TOP 25 DIVE BARS of the MISSION
This is a glorious kind of reverse snobbery. This is how our San Francisco will always support the kind of drinking establishments that offers a welcoming darkness and an aromatic boozy bouquet with notes of spilt craft beer. A great dive bar will have a smooth bartender who remembers your drink and eventually your name while pouring a good stiff beverage at a reasonable price. Dive bars rely on layers, be it generations of regulars, conversation pieces, history, or the more common dust. They are more often CASH ONLY with compelling prices particularly for HAPPY HOURS. They're also usually dog or outside food friendly.
The bartenders are as professional as anywhere but they may make faces at your fancy drink request. They offer a respite from the wave of craft cocktails done by their mixology-obsessed counterparts. According to Mike Krause who run's Pop's on 24th St "You're getting a lot of history, a comfortable place, but no pretense."
Dive bars are built on the legacy of generations of many different ethnicities living there as well as being a haven for artists and alternative culture. There is nothing like taking a stroll between watering holes and being entertained the whole way by different performers and people on your pub crawl. Everyone is genuinely there for a good time, not looking for a problem but a connection. Dive bars have a way of capturing our hearts and helping us make memories by sharing ourselves.
Editors Note: This list was a compilation of similar Citywide lists from foursquare.com sfgate.com .timeout.com/ sfist.com thrillist.com and especially the 2016 Top 50 List from sfweekly.com. Also we checked out reviews on Yelp, Foursquare, TripAdvisor, Facebook and Google for sharp quips. See footer for more specific info.
Lower 24th Street
1. Pop's 2800 24th St @ York St & Bryant St (415) 872-5160 popssf.com https://localwiki.org/sf/Pop's
What you want in a neighborhood bar...good, reasonably priced drinks and a chill diverse mix of a SF crowd selection to go with diverse DJ music. And enough TV's and a big screen in the back to watch the Warriors, Giants, A's, Sharks, Raiders, and Niners. Small dance floor where the big screen is. Totally cool with you bringing in food from the great selection nearby on 24th St. Always welcoming with the comforting vibe of your local dive bar. The city's longest happy hour 6am-7pm 13 hours. Local live music and the DJ parties most nights. Hosts a 4th of July tricycle race in the alley next door? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EKmEpJiqlM
2. The Phone Booth 1398 S Van Ness Ave @ 25th St (415) 648-4683 https://localwiki.org/sf/Phone_Booth DOB present https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTTgNyYssOM
This place has always been a good time. Great when it's low key and slow as well as pretty fun when it's packed. Obviously, it can be slow to get a drink when it's busy, but drinks are stiff and do a good job. Awesome decorations during Halloween and holidays. In a city known for lavish luxury, you can still get a strong cocktail here for less than $4 and the jukebox is a who's who of punk and indie rock icons. Diego Rufo: https://foursquare.com/foursquare/list/frugal-foodie-15-great-holeinthewall-spots
3. Blind Cat 3050 24th St (at Treat Ave) (415) 824-1922 Opens 1:00 PM (415) 401-8474
"The quintessential dive bar. Has a pool table and great bartenders. 24th St south of Mission is still the real deal Mission District, an endangered species. gabriel fowler Pinball, jukebox, friendly but not too friendly bartenders, Dutch door entrance, the Keane painting over the bar, and drinks ranging from five buck well offerings to $40 bourbons balance out The Blind Cat’s vibe nicely." http://ww2.kqed.org/pop/2014/04/17/the-best-dive-bars-of-san-francisco/
voted the Best "Place for Whiskey in Peace Blind Cat is known for its specials (Chilaquile Bloody Mary Monday afternoons, occasional supply of Old Style tall boys) but even if you just ask for something neat, they’ll deliver. A much larger whiskey selection than the average Mission dive. Call it whatever you want, just don’t blab about it with too many. Wouldn’t want to create a line for that Demolition Man pinball machine, after all. http://www.sfweekly.com/best-of-san-francisco/best-place-for-whiskey-in-peace/
4. Dovre Club 1498 Valencia St at 26th St (415) 285-4169
Dovre Club has a crowd of regulars and a pool table. "love this bar, great bartenders, cheap drinks, chips and snacks and good selection at the jukebox. the crowd tends to be older and this is a good spot to so some afternoon drinking. I always play some pool or put some music on and hang out with my friends. they make a GREAT michelada here and its never too crowded. real divey, real good time. Megan L. at www.yelp.com/user_details?userid=Sk0FrFPoaC3QU5bvBcexGQ
5. Clooney's Pub 1401 Valencia St @ 25th St (415) 826-4988
Great old school neighborhood corner bar. Pool table, historic photos, ATM machine, food, beer on tap, friendly regulars. Everything you need.
