7 Bay Area spots where both the food and the show are first-rate

By Maryse Chevriere

Not to throw shade—we’re sure your dining companions are lovely—but sometimes you’re looking for a great place to eat where there’s more than just stimulating conversation to keep you entertained. And in a city that offers so much and at such a high level, it’s only natural to be a little greedy: You want both your dinner and your show—dancing, live music, comedy—to be worthy of the spotlight, instead of one greatly outshining the other. To help you get your wish, here are seven favorite spots around town where you’ll be applauding as much for the performance of the chef as for the act.

New Mission Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas
Reopened just this past December after a years-long, $10 million refurbishment, this SF outpost of the Texas-based chain is offering folks an all-in-one approach to the “dinner and a movie” experience. Forgo the popcorn and candy and instead choose from a wide array of creative food options that are not only tasty but easy to eat with your hands (read: relatively quietly) in the dark. Developed by chef Ronnie New—formerly of Comstock Saloon and Magnolia Pub—the menu delivers everything from snacky items like chips and queso, salted shishito peppers, and fried pickles, to sandwiches, pizzas, and entrées such as Nashville hot chicken sandwich and lamb meatball pizza. And everything, including beer or one of the cocktails created by Tosca alum Isaac Shumway, is brought right to your big comfy seat while you enjoy the movie.

Starline Social Club
One need only scroll through the packed calendar of events to understand why this revamped historic venue has become a hotspot for dining, drinking, and eclectic amusement. Housed in a circa-1893 building, the 400 person-capacity, multi-use space has been open for nearly a year now, hosting everything from live music and performance art to workshops and chef pop-ups. If you can’t wait until Thursday and want to throwback your Tuesday, check out the weekly “Swing Dance Tuesday,” which offers various levels of lessons as well as a social dance. And on the ground floor is a casual-vibe restaurant and bar Holey, so you can indulge in a pre-Lindy Hop cocktail and seriously good bites like flautas ahogadas, frito misto, and lamb kebabs.

Doc’s Lab
This North Beach subterranean lounge, located in the one-time home to the legendary venue The Purple Onion (where acts like Robin Williams, Zach Galifianakis, and Phyllis Diller graced the stage), has reclaimed its roots as a destination for live music, comedy, and literary events. Enjoy dinner before the show upstairs at their sister restaurant Doc Ricketts for inspired, satisfying North Cali cuisine from chef Justin Deering, or pick from a pared-down—but by no means unsatisfying—menu downstairs, with plates like oysters on the half shell, fried Brussels sprouts, and pork tacos.

Bissap Baobab
In the 20 years since opening its doors, Bissap Baobab has become a Mission institution, known Bay-wide both for its delicious Senegalese and West African cuisine and an ever-changing lineup of performers and DJs that deliver get-you-on-the-dance-floor African beats. In addition to live music you can also check the calendar for dance performances, live spoken word and poetry gatherings, and art exhibitions.

Biscuits & Blues
What better to ease the emotional sting of stirring, soulful blues music than hug-you-from-the-inside Southern comfort classics, with a side of hot biscuits? You might think of it as the culinary yin to the musical yang. At least the folks behind this subterranean Bay Area institution do, and they’ve been delivering both in perfect harmony since 1995. The joint is only open on nights when they are hosting performances (usually Tuesday through Sunday), so be sure to check the calendar of events before heading over.

Sheba Piano Bar
Count on this beloved Fillmore District spot to deliver something different than the stereotypical pinkies-out Martini scene that folks tend to expect from a piano bar. Patrons of this intimate space are invited to feast on a menu of mouthwatering, spice-driven Ethiopian fare—the sambussas are a must, as is the mesir wat—while digging the nightly live music, ranging from jazz to rhythm and blues to “Latin breeze” to the Saturday Night “Rod Stewart Experience.”

Peña Pachamama
Located in the space of a infamous former North Beach speakeasy, this lively spot checks a lot of different boxes, making it rather unique, even by San Francisco standards. The vibe is South American Carnaval flair, with live performances five nights a week—think Cuban pianists, ballet flamenco, and assorted world music and dance—and a menu of praiseworthy vegan and gluten-free Bolivian fare.

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