2301 Folsom St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
The Homestead first opened at this 19th and Folsom location in 1902, making it one of the oldest bars in San Francisco, serving continuously except for a brief interruption during Prohibition. Rumor has it that, even in those days, it continued as a speakeasy. Walking into Homestead is a step into a history, and on Bay To Breakers Day, it is easy to imagine that runners and partiers have celebrated the occasion right here since 1911. The antique bar, pot-bellied stove and wooden floors give this place the charm of another era. This is one of San Francisco’s best.
399 9th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
The Stud has been one of San Francisco’s most popular gay bars since 1966. It has seen hippies and yippies, yuppies and guppies (gay young urban professionals for the uninitiated), leather studs and drag queens. In recent years, it has hosted the famous (sometimes notorious) Tranny Shack. Its website claims that it is a “San Francisco Legend” and that point would be hard to argue. The Stud knows how to party, and everybody is welcome. In a place like this, it’s easy to have a good time.
Related: San Francisco’s Best Mixologist Bars
50 Mason Social House
50 Mason St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
Although located smack dab in the tenderloin, 50 Mason Social House is anything but a skid row dive. This place is truly a lounge. Cozy and dimly but attractively lit, clean and well decorated, it truly feels like a home away from home. The staff is friendly and the music is the best around. Although it has only been on the scene for a couple of years, 50 Mason is on the to-do list for every hipster in town. If you like laid-back elegance, class without snobbery, good conversation and intelligent music, you’ll like 50 Mason.
3158 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
El Rio is self described as “your dive.” Read what people say in the local press and you’ll learn of its “diverse” clientele and the amazing burlesque shows it hosts several nights a week. The atmosphere might be described as a circus. One year, the Bay Guardian newspaper gave it an award as “the best place to pretend you’re in a Fellini move on a Sunday afternoon.” It has also been identified as having the best happy hour in multiple best of lists, perhaps because of the free oysters. The bottom line? El Rio is as difficult to describe as San Francisco itself, but you might just find that you leave your heart there.
399 The Embarcadero S.
San Francisco, CA 94105
If you are are seeking something less raucous and more elegant, perhaps with an eye to impressing an out-of-town guest, happy hour at Water Bar is unlikely to disappoint. This popular seafood restaurant has one of the best available views of the San Francisco Bay. It is a particularly wonderful spot from which to view the Bay Bridge and the newly installed (and fantastically impressive) Bay Bridge light show. Its daily happy hour (11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day) features $1 oysters.
Charles Kruger is well known in the Bay area as “The Storming Bohemian” ever since he entered the Bay Area cultural scene in the summer of 2009, attending 90 cultural events in 90 days and blogging about it. This project was successful enough to warrant a mention in The New York Times. His coverage of Bay area theatre can be found at Examiner.com.