What better way to enjoy a stiff tipple than with an equally intoxicating tickling of the ivories?
It may be going gently into that good night, but piano lounge culture does live on in the Bay Area, where there are plenty lovely spots to sip a Scotch or Champagne cocktail and take in a ballad or jazzy number amid moody light. Indulge your senses at eight of our favorite spots.
As its name suggests, this Tenderloin hot spot is not your parents' piano bar. With two theaters and a stage for cabaret, PianoFight promises a lively time with musical performances, of course, but also comedy, plays, drag, and more. Plus food—there's a full menu of cocktails and bar-style eats. There's a community angle as well: PianoFight also serves as HQ for the local nonprofits Tenderloin Walking Tours and Code Tenderloin. // 144 Taylor St. (Tenderloin), pianofight.com
A vestige of old-school Oakland founded in 1933, The Alley's claim to fame is as the 50-year home of beloved Bay Area pianist Rodney Dibble (RIP). But the pianoman's spirit lives on in the tunes of pianists Bryan Seet, Jef Labes, and more, who play from the Great American Songbook as well as more modern sounds. Order a whiskey, split a Chelsea steak sandwich with your date, and let these guys do the rest. // 3325 Grand Ave. (Oakland), thealleyoakland.com
You've seen its iconic neon sign a thousand times as you've made your way back toward the Golden Gate Bridge from some weekend excursion. But Marin Joe's is more than worth the stop as the only piano bar remaining to nightly showcase North Bay talent. First opened in 1954, the family-owned lounge has a somewhat haute atmosphere, a modestly priced menu of Italian fare, and a lengthy wine list. But best of all, you can still hear live piano five nights a week. We'll cheers to that. // 1585 Casa Buena Dr. (Corte Madera), marinjoesreasturant.com
Eons ago, this darling of Jackson Square was a discreet gay bar called Gold Street. But for as long as most young San Franciscans can remember, Bix, a supper club for the modern era, has delivered positively decadent Cal-French cuisine (ah, those potato pillows) in an ambience that can only be described as a glamorous. The feeling of the 1930s is apparent in the golden interior, where a sweeping staircase and dining balcony lined with plush banquettes overlook the bar where there's live piano nightly—sometimes including vocalists or a jazz trio. This is a next-level date night. // 56 Gold St. (Jackson Square), bixreasturant.com
There are few spots where you can throw back an oversized raspberry lemon drop martini while swaying to the sounds of Sinatra. Enter the gay piano bar, one of the last bastions of such a genre, known for its fast drinks, drag and lively karaoke in addition to nightly piano. Martuni's has a character all its own—inviting, softly lit, somewhere between casual and romantic, charming and divey. In other words, perfect. // 4 Valencia St. (SoMa), facebook.com
Travel back to the 1940s at the dimly lit Noir Lounge, which takes its inspiration from the Jazz Era and cinema with a seductive setting that includes leather armchairs, deep red draperies, two bars, and jazz trios playing Sunday through Wednesday. Classic cocktails, locally crafted beers, and Napa Valley wines await. // 581 Hayes St. (Hayes Valley), noir-sf.com
Sheba Piano Lounge
Sheba Piano Lounge doubles as a healthy Ethiopian restaurant and, tbh, we can't think of a more interesting way to get our musical fix. In addition to nightly live piano, Sheba offers a vegetarian-friendly menu and a killer take on the bloody Mary. // 1419 Fillmore St. (Western Addition), shebapianolounge.com
Mystic Room + Tavern
While Yelp was quick to label the Burritt Room as closed, this upstairs noir-inspired bar and restaurant simply changed names under new ownership earlier this year. The secret-not-secret Mystic Room + Tavern remains largely unchanged, serving classic cocktails in a seductively lit yet minimalist space. Live music and piano can be heard Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. // 417 Stockton St. (Union Square), mystichotel.com