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Next Update due: March 1st, 2002 (the update that never came...)
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Disclaimer:  These are totally personal picks by SalsaCrazy and SalsaCrazy staff!  These are places we enjoy for various reasons, which I'll detail below. I'll tell you both the positives and negatives! Have feedback, comments or questions? You're always free to email us at picks@salsacrazy.com.

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How to use the Picks Section: Start back a few months, and read forward from that time.  If you want to get a good impression of the club scene, you'll want to read more than just the current picks!

Table of Contents

 

Current Article: Where To Go (update: 1/24/02)

 

Past Articles: (update: 11/1/01) , (update: 8/27/01) , (update: 5/15/01) , (update: 9/22/00) , (update: 5/8/00) , (update: 2/3/00)

 

Over the last few months, salsa during the week has taken off!  We tend to go out on Weekdays now, rather than weekends.  Generally, you can hear the same quality bands, have more space to dance, and pay less!

 

Where To Go (update: 1/24/02)

 

This update will be the last to incorporate my "Salsa News", as we will be breaking that section off into a new monthly article.  As you can see, my preamble to announcing the club picks has grown quite long, so two separate articles make sense.  Keep your eye on the "Salsa News" for updates about the local scene.  If you'd like to skip directly to the picks, click here, otherwise, read on!

Salsa News:

Happy New Year, and welcome to another club picks for 2002!  I'm expanding this section to give my club picks, and a lengthy "State of the Salsa Scene/Announcements" section before hand. So, before we get to the picks, let's go over a bit of news, some rumors, some new clubs, and other little items. Plenty of things to report and talk about prior to getting into the picks.

First- the big event on Satruday, February 2nd!  If you're even remotely a salsa dancer, or have an inkling to finally learn how to dance, the all day Salsa Stars Workshop is the place to be! A great lineup of teachers for EVERY level of dancer.  This workshop simply packs a month of learning into one great day.  Don't forget, keep your wristband on after the workshop and come to Cafe Cocomo for the SalsaCrazy.Com After Party, including "SalsaCrazy Punch", compliments of Lalo.  Do not wait to register - Register Now!  There will be hundreds of people there - some with partners, many without. Use the Dance Partner Database to find a partner to come with you to the event (if you want).

The Lava Lounge - Cafe Cocomo continues to pile on the club benefits, and has opened a new room in the club called the Lava Lounge.  Increasing space for another 75 dancers, The Lava Lounge is a relaxing room that in my opinion flows very nicely with the rest of the club.  The booths have been moved into this room, and are private.  You can't hear the music very well in this room, but it does provide a nice place to relax and talk with friends, even when the band is playing.  Likewise, even though the volume is less, and there are as yet, no speakers, it provides a nice extra space to dance when the floor becomes too crowded!  It gets an enthusiastic response from most club-goers I've talked with.  Great Job Cafe Cocomo.  If that wasn't enough, they continue to throw the free club customer appreciation nights every quarter. 

Roccapulco, an excellent club has started to charge only $5 before 10pm on Fridays.  Great deal!  Cocomo's has had Salsa on Fridays for most of this month (January), but R&B is starting in February (i.e. there is no salsa on Friday's at Cocomo).  Roccapulco remains the dominant pick for Friday night

SalsaSingles.Com held their launch event at Cafe Cocomo on Friday, January 18th with Bee2Flower.Com (another singles organization). The event was great.  It was huge! Everyone had a great time - and many people made great connections (including some people from my dance classes).  It was a great start to an organization which is going to throw some terrific events in the year ahead.  If you're single - you'll want to be on this list.  Even if you are part of a couple, and you have single friends, you will want to join our list. Visit the website and join up!

DotCom Dance - DotCom Dance is kicking off another year of networking socials!  The first social takes place this coming January 29th (Tuesday) at the Glas Kat. Come early for an extra hour of lessons and networking, prior to the regular evening (i.e. starts at 7:00 SHARP).  Visit the website to RSVP or join the mailing list.  Likewise, there's an event coming up on Saturday, February 23rd.

New Mailing Lists - Speaking of mailing lists, SalsaCrazy.Com has a new email provider. Visit our mailing list page to sign up for our mailing lists, and choose your specific interest categories.

Our Dance Partner Database has exploded - and this is just the beginning! Have you seen our Dance Partner database lately? If you are looking for a dance partner, there's no better way to find one! With over 200 people enrolled, you'll be able to find plenty of able and willing partners for practice, competition, teaching, and whatever else you may have in mind.  Well worth your while to take a look and see what's there.  All you have to do is sign up, and place an ad.

Wednesdays - What's going to happen?

The Glas Kat/Cocomo combination on Tuesday and Thursday has been a very pleasant one for the last year.  In addition, the DownLow lounge, a very nice venue in Berkeley, has opened for great DJ music and dancing on Wednesday's (and has even thrown some fantastic special events). In addition, as their latest flyers state,  DownLow will have live bands appearing during the month of February! Pier 23 also continues to pack in small crowds with live bands. Well, here comes Jillians, back again, to shake things up.  Launching their big salsa nights on Wednesday, they could add more variety to our complete schedule for mid-week dancing, and provide a nice new club for Bay Area.  Skeptical? You have some reason to be.  Salsa at Jillians has been a mixed bag in the past.  However, there are a few reasons to think that this new Wednesday night event might be great! An excellent line up of bands, classes starting on time, bands on time, drink specials, easier (and cheaper) parking all might add up to the perfect combination for a new club.  The last club to open on Wednesday, was over a year ago in North Beach, Club Casino.  While a beautiful cub - it closed down, unable to draw the crowds.  What will happen to Jillians?  My bet is for success, but with three (maybe four) clubs, all offering live bands on the same night, who knows!  Support this venue, and let's make this a club night to remember.  Jillians will open for Salsa on Wednesday, January 30th, with Julio Bravo.   We'll review the club during the next club picks.

