Food & Drink

Where to Drink for Free in San Francisco

Published On 01/22/2016 Published On 01/22/2016
Flickr/Bill Couch

Hotel happy hours

Hotel Triton (address and info)

The gimmick at this boutique hotel across the street from the Chinatown gate is “celebrity-inspired.” They have things like leopard print robes and a “Haagen-Dazs Suite” with unlimited ice cream, but you wouldn’t know about any of that because you’re planted squarely in the lobby from 5-6pm for the free wine (and sometimes sangria or hot toddies.)

Harbor Court (address and info)

Harbor Court is Triton’s sister hotel and offers the same 5-6pm wine hour hospitality to its guests (also, unwittingly, to you.)

Argonaut Hotel (address and info)

Fisherman’s Wharf
If you come to the Argonaut by way of Hyde St, you can almost pretend you aren’t at the Wharf. While you’re at it, pretend that you paid for the free wine and toddies (5-6pm) with gold from your vast gold reserves. And that you’re best friends with Tom Hardy.

Hotel Rex (address and info)

Union Square
Rex is a library-themed hotel, but more importantly, it’s one with an on-the-house happy hour every day. Stop trying to better yourself by thumbing through that perfectly weathered Jack London and get your priorities straight -- it’s wine time from 5-6pm, so you’d better start drinking like it.

Galleria Park Hotel (address and info)

Financial District
Wine by the carved stone fireplace offers nice respite from the burdensome height of the neighborhood’s towers, but details like the carpet pattern, in what can only described as “classic lobby squiggly lines,” remind one of the make-it-look-expensive-but-pay-as-little-as-possible mentality behind “executive” three star hotel design. It’s not really hip, and it’s not home, but luckily, that’s not what you’re there for. It’s free pours from 5:30-6:30pm. And with popcorn!

Hotel Carlton (address and info)

Lower Nob Hill
The kind of place you’d describe as “snazzy,” or “jazzy,” or “quirky,” if you were the type of person to use those words in the first place. Personally, we are not, but after a glass of free wine between 5:30-6pm, we might start saying things that are out of character.


The check-ins

Kama Sushi (address and info)

Soma & Noe Valley
Ironically enough, when you go to check in on Yelp to unlock your free carafe of sake, you’ll probably be hit with a “Consumer Alert: Poor Food Safety Score!” pop-up. Whether you want to roll those dice or not is your call, we’re just here to tell you the facts. When the fact is free sake, we’re a little torn, too.

Izakaya House (address and info)

Luckily, this crazy capitalist market breeds competition (or so they tell us), so if you’re giving Kama a hard pass, you can always mosey on over to Izakaya for a free carafe of sake from somewhere a little less… daring.

Tataki South (address and info)

Noe Valley
Revolutionizing the ‘sushi restaurant with Yelp check-in deal’ scene by changing up the offering slightly, Tataki puts sake bombs on the table. Literally.

Skool (address and info)

Skool picks up Japanese cuisine where the last few options left off. You won’t find sushi on their menu, but you will find monkfish liver mousse, squid ink spaghettina, a kobe burger, and, of course, a complimentary glass of Cava to wash it all down.

AsiaSF (address and info)

This restaurant-club crossover isn’t for the faint of heart, so come with the will to be entertained. To help get in the mood, opt in for a free signature shot, like the White Gummy.

Lower Haight

Straight-up free tastings

Cask (address and info)

Downtown & Other Locations
This trio of liquor stores is owned by FutureBars, the company that brought you Bourbon & Branch, Tradition, Local Edition, and Rickhouse, among others (basically all of your favorite bars). The impressive roster of watering holes should be an indication of the excellent selection of liquor available at their retail offshoots. From whiskey to fernet, you can try before you buy at one of their frequent in-store tastings. Check out their Facebook page for specific events.

Fat Grape Winery (address and info)

Treasure Island
Test out the (rarely contested) “free booze tastes better” theory at Fat Grape’s tasting room next time you end up at Treasure Island Flea, or anytime Wednesday through Sunday, 12-6pm

Wattle Creek Winery Tasting Room (address and info)

Fisherman’s Wharf
For the landlocked lot of you, waddle over to Wattle Creek anytime during operating hours. Sign up for their wine club to test out the (also rarely contested) “membership has its perks” theory.

