San Francisco has been a roaring destination for live music since the Barbary Coast took hold in the second half of the 19th century. Dance halls, jazz clubs, and cafes stuffed with singers, drummers, and horn players riddled the city up and down and left and right. In 2023, there are historic venues keeping that legacy alive including the reopened but legendary Dawn Club on Annie Street and Eddy Street’s Black Cat. It’s San Francisco, after all, so some of the venues lean toward the eclectic, such as Royal Cuckoo’s recurring organ shows. To get a true taste of what earned San Francisco its nickname as Baghdad by the Bay, to experience a bit of the Bohemian side of the city, head to any of these restaurants and bars.Read More
11 First-Rate Restaurants and Bars for Live Jazz in San Francisco
The best places to listen to live jazz any night of the week
Pier 23 Cafe
With a back patio overlooking the bay and an unpretentious menu of hamburgers, fried calamari, draft beer, and stiff drinks, there are plenty of reasons to pay this no-frills restaurant a visit. But the best reason of all may be to catch its live music line-up of cheerful, brassy medleys around sundown. Events are back, but it’s worth checking the calendar in advance as the restaurant is at “most nights” for live music these days.
Keys Jazz Bistro
Simon Rowe and Matt Mullenweg, a San Francisco Conservatory of Music alum and a WordPress cofounder, are bringing jazz back to North Beach. With the talent and the financial muscle to do it, this restaurant and club has 4,000 square feet of live jazz Wednesday through Saturday at both 7 and 9 p.m. Book tickets in advance, though walking in when the space opens at 5 p.m. for a bite to eat is welcome — and any extra tickets are available at the door.
A time-tested North Beach favorite, this bawdy cocktail haven isn’t always as revered for its live music as it should be. The lineup rotates, and there are no ticketed shows, but most nights of the week from 8 to 11 p.m. acts like the Hal Bigler band or Hipsteria take to the upstairs stage to serenade guests below.
Leave the modern world behind and enter into the Mad Man-era by way of a cramped alley leading up to Bix’s front door. This dimly-lit supper club doles out foie gras and caviar alongside a classic cocktail list of negronis and perfect Manhattans, all while the tunes of classic jazz pianists, singers, and trios fill the background. Live music is on every night and the bar opens at 4:30 p.m., though reservations can be made in advance.
Top of the Mark
With one-hundred martinis on the menu, a bird’s eye view of the city’s skyline, and a line-up of jazz and blues groups playing numerous times a month, Top of the Mark is a city mainstay that’s become something of a tourist destination. Despite the pricey cocktails, it’s still the ideal spot to bring friends and family visiting from out of town. Reservations are encouraged, though walk-ins are welcome.
There is a performance here every night of the week, which is about as good as it gets for a jazz enthusiast. Dine on pappardelle and osso buco at this Lower Nob Hill Italian white tableclothed restaurant with a view onto Post Street. It’s best to arrive around 8 p.m. when live jazz plays in the dining room nightly.
On the first floor of the Monadnock Building, one of the first major construction projects following the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, lies one of downtown’s sleekest and swankiest destinations for live jazz six nights a week. The bar program is elite, with a wall full of high-end liquor and luxurious cocktails brought to the table. Reserve in advance to be on the smart side, though the bar is available to walk-ins.
Live music has a hard time making its way to the west side of San Francisco, but musicians looking for a haunt west of Divisadero Street often meander into Bazaar Cafe sooner or later. Rather than exclusively jazz — though this coffee and sandwich outlet certainly hosts those shows — the cafe hosts guitar players, singers, open mic nights, and shows of all kinds.
This Tenderloin mainstay hosts a jazzy round-up of live music on its swanky, subterranean level nearly every night of the week. The artists are given about a week of shows, allowing them to experiment with sets and styles throughout the residency. There's also a full menu of food and drinks from industry players throughout the city. Reserve in advance or try your luck on a walk-in.
Mr Tipple's Recording Studio
Live music is the focal point at Mr. Tipple’s Recording Studio, where you can dance to pianists, vocalists, and jazz bands Wednesdays through Saturdays with an accompanying menu of savory bar snacks and mixed drinks. See the full schedule here; both reservations and walk-ins are allowed.
The Royal Cuckoo
There’s a Hammond organ tucked away behind the bar of this eclectic Bernal hideaway, and, for the majority of the week, you’ll discover a rotating lineup of musicians jamming out to the tunes of blues, soul, and jazz. If the bizarro living room vibes, boozy drinks, and comprehensive vinyl collection aren’t enough to lure you in, perhaps a hat tip from the New York Times will entice you. Things get going around 8 p.m., but sometimes earlier, and sometimes later.