Polk Street Bars and Clubs
The Mission bar scene is thriving, SOMA still has it going on, and the Lower Haight continues to be the city's premier bohemian drinking enclave. But if you want to know where it's really happening for locals, get your ass down to Polk. From the Civic Center to Russian Hill, Polk offers something for every type of drinker: yuppie bars, dive bars, rocker bars, a piano bar, and the most hopping gay scene outside the Castro. From the "gulch" section, you can wander into the nearby Tendernob and find still more bars (the venerable Overflo, Edinburgh Castle, Ha Ra, we could go on).
1131 Polk (at Post), San Francisco CA ; Tel. 415.923.0923
What seemed at first to be a dicey proposition -- put a hipster bar in a neighborhood where few hipsters live -- has now proven to be gold. Since opening last October, the spacious Hemlock Tavern has become a beacon for jean-jacketed, bedheaded coolios who like to toss back a few drinks, eyeball each other's duds, and check out some great music by bands they've never heard of. Thanks to a very open-minded booking policy, the Hemlock's 55-person-capacity performance space has offered everything from the symphonic pop of the Shimmer Kids to the raucous garage tunes of the Flakes to the metal madness of Thunderbleed aka Blind Vengeance. It's a fair bet you'll find something of quality any night of the week, be it the twisted pop of the Foibles, the raunchy rock of Killer's Kiss, or the vaudevillian oddness of the semiregular "Unnatural Acts" showcase. The tavern also features some terrific -- and free -- DJ nights, including the Sunday afternoon country show hosted by DJ Blaze Orange and Monday night's "Punk Rock Sideshow" featuring Kut 'n Paste and the Duchess of Hazard. All this beautiful ruckus and gratis bags of warm peanuts, too.
1351 Polk (at Pine), San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.885.4535
Tourists looking for more family-friendly San Francisco drag shows should stick to Beach Blanket Babylon. Kimo's ladies are hard-core, hard-livin' and workin' hard for their money. Still, expect a fair share of Celine, Cher and Stevie Nicks.
1100 Polk (at Post), San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.771.2022
Oft considered a destination for the homosexual or gender-bender crowd, Lush serves up reasonably priced drinks with an open mic night on Wednesdays that anyone can enjoy.
2360 Polk (at Union), San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.771.5535
Red Devil Lounge
1695 Polk (at Clay), San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.921.1695