Dive Bar / Historic Bar
Party Earth Review Apart from its cave-like exterior and the big carved Buddha in a niche behind the bar, Li Po Cocktail Lounge is far from an ancient Chinese shrine. It was, however, formerly an opium den – at least that’s the rumor – and bartenders often spook visitors with tales of drug-addled ghosts showing up when people forget to tip ... more
916 Grant Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94108
Party Earth Review A bare-bones dive in the heart of Chinatown, Red’s Place is perpetually brimming with intrepid tourists and loquacious locals – some toothless ‘n’ smoking, some dapper ‘n’ swilling – who sway to the beats from a surprisingly shiny new jukebox atop squeaking vinyl stools. As regulars lock in for another round of Liar’s ... more
672 Jackson Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
Party Earth Review North Beach is notorious for overpriced tourist traps and equally overpriced booby bars, but The Saloon – SF’s oldest bar – falls into neither category, instead serving up budget-friendly booze and live blues every night. Little has changed since the place opened in 1861, and entering this quintessential ... more
1232 Grant Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94133
Party Earth Review One of the oldest bars in San Francisco, Balboa Cafe has been serving good food and great cocktails to power brokers and preppy Marina scenesters since 1913. Located on the corner of Fillmore and Greenwich – an area known as The Triangle given the two other popular bars across the street – the venue is a relaxed spot for ... more
3199 Fillmore Street
San Francisco CA 94123
Historic Bar / Irish Pub
Party Earth Review There may be a full bar at The Buena Vista, but the endless procession of tourists who pack into this long-standing Fisherman’s Wharf institution usually stick to Irish coffee. The trend began back in the 1950s, when owner Jack Koeppler returned from a vacation to Ireland determined to develop his own version of the stuff ... more
2765 Hyde Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
Party Earth Review Except during that pesky prohibition period when a small grocery moved in, there’s been a bar at this address since the 1890s – and apart from the name, little has changed at Shotwell’s since. No fancy cocktails on the menu here – just an array of beers and a bit of wine and sangria, which suits the diverse but habitually ... more
3349 20th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Historic Bar / Lounge
Party Earth Review Located amid the towers of business and finance that line Montgomery Street, The House of Shields is an oasis of old-world luxury in one of San Francisco’s most thoroughly modern neighborhoods. Established in the early 1900s, the bar underwent an extensive renovation in 2010, reopening with the stains of spent years and ... more
39 New Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
San Franciscans have been belting it back and getting rowdy since the days of the Barbary Coast, a time when the city was known best for hookers and gold prospectors, and though the intervening 150+ years have seen most of the old watering holes vanish into the fog, there are still some very cool San Francisco historic bars to visit.
The Buena Vista over in tourist-riddled Fisherman’s Wharf first opened in 1916, but it really wasn’t until the 1950s that this place found its true calling. That was when owner Jack Koeppler returned from a vacation to Ireland having fallen in love with hot coffee mixed with whiskey, and shortly thereafter he introduced Irish coffee to the nation with such undeniable success that the venue now doles out some two-thousand cups of it a day.
The Saloon in North Beach is the oldest historic bar in SF, having stood in the same spot since 1861. For you history buffs, that means it survived the 1906 earthquake. Cool factoid: the only reason it survived the ensuing fires was because the whorehouse above it was a favorite of several local firemen.
Li Po Cocktail Lounge in Chinatown probably hasn’t been around long enough to be called an SF historic bar, but the space used to be an opium den way back in the day, and the ghosts of addicts are alleged to still roam the halls. In the Marina, meanwhile, Balboa Café has been serving good food and great cocktails to power brokers and preppy Marina scenesters since 1913, and certainly shows no signs of slowing down.
San Francisco is known for many things, from sixties revolutions to gay rights movements to tech bubble explosions, and San Francisco historic bars have seen it all.