Top five bars in… San Francisco, USBy James Lawrence
San Francisco has something for everyone, whether it be unpretentious bars or high-class cocktail lounges, raucous dives or quiet speakeasies. SB explores the beguiling city.
San Francisco is justly proud of its reputation as a culturally rich and cosmopolitan city – you don’t have to look very hard for exciting, cutting-edge nightlife here. Indeed, the city’s heritage of diversity and tolerance comes alive in the murals that enliven its ethnic neighbourhoods, and in the multitude of languages and cultures that peacefully co-exist. There is no room for conservatism or bigotry in San Francisco – just ask any long-standing resident.
It comes as no surprise, then, that San Francisco’s inhabitants are passionate about socialising, and there really is something for everyone – even teetotallers – in this Californian gem, from raucous dive bars to upmarket cocktail destinations and speakeasies that insist on quiet conversation and no photography from their patrons. San Francisco offers the louche, the sophisticated, the traditional, the contemporary and everything in between.
Of course, as with all major cities, a keen sense of the geography is key. In the Mission District, lively scenes of family, community and political activism adorn the walls of banks, schools and restaurants. This is the place to rub shoulders with unpretentious imbibers at the numerous dive bars that fill the neighbourhood. The drinks are affordable, and the atmosphere is often unbeatable. However, aficionados of high-end mixology always head to Union Square, where San Francisco’s leading cocktail bars and exciting raw talent are to be found.
The SoMa, or South of Market, neighbourhood, is bursting with nightclubs, while microbreweries and excellent restaurants appear all over the Richmond/Presidio area with wild abandon.
Writer Samuel Johnson’s musings on London can certainly be applied to the vivacious Californian city: to be tired of San Francisco is to be tired of life.
Click through the following pages to see our top bars in San Francisco, US.
Bender’s Bar & Grill
806 S Van Ness Avenue
Arguably the Mission District’s best dive bar, Bender’s opened its doors the day Johnny Cash died in 2003. The bar remains as popular as ever thanks to its unrivalled beer selection, decadent food offering and incredibly friendly staff.
Pool tables, pinball and a jukebox loaded with punk and metal sets the tone for this neighbourhood haunt, which is always packed, even on weekdays.
Bourbon & Branch
501 Jones St
The owners don’t allow loud conversations, Instagram or stag parties – Bourbon & Branch is paradise for those in search of an escape from the modern era.
Its cocktail credentials are also first rate; the venue sends its bartenders out on foraging expeditions to the local farmers’ markets every day in search of the freshest and most unusual produce available.
The Interval at Long Now
Landmark Building A, 2 Marina Boulevard
One of San Francisco’s friendliest bars, The Interval at Long Now is the ultimate chameleon; well-priced coffee shop by day, refined cocktail bar by night, also showcasing a limited edition spirits programme by local favourite St. George.
The modern space boasts Golden Gate Bridge views, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and interesting décor.
155 Columbus Ave
Established in 1907, Comstock Saloon has seen it all – Prohibition, Reaganism and the dotcom revolution.
Today it continues to serve classic cocktails in a buzzing North Beach neighbourhood that has hardly changed over the past century.
Pacific Cocktail Haven
580 Sutter Street
Effortlessly merging sophistication with the vibe of friendly neighbourhood bar, Pacific Cocktail Haven has all bases covered. Bar veteran Kevin Diedrich is a master of his craft, so expect creative, highbrow cocktails served in a suitably serene environment.
Exposed brick, wine barrels and dark leather seats are all present and correct, but the service is friendly to a fault