Whether drowning sorrows on your lonesome or slumming it with friends, dive bars are good for a lot of occasions. Firstly, they're often cheaper than their mixology-obsessed counterparts in tonier parts of town. Secondly, they're no bullshit. And in the San Francisco of 2016, wherein finding dinner for less than $50 has become a legit challenge, and where your rent has likely taken a big bite out of your drinking budget, dive bars are more essential to the fabric of the city than ever before.

Therefore, we must bring you this important list of the most comfortable and/or notable and/or delightfully shitty gin joints within our 49 (ish) square miles. Don't bother telling anyone we sent you, because they will not care.

500 Club
A Mission neighborhood classic, the 500 Club remains one of my favorite bars in the city, partly because there is nothing special about it. The vinyl on the booths is ripped, the bartenders aren't that friendly unless you're a regular, and there are usually too many TVs on, drawing your attention away from whomever you're with. But it's a good time, the drinks are cheap, and there's a cozy area in back with a fireplace that doesn't work. As for the sign outside that proclaims that it opens at 6 a.m., that has not been the case in many years. They do open at 10 a.m. on Sundays, and Yelp has them opening at 11 a.m. most days, though they have other hours posted on their website, and claim they're going to start opening at 9 a.m. daily "due to popular demand," but we'll have to see it to believe it. —Jay Barmann
500 Guerrero Street (at 17th Street)


Aunt Charlie's Lounge
Unlike most of the gay bars that used to dot the city outside the Castro, Aunt Charlie's has held on, on a still very sketchy block of Turk Street in the Tenderloin. The place has been a gay bar for at least 37 years (it was called Queen Mary's Pub as of 1979), and for two decades it's been an old-school drag cabaret venue on weekends and alternate Wednesdays, and it's caught on among the hip kids who frequent the Tuesday party High Fantasy and Tubesteak Thursdays (now in its twelfth year). But check this place out on a Friday or Saturday afternoon, and you will get to talk to a few of the well pickled regulars on drink number two or three, before they become totally non-verbal. — Jay Barmann
133 Turk Street near Taylor

(Photo: Mission Mission)

The Blind Cat
Some of you maybe knew this place as Dirty Thieves, but the owner lost a bet a couple years ago and had to change the name to The Blind Cat. The spirit and grunginess of the place is still the same, with a good whiskey and rye selection, a great jukebox, pool, and some booths you probably don't want to touch too much. And as SF Weekly noted when they voted this the Best Place for Whiskey in Peace, the prices aren't bad and it's the kind of place where you hide out and be left alone, should that be your goal for the evening. It's also the kind of place where the bartenders will sneer at you if you try to order anything that resembles a Mojito. — Jay Barmann
3050 24th Street at Treat

Photo via Yelp.

Broken Record Bar
This Crocker-Amazon drinks spot has pretty much everything you could want from a dive, with cheap drinks, a pool table, a sunny back patio, and a killer kitchen. There's a reason Broken Record tops a bunch of "best of" lists, and add all that to the killer veggie burger and tots (and plenty of meat options), and you see why this spot rightly draws a crowd. Also, it's not every dive bar that offers Whiskey Wednesday specials involving curated flights of the good stuff. So head over, bask in the sun, and enjoy yourself. — Jack Morse
1166 Geneva Avenue (at Edinburgh Street)

A sign on the Cinch's patio. Photo: Yelp

The Cinch
Though it may be surviving by the good graces and green money of straight people who stumble in here by accident (just look at the most recent Yelp reviews), The Cinch remains a gay bar, and one of the oldest in town, holding its own on upper Polk Street where it used to keep company with other gay bars, bathhouses, and many, many prostitutes. Gay boys from the 'Loin and Russian Hill still make their way here, and hopefully it'll outlast by a long time its other remaining cohort in the 'hood, The Gangway, which looks like it's not long for this world. In any event, if you're not gay, don't get offended by one particular piece of artwork involving a sexual situation between a sexy lion and a muscular man. — Jay Barmann
1723 Polk Street between Washington and Clay

