Food & Drink

San Francisco Bar Snacks We Can't Stop Ordering

Published On 07/11/2016 Published On 07/11/2016
Hogwash San Francisco
Courtesy of Hogwash

Man can’t live on cocktails and beer alone: he’s gotta have snacks. Whether you're hitting up an after-work happy hour, taking a full day-drinking Saturday, or going on a fancy date night, we’ve got your bar snacks covered, from deliciously high-end takes on classics (potato skins involving crispy pork belly and quail eggs) to simply the best-of-the-best classics (wings and nachos!) to one of the best, simplest dessert ideas in the city. These places serve bar food that's certain to keep the munchies at bay.

The Sheepish at Hogwash

Union Square
This fiery sandwich is pretty much the opposite of what its name implies: a spicy lamb merguez sausage is tucked into a thick, fresh roll, then covered in a layer of bright beet relish and pickled cabbage. A heavy drizzle of creamy blue cheese sauce completes this overflowing flavor bomb. Between the giant beer list and Downtown location, this is the perfect spot to turn afterwork happy hour into a boozy sausage dinner. But if you want something just to snack on, grab an order of the fried pickles with harissa aioli; you won’t regret it.

Bent Burger at Bender's Bar & Grill

Mission
Heavenly dive bar institution Benders is cranking out some of the Mission’s best bar food. The whole menu is excellent, but if you have to pick just one, order the Bent Burger. A messy explosion of flavor and texture, their luscious burger patty is piled high with crispy bacon, spicy preserved jalapeños, and gooey American cheese. Choose between a side of slaw or seasoned tater tots. And if that's not enough for you, add a fried egg, guacamole, or even more bacon for an extra two dollars.

Courtesy of Upcider

Buffalo fries at Upcider

Lower Nob Hill
Crisp, golden french fries are doused in spicy Buffalo sauce, then topped with blue cheese and paired with the traditional buffalo wing sidekicks, crunchy carrots and celery (sometimes the best answer is to just not overthink it). This spicy, fried bar food delicacy is the perfect accompaniment to Upcider’s giant menu of ciders and beers. And if you're still hungry, this spot is also known for their legendary flatbreads.

Fresh out-of-the-oven cookies at The Social Study

Fillmore
This place serves warm cookies and wine, so you know, they've basically got relaxation down to a science. Expect to wait 10 to 15 minutes for these bad boys because these classic cookies are baked fresh for each order. Yeah. Bonus: your cookie pile comes with an ice-cold glass of milk for dunking.

Flickr/Jenn Coyle

Pan-fried provolone with chimichurri and roasted garlic at The Sycamore

Mission
Meet the fancy-pants version of mozzarella sticks: gooey, pan-fried provolone is slathered in bright, herby chimichurri and fat cloves of roasted garlic. A slab of fried cheese is meant to be enjoyed with a few rounds of drinks, either cozied up inside the tiny bar, or sprawled at a picnic table on the patio. And don’t miss out on one of the city’s best jukeboxes: select a couple songs to soundtrack your newfound love affair with a giant square of fried cheese.

Killer Nachos at Hi Tops

Castro
Served on a big baking sheet, Hi Tops’ Killer Nachos are the perfect way to feed your entire group, or make some new friends at the bar. The serving is genuinely gigantic, and the nachos are piled high with all the nacho toppings you'd expect -- although we are really into adding the pulled pork (extra $5, worth it). The chips are super-thick, and hold up under the weight of the legit avalanche of toppings on here. Hi Tops has plenty of seating and lots of screens, so it's also a great spot to watch the games.

Claire Margine/Thrillist

Falafel lamb dog at ABV

Mission
Carnival fare gets a high-end makeover in the falafel lamb dog, a spicy twist on the classic corn-dog. Warm, spiced falafel batter is wrapped around a spicy lamb sausage, then served with a fresh, tangy tzatziki sauce. ABV knows bar snacks: they don’t use silverware, and serve their finger food bites with wet wipes, so you can keep your hands clean as you reach for another drink. While you can pick up an expertly crafted cocktail here, if you're bringing a non-drinking pal, their nonalcoholic drink menu is top notch.

Nick’s Way Baja-style tacos at The Taco Shop at Underdog’s

Inner Sunset
It’s a Baja-style taco with an extra crunchy edge: at Nick's, they take golden-fried fish filets and wrap them in two tortillas -- one crunchy, one soft, then top this off with yummy cabbage slaw. The Taco Shop has plenty of seating and lots of screens, if you want to check out a game, as well as a couple old-school arcade games inside. Their green and red hot sauces on each table are out of this world, so make sure to add a splash to your taco. Happy hour is from 4:30 to 6pm Monday through Friday, and Friday is dollar margarita night. Dollar margaritas and big crispy fish tacos... we can't think of a better end to the week.

Flickr/Thomas Hawk

Torch My Belly at the Nihon Whiskey Lounge

Mission
If you're looking for date night bar food, Nihon is the way to go. Torch My Belly is one of the bar’s crudos, a small bite to nibble while you sip Japanese whiskies. The combination of succulent, seared salmon belly, fresh cherry tomatoes, black fish roe, and tart lemon sesame soy sauce is both elegant and satisfying.

Currywurst at Biergarten

Hayes Valley
San Francisco is low on outdoor drinking opportunities, so soak up some sun at Biergarten, a wide-open outdoor space serving awesome German beers and great bar food to match. Currywurst is a drinking-food classic, and Biergarten’s version features a sliced and grilled Prather Ranch pork sausage served with curry ketchup dipping sauce and toast. Spicy, smoky, a little sweet -- the combination is guaranteed to help you soak up your next stein.

