Food & Drink

Where to Find the Best Bar Food in SF, Sorted by 'Hood

Published On 08/22/2016 Published On 08/22/2016
Social Kitchen and Brewery
Social Kitchen and Brewery | Kate Benfield

Bernal Heights

Old Bus Tavern

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Old Bus Tavern is one of those neighborhood spots you really wish was in your actual neighborhood. That’s partly due to the beers brewed in-house (and the creative cocktails), but also because of the food, which is hands down some of the best you’ll find in that area. The spicy chili is to die for, and the burger is spot-on, but we also love the elevated bar snacks such as beet tempura with yellow curry & dill yogurt, and the halibut crudo. Oh, and this is one meal where you’ll definitely want to save room for dessert (just trust us).

Hi Tops

The Castro

Hi Tops

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Hi Tops is SF’s most popular gay sports bar thanks to a fun vibe, 15 flat-screen TVs, and a small but awesome food menu, with options like a house-made corn dog, fried chicken sandwich, and some of the best wings you’ll find in the entire city (which are $5 a basket on Mondays). Go with a group, order the killer nachos, and add pulled pork --  it’ll cost you $25, but it’s a huge portion and worth every penny. Still got room? Finish up with an It’s It. So very SF.

Cow Hollow

The Blue Light

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Sure, Blue Light on Union St has wings, nachos, and jalapeño burgers. but the real reason to go is for taco Tuesday. For $1.50 a pop, you can get beef, chicken, or fish tacos served in a soft corn tortilla with cheese, lettuce, salsa, guacamole, and sour cream. There are also a ton of beers for $2 to help you wash ‘em down.

Dogpatch

Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing

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It’s all about the beer and barbecue at this joint. Though you can never go wrong with a plate of tasty smoked meat and sides, Smokestack just added sandwiches to the menu, and we’re obsessed.  Both the sausage sandwich with pimento cheese and Texas caviar, and the tri-tip with horseradish mayo, are great -- and taste even better when paired with a Magnolia brew.

The Broken Record

Excelsior

The Broken Record

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“Hood Grub” in the back of The Broken Record has some of the best (and most affordable) bar food in town. Choose from “bites,” like tater tots with curry ketchup, or wings made with Mary’s organic air-chilled drumettes and spicy sauce,  or “handfuls,” like the tater tot poutine, a meatloaf sandwich on a Dutch crunch roll, or a Moroccan spiced pot pie. Best of all? Even though it’s legit bar food, the meat is all sustainably and ethically raised, the produce is all organic, and there are no GMOs. This is SF, after all.

Financial District

Old Ship Saloon

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Old Ship Saloon is one of SF’s oldest bars -- which alone makes it worth a visit -- but we also love it for its classic “pub grub.” Try the selection of burgers, the Old Ship's BLT sandwich, a classic Reuben, and a sloppy Joe with pork and tomato sauce on a sweet roll, while you drink up some boozy history. Whatever you order, be sure to start with the crab mac & cheese.

Hunter Publicity

Hayes Valley

Orbit Room

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The bar food at the Orbit Room is everything you want and so much more. The totchos -- nacho-style tater tots with house-made pico de gallo, cheddar & mozzarella cheese, house-pickled jalapeños & serranos, and sour cream -- may be the best totchos in all of SF (but go ahead and try ‘em all). Plus, Orbit Room offers hand-tossed pizzas (the breakfast pizza is legit, but is only available on the weekend), and awesome specials such as meatball sliders on meatball Mondays, street-style taco Tuesdays, chicken “in” waffle Wednesdays, and Tiki Thursdays. Good luck picking which day to go.

Inner Richmond

Steins

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Steins is part sports bar and part German restaurant, which is a perfect combination of happiness you never even knew you needed in your life. There’s lots of good, cheap German beer on tap, all of which pairs perfectly with a sauerkraut-covered brat.

