El Rio

20s / 30s / 40s / 80s Music / ATM / Anything goes / Anything goes / Barbeque / Bloody Marys / Burlesque / Cash Only / Comedy / Couples / Cover charge / DJ / Dance Floor / Dinner / Dive Bar / Diverse / Funk / Funky Dresses / Gay-friendly / Grad Students / Happy Hour / Hipster / House / Jukebox / Karaoke / Khakis / Live Band / Live Music / Live Music Venue / Locals / Margaritas / Mid 20s / Patio / Polos / Pool (Billiards) / Post Grads / Preppy / Punks / R&B / Regulars / Salsa Dancing / Seafood / Shuffleboard / T-shirts / Tourists / Wi-Fi / Young Professionals
El Rio Part live music venue and part DJ haunt, El Rio also hosts film and art showcases, comedy acts, burlesque routines, salsa nights, karaoke, impromptu jams, and loads of neighborhood fundraisers, making it a go-to spot for a crazy... San Francisco United States 37.746742 -122.419325
4.88 10
El Rio - Dive Bar | Live Music Venue in San Francisco.
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Party Earth Review Part live music venue and part DJ haunt, El Rio in San Francisco also hosts film and art showcases, comedy acts, burlesque routines, salsa nights, karaoke, impromptu jams, and loads of neighborhood fundraisers, making... ... read full review

  • Metro:

    BART: 24th Street Mission
    MUNI F, J Lines: 30th Street & Dolores Street

  • Phone:


  • Links:

  • Hours:

    M–Th, Sa–Su 5pm–2am, F 4pm–2am; Sa–Su 1pm–2am during summer

  • Recommended as:

    • Day Spot
    • Night Spot

Party Earth El Rio Review

The Scene

Part live music venue and part DJ haunt, El Rio also hosts film and art showcases, comedy acts, burlesque routines, salsa nights, karaoke, impromptu jams, and loads of neighborhood fundraisers, making it a go-to spot for a crazy...

Part live music venue and part DJ haunt, El Rio in San Francisco also hosts film and art showcases, comedy acts, burlesque routines, salsa nights, karaoke, impromptu jams, and loads of neighborhood fundraisers, making it a go-to spot for a crazy quilt of San Francisco’s eclectic populace.

Old regulars with pruney skin sit by the entrance in the front room, sipping PBRs alongside greasy-haired skinny hipsters, while butch-looking girls battle effeminate guys on the shuffleboard table toward the back. Dolled-up girlfriends of both guys and gals order up bad 80s hits at the jukebox, perhaps rooting for the Middle Eastern tourists who wandered in to battle the preppy jocks over a game of pool – such is the crazy crowd that so often comes.

Those with grumbling stomachs can make their way to the spacious patio where, depending on the night, they’ll find barbecue or free oysters on the half shell waiting for them on one of the many picnic tables. Behind the patio, a second room features an open dance floor that draws an energetic mix of horn-rimmed post-grads, buttoned-down young professionals, blue-mohawked punks, and drunken law students as DJs spin, bands play, some dude tells jokes, or women shake their tasseled boobies.

On the odd chance patrons pay a cover charge for the live shows, they can feel a bit better about it knowing the money is likely destined for a local charity – and if there’s a group of first-time visitors walking through, they’re likely destined to be in awe of what El Rio has in store.

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Tip from Emma:

If you want to get in on the free oysters on Fridays, get there by 5:30pm. The oysters are brought in fresh from Tomales Bay and they go FAST!

  • Crowd

    Casual neighborhood young professionals, standard Mission hipsters, gay couples, straight couples, curious couples, punks, post-grads, adventurous prepsters, tourists, and grumpy old regulars, mid 20s to 40+.

  • Entertainment / Music

    DJs spin mostly funk, house, and R&B. Varied performance days feature live bands playing lots of alt rock, though acoustic melodies and avant-garde instrumentals aren’t unheard of. Karaoke on Wednesdays, burlesque shows on Fridays, and salsa lessons on second and fourth Sundays. Sporadic art and comedy showcases. Check venue calendar for latest lineup. Jukebox. Shuffleboard and pool table. Free Wi-Fi.

  • Food / Miscellaneous

    Free barbecue on Fridays and Sundays and free oysters on Fridays, otherwise no food, though other special food events are sometimes held and patrons are welcome to bring in their own grub. Cash only. ATM on site. Happy Hour all day M and Tu–F 5–8pm.

  • Prices

    Cover charge for back room $5–$10, though usually only for fundraising events. Food items from visiting caterer $3–$6. Beer $3–$5, cocktails $3–$5+, mixed drinks $4. Pool table $1, shuffleboard free.

  • What to Wear / Dress Code

    Anything goes: leather body suits à la Trinity from the Matrix, jeans, t-shirts, tutus, purple wigs, Stetsons, salsa dresses, solid color zip-up hoodies, trench coats with hopefully some article of clothing underneath, polos, khakis, come as you are.

  • Hot Nights / When to Go

    Fridays for the burlesque shows and Sundays for salsa dancing are always safe bets for a festive and loud crowd, or whenever there’s an event of interest going on.

  • Close By

    Baby Blues BBQ (3149 Mission Street) across the street offers huge helpings of pre-dance-party sustenance, giving patrons the much-needed endurance to soak up El Rio for all that it’s worth.

