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San Francisco's Best Bars

Updated on April 18, 2017

Best Karaoke Bar

Sometimes, you've gotta have a few beers and sing your heart out. There are quite a few choices for this, but the best is Encore in Nob Hill. It's a little divey and in fact can be hard to find - what you'll see when you show up to the address is a flower shop, and you'll need to take the stairs on the left to actually get into the bar.

Once you're in, it's your usual dive bar except that everything is oriented around the karaoke stage at the front of the venue. The great thing about Encore is that you'll see all kinds of people sing - while other karaoke bars like Silver Clouds seems to just have a constant stream of professional-quality singers, Encore embraces everyone. As someone who's not the world's greatest singer, it's great to get up there, sing something nostalgic from the 90s and have the crowd love it even if you don't have the voice of an angel.

The drinks are reasonably priced, but generally best to stick to simple cocktails and beer - this isn't the place to get an Old Fashioned. Remember to tip the guy running the karaoke booth (a buck is fine) or your song request may disappear into the ether.



encore sf:
1550 California St # 2, San Francisco, CA 94109, USA

get directions

Best Beer Bar

San Francisco and the surrounding areas are known for their craft beers, so it should come as no surprise that there are a ton of bars throughout the city that either double as breweries or specialize in local beers. You should be able to find whatever you need, from stouts to lagers to IPAs, all brewed within a few miles of the city.

The best of these is Toronado in Hayes Valley. It's a classic that's been around for years and is always crowded with beer enthusiasts. They only do beer - no cocktails - but the menu is extensive and prominently displayed when you walk in, so you've got lots of choices.

The selection can be overwhelming, but make sure you maintain the proper etiquette. If it's packed, know what you want before you get to the counter - if that sounds overwhelming, don't worry and know that you can't really make any mistakes with your order given the quality of their selection.

If you want to learn a little more and ask questions, come during the day when it's not so crowded - the bartenders (beertenders?) are incredibly knowledgeable and love to answer your questions when they have time. Pick their brains about how the beers are made and ask for samples. You'll learn plenty!


Best Bloody Mary

I've always been one to judge bars by the Bloody Marys they make. It's a great drink, but one where you can easily cut corners (just buy pre-made Bloody Mary mix from the store and throw some vodka in it) or really go the extra mile (fresh horseradish and every garnish you can think of). So while this isn't really a category of bar, any place that takes the time to make a truly great Bloody Mary is a winner in my book.

And on that note the winner in my book is Waterbar in SOMA. It's really a seafood restaurant, but they have a great outdoor patio on the Embarcadero that's one of the best places to sit and sip drinks in the city. They've also got some of the best seafood you'll find - it's definitely worth splurging to get the big platter of oysters.

Their Bloody Mary is a meal in and of itself - it's topped with a couple of monster prawns and bacon. You can also taste from the drink that everything they put in there is fresh, and the bartender really cares when making one.

Go get there in the early afternoon on a warm sunny day, request a seat outside (and wait if you must), and get yourself some seafood and a Bloody while you enjoy a beautiful view of the water.


Best Outdoor Patio

San Francisco is known for its fog, so when you find yourself in the midst of a sunny day, it's time to take advantage! One of the best things to do is go sit on a patio and sip a drink - thankfully, San Francisco has plenty of places that'll help you out with this.

The best one was also a contender for best beer bar - it's Biergarten in Hayes Valley. It's basically just a giant outdoor area with a few shipping containers on it that have been converted into a bar, a kitchen and bathrooms. There are a few giant tables, so line up, grab some steins and sit in the sun!

There's quite a variety of beer here (along with some ciders and wine), so you'll be able to find something for anyone. They also serve basic, simple German food like pretzels and mustard that'll pair well with your draught.

The one thing you should know is that this place gets popular, especially on a sunny day. Best to get there before it opens - you'll see a line around the block, but the space is big so most people get in quickly. If you wait longer than that, odds are you'll be stuck in wine watching other folks enjoy their beer through the fence for a while.


beergarten sf:
424 Octavia St, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA

get directions


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