Bars for Drinking
2022 Bar and Restaurant (2022 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-836-0842) is a chill little bar with a lot to offer:a full bar with artisan cocktails, and a food menu that features a chicken and waffle sandwich.
Acme Bar (2115 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-644-2226) is a fun, friendly dive with a jukebox that plays everything from New Wave to Fifties rock ‘n’ roll, and a wide selection of whiskey.
Albatross Pub (1822 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-843-2473, AlbatrossPub.com) is popular among young people for its pleasantly woody British-style atmosphere, twice-weekly bluegrass and jazz shows, and wide selection of board games like Pictionary, as well as darts, pool, and the infamous Sunday-night trivia quiz.
The Alley (3325 Grand Ave., Oakland, 510-444-8505) is known for its vintage clotheslines, clean pink and blue restroom stalls, relatively private diner-style booths, the thousands of business cards stapled to its walls, and Rod Dibble, the music whiz who’s been behind the Alley’s piano for nearly fifty years.
Arnie’s Time Out (29308 Mission Blvd., Hayward, 510-582-4508) features four big-screen TVs, games, darts, a pool table, and a jukebox.
The Avenue (4822 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-654-1423) is a neighborhood bar that straddles the line between dive bar and community melting pot. The owners are more than happy to welcome you to the ‘hood with a $8.75 pitcher of PBR or a delightfully stiff cocktail.
The Bear’s Lair Pub (2475 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, 510-843-5247, BearsLairPub.com) is an on-campus bar that attracts college kids and, on game days, Bear fans and alumni. Drink specials abound, and there’s pub food to help if you’ve had too much.
Beer Revolution (464 3rd St., Oakland, 510-452-2337, Beer-Revolution.com) is part of Oakland’s emerging beer renaissance, where a bevy of beers on tap (as many as fourteen at a time) includes local selections, Belgian and German styles, and microbrews from across the country.
Ben & Nick’s Bar & Grill (5612 College Ave., Oakland, 510-923-0327) is the perfect place to catch up with friends, with loads of tables of varying sizes, a long bar ripe for hunkering down for a few hours (and pints), and a variety of beer on tap that changes daily (as well as a full bar).
The Bistro (1001 B St., Hayward, 510-886-8525, The-Bistro.com) features live music every night; it also has beer and wine with twelve drafts; local and imported beers; and an extensive Belgium bottled beer selection.
Cafe Van Kleef (1621 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-763-7711, CafeVanKleef.com) is a step back to a simpler era, where drinks at five were the norm and everyone gathered to welcome the evening.
Casa Vino (3136 Sacramento St., Berkeley, 510-654-5410, CafeCasa.net) is a great place to try out a selection of wines without overindulging.
Cato’s Ale House (3891 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-655-3349, MrCato.com) is a homey neighborhood bar with a vast selection of beer, warm company, and live acoustic music.
Churchward Pub (1515 Park St., Alameda, 510-521-4800) is a regulars’ bar during the daytime, a place to grab a cheap Happy Hour drink, and a spot for Alamedans to just chill out, shoot some pool, or watch the game. But at night, when the DJ sets up and a younger crowd rolls in, the place converts to a rollicking quasi-dance club.
Club Mallard (752 San Pablo Ave., Albany, 510-524-8450, ClubMallard.com) has two floors, two full bars, two jukeboxes, two smoking patios, five pool tables, and lots of comfortable seating.
Conga Lounge (5422 College Ave., Oakland, 510-463-2681, CongaLounge.com) is a laid-back, tiki-themed bar and lounge.
Disco Volante (347 14th St., Oakland, DiscoVolanteoakland.com) is the latest addition to Oakland’s blossoming nightlife scene; it’s a bar, music venue, and restaurant run by a trio of Oakland arts and entertainment vets.
Dorsey’s Locker (5817 Shattuck Ave., Oakland, 510-428-1935, DorseysLocker.com) serves soul food at its bar and restaurant seven days a week.
