Best Bars & Clubs

Best Weekly Dance Party That Makes You Look Forward To Wednesdays

(F8 Nightclub) 1192 Folsom St.,

Ask any veteran partier in the city what their favorite night of the week is, and chances are they’ll answer Wednesday because of Housepitality, the long-running weekly dance party held at F8. With a legion of top international and local house DJs always eager to spin, including resident DJs Victor Vega and Sharon Buck, a consistently cheap $10 cover, and an unpretentious atmosphere, Housepitality gives experienced clubbers everything they want in a strictly underground dance party, and more.

Best Small Gay Club Night

Dudes and Disco (D.A.D.)
Driftwood, 1225 Folsom Street,

In an era of dwindling nightlife options for S.F. gays, 2017 brought along a cool new club night in a new (but old) SoMa venue, and one year in it’s proven to draw a steady and loyal following of gay men in the 30-45 age bracket. Dudes and Disco (D.A.D.), a sort-of monthly dance party with the tiniest of dance floors at the generally straight cocktail bar Driftwood, is a fun alternative to similar parties that happen down the street at Powerhouse, with a less raunchy edge for those who mind such things. The bar, formerly a leather bar known by the names KoK and My Place, remains gay owned and transitions easily from lounge to small club, even though there’s a small traffic juggernaut where the bar juts out and traffic is flowing to and from the DJ area in back. Disco mavens like DJs Carrie On Disco and Gay Marvine are regular guests here, along with resident DJs Kelly Naughton and Michael Romano, as host Leon Fox flounces through the crowd. Additions to the decor — like a spinning, bedazzled male mannequin torso lit from within by Christmas lights — turn the staid space into an underground gay lair, something akin to the little bars in New York’s East Village that hosted parties like this in recent decades. It’s a welcome, sexy addition to the roster of monthly shindigs we have to choose from, and the music is always amazing.

Best Mission Wine Bar

20 Spot
3565 20th Street

Wine bars aren’t as hip or novel as they seemed 10 or 15 years ago, and you don’t see so many opening these days because, perhaps, San Franciscans like to take their dates out for something stiffer, if not for a full meal. But still going strong and doing so with great taste and personality after five years is 20 Spot, the cozy Mission wine and snack bar opened by local wine guy Bodhi Freedom. True to its home in the former Force of Habit record shop, LP records spin behind the bar, and there’s a welcoming, no-bullshit attitude about the place that encourages second and third glasses. The menu tends toward likable and quirky oddities from around the globe, the deviled eggs are fantastic, and the atmosphere is more like a friend’s living room than a stuffy tasting room. It’s a great spot for a first or second date, or an after-dinner Nebbiolo, and it’s equally pleasant during daylight hours as a pitstop during your Mission wanderings.

Best Place to Keep Dancing After Sunrise

314 11th Street

It can feel, at times, like San Francisco’s parents came home and shut down the real party years ago, and all we’re left with are dull, chaperoned affairs where no one dares spike the punch because they’re all honor-roll students who can’t hold their booze. That’s not the case at Halcyon, the late 2016 revamping of the space formerly known as Beatbox and Siberia on the club strip of 11th Street. Having been granted a rare 24-hour operating license, owner Gina Milano (Le Club) has been booking parties that push on well past last call into the morning hours, Ibiza/Berlin-style — and in California, this means that the bar reopens at 6 a.m. The place is also one of the only spots in town to catch the big international house DJs who you might find this summer in Ibiza or Mykonos, on a soundsystem befitting their talents, with a whole new lighting rig to boot. Maybe, just maybe, someday, they’ll be able to stop the silly Puritan charade of sweeping away the drinks at 1:45 and just let everyone party on through — but obviously most of the party people who are still standing past 2 a.m. are high on other things, so maybe it doesn’t matter either way.

Raddest Hotel Lobby Bar

1100 Market Street

You’re going to suffer some line-standing and some whiffs of faux-L.A. exclusivity to get into Charmaine’s, the rooftop bar at the new Proper Hotel. But for a sophisticated drink in an equally well-designed, indoor space, just head to the street-level lobby bar and restaurant, Villon, which includes several lounge tables with couch seating in the lobby itself. Designer Kelly Wearstler has brought San Francisco a cool, retro, Parisian salon of a space, covered in art, which feels entirely apart from the still chaotic mid-Market environs just outside the frosted windows — and even though the bar backs up to the Market Street side, you’ll need to enter on McAllister. The drink menu, created by the Bon Vivants of Trick Dog fame, is extensive and self-consciously quirky, attempting to represent San Francisco with seven sections of seven cocktails each, including things like the Earthquake Proof (tequila, creme de cacao, lime, and Coke, $14) and the Lincoln Highway (apple brandy, Ancho Reyes liqueur, absinthe, cinnamon, lemon, $14).

