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Bars & Clubs

  • Best Big Music Venue

    Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

    This venue brings tsunami-sized crowds and music superstars, with acts featuring all the pyrotechnics and lighting spectaculars that you could want or need. Named after the legendary San Francisco promoter, who at one point or another represented or aided local acts like Santana, The Grateful Dead, Joan Baez, John Fogerty, Bonnie Raitt, Journey, and other rock stars, the concert hall today brings in an assortment of acts like Ellie Goulding, Robin Thicke, Queens of the Stone Age, and Skrillex. The... More >>

  • Best Menus

    Trick Dog

    When hip Mission bar Trick Dog opened in January 2013, San Francisco design enthusiasts fell over themselves in delight over the cool laminated menus based on the Pantone color guide. It featured drinks based on particularly inspiring color names like Polar Bear (mezcal, sweet vermouth, and crème de menthe) and Pennies From Heaven (rye, amaro, sour apple liqueur, sherry, and housemade bitters). Seven months after the color-swatch menu lit up the blogosphere, the gang surprised everyone by debuting a completely... More >>

  • Best New Outdoor Bar

    El Techo de Lolinda

    While rooftop access at a friend's apartment may be easy to come by, we're pretty sure your friend isn't serving Palomas and frozen piña coladas under heat lamps. That's where El Techo comes in. It's the perfect place to transport yourself from the foggy S.F. streets to a warm oasis where cocktails and chicharrones arrive at your table as you feast on aerial views of the Mission. White Christmas lights strung among the perimeter give the feeling that every night's... More >>

  • Best Classic Outdoor Bar

    Zeitgeist

    The expansive back patio at Zeitgeist is more or less San Francisco's backyard, and as such, you're lucky to get out of there without running into someone awkward: a one-night-stand you hoped to never see again, a co-worker whose name you can't remember, a friend you haven't made time for in months. Such encounters are all part of the Zeitgeist experience, which knits together hipsters and bikers and tourists and techies in a shared love for getting drunk in the... More >>

  • Best New Hotel Bar

    Hotel Zetta

    Short for "salvage and rescue," this two-story bar in the lobby of the Hotel Zetta mingles classic design with a tech twist. The recently renovated space could feel like just another boutique hotel lobby bar, but its trappings reflect Silicon Valley start-up culture. The decor is eclectic. On the ground floor lies the bar, plenty of tables, a hanging chair, and a massive soccer ball plinko game that spans both floors. Upstairs are sofas, TVs, a pool table, shuffleboard, video... More >>

  • Best Classic Hotel Bar

    Tonga Room

    Oh, Tonga Room, you crazy, wonderful, fever dream of a bar. There's a lot about the kitschy tropical spot in the Fairmont Hotel to make one uncomfortable if they were to think about it too hard. The carved-wooden tiki gods and other odds 'n' ends around the place stop just short of racism — this is not the bar to bring a college sophomore taking a course on imperialism. The drinks are expensive and syrupy-sweet, and the less said about... More >>

  • Best Antique Nightclub

    The EndUp

    Its recent interior remodel might suggest otherwise, but The Endup is one of the city's oldest nightclubs. It originally opened in 1972, and has remained a fixture in the San Francisco dance music scene ever since. A big part of the appeal is its retro after-hours license — at the time of its founding, clubs were allowed to stay open longer. Nowadays, the Endup still parties continuously from Friday to Monday morning (sadly, alcohol is unavailable from 2 a.m. to... More >>

  • Best Futuristic Nightclub

    DNA Lounge

    DNA Lounge evokes a sense of the future in its iconic interior design. Step through the door, and you'll swear you've been transported to some battle-scarred spaceship traversing an obscure corner of a resource-depleted universe. That aesthetic also manifests itself in the club's tech savvy, which includes interesting touches like hacked ATMs (bearing ironic and strangely dystopian slogans like, "This machine dispenses your god!"), a 24-hour online webcast, and free, high-speed WiFi throughout the club. Next door, DNA also runs... More >>

  • Best Venue From a Prior Era

    Danzhaus

    As development in the city center continues at a ridiculous pace, underground club culture has had to spread out to less-frequented areas: Think Dogpatch, Potrero Hill, and Bayview. Interestingly, these neighborhoods have their own nightlife history, which often stretches back to the '90s rave heyday. Case in point is Danzhaus (previously Gingerbread House), a fully licensed dance studio on the outskirts of Potrero Hill that's been serving the late-night crowd for a while now. This year, the place has seen... More >>

