Five San Francisco Nightlife Venues

By Pati Navalta Poblete | January 20, 2020 | Food & Drink

When the sun goes down, these venues help the city come alive.

IMG6866copy.jpgMr. Tipple's remains our pick for the best jazz club in San Francisco.

Before the lights go down in the city, and the sun shines on the bay, there are plenty of venues that showcase San Francisco’s nightlife scene. Comfort food, Jewish-Italian-inspired cuisine, punchy Peruvian cocktails, obscure jazz joints, rooftop gatherings on a school night and unassuming entrances that give way to a whole new world— we have it all. Here’s just a sampling to get you started on your night out in the city:

B7A5830.jpgThe grand Music Hall at August Hall boasts a 20-foot LED wall.


If you’re done with your bar-crawling days and prefer an all-inclusive venue that can satisfy your craving for an ultimate night out in the city, August Hall is your destination. Created by hospitality veterans Nate Valentine, Scott Murphy, Justin Roja and Chad Donnelly, this integrative event space includes three full bars, live music and food by Fifth Arrow. The venue also boasts a grand Music Hall, a 20-foot LED wall, stained-glass windows and 32-foot ceilings. The Green Room, located on the second floor, offers a more lounge-type atmosphere with custom drinks themed to that night’s musical guests. In partnership with Live Nation, August Hall presents “state-of-the-art technical elements, first-rate hospitality, modernist style and a stage for some of the world’s most incredible artists,” according to its press release. This month features shows from Sinead O’Connor, Wax Motif, The Life of Merisi presented by David August, Led Zeppelin 2, Magic City Hippies, Andy Shauf, Destroyer, ZZ Ward and Colony House, among others. “August Hall and Fifth Arrow is history reborn in downtown San Francisco,” says Valentine. “Enjoy the full experience for an all-encompassing night out, starting with bowling and dinner in Fifth Arrow followed by a world-class concert or event in the August Hall.” 420 MASON ST.


ACP2017Gibson2970_1.jpgSip your favorite classic or try intriguing creations, such as Botanicals & Bitter Berries, at Gibson.


If you’re a fan of Adam Chapman—and even if you don’t know who he is— you’ll love what he’s done with this place.Chapman has leveraged his culinary background as executive chef of Cotes in Maine and his training at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena to create an innovative experience at Gibson, where he serves as director of operations and oversees the beverage program. Located in the Hotel Bijou, the atmosphere is art deco chic, with gold and blue topaz accents throughout (interior design by famed Mister Important Design) and a ceiling mural by Italian artist Marco Battaglini. You’ll find plenty of classics on the cocktail menu, along with intriguing creations, such as Botanicals & Bitter Berries (carbonated gin, sumac, schizandra, Sonoma honey, candy cap, cremant). Chef Louis Maldonado has Michelin-starred recognition and was named a contestant on the 11th season of Bravo’s Emmy and James Beard Award-nominated Top Chef in 2013. Under his direction, the menu boasts bold, French-inspired flavors and classic, ingredient-driven fare. 111 MASON ST.

CFGrapefruit.jpgChi Fico’s Grapefruit cocktail includes oloroso sherry, Barathier, amaretto, nutmeg and añejo tequila.


Chef David Nayfeld’s taverna, Che Fico, is still riding high since its much-anticipated opening in April 2018. The rustic menu features handmade pasta, pizzas, antipasti, housemade salumi, meat and fish, as well as dishes from the Jewish- Roman heritage known as cucina ebraica. By now, we know about the food inspired by Nayfeld’s creativity— the sourdough-meets-pizza and chocolate-meets-pasta revelations, for example— but the Divisadero Street hot spot also has an impressive beverage program, which focuses heavily on both Italian and Californian wines with a cocktail program that utilizes a variety of spirits, amaros and seasonal ingredients. Come for the food and stay for its equally impressive cocktails: Grapefruit (pictured) or Tamarindo (chamomile, R. Jelinek fernet, ginger, angostura amaro, bourbon), for example. “Che Fico offers great energy and a fun atmosphere with serious dining, and Divisadero specifically is a great hub for that,” says Nayfeld, co-owner of Che Fico and Che Fico Alimentari). “Che Fico is a great place to come and grab a drink and get a bite before heading off to your next place for the night, or you can hang out at our bar and be a part of the people- watching while waiting for your table. Plus, we have Che Fico Alimentari downstairs, where you can pop in for some wine and salumi to get your night started.” 838 DIVISADERO ST.

Peacekeeper01TheTideDesignCoPeterPratoPhotography.jpgEnjoy the bright, airy and refreshing vibe at Peacekeeper.


