San Francisco’s devious history during the Gold Rush gave rise to areas of the city that catered to the vices of incoming gold-hungry upstarts. In the present day, however, areas like the Barbary District are no longer filled with ruffians, drunkards and bar fighters; rather, they have been replaced with the affluent, modern establishments, situated on a rooftop or in a converted historical building, the watering-holes of the city’s metropolitan elite surrounded in beautiful settings. The abundance of great bars, run by talented bartenders makes for a pretty special night on the town. Check out our list below of the best bars in the city and what makes them so special.
A constant contender in the World 50 Best Bars list, Trick Dog is a no-frills, down-to-earth, friendly neighbourhood joint that feels comfortable and sociable with no connotations of pretence in sight. If you are looking for the décor, service and expensive cocktails of a hotel bar, you have come to the wrong place. Trick Dog’s aesthetic is an urban-chic, ex-industrial spot where the talking is done by the drinks, not the cheque. The speakers lift their volume over the course of the evening, playing classic feel-good records from a variety of genres including disco, pop and more. The menu changes regularly, each of which has a distinct theme from the city’s many facets like murals or the Bay Area’s marine life.
A true vestige of days gone by, the Comstock Saloon is exactly what you’d expect a saloon from a Western to look like. Sporting stained glass windows, a mahogany bar, tiled floors, well-polished silver accents and vintage wallpaper, the Comstock authentically recreates a turn-of-the-century feel in a refined setting. Samples the bar’s specialty pre-Prohibition cocktails like the Blood & Sand (a gory name for a rather delicious cocktail!) which mixes Scotch whiskey, sweet vermouth, a splash of freshly-squeezed orange juice and cherry liquor for a delightful smokey, citrusy blend that is unlike any other classic cocktail you may have had before. The dulcet tones of the live jazz band flow over the bar’s main room from the mezzanine every night of the week from 8 o’clock in the evening, so settle in and grab a booth for an evening straight out of the 1900s.
Spirits in the Sky
Spirits in the Sky is a seasonal pop-up at one of the city’s tallest buildings, the Loews Regency. Whilst the city itself has many bars with more quirky idiosyncrasies that make them more appealing to return to, Spirits in the Sky has undoubtedly one of the best views of the city and the bay. The city’s highest elevated rooftop bar, visitors can enjoy their cocktail against the backdrop of the TransAmerica Pyramid, Coit Tower and the Californian hills stretching off into the background. Head up for the sunset before 8 pm for a truly memorable evening drink. Be advised that inside is standing only, so apart from the view, head to one of the other bars on this list for a more refined bar experience.
Located in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco, Black Cat is a reversion to the classic style of secluded bar, away from the gimmicks and unnecessary additions of more modern bars. Owner Fritz Quattlebaum has created a ‘grown-ups’ bar with effortless style and panache. The dimly lit interior with exposed-brick walls, dark leather booths, velvet curtains and a live jazz band entices a mature clientele looking to wile away a few hours in a relaxed and sociable atmosphere. The Mission Penicillin is a house classic, made from mezcal, honey, coconut, ginger for a sticky, sweet libation that embodies the class of the bar itself.
From the same team that brought Lazy Bear, one of the city’s best restaurants, to San Francisco’s dining scene comes True Laurel, a buzzy, entertaining cocktail bar that offers classic, uncomplicated cocktails in a relaxed, sociable setting. The atmosphere is what sets this spot apart from the competition. Serving comfort food dishes in a sharable, bar snack format alongside their delicious cocktails makes for a winning combination that makes True Laurel a destination for young professionals week in week out. Whilst the classics are done well, head mixologist, Nicholas Torres, also seeks to offer more forward-thinking drinks that combine particular unusual flavours and alcohols for a satisfying sip that treats your palate with exciting tingles of flavour.
One for the warm weather during the summer months, El Techo is a San Francisco staple on the city’s eclectic bar scene. The demand for a table at this super-social, unfussy drinking spot causes queues so make sure you get in early or, failing that, try the sister Lolinda restaurant that sits below this high-flying bar. Offering bar snacks of latin American bites and specialising in margaritas, the bar encapsulated the Californian spirit in the summer sun. The place keeps going even after dark, with everyone usually communally enjoying the sunset before the heaters come on and the night well and truly starts. Whilst it is perfect for the summer months, El Techno is open year-round and one of the few bars to offer a rooftop space in the city.
San Francisco is a city blessed with a wide array of bars and nightlife for whatever the night may hold. From intimate bars perfect for a romantic evening to those with large communal tables to catch up with friends, there is something for every occasion. This list and many others that deserve honourable mentions including 15 Romolo, Bourbon & Branch and Everdene, San Francisco is a city full of fun memories and adventures to be made. To find your very own San Francisco, contact Propeterra today and discover your real estate opportunities in the city.