El Rio User Reviews

Average rating:
Urban block party kind of bar
Julie G. Jun 8, 2013
El Rio is a block party within a bar. This vibrant bar is the top notch for a dive bar. The front contains the bar and indoor space where a diverse and exciting mix of people can be found. They even have a shuffle board if you wish to engage in that! Step outside and you will find a spacious patio where lots of action can be found. Dancing, cigar smoking, music and lots of pretty lights and decorations can be found in this urban backyard. The patio is ideal on a summer night with great company. The cheap drinks will keep you satisfied, but the good vibes will keep you coming back for more. El Rio is not a bar to miss in San Francisco.
El Rio is my favorite place to run into everyone I know or wanted to meet.
Mazique S. Apr 29, 2013
El Rio is a gorgeous, tight little explosion of San Francisco love. Wheelchair accessible (gasp!) and deceptively spacious, the interior has all the familiar, dark hive feel of a dive bar, while the backyard patio feels like the site of a neighborhood block barbecue with a wooden stage and places to sit and dance. While I usually go to El Rio when Courtney Trouble or other queer porn performers are hosting parties, El Rio is a lot of chill and sexy fun no matter what's on the bill. I wouldn't recommend it as a place to give an interview though, ha ha, as Maxine Holloway and I made the mistake of trying once. But do go, please, and be prepared to dance, drink delicious, well-priced drinks, and make some San Francisco celebrity sightings...or new friends! If you're a wheelchair user like me, watch yourself on the ramp down to the patio. It's steep- which is a little nerve wracking, but you'll really make an entrance into the scene below!
The King of Dives
Paris Donnatella C. Apr 24, 2013
Simply put, El Rio is the king of dive bars. Stumble in any night of the week and you'll have a decent crowd and a more than decent setting to get your night going. Consisting of the usual dive surrounding, quirky decor teamed with dim-lighting, equal your usual expectations. However, stroll past the long bar and reach a outdoor haven, clad with heaters, greenery and little nooks and crannies to hide away when you want to chill away from the music and you've hit the goldmine. Firing up a barbecue on occasion and hosting an ever so amusing karaoke night it is hard to find fault with this venue...other than the bathroom queue which sometimes lends on the slightly ridiculous side. Nevertheless you'll probably be so distracted by good vibes you will forget all about that. Regardless of the fact that hipsters by the dozen frequent this venue it is void of prejudice. From the cool bartenders to the transvestite running the karaoke night, come one come all.
The place that makes Monday a day to look forward to
Kellsie F. Mar 31, 2013
The first time I went to El Rio was shortly after my 21st birthday. It was a Monday night to celebrate a friend's birthday. By the time I arrived, he had an impressive stack of empty beer cans and empty glasses. He greeted me at the pool table with a bear hug and a fresh beer in his hand. I had a feeling he was already feeling good, until he stage whispered in my ear, "I totally forgot Monday nights here are $1 beers and $2 well drinks!" I knew he in fact was feeling good. I let him continue his game and went out to the patio to say hello to other friends. Little did I know, every person I knew in San Francisco was on that back patio. Clad with hipster guys and gals, heat lamps, a chill but exciting atmosphere, and a grill cooking up some tasty smelling food, I quickly decided this place was worth coming back to again and again. And believe me, I have.
Outdoor patio and Cheap beer, I'm there!
Nina W. Mar 29, 2013
As a newcomer to San Francisco, I never thought the bar I'd frequent most often would be an LGBT-centric haven decidedly off the beaten path in the Mission, but I was wrong. El Rio has quickly become my go-to, if only because being an east coaster I KILL at beer pong and that's one of the main events happening there on any given weeknight. They also have shuffleboard, a jukebox, and live music happening every once in a while. The bar has a homey vibe, as though you're at someone's extremely cool apartment--you're allowed to bring food, your dog, playing cards, or whatever to enhance your experience. Trust me, being able to bring tacos into a bar that sells $1 PBR on Mondays is worth the hike from the number 33 bus. BEST OF ALL, El Rio has a gigantic outdoor patio that stays curiously warm even though its only insulation is a tent ceiling. If you're a smoker, this is your spot. Gone are the days of trying to light up while the freezing cold wind does battle with your Bic--it's nice and cozy on the El Rio patio. El Rio is open 1 pm-2 am every day and trust me, you may accidentally find yourself there at closing time, even if you arrived at 4. The one downside is it's a cash only bar, but they do have an ATM machine so you won't get stuck with just your debit card and no drinks to be had. You don't have to be gay to party at El Rio, so come one, come all...chances are I'll be there to greet you!
The best patio that DOESN'T close at ten
Jessica G. Feb 21, 2013
The intersection of Valencia and Mission streets may not be a typical destination spot, but the trek to El Rio is well worth the bus transfers. It's eclectic and eccentric, to say the least. Competitive drinkers can duke it out in a shuffleboard or pool game. Amp up the competition and go Wednesday nights for karaoke to see who's the most tone-deaf. If singing outside of the shower isn't your thing, Red Hots Burlesque performs every Wednesday and Friday for a mere $5-10. Trust me, you will not be disappointed. Red Hots has a rotating cast of 500 local and traveling performers--you will laugh as much as you will be turned on. New on El Rio's repertoire is Bacon, Babes and Bingo every first Thursday of the month. Need I say more? As if that wasn't enough, El Rio hosts an array of bands and DJs playing anything from hip hop to oldies to salsa music. Too much excitement? Laid-back chain smokers can mingle outside one of the biggest patios in San Francisco (rivaling Zeitgeist) and enjoy food cooked on the BBQ. Bottom line: El Rio is by far my favorite LGBT-friendly, but not exclusive, bar with the biggest variety of entertainment.
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