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.
Tip: The club also serves food, of the burger-joint variety; if you want to ensure a prime seat during the show, reserve a table for dinner.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.