After all this . . . what are the Club Picks for January 2002?   Let's get to this shorter than usual report.

Monday - Remains unclaimed except for Albertos, whom (as always) goes out on a limb to provide On2 Salsa Classes.  Check out the Albertos Calendar to learn more. http://www.albertos.com .

Tuesday - The Glas Kat, in San Francisco! Reigning champion - great club, pulling out the dancers and party-goers alike.  Albertos offers classes in Mountain View.

Wednesday - As discussed earlier, this is going to be one hell of a night!  At this time, I travel to the DownLow Lounge in Berkeley, usually for a DJ, and have a great time when I go.  It's a long trip for me, but usually worthwhile, with great music and that old "Mr. E's" ambiance.  With the future opening of Jillians, what will happen?  With DownLow also offering live bands, it's going to be an interesting month for Salsa on Wednesdays. I can't wait!

Thursday - It's dancers night at Cafe Cocomo!  Simply the place to be.  If you're not going to go to the biggest night of the week at Cocomo, great options include: Elbo Room for excellent live bands in a smaller space (fewer dancers), but great ambiance and fun bar.  Also, Jillians will purportedly have salsa on this night as well (although I would not choose to do this until I hear back on how this is going, opt for Wednesdays). I have also heard ramblings about a "Mambo Lounge" in San Leandro, but no confirmed reports. Also, for those interested, there is a Gay/Lesbian night a Roccapulcos on this night.

Friday - This month at Cocomo, Friday's were great!  However, Cocomo is NOT doing Friday's any more (the SalsaSingles event on January 18th was the LAST salsa event until March).  That means, Roccapulco is the reigning champion on Fridays. with Albertos occasionally doing a salsa friday.  This place has picked up since it became the home of the infamous SalsaGang, and now there are more dancers to choose from.  Always lively, it has a GREAT feel for a salsa clubs, is quite spacious, and is one of the only clubs in the area to book the large national acts.  Beware of the parking situation (as there have been some towed cars from the paint store lot). 

Also worthy of notice on Friday is Hot Salsa Friday, which takes place every other Friday in San Jose! A great event hosted by Ricardo and Michelle, it offers 2 hours of lessons, usually a performance or two, and sometimes some visiting Salsa Stars! A great event that's been going on for several months, it's worth visiting.

In addition - Parkside Cafe has salsa on Friday's with Azabache (house band).   A small, but very cool place, I enjoyed my visit there.  Great place for a date!  It's one block away from the Metronome.

Saturday - Before we get to Saturday night, let's talk abut Saturday afternoon!  Kelly's Mission Rock offers up salsa from 4pm-8:00 with La Rumba Sigue.  Live bands, and excellent DJ Ivette, highlight this very nice venue with unobstructed views of the Bay.  Plentiful free parking, and inexpensive $6 cover, make this a MUST for people.  There's also a great food menu, and very nice bar.  Haven't tried it? Didn't know about it? Now you do. It's just getting started so BYOP (Bring Your Own Partner) rules apply. It's well worth it.  

On to Saturday night - It's party night at Cafe Cocomo.  Ok, so they get a lot of props, but they're doing a great job.  Come early to Jake and Techi's class, enjoy the extra space! Saturdays have -fewer- people early, than Thursday's which is great.  After 11 - it's quite crowded.  Simply a great night out.  Saturday is also Salsa at Roccapulcos which does quite well and often books national acts on this night, and Maikos in Berkeley (which has recently been taken over by Salsa Teacher extraordinaire, Isabel).

Sunday - The craziness on Sunday's continue (seemingly only to be matched by Wednesdays).  Let's see, Jelly's (at Pier 50) continues with afternoon salsa that rocks 5-9.  Caribbean Gardens, a mainstay in Burlingame, continues on as one of two "Clubs" on Sunday nights.  The other club, at the Sheraton Hotel in Concord has gotten plenty of great reviews over the years, and is run by Armando Tam.  Of course, the clubs aren't the most crowded locations, but rather the ballrooms continue to be the biggest draw on this night.   The Allegro ballroom, in Emeryville, continue their domination of this evening with crowds of hundreds upon hundreds of eager dancers (of all levels).  The Metronome ballroom in San Francisco, the Premiere ballroom in the area, offer salsa as well, with 1 week every month devoted to "On2" Style dancing.

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Where To Go (update: 11/1/01)

Time for another personal picks!  This has got to be one of the most fun, and most difficult, sections to write on the site.  We're blessed with a fantastic, and constantly changing salsa scene.  This article only covers the top clubs that each night has to offer.  In addition, in this article, I'll include a single Bay Area class for experienced Salseros interested in taking their dancing to the next level. 

So, what have the last few months brought us?  Let's start with the ironic.  For those that remember the original Kimballs Carnival, located in Emeryville, this was a very popular space for the dancers.  It was lamented, far and wide, when this was turned into a sparsely populated pool hall.  Fast forward several years, and dancers are once again ecstatic about a new Kimballs Carnival, opening in Downtown Oakland.  Unfortunately, the club is universally panned by the dancers.  After a few agonizing months, trying to fill the "airline-hangar" style space, they decided to close it for a retrofit. So, they close for "remodeling", and just this last week, they've reopened as . . . yes, you guessed it, a pool hall.  Is this a curse or what?   

I haven't actually been to the new Kimballs Carnival since it has reopened as a pool hall/dance club.  I hear the dance space is greatly reduced (which could be a good thing), but the floor remains slanted.  Initial prognosis is not good. Let's hear from people - how is it?

And, as long we're dwelling on past hotspot clubs, as noted earlier, the DownLow Lounge has opened on the same spot as the old Mr. E's in Berkeley. Briefly having live music, it's now DJ only.  I still go there, and when I do, I have a great time. If I, or the promoter, win the lottery, expect the best live bands every night. Until then, it's a hit or miss place for the die-hard dancers, but always provides a fun time for me.