"Clooney's is open at 6 a.m. Dan Lyons, who purchased the place in 1995, says lots of the early bird customers work nights. "We get a lot of nurses and doctors from General Hospital," Are you growing weary of waiting while your bartender - sorry, mixologist - crushes a caraway seed to sprinkle over your elderberry-infused vodka topped with egg white foam? For $14? Well, put down the craft cocktail menu and head down the street to a dive bar. They're everywhere in San Francisco. But you may want to hurry - pessimists think the dive bar is headed for last call. The culprits are saloon economics, ever-rising rents and changing demographics.
But c'mon, are they really saying there's no place for cheap drinks, neighborhood characters and unpredictable social interaction? A real dive makes its living on the basics.. — http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/nevius/article/Is-it-last-call-for-dive-bars-in-San-Francisco-5737259.php
does Clooney's ep. 4 (at 6 am!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihr-xnn4xgY
"All bartenders—whether they work in dives or serious cocktail bars, whether they're pulling pints or shaking up labor-intensive Ramos Gin Fizzes, need to make a living. I know many people who've tipped a dollar a drink for 20 years, as though bartenders are not subject to inflation."—Rosie Schaap FirstWeFeast.com/how-to-tip-at-restaurants-and-bars/dive-bar
Heart of the Mission
6. Doc's Clock 2575 Mission Street (Between 21st and 22nd Street) p: (415) 824-3627 http://www.docsclock.com https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-0kcjePc1I by AMBSSDR
Expect a relocation in 2017,including the marquee to 2417 Mission St. across from Jim's restaurant. The building owner, Leticia Luna has plans for a restaurant in the first space.
7. LATIN AMERICAN CLUB 3286 22nd St b/t Bartlett St & Valencia St (415) 647-2732
Cool vibe on the way to dinner or after. Cash only, cool pinatas hanging from the tall ceilings, good drinks, clean women's bathroom. Place gets packed on weekends
Just about everyone has a story about the strong margaritas here served in a pint glasses. Having two margaritas is dangerous.
8. Make-Out Room 3225 22nd St (at Valencia St), http://www.makeoutroom.com/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVjENkI0H9o by AMBSSDR
Karaoke on Monday is AMAZING! (Dare I say better than The Mint... Much as I love that place!) Make out with someone. Everyone is thinking about it but only readers of this tip are doing it.
http://writerswithdrinks.com/ Back in 2001, writer Charlie Jane Anders set out to create a new kind of reading that jettisoned the idea of a hushed audience hanging reverentially on each carefully-crafted word, replacing it with a lively cabaret night drawing writers from a smorgasbord of genres--poetry to sci-fi to comedy to kids books.
9. Mission Bar 2695 Mission St b/t 22nd St & 23rd St (415) 647-2300 Only a block from 24th Street BART with compelling Happy Hours that end at 8pm, 7 days a week.
