Once considered a kitschy hobby, karaoke is now a legitimate nightlife staple. And San Francisco has dozens of amazing sing-a-long spots—several that go way beyond Japantown!—to prove it. Whether you’re looking for a private party room, or want to wave your overzealous diva hands in front of an anonymous crowd of people, we’ve got the venue for you. Below, our top nine favorite karaoke spots to get your Aretha and X-tina on every night of the week (if you so desire).
Click through for the top city spots to sing your heart out!
YamaSho Japanese Restaurant & Karaoke
At first glance, YamaSho might merely look like a festive Japanese restaurant, but just one level below the eatery is where the real fun happens. Upon making a reservation, one of YamaSho’s tambourine-toting staff members will lead you and your guests to one of ten private karaoke lounges that accommodate five to 20 people and are themed after various cities, from San Francisco to Tokyo. While the rooms can get a little cramped, the dreamy, high school prom-like disco lights, easy-to-control karaoke system, and top-notch (and up-to-date), song collection, more than makes up for the crowd-induced sweatiness.
Perfect for: Those whose music taste is super current (they’ve got Bieber and Florence and the Machine on the ready), and hungry performers, who can place orders through a handy phone in each private room.
Price: Private rooms for $45-$120/hour
YamaSho Japanese Restaurant & Karaoke, 1161 Post Street (between Van Ness Avenue and Polk Street); 415-346-2222.
This no-frills, dimly-lit karaoke destination reeks of neighborhood dive bar appeal. It's a place where everybody knows your name and a middle-aged man in a porkpie hat can confidently sing Green Day's "Paranoia" without any awkward stares. In addition to the main stage outfitted with low-budget lighting effects, there’s a bar, pool table, and a dozen or so tables. The format is simple: Fill out a request form and submit it to the karaoke host, then get up there and sing your heart out.
Perfect for: Wannabe performers on a budget.
Price: Karaoke is free (with drink purchase), and starts nightly at 8 p.m.
Encore Karaoke Lounge, 1550 California Street, 2nd Floor (between Polk and Larkin streets); 415-775-0442.
Do Re Mi Music Studio
While Do Re Mi’s private rooms aren’t the most immaculate and the venue’s sliding scale rates are a bit confusing, the crowd that comes here doesn't seem to mind. Especially when it’s hovering around 3 a.m. (Do Re Mi’s quitting time), and the after-hours crowd is belting out Bon Jovi's greatest hits and dipping into their paper bags of BYOB that the staff never questions. The song selection isn't as impressive as other lounges in the city, but since it’s sort of an afterparty spot, it’s usually not the main event of your evening, anyways. Perfect for: A feel-good time that you probably won’t remember the next morning.
Price: Private rooms for $30-$60/hour (with questionable per person surcharges)
Do Re Mi Music Studio, 1604 Post Street (between Buchanan and Laguna streets); 415-771-8884.
Pandora Karaoke & Bar
Who would've thought such a sexy karaoke spot could be nestled in the Tenderloin! Pandora Karaoke & Bar stands in contrast to its skeezy surroundings thanks to a classy vibe quizzically achieved through alcohol-themed rooms—from Blue Moon to Hennessy to Heineken—in which the lighting and decor is pitch perfect. One of our favorites, The Crown Royal room, includes a regal throne. A more sedate Hello Kitty room is thrown into the mix for good ‘ole J-pop appeal. Bonus: the venue has an arsenal of costumes and accessories to add extra flair to performances.
Perfect for: Those who want to feel cool when they’re doing something as cheesy as karaoke.
Price: Private rooms for $50-$120/hour (with an additional per person surcharge); Free karaoke on main stage.
Pandora Karaoke & Bar, 177 Eddy Street (between Mason and Taylor streets); 415-359-1888.
The newest karaoke bar of the bunch, Milo Lounge is uber-contemporary with flat-screen televisions, bachelor pad-like couches, and Ikea-esque light fixtures. At the same time, it’s much more intimate than other city spots, with a small lounge serving up fancy cocktails and only two private rooms; one that fits 10, the other 20. While you have to reserve the rooms by the night, instead of by the hour, this can actually be economical if you’re utilizing a room from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. As for the song selection, Milo keeps up with its competitors by updating its list every Friday.
Perfect for: Groups with a dud or two in them. While you get your Whitney on, any non-performers in your group will be content with the awesome cocktails and hot-bartender-watching.
Price: Private rooms for $180-$280/night; Free karaoke on main stage.
Milo Lounge, 1706 Post Street (between Buchanan and Webster streets); 415-776-6868.
Right next door to Milo Lounge, this place is not as swank, but it has a lived-in karaoke vibe that lots of folks will find comfort in. Plus, there’s Korean BBQ, so many people just come here for the food and to watch the Asian movies that are projected onto the walls. The second floor is where all the karaoke magic happens. Private rooms can hold from six to 50 people and the song selection includes tunes in English, Korean, Japanese, and even Tagalog—they’re fun to sing, regardless of whether you know the language.
Perfect for: Bi-lingual performers and those who won’t be repulsed by the smell of Korean BBQ while they’re singing.
Price: Private rooms for $30/hour
Playground, 1705 Buchanan St (between Post and Sutter streets); 415-929-1471.
Treatbot Karaoke Ice Cream Truck
A karaoke-ice cream truck hybrid—sounds both weird and amazing at the same time, right? Precisely. What appears to be the first of its kind (at least in the Bay Area), this gourmet ice cream truck features a 35” TV monitor that is hooked up to speakers and a Magic Microphone that lets you dial your song choice directly into the handle after studying a list of songs and their corresponding digits. Gawking passerby are to be expected.
Perfect for: Those okay doing karaoke while relatively sober.
Price: Free with $1 tip; Also available for private events.
Follow @treatbot on Twitter to see where the truck will be next.
Festa Wine & Cocktail Lounge
If you stand on the corner of Post and Webster and listen very carefully, you might just hear someone bellowing out Radiohead's "Creep" somewhere nearby. And that “somewhere” would be Festa Wine & Cocktail Lounge on the second floor of the Kinokuniya Building. It’s a relatively small space with just a couple of tables and a small stage and it has a Vegas-y lounge vibe, complete with a gaudy and somewhat dated cityscape backdrop. Of course, all of this cheese makes it a super-fun place to sing something like Bell Biv DeVoe's "Poison" without any shame.
Perfect for: Stereotypical, cheesy karaoke fun, classed up with a glass of wine.
Festa Wine & Cocktail Lounge, 1825A Post Street Suite 210 (at Webster Street); 415-567-5866.
Once a piano bar and steakhouse, this Market Street bar switched to lower-brow karaoke pursuits over fifteen years ago and hasn’t looked back since. It’s a destination for out-of-towners and locals alike, because Mint allows folks to get their karaoke on 365 days a year and pick through an extremely extensive catalog of songs. Some of our other favorite elements include the cheap drinks; Hawaiian shirt-wearing house DJ; bars under-lit by fluorescent lights; and the fake flames and ‘80s-tastic neon, bubble-spurting sculpture that serves as the backdrop to the main—and only—stage.
Perfect for: Exhibitionists. There aren’t private rooms here, folks—just the main stage.
Price: Free karaoke, two-drink minimum.
Mint Lounge, 1942 Market Street (between Dolores and Guerrero streets); 415-626-4726.