Duke’s R&B (201 Broadway, Oakland, 510-452-1620, DukesRandB.com) features blues, jazz, funk, zydeco, and old-school R&B music on a nearly nightly basis.
Eli’s Mile High Club (3629 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland, 510-654-4549, ElisMileHigh.com) is a punk rock dive is known for cheap eats and good times.
Englander Sports Pub & Restaurant (101 Parrott St., San Leandro, 510-357-3571, EnglanderPub.com) boasts about sixty beers on tap, a line stretching a good twelve feet — almost as long as the five big-screen overhead televisions combined.
Forbidden Island (1304 Lincoln Ave., Alameda, 510-749-0332, ForbiddenIslandAlameda.com) is a tiki bar at its best, offering everything it takes to capture that elusive blend of island kitsch, pure spectacle, and festive mood: a nautical wood interior, gaudy cocktails, a jukebox crammed with vintage Martin Denny and Frankie Laine tunes, and a tropical lanai for outdoor guzzling.
Foxes (171 W. Tennyson Rd., Hayward, 510-783-1700, FoxesClub.com) is equipped with pinball, pool, dartboards, video games, and ample parking.
Heart & Dagger Saloon (504 Lake Park Ave., Oakland, 510-444-7300, HeartandDaggerSaloon.com) has a rock ‘n’ roll vibe without the rock-star ego; it has friendly bartenders, cheap drinks, and a good jukebox.
George Kaye’s (4044 Broadway, Oakland) has an eclectic mix of regulars and down-to-earth hipsters who all end up chatting toward the end of the night, when the booze has set in and the place seems even more intimate.
The Graduate (6202 Claremont Ave., Oakland, 510-655-8847) draws a lively and standing-room-only crowd of grad students, hipsters, and blue-collar locals with its cheap drinks, Sriracha-spiked free popcorn, student discounts, no-frills vibe, unusually friendly bartenders, and unpretentious attitude.
Heinold’s First and Last Chance (48 Webster St., Oakland, 510-839-6761, HeinoldsFirstandLastChance.com), which was founded in 1883, stands as the only place where you can drink at the same table used by Jack London, president and Supreme Court justice William Howard Taft, and Robert Lewis Stevenson — in other words, it’s seriously old-school cool.
Hotel Mac (50 Washington Ave., Point Richmond, 510-233-0576, HotelMac.net), in relaxed downtown Point Richmond, has a wood-paneled, clubby conviviality that makes it the perfect atmosphere to sip the East Bay’s best mojito.
Hotsy Totsy Club (601 San Pablo Ave., Albany, 510-526-5986, HotsyTotsyClub.com) is a classic dive bar inside and out: The red-and-blue neon sign loudly announces the fact that you’re about to get hammered, the drinks are eye-poppingly powerful and cheap, the decor is classic grunge, and the pool table is operable.
Jazzcaffe (2087 Addison St., Berkeley, 510-883-0231, JazzCaffe.biz) is a gathering place for the local jazz scene, offering a simple yet sophisticated (and evolving) menu of breakfast, brunch, and lunch, plus specially chosen wines, beers, and apertifs.
John Patrick’s (1813 Park St., Alameda, 510-522-5105, MySpace.com/JohnPatricks) is a honky-tonk-ish dive bar featuring live music, karaoke, and pool tournaments.
Jupiter (2181 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-843-8277, JupiterBeer.com), Berkeley’s go-to beer garden, is the place to enjoy tasty wood-fired pizzas and house-made brews beneath the stars while listening to live entertainment from jazz to bluegrass to samba.
Kensington Circus Pub (389 Colusa Ave., Kensington, 510-524-8814) has British owners and a menu to match; ten taps spout American microbrews and English favorites.
Kona Club (4401 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-654-7100, KonaClub.net) is a tiki-style bar staffed and patronized by friendly, sophisticated folks who call the Kona their second living room.
