San Francisco is one of the jewels of California, a beautiful tapestry of arts, entertainment, history, food, and some of the best bars in the country. It was one of the pivotal towns for people looking to strike it rich during the Gold Rush and the site of natural disasters, corruption, and all kinds of lawlessness during its early days.
In more recent years, San Francisco has morphed into a cultural hub and must-visit destination. There are plenty of things to do there, like take a long walk over the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, see their friendly resident sea lions, or take a walking tour of the city. There are also plenty of museums and cultural events to keep you and your family fully occupied.
If you’re in the mood for a cocktail after a day of sightseeing, make sure that you check out one of these famous watering holes. These 27 best bars in San Francisco are great places to get a drink and experience the best nightlife that this Californian city has to offer.
27 Best Bars in San Francisco
- 15 Romolo
- Charmaine’s Rooftop Bar & Lounge
- The Interval at Long Now
- Trick Dog
- Moongate Lounge
- Smuggler’s Cove
- Balboa Cafe San Francisco
- Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant
- Cold Drinks Bar
- El Techo
- The Alembic
- Li Po Cocktail Lounge
- Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar
- The Page
- Redwood Room San Francisco
- Blackbird Bar
- Mikkeller Bar SF
- International Sports Bar
- Little Shamrock
- The HA-RA Club
- Fireside Bar
- R Bar
15 Romolo Pl, San Francisco, CA 94133
15 Romolo has been around for 15 years and is one of San Francisco’s best local favorite bars. It offers quality food and signature cocktails at a reasonable price, so feel free to stay all night and have yourself a fabulous time.
Signature dishes include their Basque deviled eggs and saffron sofrito. If you’re looking for something a little bit on the lighter side, check out their grilled romano beans or Tajin little gem salad.
Of course, the stars of the show are their cocktails. My favorite is the mimosa which is an inspired take on an old classic, and their Bloody Mary’s are fabulous. They also have an extensive and tasty beer menu featuring craft offerings from around the region.
Charmaine’s Rooftop Bar & Lounge
45 McAllister St, San Francisco, CA 94102
If you want to check out the best of San Francisco from a bird’s eye view, Charmaine’s Rooftop Bar & Lounge is a great place to do it. This bar is simply oozing with atmosphere, and they have live music on many nights. Most of the tables have fire pits, perfect for those cooler Californian nights.
Although their food menu is limited, everything is of excellent quality. I recommend their fries which are great, and their cheeseburgers will undoubtedly hit the spot. Although they offer wonderful takes on classic cocktails, their signatures are really what make this place pop. Fifi the Flea is a good choice.
3010 20th St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Trick Dog specializes in excellent service and simply well-made cocktails. Their bartenders can help you select the perfect drink for you based on your tastes. While they do offer most of your traditional favorites, Trick Dog focuses heavily on mixology, and you will see some surprises on the menu for sure.
Try any one of their signature takes on classic cocktails, and be sure to sample the food as well. I absolutely loved the Trick Dog burger, and their fish tacos are fresh and expertly seasoned. Overall, this bar is a win for those who like a casual atmosphere with high-end cocktails and food.
3174 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103
Cleverly named ABV doesn’t just offer alcoholic drinks; they have mocktails too. This place caters to everyone, with great service and an excellent food menu. One of their top non-alcoholic drinks is a passion fruit spritzer. It’s light, refreshing, and will totally hit the spot.
If you’re looking for something a little more substantial, I would try their selection of Japanese whiskeys, or have one of them incorporated into a drink. One of the things that ABV does really well is new takes on old classics, so you’ll still get some of the flavors you’re accustomed to but with a fresh twist.
Their beer selection is exceptional too.
28 Waverly Pl, San Francisco, CA 94108
Moongate Lounge is a true feast for the eyes. If you want to enjoy a cocktail surrounded by whimsical decor with a decidedly Asian flair, check it out. Their cocktails are exciting and delicious, like Minor Heat, a rum, coconut water, and an apricot concoction that is both boozy and light.
