While there is a bevy of bars to choose from for cheering on the 49ers in San Francisco, finding a following for your favorite non-Niner NFL team might take a little more research. In a city where finding people who grew up and stayed in San Francisco has been likened to spotting unicorns, there are plenty of football fans searching to find like-minded fans with whom they can wave a Terrible Towel or do the Dirty Bird.
Looking for just such a spot? We’ve done the hard work for you. Read on for some of our favorite bars with strong out-of-town followings across the city.
The Bus Stop in Cow Hollow is a stalwart Bengals bar thanks to Turtle—just Turtle—an Ohio transplant who moved to the Bay Area in 2008. A graduate of the University of Cincinnati, he found home at the Bus Stop when then-bar owner Gabe Ferroni supported him, bringing fans to watch the games. The following grew, and Turtle has witnessed many friendships blossom since. He’s even organized trips to London and Los Angeles for ardent fans to watch the Bengals play.
The bar plays into the Bengals connection. It serves skyline chili, a Cincinnati specialty, when the Bengals play. A poster near the bar reads “San Frannati” and features a tiger jumping over the Golden Gate Bridge. Turtle and a fellow fan created the portmanteau logo and have made T-shirts from it, too. The bar hands out free meal tickets on game days to foster a tailgating atmosphere, and it reserves the pool table area for Bengals fans when the team is playing.
Bruce Winter has been a Vikings fan for 62 years, and he’s the reason Final Final in the Marina became associated with the Minnesota team. Winter lived around the corner from the bar, and when he began frequenting it, he brought a sea of purple with him.
The Final Final is a family affair run by Arnie Prien and his wife, Linda, whose three sons—Michael, Cory and Elliott—tend bar. Arnie Prien bought the bar in 1978, and it’s seen its fair share of celebrities since Joe DiMaggio—Matt Damon and Klay Thompson, to name a few. The bar was featured in the film The Hereafter, directed by Clint Eastwood, and an NBA commercial.
📍 2990 Baker St.
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Squat and square, the Connecticut Yankee has roosted in the same spot for so long it’s been proposed as a legacy business. The bar first opened as Hilda’s Saloon in 1907, built by Hilda herself and her husband, Giovanni Salvotti, with wood from a Red Cross earthquake shack.
It’s taken several forms over the years—bootlegging operation, lunch counter and restaurant. It became the Connecticut Yankee in 1989 and has been drawing New England fans ever since. The general manager and many of the staff are from Massachusetts, and the bar is overflowing with Boston sports gear, including an oversized Patriots helmet fans slap for good luck before games.
The menu nods to Boston with items like “Clam Chowdah” and “Southie Special,” and the bar serves Sam Adams by the bottle. “People are lined up out the door for Patriots games,” said owner Tony Cooney, who explained that Boston games always take precedence—even when the 49ers are playing. “If the Patriots are on, it’s on every single TV. There’s no way in fucking hell we’ll have another game on,” Cooney said. “You’ve got to go to a different bar.”
📍100 Connecticut St.
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The Blue Light bar and restaurant became a Dolphins bar almost by accident. “It’s all from years ago when staff who were fans wore the shirts and got other people to as well,” explained owner Johnny Metheny. The team’s fans—who share colors with the business—gather regularly at the bar in their jerseys at tables covered with Dolphins gear. “It’s a raucous group,” Metheny said.
The team allegiance is echoed in the food as well. The restaurant serves a fish taco special for the games (“It’s not dolphin meat,” Metheny assures me) and a blue cocktail called the Dolphin Drink. Dolphin fans come into the bar from all over the city and out of town, making new friends or seeing old ones. “It’s become a religious cult,” Metheny said.
The Blue Light
📍 1979 Union St.
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Some patrons get so attached to their local bar they can’t bear to see it close. That happened with Rudi Rughoonundon and Ollie Pender, two regulars at the Giordano Brothers on 16th Street, who bought the bar from owner Jeff Jordan when he decided to retire last year.
The new owners decided to keep the Steelers theme intact, Kennywood sign and all. The menu still features Primanti-style sandwiches, with french fries stuffed between slices of bread.
You can’t run a sports bar and restaurant that specializes in Philly cheesesteaks without attracting a deep bench of Eagles fans. And that’s exactly what you’ll find at Jake’s Steaks, a Marina bar that draws Philadelphia locals to sink into those signature beef-and-cheese sandwiches.
The official Buffalo Bills bar of San Francisco, you’ll likely find blue jerseys outnumbering red ones at this beloved North Beach hangout full of historic charm. Let Northstar be your North Star as a Bills fan.
Friendly service and a locals’ vibe reign at this Lower Nob Hill watering hole—and so do the Browns’ fans. So don your orange and sidle up to this Fernet-filled bar for a night (or day) of fun.
New York fans, do not despair—you will find your ilk at Ace’s Bar in the Tendernob, where Giants fans congregate regularly. Expect a sea of blue-and-white jerseys and a keg table at this lively spot.
📍 998 Sutter St.
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Julie Zigoris can be reached at email@example.com