San Francisco’s stellar siren, Veronica Klaus
Knockout song stylist Veronica Klaus is a real San Francisco gem, delivering respectful yet singular interpretations of Great American Songbook tunes that will please devotees while winning new converts from younger generations. The resident Tuesday night performer at the late, lamented Enrico’s restaurant during its final two years, Klaus now performs regularly at the Rrrazz Room—where she’ll be showcasing selections from the Peggy Lee songbook this weekend—along with Joe’s Pub in New York, The Gardenia Room in L.A., and other marvelous boîtes hither and yon.
Her superb new album, Something Cool, has been on heavy rotation here in the San Francisco Agenda office. Among the highlights is Klaus’ jaded, jazzy rendition—killer trumpet solo!— of “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game,” a song oddly unfamiliar to the general public despite having previously been recorded by performers ranging from Ella Fitzgerald, to the Marvelettes, to Massive Attack.
Clearly, our Ms. Klaus has a discerning musical palate. And she’s equally impeccable in her selections of food, fashion, et cetera. Which is why we asked her to answer our Insider Tips questionnaire. Read her answers, and buy her album, stat!
What’s your favorite cultural institution to spend time at in the city?
The Alameda Antiques flea market—held the first Sunday of every month—qualifies as a cultural institution for me! You can learn a lot at a museum, but you can also learn a lot about society by the things it saves and casts off. Put on your hat, dress up and make an occasion of it!
Where’s your favorite view in the city?
It’s great to take in the sites while riding a bicycle through Golden Gate Park to Ocean Beach. The park really is an incredible resource and presents LOTS of different opportunities for sightseeing and mind clearing. I do it as often as possible in good weather early in the morning. There’s something about putting it in high gear and going as fast as you can downhill through the meadows and the mist that really starts the day right! Rent a bike and go!
Where is shopping central for you?
I’m an compulsive browser when it comes to antiques and vintage, and there are several places to get your fix: For clothing and accessories it’s Torso Vintages near Union Square downtown. They have an exquisite collection of designer, vintage and accessories that always amazes me–from Yma Sumac estate vintage gowns to FABULOUS hats! Full disclosure: I work there too, but believe me, I shop!
For antiques and such there is Stuff on Valencia–two floors of fantastic and fantastically priced things that I may not end up buying but NEED to
visit often. For instance, there’s a folding screen made up, probably in the 70s, of authentic 30s hand-painted movie boards used to advertise in theater
lobbys. NO ONE does this sort of calligraphy painting by hand anymore and it is exquisite!
Name one thing a visitor shouldn’t miss eating in San Francisco?
The sweetbreads at Florio! I don’t know exactly what they are–and please don’t tell me–but they are the most decadent succulent treats in town! What’s even better? Though they used to only be an appetizer, they recently added them as an ENTREE size dish! Oh, and did I mention there is bacon involved?
What’s your cocktail spot of choice?
Two places for different moods: Most of the time when I go out to a club I want to see some live music with my cocktail, and the best place in town for that is The Rrazz Room! It’s a fantastic room to see a show in: great sight-lines, sound, and a stellar array of artists! It’s downtown at the Nikko Hotel in Union Square so it’s very centrally located. You might be lucky and catch renowned artists like Della Reese, Mary Wilson formerly of the Supremes or the amazingly talented Tammy Hall playing piano with her own trio or accompanying any number of wonderful singers! [Ed: Including Ms. Klaus...but, while she's biased, we completely agree with her recommendation.]
For those nights when you just want a quiet cocktail with friends, The Comstock Saloon in North Beach has been in continuous operation since 1907 and is a great holdover from the old days of the Barbary Coast! They are serious about their bartending there and take great pains to make you the PERFECT Manhattan….though a good Scotch neat is more my style. One of the attractions you must look for is the original porcelain trough running along under the bar stools which used to function as a spittoon and supposed urinal for lazy, and intoxicated 49ers. Don’t worry, it’s only a conversation piece now.
You’ve got $50 or more per person to spend for a meal, where would you choose?
Da Flora restaurant on Columbus in North Beach—home of the sweetbreads! Flora and Mary Beth run this fine Venetian cuisine establishment in a tiny little10 table space that is dark and cozy–just what I would imagine a fabulous century old Venetian restaurant to look like. The gnocchi will start the meal off with delicious comfort and the menu usually includes a risotto orduck livers and other assorted ultra fresh and delicious regional specialties. Try to take it easy on the house made focaccia bread because you will need the room. They have their specialty cheeses flown in and for wine aficionados, Flora is adept at suggesting the perfect compliment to their amazing menu! Call for reservations.
So now you’ve got less than $15 per person to spend for a meal. Where will it be?
It’s got to be Pancho Villa Mexican restaurant on 16th St. near Valencia. For a budget meal, there is NOTHING better than Pancho Villa’s carnitas burrito with black beans and guacamole. You can smother it with Pico de Gallo at the salsa bar for free! Delicious, and a bargain! Oh yes, and if you want seconds you don’t have to stand in line again….don’task how I know that.
What would you tell a visitor that they absolutely must do while in San Francisco which they probably wouldn’t find in a guidebook?
The rooftop garden at the Fairmont Hotel is a gorgeous and chic place to spend a free hour and is open to the public! You can take a free City Guides tour of the hotel
and get some wonderful insights on its history in San Francisco: it was built before the 1906 earthquake and has quite a storied past.