Lying somewhere on the party landscape between thumping nightclubs and mellow happy hours lie jazz clubs. Once one of the most important spaces for American social culture, jazz clubs are now experiencing a pretty impressive resurgence. And to be honest, although you’re free to hold your pinky out as desired, the stereotypes don’t really apply anymore; they’re mostly just humble places with excellent music, good drinks, and good people. While it’s no New York or New Orleans, San Francisco is genuinely one of the best places to experience the jazz scene in the U.S. Here you’ll find jazz paired with funky feng shui and ambitious menus that make for a great night out on the town. Scroll down to check out our comprehensive list of the best jazz clubs in The City.
In the heart of Nob Hill, Le Colonial combines bamboo decor with French and Vietnamese-inspired fare to provide a super unique twist on the traditional jazz club. First and foremost it’s a restaurant offering delicious entrees ranging from pho to garlic noodles and vegetable curry, but it’s also one of the best spots in the city for jazz. Lounge in the greenroom-themed courtyard and listen to smooth jazz most nights of the week.
Bix, located in Jackson Square, fuses the ambiances of a sophisticated 1930’s-era jazz club with the vibes of a swanky saloon, a sneaky speakeasy (entrance through an alleyway) and a modern supper club. For the uninitiated, supper clubs are usually invite-only social groups that meet up to wine and dine at restaurants around the city. Bix has a new, stunning two-story dining area and live jazz music every night of the week. The music here is pretty intimate, and the jazz usually stays within the genres of solo pianists and trios. Food is of the modern American variety and they’re known for stiff cocktails.
Biscuits and Blues
If you’re a jazz purist, chances are you don’t like it when people all-too-commonly conflate jazz and blues. They couldn’t be more different. That being said, Biscuits and Blues, located in Union Square, is something to experience. They’re all-in on the Southern-style cuisine including New Orleans gumbo, creole jambalaya and crawfish. The nightly blues entertainment are often sweaty, heartfelt performances where guitarists’ solo faces look like they just smelled something particularly unpleasant.
Club Deluxe is San Francisco’s take on the traditional New York jazz club. Low lighting, no frills, two bands per night and solid cocktails. At Club Deluxe, jazz isn’t for the ambiance — it’s the main event. Walking into the club feels like stepping back a few decades. Very few people are tweeting or texting, the conversations and dress code are sophisticated, and the clientele seems a bit older. Bands here can get up to six and seven-piece outfits, so be prepared for a night filled with blaring horn sections and 15-minute songs.
The Comstock Saloon is a historic bar set in San Francisco’s Jackson Square. The old-timey vibe with leather booth seating and worn wood cocktail bar will make you want to broker a deal or bet on something illegal. There’s live jazz music nightly, and there’s never a cover. The food here includes some pretty upscale items like fresh oysters, “caviar puffs” and grilled octopus corn dogs. Pro tip: order the “Barkeep’s Whimsy” and put your fate in the hands of the bartender.
Mr. Tipples Recording Studio
There’s actually no one named Mr. Tipples at the bar, and it’s certainly not a recording studio. It is, however, a very solid jazz club that serves delicious cocktails. The thing to know about Mr. Tipples Recording Studio is that it’s dark…very dark. No windows and dim lighting means you’re not going to Instagram that Tom Collins cocktail, but it makes for a pretty intimate environment. This is more of a date night spot than one for a gaggle of friends. Also, the location of this gem makes it particularly alluring for jazz enthusiasts. It’s located close enough to the city to make it convenient, but far enough away to weed out anyone who would have just stumbled up to its doorstep. Those who venture to Mr. Tipples are often passionate about music, and there’s something to be said for a crowd with a purpose.
This spot right on 22nd street is a humble jazz bar that focuses on the basics. It’s a casual setting with some rickety tables and wooden chairs, but the music is top class and the drinks and small eats are up to snuff. Live music every night of the week starts usually around 5:00 pm, so this makes for a perfect after-work spot or a way to begin a night out on the town.