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Bars & Clubs

  • Best Hip-Hop Club Night

    330 Ritch

    Most hip-hop club nights are either too underground or too commercial. But 330 Ritch's "Pacific Standard Time" is that rare exception: Like Goldilocks' porridge, it's just right. Now in its fourth year, the club night — hosted by DJ Sake One and co-promoted by Ankh Marketing — has given the over-25 grown 'n' sexy crowd a reason to go out on Tuesdays. It offers a nice mix of bangin' old-school hip-hop, reggae dancehall, and classic and next-level soul and funk... More >>

  • Best New Club

    Triple Crown

    Even though it's still less than a year old, Triple Crown is a triple threat as a nightlife establishment, with tasty food, strong drinks, and great music. Its open-minded musical policy has attracted some of the more notable disco, house, electro, and funk DJs in town to spin at recurring happy hour and evening events with colorful names like "Brownies for My Bitches," "Lights Down Low," "Bionic," and "Hot F*cking Pink." The club is owned by reputable local mixmaster DJ... More >>

  • Best Worldbeat Dance Night

    Elbo Room

    So, you've heard of Fela Kuti, one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, right? The Nigerian political activist and father of Afrobeat (an infusion of jazz, funk, and psychedelic rock) died in '97, but his legend lives on at the Elbo Room every last Tuesday of the month, when Afrobeat admirers gather and gyrate to Baba Ken and the Afro-Groove Connexion. The ten-man band includes, of course, guitar and bass player Baba Ken, who formerly jammed with... More >>

  • Best Lowbrow Dance Club

    Delirium Cocktails

    Say the phrase "dance club," and many people's minds conjure the following: blinding laser lights, lines down the block, and drinks so spendy they'll flip your mortgage if you order more than two. But not at Delirium. That's because it's a dive bar that just happens to have a dancefloor — or, to be more accurate, a dark-walled rear room where DJs spin discs while happy drunks get their bop on. It doesn't take Einstein to realize that this "dance club"... More >>

  • Best Place to Hear the Worst Music

    The Knockout

    At the Knockout's free party "Worst Music Ever," held the first Thursday of every month, Dimitri Dickinson, Ryan Poulsen, and friends drop the bombs that usually drive people away from bars. Here they spin clunkers like Chris De Burgh, Smash Mouth, and Robbie Nevil to court drinkers with a healthy sense of humor. "Worst Music Ever" welcomes the backlash against the irony backlash — after all, sarcasm is too criminally addictive to banish for long. In a city that takes... More >>

  • Best Dance Club Revival

    Paradise Lounge

    It may seem insane to open a nightclub during the current economic freefall, but that just makes the people behind the newly refurbished Paradise Lounge that much cooler. The venerable SOMA venue's latest incarnation is similar to its last one — as a dance club. (Locals with long memories might miss the '90s version, with its all-live music format, but hey, those times are long gone.) And while there are still plenty of electro and techno DJ nights, including some... More >>

  • Best Place to Pretend You're a Redneck

    Bloodhound

    It's appropriate that a state in which Clint Eastwood once held elected office should pay some kind of homage to the cultural trappings of the Wild West, but San Francisco, obsessed with its self-endowed status as an island of ironic high culture, has pitifully few entertainment offerings in this vein. Bloodhound, a new SOMA bar, goes some way toward remedying this defect. Featuring a gorgeous antler chandelier, spit-shined wooden saloon floor, and the essential arcade shoot-'em-up game Big Buck Hunter,... More >>

  • Best Setting for a David Lynch Remake of Carrie

    Make-Out Room

    There's retro kitsch ... and then there's just plain weird. The Make-Out Room's choice of interior design most definitely falls into the latter category. With its prom-gone-wrong decor (streamers hang from the ceiling like innards from a piñata that was gutted in the late '50s, then forgotten and left to rot in grandma's basement), the Make-Out could almost be a rented party hall that got miraculously frozen in time. In a frosty-yet-hip part of hell. With PBR on tap. It... More >>

  • Best Place to Pretend Drum Machines Never Ruined Music

    The Attic

    Maybe we're getting old, but we've been feeling more and more curmudgeonly every time we settle into some club or bar that blares thumping techno so loud we can't even think straight, much less talk to anyone. Doesn't anyone remember when crooners like Al Green and Curtis Mayfield were all the party anyone needed? Thankfully, someone does: Every Sunday at the Attic, a narrow, dimly lit hole in the Mission, DJ Slo-Poke throws down old soul classics on 45 records... More >>

