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Visitor wants a special place to have a drink

Thanks to all for the great places to eat on our visit, but now I am looking for a place to have a drink.

I'm looking for a great scene, place, ambiance to have a couple drinks. Real San Francisco, local hangouts. Not necessarily posh, just genuine. A hole in the wall will work. Maybe full of some interesting people. Hey maybe some serious bar flys too.

We will be at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival at Golden gate park, so close to there would also work, but we can cruise to find that special place. Hey maybe we can meet you for a drink...

Thanks. Looking forward to coming back to your great city.

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  1. I can think a few places. Mejool has a cool roof top patio and mod interior , The Redwood Room, very old boy posh, The 500 club, Mission hipster hang out, with some long time regulars, and Bourbon & Branch great drinks secrete speakeasy atmosphere. I imagine you will many more suggestions we have a lot of great watering holes.

    3 Replies
    1. re: chefj

      Is the new incarnation of the Washbag, Washington Square Bar & Grill, anything like the old or has time taken its toll, specifically no Herb Caen and the rest of the ball team?

      Washington Square Bar & Grill
      1707 Powell Street, San Francisco, CA 94133

      1. re: wolfe

        i'm an old newspaper guy. the washbag was pretty cool in its day. i heard it reopened. i'll stop by for a drink in a few weeks.

      2. Trad'r Sam's on Geary and 25th might be the closest place with "ambiance", where
        that ambiance is primarily ancient, worn-out tiki. Rum drinks. Often hopelessly crowded.
        Despite that it has great potential for a memorable-in-a-good-way evening.

        Did you sell your Vespa to buy a fixie? In that case, Medjool's bare-bones rooftop
        might be the place for you. Otherwise in the Mission, the Uptown at 17th and
        Capp is a pretty genuine hole-in-the-wall (if not simply a hole) hangout -- you can
        watch the hookers right outside the big window. Or maybe the getting-to-be-
        quite-a-classic Rite Spot on Folsom and 17th a couple of blocks away. Rite Spot
        has actual often-tasty food too.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Chuckles the Clone

          I don't even think a fixie will let itself be caught at Medjool anymore. :)

          1. re: pockyjunkie

            "a great scene, place, ambiance" and "real San Francisco local hangouts" isn't really that specific. So I guess it sorta depends on what scene you are looking for.

            Nopa, Toronado, Zeitgeist and Rite Spot are all good suggestions - and all fit the criteria, because real San Franciscans go to all of them - but the scenes in each of those 4 are COMPLETELY different. So maybe the OP can be more specific about what he/she would ideally be drinking...and the sorts of people he/she'd want to be drinking with :)

            Regardless, I'd skip Medjool.

            I wouldn't necessarily recommend the Rite Spot to a visitor, since it's a bit random and not really destinationworthy, but I enjoyed it the one time I went, and some friends of mine are regulars. Apparently Friday pie nights are back, and I've heard the pie is good:


            1. re: Dave MP

              I second the skip Medjool vote. Also, a month ago I passed something tacked to a telephone pole on Valencia Street that was a flyer from Medjool management to "save Medjool". No idea what it was about but I advise checking first if it's still open if anyone has a hankering to go....

              1. re: originalfig

                The rumor about Medjool closing was from a few months ago.They are still up and running.
                The roof does have a great view, and I had an excellent Caipirinha there a couple weeks ago.

                1. re: pauliface

                  Haven't been, but much of the negative criticism I hear about Medjool refers to Medjool later in the night when it is more of a club than a restaurant with drinks.

                  1. re: vulber

                    vulber has a good point - my negative association with Medjool does mainly have to do with the scene later in the evening, when it's a club.

                    I guess earlier it would be pleasant enough, but aside from a potential rooftop view, there's nothing that special about it I don't think. I like many of the other options because they are experiences that are harder to find elsewhere.

        2. You might check out these, all close to GG Park, although the park is a big place and has several different "sides" and hoods surrounding. All are pretty much SF.

          Zam Zam - very SF but I'll let someone else describe it...gets play on TV shows.
          540 Club - very local, dive-ish in a clean way, turned a bit hipster
          Cliff House - Ocean view on a cliff, can get touristy but the later you go, the quieter it gets

          There's also a few Irish pubs on Geary/20th.

          Sutro's at The Cliff House
          1090 Point Lobos Ave., San Francisco, CA 94121

          Persian Aub Zam Zam
          1633 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117

          540 Club
          San Francisco, CA, San Francisco, CA

          2 Replies
          1. re: ML8000

            Cliff House is pretty, but it is not a real San Francisco local hangout. Very touristy.

            1. re: Shane Greenwood

              The later you go, the less touristy it gets. The tour buses usually leave around 6-ish, i.e., dinner time. Any way that's how it was when I lived over there. Not a locals place but it has been in SF for quite a while.