Kate Benfield

Inner Sunset

Social Kitchen & Brewery

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The Inner Sunset has a lot of bars, but not a lot of bars where you can also get food. Luckily, Social Kitchen fills that void with a menu of nearly every kind of bar food you will ever crave. Try the truffle mac & cheese, a sausage & pretzel board, Sriracha-honey chicken wings, a BLT on brioche, or a burger piled high with bacon, blue cheese, sauteed mushrooms, BBQ sauce, and an onion ring.

Lower Haight

Nickies Bar

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At first glance, you might not think that this neighborhood sports bar is going to have super-yummy food. But get your eyes checked, because Nickies delivers on all fronts -- including friendly service and affordable drinks. The menu has all of your bar food staples, like Guinness chicken wings and nachos, but we mostly love this place for its full Irish grill (sausages, rashers, black & white pudding, beans, mushrooms, hash browns, grilled tomato, eggs and toast) for $15. And, of course, the bangers & mash.

Matt Negrete

Lower Pac Heights

San Francisco Athletic Club

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We’re obsessed with the SF Athletic Club for a few reasons. First, the walls are covered with flat-screen TVs showing pretty much any sport you could ever want to watch. Second, you can get a bathtub full of beer. And finally, it’s one of the few sports bars in SF with a huge food menu that even includes healthy options like poached salmon salad and a veggie chili. Those are good, but our stomachs really crave the Southern-fried, crinkle-cut pickle chips served with house ranch, the four different types of hot dogs, and the classic ballpark pretzel with house honey mustard and stout cheddar sauce.

The Dorian SF

Marina

The Dorian

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We were hesitant to include The Dorian on this list because it’s definitely fancier than all of the other bars (the menu is labeled “provisions” on the website, if that gives you an idea). But if you skip eating in the dining room in lieu of a booth in the bar, this is actually a great spot for cocktails and light bites like crispy string beans, shrimp & crab cake sliders, and deviled eggs. If you’re feeling like splurging, the bar also serves a $40 burger that includes applewood bacon, Dungeness crab, and black truffle. (Don’t worry -- there’s a $15.50 burger that’s more affordable, but comes with “fancy sauce” so you don’t feel too left out if you’re priced out of the $40 option.)

Mission

Bender's Bar & Grill

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If you want delicious bar food in the Mission, Bender’s is the place to go. This biker (the kind you pedal) bar is dog-friendly and serves up totchos, fried pickles, burgers, and $3 tacos out of the “counter offer” kitchen. There are also fried Oreos, and even house-made dog treats for your furry friend. All in all, it’s a great spot to throw back some drinks while playing pool and filling up on fried yumminess.

Courtesy of Comstock Saloon

North Beach

Comstock Saloon

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Comstock is all about fancy craft cocktails, so it’s no surprise the food menu is also more elevated than your typical bar. Yes, you can get chicken wings, but be warned, they’ll cost you $15, and are listed on the menu next to the chicken liver mousse tartine. Still, all of the food is so delicious that we couldn’t leave this swanky cocktail lounge with a ‘20s feel off of the list.

Outer Richmond

Tee Off Bar & Grill

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How could you resist a spot that offers “Oyster Orgy Fridays?” (We think those oysters are SFW.) Everything else that comes out of the kitchen at this hole-in-the-wall dive bar is also tasty, but our faves are the Bronx bombers (chicken wings in a fiery hot BBQ glaze) and the 1/2lb burger. Note that the kitchen is temporarily closed due to a small fire, but should re-open soon.

Outer Sunset

The Taco Shop at Underdogs

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If you love sports, and you love tacos, then you’re probably very familiar with the taco shop that has 10 flat-screen TVs and does tacos “Nick’s way” (a grilled crispy corn tortilla wrapped in a soft tortilla with cheese, beans, pico de gallo, guac, and your choice of meat). Taco Tuesday is a thing here as well -- you can’t beat $2 street tacos and $3 Tecates -- and if you go on Fridays from 6-6:30pm, you can get $1 margaritas. Even if you live in SoMa, tacos and drinks for under $5 are worth a schlep.

