Every city has its own dive bars — its own flavor of go-to neighborhood joints — but San Francisco has a history of having some of the best. It’s not just about the “grime factor” (“dirty” doesn’t necessarily make it “divey”) or how strong the drinks are (otherwise every bar in the Castro would be categorized as a dive bar). It’s a beloved local spot to get cheap, unfussy drinks that has no interest in being hip or trendy, and, instead, maintains its own unapologetically distinctive vibe.
There are plenty of things that “regular bars” can do to flag as a dive bar. Pool tables and perennial Christmas lights are a good start. Being cash-only will get you close. But real dive bars have something others lack, and it’s not just a dust-free bottle of Fernet behind the counter. It’s an energy and a group of bartenders who probably know your name.
It’s possible you won’t find your favorite on the list, but don’t worry —a real dive bar wouldn’t care if it made its way onto a list or not. Honorable mentions, however, go to The Sycamore (Mission), Specs (North Beach), Zeitgeist (Mission), Li Po Lounge (North Beach) Phone Booth (Mission), Pop’s Bar (Mission), Hockey Haven (Outer Richmond), Kozy Kar (Polk), and Moby Dick’s (Castro). If yours isn’t here, just be thankful your watering hole will be safe from neighboring visitors looking to migrate to a different well.Read More