On late afternoons when the wind picks up and the fog rolls in, sometimes you just want a quiet place to enjoy a cold beer, hot food, a friend or two, and a game on TV. What you want, my friend, is a pub.
Fortunately, for those of us who live in San Francisco, there’s at least one great pub within walking distance for nearly every neighborhood. Here are a few of our favorite places to enjoy a proper pint.
Pig and Whistle, Inner Richmond
It cannot be a coincidence that the foggiest districts have the best pubs. This Inner Richmond spot hits all the right notes: a long bar and wooden tables in the main area and a back room for quieter conversations; a solid collection of classic draughts including Boddington's, Guiness, and Newcastle; and traditional pub grub such as fish and chips, bangers and mash, shepherd's pie, and Cornish pasties. In addition to sports on a few TVs, and well-attended trivia nights on Wednesdays and Sundays, the Pig and Whistle sponsors softball and soccer teams and—wait for it—its own cricket team, The Piggies! // 2801 Geary Boulevard at Wood Street, pig-and-whistle.com
White Horse Tavern and Restaurant, Union Square
This Union Square gem offers a great getaway when you need to escape the hordes of tourists and shoppers. Relax in a sanctuary that has a casual feel, a stellar beer selection, and a pub menu with offerings somewhere between grub and gastro. // 635 Sutter St, inside the Hotel Beresford, beresford.com/beresford/restaurant.htm
The Black Horse London Pub, Cow Hollow
With less than 200 square feet to work with, The Black Horse has only nine stools, the food menu consists of a cheese plate only, there is one cask beer on draft, and the remaining bottled and canned stock is iced in a claw-foot bathtub behind the bar. Whether it’s the pint-sized space or the winning choreography of James and Cassandra, who work the bar, you will leave entertained and restored from a visit to this neighborhood spot. The bar fosters conviviality, conversation, and the occasional 1-4-24 dice game. There’s also a dart board, though you might be re-enacting William Tell to use it. A few other items to note before visiting: Cell phone use is forbidden, men are expected to give up their seats to women, and the bar is cash only. If you’ve never been to this pub before, don’t wait for a foggy day, just go. // 1514 Union St, blackhorselondon.com
Edinburgh Castle Pub, Tenderloin
This spacious Tenderloin pub does double-duty as a club on the weekends, but during the week it’s a spacious cavern perfect for enjoying a few quiet pints with friends. There are also occasional trivia nights and in late-January they host a memorable version of (Robert) Burns Night, complete with bagpipes, whisky, poems, and songs by the national poet of Scotland, and the carving of the haggis. // 950 Geary St between Larkin and Polk, thecastlesf.com
The Chieftain Irish Pub & Restaurant, SoMa
This SOMA pub has surprisingly good food, an excellent selection of brews, and a chill vibe. It’s a great after work stop to enjoy a pint, unwind, and catch a game. // 198 5th St, thechieftain.com
The Kezar Pub, Cole Valley
Hands down the best pub in the city for watching international sports, Kezar not only has plenty of well-positioned TVs but their web site has a constantly updated viewing schedule. Kezar sometimes opens as early as 5:00am on weekdays for important matches and records off-hours major European sporting events to show later while the bar is open. This Cole Valley pub boasts an extensive beer selection and excellent wings. Their sister bar in the Lower Haight, Mad Dog in the Fog, has a similar vibe. // 770 Stanyan St, thekezarpub.com
The Napper Tandy, Mission
Named for an 18th century Irish revolutionary, this popular Mission pub offers all you can eat fish and chips on Mondays, a competitive pub quiz on Wednesdays, a pool table, a solid bar menu of food and beverage staples, and a liver-flushing Irish breakfast on the weekends. // 3200 24th St.
The Little Shamrock, Inner Sunset
One of the oldest bars in America, this Inner Sunset pub first started pouring in 1863. Regulars at the bar appreciate the snug atmosphere, darts and board games, great prices on beer, and the ponderous selection of Ireland’s finest “waters of life.” // 807 Lincoln Way at 9th Ave.