Content originally written for the Let’s Go: USA & Canada Guide by our researcher-writer, Graham Bishai.
The Mix ($)
4086 18th St.; (415) 431-8616; www.mixbarsf.com/; open M-F 7am-2am, Sa-Su 6am-2am
Hang out with your friendly neighborhood gays at this hole-in-the-wall in the Castro. You won’t find luxury ambience or garish cocktails here. Instead, it’s more of a lit neighborhood block party where the neighbors actually like each other. The bartenders talk to everyone at this no-frills bar compete with a pool table and a constantly moving flow of people greeting each other. On a warm night, especially later in the week, the party is out back on the patio area, awash with bright colorful lights and warm heat lamps. Upbeat music thumps behind a chattery, laughing crowd. It’s a solid bet to have a good time.
No cover; drinks from $3; cash only; BGLTQ+ friendly; limited wheelchair accessibility; happy hour M-F 3pm-7pm, Sa-Su 12pm-7pm
Rouge/Nick’s Crispy Tacos ($-$$)
1500 Broadway; (415) 409-8226; nickscrispytacos.com; open M 11:30am-10pm, Tu 11:30am-12am, W 11:30am-11pm, Th 11:30am-10pm, F 11:30am-1am, Sa 10:30am-12am, Su 10:30am-10pm; kitchen closes M 10pm, Tu 10:30pm, W-Th 10pm, F 11pm, Sa-Su 10pm
An optimist might see a hella poppin’ restaurant, and a pessimist might see a sedentary lights-on nightclub. This restaurant-nightclub marriage finds a happy medium. Cohabitating in a large cabaret-style venue, Rouge brings the bar, the red velvet and mirrors decor, and the DJ, while Nick brings the crispy tacos. The place gets crowded, bubbling over with conversation among friend groups meeting up for drinks and tex-mex. Get your tacos “Nick’s Way:” crispy, and with cheese and guac. You won’t dance the night away to flashing lights but if you’re looking for some good food and a fun electric place to hang out, here’s your place.
No cover, tacos from $5, drinks from $4; food is cash only; BGLTQ+ friendly; wheelchair accessible; happy hour M-F 4:30pm-8pm, 2 for $7 tacos on Tu 5pm-10pm
Club Deluxe ($$)
1551 Haight St.; (415) 552-6949; clubdeluxe.co; open M-F 4pm-2am, Sa-Su 2pm-2am
Live music, unique cocktails, 50s decor, and all that jazz. Yes, actual jazz. At risk of jazzing this place up too much, sipping a cocktail and listening to a live band in this 1950s style club is a pretty classy way to spend your evening. Every night of the week, as well as afternoon weekends, a live band graces the ears of those gathered in this intimate candlelit space, located at the corner of Haight and Ashbury. Neon signs give the old-timey venue a futuristic glow. When the cymbal crashes and applause breaks out at the conclusion of each number, go to the bar and peruse their score of cocktails, like their signature “Spa Collins,” or a boozy hot apple cider.
No cover before 8:45pm, $5 Th-Sa, occasionally up to $10; cash only; wheelchair accessible; performances M-F 6pm-9pm and 9:30pm-12:30pm, Sa-Su 2:30pm-5:30pm, 6pm-9pm, 9:30pm-1am; happy hour M-F 4pm-7pm, Sa-Su 2pm-5pm
Graham left behind the stressed-out chaos of Cambridge for the laid back life on the West Coast. A refreshing change of pace, he assumed, until the line for coffee on his first morning took 2 mins longer than he’s used to, and the Northeast nasty jumped out. Starting in Vancouver, Graham meandered south, toning his calves being a pedestrian on San Francisco’s hills and by navigating the monstrosity that is Los Angeles using just his feet and public transit (only resorting to Uber twice!) Graham’s love for the West Coast life only increased as he sat by the Puget Sound in Seattle, sipped kombucha in the crunchy cafes of Portland, climbed into a waterfall in Yosemite and stayed in an abandoned opera house in Death Valley. By the time he hit upper 80s sun of San Diego, buff calves and sun tanned, the words “West Coast, Best Coast,” almost slipped out of his mouth. Identity crisis looming, he figured it was time to go home.