Bullitt

Russian Hill

Bullitt

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We love a bar that plays the game and has awesome food specials, which is why we go back to Bullitt again and again. Get $1 tacos on Tuesdays, 25-cent wings on Wednesdays, and $5 totchos on Thursdays. No matter what day of the week it is, you can’t go wrong with the wake & bacon grilled cheese (which comes with a fried egg on it) or a bucket of fried chicken. Feeling adventurous? Take the “Don’t Fear the Reaper” challenge -- all you have to do is eat four death wings made with Carolina Reaper chilies (the hottest pepper on earth) in five minutes without drinking any liquid. If you can stomach it, you’ll get your entire order of wings, plus two shots of Jameson on the house. We believe in you!

SoMa

Tempest

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If you ask a local to point you in the direction of a real dive bar with awesome food, there’s a chance you’ll end up at Box Kitchen inside Tempest. Play a game of pool while you wait for your pastrami tacos; potato skins with pork belly, Gouda cheese, and quail egg; or Thai wings with peanut sauce. Then settle in with a drink and watch the game.

Jasper's Corner Tap & Kitchen

Tenderloin

Jasper's Corner Tap & Kitchen

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Oh, Jasper’s, how we love you for your 18 continuously rotating beers on tap, your delightful cocktails, and your baked chicken wings. But we’re also feelin’ your disco fries, fried chicken, fish & chips, and (probably more than anything) your Frito pie with Coney Island chili that comes in the Frito bag. We appreciate how you keep it classy.

Upper Haight

Club Deluxe

Address and Info

When you think of bar food, you probably don’t think of going to a jazz club. That’s the best thing about Club Deluxe on Haight St: you can go there for free jazz seven nights a week and snack on pizza made from house-made dough and the freshest ingredients. (Note: the kitchen is currently closed, but the pizza at Club Deluxe is so famous, we’re certain it’ll be open and serving up tasty pies at night any day now.)

Western Addition

Horsefeather

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This neighborhood spot is all about the cocktails made with fresh ingredients and house-made syrups, but the food is the unsung hero. Our faves are the pulled pork tacos, “claypot” chicken wings, fried chicken with mac & cheese, and, of course, the double cheeseburger, which is made with a chuck and short rib blend, and topped with bread & butter pickles and special sauce.

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1. Old Bus Tavern 3193 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

This casual gastropub in Bernal Heights serves game-changing drinks and eats in a cool, friendly atmosphere. For starters, the bar's 14 taps are split between OTB beers brewed in-house and a rotating selection of local craft ones. The food menu, which has a four-course tasting option, is too good to be considered basic pub fare. The desserts are listed simply by flavor ("chocolate" and "vanilla") and are thoughtful, complex, and downright unforgettable. Old Bus Tavern's menu will tempt you to order everything on it.

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2. Hi Tops 2247 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94114 (The Castro)

Finally, a place to drink and relax where your sexuality isn't reduced to a stereotype. Hi Tops is a gay sports bar in The Castro that's decked out in benches made from bleachers, flat-screen televisions (16 of them, so they're always playing the game you came to watch), and Top Chef-level nachos, wings, and corn dogs. The speciality cocktails are a huge draw too, like the house Haterade that's served in a plastic water bottle.

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3. The Blue Light 1979 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123 (Cow Hollow)

The Blue Light is your go-to sports bar in Cow Hollow -- we're talking around 20 TVs to watch the game on, and better-than-average bar food like spicy mac & cheese and flatbread pizzas to sate your game-day appetite. This dimly lit, wood-laden Union St spot also offers up wings, nachos, and jalapeño burgers, plus a super-cheap Taco Tuesday deal you'll want to hit up. Toss it all back with a few rounds of beers that'll only cost you a couple bucks.

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4. Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing 2505 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94107 (Dogpatch)

The folks behind Magnolia Brewing Company expanded their beloved operation with this hip warehouse-style brewpub in Dogpatch (exposed pipe and reclaimed wood abound), which not only boasts a huge, on-site brewing system that can produce up to 30 barrels, but also -- across the room -- smoked-in-house BBQ offerings including sausage, brisket, and Wagyu beef ribs. There's even a full-of-surprises cocktail program that slings exceptional whiskey concoctions like the Dutchman's Flat with rye, ginger, honey, lemon, toasted Nori, and beef bouillon (didn't see that one coming, did you?).