It's massive, has super-cheap pitchers, weirdly small tables...Cash Only, Jukebox, 2 small TVs, $3 domestic tap beers and wells in happy hour, $4 imported tap beers in happy hour, Pool table, no kitchen. Pool table and Juke Box.... "Big cheap drinks, no attitude, great jukebox, decent pool table. Best dive around." Jane Super Been here 100+ times
10. Shotwell’s 3349 20th St (at Shotwell St),(415) 648 - 4104 http://www.shotwellsbar.com/ Exclusively Beer, Wine & Cider Chill historic dive bar. The chocolate stout is smooth and tasty. low-ABV drinks (session cocktails—or low-proof libations) are popular. Pub quiz every Monday at 8
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SufpyWjaABI by AMBSSDR
"Shotwell's is also a bar-bar. It's not some Las Vegas version of a bar with iPads embedded in the tables. You pay cash. They have beer. People get too drunk sometimes. There's a pool table. Salty snacks abound. Lots of different types of people come through: tech zillionaires, journalists, people who have read every William Gibson novel, service industry hipsters, regular old drunks, first-generation web people, writers, Giants fans, people who like Quiz nights, etc. It is, as Mother Jones Clara Jeffery put it one night, "the platonic ideal of the bar." And it so is. It so, so, so is. " http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/01/what-happens-when-you-walk-into-a-bar-wearing-google-glasses/272745/
"Shotwell’s draws a relaxed and dare-we-say erudite crowd with its approachable vibe — and the distance between it and the madding hordes of 16th Street." http://www.sfweekly.com/dining/feature-dining/top-50-dive-bars-san-francisco/
No other form of illumination is more suited to lighting up the city than neon. In 1898, scientists discovered neon, a colourless and odourless gas that, when injected into electrified vacuum tubes, emits red light. Although only hydrogen, helium, oxygen, and carbon are more common than neon in cosmic abundance, this 5th most common element is very rare on Earth. The blaze of crimson light from the neon tube was too bright for home use but soon found a place in the urban nightscape. Making the dark stage of night alive with the neon sign as its limelight. The visual stimulus of the neon sign seems to reflect the desires of its beholders.
11. Doubleplay dates back to the time when across the street from the site of old Seal’s Stadium where the SF Giants played their first two years and all three Dimaggio Brothers once played together on a Seals team Great baseball memorabilia and good food makes for a tasty dive.
12. Dear Mom 2700 16th St @ Harrison St (415) 644-8445 dearmomsf.com
Great dive bar with really nice bar food! Try chicken sandwich and tacos with pickleback shooter.: A rapidly-changing menu and classic cocktails place Dear Mom a notch above your usual dive bar. If it's all too much, there's always Big Buck Hunter on the back wall ;) Large space, weekend crowds but not debilitating ones. Good food. Good beer.
13. Homestead 2301 Folsom St (at 19th St.),
Friendly local dive bar, great beer, and sweet bartenders Nice dive bar but there's not really anything else near it, so make sure you want to commit to a few drinks before cabbing over. Stop what you're doing -- THIS is your new local. Full bar with an excellent array of quality beers, wine, and spirits, and the bartenders who know how to sling them.
14. Jay 'n Bee Club 2736 20th St at York St
Mostly locals, as its off the beaten path for Mission tourists. Be warned, the darn good thin-crust pizza takes awhile but that just gives you time to savor the cheap beer and laid back atmosphere. They are cash only, yet have an ATM for your convenience. Non-pretentious (super divey), it's dog-friendly (bit.ly/1X7ouoN) Cold beer, cheap pizza, great outdoor patio, friendly people. A great place to chill after work with some homies and chat
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jayn-Bee-Club/111090692247573 & https://foursquare.com/v/jay-n-bee-club/44100dd7f964a520b8301fe3
Outdoor Patios for Afternoon Sun Belt Drinking
Since the demise of the parklet in front of the Revolution Cafe at 22nd & Bartlett no other parklet has challenged the guidelines for outside alcohol consumption.
El Techo de Lolinda 2518 Mission St @ 21st St Opens at 4 on weekdays & 11am on weekends The open-air rooftop is casually romantic, nicely illuminated by string lights and Mission looking downtown in the foreground. A glass wall circling the perimeter shields some from wind.
Zeitgeist 199 Valencia Famous large outdoor picnic table area under the overpass
Jay'n Bee 2736 20th St
El Rio 3158 Mission St since 1978 and is always a guaranteed good time. The expansive back area has a deck, a garden, a pool table, and is dog friendly
Virgil’s Sea Room www.virgilssf.com 3152 Mission Shares backyard fence with El Rio
Wild Side West 424 Cortland Ave. Funky private backyard spaces for groups
Southern Pacific Brewing 620 Treat Ave b/t 19th St & Mistral St (415) 341-0152 southernpacbrewing.comific
The Ramp 855 Terry Francois don't let the crowds scare you away. The Ramp is always a perfect place to be on a beautiful day.
