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One night in Haight Ashbury - Magnolia Pub?

We have one night in San Francisco before heading to Palo Alto for a conference. We have been before and have enjoyed a variety of asian foods significantly better than what we get back east. But this time we only have one night and are meeting up with a friend who lives in the Haight. Our focus will primarily be casual with good beer and good food (in that order) within walking distance. I read some of the reviews here and elsewhere and Magnolia Pub came up as a good option. Our local friend isn't much of a beer geek or foodie and thus no help.

Also - his recommendation was to stay at the Red Vic. After looking at online reviews, I am hesitant. Communal bathrooms don't appeal and the reviews question cleanliness. Is there anywhere else Hounds would recommend that is <$150/night yet clean and also within walking distance? We aren't familiar with the area and don't want to end up in a bad place!

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  1. I would choose Alembic instead--- they're not a brewery, but they have several fantastic beers on tap, great food, and I prefer the more intimate environment.

    Two other options with nice beer selections I'd nix based on their loudness. Magnolia is extremely loud, so you may wind up with a sore throat just before your conference. Toronado bar has one of the best beer selections in town, but again, very loud. If this is not an issue, you can get sausages at Rosamunde next door and bring them in.

    2 Replies
    1. re: hyperbowler

      I would go to Alembic instead, too. They have a very good happy hour menu - if that's of any interest. (don't hesitate to order the bone marrow, it's delicious)

      Mojoeater, have you considered airbnb.com?

      1. re: scarmoza

        Thank you so much for the suggestion, scar. I just can't wrap my head around staying in a stranger's private home or letting a stranger stay in mine. I understand the community aspect, but maybe I'm just too old ;)

    2. Try the Stanyan Park Hotel. Right next door is Kezar's Pub and there's another Kezar's on Cole that has better food.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Nopa

        Better than Magnolia? I don't think so...Kezar's ok, the wings are decent, but it's a garden variety pub, and Magnolia's beer and food selection is better.

        1. re: barndog

          I'm not saying it's better, but an option. If they stay at SPH, both Kezars are much closer than Magnolias and the Cole Kezar has better food than the Stanyan Kezar.

          1. re: Nopa

            definitely the Cole Kezar has better food than Stanyon. i didn't think the two are related.

            1. re: Nopa

              Walking from the Stanyan Park Hotel to Alembic and/or Magnolia is an 'easy' stroll.

        2. Go to Priceline or Hotwire.....I paid $117 for a 4-star room near Union Square last night......

          1. alembic is the only food place in the upper haight worth going to from another neighborhood.

            1 Reply
            1. re: vulber

              +1 For whatever reason the food in the Upper Haight sucks compared to the rest of the City. Must be the old hippie funk.

              For beer you might walk to the other end to the Lower Haight to the Toronado which has great beer. Food you might have to go next door to Rosamunde. More of a hang then a brew pub tho.

              Also, 9th and Irving is about 1 mile away. Many, many options there.

              Personally I'd figure out where you're staying first, then the eats will come easier. The Red Vic is hippie to the nth. +1 on looking on priceline orbitz or hotwire.

            2. Magnolia and Alembic share the same owner. I believe I have had a Magnolia beer at Alembic, the food is a step above Magnolia. I do recall the burger being tasty at Magnolia. I would agree with the others...go to Alembic.

              1 Reply
              1. re: BobSacamano

                I once had a plate of fried pig ears at Magnolia; that was interesting. Might be worth stepping inside for that, why not.

              2. Just to clarify:
                Magnolia is a brew pub, meaning there's a small brewery in the basement, which also serves better than average pub food. Alembic is owned by the same guy who owns Magnolia and is primarily a restaurant with several good taps. Alembic is by far the more adventurous restaurant and also has some Magnolia beers on tap. Magnolia's styles are primarily along the British session beer lines, meaning Milds, Bitters, etc., and are relatively subtle compared with American ales, but can be very nice nonetheless. They also make an outstanding kolsch and usually have a few good guest taps. Toronado is a bit "lower" in the Haight, near Steiner and is perhaps the best beer bar in the city. They don't serve food there, but you are permitted to bring in food, and there are several good options in the neighborhood. If you can, try not to go in the evening, after say 8p to Magnolia or Toronado as they tend to get crowded and the Toronado servers have a well-deserved reputation for dickishness when it gets crowded. Any time before say 7 is fine, though. Lower Haight is more interesting than Upper Haight in my opinion. Also not far away is Social Kitchen, another brewpub on 9th ave. near Irving, which just hired a new brewer, who is making some outstanding beers. And their food is better than decent also. It's in a nice area, with some pretty decent eating options, and not far from Golden Gate Park. Forget about Kezar Pub, the food there is mediocre and the beer selection minimal. As far as where to stay, I've also heard good things about getting cheap hotel reservations online, but I can't comment specifically since I never stay in a hotel in SF.