The same hospitality dream team behind August Hall and Harper & Rye is behind this Oaxaca-inspired bar, which literally and figuratively is a breath of fresh air in lower Nob Hill. Peacekeeper has an open, retractable ceiling, hanging greenery and wood-and-stone interior giving the space a bright, airy and refreshing vibe, thanks to Britt Hull of Tide Design Co. Don’t worry; if the chill and fog creep in, there’s a fireplace and plenty of cocktail choices to keep you warm (or they can just close the roof)—owners Nate Valentine, Jamal Blake- Williams and Rob Kashian have thought of everything. The menu changes, but here’s a sampling of the kind of creations you’ll find here: Jetset (vodka, cucumber, citrus, soda), Goddaughter (tequila, berry shrub, citrus, egg white) and The Peacekeeper (serrano tequila, pineapple, ginger, lime). “Cocktails and camaraderie are abundant in our well-curated and beautiful room,” says Valentine. “You can join Peacekeeper for a night or be a regular and make friends with the team and neighbors.” 925 BUSH ST.

TipplesBWMenuatbarcopy.jpgMr. Tripple’s bar- bites menu is served until midnight.


In July 2018, we boldly declared Mr. Tipple’s the “best jazz club in San Francisco.” We stand by that. Here’s a snippet of our review that rings true today: “If it weren’t for the doorman posted up outside this unassuming spit of Fell between Polk and Van Ness, there’d be little to tip you off to what’s going on behind the curtains at this semisecret lounge that Jay Bordeleau (Maven) opened in late 2015. What a surprise you’re in for, then: cover-free music six nights a week, a bar-bites menu served until midnight and a straightforward and solid drink menu—cocktails are $12 each. During the after-work happy hour, more attention tends to be paid to the bar than to the music, but on weekends—say, after a big show at SFJazz—the focus rightfully turns back to the stage.” The menu includes a handful of comfort classics from the South, such as chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits and gumbo—all of which can hit the spot after a night of imbibing. Cocktail creations include Mister Loveless (gin, aperitivo, citrus, allspice, bubbles) and Smoke and Ash (mezcal, vermouth, Cointreau, bitters). “Located in the hub of the performing arts district, Mr. Tipple’s offers live jazz every night, always without a cover. A fantastic spot for a delicious cocktail and great live jazz,” says Bordeleau. “With no cover, Mr. Tipple’s is a perfect spot pre- or postshow to get the night started or enjoy a nightcap; hear more music without a second ticket.” 39 FELL ST.


201904090063.jpgThis weeknight bar’s food and drink menus are Latin inspired.


Thanks to owner Traci Des Jardins and bar manager Enrique Sanchez, school nights in the Dogpatch will never be the same again. School Night is a weeknight bar that offers rooftop drinking and dining. Located in the Pearl event space, both its kitchen and bar menus are Latin inspired—from cebiche and albondigas to Maracuyá Sour and pisco. Des Jardins has been part of the local food scene for more than two decades and is currently running a diverse group of eateries, including The Commissary, Mijita Cocina Mexicana in the Ferry Building and Public House at Oracle Park. School Night is her first foray into a bar-led concept. Sanchez, a Peruvian native, has created a bar program with pisco-centric classics that pay homage to the flavors and traditions of his upbringing, as well as whiskey and agave cocktails inspired by ingredients he’s discovered as part of his American experience. Who says you have to wait for the weekend? 601 19TH ST.

DSC2790.jpgSixteen bars serve Champagne and cocktails an hour before showtime and during intermission.


Designed by San Francisco architect Timothy L. Pflueger, Oakland’s Paramount Theatre was completed in 1931 and is one of the finest remaining examples of art deco design in the country. The venue—which features everything from ballet to R&B—hosts a year- round schedule of music concerts, theater, variety shows and movies. This month, the Paramount features The Secret of My Success, directed by Gordon Greenberg. Under the leadership of bar manager Gedeon Tsegaye, former bar director of Alexander’s Steakhouse, the venue offers a full bar service in the Grand Gallery lobby or the original lobby before the shows and at intermission. Be sure to check their website for the ever-evolving schedule of entertainment in this iconic venue. “The Paramount Theatre is a sensory experience that opens one hour before showtime,” says Tsegaye. “With up to 16 bars serving Champagne and cocktails, our guests explore four floors of vintage 1930s art deco design and historic architecture while sipping on delicious curated drink selections. The Paramount Theatre is the most elegant venue I have ever seen in the Bay Area, and I am proud to have personally curated the beverage list with some of my favorite spirits in the world.” 2025 BROADWAY, OAKLAND

Photography by: Courtesy of Mr. Tipple's; Gibson; August Hall; Che Fico: By Peter Prato Photography; School Night; Paramount