The Layover (1517 Franklin St., Oakland, 510-834-1517, OaklandLayover.com) serves drinks that are neither low-brow nor high-brow; they exist to lubricate social interaction, not dominate it. Regular events include DJ nights, live music nights, and Layover Comedy Night, where comedians of various stripes test their mettle.
The Lost Weekend Lounge (2320 1/2 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda, 510-523-4700, LostWeekendLounge.com) may evoke images of a rough and tumble hangout for wayward souls, but in reality it’s good, clean fun, with a wide variety of music and events — from trivia contests to a DJ spinning tunes from the 1980s — a pool table, and an enclosed patio out back for smokers.
Lucky 13 (1301 Park St., Alameda, 510-523-2118, Lucky13Alameda.com) has more than 20 beers on tap, 40 choices in bottles, local wines by the bottle, and a full bar, as well as a pool table, pinball machines, a black-and-white photo booth, beer garden, and a jukebox full of rock, punk, and soul.
McGrath’s Pub (1539 Lincoln Ave., Alameda, 510-522-6263, McGrathsPub.com) isn’t your typical Irish pub. Yes, there’s Guinness on tap, but the bar is best known for bluegrass — the jam begins every Monday night at 7:30 p.m.
McNally’s Irish Pub (5352 College Ave., Oakland, 510-655-3929) is a great place to watch the game, enjoy reasonably priced drinks, listen to tunes on the digital jukebox, or play bumper pool.
Merchant’s Saloon (401 2nd St., Oakland, 510-465-8032), undoubtedly one of the oldest bars in downtown Oakland, is a dive bar that combines punk bar decor with a nautical theme, and features an upright piano, a jukebox, and a lofted DJ booth crafted from dilapidated plywood.
Missouri Lounge (2600 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-548-2080, TheMissouriLounge.com), which touts itself as “West Berkeley’s Most Elegant Dive Bar,” is an unpretentious, inviting lounge that has become the new destination for urban hipsters.
Pacific Coast Brewing Co. (906 Washington St., Oakland, 510-836-2739, PacificCoastBrewing.com) is a microbrewery that hosts free blues and jazz acts about once a month, but it’s known for its large selection of beers — 25 on tap — as well as its tasty selection of common bar food.
The Pub (1492 Solano Ave., Albany, 510-525-1900) is a low-key smoker’s paradise and homey-feeling lounge, proffering more than fourteen blends of tobacco and a good selection of pipes, lighters, and cigarette holders, as well as beer on tap including Bass, Fullers, Guinness, and Harp.
Quinn’s Lighthouse (1951 Embarcadero Cove, Oakland, 510-536-2050, QuinnsLighthouse.com) dates back to 1890 — the deck seats eighty, and the pub on the second floor has eight beers on tap and more than fifty bottled beers to choose from.
Radio (435 13th St., Oakland, 510-451-2889) is a well-ventilated and red-lit bar featuring lots of glamour mirrors, Japanese lanterns, and vintage mannequins.
Room 389 (389 Grand Ave., Oakland, Room389Oakland.com) is a completely revamped bar and lounge — a dog-friendly space featuring a spiffy bar, space for a DJ (spinning exclusively vinyl), two flat-screen TVs, and a crafty wall covered in pages torn from books.
Rooster’s Roadhouse (1700 Clement Ave., Alameda, 510-337-9190, RoostersRoadhouse.net) features an outdoor patio, pool tables, a large indoor stage, dance floors, and a full bar with seventeen microbrews on tap.
Ruby Room (132 14th St., Oakland, 510-444-7224, MySpace.com/oaklandrubyroom) is a faux dive where DJs spin a wall-to-wall soundtrack of punk, glam rock, and kitschy hip-hop classics.