Opt for the Major Heat, which combines bourbon and Hawthorne berries if you want something a little heavier. There’s also gin, mezcal, and tequila cocktails. I recommend pairing your drink of choice with some small bites from their menu. The lamb skewers and orange chicken wings are excellent. Their soft shell crab is very tasty as well.
650 Gough St, San Francisco, CA 94102
If you’re a rum lover who is looking for a diversion from regular fare in San Francisco, check out Smuggler’s Cove. This boutique bar has been operational since 2009 and boasts the largest rum selection in the continental United States. You’re sure to find something to please your palate here.
It’s also got some great decor. Smuggler’s Cove is full of tiki torches and will transport you right to the tropics. Their bartenders really know their stuff and can recommend the proper rum or rum drink for you. They even take special requests. If you’re a “rum nerd” like myself you need to put this place on your list.
Balboa Cafe San Francisco
3199 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123
Balboa Cafe San Francisco simply radiates old San Francisco elegance. Its clientele is a nice mix of both local people and tourists. With a concise and interesting menu and a good drinks selection, Balboa Cafe San Francisco certainly qualifies as a hidden gem.
The Balboa burger is juicy and tasty, served with crispy fries. Wash it down with one of their fantastic drinks, wine, or a huge selection of craft beers. If you’re having trouble pairing your dish, you can always ask your server for recommendations, which is in my opinion one of their best upsides.
Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant
5929 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121
If you are wondering where to get a drink and some of the best Mexican food in all of San Francisco, Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant definitely has you covered. They have a robust menu of Mexican food like guacamole, nachos, and enchiladas. All of them are fresh to order and pair perfectly with their signature margaritas.
If you ask me, what sets their margaritas apart is the quality of the ingredients. Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant knows all things tequila and 50 years later still serves up classic Mexican cuisine. Their staff can even talk to you about their various types of tequila so that you can select the one that’s best for you.
528 Washington St, San Francisco, CA 94111
Verjus is a local hangout, and it’s conveniently located right near Jackson Square. If you find yourself in downtown San Francisco, you should definitely check it out. Although the drinks are undoubtedly excellent at Verjus, their cheese selection stands out too. You’ll find artisanal cheese from all over the world, plus unique charcuterie boards and shareable plates.
Of course, you’re going to want to wash down all that good food with something yummy. The best of Verjus’ in my opinion is their wine list which is excellent, and their staff will tell you which wines pair best with each different type of food. If you’re looking for an obscure bottle of wine, there’s a good chance that you’ll find a Verjus.
Cold Drinks Bar
644 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133
At Cold Drinks Bar, the atmosphere is just as strong as the drinks. Expect eclectic furnishings, wall art, and bartenders wearing tuxedos. If you like bars that are just a little bit quirky but still sophisticated, Cold Drinks Bar is an excellent option for you.
Although the decor is definitely a little bit quirky, many of the drinks are solidly traditional. You’ll find a wide variety of high-quality scotches that you can drink neat, on the rocks, or blended into one of their signature cocktails. I recommend stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying their Japanese gin, or simply get yourself a classic Manhattan.
2516 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110
El Techo is another great Mexican-themed bar in San Francisco. You can pair your drinks with some premier bar food, like chips and salsa, ceviche, or empanadas. Their caramelized pork has something of a cult following in San Francisco, and you definitely shouldn’t miss it.
As for the drinks, El Techo certainly delivers both on quality and style. Their margaritas and piña coladas are fresh and had me ordering more than twice. You can also wash down your Mexican fare with one of their ice-cold beers. This place tends to get really busy on the weekends, so be prepared to wait for a little while to get a seat. Trust me; it’s worth it!
1725 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117
The Alembic derives its name from antiquity when the art of brewing cocktails and spirits was something akin to alchemy. So, as you can imagine, you can definitely get some of San Francisco’s best cocktails there, as well as an ambiance that will totally blow your socks off.
Although The Alembic is a bar, it’s a great place to have your boozy brunch. I was completely taken back by their food which is incredible, especially the omelets and crispy breakfast potatoes. Their Bloody Marys are great, fresh, and made to your specifications, and the craft beers are exceptional too.
