San Francisco Feature


The Best Hotel Bars in San Francisco

Big 4 Bar. Dark-wood paneling and green leather banquettes lend a masculine feel to the bar at the Huntington Hotel, where the over-30 crowd orders Scotch and Irish coffee. To accompany your whiskey, try the potpies or Irish stew. This place is a San Francisco history lesson. To get more out of the experience, read up on the Big Four railroad barons—Stanford, Hopkins, Crocker, and the hotel's namesake—before you go. The Huntington Hotel, 1075 California St., at Mason St., Nob Hill, San Francisco, CA, 94108. 415/771–1140.

Pied Piper Bar. The Palace Hotel's clubby, wood-paneled watering hole takes its name from the Maxfield Parrish mural The Pied Piper of Hamelin, which covered most of the wall behind the bar for a century. Until 2013, that is, when the hotel management put it up for auction (tsk, tsk) before backing down after locals on up to the mayor howled in protest. The painting then went to a restorer with promises that it would return to the hotel, if not the bar, which draws and upscale clientele for two-olive martinis, Manhattans, and other trad libations. Palace Hotel, 2 New Montgomery St., at Market St., SoMa, San Francisco, CA, 94105. 415/512–1111.

Redwood Room. Opened in 1933 and updated by designer Philippe Starck in 2001, the Redwood Room at the Clift Hotel is a San Francisco icon. The entire room, floor to ceiling, is paneled with the wood from a single redwood tree, giving the place a rich, monochromatic look. The gorgeous original art-deco sconces and chandeliers still hang, but bizarre video installations on plasma screens also adorn the walls. It's packed on weekend evenings after 10, when young scenesters swarm in; for maximum glamour, visit on a weeknight. Clift Hotel, 495 Geary St., at Taylor St., Union Square, San Francisco, CA, 94102. 415/929–2372 for table reservations; 415/775–4700 for hotel.

Seasons Bar. The walnut-panel walls, inlaid cherrywood floor, and elegant furnishings of the tiny lobby bar capture the aesthetic of the coolly minimalist Four Seasons. Discreet staff members in dark suits serve top-shelf cocktails and salty nibbles. A piano player entertains Tuesday through Saturday evening in the lobby lounge, where you can relax on overstuffed sofas and chairs. The clientele is generally 40-plus and business-suited. Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco, 757 Market St., between 3rd and 4th Sts., SoMa, San Francisco, CA, 94103. 415/633–3000.

Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar. Since the 1940s the Tonga Room has supplied its city with high Polynesian kitsch. Fake palm trees, grass huts, a lagoon (three-piece combos play pop standards on a floating barge), and faux monsoons—courtesy of sprinkler-system rain and simulated thunder and lightning—grow more surreal as you quaff the bar's signature mai tais and other too-too fruity cocktails. Fairmont San Francisco, 950 Mason St., at California St., Nob Hill, San Francisco, CA, 94108. 415/772–5278.

W Café and XYZ Bar. Floor-to-ceiling, blue velvet draperies, black-and-white terrazzo floors, and a thumpin' sound system set the see-and-be-seen tone of the lobby bar at the W Hotel, where a DJ spins hypnotic beats on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings. Escape the ogling crowd by heading upstairs to the tucked-away XYZ Bar. W Hotel, 181 3rd St., at Howard St., SoMa, San Francisco, CA, 94103. 415/777–5300.

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