Where to Find the Best Bar Food in SF, Sorted by 'Hood
San Francisco's restaurant scene is killing it, but sometimes you just want to go to a neighborhood bar, watch the game, and chow down on some delicious food. Fortunately, there are a bunch of bars slinging good eats alongside tasty libations. No worries if your ‘hood isn’t listed -- SF is small, and good bar bites are but a short walk, Muni ride, or Uber away. Fair warning: you’ll likely be rolling home after stuffing your belly at these locals’ joints.
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 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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.)
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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