When you think of San Francisco, you probably don’t think of jazz, but there are actually quite a few spots to while away an evening while sipping on a chilled martini and taking in the sounds of hypnotic melodies and harmonies. These seven just so happen to be our favorites.
If you like jazz and you like cocktails, then you’ll love Mr. Tipple’s Recording Studio. The bar is both in the heart of the city and also off the beaten path (it’s on Fell right where it meets Market), which adds to its allure because it means the other patrons are there for the same reason you are (the aforementioned jazz and cocktails), not just because they stumbled in off of the sidewalk. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, but there’s just something attractive about a crowd with a purpose. And the crowd’s purpose at Mr. Tipple’s is a noble one: listen to great music while sipping on quality cocktails. Nothing more, nothing less.
Things to know: the space is dark—like, no windows and don’t even bother trying to Instagram your cocktail dark. But that low-lit vibe is what makes it all so alluring … and also much more of a date spot than a night out with a gaggle of friends spot. (There are lower tables right up front surrounded by high-top bar tables and a bar at the back of the room—though there is a lounge area towards the back that is perfect for a group of six to eight.)
But the hero of Mr. Tipple’s is the jazz, which is played on stage every single night, usually starting around 6 p.m. There’s never a cover charge and depending on where you sit, you can still hold a conversation.
Of course, the cocktails aren’t too shabby, either (which makes sense once you know that Mr. Tipple’s is owned by Jay Bordeleau, the guy behind Maven in the Lower Haight). Our favorite when we’re in the mood for something light and refreshing is Tom’s Tipple (gin, Maurin Quina, lemon, soda), while the 1860 (bourbon, Islay rinse, orgeat, bitters) and New Point (scotch, vermouth, genepy, absinthe) are go-tos if the date’s going well, if you know what we mean, which … you do.
Hungry? Order bites from Hazel Southern Bar & Kitchen, which recently opened up in the adjacent space—the fried chicken and waffles are appetizer sized and easy to eat, and the Southern Caesar salad is a great size for sharing.
When you step into this jazz club on Haight Street, it almost feels like you’re stepping into another city or era … A time when people’s phones weren’t attached to their hands. When a night out on the town was an event. When people didn’t flake on their plans at the last minute.
At Club Deluxe, instead of people checking Twitter and Snapchatting, you’ll see people of all ages gathered around small tables under the glow of the red lights with their attention actually on each other, but also on whatever two-, three-, four-, or seven-piece jazz band has taken the stage for the evening. Novel, right?
There’s jazz seven nights a week at Deluxe. It usually starts around 6 p.m. and goes until midnight or 1 a.m. Sometimes on Saturdays and Sundays, bands play starting at 2:30 p.m., which is always a treat, since weekend happy hour runs from 2 to 5 p.m. ($7 cocktails and $1 off beer and wine). Most nights, there’s not a cover charge, but expect to pay five bucks on the weekends. And eat before you go as, sadly, Club Deluxe’s famous pizza is no longer.
If you’re anything like us, you probably “just” think of Comstock Saloon as one of the best places in North Beach to get a perfectly executed craft cocktail while sitting in a stunning space.
Seriously: Comstock is one of the most beautiful bars in SF, thanks to details like the 20foot-long mahogany bar from 1907, original tile floors, and hardwood booths that line the wall. And the classic cocktails are always impeccable. We like to start with a Cherry Bounce (bourbon, cherry brandy, lemon, Angostura, champagne) followed by a Blood & Sand (scotch, sweet vermouth, orange, cherry liqueur), but you also can’t go wrong with a Barkeep’s Whimsy (let him or her “decide your fancy”).
But guess what else Comstock is good for? Live music every night that’s totally free. Yup, the main Saloon Room in this stylish bar has a second-level mezzanine, which hosts musical performers, like jazz trios and ragtime piano players, every single night, usually from around 8 to 11 p.m. And no, you don’t have to skip dinner to enjoy the music. Comstock has a full dinner menu with options like oysters, house-made sausage, lamb sugo pasta, and a burger with pimento cheese.
We don’t want to tell you where to go on your next third date (ahem), but probably it should be to Downstairs Revue at Black Cat, the super sexy lounge in the TL. We’re huge fans of both levels of this bi-level bar, but just to be clear: the upstairs is for first dates and does not have live music. The downstairs is where you want to go when you packed a toothbrush in your purse.
The space is sexy and dramatic, complete with low lighting, a bronze bar, velvet and leather banquettes, and cabaret tables with faux-fur-lined chairs that circle around a revue stage at the far end of the room.
Most performances (jazz and cabaret revue) start around 6:30 or 7 p.m., and though you can’t buy tickets in advance, you can make a reservation, and the cover charge, usually $10 to $20, will be added to your bill. (It’s taken at the door if you walk in.)
The cocktails are, of course, exceptional. Whether you’re looking for a classic standby or something seasonal, the people behind the bar know what they’re doing and they’re doing it well. There’s also an extensive wine list with over 90 bottles, as well as three beers on tap, and a dinner menu that offers everything from bites, like oysters, a cheese plate, and smoked trout and caviar toast, to heartier fare, like a flat iron steak or a burger.
Follow the light of the neon sign in a little alley in Jackson Square to find the entrance to this fancy supper club, where the bartenders wear white jackets, the tables wear white tablecloths, and there’s live jazz, always without a cover charge, every single night of the week.
There’s not a bad seat in the gorgeous two-story dining room, but the prices are definitely on the higher side. Well worth it, if you can afford a $48 New York strip steak or $28 black truffle burger, but if that feels a little steep, you can always just grab a seat at the bar. The cocktails are around $14, but when Bix calls its Manhattan a “Perfect Manhattan,” it does so because it’s absolutely true.
When to go? Well, it depends on what you want to hear. The schedule is subject to change, but this is what you can usually expect:
Sunday and Monday, 7:30 p.m.: Solo piano
Tuesday through Thursday, 7:30 p.m.: Piano and vocals
Friday and Saturday, 8:30 p.m.: Jazz trio
This film noir-inspired bar in the Mystic Hotel is the perfect place to go for a cocktail whether you want to gather with a group of friends at the bar or need to find a plush velvet couch in a dark corner for … well, whatever it is people need plush velvet couches in dark corners for.
The cocktail list is adventurous in a good way, though, of course, you can order all of the classics, as well. And if whiskey is your thing, be sure to tell the bartender, as the whiskey list does not disappoint.
Whatever you’re drinking, you can be sure it will pair well with the live jazz by local musicians. Get there early if you’re going Monday through Wednesday, as Terry Disley’s Rocking Jazz Trio starts at 6 p.m. and stops three hours later. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the music goes from 7 to 10 p.m.
What better place to see jazz than in the first stand-alone structure in the country built specifically for the genre? The auditorium holds 700 people and was built to showcase the acoustic quality of a concert hall, but provide the laidback intimacy of a jazz club. There are over 300 performances a year, and members get a first chance to buy tickets as well as access to members-only events and listening parties. If you love jazz, then there’s a good chance this place is already a second home to you. If you’re on the fence, it’s the perfect place to explore and learn more.
Looking to grab a cocktail and a bite before or after a show? Head over to B-Side, the new lounge we told you all about in April.