month), weekly concerts, and corporate parties. 420 Mason, 693-0777, rubyskye.com.
Slate Bar: Som Bar has rebranded itself as Slate, but the mod-minimalist decor and funky DJs remain. 2925 16th St., 558-8521, slate-sf.com.
The Stud: Although small and cramped when packed, the Stud rules over other gay clubs with some of the best local DJs, innovative club nights, wild drag queen performances, and overall atmosphere. This old SOMA standby eschews the flashy glitz of trendy new nightclubs, instead cultivating a comfortable, almost bordello-like environment with lots of warm wood surfaces and plenty of dark corners in which to canoodle with your latest date. 399 Ninth St., 863-6623, studsf.com.
The Uptown: So you're a new hipster in town. Or you've just decided that you want to have sex with a hipster. Where should you go? Try the Uptown, particularly on Wednesdays when beer is extra-cheap. You'll know you've arrived when you begin to feel vaguely uncomfortable and notice all the chained-up fixies, their owners puffing cigarettes outside and snubbing homeless people. Head inside, though, and the quirk, red-tinted innards of Uptown and its warm weirdness welcome you to stay a while. Maybe it's the cushy old booths, or the pool table that's slightly off. All we know is that seven PBRs later, you'll be playing Simpsons pinball against some guy with big sunglasses and a pet rat on his shoulder, wondering when your Steely Dan jukebox selection will come on. That is when you know you are home. 200 Capp, 861-8231.
Underground SF: This small, dark, and unpretentious Lower Haight spot attempts to inject a subversive element back into the nightclub scene — and, for the most part, it succeeds. The music runs the gamut (from vintage disco to drum 'n' bass to hip-hop to reggae), as does the crowd. A good place to escape from upscale and trendy nightclubbers. 424 Haight, 864-7386, facebook.com/undergroundsf.
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