South Beach Wine & Food Festival
Right next door to The Refuge is this shockingly next-level beer bar from a former beer bro at Devil's Canyon. The long, narrow space hosts regular tap takeovers from some of the country's best brew makers and routinely scores kegs of hard-to-get beers from around the world. If Toronado is the best beer bar in SF, Ale Arsenal is the best beer bar South of it.
Despite Alpine Inn being the official name of this roadhouse (changed from Rossotti’s decades ago, when new management took over), local outcry was so intense over the new name, that the owners were forced to include the old name on the sign as well -- so don’t call it anything but Rossotti’s (or, even better, Zott’s).
With only six tables and a small bar, this cozy Euro-style wine and tapas spot fills up quickly, so plan your date night accordingly. An international selection of wines pairs perfectly with the exemplary small plates, made with simple ingredients and local vegetables. For double the love, Amour Amour’s happy hour from 4 to 6pm Monday through Thursday offers excellent prices on wine and nibbles.
The go-to move for Stanford nerds (of-age!) who want to drink more than zero beers, the Nut has one of the Peninsula's best early happy hours ($3 16oz margs until 3pm), a bunch of arcade games (Big Buck Hunter! Pirates of the Caribbean pinball!), and the sagest of sage advice posted in the bathroom: "Please do not throw cigarette butts in the urinal; it makes them soggy and hard to light."
This wine cafe has a wide selection of California and international offerings and slashes glass prices by half during happy hour. You won’t be hard-pressed to find a delicious $5 glass of wine alongside equally tasty Italian-inspired tapas. People go wild for the bruschetta with combinations like beets and goat cheese, as well as prosciutto and fig. Pop a bottle and enjoy live jazz music Wednesday through Saturday evenings at this top-notch date spot.
This bar's hours are terrrrrrible, but only because it isn't a bar -- Devil's Canyon is a San Carlos brewery that opens its tap handles to the public for Beer Fridays, a sort of back-of-the-brewery beer garden party from 4-9pm, plus Off the Grid is there and it's kid/dog friendly.
Serving cheap pitchers of beer in a residential Menlo Park neighborhood since 1966, the Goose has "quintessential neighborhood bar" written all over it, in addition to half-a-century's worth of carvings in the tables and walls. Post up in back -- there's a heated outdoor patio with its own full bar (the "Duck Blind") -- and make sure to get an order (or a tray if you're gonna get after it) of spicy deviled eggs.
G&G is a small, neighborhood craft beer and wine bar with a huge and wide-ranging selection of beer. Size doesn’t matter there -- the cozy bar offers eight drafts and 80-plus bottles, as well as nearly 30 wines available by the glass. Food options are fairly limited, but who’s looking to eat when there are so many beers to sample? Board games and arcades are the only distractions from the minimalist decor.
Hidden between a German market and an always-packed parking lot, this real deal stein-ery pours legit Deutschland beer options while baking pretzels the size of your torso -- both of which you can enjoy in a cozy interior or on a narrow beer garden in back. Just try not to lose any iPhone prototypes while you're there.
Scotch-slinging gastropub Martin's West has so much whiskey behind the bar, they need a damn library ladder to get to it all. In addition to the serious amount of Scotch, Martin’s also has an extensive beer menu full of seasonal and cellar ales, as well as a lengthy wine list with European and Sonoma County wines. If you’re hungry after all those libations, the seasonal and from-scratch menu ain’t bad either.
This apothecary-themed bar is squeezed in behind the Indian fast-food restaurant Curry Up Now. Happy hours feature $2 off beers and $5 glasses of wine, but the real draw is the selection of strong cocktails which includes M&P’s namesake drink, a refreshing julep-esque bourbon concoction.
This San Carlos super dive serves cheap beer and booze 18 hours a day (8am to 2am), and, thanks to a loophole in the law, can actually legally allow smoking inside (classy!). But wait, there's more, like a microwave -- in case you need something heated -- or a shuffleboard table with a working old-timey scoreboard.
One of the best sports bars in the entire Bay, this NFL Sunday Super Fan's paradise is equipped with ginormongous flat screens, towering beer... towers, a mechanical bull, and a two-way mirror in the men's bathroom in case you want to see what the urinal situation is from your seat.
Make "staying late at the office" suck way less by doing it at this not-actually-an-office bar. Savor some of the perks you might find at a major company nearby, and make your way through a ridiculously long beer list on a huge covered patio with fire pits, baseball stadium seating, and a bocce ball court.
This beer hall resembles a German airplane hanger and has more than 30 drafts stored in a see-through fridge in front. Try one of its rotating taps, a house staple like the Clown Shoes Space Cake double IPA, or opt for a beer flight based on flavor palate (fruit, dark, or light). You’ll also find a six-keg kegerator on Steins’ outdoor patio, which you can -- make that "will definitely" -- rent out.
A favorite of SF Chronicle food dude Michael Bauer, this temple of pastrami doubles as a Belgian beer bar, which means you can wash down fries covered in 'strami and cheese sauce with a Kwak strong ale served in a coachman's glass. The Refuge offers more than 100 mostly Belgian beers with 18 rotating taps, and the Menlo Park location has a reserved bottled beer list.
South San Francisco
First off, yes, there is a good bar in South San Francisco. A family-owned affair since 1945, this neighborhood dive (which boasts some serious regulars) offers up a snapshot of 50+ years of Bay Area sports on its walls -- be sure to check out the framed letter from former Niners owner Eddie J DeBartolo, Jr. If you're lucky there'll be free Costco pizza, and if you're extra lucky, there'll be room in the 49ers-adorned drinking den, a cozy little corner of the bar with leather couches and a fireplace.