clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

The 20 Best Dive Bars in San Francisco

Dive bars are that special egalitarian breed of bar for anyone and everyone

View as Map

Reliable to the end being a big part of the appeal of a great dive, San Francisco shuddered these last few years to wonder at which watering holes might not survive the impact of COVID-19. As San Francisco recovers from the worst days of the pandemic, city-dwellers and liquor-drinkers can let out that collective sigh. Plenty of the golden oldies lasted the barrage. And good timing – many are more ready than ever to cry into their tequila Sprites.

Before the next variant takes away all the fun, find a stool at these 20 delectable dives throughout San Francisco. Get your boozing in while you still can.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

Read More
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

The Riptide

Copy Link

The Riptide is the see-and-be-seen Outer Sunset dive bar, and it’s fostered a deep community among locals — so much so that when it burned down some years ago, the whole neighborhood was distraught. Fortunately, it’s back and better than ever, with a Monday night open mic, competitively priced drinks, and a “locals-only, but maybe you, too” attitude.

Trad'r Sam's

Copy Link

Inside this Richmond watering hole is a tropical oasis, from the drinks to the worn rattan furniture. Knowing bartenders will provide seafarers with drinks like scorpion bowls, sugary mai tais, and Miller Lites, while old dudes at the bar scream at the Giants game. It's dark, it's divey, and it's perfect for any occasion.

The Silver Spur

Copy Link

This Western-ish bar couldn’t be more oddly placed in a neighborhood dominated by Asian markets and boba tea spots. It’s still managed to assemble a cast of regulars in the decades since it opened.

Little Shamrock

Copy Link

This Lincoln Street dive is an undeniable fixture of San Francisco’s cozy bar world. The couch-laden, dart-throwing Shamrock has been in operation for just shy of 130 years. One customer has been coming for so long they have a nameplate at their reserved seat. Grab a snack sized bag of Cheetos and stay a while.

O’Keeffe’s Bar

Copy Link

O’Keefe’s, a 45-year-old bar at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Balboa Street, might feel a bit intimidating for newcomers (imagine that piano-stops-playing-and-silence-falls moment in a Western). But patrons who behave themselves are quickly welcomed, quite often by Annie O’Keeffe, the bar’s owner. This isn’t the place to order a cocktail, however, as Annie has been known to tell patrons who get fancier than a Jack and Coke to stick to shots or hit the road.

Ireland's 32

Copy Link

Paintings of Irish revolutionaries adorn the walls. Every Wednesday one can catch the smokeshow that is karaoke at this Geary Street temple of debauchery. One talented local is known to croon “Tennessee Whiskey,” just to remind the drunk college kids whose bar it is. 

Glen Park Station

Copy Link

It’s really the only bar for the Glen Park neighborhood, but when you have Glen Park Station, you don’t need anywhere else. Under new ownership from a Glen Parker born-and-raised and a Dublin transplant, the bar is chugging ahead toward its centennial in 2026. There’s a fireplace, few lights to speak of, cheap beer, and a general musk that’s somehow pleasant.

Molotov's

Copy Link

Low ceilings, close quarters, and PBRs are part of the dive appeal at this Haight bar. Punk on the juke box, a pool table, and stiff drinks are part of the charm (or appealing lack thereof) here. The staff set up a GoFundMe to get through the pandemic, which goes right to those keeping the Molotov lit.

The 500 Club

Copy Link

The 500 Club’s neon sign — with flickering lights glittering like bubbles in a glass — gives patrons a warm, fuzzy feeling. So do the drinks. The company, though not necessarily warm or fuzzy, is great, too: The bar has been a longtime favorite of bike messengers and longtime Missionites, and it still gathers to it a great collection of locals.

Lynn Friedman

Sugar Lounge

Copy Link

An enormous Kraken rum light-sign-advertisement thing is hung outside the bathrooms. The bartenders are stylish and terrific. The drinks are cheap, a rarity in Hayes Valley. Cool off at this vibey bar after a pricer Patxi’s pizza or cocktails from Anina.

