Bartender pouring cocktails

Low Brow SF
Our Guide to Dive Bars, Greasy Spoons, and Hidden Local Hangouts

Visitors who want to rub shoulders with locals are in for a treat. Dive bars and greasy spoons abound in the City by the Bay.

For all of its boutique shopping, Michelin star dining, and cosmopolitan flair, San Francisco has never lost its rough and tumble Barbary Coast roots.

Here is our list of the best local hang outs in SF. Many of them are classic landmarks that are nearly as iconic as more well-known tourist attractions like the cable cars or the Golden Gate Bridge.

Go out and enjoy.

The 500 Club

500 Guerrero Street
11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily

First opened in 1953, The 500 Club is a Mission District drinking den that rides that fine line between dive bar and hipster hangout without ever losing its balance. After entering under the neon marquee, walls covered in velvet paintings and photos of former bartenders coax you to a barstool among the locals. Interesting conversations, cheap drinks, and food delivered from the next-door late-night deli make the 500 Club a hard place to escape from.

Aunt Charlie’s Lounge

133 Turk Street
12 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily

Proving that drag shows and dive bars make the perfect combo, Aunt Charlie’s is a Tenderloin area landmark that draws both locals and visitors most nights of the week. Originally opened as the Queen Mary Pub back in 1979, the bar has a been at the center of the city’s famous LGBTQ+ community for decades. Inside, hot pink neon lighting lends warmth to the dark intimate interior and the bartender always has a nightly drink special ready for you.

Chloe’s Café

1399 Church Street
9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday through Monday

Fat banana pancakes, croissant French toast, and super-sized omelets have made Chloe’s Café a brunch spot that draws locals and visitors alike. Located in the tranquil Noe Valley, the casual restaurant first opened in 1989 and has become an icon of the neighborhood ever since. Although it's unassuming, you should arrive as early as possible on weekends to avoid the often-long wait for brunch seating.

Doc’s Clocks

2417 Mission Street
4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily

It’s pretty much always cocktail time at Doc’s Clocks, an iconic Mission Street dive bar open since 1951. Equipped with shuffleboards, pinball machines, and an old school jukebox with endless selections, this dark but friendly bar is a great place to keep yourself entertained. One of the longest happy hours in the city (4 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily) makes this a happening place with the local after work crowd just about every night of the week.

Durty Nelly’s

2328 Irving Street
12 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily

Come as you are to this Sunset District dive bar that feels a lot like a local hangout in Montana or Colorado. With trivia nights during the week and local live bands on the weekends, it’s a great place to meet some of the neighborhood’s residents and feel like you have escaped the city for a night. Now sporting a back patio, Durty Nelly’s also serves some excellent pub grub, including fish and chips and burgers.

Gino and Carlo’s

548 Green Street
6 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily

The informal living room of North Beach's Italian immigrant community since 1942, Gino and Carlo’s is an authentic old school sports bar located right in the heart of Green Street’s bar row. Grab a slice of Golden Boy pizza, located right next door, and enjoy the old-world style ambiance at this bar. Still owned by the same family that opened it, Gino and Carlo’s also hosts a couple of pool tables in the back room and several large flat screens for watching the game. It’s also one of the few San Francisco bars with a grandfathered-in clause that lets it open at 6 a.m.!


1525 Pine Street 
6:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday
6:30 p.m. to 4 a.m. Thursday through Saturday

Located inside an old train car and slinging mouthwatering greasy goodness until late at night, the Grubstake occupies a unique place in San Francisco’s dining scene. It’s located in the Polk Gulch area, home to queer-friendly nightlife and an eclectic mix of immigrants and artists. The restaurant dates back to 1967, when it was an important safe space for San Francisco’s burgeoning LGBTQ+ community. Still one of the best late night eating options in the city, the Grubstake offers diner classics like potato skins and patty melts alongside traditional Portuguese dishes like caldo verde.

Hi Dive

Pier 28 ½
11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

A classic, after the ball game drinking den located right on the San Francisco waterfront and just blocks from Oracle Park, the Hi Dive is a San Francisco legend. The tiny dive bar attracts visitors as well as a loyal white collar after work crowd. A perfect place to take in the sunset over the Bay Bridge, the Hi Dive also serves fish tacos and local free range beef burgers for lunch and dinner daily.

Li Po

916 Grant Avenue 
2 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. daily

Waxing philosophical after a couple of mai tai’s at the legendary Li Po’s Cocktail Lounge in Chinatown is a dive bar experience not to be missed. Named after a seventh century Tang dynasty poet, this cavernous lounge first opened in 1937 and attracts a diverse local crowd. Ask for the liar’s dice from the bartender and test your luck against the eclectic mix of regulars found here.

Lone Palm

3394 22nd Street 
4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily

Known for their oversized martinis and retro tropical vibe, the Lone Palm is a Mission District nightlife staple. First opened in 1940 as a popular watering hole for the neighborhood's Irish residents, the casual yet stylish bar now draws a diverse crowd to its candle-lit tables and long wooden bar. Although the palm tree that used to shade the sidewalk outside is now gone, the bar still manages to feel a bit like Miami in the middle of San Francisco.

