The Best Bars on Geary, Ranked
Here’s a fun fact: If you combine the street and the blvd, Geary is the second-longest street in San Francisco, spanning 78 blocks (and 5.7 miles!), from Market St all the way to the ocean. And here’s an even funner fact: of those 78 blocks, something like 77 of them have bars on them, enough that it’s not super obvious which ones you should be drinking at.
Well, allow us to make it super obvious: here are the 27 best Geary bars, ranked.
The vibe: Ornate chandeliers and tufted leather seating areas make for ritzy, shi-shi elegance you usually don’t find in San Francisco. It’s the kind of place you might go after work to take advantage of a $5 cocktail happy hour, but end up staying for the DJs that turn this place into a crowded dance party.
What it's good at: Bottle service…?... and $5 Old Fashioneds during certain happy hours.
Lower Nob Hill
The vibe: Freshly open and a new go-to date spot to sip a pre-dinner wine and share cheese and charcuterie plates.
What it's good at: There are 120 hard-to-find wine bottles in stock that you can enjoy on-site or take home by the bottle or the case.
The vibe: It's an authentic English pub with classic British pub fare to match, from fish & chips, to bangers & mash, to curries.
What it's good at: A full English breakfast or bangers & mash, washed down with a Boddingtons or a Guinness, poured the correct way.
24. Lefty O’Douls
The vibe: Kitschy in a charming way and the perfect spot to take visitors after the requisite (and hunger-inducing) Union Square shopping. It’s the best value in tourist-central by far with whole meals for under $10. Pair a pastrami sandwich with one of the 31 beers on tap for a satisfying meal and a glimpse into mid-century San Francisco. One-of-a-kind baseball memorabilia adorn the walls celebrating the bar’s namesake who was both an SF-native and New York Giant.
What it's good at: Hand-carved meats served cafeteria-style. The pastrami is particularly delicious.
23. 398 Brasserie
The vibe: A chic, industrial corner restaurant and bar with huge windows in the new-ish Hotel G, serving Euro-American dishes (seared foie gras, beef cheek, duck leg confit, etc.). Brian Felley and Mo Hodges (of Benjamin Cooper located upstairs) are behind the drink menu, too, meaning that if their spot is too packed, you can still enjoy a creative cocktail while you people-watch the crap out of Geary.
What it's good at: The Peter Rabbit cocktail ($12), featuring mezcal, yellow chartreuse, lemon juice, arugula, jalapeño, and salt
The vibe: A Marina bar, except it's in the Tenderloin, so far fewer button-ups. If the upstairs is open definitely make your way up there for a sweet leather couch in an alcove adorned with a 1943 American flag. If it's not (and most of the times it's not thanks to private parties), sitting at the bar is the move.
What it's good at: Whiskey flights ($10 for three served up on a paddleboard!)
21. Ireland’s 32
The vibe: A huge Irish bar with hearty, greasy pub grub and Guinness, Harp, and Smithwick’s on tap. Expect a classic Irish bar, only with a poppin’ and spacious dance floor. Win and win!
What it's good at: Live music five nights a week!
20. Ha-Ra Club
The vibe: An old-school Tenderloin dive featuring vintage photos and boxing memorabilia. The bar recently-ish got sold to the Ace’s guys who said they intend to keep its dive-bar status. Please don’t change, Ha-Ra! We love you!
What it's good at: It's got $3.50 well drinks, and $10 gets you a shot of Bulleit and a Racer 5.
19. Amsterdam Café
The vibe: Low-key bar/café (with pour-over coffee!) and almost 400 beers to choose from. Bring your laptop (free Wi-Fi) to drink while you work or take in the Tenderloin show via sidewalk seating.
What it's good at: Free Wi-Fi and 25 beers on tap
18. Abbey Tavern
The vibe: A solid spot for sports watching, beer nursing, and pool playing. UCSF college students flock to this bar on Thursday nights but the majority of the time it’s where Irish locals and sports fans watch whatever’s playing on the TVs (loaded with HBO boxing, UFC, and the NFL Sunday Ticket). Open mic night on Wednesdays draws local talent and the bartenders (hi, Jack and Danielle!) are fast and friendly.
What it's good at: Ahhhhmazing Bloody Marys, featuring hand-pickled peppers (that also make good booze chasers, if you ask really nicely).
17. Redwood Room
The vibe: The Clift’s hotel bar has had 100 years to perfect luxury -- which it, well, has, from the stunningly grand bar (made from a 2,000-year-old redwood) to the bottle service to the clientele that dresses for the occasion.
What it's good at: Classic cocktails and photos with eyes that literally follow you around the room
16. The European
The vibe: A hotel bar that holds its own on a block that’s quickly becoming the epicenter of SF cocktailing.
What it's good at:Bartender-to-know Shirley Brooks’ The Smoke Without Fire. Smoky, yet refreshing, and super smooth.
15. Buckshot Bar
The vibe: Arcade games and a DJ spinning late ‘90s and early 2000s hits draw a rowdy college crowd, but on quieter weeknights, it’s the perfect place for skee-ball (Brewskee-ball!!!), shuffleboard, and darts tournaments.
What it's good at: Deep-fried bacon with maple syrup and surprise dance parties
14. Social Study
The vibe: This contributor’s favorite place to cure writer’s block/mooch off the free Wi-Fi and happy hour bites (like carnitas tacos, pulled pork sliders, potato skins, and a Reuben sandwich with wasabi aioli). It’s dynamic enough to transition to a nice date spot before a show at the nearby Fillmore, Kabuki, or Boom Boom Room.
