Whether you want to spend St. Patrick’s Day chugging green beer out of a leprechaun-shaped bucket, or you’d rather celebrate by sipping a quiet pint in the back of a cozy, dark-wood-paneled bar, there’s an Irish bar in San Francisco with your name on it. We’ve rounded up the best Irish pubs of all varieties, from authentic, Dublin-inspired watering holes to crowded, cheap-drinking institutions -- even a mysteriously lucky spot steeped in local lore. Here’s to San Francisco’s best Emerald Isle pubs. Sláinte!
The Best Irish Bars in San Francisco
Upstairs, you can stomp around the old hardwood floors to the Dropkick Murphys; downstairs you’ll almost definitely end up making out with a sweaty stranger to top 40 hits and '90s hip-hop. Kells is pretty much a before-30 San Francisco bucket list item.
This sports bar is a popular happy hour destination year-round for its $5 draft selections and plentiful TVs, but if you come here at 9am on St. Patrick’s Day, you can sip a pint of Guinness, enjoy traditional Irish ground beef potato pie, and watch the paraders as they make their way through the city -- without ever leaving your bar stool. Just like Saint Patrick intended.
This homey bar goes far beyond serving a perfectly poured pint of Guinness (although they do that as well). The Plough and Stars hosts live Celtic music most nights of the week, and has remained a home-away-from-home for local Irish residents since it opened in 1975. So yeah, it’s kind of earned its status as SF Weekly’s "Best Irish Pub."
An Irish bar that plays host to one of the best '90s cover bands on Friday nights -- hell yes. It’s super college in here, but that’s what makes it fun. Plus you can always catch the soccer match (or "football," if you insist).
You might actually feel like you’re in Dublin when you walk down the semi-concealed cobblestone alleyway that leads to Irish Bank. The space out front is filled with tables full of happy hour-goers enjoying pints and pub grub, and the interior has an equal amount of transportive European charm, thanks to dark wood and cozy corners. Show up on both March 12th and March 17th to take part in the bar’s epic St. Paddy’s Day block party.
If you prefer curry with your Guinness instead of corned beef, head to this brilliant mash-up, where you can load up on delicious, cheap Indian eats in the restaurant, then head over to the Irish side of the joint for a pint and a game of pool or darts.
Perhaps the diviest dive bar in the whole city. If you want to be surrounded by actual Irish people on St. Patrick’s Day, this no-frills watering hole -- owned by a nice Irish woman with an adorable lilting accent -- is where it’s at.
The Little Shamrock has lived up to its lucky name in many ways: this joint has withstood two catastrophic earthquakes since it opened in 1893, making it the city’s second-oldest bar. Just as impressively, a chance encounter between the bar’s owner and a patron saved the popular watering hole from closing in 1974. Today, the bar remains a cozy place filled with couches, board games, and tchotchkes -- including a shelf of books from mystery writer John Lescroart, who features the bar in every one of his books.
Owned by natives of the Emerald Isle, this down-home, humble spot is generally filled with heavily accented regulars chowing down on either a traditional Irish breakfast or fish ‘n’ chips.
Featuring darts, pool, trivia, and a cozy fireplace, this bi-level bar is the game room/lodge that you’ll probably never actually own, but at least you can visit. Feast on delicious, cheap pub grub -- the sampler platter includes everything from buffalo wings to zucchini sticks for less than $10 -- and try of the city’s best shepherd’s pies.
If you want a traditional Irish bar experience, but want to steer clear of FiDi or North Beach’s St. Paddy’s Day mayhem, this spacious spot, located right in the midst of the Mission’s taquerias and hipster bars, is your lucky four leaf clover. Serving Harp, Smithwick’s, corned beef, cabbage, and soda bread, The Phoenix has everything you need for a proper Irish celebration.
While it’s in tourist-trap central, you can’t truly call yourself a San Franciscan until you’ve had an Irish coffee at America’s birthplace of Irish coffees while watching (and hearing) a cable car lumber by.
