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You just turned 21 (finally!) ; what's hot?

My oldest turned 21. (mind trip for me, too) She's bringing college friends from out-of-state to San Francisco and I would like her to give them a friendly taste of what we consider unique. Of course, she's interested in bars/lounges... where would you let your 21 daughter go? And I'm looking for any hip places that I would be out of place going to, but would be safe for her and her young friends. And, of course, they have student budgets. Thanks in advance.

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    Although I've not been Asia SF sounds fun for the experience. A dinner in North Beach and the late show at Beach Blanket Babylon would be my preference. I'm working on the same birthday for my son in the East Bay. I'm considering Luka's Taproom, Pizzaiola, Montero's for salsa dancing afterwards. Comments and more suggestions?

    4 Replies
    1. re: bunnysitter

      I have to strongly disagree with the recommendations for Asia SF and Beach Blanket Babylon. My food at Asia SF was terrible and the drinks were VERY expensive. The show is entertaining, but not worth the cost. I am in my mid-20's, I found BBB to be agonizingly unfunny, as did every one in my group.

      There are many fun restaurants and bars in North Beach, Russian Hill, and the Marina. All neighborhoods that you would feel safe sending your just-21 daughter and her friends. It's easy to just wander around and go into a bar that is hopping. I recently had a great time at Amelie, a wine bar on Polk that had very good small plates.

      1. re: lamlex

        I'm also in my mid-20's and agree wholeheartedly with Lamlex on trying to organize around neighborhoods that are known for their bar scenes rather than focusing on any particular restaurant.

        Bunnysitter - I'd vote against Montero's for a 21st birthday. IMHO, the food isn't exciting (although their breakfasts are good) and although the place itself is ok for salsa, the few other bars around the area are pretty lame.

        1. re: adrienne156

          I guess my age was revealing (suggestions so uncool) Finnochio's was the 21+ place to go. Even the Tonga Room had it's grown up charm. I've been to BBB a half dozen times and laugh myself silly. Thanks for the insights and my son thanks you too.

          1. re: bunnysitter

            Your suggestions are not "uncool"! Luka's has great food and an acquaintance who dj's there has told me that it can be a total blast.

    2. I would send them to the Mission, a neighborhood with plenty of cheap drinks, good food, live music, and lots of fun events. It is easy to reach via BART, bus or cab. The Latin American Club is a little dive bar that has a raised stage where I've seen lots of people have parties. Lone Palm and Beauty Bar might be fun, too. You could eat first (pretty cheaply) at Pizzeria Delfina or Ti Couz (for crepes).

      Beach Blanket Babylon seems like a bit of an older crowd to me, probably not where I'd want to go for my 21st.

      4 Replies
      1. re: pane

        Strongly second the Mission. That's where I spent my 21st and usually hang out. :o)

        1. re: adrienne156

          Seconding to stay in the Mission district. Dinner at Cha Cha Cha (tapas & great sangria) and then a quick, cheap cab ride to Medjool for drinks and dancing on the rooftop with great views.

          Cha Cha Cha: http://www.yelp.com/biz/QH8WwAYdr3NrH...
          Medjool: http://www.yelp.com/biz/PO0glg0T1KphP...

          1. re: junesix

            Cheap cab ride indeed -- they're practically across the street from each other ... :)

            1. re: junesix

              Yuck. I know some people love Cha Cha Cha, but my experience with the food there was just bad. For tapas there are better (though slightly pricier) options.

        2. Betelnut Peiju-wu is an excellent Chinese beer house in the much safer neighborhood of the Marina. Depending on what type of crowd your daughter runs with, that area might be more to her liking than the Mission District. While the Mission is certainly more affordable on the whole, it is not always the safest place, especially late at night.

          Betelnut's location on Union Street is close to a number of other classy and/or fratty drinking spots.

          2030 Union Street, San Francisco, CA 94123

          1 Reply
          1. re: adrienne156

            If you want to feel like you're at a frat house's after party, the Marina is for you. Otherwise, try the mission.

          2. Mamacita is another Marina spot that, like Betelnut, features great food and drinks in a bustling and fun neighborhood.

            2317 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123

            1. Not trying to be intusive or smart but if she's 21, why not ask her? It's nice you're thinking of her...but on your 21st, did you want your parent's feedback on this? If she needs input, have her ask a friend that's still in SF. That info is going to be way more valuable then old folks and somehow I think the knowledge of the fun stuff will flow.