Thee Parkside 1600 17th St
The Mission: the Bay Area's Food & Drink Mecca
While fear of huge business threatening rent increase is very real, the rumor of dying Mission dive bars seems to be contradicted by recent trends. Doing business in a Food & Drink Mecca like the Mission tends to beat other options, and the result is new bar launch, not retirement. Business is good. The two lamented closures, The Attic and Lexington both had owner operators who popped up a few blocks away in joints that were too fresh and new to qualify for the comfortable classification of dive bar. This will again make the case for Doc's Clock who will be taking their marquee sign with them a block away when their place is transformed to something more shiny and new for the upscale crowd in 2017.
15. Zeitgeist 199 Valencia St at Duboce Ave (415) 431-6891 zeitgeistsf.com/ https://localwiki.org/sf/Zeitgeist
Food all day long from full Kitchen with BBQ grill and lots of Outdoor seating! "The punkiest punk-rock bar under an overpass, Zeitgeist lives up to its name by changing with the times. (The clientele is like an index of what’s doing in the Mission.) It’s got a massive backyard, Simpsons pinball, and 40 beers on tap. But be warned: You can get kicked out for the slightest infraction, including sitting on a picnic table while waiting for your insanely good $8 cheeseburger. But at the same time, we have considered retiring the Best Bloody Mary category in our Best Of issue because, well, we don’t want to keep giving it to Zeitgeist. "
16. Thieves Tavern 496 14th St @ Guerrero St (415) 252-9082 Friendly bartenders, lots of bar seating, 2 pool tables and some booths Famous for their bacon bloody Mary (Sat & Sun, noon-5). Juke box, across the street at Mission Beach Cafe
The bloody mary is a marvel, one of the best and most over-the-top I've had in a long career as a bloody mary fiend. It was spicy and thick, which is how like I like them, and I definitely saw the bartender squirt in some sriracha. It would've been a great bloody mary even with a standard celery garnish, but it came with a ludicrous skewer heavy with pickles--red pepper, green bean, pearl onion, cornichon--as well as cheese, salami, and candied bacon. Every bite was delicious, pairing well with the soup of the mary. That candied bacon was particularly splendid, and I loved the snap of the green bean and that sweet, tart cornichon. This drink was really an appetizer in a glass, absolutely delightful, and a steal at $9. Just remember to bring cash. Steph C. @ https://www.yelp.com/biz/thieves-tavern-san-francisco
17. Elixer 3200 16th St @ Guerrero St (415) 552-1633 elixirsf.com H the owner since 2003 gives the colorful history of his 2nd oldest saloon in San Francisco
A bar that salutes the golden hydrant that saved the city from burning down completely in 1906 is a bar that wears its history on its sleeve, and if you can believe it, this address had already been a saloon for 48 years before the earthquake. Genteel in spite of the framed ads for early-1900s laxatives, Elixir is a dive bar with an active calendar, rotating its cocktail menu with the seasons and celebrating Negroni Week — and the collection of more than 400 whiskeys from around the world doesn’t hurt, either. http://www.sfweekly.com/dining/feature-dining/top-50-dive-bars-san-francisco/
18. Kilowatt 3160 16th St at Albion (415) 861-2595 kilowattbar.com
Let’s be honest: There are many places to get wasted on this stretch of 16th Street. Very few of them have weekend happy hours that run into the evening the way Kilowatt’s does, though. A punk bar that became a sports bar whose atmosphere can get a little macho at times, this is a resolutely no-frills place in a neighborhood that has gotten frillier. Jillian’s it isn’t, but we respect any joint that has pool, pinball, and darts. It took 1.21 jigawatts to power a time-traveling DeLorean, but one kilowatt can keep us charged all Sunday afternoon and into the evening. http://www.sfweekly.com/dining/feature-dining/top-50-dive-bars-san-francisco/
19. Delirium 3139 16th St. @Albion St (415) 552-5525 delirium.me