Madrone Art Bar

500 Divisadero Street
4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily

Another Divisadero Street favorite, the Madrone Art Bar combines all the camaraderie of a neighborhood dive bar with rotating exhibits by San Francisco visual artists and live music from DJs. Despite the laid-back atmosphere, - or perhaps because of it - the bar has become a central fixture of the Bay Area arts scene and frequently holds fundraising events for a wide variety of different organizations.

Old Islamic Mandarin

3132 Vincente Street 
11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday through Monday

Authentic Beijing-style hotpots and other staples of real-deal Mandarin fare await visitors to the Old Islamic Mandarin. Located in the Outer Sunset, this hotspot for those in the know opened in 2001 and has received tons of critical acclaim. They serve the city’s only all halal Northern Chinese cuisine menu, including items like cumin lamb stir fry and Sichuan pepper laden noodles.

Orphan Andy’s

3991 17th Street 
24 hours a day daily 

This 24-hour diner has been at the center of the Castro’s LGBTQ+ nightlife scene since it first opened back in the 1970s. After all, what better way to nourish the soul after a late-night dance party than with chicken fried steak covered in gravy? Located right across from Jane Warner Plaza and the F Market streetcar stop, Orphan Andy’s offers both booth and counter seating topped with heaps of friendly customer service.

Pilsner Inn

225 Church Street 
1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday
11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday

With a nice garden patio and more than 30 draft beer selections, the Pilsner Inn is a sports bar that serves the primarily LBTQ+ community of the Castro. Opened in 1980, the friendly neighborhood watering hole always has a game on one of the wide screen televisions and a horde of locals taking in the action. The Pilsner Inn is also a favorite celebration spot for community bowling, softball, and pool leagues.

Red Café

2894 Mission Street
7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Tuesday

Classic American diner food meets authentic Mexican eats at Red Café, a San Francisco original that draws the crowds for both breakfast and lunch. A Mission District staple since 1997, Red Café offers everything from mouthwatering chilaquiles topped with fried eggs to oatmeal pancakes topped with strawberries. Located just one block from the 24th Street BART station, Red Café is a hidden treasure just waiting to be discovered.

Sea Star

2289 Third Street 
4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday 
2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday through Sunday

Located in the Dogpatch neighborhood, the Sea Star is a friendly dive bar to pop in to for some local action. With an octopus statue hanging from the ceiling and a deep blue, almost aquarium-like décor, the maritime themed bar specializes in creative handmade cocktails and craft beers on tap. The historic drinking hole also sports a retro jukebox stocked with hits both old and new.

Specs Adler Museum Café

12 William Saroyan Place
4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily

Opened in 1968 by sheet metal worker and union organizer Richard “Specs” Simmons, this dark drinking cavern became one of the main meeting places of the famous “Beat” movement in San Francisco’s North Beach. With walls lined with artifacts from around the world and a wagon wheel of cheese behind the bar, not much has changed at Specs since its glory days. A living museum to this era, Specs is still a favorite haunt for local writers and artists.

The Rip Tide

3639 Taraval Street
3 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily

A honkytonk bar might be the last thing you would expect to find in San Francisco. Located just one block from Ocean Beach, the Rip Tide features a variety of local live bands as well as bingo, karaoke, and other kitsch shenanigans that give the place a small-town vibe. Fun and friendly with a roaring fireplace and knotty pine wood walls, the Rip Tide was built in 1941 and is the informal living room for many residents of the laid-back Outer Sunset neighborhood.

The Page Bar

298 Divisadero Street
4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday
1 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday

Divisadero Street, which literally means “Divide” in Spanish, is a nexus where several of San Francisco’s most interesting neighborhoods collide. The Page Bar, with its jumping jukebox and collection of foosball and pool tables, is where residents of the Haight, Castro, Alamo Square and other nearby areas come together to enjoy cheap drinks and good times. The building has been a bar since before Prohibition times and the beer-stained wooden floors and comfy leather booths give it a particularly authentic old timey San Franciscan feel.

Tommy’s Joynt

1101 Geary Street
12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday
12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Thursday through Saturday

With a colorful, almost psychedelic, kitschy décor, Tommy’s Joynt is a landmark San Francisco eatery that’s been in continuous business since 1947. The counter service allows you to peruse offerings and specials before loading up on dishes like their famous meatball sandwich and corned beef and cabbage. Before grabbing a seat at one of the family style tables, check out their selection of more than 100 imported and domestic beers.

Author Ocean Malandra
Ocean Malandra

Ocean Malandra was born in San Francisco and grew up in the North Beach neighborhood. A freelance journalist who covers food, travel, and the environment, he has been published in more than 30 different media outlets, including 7x7 Magazine, Vice, Mongabay, USA Today Travel, Earth Island Journal, The Culture Trip, Parabola Magazine, High Times Magazine, and Paste Magazine.

The Golden Gate Bridge at sunset with a multicolored sky and the San Francisco Bay in the foreground.
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