Charleston: The Ultimate Local's Guide
Hotel happy hours
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 is Triton’s sister hotel and offers the same 5-6pm wine hour hospitality to its guests (also, unwittingly, to you.)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Straight-up free tastings
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.