Li Po Cocktail Lounge
916 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94108
Li Po Cocktail Lounge is a Chinatown staple that’s been around for the better part of a century. It’s also one of the greatest dive bars in all of San Francisco, where you can sample local favorites like the Chinese Mai Tai, a fun twist on the classic Hawaiian Mai Tai.
While you’re sipping your drink, you just might hear stories about the colorful past of Li Po Cocktail Lounge. What I loved that distinguished this place is the history of the bar which is just as much of a reason to visit as the cocktails are. Another excellent reason to stop in is the decor, which is an eclectic mix of Chinese decorations and San Francisco novelties.
199 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103
Zeitgeist was first founded in 1977 and is one of the top bars and beer gardens in San Francisco. If you visit during the warmer months, you can take advantage of their handsome beer garden while you’re sipping on one of their 64 different types of craft beer or sampling a margarita or Bloody Mary.
Although Zeitgeist definitely has a punk-rock feel, it’s also relatively clean. I loved that their servers are very knowledgeable, and there’s generally some kind of live music going on. There’s a nostalgic feel to this bar, too, with pinball machines in the back.
Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar
950 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94108
Get a taste of the tropics stateside at Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar. Not only does this bar offer a wide selection of drinks from the equator, but you can also find Polynesian-fusion food and some of the best decor in the city. You’ll feel like you’re on vacation without having ever stepped on an airplane.
Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar regularly features live music and is an excellent place for dancing, which was the main reason I decided to give it a go. They serve traditional cocktails and newer ones like “Adult Swim,” a tropical mix of different liquors and fruit juices. Both locals and travelers alike love the bar, so make sure that you set aside some time to visit.
246 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94108
Rickhouse is centrally located right in San Francisco’s Financial District and is a great place to stop if you want to sample some excellent whisky. Their bartenders are exceptionally knowledgeable about all of the cocktails that they have on the menu. The atmosphere is delightful, sophisticated, and definitely evocative of old San Francisco.
Although Rickhouse is absolutely high-end, the prices are relatively reasonable, and the selection is second-to-none. Even if you might get overwhelmed by the vast wall of whiskeys, the bartenders can ask you about your specific tastes and recommend or craft a cocktail that’s perfect for you. A perk that saved the place for me.
3200 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103
Elixir is a great place to go if you have a passion for cocktails. Not only do they offer a huge variety of cocktails, but they also have classes so that you can be your own mixologist. Since their classes are online, you can take them from anywhere in the world. Of course, if you’re in San Francisco, you should really stop in to experience the real thing.
Elixir has many different whiskeys on the menu and even hosts a whisky club where you can try new varieties. Although it’s an intimate venue, I was surprised about their approach to the setup which will never make you feel like it’s too crowded. Be forewarned; they tend to pour their drinks strong!
298 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117
If you’re looking for a cool spot to hang out that’s also one of San Francisco’s most fun bars, get to The Page. This bar hosts plenty of live music and has a good selection of wine and craft cocktails. Their prices are also fairly reasonable, so you can set up there for the night without breaking your budget.
If you’re not in the mood for cocktails, I’d recommend trying one of the many beers that they have on tap. There are local, domestic, and international beers on the menu. Keep in mind that The Page only takes cash, and it does tend to get pretty crowded on the weekends.
Redwood Room San Francisco
495 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94102
The Redwood Room strikes the right balance between being an intimate bar and one that has a lot of space to spread out. Redwood presumes an artsy decoration that includes lots of wood paneling and sophisticated decor. The cocktails are excellent, using inspired ingredients and putting new takes on traditional libations.
My favorite thing about the Redwood Room was its top-shelf liquors and unique history. It first opened the day after Prohibition ended. Their bar menu is full of elevated pub food, all of which pairs well with their cocktails and wine. This place is cozy enough to go on a date but fun enough to take a group of friends to.
2124 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94114
The Blackbird Bar is ideal for getting local and domestic wines, craft beer, and classic cocktails. They also have a menu of signature cocktails, including the Kentucky Peach with lemon, basil, and vodka, and the Strange Summer with mezcal and hibiscus. Each cocktail is perfectly balanced, and many of them use ingredients that you won’t find anywhere else.