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5. Broken Record 1166 Geneva Ave, San Francisco, CA 94112

Broken Record is a super-casual Excelsior dive bar where you can kick back with friends on the spacious outdoor patio, but it means business with its drink menu. On it, you’ll find an extensive list of liquors, particularly whiskey and bourbon, and dozens of rotating local craft brews. Once you've worked up an appetite, head to the kitchen in the back (it’s called “Hood Grub”) for innovative bar food: tater tots with curry ketchup, spicy wings made with Mary’s organic air-chilled drumettes, and a meatloaf sandwich on a Dutch crunch roll all await you.

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6. Old Ship Saloon 298 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94111 (Financial District)

For a bit of history with your beer, sail into this saloon constructed from pieces of The Arkansas, a three-masted ship that ran aground in 1849. Part locals’ bar, part after-work hangout with good beers on tap, Old Ship Saloon is also known for its great burger menu.

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7. Orbit Room Cafe 1900 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (Western Addition)

The Orbit Room should really be called Orbit Room 2.0 -- it shut down after 20 years in business when its owner died, but reopened months later under new management and with a slight facelift. Fortunately, the Market Street bar still has the same homey feel, standard drinks, and greasy favorites. The kitchen serves up some mean totchos: nacho-style tater tots covered in house-made pico de gallo, cheddar & mozzarella cheese, house-pickled jalapeños & serranos, and sour cream. Need we continue? Yes? You're also in for some hand-tossed pizzas, and specials like meatball sliders, street style tacos, and chicken & waffles. Basically, head to this art deco bar any day of the week for flavor-packed snacks and killer cocktails (like the Bourbon & Basil), but note: it's cash only.

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8. Steins 731 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118 (Inner Richmond)

Steins is the German sports bar you didn't know you needed. The Inner Richmond spot is the place to be on game day: you can watch your team (the 49ers, if we're being honest) on one of the many flat-screen TVs mounted on the wall while chowing down on sauerkraut-covered brats. And your trip here isn't complete without having one of the German brews on tap -- you'll find photos of SF sports stars taped to the tap handles to get you fired up.

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9. Social Kitchen & Brewery 1326 9th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122 (Inner Sunset)

A go-to for beer geeks right off of Golden Gate Park, this 18-tap hops haven leans heavily on its own award-winning brews but leaves a solid number of lines open for excellent guest taps as well. Bartenders are equally welcoming and knowledgeable, the truffle mac & cheese is some of SF's best, and there's a full bar available in case some of your companions are avoiding gluten.

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10. Nickies 466 Haight St, San Francisco, 94117 (Lower Haight)

It's hard to keep track of all the bottomless mimosa brunches in San Francisco, but Nickies in the Lower Haight stands out as one of the cheapest. Entrees like Belgian waffles and eggs Benedict hover around $10, and bottomless mimosas (there's a two-hour limit) are only $8. The divey bar scene makes it an untraditional spot for brunch, but that's part of the charm.

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11. San Francisco Athletic Club 1750 Divisadero, San Francisco, CA 94115 (Hayes Valley)

San Francisco Athletic Club is your destination for beer in a bathtub. For real. Small ceramic tubs full of beer bottles on ice are delivered straight to your table, and if that weren’t enough of a draw for game night, this sports bar on Divis also boasts pool tables, shuffleboard, and bleachers, plus a range of bar food. The menu features nontraditional healthy options like poached salmon salad and veggie chili to the not-so-healthy: one-third pound burgers, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, and crinkle-cut fried pickles.

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12. The Dorian 2001 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123

The Dorian is an opulent oasis with classic cocktails, a separate martini menu, and a sophisticated list of more than 75 whiskeys. Enjoy $1 oysters and half-off champagne during happy hour in the light-filled dining room (where you can also enjoy classic American fare), then retire to the lofted study that overlooks the main rectangular bar.