Cinch Saloon

Copy Link

Still here, still queer, the Cinch is a relic of the Polk corridor’s long career as a gay nightlife neighborhood in the years before the community coalesced in the Castro. Day in and day out, the Cinch continues to draw a smattering of hard-drinkers with its gallery of gay-themed art.

Clooney's Pub

Copy Link

Clooney’s opens, frighteningly, at 6 a.m., the earliest it can in accordance with local liquor law. That’s theoretically to serve folks getting off their night shift, and it’s also, in practice, to serve those whose main vocation is drinking at Clooney’s. There is no nobler calling.

Doc's Clock

Copy Link

Though this San Francisco institution has moved to a new location blocks from its original spot, it maintains all its divey charm. Wander to the end of the narrow bar and back again in search of love, or just grab a seat at the bar and order bourbon on the rocks. Either way, Doc's has the medicine you need.

Ha-Ra Club

Copy Link

This somewhat civilized Tenderloin dive bar has keg tables, as in tables with kegs underneath and taps on top, that you can reserve and drink with your friends. So gather the troops, and head over for some poor decision making as a group.

Shotwell’s

Copy Link

A true neighborhood saloon, Shotwell's has a residential feel in the middle of the Mission. Inside you'll find a pool table, tables, TVs, a full bar, and lots of locals: All the makings of a true neighborhood dive.

Aunt Charlies Lounge

Copy Link

A beautifully bedraggled, dive-y drag bar in the Tenderloin where experienced, mostly queer drinkers gather for the kind of drag shows that repel bachelorette parties. Aunt Charlies, est. 1987, is a downright institution, and one of San Francisco’s few LGBT joints outside of the Castro. Celebrate it in all its gritty glory.

Specs' Twelve Adler Museum Cafe

Copy Link

Specs' Twelve Adler Museum Cafe hides in a little alleyway off of Columbus Avenue and is hosting music and poetry readings again. The decor is virtually unchanged since it opened in 1968, and unionized bartenders receive benefits and retirement, can refuse to make a drink they don't want to, kick anyone out for any reason they deem worthy, and hand out business cards letting men or women know to back off someone they're chatting up.

Li Po Cocktail Lounge

Copy Link

Though Li Po rocketed to fame when the late Anthony Bourdain deigned to grace it with his presence, it's always been a shabby, boozy establishment worthy of a special trip to Chinatown. Make sure you get one of its famous Chinese mai tais.

Thee Parkside

Copy Link

A dive bar with a great covered patio, food, and metal bands on rotation. Hang in the back for a more "au natural" dive experience, or sidle up to the shadowy inside bar for a pint and a shot. Dogs are welcome here. There's also a cute little coffee window facing the street, providing the uppers to the bar's downers.

Speakeasy Ales & Lagers

Copy Link

Rome’s Kitchen, Divine Desserts, and other small businesses serve their nosh at this Bayview fixture, and the beer flows easy to adoring fans of both the taproom and its parent company, Hunter’s Point Brewery. While the ambiance isn’t dive-y, it’s refreshing to get buzzed in an unpretentious, lax environment on the East side of the city.

Brian Stechschulte

Loading comments...

The Riptide

The Riptide is the see-and-be-seen Outer Sunset dive bar, and it’s fostered a deep community among locals — so much so that when it burned down some years ago, the whole neighborhood was distraught. Fortunately, it’s back and better than ever, with a Monday night open mic, competitively priced drinks, and a “locals-only, but maybe you, too” attitude.

Trad'r Sam's

Inside this Richmond watering hole is a tropical oasis, from the drinks to the worn rattan furniture. Knowing bartenders will provide seafarers with drinks like scorpion bowls, sugary mai tais, and Miller Lites, while old dudes at the bar scream at the Giants game. It's dark, it's divey, and it's perfect for any occasion.

The Silver Spur

This Western-ish bar couldn’t be more oddly placed in a neighborhood dominated by Asian markets and boba tea spots. It’s still managed to assemble a cast of regulars in the decades since it opened.

Little Shamrock

This Lincoln Street dive is an undeniable fixture of San Francisco’s cozy bar world. The couch-laden, dart-throwing Shamrock has been in operation for just shy of 130 years. One customer has been coming for so long they have a nameplate at their reserved seat. Grab a snack sized bag of Cheetos and stay a while.

