SFT's, what you're about to read is completely biased. I just want you to know that up front. In my two-and-a-half years living in the city, I've always lived within 5 minutes of Polk Street. So, yes, it's rather convenient for me to write a love letter to something so easy for me to love. But hear me out, won't you?
I'm convinced Polk Street is the perfect place to go out in the city. It's got a bar for every scene, but not every bar is confined to one particular scene. Hipsters tend to convene around Hemlock and Vertigo, jocks hit up Green's and Shanghai Kelly's, the LGBT crowd hangs at Cinch, yuppies stick to Bullitt and Tonic, clubbers go for Blur and Lush, and even with all of these options, it still seems like you have to literally climb on people to get to the back of the Bigfoot Lodge. And those are just the bars I thought of off the top of my head. There are plenty more tucked away on this long stretch of San Francisco streetage.
This isn't some sort of extended Yelp review for the bars, though. What I'm getting at is that anywhere on Polk Street is ideal for mostly anybody because, to put it bluntly, there's no judgment. Or, less judgment. Think about it. If you're not dressed a certain way in the Marina, say in a Polo or an Oxford shirt (for dudes) or a minidress and sky-high heels (for ladies), you'll feel out of place. I certainly do. I once went to Matrix Fillmore wearing jeans and a long-sleeved shirt and I felt like a chaperone. The Mission isn't nearly as bad as the Marina, but it's still got a certain dominating look about it. If you were to wear those same sky-high heels at, say, Elbo Room, you might get a few wayward glances. It's also got the advantage (or disadvantage, depending on your viewpoint) of being along the BART line, which means it's accessible to East Bay-ers (yay) and college kids (nay). Pick your battles, I suppose.
On Polk Street, no one's on the front lines of a subculture war. In fact, the only battles you might pick are those with bouncers, because maybe they've got a dress code to maintain, or a capacity to regulate, or something else reasonable. Other than that, Polk Street has no "code," dress or otherwise. There is no one way to act, no one bar to crowd, no one scene to be seen at. No one San Francisco subculture dominates. It's kind of like that "melting pot" theory we all heard about in US History, but with slightly more emphasis on the alternate meaning of "pot."
I'm not trying to knock down other neighborhoods. Each one has its own bright star in San Francisco's nightlife. The Mission may not be glitzy, but it's got a hell of a lot of good music and cheap beer. SOMA is probably the best place to go to exorcise your inner dancing demon. North Beach bar-hopping can be fun, too, so long as you know how to dodge the tourists. And the Marina ... actually, I can't really think of anything great to say about it. Except I really like the Apple Store up there, but that has nothing to do with the nightlife. Polk has won me over time and time again, and I intend to remain loyal to a street that's done right by me, and by that I mean a street that contains a donut shop open until 4 a.m.
Perhaps my overwhelming devotion to Polk has clouded my objectivity. I'm willing to listen to other arguments, so have at it, SFTs. Where do you like to spend your evenings out in the city?