Tempest

Potato skins at Tempest

SoMa
Pork belly potato skins: we are in. Box Kitchen, the food portion of Tempest, takes this classic bar snack and gives it some serious oomph with smoky gouda, crispy pork belly, and a tasty little quail egg on top. Plus, this place really is one of the city's most fun dive bars, so you want as many excuses as possible to order another round.

BBQ pulled-mushroom sandwiches at Mr. Tipple’s Recording Studio

Civic Center
This veggie twist on a pulled pork slider is so savory and satisfying, that you won’t even miss the meat (seriously). A tangle of smoky mushrooms is topped with crispy fried shallots and a slaw, served on fresh, buttery rolls. Enjoy your sliders as you check out their nightly live jazz performances at one of the many tables, or sprawled out on a cozy couch. Grab a swanky craft cocktail or enjoy their curated beer and wine menu.

Spicy fried chicken wings at Wang Dae Bak

Lakeside
The best accompaniment to soju, these guys' sticky, spicy chicken wings will have you licking your fingers and contemplating a second order (do it). Wang Dae Bak is home to delicious Korean bar food and more soju flavors than you thought possible. The interior is laid out more like a restaurant than a bar with tables and service buttons to snag your waiter, so it’s a great place for groups. Leave some drawings on the chalkboards, and try out the strawberry soju as a sweet accompaniment to your pile of spicy chicken wings.

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Claire Margine is always down to order another round of snacks. Follow her on Twitter at @cmoshenb for more snack updates, or check out her work at clairemargine.com.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Hogwash 582 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (Union Square)

With over 30 beers on draft, this Union Square taproom is a beer drinker’s paradise. It’s the perfect marriage of craft brews and elevated bar snacks, the latter of which includes house-made sausage sandwiches, curry fries (with an almost obligatory fried duck egg add-on), and fried pickles. It's a counter-serve, so after you place your food order at the bar, snag a seat at one of the communal tables with a beer -- be it a local IPA or Belgian sour -- in hand.

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2. 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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3. Upcider 1160 Polk St Fl 2, San Francisco, CA 94109 (Nob Hill)

Right in Lower Nob Hill, Upcider is San Francisco’s first cider bar. The varied cider selection includes familiar American brands like Woodchuck and Crispin as well as international varieties like Spain’s Sidra Trabanco and the quintessentially French Clos Normand. The menu features snacks like sliders, flatbread pizzas, and Buffalo French fries, and the warm, woodsy interior is roomy and inviting.

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4. The Social Study 1795 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94115 (Fillmore)

As its name suggests, this hip, brick-walled coffee house in Fillmore is a chill place to hit the books. By day, this bustling cafe with ample seating doles out artisanal deli sandwiches, small bites, and dark roast espresso for the freelance crowd. By night, it becomes a cozy, den-like tavern with two-for-one tacos, soju cocktails, and a trip-hop soundtrack provided by local DJs.

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5. The Sycamore 2140 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110 (The Mission)

The Sycamore is a Mission dive bar and day drinking destination. The bottomless mimosa brunch is $8 with an order of food, all of which is a) cheap, b) really good. There are four kinds of sliders and eggs Benedict, and the Maker's Mark bourbon-glazed pork belly donuts define sweet and salty goodness. An outdoor patio, board games, and free Wi-Fi make the Sycamore the kind of chill place you want to hang out at all weekend long.

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6. 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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7. ABV 3174 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103 (The Mission)

Though ABV is more than just a great whiskey bar, its whiskey menu isn't to be forgotten. You’ll find a surprising and thorough list of rare Scotches, Japanese whiskies, bourbons, ryes, and cask-strength bottles. Its bar snacks are definitely worth writing home about too, and -- it should be mentioned -- it serves an impressive brunch on the weekends. Win!

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8. 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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9. Nihon Whisky Lounge 1779 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94103 (The Mission)

You’ve died and gone to whisky heaven. With over 500 whisky selections -- both single malt and blended from Japan and Scotland alike -- Nihon is a whisky emporium-meets-Japanese izakaya in the Mission. The tapas-style menu includes classic sushi and sashimi plates plus snacks like grilled pork belly skewers and fried octopus balls.

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10. Biergarten 424 Octavia St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (Hayes Valley)

With quintessential large mugs, sausages and sauerkraut, long picnic tables in the sun (hopefully), and a rotating selection of impressive German beers, Biergarten everything you want in, well, a beer garden. It’s owned by the masterminds behind Suppenküche, so you know you can bank on them having a way with Teutonic suds and snacks. With no roof, it’s not the ideal spot for a rainy day pint, but you’ll be clamoring for a space come summertime.

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11. 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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12. Mr Tipple's Recording Studio 39 Fell St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (The Tenderloin)

The spirit of rhythm and blues rules this semi-secret bar and lounge in the Tenderloin. Named after the eponymous imaginary character Mr. Tipple, a smooth talking English A&R man, the bar features live jazz every night alongside inventive craft cocktails.

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13. Wang Dae Bak Soju House 2642 Ocean Ave, San Francisco, CA 94132 (Lakeside)

For something a little more expensive and a whole lot better than your average Asian take-out experience, Wang Dae Bak offers upscale but affordable Korean food with powerful punches of flavor. The crunchy, spicy outer layer of the Korean fried chicken wings reveal succulent, juicy meat on the inside, and whether you're dining in or ordering to-go, you can never go wrong with a side of kimchi fried rice.

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