The buzzing wine bar Press Club on Yerba Buena Lane (©Nader Khouri)
From museums to hikes to historic attractions, there are ample diversions to fill any day in San Francisco. But what’s a traveler to do once the sun sets behind the Golden Gate Bridge? To keep the good times rolling, we recommend these superb destinations for nighttime revelry.
Forget your 9-to-5 life and travel into another world at one of these lively, diverting themed bars.
Bourbon & Branch
Between 1921-33, the building that houses Bourbon & Branch is located in operated illegally as a Prohibition-era speakeasy. Today, it’s a legal but no less rollicking nightlife option that invites guests to experience the Roaring ’20s—replete with period-appropriate cocktails, five hidden bars and a password required for entry.
501 Jones St., San Francisco.
Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar
Tropical cocktail favorites come garnished with umbrellas, bands play on a thatch-covered lagoon and faux tropical storms periodically strike—all inside one of the city’s most pedigreed luxury hotels, the Fairmont. Feeling audacious? Share a colossal Scorpion Bowl, featuring two different rums, brandy and local handmade orgeat.
Fairmont San Francisco, 950 Mason St., San Francisco.
Nautical and Polynesian-inspired décor (there’s even a small indoor waterfall!) make this another tiki-themed favorite. If the ambience doesn’t get you in a tropical mood, certainly one of the Smuggler's Cove's 500 rums, mixed into tasty (and strong) cocktails, will do the trick.
650 Gough St., San Francisco.
These nightlife spots feature menus rivaling those of the finest restaurants in town. In this food-obsessed city, that’s really saying something.
This Haight-Ashbury District haunt is best known for its fancy cocktails featuring ingredients like muddled sage and chocolate bitters. The cuisine—including squid ink spaetzle, beef tartare and bone marrow–exhibits equal flair and technical mastery.
1725 Haight St., San Francisco.
It’s all about meat at this swanky Financial District bar where whole-animal butchery and housemade charcuterie are the signature menu items. But non-meat eaters can find plenty to enjoy, too, from ricotta toast to braised artichokes. Whatever you order, it’s sure to go well with a selection from the fine-tuned drink menu, featuring craft cocktails and superlative wines.
140 New Montgomery St., San Francisco.
The eclectic menu at this Mission bar defies convention—and delightfully so. Select a dish from Asia (baby bok choy), Mexico (guacamole), America (chicken TrickNuggets) or a mix of cultures (moo shu pork tacos). All pair sublimely with one of the bar’s equally distinctive cocktails.
3010 20th St., San Francisco.
Who says games are just for kids? These bars offer a fun-filled blast from the past with a decidedly adult twist.
An excellent spot for local brews and tasty fare (don’t miss the papas fritas), Dear Mom gastropub also brings the fun with its ping-pong table, pinball machine, foosball tables and arcade games. Think of it as a really cool rec room with food and booze.
2700 16th St., San Francisco.
As the name suggests, this bar is part brewpub and part arcade, with an irresistible collection of nostalgic games including Mario Bros., Frogger and Mortal Kombat. Want to really go old-school? Skip the booze and order a classic soda pop like Crush Orange or Dad’s Blue Cream.
2200 Market St., San Francisco.
The Wreck Room
Shoot hoops at the Pop-A-Shot, sink balls at a billiards table or aim for the bull’s-eye at the dart board. If you’d rather watch a game than play one, grab a beer on tap and root for the home team while catching a sports match on one of 10 flat-screen TVs in this bar.
1390 California St., San Francisco.
If you want to see and be seen, head to one of these happening bars where the clientele is as chic as the ambience.
A favorite bar for Financial District professionals looking to unwind after work, Rickhouse pairs its slick design details, including high ceilings crafted from old bourbon barrels, with an exhaustive menu of libations. If heading out with a group, order the massive, sweet and boozy punch bowl.
246 Kearny St., San Francisco.
Perhaps the best known wine bar in a city full of them, this elegant establishment showcases a new artisan vintner each month and pairs its sublime selection of local vinos with foods including pizzettas, ahi tuna tartare and charcuterie. Located at the foot of the swanky Four Seasons Hotel, Press Club is one of San Francisco’s most sophisticated options for a night on the town.
20 Yerba Buena Ln., San Francisco.
During Prohibition, many Americans dispatched to Europe, where they ordered traditional American cocktails, and the Continental bartenders served them with their own local touch. These recipes were later brought back to the states when Prohibition was lifted, and today, they can be imbibed at The European. Order the Normandy, Stockholm or Budapest, and it’ll almost feel like you’re drinking in Europe.
490 Geary St., San Francisco.
San Francisco has world-class sophistication mastered. But for those nights when you want to unwind without any pretense, the city also offers plenty of no-frills dive bars.
It’s notoriously difficult to stay in business in this uber-competitive city—so it says something that Elixir dates back to 1858. And with its wonderful collection of handmade cocktails and laid-back saloon-meets-lounge ambience, you can bet it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
3200 16th St., San Francisco.
Victorian style meets a chilled-out vibe at this outpost in the heart of the bohemian Haight-Ashbury District. The bar claims to serve the most extensive assortment of rums in the country. What else do you need to know?
1601 Haight St., San Francisco.
The High Tide Lounge
From the painting of a half-naked woman on the wall to the tricked-out dollar bills stapled to the ceiling, this Tenderloin watering hole is funky and more than a little weird, which is, of course, the San Francisco way.
600 Geary St., San Francisco.