A little after eleven thirty today, I shook hands with the doorman and walked through the doors of San Francisco’s Gold Club. It’s a gentlemen’s club on Howard Street, which is to say right in the heart of the city and quite close to very respectable venues like XYZ. I’d never been to a gentlemen’s club before, and in all probability never will set foot in one again—but this being San Francisco and my very last Spring Break, I figured I should probably do at least one thing I might regret.

I’m pleased to say, I don’t regret it. Friday lunches and the accompanying show at the Gold Club are free after a $5 cover, so the place was pretty packed. The clientele ranged from construction workers on their lunch break to a trio of Japanese gentlemen in suits, as well as at least one middle-aged couple at the bar who appeared to be enjoying a date with nary a glance at the stage.

I made a quick foray to the buffet line, where I snagged some fried chicken, jambalaya, steamed veggies, and an iced brownie, then parked myself quietly at a two-person table in the corner. The only pressure I felt during the whole experience came from a relatively fully-clad waitress who let a frown crease her face when I expressed disbelief at the $5 cost of a bottle of water. In her defense, the water turned out to be Voss (artesian spring water from Norway), and came in a bottle that I plan to use as a credible Nalgene alternative for the rest of my time in San Francisco.

For a total cost of $10, the food and particularly the water—the Voss was nearly worth the $5—were entirely satisfactory. The chicken was a bit dry, but the iced brownie was delicious, so things balanced out. Since lunch was the whole point of the exercise for me, with the show being a sort of anthropological add-on, I count the trip as a success.

But that’s not what you wanted to know, so let’s rewind a bit.

When I walked up, the doorman said hi and asked to see my ID. Apparently satisfied that I wasn’t skipping high school lunch to hit a strip club, he waved me through the front door. The diminutive yet somehow intimidating Japanese-American woman at the front desk took my five and handed me a receipt, then gestured me through to the floor.

How to explain the inside of the Gold Club? Think of a cross between your favorite wannabe-upscale restaurant and your best-remembered high school dance (if it had special topless dancers announced by Casey Kasem). Add a small mirror-backed stage with a pole as the center of attention, and you’ve just about got it.

The girls who were working mixed in with the clientele. Occasionally some money changed hands and one of them would lead a gentleman off the floor to some back room or give a somewhat restrained lapdance right there on the floor. It was hard to tell whether some of the girls sitting at tables together were on the clock or just relaxing there in lingerie for the hell of it, since they didn’t seem to be approaching anyone. Presumably that was part of the atmosphere; I don’t know.

As far as the actual dancing goes, I’m going to draw from a Yelp review by Nicole G:

A $5 entry fee includes all-you-can-eat buffet and almost more thigh, breast and leg than you can handle in one sitting. We were there for a Chamber of Commerce meeting (this is how business gets done, people) and strangely enough, we never found our party.

Maybe we were distracted by the naked women? The gals are all cute, albeit somewhat tranquilized. I found myself wishing they would dance a little grindy-er, gyrate a little faster or put some guy in a headlock between their legs. I was feeling a little unfulfilled until we saw Shelby perform… dang, that girl went up the pole and pulled out more tricks than a circus monkey.

I dunno about Shelby and her tricks, but there was definitely one performer who stood out head and bare… uh… shoulders above the rest. The rest did seem a bit tranquilized.

I was pleasantly surprised to be approached by only one of the girls, and she as I was getting ready to leave. A gorgeous Latina in an attractive red not-much-of-anything, she tried to strike up a conversation but gave me a gracious (and dazzling) smile and moved off when I told her I was just about to leave. I’d no particular urge for a lapdance of my very own, but I was still pleased I’d chosen not to take any extra cash with me—I can see where an attractive girl in very little clothing could be ungodly persuasive.

Overall, I’d give the experience a solid four stars, at least as much for the anthropological experience as for the food or the dancers. I don’t really see why any man who has a regular date and more than $5 on hand for Friday lunch would spend his time or money at a gentlemen’s club, but if forced to, I suspect you could do much worse than San Francisco’s Gold Club.