Travel

San Francisco Bars & Nightlife

Establishment neighborhood
Biergarten
424 Octavia at Fell, Hayes Valley
This lovely beer garden is exactly the kind of place you want to come for drinks after work on a sunny day (their patio is huge). Food-wise, there's a nice selection of snacks like pickles and pretzels, plus some more filling options, including several types of sausage and sandwiches served in pretzel knot buns. The list of beers is excellent, and expertly curated down to a few great options–easing any sense of menu overwhelm. If you're still unsure, try a Radler: A mixture of beer and sparkling lemon soda that's pleasingly light and summery.
Bourbon & Branch
501 Jones St., Tenderloin
While Bourbon & Branch isn't the first bar to play on the speakeasy theme, they expand the motif with a lot of enthusiasm. Located in a bar that was an actual speakeasy from 1921-1933, the space has more than five secret rooms for guests to explore, if they can find them (and remember the password). Plus, a set of "House Rules" prevents anyone from using cell phones or taking photographs, and awesomely cautions: "Don't even think about asking for a Cosmo." Make a reservation in advance, as you'll need to be armed with a password to get in.
Redwood Room
495 Geary St., Tenderloin
This historic bar inside the Clift Royal Sonesta Hotel has been open since the '30s, when waiters in white tuxedoes served the drinks (indeed, the Redwood Room's conservative dress code made it an important battleground for clashes between San Francisco's old guard and the long-haired kids of the '60s). The art-deco style space underwent a complete restoration in the early 2000s, bringing the redwood paneling on the walls and the deep bar, which was rumored to have been built from just one redwood tree, back to their former glory. The vibe here can get a little clubby at night, so we like to stop by in the early evening for pre-dinner drinks.
Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery
1398 Haight St., Haight Ashbury
One of the pioneers of the vibrant microbrewery culture in San Francisco, Dave McLean has been passionately making craft beer for more than 15 years. His pub in Haight Ashbury is a cozy place to sample their wide selection, and their Sunday brunch comes with a beer pairing for brave souls. McLean used to keep all of his brewing equipment in the basement underneath the pub, but after outgrowing that space last year, he moved production to an enormous converted warehouse in Dogpatch. The tasting room in the shiny new brewery offers up some wickedly good BBQ and stays open until 2am on weekends.
The Alembic
1725 Haight St., Haight Ashbury
Craft cocktails are a well-recognized and celebrated art in San Francisco, and The Alembic has some of the most creative bartenders in the game. A sister bar to brewery favorite Magnolia Pub, it shares the same cozy, rustic aesthetic, with Edison bulbs hanging bare over a bar that looks like it was made with reclaimed wood. Favorite menu items include the fantastically titled Sloe Boat to China, a citrus-y blend of gin and Vermouth, and the Corpse Reviver, a gin drink with a subtle touch of Absinthe. If you're lucky enough to be visiting during the right season, stop by for a weirdly good Girl Scout Cookie cocktail pairing.
Bar Agricole
355 11th St., SoMa
The first thing you'll notice about Bar Agricole is their spacious, light-filled building—it's a historic warehouse re-purposed to LEED-certified standards specifically for the restaurant. In the outdoor space, you can sit in booths with your back to raised herb gardens—or, inside, you can sit inside on chairs made with wood from reclaimed wine barrels. The scene here is great any time of day, but it gets especially lively during weekend brunch (their boozy breakfast drinks, like the Radler and the Sangrita, are a strong draw).
Trick Dog
3010 20th St., Mission
Located in the Mission, Trick Dog is sort of a classic hipster spot for craft cocktails—you can be almost certain that your bartender is going to be sporting a well-groomed beard and a handmade apron. But with that creativity and attention to detail comes a James Beard Award-nominated cocktail program that incorporates out-of-the-box ingredients into a seasonally changing cocktail list. Visitors also love their menus, which change every month and have been imaginatively shaped into a Pantone color wheel, a zodiac guide, and a map of San Francisco. Just don't try to steal one (trust us, they're on to you).
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