Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Nightlife Besties


Bestie winners at The Edge: Jason Brock (Best Male Cabaret Singer), Art Desuyo (Best HIV/AIDS Nonprofit, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation: Best LGBT Fundraiser, LifeCycle Ride), Frank Marx (Best Choral Group winner San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus), Alex U. Inn (Best Drag King), Parker Trewin (LifeCycle), Erick Lopez (Best Bartender) and MC2/Michael Chu (Best Male DJ). photo: Gareth Gooch
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As your nightlife doctors, we have good news to report: the health of our bars is robust. Sometimes a little randy and perhaps a little tipsy at times, but that's to be expected. This year's array of Bestie winners show that sometimes the new kids on the block (like Oasis and the re-introduced Eagle) can show the long-timers how to have a good time. It's good to see such a wide selection of options.


Oasis sweeps:

Best Bar/Nightclub to Meet Transgender People

Best Cabaret Venue

Best Dance Floor

Best Drag Show and Best Weekly Nightlife Event : Mother

Best SoMa Bar/Nightclub


Runners up

Best Nightclub to Meet Transgender People: Aunt Charlie's Lounge

Best Cabaret Venue: Martuni's

Best Dance Floor: DNA Lounge

Best Weekly Nightlife Event: Beer Bust at SF Eagle

Best SoMa Bar/Nightclub: SF Eagle


Oasis is still on a roll, and we aren't talking sushi. Heklina, D'Arcy Drollinger and crew have put together a club that is the go-to place in town, whether it's for a concert, live theater or just a night on the town. San Francisco doesn't need a Godfather when it has its drag mothers. Should you have any wonder why it is so popular, just look at the list of categories it has swept in this year's Besties.

The year has seen the wildy frenetic variety that is Oasis, including the success of their second Star Trek adaptation playing to sold out crowds, a return to the Bay Area for Justin Vivian Bond, the humor of Justin Sayre's The Meeting and benefits like Cirque de L'Arc. Few places brings the excitement like Oasis does. Keep in mind that it's only been open for three years and the fun seems to keep escalating every year.

Bestie winner Heklina (left) with Oasis co-owner D'Arcy Drollinger, opens another fun night of Mother at the multi-Bestie-winning nightclub. photo Gareth Gooch

With its wildly varied (and always entertaining) calendar, Oasis has redefined what a cabaret venue is for San Francisco. After all of that entertainment is over there, dance your ass off on our readers pick for the best dance floor in town.

As for Mother; it's hard to know how Oasis manages to continue on its creative streak -which has been going since before the event had this name- but they do.

B.A.R. readers know a class act when they see one – and this class act continues to entertain. Well done, Oasis.



Bestie-winning gogo guy Michael Tempesta (left) at the Bestie-winning event Pound Puppy @ (you guessed it) Bestie-winning bar SF Eagle. photo: FBFE

Best Bar/Nightclub to Meet Men: SF Eagle

Runner up: 440 Castro

Best Game Night - Gaymer Night at SF Eagle

Runner up: Miss Kitty's Trivia Night at Wild Side West

Best Theme Night: Pound Puppy at the SF Eagle

Runner up: Cubcake at The Lone Star Saloon


For the third year in a row, the San Francisco Eagle has earned the coveted title of Best Bar/Nightclub to Meet Men and there is no doubt why: they know how to put together nights you remember all year. The sheer variety of events there mean that you are likely to find your tribe meeting there on any given week. Looking to share live music with like minded men? Thursday Night Live is for you.

Want to spend the night with men you've met gaming online? Gaymer Night is ready to fill your needs with projection screens and big TVs. And we're not only talking video games for Gaymer Night – they're the place for board games too.

Who doesn't like a good dog – or for that matter who doesn't like to punish a bad dog? Take your pick, you've got a number of places to bury a bone at Pound Puppy.

SF Eagle is a nightly reminder that our community is still here - and loud, proud and fun. With movie nights, open mic comedy on Wednesday, special music nights like Glory Soul that celebrate classic soul and R&B, and events like Frolic for the furry fan and specialty nights for fans of boots and gear like BLUF SF the Eagle is the place to be.

Add the weekly bacchanal of the Sunday beer bust and there should be no question. In addition, the renovation's now much more accesible to disabled patrons. The people have spoken, and this is the best bar in town to meet men.



El Rio loves women!