          2. After the Bluegrass festival you can go south on Great Hiway to the Riptide Bar, 3639 Taraval just a few blocks from the beach. The original bar is steeped in history and it's full of locals.

            1. Bourbon & Branch is a serious endeavor, but I think it's the opposite of "genuine" and the concept was imported from New York.

              Some real local hangouts:

              Tosca Cafe
              242 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

              560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

              Tommy's Mexican Restaurant
              5929 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

              Pig and Whistle
              2801 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

              Toronado Pub
              547 Haight St, San Francisco, CA

              199 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103

              3200 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

              688 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

              Edinburgh Castle
              950 Geary St, San Francisco, CA

              Abbey Tavern
              4100 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA

              FireWater Chophouse
              2155 Market Place Blvd, Cumming, GA 30041

              3 Replies
                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I was going to suggest Zeitgeist too. The scene is very local, Mission hipsters.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    oooh, that is a great list!! Love the cross-section of atmospheres/prices/attitudes and neighborhoods. And all great places to get a drink, for their own fairly unique reasons.

                  2. How about Hotel Utah?

                    Hotel Utah Saloon
                    500 4th St, San Francisco, CA

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Paul H

                      If you want interesting people,hole in the wall and bar flys the corner bar at Taylor and Turk is just the place. Its not posh,its genuine and definately has ambience. On Haight near the park there are still a couple of original watering holes.

                      1. re: Paul H

                        Another idea: Tunnel Top

                        Tunnel Top
                        601 Bush St, San Francisco, CA

                      2. I recommend Sodini's.
                        It's a restaurant bar located in the North Beach area. It's got great ambiance and old style bar design and interior. The service and atmosphere is friendly there.

                        510 Green St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                        1. My parents' favorite watering hole back in the day was Top of the Mark. Don't know if locals still go here, but it has incredible views of this beautiful city.

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: pikawicca

                            Occasional beautiful views but frequently fog bound. I don't know if any locals go there anymore. I stopped when I found out they didn't keep bottles for Pacific Fleet ships anymore. I was so looking forward to toasting my shipmates on AH16 on my return 11/67.

                            1. re: wolfe

                              Well, if the view from here is fog bound, the view from just about everywhere is going to be.

                              1. re: pikawicca

                                The back window at Bloom's sometimes features a lovely few of a fogged-in downtown.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  I mourn the loss of the fog buoys -- I used to fall asleep to their sweet sound.

                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                    buoys are your friends.

                                    i haven't found that "goto" bar yet. washbag, back in the day ('80's), was close. as a frequent visitor, a gimlet or two at the pied piper bar at the palace hotel is ok, a late martini at tunnel top can be interesting. bix has its moments, same for perbacco. a16 is all about the wine and the scene... and so on.

                                    a good bar is hard to find.

                                    1. re: steve h.

                                      A16's lobby is usually so packed with people waiting for tables that I can't imagine trying to stop in for a drink.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        the bar scene is raucous, almost compelling if you are a compulsive people watcher. there's a quiet room out back where deb and i like to eat dinner but i don't think it's everybody's goblet of wine.

                                        1. re: steve h.

                                          The quiet room out back (closed-in patio) is an adjunct to the dining room and normally filled with diners.

                                          Maybe you could walk into A16 for a glass of wine when they open at 5pm or very late in the evening, but during dinner it's not usable as a bar.

                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Bloom's has a great view. The thing is you'd never know it by looking at the front of the building which is pretty incognito and on the funky side.

                              1. I've had more good times at the piano singing along with the famous baseball players to the locals at Lefty O'Doul's in Union Square directly across from the St. Francis Hotel..
                                I like to follow it up with a cable car ride down to Buena Vista for a couple of Irish Coffee's..

                                1. Okay so you want local color?

                                  If you like the idea of a piano bar with people taking turns singing, and generously sized up-drinks, I recommend Martuni's on Market near I believe Valencia.

                                  If you like the idea of an insane karaoke bar at the end of the universe, where they serve an excellent lychee martini, I recommend Festa in Japantown.

                                  If you're interested in seeing a fantastic 73 (?) year old drag queen in a dicey neighborhood in the tenderloin, I recommend Aunt Charlie's.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: pauliface

                                    Ah, Martuni's! While there's nothing particularly extraordinary about the drinks, there certainly is about the entertainment—and agree with pauliface, it's a great place for "local color". Hotel Utah and Edinburgh Castle are both good dive-ish (but not really) places for a nightcap and some up-and-coming bands if you haven't had enough music at HSB.

                                    Has the OP read any of this yet? I'm curious to hear their opinion on all these suggestions and what they're thinking. With very few exceptions, one could throw a dart at this list blindfolded and come up with a winner.

                                  2. Wow, great suggestions. Thanks to all. Keep them coming. I appreciate it.

                                    1. and based on this...


                                      I think Eddie Rickenbacker's might be worth a visit...

                                      Eddie Rickenbacker's
                                      133 2nd St, San Francisco, CA 94105