              If you're worried about safety, make sure she's in a reasonable size group. 4-5 people are safe anywhere they'd probably end up.

              The Mission probably is the place...or the Nob-loin or Tender-nob (area bordering the Tenderloin and Nob Hill). Bambuddha Lounge, Tommy's Joynt, Bob's Donuts, etc.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ML8000

                I came here to say what ML8000 just said. It's been a while since my 21st and I wasn't terribly sophisticated but I clearly remember having it all mapped out on my own.

                That said, if Bourbon and Branch had existed that's probably where I would have gone. Or the Top of the Mark. Someplace distinctly different than any of the dives I'd been drinking in on a fake id for the previous three years.

              2. As a mom of two daughters-one over 21 and the other knocking on the door of the big birthday- I understand your excitement for the big day. My daughter had a game plan set and was off and running without my advice. But,honestly the food was the least thing on her mind-she wanted a bar scene with like age celebrators and fun. Places she had heard about from friends but was not able to get in underage. A few years back these included the Union Street bars-Bar None and the like also a few on Chestnut in the Marina. The bar scene does change as do "hot"spots which your daughter or her friends could probably list if asked. For safety,on 21st birthday think of lots of cab money and/or a rented car with driver. I never worried about which area of the city they were in as long as they or friends didnt drink and drive-luckily we do have good mass transport. One other suggestions, her dad and I wanted to be part of the "big day" after all we were there for the first-so for the sake of memories we met up with her early evening 5:00 PM- and shared her "first" drink at the Top of the Mark. Good luck to your daughter and congratulations.

                6 Replies
                1. re: foodseek

                  My son just turned 21 also. And I have no idea what he did on the "big night" - that was up to him and his buds.
                  But the OP isn't looking for suggestions for the daughter's 21'st BD. She's noting that her daughter is now 21, bringing friends from out of town, and wants to know about all the cool spots that her parents, hopelessly behind the times as they undoubtedly are, don't know about.
                  Being that same category myself, I can't really answer. I have heard good things about Medjool and the roof but that might be more of a summer thing.
                  If the daughter and friends are into theater, they probably would like to go to Beach Blanket Babylon, just for the costumes. That might be something to do with the parents.

                  1. re: 512window

                    Sorry I stand corrected as to her already reaching the magical date but I still believe food would not be the focal point of my daughter going out with friends at that age and she and her friends would know what is "hot" with a little research far more than I would. And the cab/designated driver/muni transportation is still more important to their "safety"than the area they choose, imho.

                    1. re: foodseek

                      It depends on the kid -- my little sister recently turned 21, and she's definitely excited to go to places with good food that also have good cocktails! And honestly, if she's in college out of state, she probably doesn't know what's cool around here, so I think that a parent's research is very nice.

                      1. re: JasmineG

                        Good point especially if the daughter has been away from the area for awhile and no longer has local friends here.Once again I stand corrected. I asked my daughter her take on "hot" spots and she agrees it depends on the 21 year old's likes etc. But she did say if she likes the frat/sorority scene then Union Street area-Bar None with beer pong, Blue Light-pub food and lively sports orientated crowd with pool table,Betelnut for food may interest her. Another area popular with college age group is Russian Hill area-Rouge music dancing and before bar opens home of Nicks Crispy Tacos,Green Sports Bar, Tonic, and of course Chestnut area noted above is very popular also. I asked my daughter if she still goes to these places and she said not really -now she goes to Mission area and Tendernob-mentioned she loves Hidden Vine on Sutter-(cheese plates, wine. Thanks Chowhound for another benefit -priceless mother/daughter bonding. Good for you Leoloveslemons for asking the question in the first place.

                    2. re: 512window

                      Thank you, 512window, you correctly read my post. She's meeting her friends at the Wesfield Center this afternoon since it's a BART stop. They're not tourists; having grown up here they've had all the best fun that under 21s do, but now that they're 21 and they haven't been home they would like a memorable time before heading back to college for graduation and the job market.

                      1. re: Leoloveslemons

                        Hope they had a great time. If you're traveling in a pack, BART seems like a great way to get around the city at night.

                        Maybe we need a support group for parents of the recently legal to drink!