Best Bearded Drag Show

Dick at Night at Moby Dick
Wednesdays, 10 p.m., 4049 18th St.,

The Stud continues the grand tradition of weirdo performance-art drag that began with Trannyshack in days of yore with the monthly Vivvy’s Grand Opening. But back in the Castro, Grace Towers and her mostly bearded Haus of Towers push the limits and question the meaning of drag every week, calling to mind the (often messy) glory of the Cockettes and the long lineage of facial hair paired with glitter and false eyelashes. For her birthday and at other times throughout the year, Ms. Towers pays homage to her Latinx heritage with Latin music lip syncs, and about once a month, the Wednesday show is devoted entirely to spoken word performances, which makes it all the more odd — to the delight of many a hip and intellectual young queer. Also, in a nod to the drag shows of yesteryear that took place in bars this small, most of the queens do a sashay or three into the crowd to collect dollar bills, because, as you may have heard, even drag this cheap isn’t that cheap.

Best New Excuse to Have Fondue with Cocktails

The Beehive
842 Valencia Street,

The Mad Men-inspired wave of retro bars continues long past the run of the show, and now the Mission has one more such drinking den — albeit with a mostly modern drink menu. Drawing on the success of his Dogpatch cocktail co-venture Third Rail and his downtown co-venture The Treasury, former Range chef-owner Phil West has transformed the Range space on Valencia into a groovy throwback lounge called The Beehive, with the help of Treasury collaborators Arnold Eric Wong and Steve Werney. The snacks lean heavily toward the mid-century, with deviled eggs, Swedish meatballs, and house-made “Spam” rillette, and you could arguably make a meal of it if you order the largest offering: cheese fondue that comes in two varieties, and in small and large formats, serving two or four people respectively. It seems like fondue had a trendy moment more than a decade ago, but it’s the kind of fun, social food that never really goes out of style, and goes great with drinks like the Centerfold (Pommeau de Normandie, Krogstad Aquavit, lemon, raspberry, and sparkling wine) — a riff on Marilyn Monroe’s favorite drink, which was Champagne with apple brandy and grenadine.

Best New Mayoral-Themed Cocktail Menu

Finn Town
2251 Market St.,

The Castro gained a classy new dining and drinking option last year with the opening of Finn Town, and in the cocktail department they’ve kept things cheeky from the start with signature drinks inspired by local legends like Harvey Milk (the Milkman, which is served in a glass milk carton, $14) and Sharon Stone (the Not So Basic Instinct, made with rye, grapefruit, and clove, $14). This election season, they’re featuring a menu inspired by “once and future” mayors, with $12 drinks like the Moscone Mule (basically a Moscow Mule), the Marky Mark for mayoral hopeful Mark Leno (tequila, mezcal, Luxardo maraschino, and lime), and the Gavinator (a non-alcoholic blend of citrus juice, grenadine, and soda). There are drinks also in honor of candidates London Breed, Jane Kim, and Angela Alioto, as well as former mayor Willie Brown. But, interestingly, the late Ed Lee gets no love here.

Best space for Block Parties

The Midway
900 Marin St.,

San Francisco’s blockbuster block party is the Space Cowboys’ annual Breakfast of Champions, the New Year’s Day stragglers’ afterparty now held at Dogpatch’s magnificent Midway. But The Midway hosts a few other epic, all-day, onesie-wearing outdoor affairs, from Burning Man art-car rallies with flamethrowers blazing at full blast, to DJ collectives raising tents and dropping bass outside on Michigan Street. Even when there’s not a formal block party underway, this gigantic, 40,000-foot venue recreates street celebration sprawl on the massive Midway outdoor patio where you can trip out on the fantastic Pier 92 Grain Silo mural that is sometimes animated at night, and can seem animated in the daytime depending how many pills you’ve taken.

