Provocative comedians and activists take the stage for a night of irreverent anecdotes, side-splitting jokes, and history
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Rebel Bar and Lounge
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Up to 78% Off at Rooster T. Feathers Comedy Club
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San Jose Improv
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Ian Harris – Up to 40% Off Standup
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The Rio Theatre
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Where to Sit: Belly up to the front bar while you wait for friends, then continue back to a full table.
When to Go
While You’re Waiting
While You’re in the Neighborhood
Where to Sit
When to Go: One of the few bars in The Castro with daytime hours, on select days the doors open at 8 a.m.
Le Colonial's front door may be the closest thing to a time machine in downtown San Francisco. Spread across two levels, the restaurant embraces the cuisine and aesthetic of French Vietnam in the 1920s. "Picture slowly spinning ceiling fans, tropical plants, rattan furniture, and French colonial decor," Frommer's says. Along with the dining room's pressed-tin ceiling and the bar's decorative bamboo birdcages, these accents contribute to an atmosphere that mimics a stately French plantation in Vietnam.
The chefs forge recipes that demonstrate the fusion of French and Vietnamese cultures while still incorporating ingredients from Bay Area farms. Brussels sprouts arrive glazed with sweet-chili sauce, and the twice-cooked pork belly is accompanied by pickled bok choy, quail egg, and savory truffle oil. The extensive wine list doesn't feature any bottles from Vietnam, but it does include a fair number from France as well as representatives from the New World and Atlantis.
Though the courtyard and the main-level dining room invite diners to linger and enjoy their meals, the upstairs lounge area strives to create a livelier atmosphere. The tropically themed room hosts live bands and house DJs throughout the week. It invites guests to lose themselves in another time and place while still enjoying the creature comforts of a fully stocked bar and a pulsing sound system.
On one side of the bar at Eastside West, visitors gather to sip beers and mixed drinks, and perhaps to sample the house-smoked salmon toast. The other side is a gallery: ornate golden frames surround bottles of wine and spirits, turning them into works of art on the bar’s recessed shelves. It's a touch of sophistication that speaks volumes about the gastropub. Though the menu announces that Eastside West does indeed have corn hole and beer pong, its pages also showcase a more refined take on down-home traditions.
For example, the double cheeseburgers here come decorated not with bacon strips but with bacon jam. Many of the menu items are seasonal or organic, and all are overseen by Chef Dino, who prefers to shop local. His entrees expand on barroom staples by adding an entire fried Cornish game hen to the list. The appetizers, too, flaunt stylish touches—nachos are garnished with chorizo and carnitas instead of just cheese and cheese-flavored whipped cream.
All of this subtle elegance doesn't keep the place from getting rambunctious, however. Crowds still vie for first place during Wednesday pub trivia, and dance to live jazz or DJ sets. A heated outdoor patio provides ample space for savoring cocktails such as the cherry apple sour, made from Templeton rye, apple juice, and black-cherry jam.
In the '70s, San Francisco saw an explosion of gay bars throughout the city, and Polk Street was at the heart of it all. But hundreds of those bars went under in the intervening decades, and no place suffered more than Polk Street. Only one gay bar remains on the street, once the soul of San Francisco gay life, and that is The Cinch Saloon. Said to be the second-oldest surviving gay bar in the city, The Cinch is also thought to have the last remaining Western Façade from the 1939 exposition, which turned Polk Street into a western town.
Unlike the subliminal messages hidden on all U.S. currency, the saloon's exterior is hard to miss: a cowboy riding into the sunset over a stream of rainbow flags. The interior carries on the western-gay motif, as rainbow streamers wave above a stable-like bar complete with giant bullhorns. It's here that patrons drink 15 draft beers or 12 from the bottle and sample the staff’s concoctions, including a bloody Mary made with the bar’s own mix and served with pickled green beans, olives, lemons, and limes.
Teranga is a word that communicates a combination of hospitality, camaraderie, and acceptance in Wolof, the Senegalese language of Dakar-born, Paris-educated Marco Senghor, who has worked to instill the notion of teranga in his Baobab Village bistro. His passion for French West African culture manifests in his menu’s list of fragrant curries, seasoned meats, and savory seafood dishes, all crafted from authentic Senegalese and Afro-Caribbean recipes. To complement spicy courses, bartenders handcraft artisan cocktails using ginger, hibiscus, and tamarind. At 10 p.m., the wait staff clears the tables and Baobab Village transforms into a West African dancehall complete with a DJ spinning West African, Congolese, reggae, Afro-Brazilian, and Latin music. Bringing teranga to Baobab Village is only part of Senghor’s mission. He describes the baobab tree as the social center of a village, a role his restaurant mirrors by hosting international musical performances and charitable events.