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4 SF Restaurant Bars That Steal The Dining Room's Show

The Boxing Room. Photo by Eva Frye

As San Francisco restaurants pull off intricate tasting menus and wine pairing contortionism in their dining rooms, the bar area continues to be a place for chefs and bartenders to loosen their (purely proverbial) ties. Secret menus, raw bars, wine on-tap, fancy burgers, gratis bites and no reservations—this is restaurant bar eating in San Francisco. And here's what's happening now .

With master bartendress Brooke Arthur at the helm and a rather gorgeous horseshoe design, Prospect's choice bar seats have been the restaurant's secret weapon since day one. About a week ago, they formalized an under-the-radar "secret" bar menu, offering all sorts of goodies you can't get in the main dining room. Chef Ravi Kapur tries his hand at a diner-style burger and a high brow take on buffalo wings: fried quail with homemade blue cheese dressing. 

The 24 seats at Boxing Room's freshly minted undulating, zinc-top bar already looked like the most prized seats in the house. With 20 beers and six wines on tap, rapper-cool faux alligator stools and a full raw bar with peel-n-eat shrimp, seriously, how many more bells and whistles can you get? 

Starting Tuesday, Fifth Floor chef David Bazirgan reveals his Massachusets roots in a brand-new "Homage to New England" menu, including a Maine lobster roll, Rhode Island clam cakes and New England Clam chowder. To round it out, the bar will start doing an upscale spin on happy hour, offering specialty cocktails for $5 along with free bites like beef tartare on crostini. "Cocktail party" hours are every night of the week, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. 

Twenty Five Lusk's subterreanean Jetson-esque bar area is one of the few spots in San Francisco where you can feel transported to Los Angeles, if you're into that sort of thing. Recently, bar manager Ross Wheatley has scaled up his beer offerings to include brews you wouldn't normally find in a restaurant, like a Maudite ale from Quebec's Unibroue Brewing Company. Bartenders are trained up in the nuances of beer-and-food pairings, so they know an Allagash white ale is the best thing for mini lobster rolls. And now that they've started serving the full dinner menu and weekly-changing tasting menu at the bar on Sunday through Wednesday nights, there's even more reason to stay underground.