From splashy dives to upscale classics (and everything in between) — our favorite spots to grab a drink
North Beach, $–$$
Beer Haven, Mellow
Church Key is a breath of fresh air amid the party bars, classic dives, strip clubs, and cocktail spots of North Beach. With cozy upstairs mezzanine, it's a beer lovers dream of revolving drafts and bottles in an unpretentious setting where one can actually talk with friends.
1402 Grant, SF. (415) 963-1713
Upper Haight, $
Music, Gourmet Bites
Blonde wood walls, black and white tile, red booths, dim lighting — an environment virtually unchanged for decades. These are reasons to love Club Deluxe but supreme is multiple nightly sets of some of the best live jazz in SF, from bossa nova to bepop and blues. You don't come here for the drinks but recent addition of Chef Thomas Martinez offers fantastic food. One can comfortably linger over a shot of whiskey, jazz, and gourmet plates.
1511 Haight, SF. (415) 552-6949, www.sfclubdeluxe.com
North Beach, $–$$
Cocktail Destination, Gourmet Bites, Memorable Atmosphere, Spirits Selection
Showcasing SF's Barbary Coast era with vintage ceiling fans, Victorian couch sidling up to a pot belly stove, and the original trough (ahem, to piss in back in the day) lining a dramatic wood bar, "Saloon Keepers" Jeff Hollinger and Jonny Raglin honor the history of Comstock's gorgeous, two-room, 1907 space. It's a memorable a date night and a casual, neighborhood hangout. Whether cozy in a bar booth or at a table in the wainscoted dining room, food from Chef Carlos Espina is as thoughtful as the classic cocktails.
155 Columbus, SF. (415) 617-0071, www.comstocksaloon.com
Mission, Fillmore, $–$$
Cocktail Destination, Gourmet Bites, Memorable Atmosphere
Besides serving some of the best upscale South Indian food anywhere, Dosa's two locations also craft a unique cocktail menu unlike any, heavy on Indian spices and flavor profiles, including its own house gin produced by local distiller Old World Spirits: cardamom-rich Blade Gin.
Dosa on Fillmore: 1700 Fillmore, SF. (415) 441-3672
Dosa on Valencia: 995 Valencia, SF. (415) 642-3672, www.dosasf.com
This quintessential SF dive bar has been around for years, akin to classic British pubs, occasionally rowdy, generally low key, ever-ready with a pint. In that spirit, its serves fish and chips in newspaper and facilitates offbeat community with readings, '60s dance club nights, and legendary trivia quizzes.
950 Geary, SF. (415) 885-4074, www.castlenews.com
When partying or sports-loving crowds descend, the already small bar gets cramped, in a space dating back to 1858. Boasting an impressive whiskey collection, Elixir is run by cocktail pioneer H. Joseph Ehrmann, and talented bar managing duo Shea Shawnson and Nick DesEnfants. The cocktail menu is a mix of 1800s saloon classics, Elixir favorites like H.'s Celery Cup No. 1, and rotating seasonal drinks.
3200 16th St., SF. (415) 552-1633, www.elixirsf.com
Beer Haven, Wine Sanctuary, Gourmet Bites