San Francisco - Around Town : Southern Neighborhoods (part 2) - Shops, Nightclubs

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A Walk Around the Castro District

Begin at the city’s gay mecca, the Church Street Muni Station on Upper Market. Decades ago, this corner developed a gay identity as the beginning point of the Castro neighborhood, but it is on the next block, between Sanchez and Noe, that the gay shops and venues really begin to proliferate. The Café Flore stands out as one of the premier gay hotspots for a drink, a meal, or just a gaze at the constant flow of fascinating clientele. Towards the corner of Castro is The Cafe at 2367 Market, offering a range of strong drinks accompanied by top 40 mixes to a trendy gay crowd.

Continuing on to Castro Street, take in Harvey Milk Plaza, with its huge rainbow flag, named after the slain gay leader. On the opposite corner, check out Twin Peaks at 401 Castro, the oldest totally “out” gay bar, notable for its picture windows affording a full view of goings on, both inside and on the street.

Pushing on to No. 429, allow the Castro Theater to capture your attention, one of the city’s most ornate cinema palaces, home to innumerable premieres of gay-themed films. Farther along at No. 489, A Different Light Bookstore offers virtually every gay-themed book, magazine, and newspaper in the world.

Finally, just up 18th Street at No. 4121 is Badlands , a cruisy pickup scene that packs them in, especially after 10pm.


  1. Ed Hardy San Francisco

    Without a doubt the premier antiques shop in town, featuring beautiful 18th- to 19th-century European masterworks, and Oriental pieces from as early as the Shang Dynasty (1500 BC).

    • 188 Henry Adams St

    • 415 626 6300

  2. Jeremy’s

    A fabulous discount clothing boutique for men’s and women’s fashions, including Prada, Gucci, Armani, Ralph Lauren, DKNY, and more – all at reduced prices.

    • 2 South Park

    • 415 882 4929

  3. A Different Light Bookstore

    Probably the world’s most complete gay and lesbian bookstore, from art and photography books to periodicals.

    • 489 Castro St

    • 415 431 0891

  4. Brand X Antiques

    The gay couple who own this shop have a discerning and humorous eye. In addition to baubles and furniture, the collection also features tongue-in-cheek vintage homoerotica.

    • 570 Castro St

    • 415 626 8908

    Brand X Antiques
  5. Tibet Shop

    In business for at least 40 years, it features a wide selection of merchandise from Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan – clothing, jewelry, artifacts, art – at very reasonable prices.

    • 4100 19th St at Castro

    • 415 982 0326

    Tibet Shop
  6. Astrid’s Rabat Shoes

    If walking the steep city streets is challenging your footwear, this Noe Valley shop can fit you with a new pair of sturdy, stylish walking shoes.

    • 3909 24th St

    • 415 282 7400

  7. Otsu

    A boutique dedicated to providing high quality vegan products, such as shoes, belts, and bags, as well as books and paper products.

    • 3253 16th St

    • 415 255 7900

    • 866 HEYOTSU

  8. Encantada Gallery

    New shops open on lively Valencia Street almost monthly. This one specializes in Mexican folk art – Talavera pottery, textiles, religious icons, paper goods, and woodcarvings.

    • 904–8 Valencia St

    • 415 642 3939

  9. Botanica Yoruba

    The Santeria religion is the faith of many Latinos, and this shop caters to their ritualistic and spiritual needs. An array of potions and powders, candles and icons .

    • 998 Valencia St

    • 415 826 4967

  10. Skechers

    This vast store is a prime example of the discount emporiums up and down the Mission. If it’s trendy running or walking shoes you’re after, this is the place to find them.

    • 2600 Mission St

    • 415 401 6211


  1. Café du Nord

    Located in the landmark Swedish-American building, this subterranean nightclub is one of the city’s smartest. It also hosts local and national bands.

    • 2170 Market St

    • 415 861 5016

  2. Make-Out Room

    Cool live music provided by local up-and-comers and DJ nights make this a Mission favorite. The decor is original, the drinks are cheap, and the staff is appropriately witty.

    • 3225 22nd St at Mission

    • 415 647 2888

  3. The Café

    Something – and somebody – for everybody here at this camp, cruisy Castro old-timer that attracts gays, lesbians, and straights in equal doses. The outdoor balcony is great for people-watching.

    • 2367 Market St at Castro

    • 415 861 3846

  4. AsiaSF

    Brazen Asian drag queens are your waitresses, who also perform bar-top numbers. The tropical cocktails glow in the dark. DJs and dancing downstairs.

    • 201 9th St at Howard

    • 415 255 2742

  5. The Endup

    Formerly exclusively gay, as famously featured in Tales of the City , this classic is now thoroughly mixed, featuring house music, and an all-day Sunday “T” Dance.

    • 401 6th St at Harrison

    • 415 357 0827

  6. The Stud Bar

    Around for over 35 years, this formerly exclusive enclave of maleness is now popular with anybody who likes a rollicking lusty time. Theme nights include Trannyshack, a fabulous drag cabaret show.

    • 399 9th St at Harrison

    • 415 863 6623

  7. 111 Minna Gallery

    Art gallery by day and rave scene by night. Devotees call this the coolest place in town, with top DJs who mix everything from garage to world beat.

    • 111 Minna St between New Montgomery & 2nd

    • 415 462 0505

  8. El Rio

    Different dance events every night of the week draw a diverse crowd ready to work their thing – Friday World Beat and Sunday Salsa Showcase are huge.

    • 3158 Mission St

    • 415 974 1719

  9. Elbo Room

    This two-story bar combines dancing, live entertainment, and pool tables. A great mix of people come together here for the welcoming atmosphere and a great time.

    • 647 Valencia St

    • 415 552 7788

  10. Ten 15 Folsom

    Perhaps the definitive SoMa club, with three levels of trance and techno spun by big-name DJs, complete with million-dollar light shows .

    • 1015 Folsom St at 6th

    • 415 431 1200

    Ten 15 Folsom
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