The Saddle Rack (42011 Boscell Rd., Fremont, 510-979-0477, TheSaddleRack.com) is an enormous country bar — boasting a large stage, two dance floors, three full bars, plenty of seating, a game room, an oxygen bar, and a mechanical bull.
Shamrock Irish Pub (1403 Webster St., Alameda, 510-769-9788) attracts a mix of hormonal twentysomethings and wanna-be punk rockers, and features two pool tables, darts, Foosball, pinball, video gambling, and a peanut dispenser.
The Trappist (460 8th St., Oakland, 510-238-8900, TheTrappist.com) is the place to go if you want to step back in time and taste some of the finest hops around, made in the most venerable of traditions.
Triple Rock Brewery and Alehouse’s (1920 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-843-2739, TripleRock.com) has a local vibe, a dozen house beers on tap, comfort food, and the best rooftop beer garden in the East Bay.
Warehouse Bar (402 Webster St., Oakland, 510-451-3161, TheWarehouseBar.net) caters to our civic men and women in uniform. Beyond that, the Warehouse is a clean, friendly watering hole for watching the game on the flat-screen TV, enjoying a burger, or taking part in one of the monthly charity events.
Warehouse Cafe (5 Canyon Lake Dr., Port Costa, 510-787-1827) is your place to try out exotic and international beers, whether you’re looking for that brew you haven’t seen since El Salvador or are just bored with the selection at your local store.
Z’s Cocktail Lounge (1403 Encinal Ave., Alameda, 510-749-9900) is a neighborhood bar, but it’s no dive; stylish Z’s is adorned with ornate chandeliers overhead, upholstered and cushioned barstools, a gleaming cherry-wood bar, and decorative lion-head pillars behind the bar.
Bars for Seeing and Being Seen
The Air Bar & Lounge (492 9th St., Oakland, 510-444-2377, AirOakland.com) is located below street level in Old Oakland, has a spacious-yet-cozy interior, and exudes an upscale, VIP vibe for the urban hip.
Bench and Bar (510 17th St., Oakland, 510-444-2266, Bench-and-Bar.com) aims to please with theme nights like “Latin Explosion” on Fridays, “Club Rimshot” on Saturdays (hip-hop and R&B), and “Beautiful” (house) on Thursdays — and succeeds with flying, uh, colors.
Club 21 (2111 Franklin St., Oakland, 510-268-9425, Club21Oakland.com) is a spinoff of the Bench and Bar, and, appropriately, features themed nights such as “La Bota Loca” (aka Latino Cowboys night with go-go boys galore), “Tasty” (ladies’ night) on Thursdays, and “The Escape” for the college crowd on Tuesdays.
Club Anton (428 3rd St., Oakland, 510-463-0165, ClubAnton.com) remains perhaps the only Latin jazz club in the entire world that would feature Bay Area turf rapper G-Stack and DJ True Justice on a Thursday and follow up with Tony Mayfield or Pepe y Su Orquesta on a Saturday — a lineup patrons definitely seem to dig.
Club Montero’s (1106 Solano Ave., Albany, 510-524-1270, ClubMonteros.com), located inside Montero’s Cafe, dedicates its weekends to salsa, with intermediate lessons on Thursdays and classes for newbies on Fridays and Saturdays, followed each night by dancing till the early mañana.
Club Paradiso (2272 Telegraph Ave., Oakland 510-735-9095, DisoLounge.com), located in the much-contested building that once contained the Vibe Lounge and its predecessor, Cables Reef, is the Uptown analogue to Air Lounge, both in terms of its decor (exposed brick, chic lounge chairs, paintings with an “urban” slant) and its music (hip-hop, reggae, and R&B).
The Den (1912 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, TheDenOakland.com), adjunct to the Fox Theater, has become a go-to spot in its own right. Besides its two-tiered dance floor and lounge area, the Den offers a selection of hoity-toity appetizers (smoked salmon rillets, artichoke bacon dip, and cheese plates with stuffed apricots), and original cocktails — the “Encore” is essentially a liquid chocolate cake with Stoli. Not to mention the wall-to-wall windows, which provide a first-rate view of Telegraph Avenue.
