“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud and drinking lots of beer.” Yeah, that’s what Buddy the Elf was supposed to say, but then kids ruined the whole thing, just like they’ll ruin your Christmas when you realize they got all the good loot and you got socks. Again. Still, thanks to these 31 SF bars, all of which are doing you the kind favor of being open on a day when pretty much everything is closed, now you can escape your family to enjoy the only Christmas gift you really need: booze. “I’m drinking! I’m in a bar and I’m driiiiiiiinking!”
Enjoy cocktails at one of SF’s oldest bars from noon until 8pm.
It’ll be open. A little later than usual (so, not 10am), but it’ll be open.
This bar right across the street from Balboa will start serving drinks at 1pm just in time for the Warriors game and there will be a DJ playing late night.
Bowling on Christmas is the best idea ever. Trust. And now you can do it from noon until 2am.
Pinball, pool, and punk rock on the jukebox. And what’s more punk rock than drinking at one of SF’s best dive bars on Christmas Day? It might open around 2pm, but it’s up to that day’s bartender, so call ahead: 415.487.1313.
If your out-of-town family wants to go to Fisherman’s Wharf, make sure you stop at Fog Harbor Fish House for a pumpkin pie martini. The bar is open from 11am to 9pm and it’ll be serving seafood as well.
Is it going to be open? According to the bartender we spoke to: “unfortunately.” Still, this spot, which was one of Herb Caen’s favorites, is the place to hit up if you’re going to be in Fisherman’s Wharf. And you can start drinking here around 10:30am.
It's opening at 7pm. Grab two spots at the bar -- one for you and one for the “Play All Day” Elmo doll Santa left under the tree. Or something like that.
If you’re nice, maybe you can hang your stocking by the chimney with care from 5pm until 2am.
It’ll be open around noon, but will likely close a bit early. Still, that leaves you plenty of time to drink all of the tasty beer.
Nothing will take your mind off of Christmas Day disappointments like a kick-ass jukebox & pinball.
Cozy up with a pecan Old Fashioned (or any drink) from 2 to 8pm.
Lower Pac Heights
Management is still trying to find someone to work, but the plan is to open sometime in the afternoon. You might want to call ahead though: 415.923.8989.
It'll be open from 2pm until 2am. And you can bring your dog. Because you wouldn’t want to leave your dog home alone on Christmas, would you?
Elixir opens at 5pm for all your drinking needs, especially if those needs include holiday cocktails like small-batch homemade eggnog, hot butt rum, and hot house cider.
If you’re naughty, you might get booted from the bar, but if you’re nice, you can drink from 9am until 2am.
This neighborhood spot will be serving tasty food and drinks from 11am until 2am.
Go back in time to SF’s golden era at this iconic bar in The Scarlet Huntington hotel. Show up at 11:30am and stay until 9:30pm. The bar menu will also be available in case you get hungry while you drink.
Who doesn’t want to spend Christmas in a cozy cabin? Opens at 7pm and stays that way ‘til 2am.
Christmas Day is the perfect day for getting a little fancy. Drink “kitchen to cocktail” classics like the Pig 'N Boots (Pig’s Nose Scotch, Lillet Rose, lavender, yuzu, and cinnamon) or get Dom... by the glass. The lounge is also open, which means you can bar-hop without even going outside. Best of all? You can start at 11am and go ‘til 8pm.
Lower Nob Hill
You can start ordering fernet at 9pm and keep drinking it until the bar closes at 2am.
Grab a drink with a view from 10am to 7pm.
It's offering a three-course prix-fixe dinner for $80, but you can also just grab a seat at the bar where the bartenders will be serving up classic cocktails and hot holiday drinks.
This bar in the W Hotel will be open from 11:30am until 1:30am. The perfect place to meet a tourist you’ll never have to see again.
Christmas turkeys for everyone from 5pm to 2am.
“Someone will roll in to open the bar around 6pm.” Now you know.
Vesuvio is open every single day of the year. Which means you can head there at 6am and stay until 2am and never know it was Christmas at all.
You could tell yourself your Christmas doesn’t need house-brewed beer and barrel-aged Manhattans, but you’d be lying to yourself. It’ll open at 1:30pm for the Warriors game.
Toast to the good ol’ days with a cocktail inspired by the roaring '20s at this Michael Mina lounge that’s open from 4pm to midnight.
Doors will open around 11:30am and stay that way until closing.
It’ll start serving rum punch (and whatever else you may fancy) at 7pm.
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Daisy Barringer is an SF-based freelance writer who strongly believes one should start drinking immediately upon waking on Christmas Day. Follow her on Twitter: @daisy.
