I thought I’d interrupt this LA-centric programming of late to give a little San Francisco shoutout. With all my gushing about how much I loved LA, I’ve had a friend or two ask me if I’m going to pack up and move down south. Not only would I have to change my name to “LAista” (ugh), I’m pretty sure I could never leave my city. I might grumble about the fog and the tourists packing Union Square, but this is my home, and I freaking love it.
I developed a crude San Francisco guide on Google Maps last year, but I thought I’d start a littles series on here showcasing some of my favorite places in San Francisco- where to drink, eat, sit, shop, and play. Whether you live in San Francisco or think you just might come to visit someday, here’s where I would tell my best friend to go for drinks whilst in SF.
If you want to sit outside while you drink your beer or wine, your options in San Francisco are pretty much limited to a table on the sidewalk outside a bistro or the coveted back patio. A beer garden-meets-punk concert, Zeitgeist serves up a formidable list of beer but doesn’t shy away from cocktails (you get to order a small or larger- choose wisely). They even have the Racer X on tap, which you should only order if you like having an invisible giant made entirely of hops pop out from inside your pint glass. Just close your eyes, listen to the heavy metal blasting from the outdoor speakers, and enjoy.
People-watching here is one of the best parts- you really will see all sorts. It’s busy pretty much all hours of the day, but the real crowd surge happens just after midnight when bargoers in the area remember that this place serves up greasy, plentiful late-night food. Don’t skip it- your stomach will thank you the next day.
The Bitter End
To be fair, this bar is on my list partially because it’s one of Jim’s favorites in the city. But anywhere you can get an expertly-poured Snakebite for six bucks and sit at a great people-watching table while you wait your turn for pool earns an A on my list. Basically, it’s a classic Irish pub without the corniness that can come with the genre. Oh, and they’re more than happy for you to bring in outside food, which is a godsend after a few too many (affordable) pints. Go on a weekday or early on a weekend to beat the crowds.
Blondie’s Bar & No Grill
Oh, Blondie’s. What a complicated relationship we have. Let me summarize by saying that they have one of the most creative and delicious martini lists in the city (four kinds of stuffed olives, among other things), and they serve their martinis in a pint glass. No, seriously- they pour you a regular-sized martini and then hand you the half-full pint glass and a strainer to serve your second (and sometimes third) portion. How the night goes is entirely up to you, but I recommend the Ruby Red.
I like to go there before dinner at Puerto Allegre to grab a drink, but it’s also fun later at night if you like to dance your butt off to some seriously loud music. Depending on the DJ, you might just get them to play some 90’s hits to shake up the night.
Sure, it’s been open for exactly one week, but this Pacific Heights watering hole has already shot to the top of my love list. Tucked away a few streets north of most of the action on Fillmore, Palmer’s is the newest establishment by the folks who brought you Leopold’s on Polk. The decor in Palmer’s Tavern feels warm and inviting, and I was pleasantly surprised at their musical choice of soft 20’s ragtime and jazz over something loud and clubby.
It has the Gatsby-ish feel of some of the swankier “ye olde pubs” in San Francisco, but so far the price tag is surprisingly sane ($5+ drafts, $9 cocktails). For those outside of SF, those prices almost certainly sound ridiculous, but I’ve been to other bars where I’ve ordered a Greyhound and then paid a shocking $14 for the pleasure. I haven’t been on the weekend yet, but here’s hoping it resists the bro-ey influence of being stationed between Harry’s bar and the Marina.
Just as dive-y as Zeitgeist but with the intimacy of a neighborhood bar, Tempest is where I go if I want a low-key night that refuses to stay a low-key night because we end up meeting some fantastic people and somehow participating in a pick-up football game. Seriously, though, this place is quietly exception, boasting an excellent but unpretentious beer selection and cocktails that are well worth your money.
I mentioned our visits to a friend who used to work at the SF Chronicle (one block away), and she described half a dozen Tempest regulars, all of whom I recognized from our evenings spent there. This is the bar where everybody knows your name, or at least vaguely what you look like. It’s friendly, it’s loud, and there’s always something fun happening inside.
I hope you enjoyed my list of some of my favorite places to drink in San Francisco! Which ones did I miss? Do you have a favorite?