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An Insider’s Guide to San Francisco Restaurants and Nightspots

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Attending an Annual Meeting is never just about the daytime program. You have to eat, for one thing, and evenings can be filled with an array of receptions and other events. If you have an evening free or need a good bite or buzz near the convention center, here’s where to go for food, drink and entertainment in San Francisco -- complete with a video peek at our favorites.

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Happy Hours
There is probably some kind of special at most bars around the Moscone Center, but we like the ones with free food. Two worth checking out:

  • Maya, 303 2nd St., just south of Folsom. Yelp average: 3.5 stars. Roughly a half-mile walk east from Joint Meeting Central, this Mexican restaurant’s happy hour features complimentary appetizers from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. (at the bar) and drink specials such as $5 margaritas and sangria.
  • Heavens Dog, 1148 Mission St., between 7th and 8th inside the SOMA Grand. Yelp average: 3.5 stars. If you want free food in the wee hours, this restaurant (known for both its dumplings and its cocktails, one of which was a 7x7 magazine “Best of” winner for 2009) has free dim sum at 11:30 p.m. Roughly a 15-minute walk of the Moscone Center (.8 miles).


  • Food Court at Westfield Mall, southeast corner of Market and 5th St. Yelp average: 4 stars. If you want something good, cheap and close, the food court at the Westfield Mall is your option. Open till 9 p.m. every night except Sunday (closes at 7 p.m.), it’s got something for almost every palate, available for eat-in (at the cafeteria-style seating) or take-away.
  • Eddie Rickenbackers, 133 2nd St at Minna (between Mission and Howard). Yelp average: 3 stars. If you’re looking for a cheap burger and beer not far from the meeting, this divey but well-lit bar — featuring an eclectic décor of funky chandeliers and stained-glass lamps, hanging motorcycles and an elderly cat — is a good bet. It’s less than a 10-minute walk from Moscone (roughly a third of a mile northeast), so save the cab fare for a second round.
  • Oola, 860 Folsom, between 4th and 5th on the north side. Yelp average: 3.5 stars. If you’ve got a craving for comfort food and you like your cocktails stiff, you won’t want to miss the Old Fashioneds or goat cheddar mac-n-cheese ($7) at this swank New American bar/restaurant practically in the Moscone’s backyard. Most entrees are close to $20, but their burger’s a reasonable $12. The downside of Oola’s intimate vibe is that tables fill up fast, so call in advance for a reservation or to check availability (415.995.2061).
  • Farmer Brown, 25 Mason St. at Market. Yelp average: 3.5 stars. A good example of the healthy foodie spin San Francisco restaurants put on most cuisine, Farmer Brown serves up soul food classics like fried chicken, po’ boys and grits, while the beer comes in pint jars probably bought up before the recent resurgence of canning. Though it’s big enough to handle groups, reservations are recommended (either online or by phone 415.409.FARM). While it’s less than a mile northwest of Moscone, it sits on the edge of the infamous Tenderloin, so you might want to take a cab there, especially in the later hours.


  • Johnny Foley’s Irish House, 243 O’Farrell St., between Cyril Magnin and Powell. Yelp average: 3.5 stars. Overpriced but nice, this Irish pub near the Union Square shopping district is roughly a half-mile walk northwest of Moscone. A good choice for groups willing to pay a bit extra for ambiance.
  • Vesuvio, 255 Columbus Ave. Yelp average: 4 stars. An artist haven on the edge of San Francisco’s famed North Beach neighborhood, this bar is nestled between Jack Kerouac Alley and City Lights bookstore. At just over a mile north from Moscone, you’ll probably want to cab it there.
  • Bourbon and Branch, 501 Jones St., on the northwest corner of Jones and O’Farrell. Yelp average: 4 stars. The exterior is so modest you could easily walk right past it, but that’s the point with this exclusive speakeasy, known for vintage cocktails and ingredients. A drink will run you close to $13 before tip, but most tables get a round of the evening’s complimentary samples, served up in shot glasses. Reservations strongly recommended (online or by phone 415.346.1735), as is a cab ride there (it’s nearly a mile northwest of Moscone and on the edge of the Tenderloin, one of the city’s rougher neighborhoods after dark).
  • Lefty O’Douls, 333 Geary St., just west of Powell. Yelp average: 3.5 stars. A sports bar on the edge of Union Square, it’s got the best drink deals for your money. At roughly a half-mile walk from Moscone, it’s close enough for a post-meeting happy hour.
  • Annie’s Social Club, 917 Folsom St., just west of 5th St. Yelp average: 4 stars. If you like your bars with a punk-rock karaoke vibe, check out Annie’s Social Club, less than a half mile west of Moscone. Bring your vocal chords and cash, though, as Annie’s doesn’t accept plastic … or weak excuses for not singing when it’s your turn.


