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Dining to Music

restaurant
Storyville is a faithful reproduction of a classic jazz club.

Supper Clubs Return By Popular Demand

By Holly Erickson

While their parents met and courted at supper clubs, baby-boomers and only saw these glamorous nightspots in old movies. On film and in real life, gangsters and their molls, literary lions, movie stars, detectives and the detected danced, dined, downed fancy concoctions, and swayed to the music of the Big Bands. Roadside supper clubs attracted vacationers and urbanites looking for some respite from the city.

WITH their elaborate decor, high standards, live music, old-fashioned cocktails, intimate atmosphere and couples dancing, supper clubs are springing up all over the City and finding a new generation of customers.

In the first of a regular series, SF LIVE takes a look at two supper clubs in the vanguard of the local revival.

Storyville

Named after both the quarter of New Orleans where jazz began about a century ago, and a late lamented jazz club in Boston, Storyville was started by woodwind player, Don Pender, and partner Katherine Hoffman to nourish patrons with a hunger for jazz and satisfy their palates - in that order.

"Don is a musician himself and has a close relationship with music, so music is first, not food," says Hoffman. "San Francisco needed a new jazz venue. The City had once been a mecca for jazz and wasn't anymore. We wanted to create an elegant jazz venue reminiscent of the clubs that were once commonplace here and on New York's 52nd Street."

Surrounded by red velvet plush walls, black leather couches, gold deco sconces, fireplaces and photos of jazz greats, Hoffman continues, "Some of our regular clientele used to go to the San Francisco jazz clubs so popular in the Fillmore in the 1950s and '60s. Storyville has the same feeling they had, which is very important to jazz, because it's about what the musician is feeling."

"Customers remark about the diversity of our clientele. Older African-Americans who used to go to the old clubs in the Fillmore mix with young professional people who enjoy the music and food. The crowd evolves through the evening. The mixture of people is like jazz itself."

The Southern and New Orleans cuisine, with favorites like crab bisque, jambalaya, gumbo, catfish and chicken fingers, are mixed with American standards like roast chicken. Brunch includes crayfish on brioche, eggs sardou and seafood omelettes. Desserts, like jazz, put a new twist on favorite Southern themes like Sweet Potato Crisp and Chocolate Pecan Parfait.

There are two rooms: The Lounge is up-front, where the house band, including Pender, play from 5:00-8:00pm. The Non-smoking Showroom in the back of the club offers dining and shows.

1751 Fulton St., 441-1751, dinner & cocktails Tues-Sun 5:00pm-Midnight, Sun Brunch 11:30am-3:00pm, parking across st. at Plaza Foods, no cover most nights.

restaurant
Heart & Soul is a '40s-style supper club.

Julie Ring's Heart & Soul

After her success with Julie's Supper Club, Julie Ring started Heart and Soul, "because I was getting too old for the crowd at Julie's Supper Club." (Despite its name, Julie's Supper Club was not started as a supper club at all. Food was the focus, with music an afterthought. But Ring wanted to "create a small place with an over-30 crowd, a neighborhood bar as well as a destination point.) At Heart and Soul, music goes hand in hand with the food and the concept. With its rich color theme, based on the owner's grandmother's home in Chicago and recreated by her sister Marian, Heart & Soul is much like an old-time supper club.

The music - jump jive, retro, jazz and swing - is from the '30s and '40s. "It's become a mecca for local singers and several old time divas," says Ring. "It's a very intimate atmosphere. Patrons are right there with the entertainer, and some of the singers step off stage and work the room. We're doing a tribute about once a month to the likes of Billie Holiday and Ella."

Cocktails are poured from 5:00pm and include generous martinis ($3.00 on Thursdays), Manhattans and sidecars. Dance music starts at 8:30pm (9:30pm weekends).

Heart and Soul is dressy but not discouragingly formal. The nattily dressed clientele wears retro suits, fedoras, bow-ties and strapless gowns (to spotlight a '90s woman's tattoos). Ring wanted a place where people can dress up, but also feel comfortable and able to relax for the entire evening.

"The clientele range from 25-70," says Ring. "There's a young retro crowd who wear vintage clothing and swing dance. There are Europeans who love jazz. There are neighborhood people. Theatre people, like some of the cast of Ain't Misbehavin', come by after shows and hang out or sing. There are couples with children who hire a baby-sitter, dress up, and for a few hours can eat reasonably priced food, dance and hear music without having to traipse all around town. We don't turn the tables during a set, and each table has a view of the stage so people feel comfortable lingering."

Snacks for those who don't wish to dine include the signature Julie Ring fries with hot peppers and rice vinegar, shrimp with avocado and mango salsa or ceviche. Dinner is old-fashioned American-style fish, pork chops, sirloin steak, roast chicken and daily specials. Desserts include a mouth-watering peach cobbler. The service is friendly with a sense of humor.

1695 Polk St., 673-7100, open 5:00pm, Tues-Sat dinner & cocktails, Sun cocktails only, free parking Tues-Thur ($5 Fri & Sat) at 1776 Sacramento St., no cover before 8.00pm.

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From the August 1996 issue of SF Live

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