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Best of the Bay 2013: Socializing

The top new nightspots, bars on wheels, group dating site, and more.

Zoe's Restaurant & Bar
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Real Escape Game
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San Francisco Pinball Department
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Night Owl Sustenance: In a town overrun by expensive cocktail joints and sticky dives, Zoe’s Restaurant & Bar hits the sweet spot in between. It’s the kind of place where you can get a $10 Sazerac and Dungeness crab croquettes at midnight, with a subtly cool, dimly lit art deco interior to go along with them. Bonus points for a sultry mushroom poutine, Fela Kuti and Etta James as your background music, and booze you can get to without arm wrestling through a crowd. 3088 24th St. (near Folsom St.), 415-817-1972 --Carolyn Alburger

Portable Bar: Meet your new best tailgating buddy: the Bar Car—a 1965 Airstream trailer revamped to provide libations at anything from your next Candlestick pregame to your Napa wedding. The window of the sleek aluminum trailer swings open to reveal an eight-foot-long, natural-wood bar and a wood-framed chalkboard announcing personalized drink specials. The car even comes stocked with booze-slinging bartenders who also serve local brews from 21st Amendment, Anchor, and Speakeasy. The best part? You don’t have to clean up: The Bar Car is towed away once the party is over. Prices start at $25 per person; barcarsf.com --Katy Quigg

New Mind Game: Somewhere in the city, a posse is collecting money from strangers and then locking them in a small room with no immediate means of escape. Sounds like a cartel kidnapping, but it’s actually a Real Escape Game. During this team-building, mind-bending challenge, you and 11 other participants are sealed in a room laden with hidden clues for 90 minutes, forced to work together to discover the way out. Be warned: The puzzles are notoriously hard—only about 5 percent of teams pull it off. But before your claustrophobia kicks in, relax: If you fail, the organizers still let you out. $28 per person; realescapegame.com --Adam Brinklow

Noncommittal Date:
Dating in this city is tough, but it’s always easier when you’ve got a wingman, or two, or five. Enter Grouper, a new dating app that does all the legwork by setting you and two of your friends up with three potential suitors for a night at a bar. All you have to do is pay $20 apiece (part of which goes toward the first round of drinks), show up, and let things play out. Think of the perks: Great date? Your friends will understand when you promptly ditch them. Bad date? Well, at least you have your buddies there with you. Joingrouper.com --Annie Tittiger

Parental Duty Relief: Forget a babysitter—you need a baby enhancer. Enter Little Tree Studios, a new Mission art studio for kids. Owner- instructor Nichole Farnum, a former preschool teacher with a master’s in education, has come up with a unique curriculum of art classes for ages 2 through 10—but her most brilliant idea is the monthly “Date Night”: three hours of arts and crafts–filled childcare for $50 per little head, next up on July 12. The key here is proximity. The studio is only half a block away from Beretta, two blocks from Lolinda, and a 15-minute stroll from Bi-Rite. So enjoy dinner (and even a little salted caramel ice cream) and avoid the late-for-the-babysitter dash, all while your kids channel Picasso. 3316 22nd St. (near Valencia St.), 415-834-5567 --Rachel Levin

Party on Wheels: Beneath the spinning disco ball is a blur of furry boots, sparkly blue wigs, and rainbow tube tops as roller rink pros skate through a kaleidoscope of colored lights. No, it’s not a scene from Roller Boogie—it’s SF IndieFest’s Roller Disco Party. With the help of Black Rock Roller Disco, the arts organization transforms the Women’s Building in the Mission into a ’70s roller rink once a month. For $10, you can join the costumed skaters gliding around the room as D. Miles Jr.—the man behind the Sunday skate scene in Golden Gate Park—spins tunes by funky favorites like Michael Jackson and James Brown. Toward the end of the evening, Miles and his crew of roller- skating elites lead the crowd through line dances like the “Cupid Shuffle” and “Thriller”—they’ll even teach you how to do the “rubber leg.” 3543 18th St. (near Guerrero St.), SFindie.com --April Kilcrease

Retro Revival: To all those longing for the neon-lit arcades of yore, your prayers have been answered by the SFPD—the San Francisco Pinball Department, that is, the city’s first official pinball league. Every other week, a motley crew of pinballers congregates at Haight Street print shop Free Gold Watch to slap flippers and listen to the harmonious pings of a dozen mostly ’90s-era machines (think Terminator 2 or Jurassic Park). Pinball season begins July 17, so come by to try for a high score or just to gawk at pinball phenoms like 2011 Professional Amateur Pinball world champ Andrei Massenkoff. If you’re lucky, he’ll give you a couple of pointers on how to avoid a game- ending tilt. $20; SFpins.org --Brittany Shoot 

 

Read more Best of the Bay
Best of the Bay 2013: Bayview Fix-ups
Best of the Bay 2013: Brunch Without Borders
Best of the Bay 2013: Game-Changer Bars
Best of the Bay 2013: New Subspecies
Best of the Bay 2013: Upgraded Napa Agenda
Best of the Bay 2013: Culture
Best of the Bay 2013: Food
Best of the Bay 2013: Recreation 
Best of the Bay 2013: Socializing
Best of the Bay 2013: Style
 

Originally published in the July 2013 issue of San Francisco.

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