Food & Drink

The Most Unpretentious Wine Bars in San Francisco

Published On 05/13/2016 Published On 05/13/2016
internos san francisco
Courtesy of Internos

Internos

Laurel Heights

A good neighborhood wine bar that pours more than just the local varietals, with Italy and France being well-represented on the menu. You’ll find a nice mix of local folks enjoying a glass and visitors from other areas who have heard about Internos’ good reputation. There’s also a menu full of refined bar food, including a roasted cauliflower and bacon, which... yeah.

Que Syrah

West Portal

Opened by a local husband-and-wife team 10 years ago in the quaint West Portal neighborhood, this couple has a huge stash of wine with a very international focus (how they fit it all in the 500sqft bar we’ll never know). More importantly, they also have a nice, unintimidating approach to the business.

Jennifer Melcon/20 Spot

20 Spot

Mission

This teeny-tiny wine bar/restaurant in a former record shop has a great vibe. There’s clearly some stiff competition in the Mission, but we love 20 Spot's low-key, cozy setting. And all the buzz and attention in the wine circles speaks more directly to how well-rounded, and worldly, their wine list is. You definitely need to get here.

InoVino

Cole Valley

It’s no surprise that the wine list at InoVino is loaded with Italian varietals, given that Tuscan-born Claudio Vallani is running the show. Don’t worry if you can’t navigate Italian wines (it takes time for even the best sommeliers), but you should totally ask any questions you have -- it’s actually OK to do that here. Vallani’s pedigree and outstanding wine selection will all but guarantee a great experience, and the simple menu doesn’t disappoint either -- it’s chock-full of fresh pastas and pizzas.

Seann Rooney/Thrillist

Caskhouse

Noe Valley

From the surprisingly easy parking to the super-casual setting, Caskhouse is one of the more relaxed bars on this list. Probably not even a true wine bar by definition, you can grab a bite while you enjoy a glass, and even satisfy your beer drinker friends with their totally respectable beer list. And if you want a bottle to take home, you don’t even have to move the car -- just hoof it one block to the fun local wine shop, Noe Valley Wine Merchants. It’s a good two-fer in Noe.

Bacchus

Russian Hill

This tiny gem has a great location, but only about a dozen seats. Friendly and fun, Bacchus is a great spot for a pre-dinner glass. Roll the dice a bit: let the sommelier know your favorite tastes, a little bit about your palate, and see what you get.

Hidden Vine

The Hidden Vine

FiDi

It’s refreshing and reassuring to find an unpretentious wine bar in the Financial District. Most SF wine enthusiasts are already going to have Hidden Vine on their radars, but for those who haven’t walked in yet, Hidden Vine is a nice spot to lounge for the evening after work. You can even play a little bocce ball while you’re there. You have to reserve the court in advance, but we feel like the way they do this, it doesn’t come off as snooty... it just makes them seem super efficient. Besides, their menu is deeply unpretentious: go for one of their BLTs, or a little set of sliders.

Jamber Wine Pub

SoMa

Jamber is a "pub," that serves wine in "jugs."  In terms of unpretentiousness, enough said, right?  Purists might argue that the wine lineup is a little light, but you’ll probably appreciate the fact that it’s just that much more manageable (it’s no 100-page French Laundry wine list, that’s for sure). Jamber likes to keep it simple, and we really like that about the place.

Yield Wine Bar

Yield

Dogpatch

Sister wine bar to Pause, Yield is a great place to stop in for local, sustainably produced wines from family-run vineyards. And then there’s their Wednesday-night trivia night, which is just a super fun, relaxed time. Yield is an excellent option for wine drinkers in the Dogpatch.  

Seann Rooney/Thrillist

Blush!

Castro

The Castro is just a great place to people watch and chill out. With no bottle over 100 bucks, Blush is sophisticated, but not in your face about it. It’s a nice bar space just off the sidewalk, with big, inviting windows, and a respectable dinner menu (which includes tarte Tatin, just sayin’).