Best Happy Ending for a Neon Sign

Doc’s Clock
2417 Mission St.,

“Cocktail Time” came to a heartbreaking halt in 2016 when beloved Mission watering hole Doc’s Clock became the latest local legend to lose their lease. The bar quickly rebounded with a new location one block north at Mission and 20th streets, but the saga of its delightfully old-school vintage neon sign was just getting started. The old building’s owner refused to let Doc’s bring their 1950s-era legacy marquee with them, but some furious crowdsourcing, political maneuvering, and the kindness of whiskey-loving strangers has the old sign being rebuilt at Doc’s new home. Doc’s Clock remains a traditional dive in the ever-fancifying Mission, and return of their sign is just what the doctor ordered.

Best Dinner Where You Can Get High

Fried Chicken & Dabs, Harvest off Mission

Pesky regulations have relegated cannabis dinners to down-low underground events, even in our era of legal recreational weed. But dispensaries with smoking lounges are allowed to furnish food, and Harvest off Mission serves hits from the dab rig at its twice-monthly Fried Chicken and Dabs. The fried chicken from the nearby The Front Porch is complimentary, and the dabs are $5 a pop. It’s more of a picnic-style meal than a fine-dining experience, but the dabs blaze nonstop with a dab rig specialist on hand to coach newbies through the toking process (and to constantly clean the rig’s mouthpiece). Fried Chicken and Dabs alternates with another semi-monthly event, Dim Sum and Dabs at the Harvest on Geary, so keep an eye on on the site for dates and times.

Best Dolores Park Vendor Who’s Gone Legit

Hey, Cookie

The sweet sight of a dirndl-wearing, pigtailed woman selling cookies has been a regular Dolores Park recurrence for the last seven years, but the Sound of Music-inspired Hey, Cookie lady now has your favorite things available in her new, real brick-and-mortar store. She hasn’t totally said so long and farewell to Dolores Park, and you can still find her out there on weekends. But Hey, Cookie now has its own 18th and Mission Street pop-up shop for the foreseeable future at Alite Outpost, with Sightglass coffee, LaCroix sodas, and adorable ’50s-retro kitchen decorations. We should note that Hey, Cookies are not now and have never been marijuana-infused, but they do include popular Rice Krispies treats, brownies, and a wide variety of gourmet cookies for individual servings or catered events.

Best Place to Get High at a Giants Game

China Basin Park

We used to call the stadium “Pack Bowl Park” when it was Pac Bell Park, but the San Francisco Giants ballpark has always been one of the most weed-smokingest venues in Major League Baseball. But as SF Weekly would never recommend you break AT&T Park rules by smoking pot in the bleacher section, let us instead suggest the scenic grounds across Lefty O’Doul Bridge at China Basin Park. You get an unbeatable panoramic view of Mission Creek and the stadium scoreboard that will make you at one with the seagulls, and some captivating hidden Giants history in the form of plaques, statues, and installations that honor Giants teams of years (puffed and) past.

Best Old-School Dispensary

The Green Door
843 Howard St.,

The Green Door is as old-school as a pot shop can be, as San Francisco’s first legal and licensed dispensary when it moved here from Oakland in 2005. (Technically, the late, great Dennis Peron’s totally illegal San Francisco Cannabis Buyer’s Club was the very first.) But the Green Door has been on the front lines of the legalization fight since the ’90s, and its upstairs lounge once played host to organizing meetings of cannabis pioneers like Brownie Mary and Americans for Safe Access (ASA). Instead of going all yuppie on us, the Green Door sticks to the vintage High Times ethic of stoner artwork on the walls, with separate dedicated bars for buds and concentrates, and even a functioning version of the arcade-style claw crane game with hundreds in marijuana prizes up for grabs. And it’s a lovely touch that all of the Green Door’s doors are, in fact, green.

Best Marijuana Brand that’s Donated a Million Meals to the Hungry

Bloom Farms

As of press time, cannabis company Bloom Farms has actually donated a full 1,118,996 free meals to food-insecure individuals or families in need. They hit the million-meals donated mark in January of this year, but concentrate manufacturer Bloom Farms keeps diligently donating to the needy with their Give Back program that donates a meal to the hungry for every vape pen you buy. Bloom Farms is the only cannabis brand listed in last year’s Top 100 Corporate Philanthropists in the Bay Area, so keep your in-“kind” donation in mind when shopping for vape pens.

Saddest Closure That We Hope Might Not Be Forever

The Gangway
841 Larkin St.

