Making pre-show plans is complicated. You have to figure out a dinner that won’t take so long you’re late to your show, you have to find a place with a menu that will make everyone in your group happy, and you have to make sure there are enough drink options to save you from needing too many $16 beers at the venue. And you’re probably looking for someplace relatively cool. Or at least deserving of that jacket you only break out for shows at The Fillmore and The Mezzanine.
With all that in mind, we’ve put together a guide to the best places to eat before or after a show at eight of SF’s most popular music venues, from the The Independent to The Greek Theatre in Berkeley.
Comal is one of our favorite restaurants in Berkeley, and if you don’t live in the area, you can get a two-for-one trip in by going here before a concert. Everything on the menu is good for sharing, and if it’s nice outside, the back patio is ideal. Make sure to get a few mezcal cocktails in too, so you’re not stuck paying concert prices for drinks that aren’t half as good.
If you don’t have time for a full sit-down meal, but still want to eat some Mexican food, Comal Next Door is, as you may have guessed, next door to Comal. The menu is more geared to people eating on a time crunch, and features options like burritos, tortas, and tacos. Order the achiote grilled chicken if you go the taco or burrito route.
This is another spot with a great patio. Come here with a few friends, drink a few local beers, and eat some woodfired pizzas before heading to The Greek. They also stay open until 1:30am, so if you’re hungry after the show or just want to discuss how much better the band was two years ago before anyone had really heard of them, you can do that too.
Make no mistake, you’re going to be standing at the theater for a few hours while the bands are playing, so it’s important to eat something that will stick with you. Head to Angeline’s, order some fried chicken, and mentally prepare to hold your spot down all night.
Gather has a more upscale feel, so maybe come here on a double date before a show. The pizzas are more like flatbreads with vegetable and meat toppings, but they’re really good. They also have a solid by-the-glass wine list.
You can get a lot of good Italian food for cheap at Gypsy’s Trattoria Italiana. The calzones are the size of your head and one pasta can easily be split between two people. There will most likely be a line, and it can be tough to get a table, so split your group up, and play table frogger until you’re finally all sitting in the same place. Also, there’s no alcohol here, so plan accordingly.
This is in the same shopping center as Gypsy’s, so you can go with friends and split between the two, get some basil fried rice, and then meet up to eat at one of the tables outside. They’re open until 11:45pm, so if you want something to eat after the show, but before you bar hop around Berkeley, this is a good call.
If you have friends trickling in at random times and don’t feel like waiting for everyone before you start drinking, go to Triple Rock Brewing Co. This place is massive, with two giant rooms and a second story patio. Grab a table early, start drinking, and scoot over whenever Carl shows up from work. They also have a solid menu of bar food with things like their blue rock burger with blue cheese and caramelized onions.
Hit up Gardenias before a concert if it’s more of a date situation than a hang out. This place feels a little hidden and is a great spot to unwind from whatever kind of day you had in preparation for the show. Eat some light French food and split a bottle of wine while you’re trying to not act too excited about seeing Macy Gray.
If you have a group going to The Fillmore, book a room at Izakaya Kou. Everything from the yakitori to tempura to sushi is well-executed, and nothing on the food menu is over $20. Pair that with their reasonably priced sake selection, and you may have a good enough time to skip the show - but probably not.
This place feels more like a jazz club, but if that’s what you’re seeing at The Fillmore anyway, then this could be the perfect post-concert bar. Just know up front that the cover is steep, but when you need more music, you need more music.
When you need a big, fast food-style burger before a show at The Fillmore, head to Roam Artisan Burgers. Our favorite is the French and Fries burger that has truffle fries and avocado directly on the burger, but if you want to share your sides, you can order the Fry-fecta with french fries, sweet potato fries, and the zucchini onion haystack all together. Take this down with some wine or one of the beers they have on tap, and make your way to the show.
If you don’t want to go full-burger mode, but can’t sit forever, try La Mediterranee on Fillmore. This is one of our favorite places to get takeout, but it’s also great for a quick dinner pre-show. We love the pomegranate chicken, but the rest of the menu is great, too. They also have a solid (and reasonably priced) beverage list with beer and wine from Greece.
Tacobar hits a good balance between cheap, enjoyable, and quick if you’re trying to eat before heading to The Fillmore. You can get tacos, burritos, tortas, or quesadillas here, and we’re big believers in the carne asada. The Baja fish is much better than you’d expect, too. They also have margarita pitchers, sangria, micheladas, and beers.
The Great American Music Hall
Brenda’s French Soul Food is typically a brunch stop for us, but it can work well before a concert, too. Get a plate of fried chicken and some crawfish beignets, and get ready for the long night ahead of you. While you’re there, you might as well drink Louisiana beer to pregame with.
Yamasho is essentially a party restaurant, which makes it ideal for eating with a group before a concert. The menu is as big as the space and has everything from noodles to chicken wings. There’s also sushi, but you’re really here to drink and have fun. If you really want to take it to the next level, you can rent a karaoke room and see just how bad you and your friends’ voices are before seeing someone who gets paid real money to sing in front of crowds.
Liholiho Yacht Club is great for a lot of occasions, but it’s fun enough on its own that you may miss your concert. For a similar feel and to get some drinks and a light bite before heading to the Great American Music Hall, get a reservation at Louie’s Gen Gen Room downstairs. The cocktails are all great, and the food is some of the best to ever come out of a waffle iron. If you’re not in the mood for a waffle, go for the pigs in a blanket with housemade spam or the beef tartare.
