Food & Drink

10 Secret Bars in SF You Probably Don't Know About

Daisy Barringer Published On 01/20/2015 Published On 01/20/2015
Joe Starkey

Admit it: you love to be in on a secret. Especially when that secret serves cocktails. That's why we set about creating this: a list of SF's 10 best secret bars -- secrets because they're either hidden underneath something, behind somewhere, or legitimately on the DL. So, how do you get into all of them? The good news: you can walk into some of them and make reservations at others. As for the rest of them -- all we can do is give you the information we have and wish you luck.

Park Tavern

Eden Lounge

North Beach
You already love Park Tavern. Will you love it even more when you learn (or re-remember) that there's a swanky lounge hidden upstairs? Yes. Yes, you will. Eden Lounge feels a bit like you're hanging out in a Downton Abbey drawing room (in a good way, of course), but can also be turned into a dining room for private events. Fashion meets function; we like. Not only will you feel special when you're sipping cocktails in the soundproofed room, but you'll also be sipping special cocktails. That's right, the bartender will make you seasonal, definitely-can't-be-found-downstairs drinks you can totally boast about on Instagram. If you can figure out how to get in that is...

Joe Starkey

The Gotham Club at AT&T

SOMA
All of the secret bars on this list are cool, but Gotham Club might be the coolest, if only because it's located behind the scoreboard at AT&T Park. And has insane views of the Bay. And outdoor seating with uninterrupted views of the field. And a full bar. With baseball-shaped ice cubes. And a game room (that's hidden behind a secret door). With TVs, a billiard table, and old-school video games. OH DID WE ALMOST FORGET TO MENTION THE PRIVATE BOWLING ALLEY? Yeah. This place is sweet. Wanna get in? You've just got to be a season ticket holder who's willing to pay a $2,500 membership fee, plus $1,250 in annual dues. Or at least know someone who is. (If you're the former, hit me up, yo.)

The Hidden Vine

The Hidden Vine

Financial District
Tucked away in a little alley between two main streets in the Financial District is a cozy bar that serves wine by the glass, flights, comparisons, and bottle. Yeah, this place is romantic or whatever, but don't let that stop you from coming here because BOCCE. Also, 800+ bottles of wine and yummy small plates. AND BOCCE. (Important to know: if you want to book the bocce court for an hour, there's a $100 food and drink minimum. But it's you: you can eat and drink that much, no prob.)

Hideout (at Dalva)

Hideout at Dalva

The Mission
Some people might argue that the Hideout at Dalva isn't really secret. But that's because those people already know about it. Think about everyone who hasn't experienced the joy that is slipping away from the crowd at Dalva into the intimate (yes, that's code for small) bar where craft cocktails and happiness await. Just don't plan on ordering anything with vodka. Which, uh, you weren't going to anyway.

Joe Starkey

The Ipswitch

Tenderloin
By now, Bourbon & Branch is pretty much a household name for anyone who lives in SF and loves to drink. And while it's pretty easy to get a seat in some of the rooms within the speakeasy-inspired spot, it's definitely NOT easy to do so at The Ipswitch, a super-secret basement room that you access through a trap door in the floor. Fun fact? It's named after the actual speakeasy that operated in the same space during the Prohibition. Sad fact? You've gotta book a large event at Bourbon & Branch and then cross your fingers that they put you and your friends in The Ipswitch. Some gambles are worth taking. This is one of them.

Romper Room

Leopard Lounge

Union Square
Upstairs from Romper Room is a lounge where you and your drinking buddies can go wild ('cause, you know: leopard print). Definitely take advantage of the secret menu that's only available in this second-floor, pink-lit space that holds 40 people. Leopard Lounge is a great place to go if you don't want to be spotted (SORRY), but also purr-fect to rent out for a private party. And we're done. No seriously. We are. Not lion.

Joe Starkey

Marianne's

SOMA
Behind a bookcase in one of our favorite SF bars, The Cavalier, is a top-secret bar named after the woman who had an affair with Mick Jagger. (Marianne, in case for some insane reason that wasn't obvious.) This bar is everything you want in a bar: intimate and cozy with a private bar and bartender, and a bathroom that you don't have to share with anyone except the other cool kids who are also drinking in the secret bar. How to get in? That one's a little tricky. It'll either happen. Or it won't. Sometimes life's a bitch that way.

Grant Marek

Remedie

North Beach
Next time someone judges you for constantly wanting to go out to amazing bars, first: dump that person as a friend. But before you do so, look him/her in the eye and say, "I'm not going to the bar just to drink. I'm going to the bar to consume RESTORATIVE LIBATIONS." And then throw your restorative libation in his/her face. Actually don't do that 'cause drinks are expensive. Back to what's important, though: the cozy, dimly lit bar downstairs from Devil's Acre in North Beach. Though it's a separate bar, Remedie also has drinks that double as, well, remedies. So make a reservation and then toast to friends who get you (and the reason you're there in the first place: good health, duh).

Joe Starkey

Tivoli Sour Room

Union Square
If you're really into lambics and sour beers, then you're going to be REALLY into the secret bar located in Mikkeller Bar that's open Thursday-Saturday from 6pm-2am. Walk down a staircase and hang a left if you want to find the Tivoli Sour Room, a hidden cellar space designed to look like the two Mikkeller Bars in Copenhagen. Grab a stool in front of one of the portholes that looks into all of the kegs and taps that lead upstairs. It seats about 20 and has a selection of 80 speciality bottles and FINE, if you don't want a sour beer, you can bring one down from upstairs.

