A Guide to Drinking in San Francisco
Tired of the same old guides of San Francisco? You probably read something like this a thousand times: Go see the Golden Gate bridge. Avoid Fisherman's Wharf, it's a tourist trap. Ride the cable car, yada-yada-yada. Well this is a different take on seeing San Francisco which aims to keep you well hydrated (with wine or beer) and explore San Francisco by foot.
The whole tour is about six to seven kilometres in distance and by the nature of San Francisco it steeply ascends and descends several times, so you probably want to pack some water. If you're not already in San Francisco get off at the Embarcadero BART station and be ready for the first drink of the tour.
It all starts at one of my favourite watering holes in Embarcadero, Hard Water at Pier 3. Beforehand stroll along the waterfront, take a look at the iconic Ferry Building at Market St and enjoy the view of Yerba Buena Island and the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge. Then sample one of the more than 400 whiskeys which Hard Water has on the menu and get some of the New Orleans-inspired food there.
Once you're done head on to Washington St to go West and up the hill. You'll pass the famous Transamerica Pyramid, another iconic landmark of San Francisco. Aim for Nob Hill and keep walking uphill, always remember to turn and take photos, Washington St eastwards is especially rewarding because if features the Transamerica Pyramid and a high difference in altitude. Once you're in Chinatown make a sharp left onto Grant Av and stroll around to soak up the atmosphere. When you reach the Dragon Gate you're at the beginning of Chinatown, time to take another photo and the next drink! Tunnel Top at 601 Bush St is an institution right next to the entrance of Chinatown and you'll always find plenty of specials and friendly bartenders there.
Next head out on Bush St and turn left, then take the second right on Powell St, two cable car lines run here so have your camera prepared. Another cable car line crosses at California St where you turn left. You have some really good photo opportunities towards downtown from here. On top of Nob Hill at 999 California St you'll pass the iconic Mark Hopkins Hotel, a nineteen floor San Francisco Designated Landmark. When you spot Grace Cathedral on your right turn left down the hill on Jones St. On Geary St turn right again and head to a dive bar called Whisky Thieves. Hang out at the pool table or the jukebox and enjoy the selection of whiskeys or go for a $7 PBR and Jameson special if you're lazy.
Finding your way to the next location is up to you. I suggest taking a route either West towards Japantown and then South straight into Haight-Ashbury or first South towards Market St and then on to Haight St up the hill. It's all about enjoying the atmosphere here. Your target is another dive bar in Lower Haight, Molotov's located at 582 Haight St. In the middle of trendy bars and restaurants a place to listen to loud music, drink beer and watch people. If you're fancier head to the corner of Steiner and Haight St to get a cocktail and food at Maven.
Ready for the finale? Head down the hill to Market St and turn right into 11th St to Slim's, a live music venue founded by Boz Scaggs at the border of SoMa and Mission District, and finish your tour by listening to some live music.
Here are the addresses of the mentioned bars/restaurants/venues for easy look-up:
- Hard Water - Pier 3, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94105
- Tunnel Top - 601 Bush St, San Francisco, CA 94108
- Whisky Thieves - 839 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94109
- Molotov's - 582 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117
- Maven - 598 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117
- Slim's - 333 11th St, San Francisco, CA 94103