Castro, San Francisco Scene

Get the inside scoop from a longtime local to San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood scene.

Ahhhh, the Castro. Delightful rainbow-laden queer Mecca.  It’s what young gay boys and girls dream of. Do you remember your first time? I was just a twinky candy raver in the early 90s (Fun Fact: I really was the first candy raver of all time, but that’s another story for which my legacy leaves me questioning any pride of that. Much like Jesus and his legacy I’m sure. Just call me Candy Raver Jesus ;-). I still remember driving towards Market southbound on Castro, with the Castro theatre marquee ablaze and to my left. In front of what now is SoulCycle were two men walking and what is this?! HOLDING HANDS?!?! IN PUBLIC!?!?! GAYMEN I have found heaven!

The Castro is what queer legends are made of. Castro is cute, cosy, and quaint with a big history. In the 70s it was a mostly Irish catholic neighborhood called Eureka Valley. The suburbs were highly en vogue at the time, so folks were leaving the city in droves for those single dwelling sprawls outside the city. This meant for cheaper homes for the hippies. Men who were dishonorably discharged from the military for their homosexuality were processed at offices in San Francisco so this is where they were dumped off by the armed services. Many of them stayed here and the LGBT community of San Francisco was born. They often jived with the free loving hippies in the Haight and at some point came over that hill to the cheap housing of Eureka Valley.

For some excellent and entertaining San Francisco history, check out Gus Van Sant’s MILK film, about Harvey Milk who coined the neighborhood rename from “Eureka Valley” to “the Castro.” In the 70s when the Eureka Valley Business Association refused to accept burgeoning gay owned businesses in the neighborhood, such as Harvey Milk’s camera store (575 Castro, btw). Harvey Milk retaliated by inviting his gay business brethren to join the newly anointed “The Castro Village Association of Local Merchangs.” And that’s how the neighborhood had its name changed.

The Castro is a lively, fun, delicious neighborhood for all sorts of fun, food, festivity, and phallic souvenir stores. On a weekend night it can be filled with young screeching queens who werque and twerk up and down the glittery sidewalks. Many venues cater to the youth but there are some sweet spots where a Daddy will feel at home.

I’m just gonna cover what I can personally recommend for gay dudes like me, 35+. The younger GayBees love The Cafe, Beaux, QBar, Toad Hall, Badlands.

Castro Treats

For an interesting introduction to the neighborhood, consider a historical LGBT walking tour of the Castro at Also, check out the Museum of the GLBT Historical Society on 18th Street.

The beauty of the Castro Theatre is worth admission price alone, but then add a fabulous calendar of great movies and special events including sing-alongs and Peaches Christ campy pre-show drag antics to the most ridiculous movies.

For a sober social space check out The Castro Country Club at 4058 18th Street.

Oh yeah, and don’t miss my favorite mole burritos (mole is savory mexican chocolate with either chicken, pork, or tofu) at Tacos Club, 2312 Market Street.

Twin Peaks: Best View In the ‘Stro

Twin Peaks is truly a place of history. At the top of Castro street at the 17th street plaza, it looks like the Irish pub it may have been at one time. It’s generally at a decent conversational volume, relatively quiet from the shrills of the catty young things prancing outside its windows. It’s usually easy to score a strong drink and a seat with. You can chill warm and cosy behind a giant window featuring a perfect view of Castro street eye candy on the sidewalk outside.Nevermind the ageist kids who call it “The Glass Coffin” if it keeps these great seats available, all the more space for us to enjoy.Historic note: Twin Peaks is the first gay bar in the country to feature windows to the outside. And what glorious windows they are.

The Mix: THE Neighborhood Bar

I love The Mix (4086 18th Street). Because it DOES feel like a Neighborhood bar. This is a favorite for me. The inside isn’t that big, with a pool table and long bar table but Sashay on back, honey, and you’ll see this place is a grower, not a show-er. Past the bathrooms you’ll find a big covered patio and bar, filled with a friendly crowd drinking and smoking. This is a place where queerdos across the demographics come to mix and mingle. A rare gem where spontaneous friendly conversations with strangers are usually welcome. Come early for the laid back, social fun at the Mix on 18th Street near Castro.

440 Castro

While the Castro used to be filled with dingy, dark bars, most of them have been replaced by colorful, Beyonce bouncing, booty babies. 440 (at 440 Castro, hello!) is the only such bar left, dark and dingy but unfortunately, (as with all bars) has no dark room (thanks, puritans).  440 was decorated by a receding tidal wave of black paint with sexy red lighting, full of hot Daddies cruising. DJs dole out sinister beats to add to the dark ambience while the crowd is generally approachable. This bar used to be named ‘Daddy’s’ and it’s still such a place.

The Edge

The Edge (4149 18th Street @ Collingwood) is another chill, social bar good for Daddy fun.

Moby Dicks

Next up on Digger’s Daddy Castro Tour is Moby Dicks at the corner of 18th and Hartford. This no-nonsense bar is chill and social with a pool table. Except on Wednesdays after 10pm when local legend Grace Towers hosts some serious drag shenanigans for ‘DickAtNite’. San Francisco drag is quite unique and worth checking out. If you don’t like it at least you can say you’ve experienced it and that’s what we’re all here for is some eye opening experiences. You might want to bring a splash guard. Just kidding! (Kinda).



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

I accept that my given data and my IP address is sent to a server in the USA only for the purpose of spam prevention through the Akismet program.More information on Akismet and GDPR.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.