1. Balboa Cafe3199 Fillmore St, San Francisco
2. Bus Stop Saloon1901 Union St, San Francisco
3. Eastside West Restaurant & Bar3154 Fillmore St, San Francisco
4. Presidio Bowling Center93 Moraga Ave, San Francisco
5. Lucky 132140 Market St, San Francisco
6. Fog Harbor Fish HousePier 39, San Francisco
7. Gold Dust Lounge165 Jefferson St, #1, San Francisco
8. Blackthorn Tavern834 Irving St, San Francisco
9. Fireside Bar603 Irving St, San Francisco
10. Toronado547 Haight St, San Francisco
11. Molotov's582 Haight St, San Francisco
12. 13001300 Fillmore, San Francisco
13. San Francisco Athletic Club1750 Divisadero, San Francisco
14. Bender's Bar & Grill806 S Van Ness Ave, San Francisco
15. Elixir3200 16th St, San Francisco
16. Zeitgeist199 Valencia St, San Francisco
17. The Bell Tower1900 Polk St, San Francisco
18. Big 4 Restaurant1075 California St, San Francisco
19. Cabin1750 Polk St, San Francisco
20. Parallel 37600 Stockton St, San Francisco
21. R Bar1176 Sutter St, San Francisco
22. Top of the Mark999 California St, San Francisco
23. The Cavalier360 Jesse St, San Francisco
24. The Living Room Bar181 3rd St, San Francisco
25. Lucky Strike200 King St, San Francisco
26. Northstar Cafe1560 Powell St, San Francisco
27. Vesuvio Cafe255 Columbus Ave, San Francisco
28. Bartlett Hall242 O'Farrell St, San Francisco
29. Clock Bar335 Powell St, San Francisco
30. Finnegan's Wake937 Cole St, San Francisco
31. Hobson's Choice1601 Haight St, San Francisco
Open since 1913 in Cow Hollow, Balboa Cafe is one of the oldest restaurants in San Francisco. It's managed to maintain most of the original decor, including the moldings and black & white photos. The restaurant is split between a casual front area with a younger crowd and a white table-clothed dining room filled with an older crowd, but everyone is there for the same thing: the Balboa Burger. Served on a baguette with house-made pickles, it's one of the best in the city.
Bus Stop is the best place to hit up a great viewing of the Giants dominating every single team in the MLB... or, ya know, to kick back and have a few beers & shots.
Wanna get bottle service without going downtown? This is your spot. But wait, there’s more! A $25 bottomless mimosa and entree brunch you say? And shuffleboard and big ass TV’s? While Eastside West generally caters to the trendy Marina crowd, this is a classy joint where anyone can can feel comfortable letting loose and getting down on snacks like Tabasco-sauced calamari or fried truffled mac & cheese. You should also feel comfortable taking down a 120oz beer tower, because they have those, too.
This bowling venue allows for the best of the best to bring their A game. Have a few brews and kick back (and let it slip to your C+ game...?).
Billed as "SF's Premier Dive Bar", Lucky 13's got 26 beers on tap, an outdoor beer garden/smoking area, and free BBQ on Saturdays from 4-7p all Summer (plus free Goldfish all the time!).
Fog Harbor is smack in the middle of a touristy area, but who doesn’t want to eat seasonal sustainable seafood and Dungeness Crab while looking onto Alcatraz once in awhile? The view from here is truly incredible and the Crispy Bay Scallops and Baked Oysters with bacon, spinach and creamy parmesan sauce live up to said view.
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.
Live bands, giant pool tables, huge TVs, and a rowdy trivia night all ensure that you'll stay entertained at this sprawling Inner Sunset pub. Head to the back for Blackthorn's tucked-away (and heated, in colder temps) patio: a small oasis that lets you escape from the bar noise if you're looking for a more relaxed night over some domestic or imported draft beers. In addition to brews, there's always a solid lineup of barrel-aged cocktails in rotation here, including the Boulevardier, aged for two months in-house, made with rye, campari, and vermouth, and garnished with an orange peel.
In so many ways, Fireside Bar embodies the Inner Sunset ethos: A comfortable welcoming hideout from Irving Street’s many shops and eateries, nothing flashy besides the super stiff drinks, and a dog friendly hangout for the people of one of the last affordable neighborhoods in SF. There are even dimly lit nooks to get cozy with your boo (or hide from your ex).
If you love beer, you'll love Toronado, thanks to the fact that it was at the forefront of the craft beer movement in the ‘80s and even more thanks to the 45 rotating beers on tap. The Lower Haight bar specializes in local California beer, but there are usually some brews from Colorado, the East Coast, and Belgium. It's next door to Rosamunde, so the smart move is to order a sausage and wash it down with whatever's on tap. Note, Toronado is cash-only.
Not only does this dive bar have one of the sweetest names ever, it also has a low-key vibe, a quality juke box, and super-cheap drinks.
Paying homage to the 40s-era Fillmore Jazz District, 1300's decked out with wood paneling, leather club chairs and b&w photos of neighborhood legends that'll make you pine for a time you never knew existed.