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1. Kells Irish Restaurant & Bar530 Jackson St, San Francisco
2. Irish Times500 Sacramento Street, San Francisco
3. Plough & Stars116 Clement St, San Francisco
4. Maggie McGarry's1353 Grant Ave, San Francisco
5. Irish Bank10 Mark Ln, San Francisco
6. Kennedy's Pub & Curry House1040 Columbus Ave, San Francisco
7. O'Keeffe's, San Francisco
8. Little Shamrock807 Lincoln Way, San Francisco
9. Durty Nelly's2328 Irving St, San Francisco
10. The Bitter End441 Clement St, San Francisco
11. Phoenix Bar811 Valencia St, San Francisco
12. Buena Vista Cafe2765 Hyde St, San Francisco
The secret's out. Kell's hosts lively happy hours, sporting events that turn into dance parties, and has plenty of brews on tap. As far as we are concerned, Kell's Irish Restaurant & Bar is the best Irish bar in San Francisco, but we highly encourage that you stop by and see for yourself.
This airy & well-lit Irish pub near the Embarcadero is a great place to watch sports and eat $1 oysters all day. The bar is crowded around happy hour, but clears up just in time for a filling dinner of fish tacos, fish & chips, or Shepherd's pie. If you’d prefer a hearty breakfast before a business meeting, Irish Times opens every day at 9am.
As far as we are concerned, Plough and Stars is the best Irish pub in San Francisco. Not only do they know how to perfectly pour a Guinness, but they host live Celtic music nights and are considered a home-away-from-home for local Irish residents and lovers of Irish culture.
Maggie McGarry's is known around town as a great Irish bar, but locals really love their 90's cover band nights. The vibe here is very college, but it is part of the fun and charm of the place. We think that Maggie McGarry's is the best Irish bar in San Francisco.
You might actually feel like you’re in Dublin when you walk down the semi-concealed cobblestone alleyway that leads to FiDi's Irish Bank. The space out front is filled with tables full of happy hour-goers enjoying pints and pub grub, and the interior has an equal amount of transportive European charm, thanks to dark wood and cozy corners. Expect all the Irish classics like Guinness and Smithwick's to drink, and shepherd's pie and bangers to eat.
For those days when you’re craving a Guinness, a game of pool, AND a samosa, enter Kennedy’s Pub & Curry House -- a concept so odd, yet undeniably perfect. Load up on delicious, cheap Indian eats on the restaurant side of this funky building that incongruously features white tablecloths and plastic serving platters. Then take your pick of the 30 or so beers on tap on the Irish side of the joint.
O'Keeffe's may very well be the diviest dive bar in San Francisco, but locals would not change a thing about this place. It is usually frequented by the genuinely Irish, and there are plenty of cheap beers and things to eat. O'Keeffe's is one of our favorite Inner Sunset bars.
The Sunset's oldest business period, there's some debate about what year exactly Little Shamrock opened in the 1890s, but there's no denying its place in SF drinking history. This place hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1890, save a couple crucial additions: TVs, every board game you can think of, and a backgammon table.
This Outer Sunset Irish bar is owned by Ireland natives and is frequented by people from Ireland. It is small and cozy, and locals love going here for a traditional Irish breakfast or a fish 'n' chips platter. Out of all the Irish bars in San Francisco, we think that Durty Nelly's is the best.
With a pool table, a fireplace, darts, and a sweet trivia night, The Bitter End is like the awesome basement you never had growing up. A great selection of beers and a fortifying bar food menu mean that you can move in forever -- or at least probably make it to last call.
The Phoenix Bar is the place to go for an authentic Irish celebration in San Francisco. Here you can enjoy some of the things that people love about Ireland, like Smithwick's, corned beef, cabbage, and soda bread. Out of all the Irish bars in San Francisco, the Phoenix Bar is one of the best.
It’s a rite of passage as a San Franciscan (or tourist, for that matter) to crowd up to the bar at Buena Vista mid-morning and sip on a piping hot Irish Coffee. It’s the birthplace of the boozy beverage (in America), after all, and these bartenders have been mixing them up assembly line-style since 1916. Sure, it’s inconveniently located in Fisherman’s Wharf, but it’s worth the trek for that signature mix of Irish whiskey, coffee, sugar, and cream in those delicate vintage glasses.