(Photo: Jeremy Brooks)

Clooney's Pub
As the sun rises, so does your blood alcohol level: Clooney's is open at 6 a.m. Dan Lyons, who purchased the place in 1995, says lots of the early bird customers work nights. "We get a lot of nurses and doctors from General Hospital," he told the Chronicle's old-man columnist C. W. Nevius. "Mail sorters, cabdrivers on the shift change. Their happy hour is 6 to 9 in the morning, not 6 to 9 at night." Though some previous pop-ups have passed through the place, they still do breakfast, apparently. — Caleb Pershan
1401 Valencia Street (at 25th Street)

The Dovre Club
The Dovre Club is an Irish bar, and not just in the sense that the Pogues are on the jukebox, but also in spirit and history. It's an identity that's served the bar well since 1966 at its previous location on 18th street in what's now entirely the Women's Building, and that survived the move down to the intersection of 26th and Valencia in 1998. Regulars — there are very many regulars — enjoy the cheap drinks and laid back atmosphere. And they do play the Pogues on the jukebox. —Caleb Pershan
1498 Valencia Street at 26th Street

Flanahan's Pub: Hansen L./Yelp

Flanahan's Pub
I was thinking, as I started writing my picks, that any dive bar with a website isn't actually a dive bar. But Flanahan's has a website! So maybe they're more a "neighborhood" bar than a dive bar (longform meditation on the distinction TK)? It's a cozy Outer Sunset place populated by surfers, old Irish guys, and a sprinkling of the women who love either (or both). Sometimes they have free hot dogs, good luck with those! — Eve Batey
3805 Noriega St, between 45th and 46th Avenues

Photo: Andrew W./Yelp

The Geary Club
Where do you go when you're already hammered and you think you need one more shot of Fernet at 1:45 a.m.? The Geary Club! The elderly, often drunk barmaids in this quintessential hole-in-the-wall really give the place its charm, and they will arm wrestle you — one of them, East German ex-pat Lillian, gives exactly zero fucks about anything. It tends to get concise Yelp reviews along the lines of, "This place is a shithole... but that's why it's good." In years past, they allowed smoking, but that is no longer, and the crowd tends to be only in-the-know people from the neighborhood escaping busier scenes elsewhere, as well as a few old-timers who tend to cash out early, as old-timers do. — Jay Barmann
768 Geary Street between Hyde and Leavenworth

Photo: Meg W./Yelp

Harry Harrington's Pub
It's no coincidence that several of the city's more elderly dives are clustered around the Tenderloin, where their clientele can still afford to live. Harrington's borders Civic Center and you know what you're supposed to do here? Drink. Drink and watch sports. They pour a decent Guinness, there's a random fish tank. And they serve food from a little stand up front, food of the hot dog and meatball sub variety that does not require a full kitchen. It is as divey and intact-from-another-era as they come. — Jay Barmann
460 Larkin Street at Golden Gate

Photo of The Hearth: Bart Simpso N/Yelp

The Hearth
"No whiners no website just booze," the front facade of The Hearth has read for years, predating the current hordes of Pinners, 'grammers, and Yelpers flash-photographing every damned inch of this city. For over 40 years, you'd find Sid Takemoto behind the bar at the venue then-called "The New Hearth." Sid sold the place to SF native Ray Rex in 2007 (around then, the Chron ran a great profile of Rex and the bar you should check out), and has since passed. But though Sid has shed this mortal coil, the bar's tight-knit group of longtime regulars remain. That means that newbies who don't know their place in the pecking order might feel a little, um, dismissed, but there are plenty of other places for those folks in SF... and those joints all have websites and don't oppose whining. — Eve Batey
4701 Geary Boulevard at 11th Avenue

(Photo: Derek Grunewald)

