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The best places to grab a drink in San Francisco

A photo of Red logo
by Becky Duffett
Updated December 15, 2023

The Bay boasts an enticing bar scene with award-winning cocktail programs, often starring locally made spirits and seasonal ingredients from the area’s renowned farmers markets.

In the Tenderloin, a velvet-clad spot dazzles with live jazz. A Mexican-accented bar in Oakland draws crowds for smokey tequila-forward drinks and killer quesabirria tacos. At these standout spots, you can sip on espresso martinis, natural wines, or pints of craft beer and cider. Read on for a guide to 9 of the most prized bars in San Francisco—plus a couple of honorable mentions across the Bay.

A photo of Cold Drinks Bar restaurant
4.5
4.5 (47)
$31 to $50
Bar / Lounge / Bottle Service
Chinatown
About the restaurant

Within the cavernous China Live emporium, Cold Drinks hides away as a secluded cocktail bar on the second story. It urges lingering thanks to leather booths, black and gold accents, and a view of the Broadway tunnel. Given the speakeasy vibes, perhaps not surprisingly, the name of the drinks game here is Scotch, whether washed in luxurious duck fat or mixed with tropical flavors such as coconut and pineapple.


Top review
Nomad
Dined on May 5, 2024
Excellent experience! Love a bar where the emphasis is on the creation of well balanced and delicious drinks as opposed to one that looks fabulous and tastes mid. Definitely recommend!
A photo of Low Bar Oakland restaurant
4.5
4.5 (31)
$30 and under
Cocktail Bar
Oakland
About the restaurant

Low Bar opened quietly in 2021, but the vibe here is anything but hushed. Longtime buddies Matt Meyer and Daniel Paez (founders of Oakland-based burrito and tamale pop-up, Chancho’s) serve cocktails and snacks that showcase their Mexican American heritage. The menu includes mushroom toast with poblano pepper relish, quesabirria tacos for dunking in consommé, and a burger dolloped with salsa verde. But it’s worth swinging by even just for a drink, thanks to standout creations such as the Pineapple Express—vodka and tequila kissed with spicy and smoky tincture.


Top review
jorgevip
Dined on Jan 1, 2023
Servers were great, service extremely slow, churros were undercooked, almost raw dough., drinks came to us 25 mins after ordering them.
A photo of Boulevard restaurant
4.7
4.7 (8848)
$50 and over
Californian
Financial District / Embarcadero
About the restaurant

Boulevard is a San Francisco classic at the foot of the Bay Bridge. The restaurant was treated to a full renovation in 2021, courtesy of acclaimed designer Ken Fulk, who expanded the bar area and amplified the Belle Epoque ambience with velvet bar stools and twisted lead lamps. Local cocktail legend Greg Lindgren (of 15 Romolo fame) consulted on the drinks menu, putting playful twists on cocktails such as martinis and manhattans and, of course, the boulevardier with bourbon, rye, Campari, and Italian vermouth.


Top review
foodjunkie46
Dined 4 days ago
A very solid restaurant with awesome food, a beautiful comfortable design and great staff. Undervalued.
A photo of Black Cat Jazz Supper Club restaurant
4.5
4.5 (832)
$31 to $50
American
Civic Center / Hayes Valley / Van Ness
About the restaurant

This chic and intimate music venue also comes through with elegant cocktails and snacks. Kick off your evening with a chocolatey Oaxacan-spiced old fashioned at the large horseshoe bar. Then descend to the belly of the beast, where there’s an intimate stage surrounded by velvet couches and low tables. Take in the smooth tunes while grazing on Jamaican curry-spiced popcorn and crab and caviar deviled eggs, and you’ll see why it’s easy to become a regular at this swanky lounge and bistro.


Top review
XimenaJoshi
Dined on Jan 22, 2024
I went with my husband, we really enjoyed the jazz concert, Food a little bit overprice but in general good experience
A photo of Perry's - Embarcadero restaurant
4.7
4.7 (2274)
$30 and under
American
Financial District / Embarcadero
About the restaurant

Perry’s is an old-school bar and grill where people have sipped martinis at blue-and-white checkered tables since 1969. Though not technically a sports bar, it’s still a prime spot to catch a game. The standbys are the manhattans and old fashioneds, which pair well with an excellent burger—although some prefer to up the ante with a filet mignon and wedge salad.


Top review
Redwood007vip
Dined 7 days ago
Perry's is old school, and it still is a place where you can dress up or be informal, but you'll be treated well, the food is delicious, and the ambiance is lively.
A photo of Mr. Digby's restaurant
4.4
4.4 (433)
$31 to $50
American
Noe Valley
About the restaurant

Noe Valley residents were without a cocktail bar for a long time, but that’s no longer the case: Wife-and-husband Kristen and Mike McCaffery knew what the neighborhood needed. Mr. Digby’s opened in the spring of 2021 as a handsome black-and-white tavern, named after Mike’s childhood sheepdog. Spicy mezcal margaritas or dirty martinis come with fully loaded deviled eggs and spinach dip, slathered into sourdough cut hasselback-style. Bonus points for the monthly supper clubs, which you can check out via OpenTable experiences.


Top review
OpenTable Diner
Dined 7 days ago
Took my mom there for Mother’s Day. She loved it, very dog friendly and great price for food. Lovely staff
A photo of Sushi Sato restaurant
4.4
4.4 (151)
$31 to $50
Japanese
Tenderloin
About the restaurant

The Mins Group (also behind Sushi Hon in the Mission) opened their most ambitious project yet, debuting a triple-restaurant space in the Tenderloin in the fall of 2021. Sushi Sato boasts a full cocktail bar at its center, showcasing over 80 types of whisky, plus cocktails infused with East Asian flavors such as oolong, shiso, lychee, and more. Revelers can snack on smaller sushi tasting sets and kick back in Sato’s modern and minimalist space.


Top review
LouisK
Dined on Apr 14, 2024
It was valuable experience in downtown. I love their service.
A photo of Balboa Cafe - SF restaurant
4.7
4.7 (18)
$30 and under
American
Marina / Cow Hollow / Presidio
About the restaurant

Even after over a century in business, Balboa is still a buzzy brunch scene. Regulars order consecutive rounds of nitro smooth espresso martinis—so popular they’re on tap—along with sweet and spicy bloody Marys. The food is clubby but top-notch and includes the fan favorite: a house burger on a baguette, accompanied by shoestring fries.


Top review
morgan
Dined on Dec 4, 2021
The new parklet seating area had a wonderful view overlooking an overflowing dumpster. Other than that, food and service were great as always!
A photo of Palmetto restaurant
$31 to $50
Contemporary American
Oakland
About the restaurant

Palmetto is a tropically inspired steakhouse by the team behind Kon-Tiki in Oakland. Retro Palm Springs accents—black-and-white checkered floors, powder blue booths, a hot pink neon sign, and an abundance of greenery—abound here. The drinks have tiki undertones so expect strong rum cocktails, such as a house punch washed in milk and spritzed with absinthe. They all pair well with meaty plates including grilled steak with roasted sunchokes and blue cheese chile butter. Bonus points for the restaurant’s special experiences (bookable via OpenTable), which include Sunday suppers.


Top review
Mike
Dined on Oct 24, 2023
The meal and service was outstanding. The food was very different from anything we've ever eaten and we eat out a lot! We loved the steak tartare, the jasmine rice and the mussels which came in a lovely sauce! The drink I ordered to start was the October Sun which was delicious. We highly recommend this restaurant. Also, the location across from the Fox Theatre could not have been more convenient. Thank you.
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