Guest Author: Annika Mattsson
Whether you’re a San Francisco local or just visiting, it becomes apparent pretty quickly that the City by the Bay is rather pricey. Yet among the extravagant restaurants and swanky lounges, reasonably priced bars can be found—if you know where to look. If you’re on a budget (or just appreciate a cheap drink to unwind after work) no doubt you already know the joys of Happy Hour. After a long day of working, or a long day of sightseeing, nothing winds up a busy day in SF quite like a cheap cocktail with good friends. I’ve compiled a list of my favorite Happy Hours in the city—places where you can enjoy a drink and take in some local color without paying typical San Francisco prices. So here they are, in no particular order…my top 7 Happy Hours spots in San Francisco.
1. Sugar, Hayes Valley. Sugar Lounge has the unique distinction of being the only Happy Hour on the list to provide a spread of free food (!!) along with cheap drinks. The inside lighting is lovely and inviting, the perfect place to meet a friend or a date for a drink and a snack. The free appetizers range from teriyaki chicken skewers, sweet potato French fries, chocolate covered strawberries, and more. You can get your drink on with $3 beers and $5 well drinks, and you won’t go home hungry!
2. Fly Bar, NOPA and Nob Hill (two locations). Fly Bar’s Happy Hour in San Francisco is practically famous. Their Happy Hour is 7 days a week from 3:30 to 6:30, making it the perfect place to hit after work or relax at on a Sunday afternoon. Enjoy $3 draft beers, sangria, and sake cocktails while you check out the rotating art that makes up Fly Bar’s unique décor. Don’t forget to order a pizza as well, they are ½ off during Happy Hour and absolutely delish. Grab a friend, get some drinks, share a pizza—and go home with plenty of money still in your pocket.
3. Olive, Tenderloin/Nob Hill. Ok, the Tenderloin isn’t my favorite neighborhood. In fact, I think I can safely say that it is my least favorite neighborhood. But along the grimy sidewalks, and just a few blocks north of Civic Center is a gem of a martini bar called Olive. Walking through the door, you leave the Tenderloin behind to enter a stylish bar offering top-notch martinis for the Happy Hour price of $5, Monday through Friday, 5-7. Enjoy a classic Olive martini, or something more indulgent like the Chocolate Hazelnut martini. No matter what you choose, you can’t go wrong with these quality libations at Happy Hour prices. Be sure to check out the discounted appetizers as well. Their famous Wild Mushroom and Truffle Oil Pizza is to die for.
4. Amelie, Russian Hill. As far as wine bars go, Amelie is among my favorites in San Francisco. The wine list is extensive, the bar tenders are friendly, and the décor is modern with a touch of French elegance. Happy Hour during the week, 5:30-7, includes a $10 Flight of three wines (your choice), along with a small appetizer. The bartenders clearly know their wine, and are always ready with a friendly recommendation. This place gets a bit crowded later at night, but at Happy Hour there is room to relax and enjoy the ambiance. Wine snobs welcome.
5. Elbo Room, Mission. Elbo Room boasts “San Francisco’s longest Happy Hour” from 5-9PM, every day. Draft pints are just $2, all other drinks are $1 off—and the drinks are pretty cheap to begin with! Live music plays on any given night, so check out their calendar to pick your favorite genre. It’s the kind of place where a Happy Hour drink or two can lead to an entire night of fun.
6. Madrone Art Bar, NOPA. Madrone is part bar and part alternative art space, focusing on every art medium in rotating installments. Not only is this bar aesthetically engaging, but it’s also a great place to enjoy Happy Hour between 4-8 (every day!). Well drinks are only $4, mojitos are $5, and for all you PBR drinkers out there, you can get one for just $2 bucks. The space is full of comfy couches, so feel free to settle in and enjoy the art scene.
7. The Tipsy Pig, Marina. When I wandered into the Tipsy Pig around Happy Hour a few weeks ago, I wasn’t necessarily looking for drink deals. My main concern was taking advantage of the beautiful San Francisco weather, and I knew that the Tipsy Pig boasts an outdoor patio in the back. It’s not uncommon for bars to nix the Happy Hour specials on Mondays, so you can imagine my surprise when I found a note at the bottom of the wine list—“All bottles ½ price on Mondays between 5 and 7.” This is one of the better deals you’ll find in the Marina, and it gave us the chance to try a pricier bottle for a much lower price. The deal is only on Mondays, but it’s a great way to start your week.
There are many more spectacular Happy Hours throughout the city, and I encourage you to explore. I chose these 7 bars specifically because each one offers a nice venue, low prices, and (in most cases) some good food to go along with your discounted drink. SF is expensive, but it is also diverse, which means that this city has something to offer to almost everyone—even those of us on a budget.
Thanks so much for your well-tested info Annika!
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