  • Best Place to See Little Bands Before They Blow Up

    330 Ritch

    The older we get, the younger the scene becomes, and the longer this club night has had its finger on the pulse of alternative pop. Founded by Aaron Axelsen and Omar Perez, the intrepid party claims to be the longest-running indie weekly in the country. For more than a decade, "Popscene" has brought you the Spin cover stars from the U.K. and the U.S. before they suffered all that liver damage. A short list of the big names who played... More >>

  • Best Basement for Shows

    Li Po Cocktail Lounge

    Li Po is one of the few "anything goes" bars left in this NIMBY city. Want to end your Sundays swaying to rare soul with the Sweater Funk DJs? Craving fractured psych-pop one weekend and ear-bleeding noise the next? Scouting out tweaked techno, "Night Kitchen" style? It's all hiding in the Li Po dungeon. The dive bar's cachet comes with a couple of caveats, however. The only way to hear about these shows, which occur in a cramped, dank basement,... More >>

  • Best New Gay Club Theme Night

    The Stud

    The late, lamented "Trannyshack" drag club is credited with inventing what might be called "creative drag" or "art drag"; many of its acts involved independent music, genderbending unusual even for drag, and a new sense of inclusion. Instead of disappearing, though, the 'Shack seems to have replicated upon its demise, spawning many quality evenings — "Hot Boxx Girls" at Aunt Charlie's Lounge, "Pink Slip" at the Stud, "Charlie Horse" at the Cinch, and "Follies" at Marlena's — enough to keep... More >>

  • Best Gay Bar

    The Cinch

    Before the Castro became the throbbing heart of contemporary gaydom, the Friends of Dorothy tended to congregate in Polk Gulch — the stretch of Polk Street between Geary and Union that now retains only a few marks of its long-gone days as the city's queer hub. The Cinch is probably the gayest thing going in the neighborhood these days; the interior looks like a saloon dolled up for a burlesque show, and the staff has been known to show MGM... More >>

  • Best Fusion Lounge

    AsiaSF

    San Francisco has no shortage of drag queens, but only AsiaSF, a popular upscale Asian fusion restaurant in SOMA, has its own fleet of "gender illusionists." Dressed to the nines in miniskirts and heels, these waitresses/performers don't just pass: They make genetically female diners jealous. Between courses of blackened tuna and orange lamb — set menus cost $38 to $58 — you can enjoy dances from beauties grinding to the music as they strut the catwalk behind the bar. Ask... More >>

  • Best North Beach Bar

    Specs Twelve Adler Museum Cafe

    Specs' is one of the few bars left where you can ask for a martini and get a cold glass of gin and a little vermouth without having to answer a bunch of damn fool questions. That alone would qualify this venerable North Beach hideaway for übersaloon status, but there's so much more to the place: the old-salt pro-union merchant marine ambience; the Ahab-era slicing implement used to carve wedges of Swiss cheese; the eclectic neighborhood clientele, a genial melting... More >>

  • Best Dive Bar

    500 Club

    The ingredients that go into a great dive bar are simple and inviolable: minimal clientele of the somber, scotch-sipping variety; no-nonsense barkeeps with nothing but time; shadowy, spilled-gin atmo to burn. The Ha-Ra meets the standards and then some. Walking into the joint is like feeling your way into a poorly lit cavern trimmed in Truman-era boxing photos and a pool table that's seen it all. A few regulars slump at their barstools over beakers of amber hooch. And Carl,... More >>

  • Best Hipster Mission Bar

    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 extracheap. You'll know you've arrived when you begin to feel vaguely uncomfortable and notice all the fixies chained up, their owners puffing cigarettes outside and snubbing homeless people. Head inside, though, and the quirky tinted-red innards of Uptown and its warm weirdness welcome you to stay a... More >>

  • Best New Hotel Bar

    The Westin St. Francis

    The hotel lobby bar is a subgenre of saloon unique unto itself: a rendezvous, usually in a bustling downtown location, where friends, lovers, and co-workers can meet over a relaxing cocktail in an elegant but convenient setting. The year-old Clock Bar at the St. Francis is the perfect mixture of all those things. For generations, people have been meeting under the clock in the St. Francis lobby, making it ideal real estate for a hotel bar par excellence. A cross-lobby... More >>