We love all the Lers Ros locations, and this one is no exception. The menu is gigantic with curries, rice plates, noodles, and meat plates. Everything here is good for sharing, too, and they’re open until midnight. Go for the stir-fried pork.
If you leave the concert feeling electrified and don’t know what to do with your newfound Thor-like mentality, head to Soda Popinski’s and test your luck against the spinning wheel of drinks. If you have the right touch, you can walk away with a bottle of champagne - but you’ll most likely win a double shot of whatever whipped cream-flavored vodka the distributor pawned off on them eight months ago. Have fun.
Whitechapel has a limited menu of bar bites, and works best if you’re looking to get a cocktail before or after a show. The place feels like you’re drinking in an old subway tunnel - in a good way - and they have the largest selection of gin in North America.
Bill Graham Auditorium
You’ve been looking forward to seeing Lenny Kravitz at Bill Graham Auditorium for the better part of the year, and there’s no way you’re going to treat this like anything but your birthday. Grab a few friends and get a table at Kaya for Jamaican food and fun rum drinks before heading to the concert. A few plates is enough to split between four people, and we’re big fans of the jerk chicken.
RT Rotisserie feels like a fast-casual restaurant that serves upscale food, which makes it ideal if you’re trying to eat well before a show, but the ticket price is still hurting your wallet (half a chicken is $10). If you’re not in the mood for chicken, we like the pork belly, too, and skipping the cauliflower at all is a bad idea. Wash everything down with their well-priced beer and wines by the glass before you head to Bill Graham.
Lers Ros if one of our favorite places to go with groups of people. The menu is huge, everything is sharable, and there’s a lot of seating in the restaurant. You can get standards like pad see ew, but if the concert you’re seeing is not something you’d typically go for, you can make it the theme of the night and order something similarly unusual, like rabbit or gator.
Getting a group in one place can be tough, and if you’re already together for the concert, you might as well finish the night out strong. Head to Smuggler’s Cove. It’s one of our favorite bars in the city, which has a lot to do with the incredible tiki rum drinks they serve.
The Warfield and Mezzanine
You had to stay at the office and finish up some spreadsheets correlating holiday party attendance with reverse negative profitizations from inbound sales. You still need food before the show, but you’re running late. Head to Flying Falafel and get a pita stuffed with falafel to eat while you speed walk to meet your friends.
Zero Zero is a big restaurant with two floors, so getting a table for your group before a show shouldn’t be too much of a hassle. You’re mainly here for pizza, but the pastas are also solid, like the saffron farfalle and gnocchi.. They also have an absurdly long spirits list to make whatever cocktail you think will help you be a better concert attendee (but don’t bet on them serving you a vodka Redbull).
You’re so excited about finally seeing Garbage live that you want to be as close to The Warfield as you possibly can be for as long as possible. Popsons is right next to the venue and they have one of the best burgers in the city with the fries to match.
Bimbo’s 365 Club
The Italian Homemade Co. gets crowded, but the line moves fast and your food comes pretty quick. Order whatever pasta and sauce combination your heart desires, stake out a table, and pass your plates around the table to see whose combination is the best. It’s tough to go wrong with the nightly specials, but if they still have lasagna, it should be on your table.
Don Pisto’s is kind of like a pre-concert concert. Not that there’s a band playing inside, but the people eating there get rowdy enough to make you think someone is about to come on some hidden stage. Get a table for you and a bunch of friends and order as many tacos as you can stand - we like the al pastor - and some beers. They don’t have a liquor license, but they do have things like sangria and cheap Mexican beers.
You could come here before a show and get cheap slices and pints of beer, but the real time to come here is late night. Golden Boy is one of those places that is somehow even better when there’s a big crowd and a long line, which gives you plenty of time to discuss what your favorite part of the show was with your friends. Just be patient and know that some $3.75 spongy, cheesy goodness is in your near future.
This bar is where you go when you leave Bimbo’s and still want to listen to music. Every night they’re open (except Wednesday which is karaoke night), live bands play 80s classics and every other song you could ever want to hear in a bar. It gets crowded on weekends, but if you play it right, you can watch the bands perform from a booth and give your legs a break. Stick to standard well drinks and maybe a shot or two and you might just have more fun than you did at the actual concert you went to.
Nopa is where you should go late-night if the concert is a date scenario. This is one of our favorite restaurants in the city, and while it’s often tough to get in, they’re open until 1am on Saturdays, so a late night walk-in is worth a shot. Make sure to get the burger.
If you’re sick of cold pizza showing up at a friend’s place right before you have to leave for a show, but still want that feeling of hanging out casually with friends, go to Ragazza. It feels a lot like you’re at that friend’s house - if your friend had a great backyard. Plus, the pizzas are the ones that you’ll want to eat quickly because they’re good, not because an Uber XL is about to cancel on you if you don’t wolf it down.
Grabbing a picnic table outside at 4505 Burgers and BBQ has its advantages. For one, you’re sitting outside, so no one can judge you for wearing that maroon Adidas tracksuit that you only bust out for concerts. For another, you get to enjoy some fresh air before you lock yourself in a room for a few hours with a bunch of people “secretly” Juul-ing. Aside from that, 4505 makes some of our favorite BBQ in the city. Go for the brisket, and if you’re not in the mood, the burger is pretty great, too.
Nopalito is a good spot to grab dinner before a concert if you’re also using this meal as a catch-up session before not being able to hear your friends for three hours. It’s upscale without being stuffy and lively enough to get a few rounds of margaritas without feeling bad for the people dining around your table. Get some topopos con chile to split while you drink a cocktail and wait for your food.