Oh, and kudos go out to the SalsaGang (a local Bay Area salsa-social group, of which I'm a member) for being a friendly guiding light for new people in the scene.  The group is open, friendly, and generally serves as a great way for new people to get into the scene.  It's a big, discussion style mailing list as well.

More craziness? SalsaCrazy.Com will launch, in the near future, their version of Big Brothers - with the Salsa Big Brother/Big Sister program.  Are you new to dancing? Do you have questions? Need someone to introduce you around in the clubs? Get you setup with the right teachers? Maybe even help you <gulp> practice?  What you need is a helping hand - and we're here to help! Interested in being a "mentor"?  Email us!

And, we'll end on a hot tip.  SalsaCrazy is in the middle stages of opening a salsa club <gasp>. It will be great (of course), and cater to the dancers with everything we've always wanted.  Apart from the best live bands every week, and fantastic DJ's, and great sound system we'll have the key ingredients of: 1) Tons of Safe, Secure and Free Parking, 2) Free Water 3) Plentiful, clean bathrooms and 4) quite upscale - dancing in a nice ambiance.  Oh, and it will be on a great night of the week! 

Ok, ok, I could go on forever, let's get to the picks

This Month's Picks are:

Monday Night - Remains the unclaimed night, with the only options being lessons at Albertos in Mountain View.  I'm sure the lessons are great - not sure who is currently teaching, but it might be Gabrielle with on two classes.  If so, they are highly recommended for the intermediate and advanced dancers!

Tuesday Night - No change here, coming up on their 2 year anniversary, the Glas Kat is an institution that keeps a high standard.  Consistently fun nights, with great bands, a varied crowd, and Ricardo teaching an advanced-beginner class (or advanced/advanced class, depending on how you view it).  Absolutely should be on everyone's dance calendar, from beginners to die-hard dancers!

Wednesday Night - Why is this so difficult? Why must we choose from a myriad of choices, rather than one standout?  Well, rather than lament the fact, let's give you the lowdown.  The DownLow Lounge in Berkeley continues, as stated above.  My latest travels there showed a group of  Berkeley students in class (which I liked), and a few dancers trickling in over the course of the night.  Great location, great floor, good music, but no live bands right now.   Pier 23, the sole San Francisco option, remains the small, down-home dance pick.  For those that miss the close quarters of Cafe du Nord, this brings back memories.  Much smaller, you dance right in front of the band.  Yes, the band. Somehow, they fit some nice sized salsa bands in this space.  I can have a great time here! Bring a girl (or guy), have a few drinks, and just groove (in a very small space).  Total blast!  Oh, and finally, San Jose. The Agenda Lounge is a dominant pick, and if I lived in San Jose, I wouldn't miss it.  They have a band every other week, a pretty good and diverse crowd, a great downtown San Jose location, and

Thursday -  What can I say about Thursday.  "Dancer's Night" at Cafe CocomoCafe Cocomo remains the dominant club in San Francisco, for good reason.  They book good  bands, they have consistently good service, and they cater to both dancers, and club goers alike.  The hot tip is how the club is undergoing a hush-hush expansion, and while I am sworn to secrecy about the details, I will tell you that prior to the holidays, they'll be plenty of room to dance for double the amount of people. ;0   

Also, I'll have to mention that lately there's been talk about the dress code debacle.  Someone was turned away for wearing black jeans (the horror).  Then, I was stopped at the door, with my black tennis shoes.  The guy that stopped me was new, and wasn't interested in my explanations. However, after I talked to him, I just had him call the head security guard, and explained to him, that they were dance tennis shoes, and was allowed in.  To clarify for everyone, there IS a dress code at Cocomo.  No jeans, no tennis shoes. This may include ratty t-shirts and sweats. Look nice, and you'll be fine! If you are presentable, but do not fit this exact description, and you still have trouble getting in, ASK the security guard to bring someone from management out.  There is no reason anyone should be turned away.  However, new security people come on staff all the time, and sometimes you just need to request to speak to a manager, or the door person.

Regardless, Cafe Cocomo is the place to be on Thursday (and Saturday), and I heartily support the dress code (even though it means I can't wear my sweatpants, tennis shoes, baseball cap combo I'm so fond of).  Dress codes serve to keep out the Riff-Raff, and I won't even get into the entire "Spilled Drinks on the Dance Floor" debate that has raged on some of the message boards as of late. 

Oh, and no Thursday would be complete without mentioning Jillians, at the Sony Metreon.  A new promoter stepped onto the Jillians scene, with great flyers, and 8 weeks of scheduled bands.  The bands lasted two weeks.  It is now DJ only until further notice, and the future of the club is in doubt.  This is such a shame!  Jillian's is a great club, and can have a shot at doing quite well.  The secret - move it to Wednesday (duh).  I want Jillians to be successful, if for no other reason that to serve as yet another beacon in a public place for Salsa Dancing.

Friday - Finally made it to Roccapulco Supper Club on a Friday.  What a nice club!  Whenever I come here, I'm constantly amazed that it's not filled with dancers. When it's full, it just feels like the way a salsa club should feel. Unfortunately, it wasn't full on that night, and when it became full, it wasn't full of dancers (or women for that matter). They could call it the Roccapulcos Men's & Couples club.  That being said, this club is really a center for our community. One of the few clubs who are booking BIG out of state bands, this club deserves recognition.  My advice: Bring a partner, and have a great time with their huge floor, great sound system, and top notch bands. 

Albertos has live bands on some Friday's and it's an oldie and goodie.  In Mountain View, it's a mid peninsula destination, but pulls people from all over the Bay Area. Well worth the trip on a Friday night.