  • Best Bar to Bridge the Generation Gap

    3300 Club

    Despite San Francisco's cornucopia of bars, watering holes, and dives, few drinking establishments in the city can tout a balanced age demographic. Face facts: Most bars cater to a younger set. A few have a token old guy, sometimes welcome, sometimes not. But the 3300 Club in the Mission runs the gamut. You've got your twentysomethings; then there's the collection of drinkers who could be anywhere from 30 to 48; next are the folks counting down the days to their... More >>

  • Best Bus Stop with a Liquor License

    KoKo Cocktails

    Missed your bus? Sucks for you. But if you're lucky, you're currently cursing Muni at the intersection of Van Ness and Geary — in which case your bus stop conveniently abuts KoKo Cocktails. This small, cool Tenderloin drinkery sits a mere six feet from the Muni shelter, so nicotine enthusiasts frequently mingle with nocturnal commuters as the latter await the 38 line's next arrival. You can't trust that bus to come anytime soon, though, so don't just chat — step... More >>

  • Best Lifestyle Randomizer

    Argus Lounge

    Predictability is good when it comes to trains, planes, and paycheck schedules. But sometimes your social life gets in a rut — and that's when a bar like the Argus comes in handy. Unless your brain gets regular RSS event feeds, it's almost impossible to predict what will be happening at this Mission neighborhood hangout. Maybe it'll be packed with rocker dudes chugging cheap canned beer and thrashing their livers to punk/metal DJs. Or perhaps some experimental weirdos will be creating... More >>

  • Best Place for a 'Whis-Skee' Mixer

    Buckshot Bar & Gameroom

    Sick of slick pseudopimps, overdressed suburban moneyslingers, and other wannabe players? The Buckshot appeals to a different breed of player — those for whom the "game" doesn't involve throwing Benjamins at makeup-slathered skanks, but throwing some rounds of Skee-Ball instead. If it were a racetrack gambler, this ultracasual (read: picnic tables and taxidermy as indoor decor) Inner Richmond bar would put its money on the longshot horse. The Buckshot serves up cheap drinks, the music skews toward gutter rock 'n'... More >>

  • Best Happy Hour

    McCormick & Kuleto's

    The happy hour concept has been part of the San Francisco barhopping experience since the Silver Boom of the 1860s, when the saloons along Montgomery beckoned customers with groaning boards of oysters, hams, and other thirst-inducing snacks. The tradition continues at Ghirardelli Square's handsome Pat Kuleto–designed fish house, where the panoramic bay views are stupendous and the happy hour menu (available weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m.) is nearly as impressive. A tasty half-pound cheeseburger with a bushel of phenomenal... More >>

  • Best Place to Make Your Own Wine

    Crushpad

    Whether you're a wine connoisseur or vineyard pretender, Crushpad is an urban DIY winery in Potrero Hill that welcomes all types. At Crushpad, you don't actually get to stomp grapes in barrels, but hobbyists and newbies can make their own bottles of wine at $19 a pop (or $5,000 for 300 bottles) and get some knowledge on blending their favorite varietals, identifying tastes as diverse as cedar and dirty sock, and determining corking preferences. It's a little like a high... More >>

  • Best Liquor Selection

    Rosewood

    Make your way to Rosewood's speakeasylike entrance, settle into one of the retro-hip Thonet barstools, and behold 10 dozen bottles in all shapes and sizes, arranged in two backlit rows like so many glittering, multihued works of art. These cordials, aperitifs, digestifs, and (occasionally unidentifiable) elixirs in malt, grape, and grain include top-shelf gins, tequilas, bourbons, and cognacs alongside Moët-Hennessy's first-pressed 10 Cane rum, 100-proof bottled-in-bond Rittenhouse Rye, St. George Absinthe Verte direct from Alameda, and Reyka's lava-filtered, geothermally juiced... More >>

  • Best Belgian Beer Resource

    La Trappe

    Belgium produces the widest selection of unique, distinctive artisanal beers in the world — as many as 800 varieties — and a fine place to sample a remarkable percentage of them is La Trappe. Here, the questing suds-sipper can experience the breathtaking range of Belgian ingenuity and craftsmanship, from fruity ciderlike lambics and herb-scented wheat beers to the sweet and sour red and brown ales of Flanders and those richly intoxicating top-fermented Trappist tripels. The place has more than 200... More >>

