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Not much made it through the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906, but this bar did. There is a great story behind that. Reportedly, local firemen (loyal customers) diverted water from other locations in order to save this place. Its customer loyalty is just as strong today. Founded in 1861, it has as much history as it does popularity. Come for live blues and all the charm of a tradition that is over a century old.
Perched conspicuously on a busy corner in San Francisco's Mission District, Elixir is a kind of Jack-of-all-trades of the bar world. They have an array of tap handles and they take great care to serve beers in signature glassware, yet they are also famous for their expertly mixed, fresh ingredient-filled cocktails. The ambiance is similarly shifty. By day, regulars pull up a stool and revel in the friendly pub atmosphere. In the evening, happy-hour hordes give way to scantily clad party people and the whole place suddenly feels chic. At all hours, the jukebox is great, and the dartboards are awaiting.
Bender's is a Mission District legend. Firebombed into oblivion in 2006, its valiant founders rallied the troops, and with a cavalcade of community support, reopened just a year and half later, bigger and better than ever. Some choice burnt-to-a-crisp fire wreckage are kept around as "trophies" of the place's victory over tragedy, you will love watching it. Comfy booths surround the pool table and the grill, which is operated by the folks at Weird Fish.
This popular biker bar is not the scene some biker bars can be. At the Long Star Saloon, you will find neither fashion police nor attitudes, just serious drinking and leather wearing. Check out the Sunday beer bust where you can drink all you want for a few dollars. It is a great place to hang out the rest of the week, too, with a vibrant leather scene on which to feast your eyes and bartenders.
Billed as "San Francisco's Premier Dive Venue," Thee Parkside lives up to its claim by recreating the classic American dive bar in San Francisco's Potrero Hill neighborhood. For years the club has come to be known as the Bay Area's go-to venue for metal, 60s soul, country, indie and punk rock. It regularly hosts a wide range of special events such as the "Free Twang Sunday" where you can go and see the Bay Area's finest country and bluegrass bands for free. Thee Parkside's kitchen serves up dishes by a rotating roster of talented guest chefs. If you're tired of rock clubs that replace comfort with tribute bands, head down to Thee Parkside for a tall can of PBR and great music.
Zeitgeist is a popular bar in the Mission. They make a mean drink here, and you will fit in easily with the crowd, just don't let the profusion of leather and Harleys intimidate you. You do not have to be a biker to feel at home. An outdoor patio with barbecue and live music are all part of the experience. Best of all, you can wake up in the morning and start all over again with one of their famous Bloody Mary's.
A dive bar with flair, the Knockout is famous for its nights of dancing, and displays of the bizarre. Set in the Outer Mission and surrounded by cool dining outlets, it is a place to be visited on any night out on the town. There is a DJ and/or live music every night of the week to keep you entertained as you enjoy your drinks.
You don't have to travel to the Deep South to experience a culinary tradition that is rarely reproduced elsewhere. Perhaps for good reason. Dubbed, the best place for eating beanie weenies while listening to deep house by Rolling Stone magazine, this strange creation serves microwaved trailer trash food (Mac'n'Cheese, fries, TV dinners, etc) from an actual trailer to crowds of hipsters and clubkids. Nightly DJs and a full bar add music and mayhem to the nuke-food energy, keeping Butter's atmosphere radiant.
Located in the Mission District, The Hideout at Dalva is a covert bar within a bar at the corner of 16th and Valencia. This hidden gem is at the back of Dalva, through an unmarked door. Once inside, patrons will find an intimate area with low round tables, a rich red banquette and friendly mixologists who take their craft seriously. The cocktails found here are of the highest caliber, made with top shelf liquor, freshly squeezed juices and infusions. Be sure to visit early to avoid the crowds.
The rum and fruit juice formula of a faux tropical nightspot goes happily unquestioned at this undergraduate dive, although the only sand here has been dragged in from Ocean Beach by sneaker and sandal treads. Regulars come here to get drunk, dance and romance and they have a great time doing it. Those who like easy parking will be pleased, and those concerned with Polynesian authenticity should keep driving.
Hotel Utah is a low key, neighborhood bar that serves up local music seven nights a week along with food and drink. Shows never cost more than a few dollars, and are sometimes free. Mondays are open mic night, so if you want to become a star yourself, start here. The location near the happening SoMa District makes for an interesting mix of clientèle ranging from dot-commers (and increasingly rare species) to artists to refugees from the Financial District. Have a brew and enjoy the people-watching.