It's Worth Getting Sloppy For This Grilled Cheese Taco
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It’s in a hotel and has killer views, which means Top of the Mark is the bar tourists dream of. Yes, there are more than 100 martinis on the cocktail menu, and again: yes, those stupidly perfect views, but seriously, who wants to see 14 different couples get engaged when they’re trying to get their buzz on? No one. Save this place for when your grandma’s in town. Especially if she’s paying the bill.
The tourists hit up this Downtown spot for all of the reasons you’re going to want to as well, starting with the fact that it has more than 100 beers. But that’s not all... it also offers shuffleboard. And pool. And foosball. And yes, of course: more than 20 screens showing the games. Still, the large groups of fist-bumping corporate bros who are either visiting Silicon Valley or visiting from Silicon Valley mean you’re going to need to get your skee-ball and sports-watching fix elsewhere.
In theory, a dueling piano bar is the best thing that could ever happen to you on a crazy night out. In reality, Johnny Foley’s is in a basement and the piano players know that everyone in there is a tourist so they demand money to play any song you might actually want to hear, and it’s never a good idea to give someone 20 bucks just so he’ll play “Sweet Caroline,” no matter what the swarthy dude from Boston next to you says.
The tourists love this dive bar because it’s in Fisherman’s Wharf, which is where they’ll spend 90% of their vacation. We love this old-school SF watering hole because it’s been around since the 1930s and has a certain je ne sais quoi. Yeah, it had to change locations recently thanks to an eviction (ugh, SF), but the former location has been pretty faithfully replicated with lots of red velvet, cherubs on the ceiling, and even the same bar stools. Still, you don’t want to go anywhere near here on a weekend because, again: So. Many. Tourists. This should not be a problem because why on Earth would you be near Fisherman’s Wharf on a weekend anyway? (And no: In-N-Out is not an excuse.)
Considering we don’t know a single person who lives in SF and has gone to Ruby Skye willingly, we feel very comfortable saying this is by far the most touristy club in the entire 7x7. Sure it has some good DJs (we guess?), but it’s one of the few spots you’ll find girls teetering in their 4in heels and pulling on their skirts while surrounded by dudes who still use the word “clubbing” as a verb and are still weirdly into bottle service. Even though those bottles were once stored in raw sewage.
We named this bar one of the 22 best in California, and though we’d like to take all the credit (blame?) for turning this Polynesian-inspired Tiki bar into the one SF bar every visitor has on his or her “to do” list, it’s really Smuggler’s Cove's fault for creating what’s probably the best Tiki bar in the entire country. So yeah, we like it in theory, but the fact that there is ALWAYS a line to get inside means we never actually go anymore.
There’s no denying the Redwood Room is gorgeous. We just named it one of the most beautiful bars in San Francisco for heaven’s sake. But the fact that it’s overrun with girls in cheesy bebe dresses and platform heels, and dudes who are trying to “hit that” while buying them syrupy cocktails that cost $15, makes this bar one we tend to skip... especially since Whiskey Thieves is just up the street.
Another bar that’s tremendously gorgeous, and outfitted with mosaic tile floors and dark wood paneling. We’d actually love to go on a date here, but we will never, ever be able to because we also don’t want to go on a date in a bar that’s trying to be old-school SF but doesn’t actually have anyone from SF in it. Why is that, you ask? Well maybe because it’s approximately 40 bucks for two drinks. Or maybe it’s ‘cause the only people who actually go here are tourists... and we don’t date those people.
Remember when the Hard Rock Cafe was super cool and you wanted to collect ALL of the T-shirts? No? You liar. Well, whatever, we’re old. Anyway, we went here recently for nostalgia purposes, even though the REAL Hard Rock was on Van Ness, and let’s just say even if you’re dying to revisit your past and cheesy rock n’ roll memorabilia all at the same time, it’s still not worth traipsing to Pier 39 for overpriced drinks and really terrible food. But, uh, you probably knew that already.
1. Top of the Mark999 California St, San Francisco
2. Golden Gate Tap Room449 Powell St, San Francisco
3. Johnny Foley's Irish House243 Ofarrell St, San Francisco
4. Gold Dust Lounge165 Jefferson St, #1, San Francisco
5. Ruby Skye420 Mason St, San Francisco
6. Smuggler's Cove560 Gough St, San Francisco
7. Redwood Room495 Geary St, San Francisco
8. Pied Piper Bar & Grill2 New Montgomery St, San Francisco
9. Hard Rock Cafe San Francisco39 Pier #256, San Francisco
If you like your stunning view with a side of martini, this is your booze-soaked huckleberry. In addition to having a hella classy mid-Century vibe, Top of the Mark boasts a “100 Martini Menu,” the best of which can be found on page one. The namesake martini is a straight-up, straightforward blend of Ketel One, vermouth, and two olives -- shaken, not stirred, Mr. Bond. Don’t be afraid to show up in a tux. And, don’t be surprised if you see at least three proposals.
A bar with games like skee-ball, shuffleboard (regulation-length!), and Simpsons pinball, plus pub fare like potato chip nachos (!), plus ONE HUNDRED BEERS.
On the surface, Johnny Foley’s looks like a standard Irish pub, with a labyrinth-like set-up of booths and menu of fish & chips and Guinness. In reality, Johnny Foley's is the downstairs piano bar where rotating players play classic covers from Elton John to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Union Square basement bar is mostly filled with tourists, and the piano players will probably play any song you request.
Like your guy in Super Contra after you do the up-up-down-down thing, Gold Dust Lounge can apparently never be killed off completely. Closed after nearly 100 years in the same Union Square digs, the GDL has emerged anew in Fisherman's Wharf with a nearly identical space... that's three times the size.
SF’s marquee destination for big name club DJs. From DJ Mustard to Nero to Steve Angello, selectors from all over the electronic and pop music spectrum are periodically on stage at Ruby Skye with the club’s dizzying light display as the backdrop. With a max capacity of 900, the ornate ballroom feels like you’ve tapped into a more intimate performance from stars who can fill much bigger rooms on the regular.
This three-story tiki bar in Hayes Valley is one of the those bars you need to go to at least once in your life. There are waterfalls, pirate paraphernalia, and more than 500 rums from around the world. It serves the tiki drink to end all tiki drinks: the Smuggler's Rum Barrel, a punch made with 15 different rums and 20 different juices. Since Smuggler's Cove is on every tourist's list of places to drink in San Francisco, there's always a line and the place is always crowded, but that makes it all the more festive.
Located in the swanky Clift Hotel and opened in 1934, the Redwood Room is one of the oldest bars in the city. High ceilings, a stunning bar made from a 2,000-year-old Redwood, and an Art Deco feel give the space elements of elegance and glamour. The bar stays modern with a rotation of digital artwork and bottle service offerings that attract a club-going clientele.
Since 1909, Maxfield Parrish’s famed Pied Piper painting has hung at the bar of the same name inside of the legendary Palace Hotel. Like everything about the Palace, the Pied Piper Bar is historic, elegant, and tasteful. Although a favorite for classic cocktails, their menu oozes old school refinement with American standbys like the New York Strip, ahi tuna tartare, and one of the best burgers in the Bay Area.
You don’t become a timeless destination restaurant brand like Hard Rock Cafe by changing your formula from city to city. In the heart of Pier 39, SF’s Hard Rock Cafe has a large outdoor patio, perfect for soaking in Indian Summer rays by the Bay over a classic burger or the sneaky-amazing three-cheese Twisted Mac and Cheese with chicken breast. As you might expect, SF-centric band memorabilia from The Grateful Dead and Beach Blanket Babylon await you indoors.