This bar always feels slightly underappreciated to us, what with its dark back room that probably has a history we can only speculate about. (There’s lots of good hip-hop back there, though.) But “Service for the Sick” is a great motto, and when we’re feeling under the weather, it’s dollar drafts that nurse us back to health. Also: $3 mystery shots. And let us praise what has to be the most thoroughly graffitied-over urinals in San Francisco. http://www.sfweekly.com/dining/feature-dining/top-50-dive-bars-san-francisco/
20. Casanova Cocktail Lounge 527 Valencia St (btwn 16th & 17th St) (415) 863-9328 casanovasf.com https://www.instagram.com/casanovaloungesf/
One of the legit 16th St bars that keeps this area from feeling like Marina South on the weekends. happy hour for delicious and inexpensive margaritas. Casanova remains a lodestar for a good time in the Mission. Wonderfully bizarre grape-bunch light fixtures
21. Blondies 540 Valencia St (btwn 16th & 17th St), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=le4-eiU1dS8 by AMBSSDR
Try the spicy Mission Martini or the savory Dutch Martini. Both are excellent when made extra dirty. Nicole DeWald, the owner and namesake of Blondie's says it isn't the aura that makes it, it is the aroma. "It's got that rubber mat, alcohol and dirty rag smell," she says. "It's got a little more flavor, a little more wear on the floor, it is a little smellier, and the bar staff is a little snarkier." http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/nevius/article/Is-it-last-call-for-dive-bars-in-San-Francisco-5737259.php
22. The Uptown 200 Capp St @ 17th St (415) 861-8231 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEoWgW_Lq4g by AMBSSDR
Dim lighting, really nice bartenders, great prices, solid draft beer selections, cool juke box, pool table, chill crowd, a dog or 2. It's like the hipster version of the Star Wars IV bar.
"When longtime owner Scott Ellsworth died in early 2014, The Uptown’s future looked grim. But a consortium of patrons and friends managed to keep things going, and today, the 110-year-old bar — which has only been called The Uptown since the mid-1980s or so — remains in good hands. Come for the couches, stay for the under-$5 pints. And the art in this bar is so freaking terrible that it’s probably priceless. http://www.sfweekly.com/dining/feature-dining/top-50-dive-bars-san-francisco/
23. 500 Club 500 Guerrero St at 17th St (415) 861-2500 Open 11:00 am - 2:00 am
A Mission neighborhood classic, the 500 Club remains one of my favorite bars in the city, partly because there is nothing special about it. The vinyl on the booths is ripped, the bartenders aren't that friendly unless you're a regular, and there are usually too many TVs on, drawing your attention away from whomever you're with. But it's a good time, the drinks are cheap, and there's a cozy area in back with a fireplace that doesn't work. . —Jay Barmann http://sfist.com/2016/03/24/the_25_best_dive_bars_in_san_franci.php
DOB presents https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_Yrh5xZtUw
24. Elbo Room 647 Valencia St @ Sycamore St (415) 552-7788 elbo.com
Dive bar with pinball and a photo booth. Strong drinks. Moscow Mules come in pint glasses lease is renewed through the end of 2017 but condo rumors are swirling. reggae party Dub Mission just celebrated its 20th anniversary here in 2016
25. Bender's Bar & Grill 806 S Van Ness Ave (at 19th St),(415) 824-1800 bendersbar.com 60 seconds of benders https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXBqXT9FOwM
Clean women's restroom for a dive bar Pliny the Elder on draft! Damn good bar food, with awesome vegetarian and vegan options. Try the alcohol.
"Yes, the menu changed last year. And yes, there are still tater tots (along with fried Oreos and hormone-free house-made dog treats at three for a buck). But from punk shows during Noise Pop to $10 Bulleit-and-Anchor deals, Bender’s has its finger on the pulse of the Mission — or at least the Mission that beats underneath the current Mission that everyone frets about. Pro-tip: Head over on the first night of the week to catch the last of Mojito Mondays (4-8 p.m.) and maintain until Ass-End Happy Hour picks up from 11 p.m. http://www.sfweekly.com/dining/feature-dining/top-50-dive-bars-san-francisco/
Best Dives of the Greater Mission
El Rio 3158 Mission St.,
Royal Cuckoo 3202 Mission St
The Knockout 3223 Mission
St. Mary’s Pub 3845 Mission
Wild Side West 424 Cortland Ave.