Bluxome Street Winery (address and info)

Another membership option, perhaps one that appeals to the extremely hydrophobic, this SOMA wine club offers free tastings for you and up to three friends. Come by anytime during operating hours, so long as they aren’t hosting a private event. Check special hours on their website.

Flickr/Jeremy Brooks

The miscellaneous

Public Barber Salon (address and info)

Tenderloin & North Beach
For the exact cost of a haircut you can get a haircut and a PBR. Maybe even two, depending on what kind of service you’re getting and how fast you drink.

Plant Warehouse (address and info)

Lower Nob Hill
We hate to prey upon the goodwill and generosity of the Plant Warehouse folks by outting their brilliant little secret. But Thrillist is a good friend that doesn’t keep secrets from the ones they love (you), so we’re doing it anyway. More than just a plant store, this veritable indoor rainforest off Polk Street houses a wooden platform with cushioned benches and a wine table. Help yourself to a plastic cup and pour a glass from the rotating selection. They usually have three or four bottles to choose from, all of which are very tasteful. If you’re extra-lucky, you may even catch a cheese and cracker pairing. Once you’ve blackened your tongue on complimentary Merlot, do your due diligence and purchase a succulent.

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Laura Reilly is a production assistant at Thrillist and she really is best friends with Tom Hardy. Swear! Follow her at @asapreilly, and again at @asapreilly.

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1. Hotel Triton 342 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94108

With the Chinatown Gate across the street and the Union Square Market a mere five minute walk, Hotel Triton is the perfect place to stay to get in your fill of SF tourism. It may be a little kitchy (hello leopard print robes), but from 5pm to 6pm there's free wine in the lobby.

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2. Harbor Court Hotel 165 Steuart St, San Francisco, CA 94105

The only thing better than the amazing harbor views is the hotel's 5pm to 6pm happy hour featuring free wine.

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3. Argonaut Hotel 495 Jefferson St, San Francisco, CA 94109

This warehouse turned hotel is located in the heart of Fisherman's Wharf, featuring nautical-themed rooms that come with your very own yoga mat. But, the hotel's real selling point is its free wine and toddies from 5pm to 6pm daily.

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4. Hotel Rex 562 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94102

This boutique hotel located just outside of Union Square is charming and elegant with a fancy cocktail bar to boot. The Library Bar also offers traditional bar bites -- including a burger w/ fries -- with an upscale twist consisting of braised pork belly tacos and ahi tuna Nicoise salad. Be sure to enjoy your ginger mint margarita or Old Fashioned before The Library Bar closes (10pm on weekdays and 9pm on Sundays), and we'd suggest lingering for the live jazz that's hosted every Friday night.

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5. Galleria Park Hotel 191 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94104

This boutique hotel in the Financial District boasts a Parisian-style brasserie called Gaspar, an elegant eatery with leather, dark wood, and low ceilings. Classic French cooking techniques meet California flair on nearly every dish, which are expensive but worth the price tag. You’ll want to have a full three-course meal – start with a generous helping of mussels, savor the duck confit or seasonal seafood entrees, then try not to rush your way through the moelleux au chocolat. For a less expensive taste of France, enjoy $1 oysters during happy hour from 4 to 7 pm.

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6. Hotel Carlton 1075 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94109

The most important thing you need to know about this boutique hotel in Lower Nob Hill is that it serves free wine between 5:30 and 6pm. Saha, the hotel restaurant, specializes in Middle Eastern-meets-Californian food, which means plenty of hummus, baba ghanoush, and various vegetable small plates.

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7. Green Tortoise Hostel 494 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

If you’re looking for the remnants of the town that produced Janis Joplin and was home to hippies, love-ins and the Dead, this might be the place for you. Green Tortoise brings that SF history to bear in a clean hostel with a chill staff and what some might call a romantic ambiance.

