Beyond the ‘Stro is a new Queerty/GayCites series exploring the popular San Francisco districts outside the Castro where LGBT folks mingle with our straight counterparts. This week’s column looks at Central Market.
Central Market could be considered the heart of San Francisco, not only because it’s right at the city’s geographic core, but also because of its emotional resonance. Central Market is home to City Hall, the building that comes to mind immediately when we think of San Francisco’s groundbreaking fight for same-sex marriage. You could say that it is the birthplace of legal equality. Each June, City Hall also hosts its own swanky VIP Pride. The nearby Civic Center Plaza is actually where the Pride Parade culminates, so you’ll find thousands of LGBT people and allies coming together to watch live performances, listen to rousing speeches, and continue the celebration, of course.
It’s not only during Pride that Central Market becomes a hotspot for LGBT people, however. The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium is one of the largest live music venues in the city, so whenever big acts like Lana Del Rey or Sam Smith come to town, this is where they perform. The auditorium is massive – it was built for 7,000 people – so make sure you employ the buddy system and try not to get lost. Not surprisingly, San Francisco also has plenty of Broadway fans, and they all know where to go for live entertainment that includes show tunes and jazz hands: The Orpheum Theater. It’s where Wicked and Book of Mormon made their tour stops. And that’s not all for theater and live music lovers, Central Market also has new options for a sophisticated night out, including the S.F. Jazz Center and A.C.T.’s Strand Theater.
You don’t have to get dressed up or spend tons of money to enjoy a live show, however, there are also some shabbier, more low-key alternatives in Central Market. The Rickshaw Stop has a legendary indie pop night that attracts young folks – gay, straight and bi, as long as they like to dance. And a few blocks away, Public Works has DJ’s spinning in its warehouse club well into the wee hours. If you have the courage to take center stage, the Mint Karaoke Lounge is an S.F. institution. Just make sure you arrive early and know exactly which song you’re going to sing. You don’t want to spend all night deciding between Shania and Celine (go with Shania). On the other side of Market, Martuni’s is a candle-lit piano bar that’s popular with local theater kids and old-school drag queens. On Mondays, cast members from different shows descend upon Martuni’s to show off their stuff.
Central Market is where you’ll also find Zuni Cafe, San Francisco’s can’t-go-wrong restaurant whether for a lively lesbian Pride brunch or a late-night dinner date. Fans of HBO’s Looking might recognize the restaurant as the place where Murray Bartlett’s character works. For a post-dinner drinks, sneak away to Hotel Biron an intimate wine bar hidden just down the alley.
Even tinier is Sushi Zone, a lauded sushi place on Pearl Street with only a handful of tables. Get there early to be one of the lucky 12 to get to eat at what is widely-considered San Francisco’s best sushi place. If you are having dinner with more people that can even fit at Sushi Zone, perhaps Burma Love will be able to accommodate. It’s a bigger restaurant, but they still don’t take reservations so get there early, too. San Francisco is packed to the brim nowadays, so generally just arrive early to wherever you are going, okay? The new Burmese restaurant is nothing short of culinary sensation. Get the tea leaf salad for the table, and then get a tea leaf salad kit to go so you can be the envy of your next potluck.
Also in this area is also home to the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, which has been helping us out since 1993.
Featured image: Ed and Eddie on Flickr