Easy Lounge (3255 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland, 510-338-4911, Easy510.com) attracts an eclectic crowd — doe-eyed hipster chicks, suave urbanites, eccentric locals, and even suits fresh off of work — and the tunes are just as varied, thanks to different DJ themes each night — from rockabilly to salsa, 1980s to funk.
Era Art Bar and Lounge (19 Grand Ave., Oakland, 510-832-4400, OaklandEra.com), surrounded by a cluster of similarly themed boutique bars, combines industrial elements with nouveau Goth — the chairs could have been poached from a 19th-century English parlor.
Geoffrey’s Inner Circle (410 14th St., Oakland, 510-839-4644, GeoffreysInnerCircle.com) can still stake its claim as Oakland’s premier black nightclub.
Island Paradise Club (1436 Webster St., Alameda, 510-865-3225, IslandParadiseClub.com) specializes in dancehall, reggae, R&B, merengue, and soca, erring more on the pop side.
Karibbean City (1408 Webster St., Oakland, 510-251-0769, KaribbeanCity.com) has as a diverse entertainment lineup — which represents the panoply of Caribbean music from salsa to dancehall roots to Afropop — and proffers a savory selection of Jamaican cuisine.
Kingman’s Lucky Lounge (3332 Grand Ave., Oakland, 510-465-5464, KingmansCocktails.com) caters to a dressy yet diverse crowd and features a full bar, ample mood lighting, and DJs spinning downtempo, house, funk, and drum ‘n’ bass.
Kitty’s (6702 Hollis St., Emeryville, 510-601-9300, BarKittys.com) proves that Emeryville really does have a pulse, with its rotating lineup of DJs, a patio that’s swarmed in warm weather, and a regular crowd of upscale loft-dwellers and thirsty Pixar workers who’ve just punched out.
Liege (481 9th St., Oakland, 510-835-4343, LiegeOakland.com) is a cocktail lounge/hipster hangout/sports bar that serves a menu of ambitious global cuisine that changes countries every eight weeks.
Luka’s Taproom & Lounge (2221 Broadway, Oakland, 510-451-4677, LukasOakland.com) boasts a long list of sexy amenities (a rotating art exhibit, a spacious dance floor, a vast selection of beer and a menu that includes killer burgers, fries, and oysters), and it’s spitting distance from the 19th Street BART station, so you can get your swerve on without getting a DUI.
Mimosa Champagne Lounge (2355 Broadway, Oakland, 510-891-1005, MimosaChampagneLounge.com) with its slender cocktail glasses and sparkling wines (nineteen total, along with twenty-three champagnes and five mimosas), is not a dance club, but the vibe is so light and frothy, it’s like a bottle of champagne being uncorked.
Mua (2442a Webster St., Oakland, 510-238-1100, MuaOakland.com), a fabulous addition to the Oakland restaurant scene, turns into a nightclub around midnight. With its warehouse chic decor and decidedly Oakland clientele, it’s a guaranteed good time.
Ruby Room (132 14th St., Oakland, 510-444-7224, MySpace.com/OaklandRubyRoom), where the DJs spin a wall-to-wall soundtrack of punk, glam rock, and kitschy hip-hop classics, is one of the best places in Oakland to chat up sassy indie kids while drinking stiff, cheap drinks.
Somar Bar and Lounge (1727 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, SomarBar.wordpress.com) has exposed brick walls, high ceilings, and lots of art on the walls. DJs spin everything from house to hip-hop, and soul to Brazilian music.
Thalassa (2367 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-848-1766, ThalassaBar.com) has a sea of pool tables that seems to stretch for miles, a clientele that consists mostly of Berkeley students of the fraternal or sororal persuasion, and the best jukebox in the East Bay, stocked with the Buzzcocks, the Notwist, Le Tigre, Television, Outkast, Johnny Cash, and the Pixies.