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13. Bender's Bar & Grill 806 S Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110 (The Mission)

What looks like a rundown hole in the wall is, unsurprisingly, one of the Mission's best dive bars. Aside from an ample selection of draft beer and cheap well drinks, Bender's sports a pool table, a shambled yet adored back patio, and perfect drinking food like fried pickles, BBQ burgers, and tater tots.

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14. Comstock Saloon 155 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133 (North Beach)

From the folks behind Absinthe, Comstock is a classic San Francisco bar in North Beach. The throwback interior is outfitted with antique fans, a 150-year-old absinthe fountain, and the spot's original mahogany bar from 1907. The cocktails are just as classic as the bar, and the tie-and-vest wearing bartenders know how to mix pisco, lemon juice, and pineapple gomme into a standout punch.

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15. Tee Off Bar 3129 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94121 (Seacliff)

The enviable collection of knick-knacks, simple bar food menu, and impressive stock of draft beer and liquor at this Outer Richmond hole in the wall makes it a true sports dive. A locals-only crowd frequents Tee Off for oysters, cheap shots, and friendly (if not a little too competitive) games of ping pong on the umbrella-shaded patio. The Guy Fieri-approved bar food -- a gluttonous affair of burgers and mac & cheese -- is also a huge draw.

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16. The Taco Shop at Underdog's 1824 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122 (Outer Sunset)

Tacos and sports -- what’s not to like? Chef Nick Fasanella blends authentic Mexican food with high-quality bar fare using locally-sourced, organic ingredients at this Inner Sunset spot. The result is a modern taqueria-meets-sports bar, complete with 10 plasma TVs and a menu featuring queso, Frank's Red Hot buffalo wings, Mission-style burritos, and street style-tacos.

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17. Bullitt 2209 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109 (Russian Hill)

Bullitt's got a finely designed interior to match the retro coolness of the Steve McQueen flick it was named after. Sporting a sheet metal bar with low-hanging Edison bulbs and fine wood paneling, this Russian Hill district favorite's got and endless supply of bottled beer and food just as laid-back as the crowd who frequent it with a small selection of bar bites ideal for hardcore cheese-lovers. From the thick beef burgers, to the nachos, to the widely beloved tater tots, everything's covered head to toe in the stuff.

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18. The Tempest Bar & Box Kitchen 431 Natoma St, San Francisco, CA 94103 (Soma)

Equal parts dive bar and comfort foods eatery, Tempest Bar and Kitchen caters to locals looking for a casual drinking spot that can satiate their late-night hungers. Stop by and throw back cheap beers, then order up crispy chicharones with lime and salsa or salsa rojo-topped pork tacos. Then take that order and wash it down with a fifth beer.

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19. Jasper's Corner Tap & Kitchen 401 Taylor St, San Francisco, CA 94102

It's name along gives the impression that this Little Saigon spot might be a local dive plastered in graffiti and the sticky remnants of spilled beer, but Jasper's is the compete opposite. A clean-cut answer to less-than-desirable beer bars, this white leather palace rotates through 18 taps with craft beers from all along the West coast and offers upscale takes on standard bar food wth shareable plates of deviled eggs and greedy portions of sauce-slathered ribs and hearty meatloaf.

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20. Club Deluxe 1511 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117 (Upper Haight)

Club Deluxe is San Francisco's must-visit for those who feel they might have born in the right decade. With free live jazz bands playing every night of the week and a seedy lounge look, Club Deluxe is reminiscent of underground clubs from the Harlem Renaissance. Bartenders shake and stir classic martinis and old fashioned's left and right while the firebrick oven in the back blazes their most demanded menu item -- their crispy margherita pizzas.

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21. Horsefeather 528 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117 (Alamo Square)

This Divisadero bar from Tsk/Tsk and Future Bars alumni Ian Scalzo and Justin Lew is a low-key tavern that serves up the trendy duo of creative cocktails and small plates. Drinks-wise, expect refreshing stirred and shaken libations, while Asian-inspired plates like amped-up hot wings make up the food menu. The quaint sun room-like area is perfect for drinking away hazy San Francisco days.