SF Music Venue Profile: Café du Nord

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Located below the historic Swedish American Hall on Market Street, Café du Nord is a very San Francisco venue. It first started out as a music venue that hosted internationally acclaimed artists, upcoming bands, as well as local musicians and singers. And then, after years of welcoming music-lovers in San Francisco, Café du Nord has transformed again into a cocktail bar that served sumptuous food and made the headlines. Like a phoenix, Café du Nord keeps coming back to light the city around it.

Back in 2015, when Dylan MacNiven came into possession of the once-popular rock venue, he joined hands with the Ne Timeas Restaurant Group to convert the bar into du Nord, a reservation-only dining space. Café du Nord quickly won the hearts of San Franciscans for serving the best hamburgers in the city. Now, with the café going back to its former glory as a live music venue, music-lovers in Bay Area have one more reason to let loose their hair and dance.

Some residents were concerned that becoming a great live music venue again would mean Café du Nord was going to forget how to make beautiful food – while the new owners had promised a great lineup of artists (in keeping with the café’s history), the possibility of bidding farewell to that burger wasn’t very tempting.

But it turns out there was nothing to worry about. In its third (fourth? fiftieth?) act, Café du Nord is combining the two things it does best – music and food – and killing at them both. So if you head down there for lilting jazz music or a haunting blues act, you’ll find that the menu still has some of its old favorites, including everybody’s favorite burger, some delectable meatballs, the fried chicken bucket, and some of the timeless cocktails from its past menu. New items on the card include starters like lobster rolls and clams inspired by the menu from the Woodhouse Fish Co., another of MacNiven’s places nearby.

It’s a hard circle to square – a place you can see amazing acts and eat amazing food – but it looks like Café du Nord is giving it a good shot.

And of course, Café du Nord itself sits inside another piece of musical heritage in the city. Together, Café du Nord and the Swedish American Hall have entertained San Francisco years now, and Café du Nord has benefited from the work that’s been done to the building as a whole, as the building’s owners have worked on restoring it and getting it back on its musical feet again. It’s a beautiful blend of the classic and the new, bringing together revelatory music and a relaxed vibe; both a haven from the city and part of its beating heart.

Artists playing the Café du Nord this month include Martha Wainwright, Sextile, Wilsen, and Tall Heights. Consider it for post-office drinks, for bright nights out, for laid-back sessions, to find new artists, to celebrate the acts you’ve loved for years, and to eat great food.

Check out their full concert calendar HERE.

Photo courtesy of Phil Campbell – CC/Flickr

With a discography that includes albums on Digital Nations (a Steve Vai imprint), music critic Louis Raphael has always kept a pulse on the San Francisco music scene. After years as the San Francisco Music Examiner for Examiner.com and AXS.com, he decided to start Music in SF® as a way to showcase what the San Francisco music scene really has to offer.

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