I loved that you can also get old classics, like the Market Street Manhattan and Old Fashioned. The bartenders are really knowledgeable about what they have to offer and can give you samples of many of the liquors that they have on tap.
Mikkeller Bar SF
34 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94102
Craft beer enthusiasts will love Mikkeller Bar. This establishment features 40 taps full of craft beer from all over the world. You’ll find a vast array of beers from Europe, as well as domestic and local offerings that showcase the best in American craft beer.
Mikkeller Bar has fairly sparse decor, with an industrial feel that fits in well with the overall vibe of the place. If you ask me, I’d pair one of the craft beers with some of their pub food, like crispy fresh French fries. If you’re wondering what to order with your drink, simply ask the staff. They will be happy to point you in the right direction.
International Sports Bar
1000 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133
The International Sports Bar is one of the most cost-effective watering holes in San Francisco. Visit them during Happy Hour between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., and you’ll enjoy $3 draft beers and well drinks. As the name suggests, this is a sports bar where you can play pool and Foosball. Dogs are welcome, and the overall atmosphere of this place is welcoming and fun.
The International Sports Bar has some of the friendliest bartenders in the city, they had me talking for hours even after I finished ordering. If you’re looking for artisanal cocktails, this might not be the place. However, if you want a fun, laid-back place to have a pint, get to the International Sports Bar.
807 Lincoln Way, San Francisco, CA 94122
I love that Little Shamrock is one of the oldest bars in San Francisco and it’s easily accessible from downtown. If you’re craving a frosty pint of Guinness, you should definitely go there. It’s a historic bar located right in San Francisco’s Sunset neighborhood where the premise is to treat guests like family. Don’t be surprised if you stay all day chatting to the bartender and playing backgammon.
The Little Shamrock is cash-only, but there is an ATM on the premises. The Little Shamrock is a great place to drink craft beer, and its unassuming nature and friendly vibe make it a good place to stop after a long day in the city.
The HA-RA Club
875 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94109
In 1947, two guys named Hank and Ralph decided to open up a bar, and The HA-RA Club was born. Since both Hank and Ralph were sports enthusiasts, you can expect to see a lot of sports-themed decor in The HA-RA Club. It’s also got a bit of an art deco feel to it. The HA-RA Club is a laid-back place where anything goes. There’s a nice pool table, and plenty of televisions to watch sports.
Since it’s located right in the Tenderloin district, it’s an easy place to visit after a day of sightseeing in San Francisco.
603 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122
The Fireside Bar is another centrally-located gem near San Francisco’s Botanical Gardens. Although it’s a neighborhood bar, it has a higher-end feeling and a huge fireplace. If you visit San Francisco on a cold or rainy day, make sure that you stop by the Fireside Bar to warm up.
The Fireside Bar generally has plenty of live music going on, and it’s got a bit of a dive bar feel without being too grungy. I really liked that the bartenders were all knowledgeable and nice, and had no problem customizing my drink. They can also make intelligent recommendations on what to order.
R Bar San Francisco
1176 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94109
Hey sports fan, if you’re like me, you should definitely check out R Bar. Out of all of the San Francisco bars on our list, this one offers you the best chance to catch the game of your choice. They have 12 flat-screen televisions and access to almost every televised game on the planet. If it’s a big game, you can be fairly sure that R Bar will be playing it!
If you’d prefer to play, rather than watch, check out their arcade games in the back. The staff at R Bar is exceptionally friendly and helpful. They serve their customers quickly, and the beers are always cold and fresh.
San Francisco is a city that everyone should see at least once in their lives. If you love history, culture, and want to be in the middle of the action, put it on your “must-see” list for sure. Of course, while you’re there, it’s a good idea to treat yourself to some of the best libations that San Francisco has to offer.
Whether you love artfully crafted unique cocktails using obscure ingredients, or just want to have a cold beer, there’s something for you in San Francisco.
Not looking to wet your whistle? Check out some of these amazing places to get brunch around the city!
Did we leave your favorite watering hole off our list? Let us know if we missed anything in the comments below.
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