Grab the Mic: A Look at the City's Best Karaoke Spots
When things get rough, sometimes you just have to sing. And when your shampoo bottle doesn't cut it, it's time for a microphone and a few drinks. And for that, you head to your nearest karaoke joint. Unleash your inner Mariah at these spots - our favorites in the city for lettling loose.
Encore Karaoke Lounge, 1550 California St., S.F.
Just off Polk Street at California, this institution has the mic turned up 7 days a week for anyone with a constant karaoke itch. But unless you're there on a Monday at 3 p.m., Encore is not for the faint of heart. This place gets packed full of regulars and newbies alike, ready with whiskey-soaked pipes to throw down their best rendition of "I Will Always Love You".
Nap's 3, 3152 Mission St., S.F.
Nap's 1 and 2 may be just a myth, but Nap's 3 is a very real and wonderful place. El Rio and Roccapulco have nothing on this Outer Mission gem, as it's a truly unpretentious and no-holds-barred atmosphere full of shady regulars and tipsy kids just looking to get a few songs in before the night is over. Nap's sports the trifecta of karaoke perfection: their songbooks are huge, getting your hands on the mic is free and their drinks are potent. To top it off, Nap, the bar's namesake, gives everyone a warm welcome to the "stage" (which is directly in front of the bar's entrance). The only terrible thing about Nap's 3 is that they don't have karaoke every night of the week.
Do Re Mi, 1604 Post St., S.F.
Much debauchery goes down at this Japantown joint. Known for its multitude of private rooms and laissez-faire policy when it comes to drinking or lighting up the occasional cigarette, Do Re Mi is where the after party is. With a solid and consistently-updated English and Japanese selection, it's impossible to get bored and without any windows, you could be singing until the crack of dawn and not even realize it.
Jack's Club 2545 24th St., S.F.
Every Thursday, this unassuming Portrero Hill sports dive morphs into a vortex of the most raucous karaoke performances in the city. Its spacious interiors are packed with people from every corner of the city, all group-singing and fist-pumping to stuff like "The Thong Song", while DJ Purple accompanies any jam with his saxophone, cowbell, or backup vocals. Jack's has a karaoke experience like none other in the city.
The Mint, 1942 Market St., S.F.
One of the finest lesbian bars AND karaoke spots in the city, the Mint is another establishment that puts any seedy karaoke bar stereotype to rest. It's got a stage with special lighting where all eyes are on you, and for those too far from the stage to see the whites of your eyes, video monitors hang everywhere, making you and your voice inescapable. If you're not bringing your A-game, you might want to skip the Mint. There are true karaoke powerhouses who lurk here.
Playground, 1705 Buchanan St., S.F.
This combination restaurant-karaoke bar is headquartered in Japantown but serves delicious Korean barbecue and soju cocktails (as well as a full bar) to its feverishly-singing crowds. While Playground is typically a more pricey karaoke experience, it sports private rooms equipped with telephones so you can sing and order food at the same time without having to miss a single simulated drum beat. Round up 15 of your friends and stake out your own karaoke den for a night. Playground will take good care of you.
Amnesia, 853 Valencia St., S.F.
For hipsters who don't want to stray from their favorite watering holes, Amnesia has a Tuesday karaoke fix that pulls out all the stops. It takes place on the heels of their weekly soul-baring open mic nights on a raised stage usually graced by both far-flung and local indie acts, bathed in red lighting and sometimes even cloaked in the fog from a smoke machine if you really feel like turning up the cheese factor.
Bow Bow Cocktail Lounge, 1155 Grant Ave., S.F.
If you're ever in North Beach and tired of strip clubs, mediocre Italian food and slow-moving tourists, head to Bow Bow. Right next to City Lights Bookstore, this dark, charming hole in the wall attracts people of every stripe, from older, Chinese ballad-crooning regulars to bridge-and-tunnel folk to cigarette-smoking locals off the beaten path. Be prepared to sing only the classics--if you're limited to English--because Bow Bow also has tunes in Chinese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Hindi, Thai and Japanese. Pretty impressive for a tiny dive.