                1. Ragazza is just a few blocks east of the Haight's boundary, now known as NOPA.
                  It's easy to like and it's next to the Metro Hotel at 319 Divisadero Street.

                  Other dining options on/near Divisadero Street include Nopa, Bar Crudo, Nopalito, Little Star - with great wines/cocktails/drafts at Nopa and value pours at Little Star.

                  It's an easy walk or bus ride for your friend in the Haight.

                  For casual food on the #5 MUNI bus line: Green Chile Kitchen
                  and pie/ice cream for dessert at Chile Pies: 601 Baker Street @ Fulton Street


                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Cynsa

                    Unless Nopa has increased their tap selection a lot since last time I was there, I would not characterize there draft selection as anywhere near "great," barely adequate would be more like it. They have only 2 drafts on today, but they are good ones: Moonlight's Lunatic Lager and Twist of Fate. Nopalito, surprisingly, usually has at least one good craft beer on, sometimes from Moonlight Brewing (note to OP: make sure to try some Moonlight while you're in town. They don't bottle and you won't find them anywhere outside the Bay Area. Toronado always has a few styles on tap). I do like Healthy Spirits for their bottle selection, especially Belgian styles, plus some really good whiskeys. If you stop there, check out the bourbon barrel aged Old and In the Way from High Water brewing, which is part of their series of partnering with local breweries to age beers in some of their hand-selected whiskey barrels. Bar Crudo has a few decent beers, and if you like pristine fresh fish is very good.

                    1. re: chuckl

                      Last trip we went to Toronado to try the burger so around 11:30 IIRC and they were practically giving the beer away the whole time we were there. They seemed to have an all day happy hour which might be worth checking into for the OP.

                      1. re: grayelf

                        Toronado's happy hour is 11:30am-6pm. Rosamunde does burgers only at lunchtime on Tuesdays.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Now that is a Happy Day! Thanks for confirming. FWIW, I wouldn't go through the hassle again to retry the burger on a Tuesday based on our one experience as it just wasn't all that great and took 'way too long, but I'd go back for the beer selection, especially in the daytime.

                  2. Thanks everyone! Looks like Toronado, Alembic and Magnolia are all good options. I'm still a little stumped about where to stay. Looks like the nearest BART stop to Haight is 2 miles. That's how we are getting from the airport to town and seems like a long trek with luggage...

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: mojoeater

                      Remember that neither Alembic nor Magnolia take reservations and time/day may find you on a wait list for a table.
                      BART to any station on Market Street, MUNI #71 to Haight St.
                      Perhaps BART & MUNI are for intrepid travelers, unless you are timid, aged, or have disabilities/travel with 100 lbs of baggage/pets/entourage?
                      Super Shuttle from SFO will take you to the door of where you stay for your one night.

                      1. re: mojoeater

                        There are always cabs. It'll cost like $40 or so if you take it from SFO, but if you take one once you get off the BART, it shouldn't cost more than ten dollars.

                      2. Update: We didn't get to any of our preferred locations. As soon as we arrived, our friend picked us up and had us in the car for another 4 hours, driving to Sausalito, Marin, etc. We stopped to eat but it was nothing remarkable. Finally got a beer much later than we would have liked at a dive bar on Haight that is popular with the locals. We did stay at the Red Vic, which was very hippie but relatively clean and the people were very nice. For one night it was fine, and not having to drive or hop a bus after much drinking was a good thing. If we were staying longer, we'd find a different hotel for comfort's sake.

                        Once we hit Palo Alto, we did find Tied House Brewery ( http://tiedhouse.com/) which had some tasty beers and interesting housemade sausages. Worth a visit if you're in the area.