Tucked away in a hidden space behind Fiorella’s Inner Sunset rooftop dining room is a tiny and stylish bar with moody lighting, a green marble (standing-room-only) bar with gorgeous fresh flowers in front of a cozy fireplace, several communal bar tables, a vintage chandelier, and burgundy walls. The cocktail list at Bar Nonnina is a complete departure from what you’ll find at Fiorella (both are excellent, for what it’s worth), with drinks like Galileo’s Gaze (strawberry-infused gin, gentian aperitif, bianco vermouth) and the house favorite, the Slushy di Modena, a very drinkable and boozy slushy with gin, Amara d’Arancia Rosso, Lambrusco, strawberry and pomegranate essence, and lemon. For the full experience, order the three-course cocktail and food pairing, which changes seasonally but includes bites like Potato Croquettes and Corn Tortellini.
How to get in: Walk up the stairs to the rooftop. Take a left and walk past all of the tables to a door on the left of the far back wall. Walk down the tiny wallpapered hallway with a neon glow and slide open the pocket door on the right. The standing-room bar has space for five walk-in guests; if you’d prefer a seat, make a reservation.
At first glance, The Pawn Shop looks like an actual pawn shop and not at all like a tropical-inspired tapas bar and lounge. That’s because, in order to experience the latter, you have to talk your way through the former, which means picking up the golden phone outside and talking to the pawn master, who will buzz you in and then ask you what you want to unload. After some faux haggling, he’ll eventually open up a hidden door to let you into the restaurant, where you leave any pawn shop references behind and enjoy affordable and tasty tapas and low ABV cocktails.
How to get inside: Haggle with the (sometimes) grumpy Pawn Master, who is your key to getting through the hidden door. It helps if you have something you’re willing to (pretend to) part with. You can make reservations online.
Tucked above the always-bustling China Live restaurant is a swanky bar that feels like a sophisticated living room with lots of leather chairs and banquettes softened by grey velvet couches, plush rugs, and chandeliers with vial-shaped Edison bulbs. The menu is Scotch-centric, often used in a fun, whimsical way by bartenders who know what they are doing and can definitely create a drink that caters to your tastes. Already a scotch or whisky fan? Beware, as the selection is extensive and often comes with sticker shock that can only be assuaged by the third or fourth sip of whatever you order.
How to get in: Take the staircase on the right next to the entrance of China Live and look for the gold door with a black bat. Make reservations online.
Okay, so the Hideout isn’t some crazy big secret, but if you don’t know, we’re here to make sure you do know. First, don’t overlook Dalva, the beloved Mission hangout that received a light and airy pandemic refresh perfect for a casual late afternoon cocktail or pre-dinner craft cocktail. It is and always has been one of SF’s true gems. But you’re here for the secret-spilling, so let’s get to it. The Hideout is a bar-within-a-bar that’s always been popular with industry folks and anyone who likes a dark dive bar with quality cocktails. Unlike the bar it sits inside, the Hideout did not get a major refresh during the pandemic because some things are perfect just the way they are. It’s still a bi-level space that can heat up during peak hours, and you’ll need to go to the bar to order your drinks (unlike at Dalva). The only real difference is the cocktail menu, which now focuses on the classics.
How to get in: Go inside Dalva and just walk to the back. Easy! (Now that you know about it, anyway.)
The Barrel Room is reopening sometime in October, and with it, the wine bar’s underground lounge, a three-room windowless space with a tiny bar (Barrel Room is known for its wine, but cocktails are the thing to order in this secret spot), a bank vault that you can sit inside of (yes, you read that right), and a piano on which you’ll sometimes hear live jazz. Okay, so that’s what it was like the last time we were there, which was pre-pandemic. TBD what will have changed when it reopens next month. Guess you’ll just have to go and find out!
How to get in: Walk through the restaurant to the very back and look for the staircase behind a wall on the left.
Okay, so the Musto Bar inside of members-only club The Battery isn’t a secret bar. It’s just the bar on the second floor where members gather late at night when the other bars clear out. The secret part is the Green Room, a bar hidden behind a secret panel. The entire club was designed by Ken Fulk, and the latter is painted floor-to-ceiling in a lacquered green paint and is often home to everything from cozy conversations to impromptu jam sessions.
How to get in: The Battery is members-only, and each member is allowed to bring three guests. If you can’t find a member (though it seems like there are a lot of them these days), you can also get a hotel room at the club, which gives you member privileges for the duration of your stay.