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13 Iconic San Francisco Dive Bars

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Sticky floors, neon beer signs, shitty bathrooms and surly regulars: there's nothing like a San Francisco dive bar on a Sunday morning. Would you bring your mother to any of these 13 iconic dive bars? Depends on how classy your mother is. For one reason or another, all of the spots in this list are a piece in the well-worn puzzle of San Francisco bar culture: wherein getting drunk comes with a badge of merit and you shouldn't step foot with a fancy shoe.

--Sophia Lorenzi

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The Saloon

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Est. in 1861, this San Francisco institution hits you with smells, sounds and vibes before you even step over the threshold. The Saloon attracts a colorful cast of characters for live blues music and heavy pours seven nights of the week.

Trad'r Sam's

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A dive and a tiki joint in one, Trad’r Sam serves up seriously spiked $8 tropical cocktails in hurricane glasses with cute umbrellas. The $14 Scorpion Bowl has been diverting attention from the joint's stale air and peeling, tropical leaf-patterned booths for years on end.

Aunt Charlie's Lounge

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With infamous drag shows and an interesting mix of both neighborhood locals and hip kids, nothing quite captures the underbelly of this city like the Tenderloin’s Aunt Charlie’s. And remember, no cell phones.

Toronado

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Beer lovers feel like they've died and gone to heaven surrounded by menus and taps displaying a massive selection of affordably priced porters, stouts, ales, and more. Toronado often smells like the Rosamunde sausages that drinkers are chugging with beers at the tables up front.

Zeitgeist

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Bikers, cyclists, and Marina girls in disguise love to crowd the picnic-table-filled backyard at Zeitgeist. A no B.S. attitude behind the bar, tagged bathrooms, 40 draft beers, greasy burgers, and pint glass margaritas make Zeitgeist irresistible to almost anybody.

Mr. Bing's

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Dollar jukeboxes, sports on TV, cheap beers, mai tais, and bartenders that will get drunk with you. Mr. Bing's triangle shaped bar has been the scene of many glorious and seedy dive bar moments that no one remembers.

The Tempest

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Bike messengers, off-duty cooks, tattoos, cheap beer, pool table, and fried pickles—The Tempest has everything you could want in a dive bar in a sketchy alley off of 6th street.

Overly cushy booths, Lord of the Rings pinball, a pool table and an expansive jukebox selection pervade the scene at this classic Mission District cyclist hangout.

Wild Side West

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Open since 1962, this GLBT dive bar has something for everyone, including one of the greatest outdoor drinking patios in town, eclectic pin-up girl art, pool table, and knock-you-over Bloody Mary’s.

The Summer Place

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Cozy up to the fireplace, enjoy a stiff drink, smoke a cigarette (yes, inside), and reminisce about what you did last summer, while classic rock blares from the jukebox at this non-assuming but locally-adored Tendernob dive.

The Brown Jug Saloon

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Established in 1937, and opening every day at 6 a.m., “The Jug” welcomes individuals from all walks of life for stiff-cheap drinks and a few hours of Tenderloin crazy.

Buddha Bar

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Roll the rice, literally, and bet on your next drink in a game of Liar’s Dice between you and the bartender at this dinky, quirky Chinatown dive prone to spontaneous jukebox sing-a-longs and other curiosities.

Bender's Bar & Grill

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Owned by Toronado vet Johnny Davis since 2003, it’s the small touches at Bender’s that set it apart from any old Mission dive: old driver’s licenses and school ID cards embedded into the table tops, greasy whiskey burgers, and friendliness to dogs.

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The Saloon

Est. in 1861, this San Francisco institution hits you with smells, sounds and vibes before you even step over the threshold. The Saloon attracts a colorful cast of characters for live blues music and heavy pours seven nights of the week.

Trad'r Sam's

A dive and a tiki joint in one, Trad’r Sam serves up seriously spiked $8 tropical cocktails in hurricane glasses with cute umbrellas. The $14 Scorpion Bowl has been diverting attention from the joint's stale air and peeling, tropical leaf-patterned booths for years on end.

Aunt Charlie's Lounge

With infamous drag shows and an interesting mix of both neighborhood locals and hip kids, nothing quite captures the underbelly of this city like the Tenderloin’s Aunt Charlie’s. And remember, no cell phones.

Toronado

Beer lovers feel like they've died and gone to heaven surrounded by menus and taps displaying a massive selection of affordably priced porters, stouts, ales, and more. Toronado often smells like the Rosamunde sausages that drinkers are chugging with beers at the tables up front.

Zeitgeist

Bikers, cyclists, and Marina girls in disguise love to crowd the picnic-table-filled backyard at Zeitgeist. A no B.S. attitude behind the bar, tagged bathrooms, 40 draft beers, greasy burgers, and pint glass margaritas make Zeitgeist irresistible to almost anybody.

Mr. Bing's

Dollar jukeboxes, sports on TV, cheap beers, mai tais, and bartenders that will get drunk with you. Mr. Bing's triangle shaped bar has been the scene of many glorious and seedy dive bar moments that no one remembers.

The Tempest

Bike messengers, off-duty cooks, tattoos, cheap beer, pool table, and fried pickles—The Tempest has everything you could want in a dive bar in a sketchy alley off of 6th street.

Uptown

Overly cushy booths, Lord of the Rings pinball, a pool table and an expansive jukebox selection pervade the scene at this classic Mission District cyclist hangout.

Wild Side West

Open since 1962, this GLBT dive bar has something for everyone, including one of the greatest outdoor drinking patios in town, eclectic pin-up girl art, pool table, and knock-you-over Bloody Mary’s.

The Summer Place

Cozy up to the fireplace, enjoy a stiff drink, smoke a cigarette (yes, inside), and reminisce about what you did last summer, while classic rock blares from the jukebox at this non-assuming but locally-adored Tendernob dive.

The Brown Jug Saloon

Established in 1937, and opening every day at 6 a.m., “The Jug” welcomes individuals from all walks of life for stiff-cheap drinks and a few hours of Tenderloin crazy.

Buddha Bar

Roll the rice, literally, and bet on your next drink in a game of Liar’s Dice between you and the bartender at this dinky, quirky Chinatown dive prone to spontaneous jukebox sing-a-longs and other curiosities.

Bender's Bar & Grill

Owned by Toronado vet Johnny Davis since 2003, it’s the small touches at Bender’s that set it apart from any old Mission dive: old driver’s licenses and school ID cards embedded into the table tops, greasy whiskey burgers, and friendliness to dogs.

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