  • Best Nightclub That's a Symbol for the Tech Boom

    The Grand Nightclub

    In the '70s and early '80s, the Trocadero Transfer was one of the best gay clubs in San Francisco. It had superior sound, forward-thinking DJs from New York and Miami, and an atmosphere that — if the stories are to be believed — has yet to be surpassed by anyone here since. Sadly, though, the space that housed the Trocadero has been in near-constant decline since the club's closure in the '90s. The Grand is perhaps the best iteration of... More >>

  • Best New Beer Bar

    Mikkeller Bar

    One of the most upscale gastropubs in San Francisco, Copenhagen export Mikkeller Bar at the Tenderloin's easternmost extremity is an exposed-brick cavern with 42 beers and house-made headcheese. Tech money is in the air, but considering its pedigree and proximity to Union Square, Mikkeller is amazingly non-touristy. Packed with and staffed by beer nerds, it's also got the cleanest bathrooms of any brew-centric bar in town. And with a gas-blending system for optimum temperature-control that guarantees the perfect pint, it's... More >>

  • Best Classic Beer Bar

    Toronado

    Any bar that updates its draft beer list online more or less daily wins plaudits among serious beer aficionados, and Toronado Pub routinely pours Pliny the Elder those 50 weeks out of the year when Pliny the Younger hibernates. California obscurities, Belgian rarities, and microbrewery one-offs prevail at the Lower Haight's most discerning dive, with its spacious back room and enigmatic neon "Garage Service" sign governing the hordes. It's loud and it's crowded, but happy hour is so inexpensive that... More >>

  • Best Old-Money Bar

    Ritz-Carlton Hotel

    Everyone gets so focused on the unfortunate effects of the new wave of tech boom money and Google buses that they forget that rich people have been living among us quietly for a very long time. While the masses head out to the Top of the Mark for a splurge and a perceived taste of the high life, the real deal is happening farther down the hill at The Lounge inside the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. High tea, great service, and cocktails... More >>

  • Best New-Money Bar

    Wingtip

    Fittingly situated in the heart of the Financial District is the private bar at Wingtip. With a collection of rare spirits, star bartender Brian MacGregor, and plenty of amenities like car service and champagne rooms, this private club has everything the nouveau riche need and want. While the yearly membership fee is out of reach for most of us proles, the cost of the membership can theoretically be recouped if you spend enough on shoes, clothes, or accessories in the... More >>

  • Best No-Money Bar

    Bender's

    While a pocketful of lint will get you nothing at any bar, a few bucks will get you plenty here at Bender's. Yes, there are cheaper (barely), dirtier, and scarier dive bars in San Francisco, but Bender's succeeds by being a perfect mix of bar and clubhouse. Everyone is welcome, there are bike hooks inside, and most weeknights offer a $5 or $6 shot-and-a-beer combination. Plus, Bender's has some outstanding bar grub that features some of the best burgers and... More >>

  • Best No-Money Bar

    Bender's

    While a pocketful of lint will get you nothing at any bar, a few bucks will get you plenty here at Bender's. Yes, there are cheaper (barely), dirtier, and scarier dive bars in San Francisco, but Bender's succeeds by being a perfect mix of bar and clubhouse. Everyone is welcome, there are bike hooks inside, and most weeknights offer a $5 or $6 shot-and-a-beer combination. Plus, Bender's has some outstanding bar grub that features some of the best burgers and... More >>

  • Best $5 Jazz Show

    Club Deluxe

    A few years ago, San Francisco pinned its jazz-city hopes on the Fillmore, building a palatial music venue alongside a phalanx of bebop-themed restaurants and statues of — among other things — a guy playing the saxophone. But one of the city's best jazz clubs is a hole-in-the-wall on Haight Street, with bathroom graffiti and cheap door covers ($5 is usually the upper limit). Several times a week, Bay Area musicians convene at Club Deluxe to play two-hour sets that... More >>

  • Best Place to Hide Out From the Shopping Hordes of Powell Street

    Tempest Bar & Restaurant

    If you live in San Francisco and ever venture to the vicinity of Powell and Market on a Saturday afternoon, you know what we're talking about. Maybe your mom is in town and wants to see Williams-Sonoma, or you need a new dish rack from Target. Whatever the reason, after about 30 minutes around here, you've had it: The sidewalks clogged with Midwesterners, the din of competing street musicians, the backpacked Euros trudging forward in large groups while looking only... More >>

  • Best Subtle Evolution of a Small Music Venue

    Rickshaw Stop

    Rickshaw Stop celebrated its 10th birthday this year, but the onetime auto shop, TV studio, and now music club exists in a state of perpetual adolescence. In a town where everyone and everything seeks improvement and progress, the unmarked Fell Street spot has happily stayed its own funky self. It's neither a rock venue nor a dance club, but some cross between; the atmosphere, with its reclaimed white marble bar and actual rickshaws imported from Southeast Asia, finds a happy... More >>

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