Come a cropper

superego@sfbg.com


SUPEREGO I had absolutely no idea that there was a hysterical ’90s gay dance hits mashup scene!

This was just one of the many, many worlds that opened up for me as Hunky Beau and I girded our burgeoning loins and embarked one recent Saturday on a whirlwind Castro bar crawl. Despite the nutso economics of late, a large new crop of attractively unpretentious San Francisco nightspots has bloomed, from the odd-but-pleasant hunter-themed Bloodhound in SoMa (1145 Folsom, www.bloodhoundsf.com) and multi-chandeliered DJ paradise Triple Crown in Mid-Market (1760 Market, www.triplecrownsf.com) to Potrero Hill’s underground-minded Project One Gallery (251 Rhode Island, www.p1sf.com), the Mission’s jazz-inflected supperclub Coda (1710 Mission, www.codasf.com), and — hurray? — our first "dessert lounge" CandyBar in the Western Addition (1335 Fulton, www.candybarsf.com). Even a few mainstays have had fresh alt-cred life breathed into them, like absinthe-happy Buckshot Tavern (3848 Geary, SF. www.buckshot-sf.com), classy dive the Hearth (4701 Geary), and reinvigorated Madrone Lounge (500 Divisadero, www.madronelounge.com).

It’s a regular autumn harvest of buzz-heavy embarrassment opportunities — a barvest, if you will. But it’s the Castro that’s seen the most openings in the past few months, so that seemed the logical destination for a night of guzzling look-see.

For the sake of my flawless skin, I try to stay positive. Complaining about the Castro is like crapping on a pigeon: you feel a little vindication, but then you realize, "Wow, I just crapped on a pigeon." So you have to just take our increasingly generic, Kylie-nauseating gay Mecca on its own terms, acknowledging that among the upscale influx there’s at least some crazy drag and heartfelt effort at the Lookout (3600 16th St., www.lookoutsf.com), a very nice overdue remodel of the hip-pop Café (2369 Market, www.cafesf.com), with a lot fewer tiny backpacks in line to get in, even a cozy laidback alcoholic outpost called Last Call (3988 18th St., www.thelastcallbar.com), which slid right into the old Men’s Room space. And Q Bar (456 Castro, www.qbarsf.com) hosts some some damn cute weekly parties.

That hoo-hoo gay mashup scene I mentioned — think Armand Van Helden’s rejigger of "Professional Widow" by Tori Amos overlaid with Deee-Lite’s "Groove is in the Heart" and Stardust’s "Music Sounds Better with You" — was rocking a dance floor of five at the distractingly bright Toad Hall (4146 18th St., www.toadhallbar.com) but the nifty back patio was packed, mostly with amply proportioned women who’d probably wandered over from the Castro Theater’s Erotic Film Festival. I suppose apoplectic owner Les Natali is trying to somehow channel the spirit of the original clone-era Toad Hall bar through a blaze of big-screens and several hot pink waterfalls?

The cover at Trigger (2348 Market, www.clubtrigger.com) was $8.

By far the best new arrival to the cologne zone is Blackbird (2124 Market, www.blackbirdbar.com), a relaxed, narrow, and hiply appointed joint around the corner from the former Transfer, now known creatively as Bar on Church (198 Church, www.thebarsf.com). Blackbird has been in the news a lot lately due to the sad death of droll co-owner Doug Murphy from swine flu, eclipsing the happier news that the bar has quickly become one of the city’s more celebrated hotspots. Blackbird’s other co-owner, Shawn Vergara, knows that a few rough edges, a risk-taking cocktail menu — try the sparkling, tequila-based "grape drink" — and a freak-welcoming vibe stick in the mind more than wannabe polish.

As for the rest of the Castro: Is trying to do something different too much to ask? Did I just crap on a pigeon?