This bar inside the luxurious Clift has the whole glamour and elegance thing down, from the “gold nuggets” under the glass at each table to the classic cocktails expertly crafted behind the grand bar. The bar -- which used to also serve as a restaurant -- gained national notoriety in 1971 for turning away guests who violated the hotel’s conservative dress and hairstyle code (prompting Herb Caen to ridicule it relentlessly, claiming it maintained “standards set in the Coolidge era as opposed to the Cool era”... zing!). But when the hotel's president died in '73, the new dude put a stop to all that. Fun fact: the wood paneling is all pulled from a single, 2,000-year-old Redwood.
Don’t be fooled by the “café” sign out front -- one of the oldest signs in North Beach -- this cocktail spot doesn’t actually serve food, but has kept its original moniker as a relic from its roots when bars had to have a kitchen in order to get a liquor license. One of the first bars to open after Prohibition (and in North Beach period), this classic has had plenty of time to perfect its cocktail-slinging craft. Today the vibe feels frozen in the '60s with wood paneling on the walls, and sleek low booths, making it the perfect place to order a Manhattan and get your Mad Men on.
This neighborhood pub is proof bars only get better with age/redesigns by the 83 Proof guys, who renovated the space a couple years ago, restoring the old timey-ness (complete with a piano stage and working gas fireplace), while keeping both the original bar counter and stained glass.