White Horse Inn (6551 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-652-3820, WhiteHorseBar.com), affectionately known as “the White Ho” by locals, draws a good cross-section of the local GLBT scene: sweater queens, queer students, local homies, granola dykes (yes, they still exist), gorgeously regal African-American queens, both male and female, and just about every other color and creed you can imagine.
Clubs & Music Venues — East Bay
924 Gilman (924 Gilman St., Berkeley, 510-525-9926, 924Gilman.org) — Berkeley’s famous all-ages punk warehouse — still caters primarily to kids with backpacks, bad attitudes, and too much eyeliner, but this volunteer-run, alcohol-and-drug-free venue is the best place in town to catch famous punk bands (both local and national) for five bucks.
Ashkenaz (1317 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-525-5054, Ashkenaz.com) is the place to dance to everything from Algerian rai to Louisiana Zydeco to roots reggae.
The Bistro (1001 B St., Hayward, 510-886-8525, The-Bistro.com) offers live music every night — mostly local musicians, from blues to surf, acoustic, bluegrass, and eighteen-piece bands.
Caffe Trieste (2500 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-548-5198, CaffeTriesteBerkeley.com) could make anyone sentimental for the old country, even if they’re native Californians — especially on Sunday afternoons, when Pappa Gianni is playing with his North Beach Band and crowds of Italian expatriates pack themselves into this inviting cafe.
Eagles Hall (2305 Alameda Ave., Alameda, 415-285-6285, SFZydeco.com) on Friday nights is the friendly, lively nexus of Zydeco-crazed Bay Area fans.
Everett & Jones Barbeque’s (126 Broadway, Oakland, 510-663-2350, EandJBBQ.com) in-house music venue, Q’s Lounge and Dotha’s Juke Joint, showcases a variety of neo-soul, hip-hop, and blues acts, along with Monday Night Football and live KSFO broadcasts recapping Raiders home games.
Freight & Salvage (2020 Addison St., Berkeley, 510-644-2020, FreightandSalvage.org) is a nonsmoking, alcohol-free venue where patrons can enjoy listening to world-renowned artists of folk, jazz, blues, bluegrass, and world beat.
Kimball’s Carnival (522 2nd St., Oakland, 510-444-6401; 215 Washington St., Oakland, 510-444-6136, KimballsCarnival.com) — the giant Jack London Square club whose Monday night karaoke event has garnered a regular following via word of mouth alone — is the closest thing you’ll find to American Idol-style pageantry here in the East Bay.
La Peña Cultural Center (3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-849-2568, LaPena.org) hosts a variety of hip-hop, world, and jazz music; spoken word; dance classes; art exhibits; films; and lectures focusing on social justice and human rights about four nights a week.
Lounge 3411 (3411 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland) transmits some Uptown flavor to the lower hills, with its mix of reggae DJs, comedy nights, and local bands.
Maxwell’s Lounge (341 13th St., Oakland, 510-839-6169, MaxwellsLounge.com) is a glitzy downtown Oakland club that hosts R&B, funk, and classic soul acts and features a spacious dance floor, large stage, lounge areas with couches, and a Cajun-style soul food restaurant.
The New Parish (579 18th St., Oakland, 510-444-7474, TheNewParish.com) has featured such hard-to-get headliners as Dave Chappelle, Mos Def, and Melanie Fiona. Creative booking, strong industry connections, and a bangin’ monthly house party have made it the new destination in downtown Oakland.
Nomad Cafe (6500 Shattuck Ave., Oakland, 510-595-5344, NomadCafe.net) tempers the typical soy-latte-and-laptop cafe experience with a soothing singer-songwriter performance.