The Parkside Cafe, a new entrant into the Friday scene.  Near the Metronome Ballroom, it has potential for a small, nice hangout.  I haven't been there, and can't include it as a pick, but if it survives, look for a review next time.

Saturday - Two pretty nice options for tonight.  Cafe Cocomo, on their Saturday night, is actually LESS crowded than on a Thursday night.  Crazy, but true.  I tried it.  All the good points regarding Cocomo Thursdays carry over to Saturday.  Come early, and enjoy the class by Jake and Techi.  Leading and following - that's what it's all about, and they teach it. Remember that folks?

Maikos, in Berkeley, is now run by Isabelle (of Gary and Isabelle), and she's doing a great job booking quality bands on Saturday night.  Check it out!  I still haven't made it by lately, but I hear that it has a good range of dancers, definitely more beginners and there's plenty of room.

And, one rare, quick note about Saturday's class at the Beat, in Berkeley.  Taught by Gabriel Romero, this On2 class is a must for dancers wanting to improve.  The first hour, from 4-5, every dancer should go through.  The next two hours are a lot of fun, and give you an idea of what the "2" is all about. A rare recommendation, for a truly exceptional class. Beginners - don't go. Don't confuse yourselves!  It's hard enough to learn to dance on 1 and have a good time.  Anyone intermediate and up - come on down.

Sunday - Jelly's at Pier 50 in San Francisco remains your live music destination.  Starting at 5pm, the place quickly turns into a zoo of people. A fun zoo, but a zoo nonetheless.  No fancy moves allowed!  For qualified dancers, who can dance in a small, controlled space, this place can be nirvana. 

For the ballroom crowd, we have both the Metronome Ballroom (San Francisco) and Allegro Ballroom (Emeryville) and Starlite Ballroom (San Jose).  Why do all the ballrooms throw their salsa events on the same night?  Good question!  Yet, all these ballrooms get significant crowds.  Interesting eh?  One note, the Metronome Ballroom throws and "On2" lesson and social once a month.  While I am opposed to the idea of a ballroom throwing an On2 event once a month (because of the confusion created for new people), it is well executed and worth checking out.

Caribbean Gardens, a long running venue in Burlingame has salsa this night has well.  Still haven't been there, no comment.  Check back next issue for a review and send your comments.

Concord Sheraton, another long running venue in the East Bay, has salsa with live bands every two weeks.  Run by Armando Tam, I'v heard some good reviews.   I haven't made it out there, look for a review next issue, and send your comments.

 

Where To Go (update: 8/27/01)

A brief update!  Wednesday's continue to be a tough night for Bay Area salsa, but the losers have given way to the victors, and the Voodoo Lounge has given up their Wednesday bid (without much of a fight I might add), and has left Agenda Lounge as the sole Salsa Venue for Wednesday night in the South Bay!  Voodoo Lounge is CLOSED.  Agenda Lounge is not only open, but remains a well attended, fun night out.

Lucky for us in San Francisco, a new entrant has emerged onto the club scene, re-opening an old venue (under a new name).  For those that remember the old Mr. E's, in Berkeley, it has now reopened as "The DownLow Lounge", and offers live salsa on Wednesday nights.  The club is still just getting started, but it has a lot of things going for it, including easy parking, a good location, and of course, the old "good karma" left from Mr. E's.  Haven't tried it yet? Give it a shot!

2284 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 548-1159
 

We'll have our October update soon!  Want to provide us information for the update? Just email us at picks@salsacrazy.com .

Where To Go (update: 5/15/01)

Welcome to the first club picks article for 2001. I know it’s been a while since I’ve done any sort of update, and now is the time!  First a few small things:

1)  If you are looking for a dance partner, or just a date, our Classifieds can help you! Just click here to check them out.

2)  If you haven’t already joined our Mailing List, it is HIGHLY recommended.  There are many mailing lists in the Bay Area, but there is only ONE SalsaCrazy list. This is a MODERATED list, so your mailbox will not be filled with email. We only send out 3-4 messages a week, and they ALL relate to critical salsa events or news (things you want to know about)!  From this list, we also give away free tickets to events, clubs, and concerts.  If you haven’t already joined, or just want to make sure you are on the list, click here!   

3)  Remember, this list is NOT an exhaustive list of places to go in the Bay Area - these are personal picks by the SalsaCrazy staff, and visitor feedback.  For a complete listing of all event in the Bay Area visit both our Message Boards and Calendar!

Now, on to the Picks.

Overview

What a difference a few months make, and in this case, what a difference a year makes! The salsa scene has changed quite a bit, with a new opening of an old club, and the closure of another Bay Area hot spot. 

Kimballs Carnival, a Bay Area legend (and myth) for many people, has re-opened after a several year absence in Jack London Square! A huge club – it’s just starting to make its impression on the Bay Area.  It offers salsa on many nights of the week, but it’s schedule is still evolving. When you first see the sheer enormity of the club, it’s a shock.  It reminds me of an airplane hangar!  They are starting to book real quality acts in this venue (i.e. Paulito, Charanga Habanera) – which is great for us Bay Area people who were used to traveling to Santa Cruz to enjoy many popular bands. The manager, Henry, is accessible and tries to keep things running smoothly.

Then there is the saga of Mr. E’s Spotlight on The Square (another beautiful club brought to us via the Escovedo family).  The hottest Wednesday night venue for several years in Berkeley, moved to Alameda, and became the shining example of what a salsa clubs SHOULD be. An exemplary sound system, beautiful dance floor, ample-free parking, and the list went on and on.  This new nightspot briefly became just “Spotlight on the Square” (as the Escovedo’s departed), and now has closed down altogether.  The current management, who reportedly was behind the Escovedo departure, is absolutely inept. There are many stories of their mismanagement of the club.  All this said, the Rumba Rumberos dance team managed to pull off an excellent salsa event there (Fiesta Del Barrio) a few weeks ago. This venue is only open for special events – which I imagine will be few and far between.  The great sound system and furniture however have been removed and replaced.

