Can one person drink at every bar in San Francisco?

Bars with Patios

Gold Dust Meridian – Portland, OR


I can’t get over all of the amazing patios at bars here. Enjoying this gorgeous Spring weather while drinking a Dukes of Hazzard themed cocktail.


Forbes Island

Touristy? Yup. Sea sick inducing? That too. Fantastic, unbelievable, and extraordinary? All of the above.

My crummy cell phone photos can’t begin to do justice to the magical place that is Forbes Island. The adventure began with elbowing my way through SF sweatshirt wearing tourists on Pier 39. At H dock I found a mysterious phone, which I used to call the captain of the Forbes Island shuttle to ferry our group across a short stretch of water to the semi-submerged bar and restaurant.

We disembarked on a tiny floating beach, with a 40 foot lighthouse offering breathtaking views of the Bay. There is a small, glass-enclosed private dining room on the beach, but we took the stairwell down into the belly of the beast. At the bottom, we were greeted with a full bar and dining room covered in nautical decor, with heavily beamed ceilings and mirrors that intensified the instant motion sickness that about a third of our group felt.

Despite our wooziness, we had a rollicking good time. It is impossible not to get caught up in the mystery of this weird and amazing space. I enjoyed two delicious negronis before dining on steak and chocolate mousse cake. I think it took about two and a half hours to get over my sea sickness, but once it was over I never wanted to leave. Don’t take my word for it, as I find it hard to describe what we felt on Forbes Island. Brave the tourist center of San Francisco and see the island for yourself.

Forbes Island

Pier 41
San Francisco, CA 94133

(415) 951-4900

Red Jack Saloon – North Beach

Walking into the Red Jack Saloon is like stepping across the continent into an East Coast college sports bar. I can’t put my finger on any one thing that makes it so, but when I told my drinking buddy my opinion, he told me the owner is a big fan of some East Coast sports team. Which I guess means they succeeded admirably in their effort to create a very specific drinking atmosphere. I almost expected characters from Animal House to come through the bar in togas. (more…)

Valley Tavern – Noe Valley

I found Valley Tavern while on a historic walking tour of Noe Valley put on by the Public Library’s City Guides. It turns out Noe Valley was built as a suburb (big surprise) so most of the tour focused on the different styles of housing and how to tell the work of specific architects. (I highly recommend all of the FREE tours put on by City Guides.) While walking through the neighborhood, I realized there are several cute neighborhood bars that I never checked out when I lived in Noe many moons ago.

Valley Tavern is your standard neighborhood pub, brightly lit with lots of space, a good variety of beers on draft and two pool tables. On a beautiful, warm Sunday the bar was surprisingly not crowded, despite the delightful beer garden in the back.

The one aspect of Valley Tavern that was not so delightful was the plethora of televisions ranged around the bar. If you are a big sports fan, then this bar is probably right up your alley, but if you are looking to relax on a lazy Sunday, having numerous TV’s within your sight with the volume up is pretty distracting. They even have a television with the volume on in the beer garden! All the TV’s make Valley Tavern feel a bit like a hetero version of several Castro bars, with constant sports instead of Lady GaGa videos.

Their beautiful beer garden was also filled with yuppies working out of the bar, either plugged into their laptops or yapping loudly about real estate deals into their cell phones. While I enjoyed drinking a pint in the noon day sun, I couldn’t help but wish I had brought blinders and ear plugs with me to block out all of the workoholics who were harshing my mellow.

Valley Tavern

4054 24th St
(between Castro St & Noe St)
San Francisco, CA 94114
Neighborhood: Noe Valley

(415) 285-0674

Savoy Tivoli – North Beach

Savoy Tivoli was an unexpected find, a quiet bar without television on a night when all of North Beach was going berserk for baseball. While the bartender was obviously jonesing for updates on the game, my North Beach tour guide and I were happy to find a quiet oasis on such a busy stretch of street . (more…)

Mix – Castro

Mix is like two bars in one, which suits my short attention span just fine. Inside is a typical dark neighborhood bar with an older crowd watching tv and listening to classic rock. Outside is a gorgeous patio with lots of seating and a younger crowd drinking to dance music. (more…)