San Francisco Athletic Club is your destination for beer in a bathtub. For real. Small ceramic tubs full of beer bottles on ice are delivered straight to your table, and if that weren’t enough of a draw for game night, this sports bar on Divis also boasts pool tables, shuffleboard, and bleachers, plus a range of bar food. The menu features nontraditional healthy options like poached salmon salad and veggie chili to the not-so-healthy: one-third pound burgers, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, and crinkle-cut fried pickles.
What looks like a rundown hole in the wall is, unsurprisingly, one of the Mission's best dive bars. Aside from an ample selection of draft beer and cheap well drinks, Bender's sports a pool table, a shambled yet adored back patio, and perfect drinking food like fried pickles, BBQ burgers, and tater tots.
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?
Zeitgeist is a fascinating combo of a dive and a biergarten that houses an eclectic blend of friendly patrons who are all there for the same reasons: to sample a bodacious variety of beer, enjoy the nice weather on the numerous outdoor picnic tables, or slug an award-winning Bloody Mary (and in many cases, all three).
Sitting atop Polk Street’s highest point (hence the name), The Bell Tower is a casual hangout with a full bar, complete pub menu and outdoor tables. Omelets and Bloodys rule supreme at brunch time and draft beers and Jack and Cokes are the way to go inside during a ball game.
With dark wood, white tablecloths, and a 1976-era carved wood walls, walking into this place feels like taking a step back in time. This decidedly un-San Franciscan bar/restaurant, in addition to being refreshingly different than the modern Silicon Valley establishments, boasts classic American cuisine, barrel-aged Negroni, and elegant piano music.
Cabin did a smooth job of classing up the joint from the dive bar which previously inhabited this space. This is now a no-frills lounge to come in and enjoy a proper cocktail. Order anything made with the local Bender’s Rye, like the Rye Grin (Bender’s Rye, Barrel Aged Fernet, Mint, Lemon and Simple Syrup) or go big on the SF thing with a fernet flight. Bonus: the gourmet almonds might be the best bar snack ever.
A restaurant inside the Ritz-Carlton is exactly as enticing as it sounds. Chef Michael Rotondo’s Parallel 37 puts a more casual spin on fine dining, and is Zagat-rated for having “one of the best tasting menus." The restaurant's focus is on “hyper-seasonal ingredients” found only in the Bay Area, so be sure to splurge on a tasting menu with a wine pairing, and marvel at the beautiful plating for each course.
Right off of burgeoning Polk St, R Bar sits within the walls of a brick building behind a menacing black gate. Eight bucks gets you a shot of Fernet or jameson (everyone always picks Fernet, because, SF) paired with a Bud Light tallboy. Sports are always on -- most notably R is filled with Oregon fans on Saturday and the J-E-T-S squad on Sunday during football season.
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.
An upscale pub-style joint in Soma from the folks behind Park Tavern, Marlowe, and S&R Lounge, The Cav serves a British-themed menu with hearty standouts like venison tartare; a bacon, caramelized onion, and cheddar burger; and Shepherd's pie.
Inside of Trace Restaurant in Downtown’s San Francisco’s W Hotel, The Living Room Bar is a swanky place to have drinks before or after dinner. The decor is crazy modern, with artistic lighting and attention to detail in every facet of design. Get the vibe going with lounge DJ’s and order bites from Trace if your stomach starts to rumble.
Bites, brews, and bowling await you at this SF outpost of the famed Lucky Strike. With 12 lanes and a 40ft bar, this place'll put your 8th grade bowling birthday parties to shame.
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.
You’ll feel like decidedly like part of the Beat Generation upon entering this cozy North Beach Staple. Located across the aptly named Jack Kerouac Alley from City Lights Bookstore, Vesuvio is a comfortable place for barflies, creatives, and tourists alike to come together and have a couple. Sit upstairs and watch the bustle of Columbus St through the window.
Upscale bar bites and classic American fare are served with house-brewed beers and barrel-aged cocktails at this Union Square establishment. The butter burger, with with cheddar, stout rarebit, crispy onions, and Kennebec fries is the must-try item on the menu.
This classy bar at the Westin St. Francis comes courtesy of mega chef Michael Mina, so as one might expect the bar food is beyond next-level, like lobster corn dogs with whole grain mustard aioli and glazed Korean wings with pickled daikon and bleu cheese. Of course, the steadily rotating menu of handcrafted cocktails made with local spirits and fresh produce hold up their end of the bargain, too.
Finnegan's Wake is a basic neighborhood bar in Cole Valley that nails the effortlessly cool factor. It's kind of a dive, but it's mostly just a place to drink a few beers among regulars, play a round of pool, and chill on the back patio. It's nothing fancy, and we love it just the way it is.