The blocks just west of San Francisco’s Union Square comprise what is perhaps the most vibrant theater district on the West Coast. There are two major houses – the Geary, home to the city’s American Conservatory Theatre, and the Curran, which hosts national tours through SHN – and smaller ones such as the Post Street, Mason Street and Exit theaters.
There is more to the district, however, than just theater. The neighborhood also features some of San Francisco’s top restaurants, galleries and music venues. Given its proximity to Union Square, the theater district offers visitors the potential for a day of shopping followed by a night of good food, drink and entertainment. And it’s reassuring to know that, given the difficulties inherent in driving in the city, it’s all just a few blocks from the Montgomery Street BART station.
Ruby Skye, 420 Mason St., is an upscale nightclub housed in the Victorian-era Stage Door Theatre and regularly features the nation’s top DJs. Vinai and Adrian Lux are in the house this weekend. Across the street at 401 Mason you will find Biscuits and Blues, one of the few blues clubs on the West Coast. The veteran act Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials are in residence this weekend while the coming weeks bring dates by Chicago guitarist Lurrie Bell (July 1), Elvin Bishop (July 5), Davina and the Vagabonds (July 7) and Guitar Shorty (July 9).
Music takes a prominent place at the San Francisco Art Exchange, 458 Geary St. While the gallery first rose to prominence through its role in establishing the work of pinup artist Alberto Vargas as fine art, its best-known these days for exhibiting some of the most impressive rock ‘n’ roll photography ever created. Dennis Rae Fine Art, 351-A Geary, currently features “The Art of Dr. Seuss.” The artist born Theodore Geisel “began his career as a little-known editorial cartoonist in the 1920s,” an introduction reads. “His intriguing perspective and fresh concepts ignited his career, and his work evolved quickly to deft illustrations, modeled sculpture, and sophisticated oil paintings of elaborate imagination. Geisel single-handedly forged a new genre of art that falls somewhere between the surrealist movement of the early 20th century and the inspired nonsense of a child’s classroom doodles. ‘The Art of Dr. Seuss’ project offers a rare glimpse into the artistic life of this celebrated American icon.”
When you’re ready to eat, consider Ponzu, 401 Taylor St. “Asia without the map” is how this restaurant bills its fare. As fine as the food is, the decor is worth the price of admission with its bold polka dots and 125-gallon fish tanks. There is also Cityscape on the 46th floor of the Hilton San Francisco, 333 O’Farrell St. The Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, Alcatraz are all visible from your table at this window-lined restaurant, which also serves up some of the tastiest food in the city.
First Crush, 101 Cyril Magnin St., is the theater district’s go-to destination for wine lovers. This sophisticated yet casual restaurant features the region’s best vintages along with an imaginative menu. And then there is Johnny Foley’s Irish House located, suitably enough, at 243 O’Farrell St. In a city known for its Irish pubs, here is one of the best. Images of great Irishmen from Michael Collins to Samuel Beckett adorn the walls while their living, breathing counterparts pull pints behind the bar. Live music – Celtic and otherwise – is a staple.