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8. Kama Sushi 294 9th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Paneled wood walls and plush leather seating create a warm and welcoming setting at SoMa’s Kama Sushi. An expansive menu of sushi staples, udon and ramen dishes, skewers, and salads make for an easily customizable meal that will please vegetarians and omnivores alike. Fan favorites include the crunch lobster roll topped with salmon, avocado, and tobiko.

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9. Izakaya House 1516 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Just around the corner from popular venues Slim’s and DNA Lounge, Izakaya House's booth and bar seating are enhanced by wall sconce lighting for an intimate feel. Locals love the lunch and happy hour specials, while the date night circuit is partial two piece sharing plates like the hamachi shooters and the 56 spoonfuls of heaven plate, which combines uni, avocado, tobiko, quail egg, and green onion.

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10. Tataki South 1740 Church Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

A sushi restaurant with a sustainable focus, this seafood spot seeks to respect the art of Japanese cuisine just as it seeks to respect the dangers of over-fishing. Stop by for some responsibly sourced fish, and if you happen to come on a Wednesday, get $1 oysters, 5-7pm.

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11. Skool Restaurant 1725 Alameda St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Skool is a Potrero Hill gem serving up seafood and Asian fusion food. The space has a sun-soaked dog-friendly patio that's a hit for brunch and $1 oysters. You won't find any sushi on the Japanese-leaning menu, but you will find mix-and-match dishes like monkfish liver mousse, Dungeness crab deviled eggs, and Japanese fried chicken and waffles.

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12. Asia SF 201 9th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

This restaurant/lounge/dance club in SoMa has a bit of everything the neighborhood is known for: good food, a party atmosphere, and unique gender expression. Ideal for a cool night out, AsiaSF features California-Asian cuisine and performers who dance hourly atop a runway bar. There’s also a dance club downstairs.

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13. Lower Haight Art Walk , San Francisco, CA 94117

The Lower Haight Art Walk is a lively block party displaying local art, discounts at the local stores, live music and our favorite part, free food and booze.

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14. Lower Polk Art Walk , San Francisco, CA 94109

Every first Thursday of the month, head to the Lower Polk Art Walk for incredible galleries, live music and, the best part, a BYOB policy (although you can always count on a few vendors to be handing out free booze).

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15. First Thursday Art Walk , San Francisco, CA 94108

This San Francisco Art Walk has been going strong every first Thursday of the month, every year since 1993. Come for the galleries and stay for the free wine.

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16. Divisadero Art Walk Divisadero Corridor, San Francisco, CA 94117

This quarterly art walk in the famous Divisadero Corridor offers lively performances, gallery shows and free booze.

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17. Cask 17 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94103

This Market Street spirits shop, brought to you by the cocktail mixologists at local favorite Bourbon and Branch, offers a well-curated selection of Scotch, whiskey, and bitters. Where this shop shines is in offering knowledge and friendly service, and, whether you're a craft spirits aficionado or newbie -- you're guaranteed to walk out with a unique bottle.

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18. Fat Grape Winery 1080 Avenue M, San Francisco, CA 94130

Every Wednesday through Sunday from 12-6pm, you can head out to Treasure Island to the (free!) tasting room at the Fat Grape Winery.

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19. Wattle Creek Tasting Room 900 N Point St Ste E211, San Francisco, CA 94109

Open 7 days a week, the Wattle Creek Tasting Room lets you sample all of their wines. Plus, if you sign up for a membership, you can taste for free. Even if you can't stand Ghirardelli Square, Wattle Creek Tasting Room is totally worth visiting the square.

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20. Bluxome Street Winery 53 Bluxome St, San Francisco, CA 94107

Bluxome Street Winery’s lofty and spacious warehouse near AT&T Park has made it a popular choice for San Francisco weddings, but rest assured that it remains a go-to spot for happy hour and work drinks. Bluxome offers up wine flights, charcuterie platters, and a knowledgeable staff to guide you through it all.

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21. Public Barber Salon 571 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94102

A barber shop that offers free beer with your hair cut? Count us in.

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22. Plant Warehouse 1624 California St, San Francisco, CA 94109

This huge nursery not only sells all the succulents your hipster heart desires, but what most people don't know is they also have benches and a wine table in the back of the store. Grab a plastic cup and go pour happy, but be a good person and buy something from the store before you go.