Best Bar/Nightclub to Meet Women & Best Neighborhood Bar: El Rio

Runner up Best Bar to Meet Women: The White Horse Bar, Oakland

Runner up Best Neighborhood Bar: Twin Peaks


Best Women's Event: Mango at El Rio

Runner up: Pussy Party at Beaux


Is it any wonder that El Rio, a club that has a Ping Pong night for Planned Parenthood, is the best club to meet women in the Bay Area? Fun and engaged are two words that describe this home away from home for so many. El Rio keeps a homey ambiance while it sometimes feels like the whole neighborhood is undergoing construction.

Mango is one of the women's events that happen at the bar – with drink specials, free BBQ and dancehall, hip-hop and latin grooves. It's every fourth Saturday of the month and New Year's Eve.

With Daytime Realness every third Sunday with Heklina (because she needs something to do in her spare time), free oysters on the half-shell on Fridays, and queer events like Gayface (every Thursday night), is it any wonder they are the Best Neighborhood Bar? Like they've said for years; it's your dive, and a neighborhood bar with a heck of a lot to offer.



The Pilsner's back patio

Best Beer Selection: Pilsner Inn

Runner up: SF Eagle

Like an old friend who always has a suggestion for just the right brew, the Pilsner has been there since 1980, and they have only gotten better with age. With 30 beers on tap, how can you not find the right amber ale or stout? Pilsner was there at the beginning of the microbrew revolution which swept the country; what they learned early on shows in their beer selection.

Current beers on tap include Black House Modern Times (an oatmeal stout), Electric Peel Grapefuit IPA, #9 Magic Hat and beers from Goose Island and Fieldwork. If you aren't in a beer mood, they have Golden State dry cider, and, of course, a full bar.

With such a broad selection you're sure to find something to your liking – and then you can settle into a game of pool at the busy pool table or relax on the outdoor patio.


Best Castro Bar/Nightclub: The Edge

Runner up: 440 Castro

The competition for best bar in the Castro is fierce and this year The Edge comes out on top over 440 Castro, reversing last year's line up. With specialty nights like Musical Mondays, Dirty Musical Sundays and Musical Wednesdays (can't have too many musicals, after all), Throwback Thursdays and The Monster Show, The Edge goes the extra mile to show their patrons a good time. If you're looking for life in the Castro, look no further than the Edge.


The White Horse Bar

Best East Bay Bar: White Horse Bar

Runner up: Port Bar

The White Horse has been at it since the days of the Beats, and they obviously know what they're doing. A perennial favorite in the Besties as the Best East Bay Bar, is it any wonder? With hot DJs like Luna, events like Dark Room's Siouxsie night, and both drag queen events like Showgirl Sundays and drag king events with the Rebel Kings, the White Horse has become that rare kind of institution which is still fun and never boring.

Should you want a cozy afternoon, you can sit with friends by the fireplace. The good news this year is that they have a runner up with the new Port Bar. There is a new life and energy in the East Bay.


Katya Smirnoff-Skyy,
a frequent performer at Martuni's

Best Mixed Drink: Martuni's

Runners up: Blackbird, Twin Peaks

Martuni's has something of a name for itself as a place where people engage their inner literary and/or performance genius. I've sat through many of a cabaret show and reading event there, and the audience is always lively. Do you think it could be because of those mixed drinks?

Martuni's has swept this category for three years running and it's no surprise. Whether it's the Lemon Drop or the wide variety of martinis (both classic and flavored) there is sure to be something here which will wet your whistle and loosen your lips. Long may they pour.


sportsing at Hi Tops
photo: Georg Lester

Best Sports Bar: Hi Tops

Runner up: Lookout

Whether you're trying to recover from your latest cardio workout or your trainer kicking your butt, this is the place to be, and it has been since it opened. If you don't know a free weight from a cheap date, fun events like their trivia nights will keep you entertained. Whether it be special events like the recent Tito's Handmade Vodka night, or just sitting down and watching a game on the many screens available, Hi Tops is our readers' pick for the best sports bar. Cheer for the Giants, or tip a shirtless waiter on Gym Class Thursdays. Why not stop by and enjoy the mixed crowd that patronizes this always busy bar while enjoying a pork chop on a stick?


Bartenders at Blackbird
photo: Steven Underhill

Best Stray (Straight/Gay) Bar: Blackbird

Runner up: The EndUp

Looking for the perfect place to bring a mixed crowd in the Castro? Looking for a charming bar that changes up its cocktails on a seasonal basis so that you don't get bored? Want a place to play pool with friends while enjoying an artisan cocktail? San Francisco has just such a bar. Blackbird has been the winner of this category for several years now and it's easy to see why. It's a place which actually takes the time to craft both its cocktails and its environment.


