|Best Post-Work Pump-Up: Tuesday Night at Crunch Gym
Feeling noncommittal, short on cash and like it wouldn’t kill you to lose a few pounds? Hitting up happy hour could cure what ails you: Every Tuesday, Crunch gym opens it doors to the public for a free 6 to 9 p.m. happy hour, featuring live DJs, group classes and more than a hundred ways to make you sweat. 2330 Polk St., 415-292-5444.
Best Happy Hour: 540 Club on Monday Nights
Because cheap drinks taste even better when the sun goes down, the 540 Club has disrupted the order of the universe and started its Monday happy hour at 10 p.m. Until midnight, all well drinks are just a buck. What a brilliant idea: nursing your drink early on, then finishing strong. 540 Clement St., 415-752-7276.
Best Class: Shan-Yee Poon Ballet School
So maybe your required work uniform is more “apron and Danskos” than the “tutu and toe shoes” you imagined at age 5. But at Shan-Yee Poon Ballet School it’s never too late to perfect your plié: Their affordable adult ballet classes for beginners start around the same time as the evening news. 403 Arguello Blvd., 415-387-2695.
|Best Indie Rock DJ Experience: Wanted at Q Bar
We all know the Castro as the place to get your fix of Cher’s greatest hits and the newest Britney remix, but some gays just want to wear neon sunglasses and rock out to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Cut Copy and The Presets. Wanted at Q Bar features indie dance and rock jams and exclusive remixes from DJs Danny Ruxspin and Richie Panic. 456 Castro St., 415-864-2877.
Best Reason to Stay In: Jimmy Jane’s “Contour M” Sensory Set
Maybe after crisscrossing the city sampling all that SF nightlife has to offer, you’ve met a person (or three) who calls for a night in. Order take-out and unpack Jimmy Jane’s “Contour M” sensory set, complete with a candle that melts into hot massage oil and an all-over massager—no need to worry about last call.
Best Smackdown: Lucha Libre Wrestling at DNA Lounge
It’s not all book readings and gallery walks in SF—sometimes we just like to put on goofy masks and pummel each other (no, we aren’t talking about the Power Exchange). Lucha Libre Wrestling at the DNA Lounge lets local grapplers such as Chupacabra, Savio Vega and Awesome Kong battle it out in the ring. Come with a purse stuffed with tortillas to hurl at the loser. 375 11th St., 415-626-1409.
Best Boys’ Room: MR.
This is one private gentleman’s club that might actually improve your standing with the ladies. MR. is a members-only barbershop and urban lounge that ingeniously pairs a shave and a haircut with a cold beer. The perfect place for swapping business cards and stock tips, it’s the man’s version of a pedicure and glass of white Zin. 560 Sacramento St., 415-291-8800.
Best Cheap Laugh: SF Comedy College
Getting a pair of $12 cocktails forced on you is no laughing matter, and SF Comedy College is boldly speaking out against the two-drink minimum. Actually, they just never got themselves a liquor license, so all shows are BYOB and cost as little as $5 to get in the door—price of a 12-pack of PBR not included. 414 Mason St.
Best Girls’ Night Out: Stay Gold at the Make-out Room
High-school proms typically pack a great play list, but teen angst and taffeta have been known to inhibit when it comes to getting down on the dance floor. Now that you’reall grown up, dance like it’s 1999 at Stay Gold at the Make-out Room, where girl DJ duo Pink Lighting and Rapid Fire (pictured above) pay homage to the greats—Whitney, Cindy and Madge—while presiding over a come-one, come-all atmosphere that is more candy-fueled slumber party than Cotillion. 3225 22nd St., 415-647-2888.
Best Bollywood Hotspot: NonStop Bhangra at the Rickshaw Stop
Sure, this is San Francisco, but let’s just generalize for one second: Indians love to dance, and most of them are pretty darn great at it. And bhangra is awesome, so that makes NonStop Bhangra at the Rickshaw Stop something of a deadly combo: DJs, dance lessons, live performances and hundreds of people shaking it like they mean it for four straight hours. 155 Fell St., 415-861-2011.
