On the Hunt for the Best Jukebox in the Castro

The heyday of authentic jukeboxes is long over. With many bars installing those nasty touchscreen digital Internet boxes, the old school record-flipping kind of jukebox is a dying breed. And this is in the town that originated the concept of jukeboxes back in 1889. So what denotes a quality juke these days? It's subjective, but there are some key signifiers: diversity of the records and mood-setting capabilities. In this column we seek out and celebrate the remaining machines. We also measure their success with a one to five drinks scale, based on how long you'll want to linger and listen.

With rainbow flags flying high, the Castro is a go-to destination for tourists and locals. It's old movie houses and wine bars, Hot Cookie and Lady Gaga, street fairs and protests. The bars in this neighborhood are packed to the brim every night of the week. But while there are a few noteworthy classic jukeboxes within them, sadly, most bars have opted for the digital breed. 

1. Tucked away on an offshoot of Castro Street proper, sits unassuming and relatively diminutive watering hole, Last Call Bar. While other bars in the area are flashier, louder, perhaps even more crowded, Last Call has something on them all — a jukebox jam-packed with female pop. Sure, the box has male-fronted acts as well (A Flock of Seagulls was playing when I walked in), but its lady contributions are plentiful. In the mood for old soul? Push the button for Nina Simone. Rather dance to modern pop? Choose from a healthy smattering of Madonna, Gaga, or Pink. There also are musical offerings from the likes of Dusty Springfield, Dionne Warwick, Dolly Parton, and Loretta Lynn. 

The bar's excellent vodka gimlet pairs nicely with those albums sounds, too. A little bit of vintage elegance, smooth dark wood surfaces, cocktails in an actual martini glass, and music spanning decades, genres. I could've basked in the glow of strong female voices all night — if it wasn't for those pesky techno remixes patrons kept choosing.

Juke rating: 4 drinks

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