This one cut us like a serrated needle through the heart. The Gangway, which had been a working-class queer hangout on Larkin Street for more than half a century, closed forever this winter. Patrons had plenty of warning, in the form of rumors for years, but it’s hard to begrudge proprietor Jung Lee for wanting to retire since he’d essentially inherited the place from his deceased wife some years ago. The maritime decor and cast of characters that filled it are gone, and the space is theoretically set to become called “Young’s Kung Fu Action Theater & Laundry,” although Kozy Kar owner Sam Young later taunted us that that might be a ruse. There have been whispers that a Stud-type collective might look to revive it, and we’ve already constructed a shrine made of poppers bottles and Jose Sarria photographs in the hope it’s so. In the meantime: Bye, sailor.

Best New Dive

Rumpus Room

Who even open a dive anymore? Well, some bartenders did in a space on Sixth Street that has been a dive of one kind or another throughout the ages, and it feels like it could be another Blind Cat or Whiskey Thieves — which is to say, it’s as good as Mission dive in the 1990s, only with a photo booth. At this trash-glam palace next to Happy Donuts, the coasters depict a woman lying supine while drinking a martini and the words “We’re glad to see you’re back.” We’re glad to see you’re here, Rumpus Room. We’ll take a Paloma.

Best Reason to Go All the Way Over There for a Cocktail

White Cap
3608 Taraval St.,

Whenever we praise the Outer Sunset, some people tend to bristle — as if SF Weekly kept flying monkeys on retainer, and we were dispatching them to the end of the L-Taraval to that wonderful neighborhood’s best-kept secrets. Sorry, not sorry, because while we’ve always loved and adored The Riptide, we now have another beau: White Cap. This cozy spot near the beach, about the size of a moderate one-bedroom apartment, has a sherry-centric menu and innovative yet unfussy cocktails like a Heat Gun (La Vida mezcal, La Guitana Manzanilla sherry, aloe, and lime. Incidentally, a longtime local opened it, so it’s above reproach — but mostly it’s just excellent.

Best Cocktail Spot that Respects the Tenderloin

98 Turk St.,

“We don’t a menu. We have booze,” proprietor Ronnie Buders told us about Biig when we checked it out. The 18-seat cocktail spot at the corner of Turk and Taylor is anything but a shot-and-a-beer spot that flaunts its patrons’ hedonism to the people on the sidewalk outside. Rather, Biig took great pains to be conscious its environs and treat its neighbors with respect — plus the vast wall of unusual spirits accessed by library ladder yields intensely creative drinks that may not even have names. Buders can work wonders with overproof rum, ingredients sourced from Civic Center’s nearby Heart of the City Farmers Market, and something called “dolphin milk.”
98 Turk St.,

Best New Gay Bar

86 Hardie Pl.

For the umpteenth year in a row, we’ve had to wave bye-bye to some wonderful LGBTQ spaces and we have to wonder if the collective that runs The Stud isn’t feeling some heat since they have to vacate their long-time home in only a matter of months. But lo and behold, a gay bar opened in an unusual place — the edge of the FiDi — and it isn’t just a retread of whatever formerly occupied the space. Ginger’s, a below-ground-if-not-exactly-underground place for karaoke and funtimes that’s essentially attached to Pagan Idol and Rickhouse, revives Ginger’s Trois, which closed in 2009. It opened in time for Pride with drinks named after other vanished gay bars (The Lexington Club, Deco Lounge) and honestly, that’s just pure sweetness.

Dumbest Guilty Pleasure

Taco Bell Cantina

We waited that long for this? Yeah, OK, the Taco Bell Cantina in SoMa is kind of a bust, seeing as there aren’t even margaritas, let alone Cadillac margaritas with a Tajin-salted rim like we really wanted there to be. But seeing as this slightly upscale Taco Bell — reclaimed wood! factory lights! — is the only place where you can get a Chalupa and an Anchor Steam a few blocks away from the ballpark, which means you can pre-game in your usual lowbrow way but also with some semblance of style. Your move, fancy-schmancy Taco Bell in Pacifica. Your move.

Best Lesbian Dance Party

El Rio, 3158 Mission St.

Since 1996 dykes, queers, and longtime S.F. lesbians have gathered at El Rio for the one and only Mango. After 22 years of booty-shaking music the draw hasn’t lessened in the slightest. April’s event was so crowded with queers there was a one-in, one-out line outside, the wait for a drink at the bar was three people deep, and the dance floor was jam-packed. For one afternoon a month Mango offers a rare affirmation that despite rumors of a queer exodus, S.F.’s still got it. Swing by on the fourth Saturday of the month from 2-8 p.m. and dance it out.

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