San Francisco City Guide with The Great Northern’s Micah Byrnes
Micah Byrnes is one of the co-founders of The Great Northern nightclub in San Francisco. Since opening in late 2016, it’s quietly built a reputation for delivering a clubbing experience on a par with the world’s leading clubs, mainly thanks to a stunning 80,000w custom-built VOID Acoustic soundsystem, unique ‘future deco’ design and a knowledgeable crowd of San Fran’s best party people.
DJ’s gracing the decks to date include; Honey Dijon, ANNA, Âme, Dixon, Osunlade, Guy Gerber, Adriatique, Eats Everything, Butch, Damian Lazarus, Leon Vynehall, Hernan Cattaneo, Soul Clap, John Talabot, Peggy Gou, Gerd Janson, Floorplan, Tale Of Us – the list goes on.
However, Micah’s influence in San Fran nightlife extends even further. He also co-founded Monarch nightclub in 2011, still one of San Fran’s most popular underground nightclubs, as well as co-founding The Pawn Shop; a unique restaurant with a speakeasy vibe and some of the city’s best tapas. As if he’s not busy enough, he can also be found behind the decks wherever possible, as part of house and disco duo, Silky Thunder, or out on his own, rocking the party around the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.
When we decided we needed a San Francisco City Guide, we thought there were few people better qualified to ask than Micah…
When I started thinking about putting together a city guide for San Francisco, I realised it’s easy to write something predictable and boring. So instead, I decided to think about ‘Micah’s perfect day’ and these are some of the places and things I would do if I had a rare day off…
How to get around:
Getting around in San Francisco is pretty easy with Uber or Lyft, but much more fun is renting an electric scooter. You can rent one for a month from the Bird scooter app for just $25 and use it as much as you like. Skip Scooters is another option costing just a dollar to start. I’d also recommend trying out Uber Jump electric bikes. These charge you by the minute and are super fun, fast and cheap!
I’m a big fan of brunch and even get behind the decks solo under the name DJ Brunchlife. We’re going to start a disco house brunch party at The Pawn Shop (see ‘Coolest Restaurant’) so keep an eye out for that, but otherwise, there are two suggestions I would make.
Zazie opened in Cole Valley back in ’92 and does an amazing brunch. My favourite part though is that you can leave a note on the waiting list saying ‘in the bar’, then head to the Irish bar next door and play ping pong in the back yard. When your table is ready, they’ll come and get you!
Alternatively, Brenda’s Meat and Three is great for a weekend brunch. They do a really tasty soul food menu, with authentic New Orleans flavours. The main restaurant on Polk St at Eddy is always busy, but here’s the insider tip, there’s another on Divisadero St where you’ll always get a table.
Head over to Divisadero St where the Bean Bag Cafe has been serving all kinds of organic and fair trade coffee since the early 90’s. The food is great and it’s also one of the few places left that will give you free, high-speed internet access!
If you want something a little different then try out Wicked Grounds on 8th Street at Folsom. It’s a great place for a coffee, particularly if you’re into bondage! Alongside being a coffee shop it’s also a fetish boutique and a hub for the kink community in SF.
Cool Things To Do:
Audium is an amazing theatre you can find on Bush St at Franklin. It’s been in SF forever, starting in the early 1960s and is still run by the same guy who’s really old now. It’s the first theatre of its kind in the world, constructed to create ’sound sculptures’. You go into a giant room and sit in circles, in total darkness and the performance lasts one hour. There are 176 speakers in the walls, the ceiling and the floor. The owner then composes live sounds which seem to move at different speeds and directions, creating an incredible immersive experience. It’s way better than something like Dolby Atmos. After a while in the dark, your senses are so heightened you really get taken on a journey.
I’d recommend a visit to the De Young museum opposite Golden Gate Park. It’s definitely a cultural experience if you like fine arts, and the food is really good there, but my favourite part of a visit is that you can rent 9-person bikes like big rickshaws and ride around the park! Not a bad way to spend a sunny afternoon.
MOMA is always worth a visit, but most tourists will end up there. To make it more interesting, my tip would be to go to MOMA in the morning, then head on over to Gold Club on Howard St for lunch. It’s just a $5 entry and you get free lunch from a really tasty buffet, surrounded by elegant topless dancers. Seriously, the food is great!
I co-founded The Pawn Shop last year and it’s definitely somewhere I recommend. We built a unique dining experience – a hidden tapas bar in what was an iconic pawn shop at 993 Mission St. To get in you need to find the golden phone at 996 Mission St, or next door at the Monarch Bar and speak with the pawn master. He may give you a hard time, but he can be persuaded to tell you how to get into the restaurant. If you have something interesting to pawn then that always helps! The food is amazing and you can go straight from the restaurant into Monarch, so you’ve got your whole night of entertainment sorted out.
You’ll find Biig Lounge on the intersection of Turk and Taylor in the Tenderloin district and it’s a must-visit. It’s a small bar and you need to make a reservation via Instagram or email. Also, the door is always locked, so you have to knock to get in. It’s worth it though. Once you’ve made it inside, it looks like a 1950’s hunting lodge with wood panels, red drapes, taxidermy and an antique vibe. There’s no cocktail menu – you just tell the bartender what you like and he will build you a custom craft cocktail. You won’t find a better cocktail experience.
If you’re looking for a good happy hour then head over to John Colins on Minna St, between 5pm – 7pm. The owner Colin will fix you a great drink and they’ve just upgraded the soundsystem. Best of all, after a few drinks, you can move up to the mezzanine level, where Mark Hayashida’s ‘Takoba SF’ will prepare you the freshest, made-to-order sushi!
There are plenty of choices for clubbing in San Fran, but I co-founded two of the best…
The Great Northern is at 119 Utah St. We opened late 2016 and have been quietly building a reputation for bringing some of the biggest and most respected names in electronic music to the west coast. So far we’ve had the likes of Honey Dijon, Dixon, Ame, Peggy Gou, Floorplan, Eats Everything, ANNA, Gerd Janson, Hernan Cattaneo, Tale Of Us, Butch, Audiojack – the list goes on! You need to visit the club just to experience the incredible atmosphere. We’ve got a very cool, clued-up crowd, San Fran’s biggest dance floor with a 700 cap, stunning Art Deco design, aerialists and the best 80,000-watt custom-built VOID Acoustic Soundsystem.
Monarch at 101 6th St is one of San Fran’s most established and best-loved clubs. We consistently bring the best international electronic music talent to The Bay, as well as showcasing up and coming local talent and parties across other genres. If you land in town too late for the main weekend action, head to Monarch for Werd on Sundays. This is SF’s coolest Sunday party – we’re celebrating 12 years of delivering the best house and techno to the SF underground.
If you’re still standing then check in again on Motown Monday at Madrone art bar where they spin superb Motown music mashed up with house and hip hop.
San Francisco also enjoys a very healthy block party scene. We recently put on one of the biggest across four blocks, ‘It’s A New Day: Summer Edition’ and are hosting ‘Pink Block’ for Pride this year. Check out socials for The Great Northern and Monarch and adjust your travel plans so you arrive for one of our big block parties – you won’t regret it!
Where to stay:
Hotel Zeppelin is a favourite, mainly because they give you free room service and let you party in the rooms! It’s got a kind of 70’s rock vibe but a nice place to chill with 70” TV in the recreation room.
The new Virgin Hotel has recently opened and is worth looking at. There are very few outdoor rooftop places in San Fran, but they have a very cool rooftop bar called the Everdene where you can enjoy drinks and watch the sunset. The view is amazing and they regularly have quality DJs spinning tunes.