Despite the city's recent trend towards artisanal cocktails and high-end food, San Francisco is still a town that will always know a good place to get a drink on the cheap. Throw in some good (or just free) food and you've got a combination that will carry you from after work until you stagger home and realize there's nowhere to eat after 11 p.m. These are our favorite happy hour spots for drinking, noshing and starting the night off early.
Divisadero and Lower Haight
Shellfish fiends know where to find $1 oysters across town, but Bar Crudo's happy hour menu sees your dollar oysters and raises you $1 jalapeño marinated mussels, 2-for-$10 local rock cod tacos and a few other saltwater delicacies. Wash it all down with a $3 pint or $5 wine specials. Best of all, happy hour on Divisadero goes from 5 to 6:30 p.m., Tuesday - Sunday.
655 Divisadero Street at Grove
While there is no shortage of beer-and-a-shot deals to be had in the Lower Haight, Uva's happy hour stands out as a sit-down spot with $1.50 beers, $4 mini-carafes of wine and a rotating assortment of cheap bites from the restaurant's rustic Italian menu available at the bar Sundays through Thursdays, 5 - 6:30 p.m.
568 Haight Street at Steiner
(Photo: Two Sisters Bar & Books)
TWO SISTERS BAR & BOOKS
It's pretty tiny, and quite popular, so swinging in on the early side for happy hour is probably one of your best bets for getting a seat, or even ample standing room. Tuesday to Friday they do it from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and the deal is $3 draft beers, and $5 cocktails, which means their delicious concoctions are half price. And that deal runs all afternoon, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., on weekends.
579 Hayes Street at Laguna
The New Orleans-themed spinoff of Absinthe offers $4 Abita and Turbodog beers and $5 Cava every day until 4:30 p.m. (when the beer goes up to $5), and $1 oysters to boot. You can also get three oysters char-broiled and topped with garlic-herb butter for $10, or a basket of delicious Cajun boiled peanuts for $4.
399 Grove Street at Gough
Sports Illustrated via Facebook. Photo: Deanne Fitzmaurice
What can we tell you about the Castro happy hour scene that you don't already know? It is, to borrow a phrase from a friend's bar-owner father, the most drinkingest neighborhood we know in a pretty heavy-drinking town, and plays host to multiple daily happy hours, pretty much everywhere. Q Bar does two-for-one cocktails, well ($2.50/ea) or top-shelf ($3.50 ea), every day from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m., with $3 draft beers and $3 shots. Badlands, the Mix, and Toad Hall do the same, but just with well drinks. 440 does $2 draft beers all day and night on Tuesdays starting at noon, and two-for-one cocktails all day and night Wednesdays. Moby Dick has daily changing specials including cheap wells and drafts, but also they do two-for-one frozen margaritas all day every day, and night, and they open at noon. But our two favorites in the 'hood are:
They've got daily changing specials, and $3 well drinks like everyone else before 8 p.m. But, there's the added bonus of 25-cent Buffalo wings on Mondays, beer busts on the weekends, and plenty of sports- and jock-watching, pretend and otherwise. Also, they do a party on Thursday nights called Gym Class in which free whiskey shots get passed around, but that starts at 10.
It's usually a scene, especially on Fridays, but happy hour here means (you guessed it!) $3 well drinks and drafts from 5 to 8 p.m. on weeknights, and the fun stops when the bell tolls. There are free, serve-yourself pretzels, the option of some fine mixed and barrel-aged cocktails if you so desire (after your cheap well drinks), and they now serve Bar Jars snacks, like chicken liver mousse and pimento cheese.
THE KNOCKOUT It is impossible to toss an empty beer can without hitting a $1 or $2 PBR special in the Mission, and the Knockout is no exception here: From Monday to Friday, 7 - 9 p.m. drafts and well drinks are a buck off, but its the occasional karaoke Mondays, trivia Wednesdays and Bingo Thursdays that set this one apart. Come for the cheap drinks, stay for the rotating cast of DJs and dance nights that always veer towards the retro.
3223 Mission Street at Valencia
Established in 1902, the Homestead has more history worn into its floors than the vast majority of just-arrived Mission bars. Naturally, the place opens early for happy hour gold diggers at 2 p.m. and the daily specials ($2 beers, $3 shots) keep going until 6 p.m. with a rotating cast of nightly specials that follow afterwards. Whet your appetite for a Whiz Burger later with a bowl of roasted peanuts, which you can casually discard on that history-dusted floor.
2301 Folsom at 19th Street
PARK CHALET Way out on the western edge of Golden Gate Park, the Park Chalet serves up $3.50 pints of their house brewed beers like the Presidio IPA every Wednesday to Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. alongside endless views of Ocean Beach. To really stretch your wallet, come on Tuesdays for $2.50 tacos, two-for-one margaritas, free live music and a happy hour that runs until closing at midnight.
1000 Great Highway near John F. Kennedy Drive and Fulton Street
(Photo: The Riptide)
On days when the soul-crushing fog envelops the Outer Sunset, the fireplace at the Riptide, just steps from the Pacific Ocean is a godsend. Add in "honest drink specials" from 4 - 7 p.m. with free food every night (hot dog Tuesdays, nacho Wednesdays, DIY grilled cheese Thursdays) and you could almost make this place your new beachside home.
3639 Taraval Street at 47th Avenue
Folsom Street's Hole in the Wall (photo credit: Yelp)
THE LONE STAR
This really is one of the best bars in the city, So: shhhh. For example, their happy hour: from 2 p.m. (!) to 8 p.m., one can enjoy $3 well drinks and $2.50 domestic bottles of beer. Plus , you get to drool over the staff and enjoy the patio scene.
HOLE IN THE WALL
Folsom's dying gay scene is real and it's only getting worse. But you wouldn't know it at Hole in the Wall. This dive, a real dive, hosts a happy hour that's cheap. It's still dank and seedy in all the right ways, but not as overwhelming as, say, the Powerhouse can be. Super cheap beers during happy hour make way for a perfectly stumbling entrance into the evening.
1369 Folsom (at Tenth Street)
Monday-Friday from 4pm-6pm for, you can relish in the 5-5-5 happy hour. Basically, you can get drinks and food for $5 a serving: cocktails (like the Plum Blossom or Blanco Seco), wine, beer, and appetizers. (We strongly recommend the fried green beans!)
500 Brannan (at Fourth Street)
(photo credit: M. Thorn)
Daves''s isn't so much a dive bar as it is a regular bar. One that locals an workerbees love due in large part to the happy hour and proximity to BART/MUNI. From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. one can grab $1 off draft beer and well drinks.
29 Third Street (at Market)
HOUSE OF SHIELDS
There's no clock, no TV, but there are well-concocted cocktails made by some of the finest bartenders in the city. The place is, of course, gorgeous. One of the prettiest (not to mention oldest) bars in the city. But if you want to enjoy the happy hour, get there early. The place packs 'em in fast.
39 New Montgomery (at Market)
The bar at Uva Enoteca. (Photo: Joseph Lubushkin)
Jay Barmann and Brock Keeling also contributed to this list.