What it's good at: Happy hour bites and sangria
13. Geary Club
The vibe: As divey as it gets with no signage except for one that simply says “Bar,” and that pretty much sums it up. It’s a place for hard-drinking ‘loin locals who’ll likely give you a skeptical side eye if you’re not a regular. Still, it’s worth a trip if you want a true dive, perfect for dark-corner drinking. Bring cash and humility.
What it's good at: Cheap, simple drinks and a jukebox ($1 gets you five plays!).
12. High Tide
The vibe: It's another Tenderloin dive, only a tad more dressed up than The Club (above), thanks to the velvet touches and funky art, like the painting of a topless woman hanging above the bar.
What it's good at: Paintings of boobs, obviously
11. Trad’r Sam
The vibe: Tiki hut-meets-dive bar. While one of the original Tiki bars to open right after Prohibition, Trad’r Sam feels a bit more divey than Hawaiian these days, with patrons crowding into the bar to order off-menu beers and shots instead of the signature Scorpion Bowls. But that’s no reason to forgo the blended rum drinks.
What it's good at: Scorpion Bowls for $14 that will get four people a little toasty
10. Whiskey Thieves
The vibe: Don’t be fooled by the divey exterior, graffiti-covered walls, and punk rock coming from the jukebox -- this is potentially the fanciest dive bar on the planet thanks to its extensive whiskey selection (one of the best in the city). It’s the sort of place you’d be just as comfortable ordering a shot and a beer as you would tasting a rare whiskey on the recommendation of the bartenders.
What it's good at: Rare whiskeys and shot-and-a-beer deals
The vibe: The address is technically on Masonic, but it’s Geary-adjacent, which gives us license to rave about The Corner Store’s chic soda fountain vibe, dog-friendly outdoor patio, solid menu of comfort food, and equally solid cocktail and beer menu. You know you’re gonna have a good Saturday when it starts with brunch here, which you can chase with mimosas or alcoholic milkshakes.
What it's good at: Boozy milkshakes (that pair well with their crazy-good burger), in particular the Manhattan (bourbon, sweet vermouth, cherry syrup, and vanilla ice cream)
The vibe: A go-to spot for a crowd thanks to its huge space and back patio. The drinks are cheap; the food is typical pub grub but does its greasy job. It gets poppin’ during game days but generally it’s a neighborhood standby, perfect for lazy Saturday afternoons.
What it's good at: Fresh-squeezed Greyhounds and spicy Bloody Marys (best enjoyed on the patio)
The vibe: An apothecary-themed bar that’s less of a gimmick than it is an exploration into how alcohol was used “medicinally” during Prohibition (you know, like how your medical marijuana card is for your back pain). The result is a menu of drinks that purport to treat ailments such as pain, stress, and fatigue. While there’s some truth to each concoction (coffee liqueur, Cynar, and mezcal are known stimulants, while chili tincture -- found in the Rexall -- has been linked to stress reduction), we’re pretty sure the combination of a low-key vibe, flattering lighting, and a delicious libation is more likely to cure what ails you.
What it's good at: The Hot Dram -- basically a dressed-up hot toddy that would calm sore throats and warm you inside-out.
The vibe: The oldest blues club west of the Mississippi delivering hip-moving live blues, boogie, and soul six nights a week. It feels at once sultry and down-home authentic, like a slice of New Orleans in the heart of the Fillmore. This kind of juke joint is so rare/non-existent in SF, it can get away with charging a cover most nights (and $15-$20 ain't cheap for a band you’ve likely never heard of), but it’s a guaranteed great time and the cheap drinks offset the cost a bit.
What it's good at: Booking fresh talent and legendary artists in an intimate setting
The vibe: San Francisco’s original Hofbräu and one of the city’s longest-running institutions, this classic spot should be on everyone’s SF bucket list. Giant sandwiches are the star here, but the extensive beer menu, with selections from all over the world, make it a beer lover’s paradise, too.
What it's good at: Inducing food comas thanks to massive sandwiches for under $7
The vibe: A night at Edinburgh could mean ANYTHING. It could mean playing a few rounds of trivia (Tuesday nights), followed by pool, or catching up with a friend on the U-shaped balcony that overlooks the whole bar. Or it could mean sharing a cigarette on the large enclosed smoking patio while a stranger plays the piano (whether he knows how or not). Or… it could mean dancing to Motown, hip-hop, glam, punk, and that one song you totally loooove (Friday and Saturdays) until you morph into the sweaty, beer-drenched version of yourself that you later have to ask your friend to remove from Facebook. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure sort of place that caters to many walks of life depending on the hour, and that earns it a spot on this list next to cocktail heavyweights.
What it's good at: The $5 PBR and whiskey shot deal from 5-11 pm, which inevitably leads to that photo we mentioned above.
The vibe: With the world’s largest selection of tequilas (according to it) and an award-winning margarita, this family-run restaurant has been serving simple Mexican and Yucatan fare and dropping serious tequila knowledge in the Outer Richmond for 50 years.
What it's good at: Tommy’s margarita, one of 14 cocktails you need to try IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY before you die.
The vibe: A bartender’s bar that treats everyone like they’re in the industry, this is the spot to take a date to or saddle up solo to the bar for probably the best cocktail you’ve ever had.
What it's good at: Stocking rare bottles of whiskey and being a hub of cocktail creativity for the city’s bartenders
The vibe: It hasn’t been open that long, but Mo Hodges and Brian Felley’s Benjamin Cooper has our heart (and most of our weekly drink budget) thanks to its cool industrial design with romantic dark corners and a constantly evolving menu of cocktails delivered with flair from bartenders who seem to truly enjoy their work. The fact that it’s just a little hard to find adds to the charm.
What it's good at: An ever-changing list of cocktails and oysters ($2.50 each) to match
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Amy Copperman is a regular Thrillist contributor. Find her on Twitter, or way more likely, at Benjamin Cooper.