By day, we’re a government town. But when the sun goes down, Sacramento knows how to let loose. In terms of nightlife, it seems we have more options than ever before. Want to listen to live music? We’ve got it covered. Looking to dance? We have that, too. Maybe you want to dress up for a night on the town. Or perhaps you just want to chill out with friends—or nurse a drink alone in a crowd. Whatever it is you’re looking to do, whatever scene it is you’re seeking, this city’s got your nightlife number.
Celebrate a Big Promotion:
MIX Downtown 1531 L St.
Just been informed you’re moving into the corner office and a new tax bracket? Then grab your American Express Platinum Card and head to this chic rooftop lounge. You’ll climb two sets of steep, dimly lit stairs before arriving at a sprawling space divided in two—indoors and out—by glass doors. For the best seat in the house, go outside, where couches, chairs and ottomans are arranged in semicircles around blazing fire pits. Feeling flush? Order bottle service—a bottle of Grey Goose costs $250, while a bottle of Cristal will set you back $550. If you’re looking to save a few bucks, order from the list of 13 handcrafted cocktails and specialty martinis. Then settle in for a great night of people watching: The place is packed with good lookers, and Arnold Schwarzenegger himself has been known to light up a stogie out on the patio.
Bartender recommends: Zen-Tini ($11)
Lounge on 20 1050 20th St.
This swank, all-white space boasts an obstacle-free dance floor and a creative drinks menu. Dress up—and be prepared to wait in line to get in.
Social 1000 K St.
The Cosmopolitan’s upstairs tenant, this rooftop club attracts a sophisticated crowd. (Translation: no college students.)
Kick Back With Your Mates:
Bonn Lair 3651 J St.
This no-frills East Sac hangout is the closest thing Sacramento has to a proper English pub. The dark, moody interior is filled with cozy nooks and dingy, floral upholstered armchairs that clearly have seen better days. Find a seat at the bar and order a pint of beer. (Hard liquor isn’t served here.) There’s always a rugby or soccer game on the tellie, attracting a largely male clientele. Regulars get to hang their own steins from a hook behind the bar. Try your hand at darts—there are two boards in the back, near the smoking patio. And don’t be dismayed when last call is abruptly made just before 1 a.m.—we told ya so.
Bartender recommends: 20-ounce pint of Boddingtons Pub Ale ($4.50)
Streets of London 2200 Lake Washington Blvd., West Sac
This cheery pub attracts an easygoing clientele with come-ons such as Tuesday “pint night” and Wednesday pub quiz.
de Vere’s Irish Pub 1521 L St.
A hop, skip and a jump from Capitol Park, this popular Irish watering hole has a killer beer, wine and Scotch whisky list. The only downside: The noise can be positively deafening.
Listen to Something Other Than Your iPod
Powerhouse Pub 614 Sutter St., Folsom
At this Old Folsom bar, you can catch country music band Clear Blue 22 one night, ’80s cover band The Spazmatics the next and indie jam band Mumbo Gumbo another. Powerhouse caters to a host of music tastes, inviting blues, folk, country, rock and alternative to perform. The clientele’s all over the board, too: young and old, male and female, dressed in everything from cowboy boots to red patent leather pumps. Most shows run $10 to $15—reasonable compared to what you’ll find at some Sacramento clubs. (Some shows are even—gasp!—free.) A wraparound deck that overlooks the river makes this one of the best warm-weather venues in the region.
Bartender recommends: Long Island Iced Tea ($6.50)
Venue1417 R St.
This new dance club has the feel of a big-city dance hall, with a stage, a massive, bilevel dance floor and three bars.
Blue Lamp1400 Alhambra Blvd.
This is the spot for people serious about live music: When Cake made a surprise stop in Sacramento a few years ago, the band played at Blue Lamp. Rock and alternative bands perform on a simple wooden stage every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.
Drown Your Sorrows:
Poor Red’s Bar-B-Q 6221 Pleasant Valley Road, El Dorado
Misery loves company—and a dark environment. Poor Red’s does not disappoint. Walk through swinging doors and be greeted by a bartender standing in the middle of a monstrous bar. Regulars and tourists alike order the famous (or is it infamous?) Golden Cadillac. Smooth and icy, this alcoholic milkshake goes down easy. There’s sports on the TV and only two beers (Budweiser and Fat Tire) on tap.
Bartender recommends: Golden Cadillac ($7)
Zelda’s 1415 21st St.
Yes, Zelda’s is a pizza joint. But when you’re sitting at the bar, no one cares who you are or what troubles you’ve seen. Zone out in front of the ancient TV and toss back a deceptively strong drink served in a tiny glass.
Cheaters Sports Bar
3221 Folsom Blvd.
This dark, narrow bar doesn’t look like much from the outside. But inside, everybody’s too busy minding their own business to worry about yours.
Go With a Hot Date:
1017 Galleria Blvd., Roseville
This chic new sushi restaurant in the Fountains at Roseville shopping center does triple duty as a sake bar and a nightclub Wednesday through Saturday. There’s no cover charge before 10 p.m. So come for dinner, then stick around and dance your heart out on the striking fuschia- and burgundy-stained concrete dance floor. A live DJ does his thing until 2 a.m. If you get thirsty, grab a seat at the bar and order a Rising Sun. It’s Sake House’s version of the tequila sunrise, made with nigori sake, orange juice and grenadine.
Bartender recommends: Gekkeikan Zipang Sparkling Sake ($10)
Shady Lady Saloon
1409 R St.
This speak-easy on hotter-than-hot R Street Corridor has a Prohibition Era vibe and a nostalgia-tinged bar list, with handcrafted cocktails made with whiskey, gin and rum.
L Wine Lounge
1801 L St.
At this intimate wine bar, the knowledgeable staff is happy to steer you through the impressive drinks list, with 22 wines by the glass and a dizzying array of wines by the bottle. Not so into wine? There are 15 bottled beers, too.