San Francisco—Try the City by the Bay after dark
Compiled by Ariel Buda-Levin
In addition to a thriving theatrical and musical scene, San Francisco after sundown also offers dance clubs, lounges and bars. All phone numbers are in the 415 area code.
For a full listing of San Francisco's music and performance offerings, call 391-2001 for a recorded message. For entertainment at a discount, TIXBay Area offers half-price tickets for same-day performances. Cash only. Go to the Stockton Street side of Union Square from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
- The adventurous might enjoy a trip to Audium, a unique theater that uses moving sounds to create "sound sculptures." Shows are every Friday and Saturday at 8:30 p.m.; latecomers are not admitted. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the box office. 1616 Bush St.; 771-1616.
- For a taste of San Francisco tradition, go hear the Golden Gate Park Band, which plays every Sunday at 1 p.m. in the music concourse of Golden Gate Park; 666-7200.
- The San Francisco Symphony performs regularly at Davies Symphony Hall at the Civic Center; 864-6000.
- For opera, try the San Francisco Opera at the War Memorial Opera House; 864-3330. Or try the Co-Opera at the Opera Plaza; 383-5162.
Clubs and Bars
Need a laugh? Visit Cobb's Comedy Club, voted best of class by the San Francisco Bay Guardian. 2801 Leavenworth St.; 928-4320.
Top-notch jazz can be found at Club 36, located on the 36th floor of the Grand Hyatt, which combines live music with a vertigo-inspiring view. 345 Stockton St.; 398-1234.
Have a craving for caffeine? Check out the city's coffee culture at Coffee Ron's Bar and Restaurant or Dewey's. Coffee Ron's offers a selection of 28 different coffee drinks, including the standard espresso and cappuccino, and is open almost around the clock. Dewey's has espresso along with pastries, a sandwich bar, and burgers and California-style pizzas. Coffee Ron's is at 201 Ellis St.; 441-5815. Dewey's is at Union Square; 774-0169.
If you're into alternative rock, try Paradise Lounge with its three stages, 20 to 25 bands a week, four bars, dance floor and pool tables. 308 11th St.; 621-1911.
Computer buffs should check out Big Heart City, a multimedia nightclub, Thai restaurant and espresso bar that combines dancing, live music and an interactive computer lounge. 836 Mission St.; 777-0666.
Those who want to take center stage themselves should visit the Mint Karaoke Lounge, which offers karaoke seven days a week and hamburgers for refueling. 1942 Market St.; 626-4726.
Sherlock Holmes fans will find a welcome surprise in San Francisco: the S. Holmes Esq. Public House and Drinking Salon. This museum-quality reproduction of Holmes' legendary Baker Street flat features cocktails nightly and live entertainment every Monday through Saturday. 480 Sutter St.; 398-8900.
For a glimpse of the mystical, try a visit to Oz, one of the city's trendier dance clubs. This Union Square club has a cover charge, and fashionable dress is strongly suggested. Westin St. Francis, Union Square; 774-0116.
Those in search of something a little more down-to-earth may find Piazza just what they are looking for. Sink into a deep velvet chair, look out at the three-story atrium and listen to live piano music. 55 Cyril Magnin; 392-8000.
Besides offering cocktails in a relaxing atmosphere, the Ritz-Carlton Bar features the country's largest selection of single-malt scotches. The Ritz-Carlton, 600 Stockton St.; 296-7465.
A guide to San Francisco's sites, neighborhoods
For a glimpse into the penal system's past, take a ferry to Alcatraz. One look at the prison's cramped cells and forbidding walls and you will know how the prison got the nickname Devil's Island. Open Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free; the ferry ride on the Red & White Fleet, which departs from Pier 41 at Fisherman's Wharf, costs $10 with an audiocassette tour of Alcatraz, $6.75 without; 546-2700.
Cable cars, the country's only moving National Historic landmarks, are a unique way to see the city. You will need exact fare, which is $2 per trip. There is also the Cable Car Museum, Powerhouse and Car Barn, located at Washington and Mason Streets. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free; 474-1887.
Fisherman's Wharf is a well-known spot for watching sea lions, shopping at Pier 39 and seeing a variety of street performers. Try "Fish Alley" for fresh crab.
It may be called the Golden Gate Bridge, but San Francisco's best-known attraction is actually red-orange in color. The Navy originally planned to paint the structure black with yellow stripes to make it more visible to ships.
Golden Gate Park offers the Asian Art Museum (668-8921), California Academy of Sciences (221-5100), Conservatory of Flowers (666-7017), de Young Museum (750-3600) and Japanese Tea Garden (752-4227). An all-day pass that grants admission to all of those activities is available for $12.50 from the Visitor Information Center and at all attractions except the Conservatory of Flowers.
Another famous feature of San Francisco is its hills, which are so steep that it is illegal to park a car without angling the wheels into the curb, setting the hand brake and putting the car in gear. For one of the city's better hilltop views, try a trip down Lombard Street, where sharp turns and beautiful gardens draw tourists at all hours.
For a walk on the wild side, try the Marine Mammal Center at Pier 39 (289-7325) or the San Francisco Zoo (753-7080).
