I’ve always been a beer girl. Even after 14 years in the wine Mecca of Northern California, I haven’t entirely caught on to the whole “swirl, sniff, sip” culture. That is, until I checked out Vinovenue, a hip wine “automat” just down the block from Moscone. The concept is novel: Insert your prepaid “tasting card” into one of the sleek, high-tech tasting stations, choose from one of the more than 100 featured wines, push a button and, like magic, a sample is dispensed into your glass. You can evaluate the wine yourself, or if you’re like me, consult with the ever-knowledgeable staff. Single-ounce pours range from cabs in the $1 range to rare vintages that can top $40 a sip. Steep—but hey, when’s the last time you got someone to share their ‘97 Chateau D’Yquem? If you find something you like, sidle over to the cozy bar and try a full glass. Or pick up a bottle. 686 Mission St. at Third. —Sarah Jones
CLOSE TO MOSCONE
Art Without the Admission Price
Every major museum in the city offers one free-admission day per month, and if you’re in town early for booth setup, Tuesday, October 3, is your lucky day: The SFMOMA is a block from Moscone—convenient for taking a booth setup break.
Also, don’t miss The Asian Art Museum in Civic Center Plaza, one of the largest museums in the Western world devoted to Asian art; the spectacular new De Young art museum in Golden Gate Park; and the Legion of Honor, which displays a collection of 4,000 years of ancient and European art, in a beautiful setting overlooking the Pacific. —Sarah Jones
CLOSE TO MOSCONE
Girls Will be Boys and Boys Will be Girls…
Searching for that “only in San Francisco” experience? Look no further than Asia SF (www.asiasf.com), a trendy, upscale restaurant/bar/dance club just five blocks down Folsom Street where locals and savvy tourists alike wash down blacked tuna sashimi and sweet tomato-edamame salad with some potent Tyra’s Toyko Tea, served by the lovely and stylish“gender illusionists,” who hop up on the bar once an hour to lip-sync their favorite odes to girl power by the glow of the color-morphing shoji screen walls. On weekends, bring earplugs: Bachelorette parties rule the dance floor…—Sarah Jones
Party Like a Rock Star
With its funky rooms, colorful poolside cabanas and hip and friendly staff, the Phoenix Hotel in San Francisco’s seedy Tenderloin neighborhood has served as a haven for traveling rock stars for years, evidenced by the tour buses often outnumbering cars in the parking lot. Inside, the hotel’s posh Bambuddha Lounge (601 Eddy St. at Larkin,
) is a mellow oasis of cool, drawing hipsters from all over the city looking for dainty plates, signature cocktails and mostly, the DJs that spin into the wee hours.
Zeitgeist, 199 Valencia St.
Possibly the only bar that you can actually smoke in—okay, it’s in the outside beer garden, but you’re still technically in the bar—Zeitgeist is what we affectionately call the “rock/metal” bar. In addition to hosting a gazillion great beers on tap and numerous down-home cocktails, the bar also has 20 guest “apartments” upstairs for overnight or short-term accommodation ($35 a night) for “hook-ups” or too drunk to drive home! Another perk is Port-a-Potties in the beer garden, reducing the long lines for the one bathroom inside the bar. You can eat there, but you’re gonna end up straining your ears as the grillmasters shout your name (no fancy intercom here!) when your grub is up. Oh yeah, motorcycles welcome!—Sarah Benzuly
Blues for Everyone
No matter how bad you got the blues, there’s a club for you. Just west of Union Square, Biscuits and Blues serves up live music and hearty soul food seven nights a week, in a classy nightclub environment. Recent headliners have included the likes of Roomful of Blues and Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers. If you feel more like grooving on a sweaty dance floor, John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom Room, a “sultry down home juke joint” across town in the Fillmore, also showcases both national and local acts every night, from blues to soul to funk. On the can’t-pry-my-feet-off-the-sticky-floor end of the spectrum, a tiny bar called The Saloon—which also holds the title of San Francisco’s oldest bar—shakes up North Beach nightly. —Sarah Jones
A Bar Lover’s Bar
Specs:It’s not that clean, it’s not that pretty, but tucked into a small alley next to Tosca, across the street from City Lights and Vesuvio, is Specs, a bar for people who like neighborhood bars. More of a blue-collar, waterfront vibe. Memorabilia from the owner’s travels line the walls.—Tom Kenny
Bridge Theater, 3010 Geary Boulevard at Blake (415/267-4893)
Definitely buy advance tickets for this one-screen movie house, which was deemed a landmark in 1991 and named after the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge. Not your typical run-of-the-mill corporate theater, the Bridge showcases indie films and foreign-language cinema from the 1950s.
Café du Nord
One of the first shows I went to after moving to SF was at Café du Nord, and during the past year and a half, I’ve become a semi-regular visitor to this mid-size live music space. As you walk down the narrow, steep staircase to the long, narrow club, you’re reminded of its past life as a speakeasy. They’ve still got the sturdy mahogany bar, the red velvet curtain and they pride themselves on making a mean cocktail! The club owners consistently book quality talent—Josh Rouse and On the Speakers are two recent shows I attended—ranging from indie rock to power pop to folk singer/songwriters. Unless you reserve one of a handful of tables for dinner and a show, you’ll probably end up standing in the main live music room. It’s easy to score a seat at the bar, but hard to see the stage from that back room. But no matter where you sit, you’re likely to hear interesting music on an above-average sound system. www.cafedunord.com—Heather Johnson
The Pope of Tequila
Each night, way out on a nondescript, fog-enshrouded block of Geary Street in the Richmond district, Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant is hoppin’. And although the hearty food is famously delicious, the real draw is the tiny bar (www.tommystequila.com). There, “pope of tequila” Julio Bermejo holds court, educating the standing-room-only crowd of local barflies and tequila aficionados from all over on the fine subtleties of the 205 varieties of 100% blue agave tequila perched behind him on the wall, ranging from the ubiquitous Herradura Silver to Chinaco Añjeo Black Label at $90 a shot, to the rare Tres-Cuatro-Cinco Añejo, of which only 600 bottles were ever produced. (As for the price, if you have to ask…) Bermejo, who has been featured by the likes of CNN and Time and has mixed drinks for Pavarotti, is eager to share his wealth of knowledge, so don’t be afraid to sample something new—unless, of course, he offers you his homemade habanero-infused tequila…—Sarah Jones
If the Bambuddha scene gets a little too “atmospheric” for you…
Head around the corner to the Edinburgh Castle (901 Geary St. at Larkin), a cozy Scottish tavern featuring a generous selection of imported ales on tap and “authentic” fish and chips, delivered in newspaper from the shop around the corner. The pub also hosts a variety of literary and music events, and an ass-kicking trivia night on Tuesdays. For a complete schedule, visit www.castlenews.com—Sarah Jones