Yes, it has been a tumultuous year indeed, and ones not entirely fraught with good news for the dancers. As I go through the latest club picks, you’ll see how things have changed!

The Picks

Monday nights

Those pesky Mondays still remain the unclaimed night.  There is no absolute guarantee for what to do, or where to go on a Monday night, but lately, old stalwart Albertos, in Mountain View, has come to the rescue! They are offering dance classes with Francisco or Johny Vasquez (from Los Angeles).  These talented dancers and teachers inspire people with their endless energy and dazzling array of flashy moves! Where these brothers go – parties follow.  While I have not personally attended, I imagine that Monday night at Albertos could be quite fun indeed.

Tuesday nights

Reigning champions, The Glas Kat (Karamba) have become a classic.  The club never fails to provide a very fun night out.  Nice floor, good sound, easy parking, and a sushi bar – well, that’s about all you could ever want right?  Really, with it’s ample-free parking, great bands, sound and dance floor the Glas Kat is a can’t miss good time.  It’s become a dancer’s haven and is always packed with people, yet never too crowded to dance!  I would also recommend taking advantage of their sushi bar.  Make reservations, show up early with 6 or more people, and get %15 off your dinner PLUS free entrance to the club (mention SalsaCrazy).  All that, plus a good meal.  Oh, and don't forget - we've teamed up with the Glas Kat for the SalsaCrazy Dinner Special - making a good deal even better!

Promoter extraordinaire, Diana, one of the shining stars of our Bay Area salsa scene, has created another fantastic venue.  She's always both pleasant and charming, greeting newcomers and regulars as family and friends.

Wednesday nights

The demise of Spotlight on the Square and the removal of live bands from Kimballs has left Wednesday’s a little difficult for the San Francisco area.  However, in San Jose, Wednesday night is thriving!  There are two clubs to choose from, both of which are a lot of fun.

The newcomer is The Voodoo Lounge.  This brand new club is great and reminds me of the old Kimballs West in San Francisco (now I’m dating myself). Nice dance floor, good sound, ample free parking right next door – it’s worth the trip from San Francisco (and that’s saying a lot).  While this club is still very early in it’s lifecycle, it’s very worth a visit, and I hope it succeeds!  They have live bands every other week.

The Agenda Lounge has had salsa for years and is a great place to dance and have a good time. They have live bands on occasion, although parking can be a little trickier.

Kimballs Carnival II – no live bands currently, but rumor is that they are going to be bringing back live bands in June!  I hope so.

In San Francisco, choices are limited, but Pier 23 continues to have live music every week, and packs in a nice, casual crowd!  It's a very fun, very small place to dance (on concrete).  You're right there with the band, and that's a great feeling.  There is a full restaurant as well, and street parking is plentiful.

Thursday nights

Café Cocomo.  I almost feel like that’s enough to say right there.  This club has really dominated the Bay Area, offering salsa on both Thursday and Saturday night.  With a planned expansion nearly underway, this club is setting the standard for management’s understanding and fulfillment of dancer’s needs.  For those few who haven’t made this a weekly ritual yet, let’s review: Great sound, plentiful dance floor, two levels, endless free parking right outside, good management, piping hot food (if you so desire), new bathrooms, top security (who greet you at the door, so simple- yet often overlooked), good bookings, rock solid and fun dance instruction, and of course a huge selection of dancers to suit every taste and level . . . are you still reading this?  Just go to the club already! Thursday’s are referred to as “Dancer’s Night”.

Jillians: This club is going to be celebrating it’s one year anniversary and deserves more than a brief mention.  Local dance brothers, Fred and Gil, <http://www.salsa2k.com and http://www.mambosf.com> have done a great job with this club. It’s a very nice club/dinner restaurant with huge facilities, including multiple pool tables in back.  It’s an upscale location and facility. They have live bands on occasion, and like all the clubs listed, their schedule can be found in the SalsaCrazy calendar.

Friday nights

On the weekend, most people “Chase the Bands” – they go to the place that has a band they like.  If you want to be informed of what’s going on when, there is NO better resource than the SalsaCrazy Email list.  Sign up now!

Roccopulcos is the only club I know of that has been going for a length of time and is really established on this night.  In San Francisco, Roccopulcos is one of the nicest clubs in the city.  This must be a lucky location since Roccapulco’s is located on the site of the legendary Cesar’s Latin Palace, a Bay Area music legend for many years. Big dance floor and great sound system, it’s one of the few clubs that can handle the big acts from around the world (and one of the few clubs that bring these big acts into the Bay Area). While it can be difficult to find parking, they have some limited lots around that area that are available, and you can find street parking if you arrive early enough.  I’ve heard that many couples frequent this destination, so be forewarned!  Bring your own partner or better yet organize your own group of favorite dancers  for a special outing. Personally, I love the club and have a good time whenever I go.

Saturday nights

The Ramp: This is more a Saturday afternoon spot, and only operates during the Summer months, but they provide live music from 4pm on, as well as a nice (but VERY expensive barbecue). It’s all outside, right on the waterfront, and a concrete “dance floor”. The sounds are great – and if the weather is nice, this place can be a whole lot of fun on a lazy Saturday afternoon.  Plenty of free parking within walking distance.

Café Cocomo: What more can be said. The pinnacle of San Francisco salsa dance destinations, and a highlight for most people’s weekend. Read Thursday’s description.  Saturday’s are more crowded and attract a greater variety of people.

Other clubs exist on Saturday night including, in no specific order:

Roccopulcos is also  open this night with live bands!

Maikos – East Bay Club, live bands, large floor, easy parking.

Kimballs Carnival – Huge club, live bands, read above.