For an in-depth look at San Francisco, take a trip through its neighborhoods:
- Chinatown's main entrance, known as the Dragon's Gate, is at Grant Avenue and Bush Street. Inside are 24 blocks of hustle and bustle, with most of it on Grant Avenue, the oldest street in the city.
- North Beach, also known as Little Italy, offers a variety of cabarets, jazz clubs, galleries, Italian restaurants and gelato parlors. Look for the famous mural at Broadway and Columbus Avenue, as well as Coit Tower.
- Japantown is home to more than 12,000 Japanese American residents. At its heart is Japan Center (Post and Buchanan Streets), a five-acre complex of hotels, shops, theaters, sushi bars and restaurants.
- Other notable neighborhoods: The Mission District offers colorful murals and Hispanic restaurants and specialty shops; Nob Hill has a great view of the city via cable car; Haight-Ashbury takes visitors back to the "Summer of Love"; and Fillmore Street harbors intimate cafes and restaurants.
For an up-close look at one of San Francisco's newer landmarks, go to Transamerica Pyramid (600 Montgomery Street). Locals suggest having a take-out lunch from a local deli or Chinese restaurant in the grove of redwoods at the base of the building.
Finally, if you are interested in some great views of the city, try the 210-foot high observation tower at Coit Tower; 362-0808. Twin Peaks is located in the center of the city and offers a noted 360-degree view of the Bay area.
San Francisco dining:
From foie gras sandwiches to 'neatloaf'
Price ranges in the following list refer to an average meal for one, including alcoholic beverages. All phone numbers are in the 415 area code.
Expensive ($25 and up)
Alain Rondelli provides an extensive menu that includes 20-course meals centering around fish, lamb and chicken. The foie gras sandwich and mussel soup with orange and saffron are top picks. 126 Clement St.; 387-0408.
Campton Place, one of the city's premier spots for contemporary California cuisine, offers well-crafted dishes like seafood polenta. Campton Place Kempinski Hotel, 340 Stockton St.; 955-5555.
The Coconut Grove Supper Club serves up Continental cuisine with the option of dancing to the Coconut Grove Orchestra or watching a performance by a major artist, all in the romantic setting of an opulent 1930s supper club. 1415 Van Ness Ave.; 776-1616.
Fleur de Lys offers classic and contemporary French cuisine in one of the city's most romantic restaurants. A top-rated wine list and prix fixe menus are also offered. 777 Sutter St.; 673-7779.
Beautifully presented, top-notch French cuisine makes La Folie one of the city's highest-rated eateries. Although it is one of San Francisco's "in" places, the atmosphere is relaxed. 2316 Polk St.; 776-5577.
Masa's, regularly touted as one of the best restaurants in San Francisco, offers contemporary French fare. Expect to spend about $70 per person, but fans say it is worth it. Vintage Court Hotel, 648 Bush St. (Powell St.); 989-7154.
Pane e Vino serves up highly rated Italian creations that include homemade pasta, risotto, grilled fish and veal chops. 3011 Union St.; 346-2111.
Postrio, a Wolfgang Puck creation, is regularly named one of the top restaurants in town. For haute California cuisine and eye-catching decor, expect to pay around $60 per person. Prescott Hotel, 545 Post St.; 776-7825.
Square One offers an eclectic style of Mediterranean cooking in an atmosphere that has been likened to a diner. Noted for breads and desserts; outdoor dining is available. 190 Pacific Ave.; 788-1110.
The energetic brasserie Stars has several claims to fame: the longest bar in San Francisco, a "new American" menu heavy on fresh ingredients and possibly the best desserts in the city. 150 Redwood Alley; 861-7827.
Cafe Fifty-Three is reminiscent of Art Deco clubs of the '30s and '40s and serves classic Californian, Italian and Japanese food with a San Francisco twist. 50 Third St.; 974-1029.
Go to Frascati to watch the Hyde Street cable cars while you dine on homemade pastas and meat dishes. If you have room left, try one of the desserts. 1901 Hyde St.; 928-1406.
The Hong Kong Flower Lounge features an eager staff, calamari that is praised by food critics and what many say is the best dim sum in San Francisco. 5322 Geary Blvd.; 668-8998.
La Mediterranee offers Greek and Middle Eastern food at two locations. The chicken cecilla and avgolemono get high marks from critics, who recommend this place for either a quick snack or a regular meal. 2210 Fillmore St.; 921-2956. Also at 288 Noe St.; 431-7210.
Stars Cafe is a relaxed, casual bistro specializing in affordable "new American" cuisine. The cafe, a pared-down version of the famous Stars restaurant, regularly receives praise for its roast chicken and pasta pillows. 500 Van Ness Ave.; 861-4344.
Cheap (under $15)
For a vegetarian bite, try Ananda Fuara, well known for Indian specialties, smoothies and sandwiches. The "neatloaf" and artichoke omelets have earned especially high praise. 1298 Market St.; 621-1994.
The California Creole Cafe provides Creole favorites, including seafood gumbo, jambalaya, shrimp etouffee and po' boy sandwiches. A standard array of hamburgers and salads is also available. 720 Howard St.; 974-1762.
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