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Alex Carnevale

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Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

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Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

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Felicity's disguise

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« In Which These Are All The Hot Places In San Francisco »

Go West


I recently read a piece on This Recording about "hot places" in LA, which Alex asked me to replicate for my adopted home of San Francisco. I agreed, but with the caveat that there are no hot places in San Francisco. The closest thing to a celebrity you're likely to encounter here is some dude who's "big on Twitter" or who perhaps even "founded Twitter."

The lack of celebrities is actually one of the better things about this city though, maybe second only to the fact that we have the most restaurants and bars per capita of any city in the country. 

When other people write about SF they generally focus on the BoBoBo© (boutique bourgeois bohemian) side of things and/or the Mission. It almost cannot be argued that the Mission is the best place to go out in the city for the non Ed Hardy crowd, so I've included a few of my favorites from the NorCal Silverlake, but the "I'm a contrarian, just like you" spirit of the Mission (cf. Williamsburg) influenced me to settle in a slightly less cliché neighborhood (Nob Hill/The TenderNob/The Tenderloin) for a mid-20s non-bro which I've tried to sort of focus on here.   


THE ATTIC I never really thought of the The Attic as anything more than another dive bar until my girlfriend pointed out that they have a capable DJ in house every night. Since "discovering" this fact, it's quickly become my favorite place to hit up when I make it to the south of the city.

EL RIO Hot days are rare in SF, so when they do arrive people flock to drink outside. Of course you can always hit up the Hipster Hamptons for free, but many people prefer Zeitgeist. On a recent 90 degree day, though, I actually witnessed a NYC/LA club line outside of Zeitgeist and after pointing and laughing decided to hit up El Rio instead, which boasts both a music stage and friendlier bar staff along with a spacious outdoor patio. 

geary clubPHONEBOOTH/AMBER/GEARY CLUB Bars that allow smoking in SF are kind of like cities with winters, they weed out the wimps. If you want to know what it's like to hang out in a bar before the year 2000, these three establishments are able to skirt the smoking ban by virtue of their cooperative ownership/bartending.

UPTOWN/KNOCKOUT/POPS Along with the above Phonebooth and the aforementioned Attic, these bars form the Mission's "frat free corridor" where you likely won't find any Marina refugees on the weekends.

TONGA ROOM This place is like Disney Land for old people. Located in the historic Fairmont Hotel, Tonga Room is the ultimate in Tiki Bar experiences. Not only are there endless tropical drinks in bowl-sized servings, but on some nights there's a cover band that floats out into the middle of the artificial lagoon and plays in the "rain" while empty nesters get their grooves back. Ex-This Recording CFO R. Rutherford once had the time of his life here. 


BOTTOM OF THE HILL Shows here are usually under $12 and whoever handles their booking here is very good, usually landing acts that are still in their blog hype stage.

RICKSHAW STOP Similar to Bottom of the Hill in terms of landing great acts early in their careers, although with a slightly more electronic/pop leaning.

HEMLOCK Like El Rio, this is a bar with a separate but attached venue. Great place to catch local bands with national followings, or visiting bands with cult followings.

EAGLE TAVERN This place is usually a gay bar with a great outdoor space, but on Thursdays it transforms into an all persuasions live music venue. 


CEREMONY OR BOOTY BASEMENT AT THE KNOCKOUT The 90s alternative night every first Saturday of the month at The Knockout, is fun but you can't go without ruining a pair of shoes. For similarly well-curated but slightly less sloppy fun check out Ceremony every third Monday for New Wave/Industrial/Dark Pop or Booty Basement for Hip Hop every third Saturday.

SHUTTER AT THE ELBO ROOM Goth and New Wave night. When I went Davey Havok was there...

DIARY AT POPS Named for the Sunny Day Real Estate album, this Emo/Screamo/Pop Punk night isn't actually one you're likely to dance at, but the nostalgia's deep and the booze is cheap every first and third Tuesday.


SHALIMAR Food like your moms used to make, if your moms is Pakistani.

ON THE BRIDGE Yoshuko style Japanese food for when you're in search of authentic inauthenticity.

CORDON BLEU Vietnamese chicken joint with excellent imperial rolls. 

YAMO The hole in the wall alternative to Burma Superstar for Burmese cuisine, though it will always be Myanmar...ian cuisine in my heart.

The vegan "chicken steak" sandwich with everything on it is warm, fresh and satisfying.LOVE AND HAIGHT SF is notoriously lacking in sandwich shops, but this family-run spot in the Lower Haight gets it right. I'm no a vegetarian but their fake chicken sammich is off the hook.

EL TONAYENSE Best known for their taco trucks scattered throughout the Mission, I find the goods at the brick and mortar location just as delicious. San Francisco burritos are wiki-famous, but the tacos are where it's at.

Danish Aziz is the senior contributor to This Recording. He tumbls here.

"Buried In Ice" - The Felice Brothers (mp3)

"Boy From Lawrence County" - The Felice Brothers (mp3)

"Sailor Song" - The Felice Brothers (mp3)

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Reader Comments (4)

Thanks for mentioning Booty Bassment. We are hopeless promoters, so it always helps!

October 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDimitri Dickinson


November 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjr

the writer of this article strikes me as a discerning, ubiquitous individual. Bonne chance!

November 1, 2009 | Registered CommenterAlex


December 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterR. Rutherford

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