Boozing in San Francisco

Like deciding where to eat in San Francisco, deciding where to drink is also a tough one!  Here are some of Dan and my favorites!  Cellarmaker and Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar were particularly enjoyable!

Cellarmaker Brewing Company – My favorite of our drinking stops! Cellarmaker is a small brewery (no bottles/cans) in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco that specializes in small batch, speciality brews.  The Tenderloin area, which has just the most awesome name, is not the safest part of San Francisco, but the brewery was not in a bad area. Cellarmaker consists of a small tasting room with a large TV showcasing the seasonal sporting event – in our case baseball! They do not serve food, just pints and growlers of beer.  When we visited, Cellarmaker served a number of strong, interesting beers, many of which took advantage of West Coast hops. We loved Cellarmaker and would recommend it to anyone in the San Francisco area who enjoys beer!  Here are some pictures:

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21st Amendment Brewery – 21st Amendment is one of the more commercialized San Francisco craft breweries.  You know this one – the watermelon beer in a can!  I was never a huge fan of 21st Amendment, as I found their beers to be somewhat plain and never too exciting….  Well, let me tell you, that’s not exactly the case.  21st Amendment makes some really great beer (mostly on the IPA spectrum) that apparently don’t make it to the East Coast!  Dan and I each got a sampler (you get to choose your own samples) and then stayed for a full pint since we liked it so much!  We also split tater tots and fried cheese curds…YUM!  This place is pretty close to the Giant’s baseball stadium and apparently gets really crowded during their games.  If its nice out, they have limited outdoor seating.

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Hard Water – This one is for the whiskey lovers.  Hard Water is a swanky whiskey bar located in the trendy Embarcadero district.  The bar itself is not too big and specializes in whiskey.  Seriosuly, they have an entire wall of whiskey from floor to ceiling; there are ladders to reach the very top shelf.  The whiskey menu is in an actual book, and I have to imagine they have almost any whiskey one could want!  Since I am not a huge whiskey fan, I took advantage of their limited wine list and cocktail menu.  They make really fancy cocktails!  They also do whiskey samplers if you can’t make up your mind.  If you are just looking for drinks, I do not think you need a reservation, but it was pretty crowded when we went.  Small plates are also served.  Definitely stop here if you are a whiskey fan or are looking for a cool spot for a cocktail!  Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures!

Zeitgeist – The Zeitgeist. I saw this on Anthony Bourdain. I really did not plan to visit, but it turned out to be fairly close to where we stayed, so we ended up wandering in one afternoon. This is one bizarre bar. It looks like an old, scary biker bar from the front and then opens into a beer garden in the back. True to its looks, the front really is a biker bar, complete with motorcyclists, dressed like motorcyclists, most of whom are drinking and playing pool. They were at least nice. The back of the bar opens up into a huge beer garden, which has a lot of potential  – big and sunny. However, the crowd is very young and very “basic.” Not exactly our style. I would have preferred the bikers. In any case, Zeitgeist does have a great beer selection and fantastic bloody marys!   Go here if you are 22, looking to meet 22 year olds, or are an actual biker.  Also, if you are looking to drink at 9:00 a.m., because that’s when it opens!

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Li Po – Li Po is a somewhat shady-looking bar near the Dragon’s Gate in Chinatown. The bar has recently become famous due to a visit from Anthony Bourdain and another show.  It has also won several “best dive bar” awards.  We stopped in on a Sunday afternoon and it was packed with tourists, and we were all there for the same drink – the Chinese Mai Tai!  The Chinese Mai Tai is just a frozen drink that the bar tender makes repeatedly.  At a cost of $9 each, its not a bad deal on her end (cash only!). Honestly though, it was not that delicious. We stopped in right when the bar opened at 2:00 p.m. and snagged a seat at the bar. 15 minutes later it was standing room only. This certainly makes for a fun stop, especially for a bachelorette/bachelor/birthday party, but I would not come back just for the drink.  Go when you visit Chinatown!

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The Buena Vista Cafe – Appropriate for those needing an adult beverage after (or before) the chaos of Fisherman’s Wharf, the Buena Vista Cafe is a pub or sorts, located between Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square (just where the cable car line terminates).  The Buena Vista Cafe is said to be the original birthplace of Irish Coffee and they serve them up throughout the day.  This restaurant is often crowded, but you can go straight in and grab a seat at the bar without a long wait.  Even if you are not in need of a drink, this makes for a fun break from sightseeing.  Food also served.  This was also noted in my San Francisco Bucket List post.


The Original Irish Coffee


The Making of the Irish Coffee – an attraction in itself!


The Buena Vista

The Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar – Also mentioned at length in my Where to Eat in San Francisco post, the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar is a bar and restaurant in the basement of the Fairmount Hotel.  In short, it is an elaborate tiki room, complete with a pool, a boat in the pool, and a three man band on the boat in the pool!  The Hurricane Bar makes crazy fun cocktails and also serves the standard beer and wine fare.  There is a small dance floor that actually gets crowded!  Per my other post, its easiest to get in if you make a dinner reservation and then go to the bar after.  If not, prepare to wait in line to get into the bar!

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Napa – Finally, Napa must be on your list!  A whole area dedicated to California drinking!  See my post on Napa Valley Wine Tasting for specifics!

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Steal Our Trip

Cellarmaker Brewing Company – 1150 Howard St (between 7th and 8th), San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 863-3940,  Closed Monday.

21st Amendment – 563 2nd Street San Francisco, CA 94107, Phone: 415-369-0900

Hard Water – Pier 3, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, Tel: 415-392-3021

Zeitgeist – 199 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94103, Bar Phone: (415) 255-7505.  Open everyday from 9 a.m. – 2 a.m.

Li Po Cocktail Lounge – 916 Grant Ave., San Francisco, California.  Open 2:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. everyday.

The Buena Vista Cafe – 765 Hyde St (@ Beach), San Francisco, CA 94109, Phone: 415-474-5044
Email:, M-F 9am-2am, Weekends 8am-2am

The Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar – 950 Mason St. San Francisco, CA 94108. T: (415) 772-5278.

On A Budget

Honestly, none of these were that expensive.  I think Cellarmaker Brewing is the best deal, as you can get strong, delicious beer for a pretty decent price.

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