O’Keeffe’s Bar

O’Keefe’s, a 45-year-old bar at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Balboa Street, might feel a bit intimidating for newcomers (imagine that piano-stops-playing-and-silence-falls moment in a Western). But patrons who behave themselves are quickly welcomed, quite often by Annie O’Keeffe, the bar’s owner. This isn’t the place to order a cocktail, however, as Annie has been known to tell patrons who get fancier than a Jack and Coke to stick to shots or hit the road.

Ireland's 32

Paintings of Irish revolutionaries adorn the walls. Every Wednesday one can catch the smokeshow that is karaoke at this Geary Street temple of debauchery. One talented local is known to croon “Tennessee Whiskey,” just to remind the drunk college kids whose bar it is. 

Glen Park Station

It’s really the only bar for the Glen Park neighborhood, but when you have Glen Park Station, you don’t need anywhere else. Under new ownership from a Glen Parker born-and-raised and a Dublin transplant, the bar is chugging ahead toward its centennial in 2026. There’s a fireplace, few lights to speak of, cheap beer, and a general musk that’s somehow pleasant.

Molotov's

Low ceilings, close quarters, and PBRs are part of the dive appeal at this Haight bar. Punk on the juke box, a pool table, and stiff drinks are part of the charm (or appealing lack thereof) here. The staff set up a GoFundMe to get through the pandemic, which goes right to those keeping the Molotov lit.

The 500 Club

Lynn Friedman

The 500 Club’s neon sign — with flickering lights glittering like bubbles in a glass — gives patrons a warm, fuzzy feeling. So do the drinks. The company, though not necessarily warm or fuzzy, is great, too: The bar has been a longtime favorite of bike messengers and longtime Missionites, and it still gathers to it a great collection of locals.

Lynn Friedman

Sugar Lounge

An enormous Kraken rum light-sign-advertisement thing is hung outside the bathrooms. The bartenders are stylish and terrific. The drinks are cheap, a rarity in Hayes Valley. Cool off at this vibey bar after a pricer Patxi’s pizza or cocktails from Anina.

Cinch Saloon

Still here, still queer, the Cinch is a relic of the Polk corridor’s long career as a gay nightlife neighborhood in the years before the community coalesced in the Castro. Day in and day out, the Cinch continues to draw a smattering of hard-drinkers with its gallery of gay-themed art.

Clooney's Pub

Clooney’s opens, frighteningly, at 6 a.m., the earliest it can in accordance with local liquor law. That’s theoretically to serve folks getting off their night shift, and it’s also, in practice, to serve those whose main vocation is drinking at Clooney’s. There is no nobler calling.

Doc's Clock

Though this San Francisco institution has moved to a new location blocks from its original spot, it maintains all its divey charm. Wander to the end of the narrow bar and back again in search of love, or just grab a seat at the bar and order bourbon on the rocks. Either way, Doc's has the medicine you need.

Ha-Ra Club

This somewhat civilized Tenderloin dive bar has keg tables, as in tables with kegs underneath and taps on top, that you can reserve and drink with your friends. So gather the troops, and head over for some poor decision making as a group.

Shotwell’s

A true neighborhood saloon, Shotwell's has a residential feel in the middle of the Mission. Inside you'll find a pool table, tables, TVs, a full bar, and lots of locals: All the makings of a true neighborhood dive.

Related Maps

Aunt Charlies Lounge

A beautifully bedraggled, dive-y drag bar in the Tenderloin where experienced, mostly queer drinkers gather for the kind of drag shows that repel bachelorette parties. Aunt Charlies, est. 1987, is a downright institution, and one of San Francisco’s few LGBT joints outside of the Castro. Celebrate it in all its gritty glory.

Specs' Twelve Adler Museum Cafe

Specs' Twelve Adler Museum Cafe hides in a little alleyway off of Columbus Avenue and is hosting music and poetry readings again. The decor is virtually unchanged since it opened in 1968, and unionized bartenders receive benefits and retirement, can refuse to make a drink they don't want to, kick anyone out for any reason they deem worthy, and hand out business cards letting men or women know to back off someone they're chatting up.