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Aug 11, 2007 02:09 PM

food... and music... in san francisco

The only thing I love more then food… is music. Where can I combine the two? In particular, I’m asking for live music. The food can range from the simple and satisfying, to ethnic and/or small tasty plates at a bar, to a place known for one fabulous dish etc… Love it all, as long as it is good. Music can be anything (although I admit, I am not a country music fan…), as long as they are authentic – true musicians, not trying to just satisfy the masses.

Potential examples….

---- A crunchy little café near a park, where I can have a good cup of coffee and great baked goods and hear a singer/songwriter guitarist playing their heart out.

---- A dark and smoky (!) bar or lounge with occasional small bands (?blues, jazz, rock, alternative…), with tasty bar food options

---- A local ethnic restaurant/bar, perhaps where people drop in after 9pm and start joining the band as the drinks and food keep rolling out… and I'm enjoying a mojito and cuban sandwich, for example

No karaoke.

In terms of my food preferences, Canteen is my favorite… “comfort food” (!), and I am currently craving a Banh Mi from Saigon Sandwich and a vanilla cupcake from Kootz more often then I will admit. Still in search of the perfect french fry...

btw – would prefer places free of exorbitant cover charges/two drink minimum… but if those are the requirements to find some good (… great) music and food, so be it.


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  1. The original comment has been removed
    1. Due to anti-smoking laws, the only dark and smoky lounge in town is Occidental Cigar Bar. They don't have a kitchen but you can order in from any of the Belden Alley places around the corner. Recorded music only but the owner has good taste.

      Cigar Bar & Grill has live music and smoking on their outdoor patio and pretty good food in the no-smoking indoor area.

      Only jam session I know of is Sundays at Starry Plough in Berkeley, but the food's pretty dire there even by pub-grub standards, arguably inedible before the third or fourth pint.

      Occidental Cigar Club
      471 Pine St, San Francisco, CA 94104

      Cigar Bar & Grill
      850 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94133

      1. The original comment has been removed
        1. Oh, come on, Mr Lauriston. There's far more options than that. Violin, the deeper you dig into the music around here, the more you'll like.

          The only place you can hear great music (world class jazz in an excellent room) and eat good food is Yoshi's in berkeley. It's a 12 block walk from 12th street bart, which makes it kind of close to SF - it's often a quick drive. Music is jazz, food is sushi. Dinner reservations get you priority seating at the show, but even the bad seats are great, and the "club menu" has some high points, like the sashimi salad.

          Music with food - often, around here, that means great music with an undistinguished short-order kitchen. But some of those places have hidden greatness, or a good bowl of garlic fries takes on special transendence after a couple of beers. Chefs tend to come and go from these places, so quality varies.

          The Great American Music Hall serves food. The "staff meal" is usually pretty good, I played there last weekend and was served a nice pulled pork sandwich. Never eaten off the guest menu.

          Cafe du Nord has a dinner menu. My favorite used to be the seared ahi, but that's been taken off the menu - probably yet another chef change. Music is very good, atmosphere is dark wood, red leather, speakeasy.

          The Hotel Utah has the best in up-n-coming acts, and serves variable-quality pub food. I remember some great sunday afternoon BBQ action there (BBQ means curbside burgers from a 55-gal drum) with 5 bands of surf music sponsored by KFJC, but don't see anything like that on the schedule - but there is a baseball brats option.

          The Fillmore has mediocre burgers, best avoided.

          The Beach Chalet has live music. I haven't been there in years, but remember hearing some very tasty surf music float over their wall one afternoon while I had other business in the park. Food's brewpub, on the decent side, nothing extra special.

          Brainwash has grungy cafe feel, some good singer-songwriter style action, cold beer, and food. I've never had the food, but the menu is surprisingly wide - not sure there's another music place where you can get breakfast all day, which has to be good for something.

          DNA lounge is doing more and more live shows, and has a new kitchen upstairs. Haven't eaten there, though. Frankly, I can't imagine the kitchen's much good.

          The RiteSpot, on 15th, has a few bright spots on the menu, notably the chicken parmasian sandwich, and often interesting music with no cover. File under electic. If you like your manhattans, get 'em from Annie - but this place is a bit of a dive, and the food can only be described as "not bad for a bar".

          Revolution Cafe, 22nd and Bartlett - I've never gone in here, but walked by on my way to other places thinking, damn, that's a nice crowd and good tunes. It's more of a sidewalk cafe, spills onto the street, very hip/hipster. Appears to serve salads.

          Bissap Baobab doesn't have live music, but deserves honorable mention for hosting senegalese DJs with fresh dance tracks. The layout is confusing, as they've got two locations, and the party's at the place on the side street, but this is a very music-friendly joint, not your typical club-DJ-thing. And the food's unusual and good.

          The Madrone Lounge is interesting as it serves a more hip-hop sensibility, and the web site is coy about whether they might serve food. Something about having menus and food delivered by local establishments, but maybe only for lunch.

          Biscuits and Blues never has folks I'm interested in hearing, and looks touristy from the outside, but they did have Lavay Smith this weekend, and serve a southern menu. Probably not the OP's cup of tea, but you never know.

