If San Francisco is the unofficial capital of the gay and lesbian universe, the Castro District serves as its shining star. With neon lights and chi-chi bars filled with gorgeous people, the area is both picturesque and definitive of its residents. Karaoke bars are wildly popular where booze-fueled duets are produced nightly and bikers run rampant along some of the cleanest city streets. Keep an open mind, this area not exclusively gay, bars like Zeitgeist draw in everyone from yuppies to bikers with it's huge outdoor picnic like area, kick ass drinks and juicy BBQ. Castro also has superb late night munchies from slices of piping hot pizza to cheeseburgers to the 24-hour diner Orphan Andy's.
2367 Market St (at Castro), San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.861.3846
No cover. Strong drinks. Super-gay top 40 dance mixes that bring scraggly-haired lesbians and boys who buy their youth at the tanning salon. It doesn't get much more Castro than this.
Café Du Nord
2170 Market (at Sanchez), San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.861.5016
Once a speakeasy, and more recently than that, a swing dancing hot spot, the multi-historied Café du Nord now features an eclectic number of goth-influenced singer/songwriters and earnest young men with guitars. And just when you don't expect it, du Nord totally rocks your world.
1666 Market Street, San Francisco California 94102; Tel. 415.437.1770
Bare incandescent bulbs drop from above next to stainless steel ceiling fans while up tempo dance music comes through the airwaves. This "Wine Bar & Kitchen" has substance too; as the name suggests, the menu features all things French from small production appellations to exquisite charcuterie. To top it all off, an eager and attentive staff will keep you in the lap of luxury guaranteeing a return trip to this trendy San Francisco wine bar.
440 Castro St (at 18th St.), San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.621.8732
Yes, that leather-clad San Francisco silver fox with an obscenely prominent package is, as you might have suspected, tugging at his chaps for you.
4 Valencia St. (at Market), San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.241.0205
Don't let this San Francisco gay bar's funereal front, with its large and lilied flower arrangement, get you down. Have a double martini (that's the only size they come in here) and settle into the back room where a piano man and his singing muse will gather the crowd for a bittersweet rendition of "The Man Who Got Away." Ain't it the truth, ain't it the truth.
3600 16th St. (at Market), San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.431.0306
Upscale, unpretentious neighborhood bar in the heart of the Castro. Second story bar has ceiling to floor glass windows and a one-of-a-kind wrap around deck to watch the world go by.
1942 Market (at Duboce), San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.626.4726
Don't mess with the Mint. While Friday nights are generally packed with post-work parties and birthdays, most nights the karaoke performances bring down the house. Think American Idol, minus the talend level, yet sponsored by the vodka industry.
The Pilsner Inn
225 Church St (at Market), San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.621.7058
This San Francisco gay bar is the default starting and ending point of any good tour of the Castro. Ring-necked collars belly (or perhaps, ab up), to this no nonsense bar with a cruisey back patio.
Twin Peaks Tavern
401 Castro Street (at Market), San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.864.9470
Older men, younger men. Guess who's buying? A Moroccan-pillowed triangular space with plate glass windows and a bar stocked with casual elegance and casual encounters. Located conveniently on Market and Castro, at the foot of the San Francisco gay bar scene.
199 Valencia (at Duboce), San Francisco CA ; Tel. 415.255.7505
On a Sunday afternoon, there is no mellower place to be in San Francisco than the courtyard at Zeitgeist. Hidden behind a somehow foreboding purple exterior on a block not quite in the Mission or the Castro, an eclectic mix of hipsters, bikers, and weekend warriors mingles among rows of picnic tables, passing around pitchers of beer, joints, and, occasionally, a damn good string-bean-garnished Bloody Mary. One of the city's best jukeboxes blasts a selection of tunes that's as mixed as the crowd (metal for the bikers, literary altcountry for the hipsters) as a bullhorn-wielding grill master bellows the names of customers who need to pick up their burgers. When the weather cooperates, it's tough to beat.