Blush Wine Bar

Best Wine Bar: Blush

Runner up: Swirl

In the midst of the Castro, Blush provides a space for you to enjoy wine, food and conversation. They say they're inspired by the greatest wine bars of Europe, and it shows. With bubbles, whites, reds and blushes from four continents, there's always a spectacular selection. With a menu that includes small plates, warm sandwiches, salads and desserts, it's a great place to enjoy a quiet intimate evening with good wine and good food. Top it off with events like gypsy jazz and a happy hour until 6pm, and it's near perfection.


Hella Gay Comedy host Charlie Ballard

Bestie-winning Events

Best Comedy Night: Hella Gay Comedy

Runner up: Comedy Returns at El Rio

It's always a good sign when you're reading the description for a comedy event and the description makes you laugh out loud. So when I read, "the San Francisco stand up comedy scene is riddled with straight dude comics and that's great, if you're into mediocre cis dudes." Currently the show finds its home at Club OMG, which hosts Women & Queers Comedy Open Mic on Fridays.


Best (non-contest) Leather Event at a Bar: Code at The Edge

Runner up: Lick It at the Powerhouse

Created by two-time Bestie-winning bartender Erick Lopez, Code is the popular monthly leather event with clothes check (so you can change into your leather gear), DJ Sean McMahon and some hot furry gogo studs. No wonder it's popular with our readers. It's an event with a purpose: to bring leather back to the Castro.


DJ Bus Station's Disco Daddy

Best Monthly Nightlife Event: Disco Daddy at SF Eagle

Runner up: Polyglamorous (Oasis)

DJ Bus Station John is a local treasure with an encyclopedic knowledge of soul, funk and R&B from the '60s, '70s, '80s and beyond. He is the favorite of not only our readers: Time Out (United States) selected both his events at The Eagle and Aunt Charlie's as being among the top classic disco parties in the country. Come for the amazing music and stay for the amazing crowd. If you like disco, this is where your tribe resides.


Best Nightlife Event (non-weekly/non-monthly): Hard French at El Rio

Runners up: Bearracuda, Daytime Realness

Hard French is in its seventh year as a Sunday tea dance at El Rio, which draws a friendly lively crowd, who enjoy burgers and grooves spun by DJs Brown Amy & Carnita, plus frequent special guests. But make sure to attend one of their events soon – Hard French crew is hosting finale parties through spring.


Red Hots Burlesque

Best Stage Show in a Bar/Nightclub: Red Hots Burlesque at The Stud

Above and Beyond the Valley of the Ultra Showgirls and Star Trek Live, both at Oasis, tied for runner up.

The performers of Red Hots Burlesque have been bumping and grinding for more than ten years, and the popular event has become a favorite of our readers for their Friday night performances at The Stud. The diverse troupe includes drag, comedy, striptease, sideshow and circus performances and includes changing lineup of international performers as well. No matter how many time you see them, the act is always fresh and imaginative. It's sexy and lively and it's no wonder it has found a place in our reader's hearts.


Best Unusual Event: Nightlife at the California Academy of Sciences

Runner up: Nightlife at the de Young

When did you last have a cocktail with an albino alligator? With themed nights like the upcoming collectibles night and another celebrating cosmo-pioneer Yuri Gagarin, if you're looking for something entertaining, intellectually simulating and the place to look for a nerdy gal pal or boyfriend, this is the place. With trivia contests, dive shows and specialty events, the world and its history is yours to explore.


Mr. David for Juanita More! 24 Years of More

Editor's Choice: Most Absolutely Glam Event: Mr. David for Juanita More! 24 Years of More

Two hundred gowns, one designer, one drag muse, and dozens of nightlife and arts creme de la creme models merged at the de Young Museum last May for the most stunning event of the year. Mr. David the designer, aka Glamamore the performer, selected his best couture creations, inspired and originally worn by Juanita More! A glamorous bevy of performers, artists in drag, design and erotica sashayed in a stunning cascade of fashion fabulousness.


The Stud Collective

Editor's Choice: Best Reboot: The Stud

Gay bars come and go, as we all know. So when the future of our former neighbors The Stud was on the line, community nightlife folk gathered together to Save Our Stud, and bring new life and interest in what is now the only collective-run tavern. With new events, the veteran venue has a few more years at its current location on 9th Street at Harrison. Get on down for a cocktail or three, a drag show, or a pole-dancing variety night.

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