  • Vessel, 85 Compton Pl., just off Stockton, between Post and Sutter. Yelp average: 3 stars. This luxurious, urbane lounge is nestled on the small alley of Compton Place, just off of Union Square. There is never a cover and the club offers gourmet food and drinks. Located directly across the street from the Hyatt in Union Square and roughly half a mile northwest of Moscone.
  • Ruby Skye, 420 Mason St., between Geary and Post. Yelp average: 3 stars. In the heart of San Francisco’s theatre district lies the exclusive “seen and be seen” Ruby Skye. The property once housed the historic Stagecoach theatre and has maintained beautiful stained glass portraits that give it that old-school feel. Just under a mile from Moscone and one block west of Union Square.
  • Harry Denton’s Starlight Room, 460 Powell St., between Post and Sutter. Yelp average: 3 stars. Harry’s will set you back a few, but you’re paying for the spectacular views (hence the name) — the sweeping city panorama seen from the top of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. It’s also less than a mile’s walk from Moscone, with a bit of a hill near the end.


  • Thirsty Bear, 747 Howard St., just east of 3rd St. Yelp average: 3 stars. One of the city’s only organic breweries, Thirsty Bear has a Spanish-themed menu and is known for its tapas. On Sunday nights, they also have Flamenco performances. Roughly a block from Moscone, Thirsty Bear offers specials for convention attendees (sign up for their e-mail list to learn more).
  • The Saloon, 1232 Grant Ave., at the edge of North Beach, across from Caffe Trieste. Yelp average: 4 stars. If blues are your thing and you like your drinks cheap and stiff, you won’t want to miss the Saloon, which also holds the distinction of being the oldest bar in the city (it outlived even the 1906 earthquake) and is one of the 10 oldest in the country. The blues are live every night about 8 p.m., except Fridays when they start in the late afternoon. A G&T will cost you about $4, tip included, which leaves you plenty for the cab ride there (it’s just over a mile from Moscone).
  • Biscuits and Blues, 401 Mason St., between Derby and Geary. Yelp average: 3.5 stars. Unlike The Saloon, Biscuits and Blues is more of a dinner club with live blues every night (for the jazz equivalent, with sushi instead of soul food, check out Yoshi’s). A good option if you want to sit and eat while you listen, it’s just under a mile from Moscone if you decide to walk dinner off afterward.
  • Yoshi’s, 1330 Fillmore St., just north of Eddy. Yelp average: 3.5 stars. If you like jazz enough to splurge on a show, make time and save for a ticket at Yoshi’s, the new sister club to the original Yoshi’s in Oakland. During the meeting, the SF club will have sets by David Sanborn, the Brubeck Brothers Quarter (yes, their dad is the famed “Take Five” performer) and a CD release for the Marcus Roberts Trio. Most shows cost $30-$40 and it’s two miles west of Moscone, so be prepared for a most costly evening if you do go.

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About the authors: Neeshah K. Azam is the program coordinator for the YO Committee. A native of San Francisco, she enjoys organic brews from Thirsty Bear and dances them off at Vessel. Christi A. Foist is the managing editor for YO Info and the Web and member communications editor for the Academy’s Web site. She’s a big fan of jazz and the blues, so her picks for the best soundtrack and ambiance are Bourbon and Branch and The Saloon.