Agenda Cellar (South Bay) – Same as Wednesday, except in the cellar.  Not sure how nice this is?

Sunday

Oh what a day! The most choices you’re liable ever to have.  We’ve got clubs – we’ve got ballrooms and we have many difficult decisions for the dancers.  But don’t worry – I’m going to lay it all out for you.

Allegro Ballroom in Emeryville has become one of the largest and most established salsa dance venues in the State.  Regularly attracting hundreds of people to its dance lessons every Sunday, hundreds more show up afterwards to dance to fantastic DJ’s into the wee hours (they close when the dancer’s leave, whenever that is, I’ve never stayed that late, past 1).  Tons of dance partners, a huge ballroom floor with adjoining rooms for practice, Wall size mirrors – endless dance partners, plentiful FREE parking, and of course let’s not forget the free water, food platters (all sorts of fruit and vegetables), coffee and tea, plenty of seating . . . what else? What else is there to say.  If you haven’t been there, go!  This place is where everyone from the early beginners to the most seasoned dance teachers go to let off steam, dance, and have a great time with friends.  This is a family friendly venue – and is all ages, no alcohol.  Highly recommended.

Jelly’s (Pier 50, San Francisco): Oh yes, Jelly’s.  Live music, every Sunday afternoon from 4pm, this place attracts an eclectic crowd of dancers.  With a nice balcony out back, this place is a wonderful way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon.  A great barbecue, nice furniture, and easy free parking make this club tops. Since the stage is so close to the audience, there’s a very special vibe that resonates between the dancers and the musicians.  It feels like a big, rowdy house party. However, be warned, it not only is a small club, but attracts a LARGE crowd.  While, for me, this creates a really close, heartfelt dance experience, for others, it might be a bit claustrophobic.  If you like to take big steps while you dance – go to Allegro.

Metronome Ballroom is coming up on it's one year anniversary.  Offering Salsa dance lessons and a salsa party!  The metronome is where I first was introduced to dance (West Coast Swing).

Also wanted to briefly mention El Rio - a great club in the mission, operating only during the summer.  Live bands, dancing on the beautiful patio with live band from 4-8pm on Sundays.  $8 cover, I think.  It's a hot scene! The most gay-straight mixed of the clubs, very race- and age- diverse too.  The full San Francisco atmosphere.  Very crowded and can be very fun.

There’s rumors of Salsa on Sunday night being offered by Café Cocomo – but for now, they’re still rumors.

This is not an exhaustive list, but at least it give you a taste of some of SalsaCrazy's picks for places to Dance!  We appreciate feedback, good or bad.  If you have something to say, add, or comment on - Email us at: salsacrazy@salsacrazy.com ! We'd love to print your comments as well, but will not do so without your permission.  Updated information is always appreciated.

 

Where To Go (update: 9/22/00)

So, how have the club picks changed over the course of the last few months? Well, let's start at the top.  Mr. E's have opened their doors.  Cocomo's have put in a brand new dance floor, redecorated, have finished their new bathrooms, and even have grander (top secret) plans for the future.  Kimballs is on the verge of opening in Jack London Square.  Jillian's continues to spice it up with occasional dance contests, and a great venue.  Old favorites, that haven't made the list yet, like Maiko's and Roccopulco, continue to prove the Bay Area has A LOT of choices. Salsa dancing is back ON THE RISE!  But this prose isn't about re-gurgitating all the news that has taken place over the past few months. It's about pointing you to the top places to dance on any given night of the week.  So let's get to it:

Tuesdays:  They're still a one-club show!  Go to Ay-Karumba at the Glas Kat.  It's taken off.   It's established.  It's the place to be, and dance, to start your week off right!  If you haven't been there yet, well, you're a little behind the curve, but it's not too late to catch up.  Give it a shot.  Tell em' SalsaCrazy sent you and maybe you'll get a discount (or maybe you'll have to pay more). ;) It's one night of the week I RARELY miss! 
 
Wednesdays:  Mr. E's in Alameda is the place to be.  This new club is nothing short of awesome.  Ok, we'll go with spectacular.  It's really a great place to dance - plenty of great dance floor, very nice environment, good drinks (from a very nice bartender, go Alex), and great service (kudos to Angel).  It's got top of the line sound, passable security (it's not exactly the warmest club), classy ambiance, good drinks, fair food (I certainly wouldn't go for the food), great acts . . . what else? Air conditioning? Yep! Easy & Safe parking? Yep! Plenty of people to dance with? Yep (note that Sunday's need more people). Just get over their already.  There are plenty of dancers on a Wednesday night (but not as many on a Sunday as I'll explain below).  This is the place to be on Wednesday nights!  Really, really, great.

A word about "The Tube".  Mr. E's is in Alameda (10-15 minutes out of SF) and you have to go through a "tube" to get there.  Only problem is, tube closes at 9 pm due to construction, on Wed-Sunday. Well, my advice, get there before 9!  But failing that, it's an easy drive (about five minutes extra-maybe 10) once the tube is closed, to both enter and exit.  CALL FIRST TO GET DIRECTIONS.  Without directions, you're going to be wandering around aimlessly for quite a while (when you could be dancing).  Make sure you call ahead and get good directions!
 
Thursdays:  Cocomo has really put out the extra effort. They built nice bathrooms.  They've expanded their large dance-floor. They've added an upstairs bar, and dancefloor. They've redecorated (some interesting ideas).  They've put some money into making the experience work!  On top of that, they regularly (every quarter or so) throw customer appreciation nights, where they invite their loyal public to come and dance for FREE.  All this, in addition what got them on the club picks in the first place, make this the place to go if you're into serious dancing (or just seriously having fun) on Thursday (or Saturday).  Cocomo is certainly a club that caters to the dancers (and we appreciate it!).  In addition, I want to mention the great beginner class, taught by Jake and Techi!  This is a great place (highly recommended place) to take those lessons whether you're just starting, or are already intermediate.  Good, clear, concise, teaching!  All this, on a Thursday night?  Yes! Did I mention easy and safe parking? Probably did, but they (i.e. security) keep an eye on your car while you're away!  Very safe environment (really - VERY good security, that greet you at the door, tell you who's playing etc.  I mean this security is top notch (and they quickly and quietly take care of problems when there are any - other clubs should take note).
 