Joe Starkey

Wilson & Wilson

Tenderloin
Wilson & Wilson is a speakeasy within another speakeasy (Bourbon & Branch), which may sound a little too complicated, but who cares because it's set in a (fictional) detective agency. That should be enough for you right there. But in case it's not, Wilson & Wilson is aesthetically fascinating (velvet-flocked wallpaper, antique glassware, and a drink list that's hidden in a case file), but even more important: the bartenders are making drinks you just can't find in any ol' secret bar. Order the tasting menu for the full experience. Just don't forget to make a reservation. It's the only way you're getting inside.

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Daisy Barringer is Thrillist's SF Editor and if you are a member of The Gotham Club, please hit her up on Twitter @daisy and become her new best friend.

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1. Eden Lounge 1652 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133 (North Beach)

Located above Park Tavern, Eden Lounge feels a bit like you're hanging out in a Downton Abbey drawing room (in a good way, of course), but can also be turned into a dining room for private events. Not only will you feel special when you're sipping cocktails in the soundproofed room, but you'll also be sipping special cocktails. That's right, the bartender will make you seasonal, definitely-can't-be-found-downstairs drinks you can totally boast about on Instagram. If you can figure out how to get in that is...

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2. The Gotham Club 24 Willie Mays Plz, San Francisco, CA 94107 (Soma)

The Gotham Club is the ultimate secret speakeasy behind the scoreboard of AT&T Park. The upscale space is packed with vintage Giants memorabilia, a bowling lane, billiards, and revamped variations on classic ballpark snacks. Chow down on giant Bavarian pretzels while sipping luxe craft cocktails, and be sure to check out the gorgeous views of the Bay when you're not too busy cheering on the Giants.

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3. The Hidden Vine 408 Merchant St, San Francisco, CA 94111 (Financial District)

Because nothing complements bocce like 800+ bottles of wine, hit the FiDi's brick-laden wine tavern tucked away in a somewhat hidden alley (get it?) for wine flights, the type of sustenance you'd expect to pair with wine flights (cheese, charcuterie, flatbreads, etc.), and, oh yeah, bocce! Take note: there's a $100 minimum for an hour of bocce time, so arrive hungry and thirsty.

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4. Hideout (at Dalva) 3121 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103 (The Mission)

Hideout (at Dalva) is the drinking equivalent of a Russian nesting doll. If you're having a few with the crowd inside Dalva, but feel the need for a quieter, more intimate atmosphere, simply slip deeper into the back. There you'll find Hideout, a minuscule but thoroughly enjoyable craft-cocktail bar where expert drinksmiths will create alcoholic delicacies to your heart's desire.

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5. The Ipswitch 501 Jones St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (The Tenderloin)

Located inside Tenderloin's Bourbon & Branch, this super-secret bar is accessed through a trap door in the floor. To get in, you open a floorboard inside Russels Room (another private room inside Bourbon & Branch) then enter a dark basement with a two-seat bar and lockers filled with booze. It's named after the actual speakeasy that operated in the same space during the Prohibition, so it's pretty much the real deal.

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6. Romper Room 25 Maiden Ln, San Francisco, CA 94108 (Union Square)

Tucked away on Union Square’s Maiden Lane (so the tourists won’t find it), Romper Room is a technicolor dream-bar, complete with strong drinks, neon lights, and a promise that your drink will be made in 90 seconds or less. Don’t miss the built-in seats that fold into the wall when it's time to dance, or the super secret upstairs bar -- Leopard Lounge -- complete with a secret menu.

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7. Marianne’s 360 Jessie St, San Francisco, CA 94103 (Soma)

Behind a bookcase in The Cavalier is Marianne's, a secret bar named after the woman who had an affair with Mick Jagger. The once-private lounge -- to get in, you had to punch a members-only code into a keypad and wait for someone to let you in -- changed its policy in 2016, making it open to the public. Along with a more flexible door policy (a waitress at The Cavalier will show you how to get in) Marianne's 2.0 traded its 19th century English parlor vibe for an edgier, 70's rock & roll one.

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8. The Devil's Acre 256 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133 (North Beach)

This North Beach spot is serving up apothecary-themed cocktails in an expansive space with a hidden basement bar. The Devil’s Acre pays tribute to the Barbary Coast with period-specific cocktails that are billed as “remedies.” And the theme doesn’t just stop at the cocktails -- the bar staff wears leather smocks, there’s an 1890's cocktail shaker, the menu’s designed to resemble a classic almanac, and you’ll find apothecary bottles dotting the bar, which is ideal since a drink from the Future Bars gang is a prescription we'll take any day.

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9. Mikkeller Bar 34 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (The Tenderloin)

MB is a Danish spot with 42 beers on tap (including four Mikkellers, unique to this location) and two cask-conditioned ales, served at three different temperatures, depending on the style of beer. Yeah, they take this stuff seriously... so seriously, in fact, that all of the beers on tap are managed by a system dubbed the Flux Capacitor, which controls the exact mix of nitrogen and carbon dioxide used for each tap (no lightning required). There’s also a “secret” downstairs cellar dedicated exclusively to sours. It gets better: Mikkeller Bar isn’t just about the beer. No, there’s also an awesome food menu that involves lots and lots of delicious meat.

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10. Wilson & Wilson 501 Jones St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (The Tenderloin)

Wilson & Wilson is a speakeasy within another speakeasy (Bourbon & Branch), which may sound a little too complicated, but who cares because it's set in a (fictional) detective agency. That should be enough for you right there. But in case it's not, Wilson & Wilson is aesthetically fascinating (velvet-flocked wallpaper, antique glassware, and a drink list that's hidden in a case file), but even more important: the bartenders are making drinks you just can't find in any ol' secret bar. Order the tasting menu for the full experience. Just don't forget to make a reservation. It's the only way you're getting inside.

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