The Hi Dive
There aren't so many places left where locals and tourists intermingle in equal measure whilst drunk that aren't high-priced hotel bars or AT&T Park. The Hi Dive remains one of those spots, easily accessed along the Embarcadero if you're out for a walk on a sunny day and looking to sit down. They've got a down-market patio with million-dollar views (but still on the wrong side of the Bay Bridge and a bit in the shadows), pretty cheap beer, and a full food menu with a passable burger. But really it's all about knowing where to go on a sunny day that's going to remind you how pretty our city while still keeping it real, and dive-y. (Fun non-fact: Rumor has it that this was a place gay men used to go to cruise sailors way back in the day.)— Jay Barmann
Pier 28 on the Embaracadero

(photo: CT Young)

The Hi-Tide Lounge
The Hi-Tide is one of those places you end up, maybe because you were at a party at Jones across the street and got tired of waiting for the bathroom, or maybe because you drunkenly stumbled here with a friend after drinking in six other bars around the neighborhood. There's a topless painting behind the bar of a petite Korean lady who may be the owner (in her heyday), and you may find her behind the bar watering down your over-priced vodka soda in a tiny glass. The clientele range from jaded hip kids to mealy-mouthed drunks who stumble in from SROs down the street to spend their government assistance checks on days when they're feeling sociable, so you should be sure to be nice to them because, to be fair, this is kind of their turf. — Jay Barmann
600 Geary Street (between Jones & Leavenworth)

(Photo: John Strathdee)

Li Po Lounge
This cash-only Chinatown spot serves well whiskey made in China, and by virtue of some very strong if non-traditional "Chinese Mai Tais" the place made it onto Anthony Bourdain's former show The Layover. And it's on the radar of many hard-partiers in nearby North Beach who pack the place on weekend nights. Should you really be drinking those Mai Tais if you are not a 23-year-old sorority girl who thinks alcohol tastes bad? Probably not. But the place has its charms nonetheless. — Jay Barmann
916 Grant (at Washington)

The Lucky Horseshoe
Formerly Skip's until 2011, the clientele and indeed the Cortland neighborhood are, as the French say, d'un certain âge. Live bluegrass on Sundays keeps the youngs away. Friendly, but not overly friendly staff. Cheapish drinks. Caleb Pershan
453 Cortland Avenue between Wool and Andover Streets

Molotov's. Caleb Pershan/SFist

If you're looking for cheap drinks and the feeling that you could be assaulted, then might I suggest Molotov's? In keeping with the bar's anarchic overtones, they've got a punk-laden jukebox that sits next to a very janky Monster Bash pinball machine. Other relevant facts are that Molotov's is named for a crude incendiary weapon and that PBR costs you $2 and several dirty looks. —Caleb Pershan
582 Haight Street between Steiner and Fillmore Streets

(photo: Erik Wilson)

Mr. Bing's
When William Butler Yeats wrote "That is no country for old men," you can be certain he was not referring to Mr. Bing's. A 2014 inductee into San Francisco Heritage's “Legacy Bars & Restaurants” list, the V-shaped bar inside the V-shaped bar at Mr. Bing's has been gathering to it an eclectic crowd since 1967. It's dingy, cheap, and a good place to watch sports or play that weird dice game. People burp loudly at the bar. In 2012 Anthony Bourdain gave it his official seal of approval on The Layover but the crowds, if there were any, have died down. Inside, you will find one infamous painting of a woman playing tennis and scratching her bare ass, which we're told was stolen for a time, but tracked down by Mr. Bing's daughter-in-law, a private investigator. —Caleb Pershan
201 Columbus Avenue (between Jack Kerouac Alley & Pacific Avenue)

Photo via Yelp.

The Page
With a pool table, a foosball table, and plenty of beer on tap, The Page is both packed to the gills on a Friday night and filled by neighborhood regulars on a weekday afternoon. It's also carpeted, which out the gate tells you a lot. With a row of seats along a Page Street-facing window, it also offers a great opportunity to chill out and catch up with friends while spying on the outside world. In an era where seemingly every bar has some sort of theme, The Page offers a chance to hang out in a no-frills bar that makes no effort to impress anyone — we suggest you seize it. — Jack Morse
298 Divisadero (at Page Street)

Photo via Foursquare.

