After enduring the agonizing grip of the pandemic, San Franciscans are itching to break free, socialize, and raise a glass.
This is more than welcome news for an industry that has weathered the storm over the past few years and, thankfully, a wave of fresh and exciting watering holes have sprung up to quench our collective thirst.
The new kids on the nightlife block are a dynamic mix, each adding its own flavor to the city. We've seen the rise of a pulsating Latin-inspired rooftop bar, a secretive speakeasy hidden beneath a popular Tenderloin restaurant, a free-spirited Marina haunt serving up drinks in unconventional glassware (hint: bongs), as well as several energetic wine bars.
Spread across the city, many hotspots have emerged in the booming Mission Bay neighborhood and, surprisingly, the Financial District (giving us reason to venture to that part of town again after all).
Here are the seven most exciting spots to drink in San Francisco right now.
The Felix underground speakeasy features vibrant cocktails and decor.(Courtesy of The Felix)
Bodega SF opened in the Tenderloin in 2022 as a rebirth of a Vietnamese family restaurant that had shuttered five years prior. The new, more modern version quickly won over all the cool kids. Recently, the team opened the Felix, a speakeasy in the basement of Bodega. Push a framed photo to open the door marked by a Felix the Cat and, inside, you’ll find a dimly lit lounge with yellow velvet couches, graffitied walls, and neon signs. Cocktails are playful and colorful, featuring Asian spirits and ingredients. Try the Bohemian Rhapsody, which pairs Vietnamese gin with chrysanthemum syrup and crème de sassis. The food menu currently only has two options—soft shell crab pineapple bun sliders or tom yum chex mix—with plans to expand in the future. // 138 Mason St. (Tenderloin), instagram.com/thefelixsf
Rooftops used to be hard to come by in SF, but with more than a handful opening in recent years, they are now some of the hottest places to drink in the city. Cavaña is a buzzy Latin American cocktail bar with a small but killer food menu atop the Luma Hotel in Mission Bay. Take the elevator to the 17th floor to be transported into a lively, sky-high party with sweeping bay and city views from the wrap-around deck. There are heaters and fire pits, but you can enjoy the view without the chill through floor-to-ceiling windows from the indoor bar. The cocktail menu highlights native Latin American ingredients such as purple chicha morada, mole, and purple corn. Try the guava colada for a taste of the tropics. // 100 Channel St 17th Floor (Mission Bay), cavanasf.com
Mili Wine Bar
The Financial District isn’t quite the same these days, which is why we’re happy to a non-job-related reason to visit. Longtime Silicon Valley engineer Shubhra Sarkar opened Mili, which means “meeting” Sanskrit, after making a career shift mid-pandemic. Sarkar hopes the bar will serve as a meet-up spot for people from all walks of life. The space features soaring ceilings and seats at the bar and high-top tables. Order by the glass or bottle from the global wine menu, as well as small plates including charcuterie boards, caviar, and more. // 110 Folsom St (FiDi), miliwinebar.com
Sometimes you just want to grab a drink without the fuss, somewhere between dive bar and swanky lounge; a neighborhood joint with good cocktails, solid food, and a friendly vibe. That’s what you get with Rendezvous, a new watering hole in the Marina opened by longtime bartender Shaher Misif. Nights here are full of unfussy fun. Music videos play on the TV and the intimate space encourages natural mingling. Drinks are as playful as the atmosphere. Try the Netflix and Chill (butter-washed bourbon in a classic red-and-white striped popcorn box) or the popular Mind Blazer, a tequila shooter infused with pineapple and served in a glass bong. The food menu is small but surprisingly fresh and filling. // 2030 Lombard St. (Marina), sfrendezvous.com
Novelty glassware abound at Rendezvous in the Marina.(Courtesy of Rendezvous)
Also new in FiDi, Heartwood centers around the natural beauty of California. The 2,000-square-foot space, which dates back to 1907, underwent significant restoration to preserve its brick walls, original floors, and wood beams. Murals by artist Leah Tumerman feature local flora. From behind the silver oak bar, bartenders craft nature-inspired cocktails using local plants, fruits, herbs, and spices. The shareable plates are extensive and diverse—everything from Thai curry soup to pigs in a blanket—but there’s also a full lunch and dinner menu with salads, pastas, sandwiches, and plenty of plant-based options. Of the roughly dozen cocktails available (plus a selection of soda-based high-balls and a seasonal slushy), the Apple Propaganda is probably the most popular drink. // 531 Commercial St. (FiDi), heartwoodsf.com
One of the city’s hottest new wine bars is inside Thrive City. Opened by Rebecca Fineman and Chris Gaither, the master sommelier husband-and-wife pair behind Dogpatch's Ungrafted, GluGlu features both traditional and unconventional wines from around the world, with an emphasis on sustainable, small-production, and women- and minority-owned wineries. You'll also find beer, sake, traditional rice beverages, and ciders. Solid wine is no surprise here, but the level of deliciousness found on the food menu is. Chef David Aviles, who previously ran a two-Michelin-star team in Chicago, is crafting the small but mighty menu packed with Mediterranean flavors. // 7 Warriors Way, ste. 202 (Mission Bay), gluglusf.com
The pandemic took out a lot of the city’s late-night dining options, and Dragon Horse in SoMa aims to fulfill that need by offering cocktails, sushi, skewers, and more until 1am six days a week. Japanese ingredient-focused craft cocktails include the Smoked Umami, and the Framing Dragon comprised of rose baijiu, gin, hot pot cordial, coconut oolong tea, yuzu and lime. The food menu includes sushi rolls, sashimi, nigiri, gyoza, and ramen. Bonus points for a private karaoke room where you can sing away with your friends until 2am. // 917 Folsom St (SoMa), dragonhorsesf.com