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1. Internos 3240 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118 (The Richmond)

A good neighborhood wine bar is hard to come by, which is why this Laurel Heights spot is so great. The lovechild of a restauranteur-school teacher couple, Internos is a cozy, wood-paneled lair that pours California, France, Italian, and Spanish wines. The menu is always changing, but most glasses hover around $11 to $15 each. The menu also features local draft and bottled beer, plus small plates that pair all too well with wine -- think meat and cheese plates and flatbreads.

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2. Que Syrah 230 West Portal Ave, San Francisco, CA 94127 (West Portal)

This cozy West Portal wine bar's speciality is small-batch wine from international producers. If you live in the neighborhood, or if you're just a wine enthusiast, it's worth stopping by regularly to check out Que Syrah's weekly wine flight deals. Cheese, charcuterie, and other wine-friendly plates are available, but if you have more of a sweet tooth, skip the savory stuff and go straight for the chocolate truffles.

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3. 20 Spot 3565 20th St, San Francisco, CA 94110 (The Tenderloin)

This record store-turned-bar in the Mission focuses on good food and good wine. The wine list is balanced between whites and reds from California and Europe, and includes a few dessert and bubbly pours. The elevated bar fare is excellent enough to make 20 Spot feel more like a restaurant than a bar, so no wonder it’s a dinner date destination.

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4. inoVino 108B Carl St, San Francisco, CA 94117 (Cole Valley)

InoVino's a charming European wine bar and cafe in Cole Valley owned by Tuscan-born Claudio Vallani, who was previously the sommelier at Michelin-starred Quince. Given the owner's provenance, it's not surprising that the menu is mostly comprised of Italian wines. The food menu is also Italian-focused, featuring cheeses, house-made pizzettas, and pasta dishes. The tiny 30-seat space is great for a laid-back but romantic date.

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5. Caskhouse 3853 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94114 (Noe Valley)

This low-key but polished bar in Noe Valley is a hidden neighborhood gem. Part wine bar, part craft beer bar, Caskhouse puts a ton of attention into its drinks menu, which is heavy on local California brews and European wines. Elevated bar bites like sliders and skewers give it a bistro vibe, but no matter how you define the place, you'll feel right at home drinking and eating no matter if you're flying solo or with a group.

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6. Bacchus Wine Bar 1954 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94109 (Russian Hill)

Wine and sake are what's on the menu at this tiny wine bar in Russian Hill. Named after the god of wine-making, Bacchus packs a tight but fun crowd into its dozen-seat space. It's well-stocked with wines by the glass, and if you're unsure of what to drink, let the sommelier know your favorite tastes and see what you get.

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7. 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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8. Jamber Wine Pub 858 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94103 (Soma)

Jamber isn't a typical wine bar, it's a wine pub. All of the wines are from California, and they're all on tap. There are also over 10 beers on tap, also from California. To top it off, the SOMA spot has a really, really good food menu with things like mac & cheese pizza, poutine, and bacon-wrapped meatloaf. Oh, and one more thing: Jamber opens at 11:30am during the week and has outlets for your computer, so it's kind of the perfect place to wine and work.

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9. Yield Wine Bar 2490 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94107 (Dogpatch)

In a classic San Francisco fashion, this Dogpatch wine bar (and sister spot to Pause in Hayes Valley) only serves sustainable and organic wines from family-owned and operated wineries. Since Yield's standards are so high, its wine is excellent and hard to come by anywhere else in the city. The food is also exceptional and not just "for a bar." There are grilled flatbreads (vegan-friendly, of course) and bites like goat cheese-stuffed dates and artichoke, kale, and parmesan dip.

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10. Blush! Wine Bar 476 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114 (The Castro)

This Castro wine bar is sophisticated but chill with big, inviting windows and purple (perhaps blush?) walls. Bottle prices range from $30 to $100, so there's something for every wine enthusiast, plus a fair selection of beer and cider if you're more of a suds person. Blush is a great place to get a drink, snack on some small plates, and take in the Castro scene from the comfort of a cozy couch.

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