As a historic bastion of counter culture, San Francisco has a real draw for free-thinking and creative minds. Theater companies here are applauded for their risk taking, the city is home to many trend setting bands (San Francisco Sound is just one example) and street art flourishes on city walls. Whether you sit at a lovely patio sipping beer in the sun, check out an indie concert on a tiny stage, visit an independent theater in a former chapel, or venture into Oakland to see a film in a cinema that will make you feel right at home, our selection of five favorites from Indie Guides San Francisco is sure to make you fall in love with the Bay!
Thee Parkside: Thee punk venue in SF
Thee Parkside is a large, gritty bar with a big backyard lined with wooden picnic tables, lots of late-night food (including many vegetarian options) and music almost every night of the week. It tends toward punk, but also hosts indie, metal, and even country bands on its small stage. And if you prefer the boozy aspect of brunch, they host one every Sunday starting at 11am.
1600 17th St. (Potrero Hill), CA 94107 San Francisco, CA 94107
Open Monday through Saturday from 12pm to 10pm and Sunday from 11am to 10pm
The New Parkway Theater: Cozy independent cinema
More than just a cinema, The New Parkway Theater prides itself on building community. With its comfy couches, low prices, local beer and wine, and tasty comfort food, this is a favorite place to catch a movie with friends. The New Parkway boasts over 40 screenings of 10-15 different movies per week, with a tendency toward indie films and cult classic revivals.
To top it all off, the theater strives to be an ethical and sustainable business that values people over profit. They treat their employees fairly, encourage people of all walks of life to intermingle by offering a diverse range of films in a welcoming environment, and invest in the community by serving locally sourced food and drink. Grab a beer and a friend, and enjoy the film!
474 24th St (Downtown Oakland), CA 94612 Oakland
Opening hours: see their program
El Rio: Sprawling patio bar with live music and food stand
El Rio started in 1978 as a Leather Brazilian Gay Bar called Our Papa’s. While still beholden to the LGBT community, it has expanded into a sprawling dive bar with a lush outdoor patio/garden, shuffle board table, DJs spinning every night, and live music most nights – either on the outdoor stage, or in the sweaty indoor black box space. There is often a stand selling locally made food on the patio, as well! Check out the calendar to see what events are coming up. In addition to hosting local and traveling bands, you’re likely to find movie nights, dance parties, and poetry readings on the schedule. El Rio’s motto is: Be Kind, Be Fabulous, Adopt a Rescue, Be Generous, Be Lovely and Feel Loved!!!
3158 Mission St. (Outer Mission), CA 94110 San Francisco
Open Monday through Saturday from 1pm to 2am
Missouri Lounge: Quirky patio bar with makeshift dancefloor
When all the lights are off in the quiet, flowery college town of Berkeley, you’ll still find the patio at Missouri Lounge packed with revelers. Open every day until 2am, this is a great place to end your evening dancing to soul and funk amid torn armchairs from the 70’s, fringe-trimmed lamps, and strange pastoral paintings that look like they might have come from someone’s grandma’s house. You’ll always find a ragtag crowd here, ranging from college kids to young professionals to old townies.
On warm nights (and let’s face it, Berkeley weather is almost always perfect), take your beer out on the patio and order a late night snack. Since it’s usually crowded, you’re likely to end up sharing a picnic table with some strangers, so don’t forget to wear a smile and strike up a conversation with your neighbor!
2600 San Pablo Ave (Southwest Berkeley), CA 94702 Berkeley
Open Monday through Sunday from 12pm to 2am
Lost Church: Indie art salon with an eclectic program
The Lost Church is an independent theatre housed in a former chapel. It was renovated in 1979 by local sculptor David Ireland and just finished another remodel in early 2015. Intimacy is the operative word in any description of this space. Count on heartfelt shows from artists in residency or otherwise. TLC puts on plays and produces content for films, but they also open their space up to local bands a few times per month.
65 Capp St. (Mission District), CA 94103 San Francisco
Opening hours: see their program
Discover more alternative and cultural spots in San Francisco with our city guide Indie Guides San Francisco.
Photos: courtesy of the places mentionned