San Francisco’s bar scene includes snazzy cocktail bars, lively beer gardens, loungey wine bars, and everything in between. We wanted to discover the best dive bars in San Francisco, so naturally we asked our followers for their tried-and-true haunts. As usual, y’all delivered! Read on to discover 10 excellent dive bars in San Francisco, recommended by San Franciscans, for San Franciscans.
This lively bar is named after an SF resident who proclaimed himself emperor of the United States in the mid-1800s. It has pool table, shuffleboard, and a fantastic back patio with an awesome mural of Emperor Norton himself. Get your favorite local beer on tap or indulge in their many cheap cocktails.
Location: 510 Larkin St
This North Beach saloon is a historical monument to the Beat Generation, as it served generations of artists including Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Neal Cassady, and more. Don’t forget to check out City Lights Bookstore and Jack Kerouac Alley next door.
Location: 255 Columbus Ave
3. Zam Zam
This popular bar has been a staple of the Haight since 1941. The Chronicle’s own Herb Caen once called it “the Holy Shrine of the Dry Martini,” and it’s true that the martini should be your go-to order if you don’t want to get side eye from the locals! With a colorful mural, a nice juke box, and funky decor, it’s a perfect spot for couples or small groups.
Location: 1633 Haight St
4. The Riptide
This Sunset hotspot has also been around since 1941, and is iconic for its small town lodge feel. Listen to some fun local music acts while cozying up by the fireplace, and be sure to go for a walk on the beach, as it’s only a block away!
Location: 3639 Taraval St
This old-school gay bar in the Polk Gulch neighborhood has been around for decades, and it’s a pretty epic find for pool, pinball, and eclectic décor. Down some drinks with friends and don’t forget to hit up Bob’s Donuts right down the street.
Location: 1723 Polk St
In 1968, Richard ‘Specs’ Simmons took over the original Twelve Adler bar, which was operated by SF’s first lesbian bar owner, Tommy Vasu. It’s now packed with kitschy artifacts memorializing history from the bar and the neighborhood. Grab a drink and take a stroll around the place to experience its museum quality.
Location: 12 William Saroyan Place
Tempest is a friendly, cheap dive bar with great food, great cheap drinks, a pool table, and a no frills atmosphere. There’s a box kitchen with to-go comfort food like chicken and waffles, burgers, nuggets and more; and the accompanying bar is right next door.
Location: 431 Natoma St
This edgy spot is great for their all-day happy hour, which is 11:30am to 6pm Monday-Friday. You can bring your laptop and get some work done in the afternoon while sipping a beer, or come in the evening for a fun atmosphere and fresh air on their patio. Choose from their impressive lineup on 64 taps, or try their famous margaritas and Bloody Marys.
Location: 199 Valencia St
Beer fans will enjoy this casual spot with over 40 spectacular beers on tap, carefully curated from both local and international breweries. Drinks go great with amazing music and a delightful juke box.
Location: 547 Haight St
10. Holy Water
This religion-themed tavern is perfect for those who want a slightly more upscale feel with a casual neighborhood ambience. Between the handcrafted cocktails and carefully thought out beer menu, the drink selection is just as good as the decor.
Location: 309 Cortland Ave
Featured image Photo by @dannysilvaphoto. Courtesy of Holy Water