I also wanted to mention Jillians on Thursday. I haven't been to Jillian's enough to really comment, but I wanted to mention them (they are coming up on their six month anniversary, or more?)!  I love having options (as should all of you), and Jillian's in the Sony Metreon really provides a great alternative place to dance.  It has a very different feel and style, which on my visits there, has been a lot of fun.  Fred does a great job promoting the club and I hear it's always got a good crowd. In addition, they have been doing dance contests and shows recently that spice it up even further.  Haven't been there? Check it out and see if you like it!  Give me feedback at feedback@salsacrazy.com.
 

 

Ok, so you've made it this far into the week, and your actually looking forward to the weekend?  Well, wouldn't that be great if the weekend was going to to offer you the best dancing of the week, however I haven't found that to be the case.  Friday and Saturday's are days where I typically don't go out, because for the most part, everything is more crowded (and also because I'm out almost every other day of the week).  So where do you go, if you're not actually going to go out and do something besides dance?  

Well, Friday night is limited, but if I were to have a club pick, it would probably be to check out Alberto's in Mountain View.  Albertos is a great club (and actually where I learned to dance).  On some Friday's they have live bands, and there can be a be a pretty good crowd.  I'll always be partial to this place, and it is one of the (if not THE) longest standing salsa club in the Bay Area. On Friday's, if you're in the South Bay, or you can travel, this is THE PLACE TO GO!  Where else? Well, Roccopulco has salsa on both Friday and Saturday night, and usually a live band, but I tend to only go there for special events, so I can't really comment on how it is on the weekend. If you want to send me feedback on the club, please email me at salsacrazy@salsacrazy.com.

 
Saturday, Maikos and Cocomo's  Since Maikos is in the East Bay, I tend towards Cocomo's for all the same reasons I go there on Thursday.  It's simply the place to be!
 
Sunday's,  Still the most happening night of the week, with the most choices.  Why is that?  Jelly's remains a top pick, but now that Mr. E's has afternoon salsa 4-8pm, it's a very tough call. Mr. E's is such a beautiful club . . . My pick has got be Mr. E's in the afternoon!  Let's see how they do in the upcoming months.  I'm heading out there soon, and will tell you more later!

 



 

Where To Go (update: 5/8/00)

As the world turns, so go the days of our lives (or something like that . . .).  The one thing constant in the Bay Area is the churn of quality (and even not-so quality) salsa clubs!  Year to year the scene changes and clubs open and close.  In my not-so-long five years, we've seen clubs like 650 Howard, Kimballs Carnival, Café du Nord and Mr. E's, either close up, or move around the Bay. Well, a mere two months ago, we had it really good, and I'm sure in a couple of months, we'll have it really good again, but right now, there's a bit of a lull.  There are a lot of great places to go, but the scene is a bit scattered.

I thought I'd update my club picks from a few months ago, mainly because of the relocation of Mr. E's (they don't open again at their new location until June 1st), and the closing of Club Casino.  In addition, some things have changed, new clubs have opened, and I wanted to make note of it here.  Some people have asked me what it takes to be a "Club Pick".  Well, generally, it boils down to these qualities, in no particular order:  Easy (safe) Parking, ample (although not necessarily huge) dance floor, good music (and selection of live bands, if applicable), friendly crowd - with a good mix of dancers and club-goers (ok, some of these are a bit subjective), nice bathrooms (for Men and Women), good bar, nice sound system, nice stage, and a life of at least six months . . . I'm sure I could think of a few more things, but these give a good idea of what it takes.

Tuesday Nights:  They're the hottest night of the week for me!  The Glas Kat has really blasted onto the Salsa scene, and they deliver on a great night each and every time I go there.  You just have to take a look around the club, and see everyone having such a great time, to know you've arrived at one very nice salsa club! They book the best bands, great DJ's, have a nice size floor, with easy and safe parking.  I won't go over all the things I say about the club below, but suffice it to say, The Glas Kat is a great salsa club, and we're very lucky to have it.  If you haven’t gone there, you (really, really) should!  Another tip, the Sushi bar is pretty darn good.

Wednesdays: Figure I might as well get a word in about Wednesdays.  No club has really been running long enough to get a solid review here, but I thought I'd at least mention a few options. Roccopulcos, which offers lesson with my first salsa teacher, Alex da Silva.  Great lessons, and always entertaining, I recently visited there to check it out.  There was a large crowd, and it was a good time.  There is a large dance floor, and good music throughout, but the cover charge seems to change around a bit.  Best to call first, but I'd recommend it if your jazzed to go dancing on Wednesday.  Pier 23, a San Francisco landmark, is an pretty small place, but they manage to squeeze in a band, with a little concrete dance floor.  It's always been a fun place to hang out with friends, have a few drinks and dance a little.  Not a "die-hard" dancers joint, but still a good time (come with friends or partners).  I've also heard that Caribbean Gardens has started up with a DJ on Wednesday (and sometime a live band).  I haven't been there, but this could turn into a good night if they stick with it.

Thursday Nights: Cocomo's (offering salsa on both Thursday and Saturday) remains a top pick.  This is the "dancers" club, but can always be counted on to bring in a good group of new people to the scene (which is important). Plenty of easy and safe parking (they’ve even hired someone to keep an eye on the ample street parking so your car is safe), newly added clean bathrooms, two floors (with two bars), and a very responsive and friendly management, helps keep this club on the top of the list for the Bay Area!  Chances are you've been there, and will go again.  Great club, with excellent business practices.