Oakland Metro Operahouse (630 3rd St., Oakland, 510-763-1146, OaklandMetro.org) is generally used as a performance space (it’s the home of the Oakland Opera Theater), but you’ll also find the occasional live metal, indie rock, punk, underground hip-hop, or alt.folk show here, as well as the famed variety show Tourettes Without Regrets, which features slapstick comedy, meat-hurling contests, formidable freestyle battles, spoken-word poetry, and dirty haiku — usually to sold-out crowds.
The Shattuck Down Low (2284 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, 510-548-1159, ShattuckDownLow.com) was one of the first venues this side of the bay to book conscious hip-hop groups, and remains the place to go for heart-pumping beats, as well as live reggae and salsa.
The Starry Plough (3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-841-2082, StarryPloughPub.com) is an Irish pub (and it still features traditional Irish music some nights) but its bookings are far more eclectic than that — rockers, singer-songwriters, jam-banders, and folkies take the stage here, and audience members are likely to holler, scream, and kick up their heels.
The Uptown (1928 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-451-8100, UptownNightclub.com) is one of many punk-oriented venues in the East Bay, but it stands out by striking a nice balance between out-of-towners and local mainstays and featuring acts that cover a wide spectrum from emo-prog to lesbian thrash, psychobilly to Afro-boho jazz-funk, and classic punk to indie folk.
Yoshi’s (510 Embarcadero West, Oakland, 510-238-9200, Yoshis.com) jazz room is a jazz lover’s — and jazz musician’s — dream, specially built to enhance the listening and performing experience.
Clubs & Music Venues — San Francisco
1015 Folsom Nightclub (1015 Folsom St., 415-431-7444, 1015.com) is one of the best places in SF to catch hot international DJs and boogie down to everything from Eighties raver candy to psychedelic trance while watching cool laser light shows.
Amnesia (853 Valencia St., 415-970-0012, AmnesiatheBar.com) offers bluegrass and country music on Mondays. Tuesdays are generally reserved for open mic. Wednesdays offer live jazz. Thursdays and Sundays have various live music from the indie scene in the city. Friday and Saturday have DJs and dancing.
Amoeba Music (1855 Haight St., San Francisco, 415-831-1200, Amoeba.com) hosts live bands several times a week, usually prior to their performance at some big club in the city, which makes it a great opportunity to see your favorite band for free if you can’t afford a regular ticket, and in a much more intimate environment.
Bimbo’s 365 Club (1025 Columbus Ave., 415-474-0365, Bimbos365Club.com) is decked out with plush scarlet interiors, disco balls, and a curved stage.
The Boom Boom Room (1601 Fillmore St., San Francisco, 415-673-8000, BoomBoomBlues.com) was once a sultry, steamy place for locals to get down to some of the country’s best blues acts; today, the club still hosts a range of blues, boogie, and soul bands, but it’s got a little less roots and little more funk and jam-band.
Bottom of the Hill (1233 17th St., San Francisco, 415-621-4455, BottomoftheHill.com) is where fans of noise-rock, post-rock, punk-pop, and everything in between cram the beer-sticky checkerboard floor all the way to the pool table and spill out onto the back patio for standing-room-only smoking and serious tattoo watching.
Bruno’s (2389 Mission St., 415-643-5200, brunoslive.com) offers DJs spinning dance music on Friday and Saturday nights.
Cafe du Nord (2170 Market St., San Francisco, 415-861-5016, CafeduNord.com), with its deep-red interior, Victorian-era styling, and large, carved wood bar, is one of the more classy and sophisticated places in San Francisco to see some of the best local and national alt-country, folk, indie rock, and singer-songwriter acts.
Club Six (60 Sixth St., San Francisco, 415-863-1221, ClubSix1.com) is a two-tiered industrial warehouse that’s home to famously bombastic DJ parties such as “Reggae Gold SF,” the hot dancehall night with Daddy Rolo every fourth Saturday of the month, and “Solid,” a regular Thursday-night reggae and dancehall extravaganza.
