Tips to Avoid the Tourist Track
San Francisco has a lot of bars. I mean, we have a LOT of bars. Drinking is a very popular activity in this city. Most of our bars are pretty typical. But some of them provide that something extra, that “Only in San Francisco” experience, that all true adventure tourists seek. Fortunately for you, gentle reader, I’ve painstakingly researched many bars to bring you the top three. You’re welcome.
The Biker Bar (photo: www.flintexpats.com)
The Zeitgeist attracts all kinds of two-wheel enthusiasts – bicyclists, motorcycle riders, and their many fans. Inside, you’ll find a huge selection of craft beers at dive-bar prices, a pool table, and their famous kitchen that serves up really good burgers. They also play a lot of good punk music inside, which I personally think is a nice change from your average bar’s pop-rock.
But the huge outdoor patio is where the Zeitgeist really shines. It’s the reason why locals flock here on sunny days. The seating is all long picnic tables, which means that your group of people will be forced to sit next to an unknown group of people. This communal seating arrangement makes for some very natural conversation merging and mingling. By the time you leave, you’ll probably have made some new friends.
Also, the Bloody Marys here are some of best in the city. They’re pretty spicy, and since this is a punk bar you probably shouldn’t request yours with less Tabasco. Just sip it slowly – the generous portions of vodka and the enormous amount of vegetables they pile on top make this a “only need one the entire night” kind of drink.
The Lesbian Bar (photo: www.yelp.com)
The Lexington is THE ONLY lesbian bar in the city. That is, unless you count Wild Side West, which most people don’t count because it’s all the way in Bernal Heights. Anyway, since the Lex (as we call it) is the only lesbian bar in the city, that makes it THE Lesbian Bar In The City. If you’re a lesbian and you live in SF, you probably go here on a regular basis. There is a funky, dive-bar atmosphere, with random art on the walls and graffiti-filled bathrooms. But that’s not why anyone comes here. They come for the girls. SO many girls. There’s a glamorous scene here, with smoking-hot butches and gorgeous femmes decked out in their sexiest outfits.
The coolest thing about the Lex is that 90% of the people at this bar at any given time are lesbians. You won’t find very many men here, and if you do, they’re probably gay. This means you can make out with your girlfriend for 10 minutes, and when you finally come up for air, you will have zero people staring at you.
There is a dark side to this, though – men aren’t usually made to feel welcome here, and may be given rude stares by indignant lesbians. Even straight girls get the cold shoulder here pretty regularly. It’s kind of uncool, but it does work pretty well to keep the bar a safe environment free of creepers. My advice: if you’re a guy, go to the Zeitgeist instead.
The Classy Piano Bar (photo: www.yelp.com)
Martuni’s is the best bar to go to when you are feeling classy. Personally, I am a dive-bar enthusiast, partly because classy places make me feel a little uncomfortable. But this bar manages to be classy and totally down-to-earth at the same time.
This place has perfected the fruity martini: vodka, fresh fruit juice, and large hunks of fruit garnishing your drink.
But the main reason people come here is the karaoke. Instead of a karaoke machine, they have a professional pianist who will play along to whatever song you choose. This, in turn, attracts some very talented singers, and some highly enthusiastic karaoke fans. When a favorite song comes on, pretty much everyone in the entire bar sings along.
They’re not technically a gay bar, but being near the Castro, serving fruity drinks, and having a large amount of show tunes in your karaoke booklet means that a large amount of people here happen to be gay. If you are too, that’s just one more reason to come here.