When it comes to dive bars in San Francisco, it can be hard to find a spot that has the vibe you are looking for. There are plenty of bars in the city that may seem like that dive bar spot you’re craving but still have those overpriced cocktails and tourist crowds.
If you’re visiting San Francisco and want to hang out at a local dive bar or live here in the city and need a new spot, we’ve put together a list of the best dive bars in San Francisco to help you out. We have done our best to include the best dive bars in multiple neighborhoods throughout the city. Read until the end for our all-time favorite dive bar in San Francisco!
Not sure which neighborhoods to visit? Learn more about San Francisco’s neighborhoods here.
Trad’r Sam’s (Outer Richmond)
Located on Geary in Outer Richmond, Trad’r Sam’s is one of the most classic dive bars in all of San Francisco. It definitely has the dark and divey vibe you are probably looking for, as well as multiple televisions for all your sport watching needs. Here you will be able to enjoy local beers and tiki-styled cocktails as well as the local Outer Richmond crowd.
Shanghai Kelly’s (Nob Hill)
Heading over to Nob Hill on Polk Street you will find Shanghai Kelly’s, a local favorite. This simple and smaller dive bar has some impressive daily happy hour deals and is a favorite stop for locals as they make their way down Polk Street. They do have a full bar and can make a tasty margarita, but this is much more of a beer and a shot kind of place than one where you will find fancy cocktails.
Cinch Saloon (Nob Hill)
One of the only gay bars in the area, Cinch Saloon is also on Polk Street and is absolutely worth checking out. Cinch was the center of the queer Polk Street world before the community migrated to the famous Castro neighborhood. Today, you can find the local crowd huddled around a pitcher of beer or margaritas while admiring the gay-themed art on the walls.
Fly Bar (NOPA)
One of the best, most relaxing, and most entertaining dive bars in San Francisco is Fly Bar on Divisadero. Enjoy the local NOPA crowd with a beer and a shot, play a game of pool, or stop by for trivia night on Mondays. You’ll find most of the local service industry crowd here so you may even get some inside tips on your next stop in the neighborhood!
Sugar Lounge (Hayes Valley)
While it can be hard to find a comfy dive bar with affordable drinks in Hayes Valley, we’ve done it. Sugar Lounge is one of our favorite dive bars in the city because it’s smaller, has decent drinks, and it’s affordable in one of the more expensive neighborhoods. Enjoy the rum theme throughout the bar and the fun bartenders to go with it!
Aunt Charlie’s Lounge (TL)
If you find yourself wandering around the Tenderloin and are looking for a safe haven, then head to Aunt Charlie’s. One of the best gay bars in the downtown area, Aunt Charlie’s has everything you need for a fun night: good drinks and good people. Make sure you check out their drag shows and hang out with the queens afterwards!
Ha-Ra Club (TL)
Looking for more of a laid-back dive bar experience in the Tenderloin? Make your way over to the Ha-Ra Club on Geary. What used to be a hole in the wall now has decent outdoor seating, making the local watering hole more known to tourists. Enjoy a game of pool and great people watching in this dark and divey spot.
Of course, one of the more well-known dive bars in San Francisco is Zeitgeist. Down on Valencia Street in the Mission, this classic dive bar is known for having over sixty beers on tap and sassy bartenders. They do occasionally have live music on their outdoor patio, which is always a great excuse for some day drinking in the Mission!
The Saloon (North Beach)
If you’re looking for a classic dive bar with some impressive history, then your next stop needs to be The Saloon in North Beach. Located right on Grant Avenue, The Saloon claims to be the oldest bar in San Francisco and opened back in 1861. Whether or not they are actually the oldest bar in the city, and there is quite a bit of debate around this subject, it absolutely feels like an old-school bar. The bartenders are classic, the drinks are simple but good, and there’s almost always live music being played in the corner.
North Beach is favorite of many locals (including me!). Explore more places to visit in A Guide to Exploring Food + Drinks In San Francisco’s North Beach.
Li Po Cocktail Lounge (Chinatown)
One of the best dive bars in Chinatown is by far Li Po Cocktail Lounge. It is easily spotted with its semi-grand archway door and is definitely a small dive bar with a local crowd. Though its popularity did increase after Anthony Bourdain’s visit, the atmosphere remains dark, shabby, and unique.
Try one of their famous trademarked Chinese Mai Tais. Because what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger, right?
The Riptide (Outer Sunset)
And last but not least, our favorite dive bar in San Francisco has to be The Riptide. It is by far the most relaxed, chill, and local atmosphere, especially since the Outer Sunset gets you away from the city chaos altogether. Make sure you stop by on Monday nights for a very entertaining open mic!
Don’t be afraid to take a chance and ask the local next to you for their favorite spot in the city! It may turn out that they have an amazing suggestion.
So with that, always tip your bartenders and enjoy our favorite dive bars in San Francisco!