San Francisco Walking Tour: The Castro
There’s always a party in the city’s first gay neighborhood.
The Castro came out in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, when gay men started buying Victorians in the once-sleepy suburb. Today, the neighborhood is one of San Francisco’s most vibrant areas, best known for being the center of the city’s queer culture. It’s a destination during the day, but an even livelier host in the evening. Whether you want to catch a movie, grab a naughty cookie, dance, sing karaoke, or just people watch, the Castro has it all in spades.
Café Du Nord
If a club promoter opened up shop in a decommissioned Ivy League dining hall—and then transplanted it to the Castro—this is what it would feel like. Du Nord’s 1907 basement space, all red walls and dark paneling, is split into a showroom, where indie-rock bands play almost nightly, and the main room, where you can retreat from the scene to have a (relatively) quiet drink at the long mahogany bar. The hipster quotient is high here, and when a known act like Grant-Lee Phillips (or even Minnie Driver) plays, the atmosphere changes from intimate to claustrophobic.
Mamma Mia sing alongs, double features, and hard to find films aren’t the only things that make this theatre one of the city’s most special. The two-tiered historic building and Wurlitzer organ player secure the setting as a destination in its own right.
A line of hanging Hot Cookie-emblazoned underwear hangs above the store’s the famous penis and Venus-shaped macaroons. The store, which has been selling x-rated cookies (as well as more traditional baked goods) since 1996, will hit the spot any night.
Cafe Flore’s street-facing patio is one of the Castro’s very best places for brunch in the sunshine. Their house-made oat berries with seasonal fresh fruit is a must order.
Karaoke is more kicking with an enthusiastic audience, and the Mint certainly has one. The bonus: Lots of fans. The drawback: It often takes a long wait and a big tip to gain stage time.
In a space flanked by unfinished wood panels and a hanging rope ceiling, patrons enjoy mason jars filled with Churchill’s custom cocktails. The Cape Daquiri’s mix of rum, rooibos syrup, lime, angostura and orange peel, especially, suits the setting.