The Life Death and Rebirth Cycle of Dive Bars
One Door Closes Another Opens
2015 Saw the closing of the Iconic Lexington Club at 19th & Lexington
Are dive bars threatened? Twenty years ago a liquor license ran to $25,000 a year. "Now a liquor license in the Mission can run $250,000," Dan Lyons, who has owned Clooney's since 1995. "Add that to a remodel, and just to get in the door you're at half a million dollars. Can you justify your neighborhood pub on that?"
Owner Lila Thirkield told Tim Redmond
"I’m proud that we were able to employ and train so many women and to keep a space open for nearly 20 years that goes against the economics of that gender inequality. It ain’t easy, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun. If I could keep the Lex forever, I would. And while I think this loss is sad, I also think that The Lex is something to be celebrated. There had been no dyke bar in SF for about 7 years before we opened. And we were there for nearly 20 years. SF has always been a queer Mecca and it still is. https://localwiki.org/sf/The_Lexington_Club
Well, I opened Virgil’s Sea Room (www.virgilssf.com 3152 Mission ) a little over a year ago, right next to El Rio. And it’s been an amazing experience. It is different in that it is an “everybody bar” but it has a huge queer sense about it, many queer staff members, and some great crossover already. Like I said earlier, I hope to throw events under the Lexington Club name. As I let go of the the Lex, I am already imaging new ways for us to come together and new places for us to share. I still love the Mission and will still work and live here. I plan to continue community building and to continue to help keep the queer Mecca that is SF alive.
2014 The Attic's staff moved to Gashead Tavern Clean shiny and bright look along with a lack of plumber's butt on display along the front row of bar stools seems to disqualify but these things evolve. Roger the owner also part of another dive bar on an important drinking street, Murio's Trophy Room on Haight Street near Stanyon http://uptownalmanac.com/2014/04/attic-unceremoniously-closes
Dovre Club: An Eviction for the Ages "after the Dovre had finally been bounced from the Women's Building, which wanted the space and had an oral agreement with Nolan that the bar could stay as long as he was around. The eviction came after a pitched 1 1/2-year battle that included several court cases and defiant action by Dovre partisans like Hinckle and political consultant Jack Davis, who had bars welded over the window and barricaded doors to keep the sheriff at bay. ----The fearsome threesome of Paddy Nolan, Jack Davis and Warren Hinkle is down to just Jack. who is still a player most recently threatening to litigate the Warriors basketball Mission Bay Arena till the cows come home. Meanwhile the old corner space of the Women's Building is now a Headstart facility for preschoolers. http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/At-the-Dovre-Club-everyone-s-Irish-every-day-3290802.php
If you want standardization, predictability, and good lighting, go to Starbucks. If you want random adventure, affably cantankerous service, and (mostly) cheap beer, wade into S.F.’s glorious ecosystem of dives. To help you — and, maybe, to help them — we offer the 50 that feel the truest to the spirit of this city, and whose loss we would feel the hardest. SF Weekly Wed Sep 14th, 2016
Amy Cooperman's 2016 FOOD & DRINK 26 ESSENTIAL SF DIVE BARS, AND WHY YOU SHOULD DRINK IN ALL OF THEM lists Latin American Club, Doc's Clock, Dear Mom, Zeitgeist
http://sfist.com/2016/03/24/the_25_best_dive_bars_in_san_franci.php BY JAY BARMANN 2016
500 Club , Blind Cat, Clooney's Pub, Dovre club , The Phone Booth
https://foursquare.com/top-places/mission-san-francisco/best-places-dive-bars Published On: August 22, 2015 Picks 13 but Lexington closes The Phone Booth; Mission Bar; Dear Mom; Doc's Clock; Homestead; Bender's Bar & Grill; Casanova Cocktail Lounge; Make-Out Room; Elbo Room; Shotwell’s; Jay 'n Bee Club; Blondie's Bar