Bellota (photo: Kelly Puleio)

8 legit Bay Area restaurants and bars with live music

By Christina Mueller

San Francisco is known more for its eats than its beats, but the City by the Bay thrums with music. Every night, in every corner of the city, the sounds of jazz and pop, big band and bossa nova swirl through the air, enriching and adding another dimension to the local scene. In this elite list, the drinks and comestibles are as exciting as the music—reason enough to stop by for an hour, or an evening. ‘Tis the season, after all.

Comstock Saloon
Chef Jason Raffin recently updated Comstock’s menu, elevating deviled eggs with nori powder and tuna tartare with unicorn juice (you have to see it to believe it). But it may be the hella cool vibe once the music starts that keeps drawing the crowds here, kicking any evening into high gear. Enjoy the best views of the band from the balcony, where it is absolutely apropos to sip a Cherry Bounce cocktail while swaying to the beat.
Neighborhood: North Beach MAP

Bellota
Local composer Katy Stephan anchors a rotating line-up of local musicians extraordinaire at Bellota. Grab a seat by the ham wall—it’s near Bellota’s lively bar—to hear Stephan, the Aguachile Trio, and others every night of the week. Nibble a croqueta stuffed with clam and sea urchin, one of the many tapas that pay a well-deserved homage to Spain from chef Ryan McIlwraith. You can also savor the flavor of barrel-aged sherry or a tall glass of cider from the Basque region. Both honor their Spanish heritage and pair beautifully with McIlwraith’s renowned paellas.
Neighborhood: Design District/SOMA MAP

Zingari Ristorante (photo: Sasha Zvereva)

Zingari Ristorante
Largely committed to delivering Italian culture with Italian soul food, music plays a large part at Zingari Ristorante, a restaurant whose name translates as “gypsies.” The name was created out of the wishes of their Innkeeper, who wanted to bring quality wine and true Italian soul food from all over Italy. Zingari Ristorante melds nightly performances in the Jazz Room and an open spirit with soulful Italian cuisine. Take in the view while sipping a mezcal-infused Negroni on the restaurant’s rooftop before descending to the street-level restaurant and a dish of osso buco. Made from slow-braised wild boar atop wild mushroom risotto, the dish is the essence of Italy, 100 percent seasonal, and the perfect entrée to complement the smooth sounds.
Neighborhood: Union Square MAP

BIX
The wavy neon sign that draws guests to this hidden enclave along the Barbary Coast is your first sign that things are hopping at BIX. Though 2018 marks the thirtieth year that BIX has devoted to the twin arts of fine jazz and fine food, the cuisine from executive chef Bruce Hill continues to earn raves—try the black truffle cheeseburger or the lobster spaghetti. The wide banquettes and jacketed bartenders indicate a menu of classic cocktails that range from a Boulevardier to a brandy old-fashioned. The music at this warmly lit supper club shifts from jazz trios to solo piano to piano accompanying vocalists, but never strays from jazz—it’s classic for a reason.
Neighborhood: Jackson Square MAP

Black Cat

Black Cat
Jazz moves through the air at Black Cat, subtle and breezy or sonorous and rich. They offer some of the most progressive, forward-thinking and fresh music in the area, regularly featuring international musicians from Israel, Paris, South America, as well as young talent from New York. Brought back to life after a century absent from the scene, Black Cat cradles jazz in all its forms: It wafts from an underground room of exposed brick walls and black, tufted banquettes, soars through the dining room, and saturates the upstairs Lobby bar which features nine cocktails based on nine destinations and times influential in jazz history. No matter where you sit, take it all in with a few Nashville hot chicken sliders or a plate of Vietnam-via-Louisiana Mekong gumbo. Wash it down with a wild-foraged soda or a Chinatown negroni—yup, it’s infused with lapsong souchong tea, for an only in SF kind of experience.
Neighborhood: Tenderloin MAP

B-Side
B-Side, the lounge and restaurant inside of SFJAZZ, is not to be overlooked. Most nights, when musicians are doing their thing in the adjacent concert hall, B-Side keeps it down while serving up hearty fare, including a killer pork chop with broccolini and mashed potatoes and a fried chicken sandwich with celery root slaw that draws in the regulars. But on nights when the hall is dark, B-Side comes alive with music. Stop in anytime for the cocktails—The Early Bird, enlivened with Earl Gray gin and bianco vermouth, and the 9 Wood, spiced with cardamom, vanilla, and coffee are cocktails that need no partner but taste twice as good when the music is kickin’.
Neighborhood: Hayes Valley MAP

Photo: InterContinental Mark Hopkins

Top of the Mark
It does not get any more iconic than the penthouse lounge of the InterContinental Mark Hopkins, Top of the Mark. With 360-degree city views (that’s bridge to bridge, people), a wide dance floor, and live entertainment Wednesday through Saturday nights, Top of the Mark practically dares you not to swing by for a drink, a light bite, and a quick trip around the dance floor. Small plates are global in flavor, with dishes like chicken tikka skewers, muhammara with pita, and salpicón de marisco, but caviar with blinis and Champagne is a must. It perfectly matches the view.
Neighborhood: Nob Hill MAP

Osteria Divino
With live music Tuesday through Sunday evenings, Osteria Divino in downtown Sausalito offers farm-to-table Italian comfort food with a side of fresh beats. Anything goes, from jazz-fusion by the Ken Cook Trio to mid-century vocal arrangements that pay homage to Sinatra, Tormé, and Bennett. Chef Elena Fabbri serves up dishes reminiscent of any Italian osteria, such as seafood soup and fennel with caramelized Parmesan, and has a dedicated following for her house-made almond cake and tiramisu. It all blends beautifully with a glass of Tuscan cult favorite Soffocone di Vincigliata.
Neighborhood: Sausalito (Marin) MAP

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