The Big Sunday: Not as big as it used to be, but still plenty of opportunity here. I think I have to keep Jelly’s (Pier 50) on the list for its Sunday afternoon salsa.  It’s a very relaxed and pleasant place to dance, and with the summer months upon us, I think it’s going to be providing some excellent opportunities for a fun time.  Not a large dance floor, but generally good bands, easy parking, and some excellent food, makes it a great place to dance (and enjoy the outside patio). 

In addition, I should probably add a note or two about the Ballrooms (specifically on Sunday night).  At the end of a hard week, when for whatever reason my “Salsa High” has eluded me, I can generally hit one of these places to get it. There are two choices: The Metronome Ballroom in San Francisco, and the Allegro Ballroom in Emeryville.  The Allegro is more established at this time and has been going for several years. It has a large following, and there are many dance partners.  The Metronome is the new kid on the block, and they are growing!  Both have DJ dancing from 8 o’clock on, with lessons in both Ballrooms, starting at six.  The Metronome has live bands once a month!  Both ballrooms offer HUGE dance floors, cheap (free or $1) water, ample easy and safe parking, clean bathrooms, safe-supportive alcohol-free non-club environments (enough with the hyphens already!) and all the typical ballroom plusses and minuses.  I have to say that, for my two cents, it provides a nice alternative to the clubs every once and awhile, and I enjoy the laid-back, relaxed and supportive atmosphere of the ballrooms.  As always, for beginners, this is the easiest place to start!

Expect another update in a month or so, when the "Summer Clubs" begin!  As always, I'm interested in people's feedback, comments, and insights.  Feel free to email me at salsacrazy@hotmail.com and I'll gladly take a look and add your opinion to mine.


Where To Go (update: 2/3/00)

Tuesday Nights: The Glas Kat, 4th and Bryant in San Francisco.  I first tried this club for Tango on Monday night (and it was great).  When I heard they were starting Salsa, I knew this would be a fun place to be.  With the recent demise of Cafe Du Nord on Tuesday nights, this is the ONLY club in San Francisco offering salsa.  Add to that, a great dance floor, very nice ambience, live bands, very easy parking (no pay, huge lot) etc . . .This new club is really great!  My only fear is that, inevitably, it will become so popular it may be too crowded! If you haven't checked this club out yet, you owe it to yourself to give it a try!  [Update]  WOW, now that this club has live bands, there is NO stopping it!  As you've probably gathered from all the email on the various lists, I am NOT alone in thinking that this club is really fantastic.  If you haven't gone yet . . . what are you waiting for?  It has easy, safe parking.  Great music, dance floor.  I'm trying to think of something, anything, negative to say about this club, and I just can't . . . GO, and tell your friends.  It's a guaranteed fun night out . . .

<CLOSED> Wednesday Nights: Club Casino, The Mambo Lounge, Columbus and Broadway in San Francisco.  This club is another really nice place to dance.  A nice sized dance floor, excellent DJ who plays a nice mix of classics and new stuff, fantastic dancers etc . . .This club does have a few issues, like a rather large cover ($10) and rather steep drink prices ($3-$6), and sometimes (rarely, at least for me) difficult parking, but it more than makes up for these negatives with it's many positives! This place always gets a great crowd of dancers, has great music, nice atmosphere, etc . . . Very worth supporting and checking out! [Update].  Reduced drink prices have resolved the only real negative to do with Club Casino.  It's now on the A-List for clubs in the city.  This place is fantastic.  Midweek dancing in the city is a dream come true.  Sunday nights have recently been added, but I have not been able to check them out yet!

Thursday Nights: Cafe Cocomo, 18th and Indiana Street, San Francisco. Well, this place has really turned into the hottest club in San Francisco.  After FOUR false starts in the last two years, it looks like the latest incarnation is pure gold.  Extremely attentive management, good dance floor, easy parking, fair, inexpensive, cover ($8 for Thursday w/live band), and the list goes on and on. . . If you haven't been here, well, you should check it out! It's hard to say anything bad about this club at all!  However, let me state for the record, Saturday's are a very popular night.  That's why I pick Thursday as THE great night to go out and dance. I still go on some Saturdays (because the bands are great!), but tend to never miss a Thursday! [Update] This club continues to impress.  Damn, I just love Cocomos!  

<TEMPORARILY CLOSED> Sunday Nights!  WOW - you have a LOT of choices on Sunday, and here's how I figure it out.  First, check out Jelly's (Pier 50) and see who's playing?!  I always hit Jelly's if there's a good band.  This place, like Caribbean Gardens, pulls in a slightly different crowd than you may see in any of the other locations.  If your a beginner, you'll want to avoid this place (no lessons and crowded) and head to either the Metronome Ballroom (Class at 7-8:15 with Dalton and Allison), or Allegro Ballroom (Class at 6-8 with Gary and Isabelle).  Both Ballrooms have dancing afterwards. Allegro is very large, and very established, where the Metronome has just started their Sunday nights recently.

My SWEET pick for Sunday has got be Mr. E's (ONLY when there is a good band playing).  This place is absolutely great on Sundays and has plenty of room to dance (as opposed to their overcrowded Wednesdays).  On a Sunday night you can really enjoy this club, and as you already know, it's a great Jazz club, and has a great dance floor. Band starts at 8:30 with lesson at 7:30!  Don't miss out on such a beautiful club, which you can share quite intimately with people, on a pleasant Sunday night.  I should add that Mr. E's on Sunday is NOT crowded, and therefore, you might do better bringing friends (or a partner), just in case the turnout isn't as large as you might hope.  That being said, nothing detracts from the great dancing that can be found at this place!


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