  • Best Microbrew

    Salvation

    What we have here is a sippin' beer, best enjoyed with the cheese, walnuts, port, and cognac after a fine meal. The artisans at Russian River craft this chestnut-brown ale with their own strain of Belgian yeast and a preference for malted grain over bitter hops, resulting in a sweet, full-bodied, slightly fruity brew. The beer is then refermented in the bottle, giving it a wonderfully fizzy texture that lightens and enhances its hearty, creamy flavors. (The effervescence is contained... More >>

  • Best Novelty Drink

    The Knockout

    Sparks, the candy-flavored alcoholic beverage that once fueled the nights of many a hipster, is not without its detractors. In fact, enough people have complained that the fizzy novelty drink appeals to children that consumer activists were able to get caffeine scratched from its ingredient list. But the sugary drink is still easy to swill, making it an ideal component of the hilariously named Bro-seff. This $6 drink provides the theatricality appreciated by the chest-pounding, collar-popping dudes it's named for.... More >>

  • Best Sugary Girl Drink

    Barracuda

    Girly drinks have been known to sport names that are unfit to print in a family publication, but which all refer to sexual activity. Thankfully, Barracuda Sushi has concocted a sugary girl drink without the sexual innuendo: the Gummi Bear Martini. This insanely sweet mix of Seagram's Extra Smooth vodka, DeKuyper Strawberry Passion Pucker, and DeKuyper Peach Pucker Schnapps is served in a martini glass bottomed up with actual gummi bears. Luckily, the lively Castro sushi bar and restaurant has... More >>

  • Best Pisco Sour

    La Mar Cebicheria Peruana

    Last year, Peruvian celebrity chef Gastón Acurio opened the grand La Mar Cebicheria Peruana on the San Francisco waterfront at a time when cocktails really started trending toward the old-fashioned. And while the restaurant has garnered mixed reviews in the local food media, its traditional take on the Pisco Sour has snagged a lot of buzz. At La Mar, Pisco (a grape-based brandy native to Peru and Chile) is blended with lemon juice and simple syrup, frothed up with egg... More >>

  • Best No-Talent-Required Karaoke

    The Attic

    Promises of no-pressure karaoke nights are usually false, with even the divey-est, most out-of-the way places sporting their fair share of divas. Not so at the Attic's karaoke night, which happens the third Monday of every month. The complete lack of flair ensures that every flaw in every squeaky voice will be laid bare for the jovial, drunken audience members, who do not care how poorly you sing. There is no stage provided; performers read lyrics from a screen set... More >>

  • Greenest Bar

    The Moss Room

    Okay, it isn't exactly a bar and there aren't actually any happy hour discounts, but sipping a Manhattan at sunset in the LEED platinum-certified California Academy of Sciences' Moss Room is lulling enough to rival well drinks at your favorite downtown dive. It opens half an hour after the museum closes, and sits pretty below the academy's "living roof," a lush canopy of plants accessible from the third floor. Most people come for the food — fresh organic California cuisine... More >>

  • Saddest Farewell

    Tonga Room

    In an era of crumbling institutions, rampant greed, and change for the hell of it, the all-but-certain demise of the Tonga Room may be the saddest slap at historical preservation to date. The grandest of the city's tiki bars blossomed just after World War II and in the decades since has delighted natives and visitors alike with its over-the-top decor, foliage-festooned umbrella drinks, and regularly scheduled tropical downpours. Those of us who grew up delighting in the wall-to-wall tribal masks,... More >>

  • Best Bar Desserts

    Candybar

    The bar-snack concept attains sweet new heights at Candybar, a hip little Western Addition venue where desserts get top billing with the cocktails, suds, and vino. These aren't your basic Gummi Bear-and-biscotti meal-closers, either. Chef Kyle Caporicci's half-dozen daily offerings are unique and perfectly realized culinary creations that are scrumptious on their own or with a glass of port, vin santo, or champagne. Opt for the Fudgesicle, a bar of luscious bittersweet mousse dipped in melted chocolate, frozen, and drizzled... More >>

  • Best Outdoor Drinking Options

    Pier 23 Cafe

    Fog, wind, and rain aside, San Francisco's largely temperate year-round weather patterns inspire an abundance of out-of-doors strolling, sunning, supping, and sipping. Especially sipping. Here are a few of our favorite places for getting a tan and a buzz at the same time. Pier 23 Cafe Pier 23 (at Embarcadero), 362-5125, www.pier23cafe.com Pier 23 is one of the few places in this water-centric city where you can enjoy an al fresco cocktail right on the edge of the bay. On... More >>

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