DNA Lounge (375 11th St., San Francisco, 415-626-1409, DNALounge.com) is a two-tiered club that has a futuristic feel, a full bar, large stage and lounge areas, and often stays open after hours for DJ events — including hip-hop, house, dancehall, industrial, and breakbeats — on Fridays and Saturdays.
Elbo Room (647 Valencia St., 415-552-7788, Elbo.com) is a popular Mission District bar and club featuring music seven nights a week.
The Great American Music Hall (859 O’Farrell St., San Francisco, 415-885-0750, GAMH.com) is one of the best midsize venues in the City, boasting a huge oak dance floor with ample space for two hundred and drawing mostly national touring acts in diverse genres.
Hemlock Tavern (1131 Polk St., San Francisco, 415-923-0923, HemlockTavern.com) is the best place to hear the latest flying-under-the-radar indie acts.
Hotel Utah (500 4th St., San Francisco, 415-546-6300, TheHotelUtahSaloon.com) is the place to grab a bar stool, order a pint and a monster burger and fries, and hear a variety of folk and rock bands while absorbing some of San Francisco’s lively history.
The Independent (628 Divisadero St., San Francisco, 415-771-1421, IndependentSF.com) stands out for its welcoming vibe and the variety of music booked — usually big-name acts in the worlds of reggae, funk, blues, DJs, hip-hop, and the indie-rock circuit.
Kimo’s (1351 Polk St., 415-885-4535, MySpace.com/kimosbar) is a historic gay bar; upstairs is where the rock music cranks.
Make-Out Room (3225 22nd St., 415-647-2888, MakeOutRoom.com) is a classic bar/venue in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District, with regular live music, Litquake readings, DJs, and more.
Mezzanine (444 Jessie St., San Francisco, 415-625-8880, MezzanineSF.com) features hip-hop and DJ showcases (including local and international acts), video screenings, laser shows, and multimedia installations by artists associated with Blasthaus Gallery.
Mighty (119 Utah St., 415-762-0151, Mighty119.com) is a swanky medium-size venue featuring a large dance floor and an elevated stage, where international and local DJs spin downtempo, hip-hop, breaks, or house, along with occasional live bands.
Milk (1840 Haight St., 415-387-6455, MilkSF.com) has two bars, an elevated stage for DJs, and the occasional live band performance, in addition to glamour mirrors and a dance floor that’s usually packed on weekends.
Red Devil Lounge (1695 Polk St., 415-921-1695, RedDevilLounge.com) is a 300-capacity, two-tiered venue with three large, clean bathrooms, two full bars, and a stage.
Rockit Room (406 Clement St., 415-387-6344, Rock-It-Room.com) features free wi-fi, an iTunes jukebox, a full bar, table seating on two levels, plus live bands Tuesday through Saturday nights playing jam, rock, jazz, hip-hop, and covers.
Ruby Skye (420 Mason St., 415-693-0777, RubySkye.com) is quite possibly the most straight-up bling-blingy glam-slammin’ venue in the entire city of San Francisco, featuring DJs and live music acts regularly.
Slim’s (333 11th St., San Francisco, 415-255-0333, Slims-SF.com) features rock, metal, jazz, blues, R&B, and reggae most nights of the week, and is one of the few all-ages venues in the city.
Thee Parkside (1600 17th St., 415-503-0393, TheeParkside.com) is the place to hang your hat if you’re into punk, metal, or country. Regulars can be found enjoying a burger and fries at the bar, or playing ping-pong in the outdoor patio out back.
Yoshi’s San Francisco (1330 Fillmore St., San Francisco, 415-655-5600, Yoshis.com) offers the same high caliber of talent in the genre of jazz as the Oakland original, but the state-of-the-art venue also books R&B, soul, and world-music acts.
Note: This story was edited before Blake’s on Telegraph and Beckett’s closed. The online version has been changed accordingly.