The Phone Booth
Ah, The Phone Booth. So many things to say about this hole-in-the-wall bar still going strong after almost two decades. The tiny spot is known for its great jukebox and stiff whiskey pours, and the pool table in back is frequently the scene of neighborhood pool sharks battling it out (amicably, of course). The bar banned indoor smoking sometime in early 2013, and while my younger self may have scoffed at the decision, the smoke-free Phone Booth is a wonderful place to be. The bartenders are great, the drinks are cheap, and it's oh-so-very dark. What more could you ask for? — Jack Morse
1398 South Van Ness Avenue (at 25th Street)

Rock Bar
Whether or not Rock Bar is actually a dive may be a matter best debated over drinks at Rock Bar, perhaps with a bucket of fried chicken, which they'll happily deliver from their sister spot, the Front Porch, across the Street. The atmosphere screams dive and beer is cheap, but there's some of that "mixology" stuff going on with cocktails priced from $9 to $11. All types are welcome, as evidenced by the bar's very own cat. —Caleb Pershan
80 29th Street between Tiffany and San Jose Avenues

(Photo: CT Young)

The Saloon
By some accounts, the Saloon is the oldest bar still standing in San Francisco. It survived the '06 earthquake and fire by virtue of the whorehouse that used to be upstairs, and in the 1860s, drinkers here ran the risk of blacking out and waking up Shanghai'ed on a steamer heading West across the Pacific. You can't really argue with that sort of pedigree. Or $4.50 beers for that matter. Beware, though, it kind of smells, but there's often live music (and a $5 cover to cover that). —Jay Barmann
1232 Grant Ave (between Broadway and Fresno St)

The Silver Spur: Joshua W./Yelp

The Silver Spur
Fun fact: when I lived at 20th and Lincoln, the Silver Spur was my polling place. That's right, I voted in the 2000 presidential election there, so without disclosing my political biases I'll just say I've always felt that the place was a little bit cursed. The bar's gotten a new owner since then, the umpteenth since it opened in, reportedly, the 40s, but the crowd seems to be the same mix of regulars and folks in the nabe for the day (think Outside Lands, SF State kids first week of classes, etc). Service is fast and friendly, and when you've had your fill of drinking, there's a Taco Bell/KFC a few stumbles away so you can REALLY regret the evening.— Eve Batey
1914 Irving St, between 20th and 21st Avenues

The Summer Place
Ah, the Summer Place. I think I remember you. There was that time, what was it, 2007? It was nearing 2 a.m. There was Fernet involved, and someone who might have been a hustler but was definitely some kind of criminal. I was smoking then, and this was famously a place you could still smoke indoors (that was true until 2013, when smoking was finally prohibited due to some complaints from upstairs neighbors). Anyway, your prices have gone up, your clientele has gotten a little more classy, but you're still the same old dusty jukebox dive and the aura of a place where many a bad decision has been met with a second or third bad decision. — Jay Barmann
801 Bush (at Mason)

Tee-Off Bar & Grill
A dive bar with comfort food might not fit your conception, but surely the Tee-Off will delight, from affordable beer to a ping pong table to their pulled pork served in a waffle. cone. So named for the nearby Land's End golf course — yes, this is outer, outer Richmond territory — skip the links and make a tee time for the bar instead. —Caleb Pershan
3129 Clement Street between 32nd and 33rd Avenues

(Photo: Thomas Hawk)

As we've noted before, gay bars outside the Castro and SoMa are a quickly dying breed, with about a dozen gone in the last decade and a half. All the more reason people need to patronize the last remaining stalwarts like The Cinch up on Polk Street, and good old, reliable Trax in the Haight. They make a good, overly garnished Bloody Mary, just in case you'd like to escape to dim lighting for your liquid brunch, and this is definitely the kind of casual place where no one is posing, no one is putting airs, and everyone is likely to get shit-hammered and attempt to go home with someone at the end of a long Friday or Saturday, because this is where they ended up after all else failed.— Jay Barmann
1437 Haight Street near Masonic

Photo: Mike W/Yelp