El Rio

A neighborhood staple since 1978, this dive draws a noticeably diverse crowd of straight and gay Mission folk who come to hang on the outdoor patio and take full advantage of nightly deals, like $4 well drinks and free oyster Fridays. There’s billiards, shuffleboard, and live music. It’s definitely the place to for a casual meet up with friends, no matter if they live nearby or are in town visiting.


A minimalist cocktail bar for a sophisticated crowd. San Francisco’s top bartenders are behind the straightforward menu, categorized by liquor. There’s a wall of mezcal behind the bar, and the house speciality can be found in an agave cocktail. No need to make it a stopping point before dinner — sit at one of the high-top tables with a group of friends and share bar bites like chicken pot pie empanadas, grilled radicchio, a tofu sloppy joe.

Buffalo Club

Another winner from cocktail impresarios The Tonic Boys, this one puts more focus on the solid sustenance. (No, there’s no Buffalo Club on the menu.) Pizzas front and center, mostly classics but also kale + ricotta for the trend obsessed. Manhattans and Old Fashioneds on draft, mules by the pitcher. Not for the casual tippler, then.

Lolo Cevicheria

Spun off from Lolo mothership. Absurdly charming space, all tropical-bonkers-chic, head-spinning color clashes reflected in big oval mirrors above bar. Sublime ceviche and much more, like panko avocado tacos and Mexiterranean Cheese Fondue. Dedicated Agave Bar does wildly creative mezcal cocktails, including Mezcal Mule.

Urchin Bistrot

Urchins here not of street variety. Best to sit looking away from goofy wall mural. No surprises on menu, duck liver mousse, endive salad, poisson du jour, all French staples. Make sure dessert time is avec chocolate Bête Noire cake. Aperitif Hour with good $6 wines. Interior vibe fun, if unfocused – beige here, bright red there, ultra-mod there, classical here.

Hawker Fare

Like explosion in Asian fabric market. Seriously wacky décor meant to actually look like Thai teen bedroom – but have to take their word. Retro posters and vinyl tacked to walls (hmm, just like American kids) and mad, mad riot of colors. Menu of pan-Asian street food, house specialties jaew bong and dtom kiem are standouts. All served with sticky rice. Bonkers.

Trick Dog

This trendy need-to-know cocktail bar takes the concept of “creative cocktails” to a whole new level by revamping its menu twice a year with a new theme. When the industrial space opened in 2013, the drinks were named after colors on the Pantene color wheel, and its most recent iteration is a Chinese menu, complete with drinks written in Chinese characters. Though the obvious draw is cocktails, the place has bar food worth staying for — guacamole, chickpea falafel sticks — and a warm atmosphere.