          I know nothing about coffehouse - singer/songwriter scene. I bet there's quite a few good spots scattered about. I've stopped by Nomad on the Berkley/Oakland line a few times for music, and they have very tasty paninis, but I can't give you chapter and verse for SF.

          Restaurants with music - that tends to mean jazz piano over food. There are are many purveyors, but I'd single out Jardiniere, catty-corner from the symphony. The jazz guys (often just a piano, sometimes a small combo) have a distinguished place above the bar, and are several notches above typical dinner music. And the food - well, search on 'em.

          If the Top of the Mark served food in the sky lounge, life would be peachy, but they don't. You can eat elsewhere in the hotel then get your west-coast-swing on upstairs. Other of the fancy downtown hotels have lounge and piano acts of various sorts, but I've never heard anything that made me stop and listen. To my ear Friday and Saturday with Black Market Jazz is something else. (High Tea at the Ritz has a pretty good harp player, and I don't mean harmonica, but this is an option primarily for bridal showers and such. It is my favorite high tea in the city, though).

          In the east bay you'd mention Blake's on Telegraph and the Starry Plough. The Plough often has good local music but has terrible food, and Blake's is a sweaty downstairs college music place with overpriced burgers upstairs. Yuck.

          But --- all Real Musicians (tm) live in the east bay, so "local music" could mean Karla Khilstead or some hotshot youngster from the Mills Electonic Music program or a million other things. For my money, find out when Cato's has music. I saw Duckmandu, the heavy metal accordion trio, there on a sunday afternoon once - highly memorable. The food there is rockridge-fancy burgers and pizza (tasty enough), but the beer menu stands tall indeed..

          Finally, since excelling at music or food is hard enough, I try matching music and food. For example, Tu Lan and the Luggage Store Gallery are perfect together. Anyone else have favorites?

          1. re: bbulkow

            Most of the clubs you mention have pretty miserable food. Yoshi's is a notable exception.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              A poor selection, indeed.

              What I'd really like is some decent late night food near Cafe Van Kleef at Telegraph and 17th in Oakland (late night means after midnight). Say, 0.5 mi radius.

              Peter serves stale costco popcorn drenched in tobasco. It's revoltingly addictive.

              Got any tips? I imagine I could drive all the way up to Koryo, but closer would be nice.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                And Yoshi's is in Oakland, NOT Berkeley. But soon to be also in SF. Amber and sometimes the Phone Booth (depending on if of the owner is working solo) are 2 more smoking lounges. But the OP was looking for food....For truly bad food but sometimes great music, add 12 Galaxies to the above list. Extra Action Marching Band!!!

                1. re: chaddict

                  12 Galaxies actually fell below my cutoff for edible food, although I quite enjoy the music. For 12 Galaxies I always end up at the taqueria across the street which is only tolerable, although I did try a courtyard papusaria a few weeks ago which was also mediocre.

                  And yes, Yoshi's is in Oakland, as is everywhere else 12 blocks from 12th street bart. My mistake.

                  1. re: bbulkow

                    Well, on good nights, one has has the guy on the sidewalk (in front of 12 Galaxies) cooking Tijuana dogs. C'mon! Tijuana dogs, Frank Chu, and The Extra Action Marching Band? Doesn't get much better than that!

                2. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Jardiniere's another notable exception, and they're expanding their bar.

                  300 Grove St., San Francisco, CA 94102

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    But Jardiniere's last night of live music is Saturday night. As I understand it, there will be no more live music after their upcoming renovation. So go quickly - the food is fabulous and the music is top-rate, often with Dana Atherton on piano. Dana's having a going-away party Saturday night to mark the end of 10 years of great food and live music at Jardiniere.


                3. re: bbulkow

                  all I can saw is..... wow. and thanks.
                  Great diversity. Really looking forward to checking these out. I know it's usually tricky to find good food AND music (I hear you Robert....), so thanks for mentioning your food favorites where you did.

                  1. re: bbulkow

                    Brainwash has lousy food- I wouldn't recommend it.

                    The Rite Spot is a great little dive. Their food is totally mediocre- but I"ve never had the chicken parmesan sandwich. The bonus- free music, 7 nights a week. I think its on 17th St.

                    I'm a big fan of Revolution on 22nd. It gets pretty crowded though. They're got a great outdoor seating area, decent food (i would never go here just for the food), good coffee, wine, and beer. They've got some great little local acts.

                  2. bacar used to have jazz every night, but under new management it is Friday through Sunday only, and it has been moved downstairs to the "wine lounge"

                  3. You might check out Atlas Cafe on music night...usually local/bluegrass. It somehow balances both sides for what it is - good cafe food (sandwiches, salads, no table service) and low-key music. Most places it's the music first but somehow it works there and is the right mix.

                    1. Bix could very well be the best restaurant with live music -- a piano with singer usually. Rassella's and Sheba's both on Fillmore are Ethiopian restaurants with live music; the bands change often but Sheba's is always accompanied with the in-house grand piano.