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great sf spots for great drinks

traveling to san fran in july and am looking for recos of bars/restaurants to get late afternoon/early dinner drinks. open to cocktails and beer/breweries. already have tonga room on my list--any other recos welcome and greatly appreciated!

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  1. Here is a past thread that should be helpful:


    Here is a past thread on brew pubs:


    Don't forget there is a Search feature you can use in the upper right-hand corner of this page.

    1 Reply
    1. Love the drinks at Aziza. Rickshaw stop actually has really good drinks, too.

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      1. Tonga is overrated, IMO, but worth it for the atmosphere. Tradition in the Tenderloin is excellent - make a reservation.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Josh

          thanks for the reco! heard that about tonga before, we just happen to have free drink tickets

          1. re: Jpaige5

            Free drink tickets would eliminate the one problem with the Tonga Room, which is that to enjoy the goofy show you have to spend money on so-so drinks.

            Afterward you might walk down the hill to Comstock Saloon and/or 15 Romolo.

          2. re: Josh

            I had a horrible experience at Tradition service wise for what it's worth. I rarely rant but I think our experience there deserves it. It was our first time there for a birthday party reservation but we were early. The following occurred:

            1. We arrived and I tried to catch the eye of a bartender at one corner of the bar for about 10 to 15 minutes with a group of people. During this time, people who came after me to my same little corner were served before me. I have actually never had this happen before. I've never had someone deliberately pass me over, twice.

            2. After giving up getting a drink that way, we sat at the otherside of the bar hoping to catch a different bartender's eye. Another 10 minutes go by, no one acknowledges us. The manager finally stops by and mentions that that side of the bar is reserved (note there is no sign or anything indicating this) and that's why the bartender is ignoring us (NOTE NOT explaining the system just ignoring us). We told the manager politely that we were lost and confused by their system and were here for a birthday reservation. He told us we needed to go wait somewhere else.

            3. Once the rest arrived, we sat down at a corner booth. The drinks were fine, but service was uber slow. When we went at least, they didn't have enough bartenders to handle lots of table orders + bar orders at the same time. Part of this problem is they store all the alcohol high up, and the bartenders have to keep climbing up and down these ladders to grab the alcohol for each drink.

            4. Will never go back. Infinitely prefer Rickhouse etc. Also note they only serve American liquors here.

            1. re: goldangl95

              I found Tradition lacking in professionalism as well, but mainly in the case of the proportions of their liquor to juice ratios. Drinks seemed to be missing ingredients, and there wasn't the kind of care you need for a menu like that.

              When you enter, they ask if you have a reservation, and should have directed you appropriately. When I went for happy hour the bar was empty, aside from some handy man types (work clothes covered in paint) drinking beers, and random guys in Giants hoodies kind of loitering. Then as the bar filled up, there was general confusion, and like you described, a lot more ladder climbing. Happy Hour pricing was a dollar off, and appeared up to the bartenders discretion.

              Friends I trust have loved their drinks at Tradition, but I have no urgency to go back. The best thing here are the private rooms, which is something SF can use more of.

          3. We recently discovered inventive & elegant cocktails at Range. Very convenient if you are going to have dinner afterwards in the Mission.

            Other restaurants with great cocktails: Gitane, Beretta, Cotogna & Zero Zero with latter two open in the afternoon as well.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ceekskat

              Another good Mission spot for cocktails is Dosa.

              Alembic in the Haight is good, too.

            2. Blackbird in the Castro: http://www.blackbirdbar.com/blackbird...

              Royal Cuckoo in Mission/Bernal/Noe: http://royalcuckoo.com/

              I also second the recommendations for Comstock Saloon and Zero Zero.

              Are there any types of cocktails you are particularly interested in? Fruity? Original? Classics?

              1. This is an excellent starting point for a discussion of cocktails in SF. Notice the tonga room did not make the list. I wouldn't send my mother there, and my mother likes kitsch.


                Other people have mentioned other normal board favorites.

                Besides some listed here, I would suggest catching a drink at Saison (AQ's not bad either). It's a way to catch that Saison feel without dropping a kilobuck.
                You might or might not need a reservation to even get a drink, certainly to get access to the lounge tasting menu

                Here's another plausible list, from the UK Guardian

                Also: Sam's and Tadich if you like a classic martini in herb caen SF style.

                1 Reply
                1. re: bbulkow

                  On the Tonga Room topic, Smuggler's Cove has a tiki theme, less retro-charming than Tonga Room, but much better drinks.

                2. There are tons of great cocktail spots in SF, and I second or third Beretta, 15 Romolo and Comstock. I'd add Alembic (emphasis on afternoon, to skip the wait) and, for straightforward concoctions, House of Shields. Also: nopa, Bar Agricole and Absinthe on the cocktails-at-a-restaurant tip.

                  The only one I'd take off the list is Blackbird, where I've had some bizarrely ill-prepared cocktails.

                  1. A couple of very new spots, in a very nice location for a visitor, are Hard Water and Coquetta (and for which an early hour may help to avoid the wait).

                    Nearby, the drinks at Slanted Door or LaMar or down the way at Epic Roasthouse (check for their happy hour deals) or Waterbar, are all nice for the view also.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: foodeye

                      Hard Water is the new Charles Phan joint, and I've always loved the drinks at Heaven's Dog.

                      No reports here on Hard Water -- care to share? What did you like? What's the feel of the place?

                      Bauer liked it - the staff must be good at recognized VIPs --- love a report from A Real Person


                    2. Trick Dog. It's one of the few places that balances interesting drinks. Blackbird is another.

                      For food and drinks combined, Nopa's go an impressive cocktail list, and Romollo15 has good bites. Bar Crudo and Hogs and Rocks work too.

                      1. great tips! if only we had more than 4 days

                        1. A new place opened up called Novela. During the week opens at 4PM, weekend at 7PM. They serve cocktails and punch. The space looks interesting. Website is below.


                          2 Replies
                          1. re: JonDough

                            Looks nice in the pictures. The bartender is from Maven and Gitane. How are Gitane's cocktails?

                            Maven's bartender gets a lot of adoration, but it is the only place I've ever seen cocktails sent back. My own drinks there were sweeter than a TGIF Fridays concoction despite the waitress describing it as the complete opposite, but at least it was drinkable if only just barely.

                            1. re: sugartoof

                              I am going to try to make it there Saturday. If I do, I will report back.

                          2. For beer I'd recommend Monk's Kettle and Abbott's Cellar, both in the Mission. Great dive beer bars: Toronado (Lower Haight) and Amsterdam Cafe (Tenderloin).

                            Also, this is very very important: do not call San Francisco "san fran" - especially inside Toronado.