Mac & Cheese With Bell Pepper Bowls, Because Dishes Are the Worst
1. Fly Bar1085 Sutter St, San Francisco
2. Northstar Cafe1560 Powell St, San Francisco
3. Royal Exchange301 Sacramento St, San Francisco
4. Homestead2301 Folsom St, San Francisco
5. Blackbird2124 Market St, San Francisco
6. El Rio3158 Mission St, San Francisco
7. Tope1326 Grant Ave, San Francisco
8. Dosa995 Valencia St, San Francisco
9. Elixir3200 16th St, San Francisco
This neighborhood favority displays murals and paintings from local artists, has excellent sangria, and serves nachos that have a cult following. Hit them during the week at happy hour (noon-6pm) to score $6 pizzas and dollar-off beers. Their other location on Divisadero is a great spot to grab a bite after lounging in Alamo Square, a place to meet friends for dinner before going to a show at The Independent, and an excellent option for a low-key first date.
The Northstar Café captures the essence of your favorite dive bars with free pool and popcorn, a six-hour happy hour every weekday, and Christmas lights, but the Bay Area pride covering the walls and its over a century-long tenure (it opened in 1882!) make the spot quintessential San Francisco.
This dark wood-laden FiDI stable with 72 taps (spanning the whole gamut of craft, imports and domestics) is a go-to for happy hour -- get there before close of business before the suits arrive and stake out your territory to enjoy assorted $5 drinks and $5.95 apps weekdays 2-6pm (bonus: happy hour runs until closing time on Fridays). If there's a sporting event in which you have interest, 17 TVs are at your disposal.
Harkening back to its Prohibition-era glory, this storied Mission bar is still armed with infamously strong cocktails like, an excellent whiskey selection, and peanuts -- the scattered shells of which will crunch under your feet. It's easy to get cozy inside Homestead's Victorian-style parlor, which sports a pressed tin ceiling, giant nude paintings, and (best of all) a small, snuggle-worthy fireplace tucked in the back of the low-lit space. The bar is dog-friendly, too, so even your pup can become a regular.
Blackbird's a rustic, casual watering hole outfitted with a long mahogany bar, large booths of orange leather, stumpy cocktail tables cut from tree cross-sections, a pool table, and a photo booth. This neighborhood joint tempts the locals with its wines by the glass, artisanal craft beers, and oak-aged cocktails. It offers a daily happy hour from 5-8pm with $1-2 off draft beers and $2 Bud Lights and PBRs.
Since 1978, El Rio has been serving up cheap drinks and hot beats on its expansive back patio. This Mission dive is a staple of the San Francisco gay bar scene with its packed barbecues, killer Sunday parties (like Hard French), live music, pool tables, shuffleboard, and serious dance vibes. Come for the free oysters every Friday at 5:30pm, but bring cash for your drinks.
Tope stands out like a sore thumb in North Beach, offering up club vibe more commonly seen in the Castro. With the walls painted like a Kubrick club film set and the music asking you, “Why aren’t you dancing?”, you might find yourself surprised that you are listening to the jukebox instead of a DJ.
Dosa began its tenure as a beacon of brilliant South Indian cooking when it opened in the Mission more than a decade ago. It's still the best Indian cuisine in the city, and restaurant's namesake dosas are made from inventive fusion batters and served with fresh coconut and tomato chutneys and sambar, a lentil and vegetable dipping sauce. The restaurant also has excellent cocktails, especially the Gin and Tonic made with house-made fig and cardamom tonic.
Home to 350+ whiskies, Elixir, which opened in 1858, is the second oldest saloon in the city. The space feels like a combination of a pub, sports bar, and cocktail lounge, which accounts for their amazing diverse drink menu. Come for happy hour and stay until it transforms into a velvety candle-lit party, because why not?