19 Best Bars in The Haight, the Castro, Hayes Valley and Noe Valley, San Francisco

Smuggler's Cove

Hayes Valley Fodor's choice

With the decor of a pirate ship and a slew of rum-based cocktails, you half expect Captain Jack Sparrow to sidle up next to you at this offbeat, Disney-esque hangout. But the folks at Smuggler's Cove take rum so seriously they've even had it made for them from distillers around the world, which you can sample along with more than 550 other offerings.

Toronado Pub

Haight Fodor's choice

You come to one of the city's most popular dive bars for one thing and one thing only: the reasonably priced beers, about four dozen of them on tap. The Toronado opens in the late morning and has a good-size crowd by early afternoon, so show up early to sit at one of the highly coveted tables. Just make sure to bring cash, as they don't accept credit cards.

Absinthe Brasserie & Bar

Hayes Valley

The popular restaurant's nearly two dozen specialty cocktails make a trip just to the bar worthwhile. The classic but modern French cuisine, California and French wines, and vintage bistro decor are terrific, too, so pair a cocktail with a few bites before or after a show.

Recommended Fodor's Video

Anina

Hayes Valley

This floral-and-tropics-themed bar boasts one of the prime patios in San Francisco, plus excellent, non-fussy craft cocktails.

Badlands

Castro

Shirts off! If a sweaty muscle sandwich sounds like your idea of a good time, head to Badlands, where serious party boys come to grind to throbbing music on a packed dance floor. The lines can be ridiculous on weekends; those in the know go on Wednesday or Thursday. Tight-teed patrons range from twenties to forties.

Birba

Hayes Valley
With a charming rear garden and an excellent selection of lesser-known European vintages, this wine bar is a local favorite for a leisurely happy hour or date night. It's a little removed from the main Hayes Valley action, so the crowd tends to be regulars, who come in frequently to try a new Greek rosé or a Touriga from Portugal. Bites are limited to mostly cheese, charcuterie, and smoked or tinned fish, but everything is beautifully composed.

Blackbird

Castro

This neighborhood hangout blends industrial chic and old-world charm. The crowd is less casual than others in the Castro, though no one will judge you for wearing Chuck Taylors. Blackbird serves up a good selection of craft beers, along with seasonal cocktails.

Blush! Wine Bar

Castro

A cozy, casual date spot, Blush! serves wines paired with tapas, charcuterie boards, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Sit at the counter for a nice chat with the friendly bartender, and pick a glass or bottle of bubbly or white, rosé, or red wine from its well-curated collection. This place always buzzes on weekends, so reserve in advance.

Fig & Thistle

Hayes Valley

The Golden State's wines are the specialty at this relaxed, rustic-feeling bar. Natural and biodynamic wines from the greater West Coast and around the world are also poured, pairing nicely with cheese selections. Their eponymous and popular cannabis dispensary is just around the corner.

Hôtel Biron Wine Bar and Art Gallery

Hayes Valley

This tiny, cave-like (in a good way) spot displays the work of local artists on its brick walls. The well-behaved twenty- to thirtysomething clientele enjoys the off-the-beaten-path quarters, the wines from around the world, the soft lighting, and the hip music.

Lucky 13

Castro

Greasers, hipsters, Betty Page wannabes, anyone looking for a good beer in the Castro, and assorted other patrons make Lucky 13 a fun place indeed. The drink prices are reasonable, the beer selection is huge, and there's high-end root beer on tap for the designated driver with a discriminating palate. The best seats are upstairs overlooking the crowd.

Magnolia Brewing Company

Haight

Known for its food as much as its beers, Magnolia is a San Francisco institution, thanks in part to its prime location near the Haight-Ashbury intersection. Come for the smoked trout croquettes, falafel salad, and famed burgers, or just grab any one of the dozen-plus beers on tap, many brewed in-house. The brewpub occupies the site of The Drugstore Cafe, one of the first hippie hangouts in the Haight in the 1960s. 

Midnight Sun

Castro

One of the Castro's longest-running bars—open since 1971—is popular with the polo-shirt-and-khakis crowd. Giant video screens play the latest music videos as well as episodes of shows like Will & Grace and Queer Eye.

Moby Dick

Castro

This quintessential neighborhood watering hole outfitted with a pool table and pinball machines has TV screens playing pop videos and music. A giant fish tank sits over the bar, giving shy types a place to rest their gaze while taking a shot of liquid courage. Casually dressed couples and guys with nothing to prove frequent this place, but there's pickup potential, too. Like many smaller dive bars, it's cash only.

4049 18th St., San Francisco, CA, 94114, USA
415-294–0731

Noc Noc

Haight

A cross between a Tim Burton film and an Oingo Boingo album, this funky, cavelike bar makes every day Halloween. Noc Noc's bartenders serve up about 20 or so beers on tap, sake (even unfiltered), and unique twists on traditional drinks, like the Snake Bite, a blend of lager and cider. The house DJ plays acid jazz, industrial, and ambient music.

Pilsner Inn

Castro

Casual and comfortable—yet still hip and cruise-y—this is the type of neighborhood joint you quickly claim as your own. Kick back with a pint on the fantastic year-round patio and enjoy eye candy of the thirtysomething variety (ranging from conservative yuppie guys to Mission emo boys). The Pilsner is technically a sports bar, which means it has a pool table and TVs tuned to local games.

The Alembic

Haight

This dark-wood, low-lit space has a certain swagger that's at once charming and classy. It serves full meals but is also a good choice for cocktails and small plates—the polenta fries, Scotch egg, and seasonal salad are all winners.

The Mint Karaoke Lounge

Hayes Valley

A mixed gay-straight crowd that's drop-dead serious about its karaoke—to the point where you'd think an American Idol casting agent was in attendance—comes here seven nights a week. Do not walk onstage unprepared! Cash only.

Trax Bar

Haight

"Laid-back" would be an understatement. Once inside Trax, you won't feel like you're in a gay bar—or in San Francisco—and that's the way the regulars like it. Cheap beer specials draw all types, and though you don't have to don your cruise wear for this place, it's still social.