Old School Places to Drink

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November 5, 2014

Essential San Francisco Old School Places to Drink

This story is brought to you by the great people over at the Bold Italic. The Bold Italic is an online magazine, shop, and events hub in San Francisco. We celebrate the free-wheeling spirit of the city.

Ready to take a trip to the past? Experience old school San Francisco in these iconic and themed establishments. Here are a few local favorites that will have you brushing the dust off those San Francisco history books.

Fisherman's Grotto #9

The Grotto has three bars nestled throughout its expansive space, but the Draper-esque second-floor lounge — with blue tufted chairs, a fireplace, a fish tank and bronzes of Neptune and Salacia — is a marvel. It’s not only a worthy sub for the Empress of China but also the closest thing we have to the Madonna InnDrink: Manhattan served on vintage napkins. Instagram: The Little Fisherman mascot that appears everywhere. 2851 Taylor St. (415) 673-7025

Far East Cafe

Opened a year after Tosca Cafe, the Far East feels like the Chinatown equivalent of its North Beach contemporary. It sports a noirish Spade & Archer vibe. Park it at the front bar under colorful antique gas lanterns and faded murals. Drink: Bottle of Tsingtao. Instagram: The cool private booths that line the dining room. 631 Grant Ave. (415) 982-3245

Cathay House

A cylindrical red structure hides the Cathay House, a fun dive bar in the middle of a historic Chinatown dining room. Look for the iconic pagoda-capped building at the cable car corner of California and Grant. Drink: Shots of Hennessy. Instagram: Irresistible chinoiserie including a Deco Buddha shrine at the head of the bar. 718 California St. (415) 982-3388

Alfred's Steakhouse

This seductive hideaway is the happy result of a 1928 steakhouse relocated in the former space of the lavish 1940s celebrity haunt, The Blue Fox. Expect a windowless interior with deep crimson walls, opulent chandeliers, vest & tie waiters, and an alcove bar that flaunts a wall full of whiskey. Drink: Vesper served in an oversized shaker. Instagram: The Prohibition violation that shut down the restaurant in 1929 and hangs over the bar. 659 Merchant St. (415) 781-7058

Bimbo's 365 Club

Yep, you’ll have to pay a cover for a show to get in, but it’s worth the opportunity to bask in this sumptuous former dinner club that’s changed little since 1951. In a just world, the dreamy mermaid paintings by Julian “Nudes and Clowns” Ritter would be as big a draw as the acts onstage. Grease some palms to get a peek of the hidden — and amazing — Mr. Bimbo’s Cantina where performers like Sinatra would sup before a show. Drink: Champagne. Instagram: Dolphina, the Girl in the Fishbowl. 1025 Columbus Ave (415) 474-0365

Tonga Room

Ohh Tonga Room. one of our favorite tiki bars of the city. The Tonga Room is a unique experience in the city. The themed bar  with a lagoon in the center of the room and periodic rain water and thunder to complete the tropical feel. Drink: Mai Tai or Scorpion Bowl. instagram: How about that Lagoon? 950 Mason St. (415) 772-5278 

Li Po

Made semi-famous after Anthony Bourdain's Layover stop in 2012, Li Po is a cocktail lounge located in Chinatown. As you walk into the Grotto faced by two red doors, you will find a spot enjoyed by both locals and tourists alike. You will need to pay with cash to try their famous Chinese Mai Tai, which is a concoction made with rum and fruit juices. Drink: Chinese Mai Tai. Instagram: Inside or the front door with the overhead lamp. 916 Grant Ave. (415) 982-0072

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