Best DJ Gazing: Pirate Cat Radio Cafe and Studio
The friendliest pirates ever have staked claim in the Mission—they’ll even serve you organic coffee and vegan donuts. Over at Pirate Cat Radio Cafe and Studio they are (arguably) illegally taking to the airwaves (87.9 FM), broadcasting live music, news and interviews 24 hours a day under the cloak of, well … nothing. Drop into the café from 7 a.m.–11 p.m. and watch DJs Naked Rob, Monkey and Miss Deena do their thing. 2781 21st St.
Most Lucrative Night Out: Elixir’s Guest Bartender Wednesdays
If you’ve ever dreamed of ignoring someone for 20 minutes while they stare at you, Elixir’s Guest Bartender Wednesdays can make it happen. Set up as a way for people to raise money for their charity of choice, it also lets you get behind the bar and channel your inner Tom Cruise for the night. 3200 16th St.,415-552-1633.
|Best High-Note Homerun: Tosca at AT&T Park
If your biggest gripe about a night at the opera is that you can’t chow down on onion-topped hot dogs and chug beer from plastic cups mid-aria, head down to AT&T Park to catch Puccini’s Tosca on the Jumbotron (or … er, 103-foot-wide Mitsubishi Diamond Vision) during a free live simulcast from the San Francisco Opera House on June 5. 24 Willie Mays Plaza, 415-861-4008.
Best Realized Fantasy: SF Symphony’s Summer Series
If the names Chocobo, Moogle and Cid mean something to you, then this year’s SF Symphony’s Summer Series might inspire a serious gamer-geek tizzy. The performance of “Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy” features video images projected on the big screen behind the orchestra to accompany the score by Nobuo Uematsu. 201 Van Ness Ave., 415-864-6000.
Best Boozy Bookclub: Litquake
Like a tailgate party for the city’s premiere literature event, Cocktails with Canin kicks off the annual bookworm bacchanal, Litquake (which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year). Author Ethan Canin will be at Broadway Studios on June 2 ready to go drink for drink with the crowd and discuss his new book, America America (Random House). Snatch up the VIP tickets for munchies and preferred seating. 435 Broadway, 415-291-0333.
Best Throwback Dance Party: Nightbeat at the Edinburgh Castle
While we love to reminisce about belting Debbie Gibson into our hairbrushes and writing dark haikus while blaring Nirvana, sometimes we need a reminder that there was music before MTV. At Nightbeat at the Edinburgh Castle, DJs Primo and Lucky and Dr. Scott will school you in the ways of Motown and Northern soul. 950 Geary St., 415-885-4074.
|Best Higher Calling: EpiscoDisco
Bertie P. has long been a fixture on the nightlife scene, MCing and DJing parties (Blow Up, Frisco Disco, Boner Party) as his out-of-this-world alter-egos. Four months ago, he became an Episcopal priest. Seriously. But it didn’t stop him from starting another party at his new office—Grace Cathedral. EpiscoDisco brings DJs, drinks and other good stuff into the famed church on the third Saturday night of the month. 1100 California St., 415-749-6300.
Best Smoke Signals: Crucible Fire Arts Festival
You’ve already been warned about practicing your fire-breathing act on the roof of your circa-1900 wood-framed apartment building, and Burning Man isn’t coming any earlier this year, so get your flame-fix at the ninth annual Crucible Fire Arts Festival: four days of fire-filled performances, music, art and food that would have Smokey the Bear running for the hills.
1260 Seventh St., Oakland.
Best Designated Driver: The Mexican Bus
This may be the first time “party bus” and “educational cultural experience” have been used in the same sentence, but a fantastically souped-up school bus blaring cumbia is a powerful thing. Hop on The Mexican Bus for a raucous night out that includes stops at the city’s best salsa, merengue and Afro-Cubano clubs. 415-546-3747.
|Best Steamy Date: California Academy of Sciences Nightlife
Take away the strollers and screaming tots and bring in booze and live beats, and suddenly the new California Academy of Sciences—complete with a misty, glass-encased rainforest and pitch-black planetarium—starts to look like the sexiest date spot in the city. Nightlife is 21-and-up and invades the Academy on Thursday evenings well past the bedtime of the toddler set. 55 Music Concourse Dr., Golden Gate Park, 415-379-8000.
Check out our other 2009 Best of Picks