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Food & Drink

The spookiest San Francisco Bay Area bars for Halloween 2023

Westwood and Bucket Listers' Frankenstein Mad Scientist Cocktail Lab features a lineup of experimental cocktails served in chemistry test kits and beakers. | Source: Courtesy Bucket Listers/Westwood

With its emphasis on candy and costumes, Halloween is traditionally a children’s holiday. But that doesn’t mean it’s only for kids. For those of us over 18, there are haunted houses, spooky walking tours and the long-awaited return of Halloween in the Castro. Or you may simply feel like raising a glass this All Hallows’ Eve. 

From a fictional mad scientist’s laboratory to a real-life haunted dive bar, here are six Bay Area haunts where you can get into the spirit of the season—especially if drinking is your version of trick or treating.   

Frankenstein's Mad Scientist Cocktail Lab at Westwood

🗓️ Through Nov. 4
📍 2036 Lombard St., Marina
🎟️ $20

This Marina country-music bar is mainly known for its mechanical bull, but for the spooky season, it’s transformed a portion of its Americana-themed digs into a seasonal pop-up inspired by Frankenstein, Mary Shelley’s classic 19th-century sci-fi horror novel about a mad scientist who brings to life a monster made from human corpses.

Bucket Listers' Frankenstein-themed pop-up bar at Westwood features spooky cocktails that pay homage to Mary Shelley's 19th century sci-fi horror novel about a mad scientist who brings to life a monster made from human corpses. | Source: Courtesy Bucket Listers/Westwood

For the experience, Westwood and events company Bucket Listers dreamed up a haunted version of Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory. The walls are draped with fake-blood-soaked bandages, yellow caution tape and biohazard warning signs, while bartenders in white lab coats serve up Jell-O shots in plastic syringes and petri dishes, swirl cocktails in lab beakers and perform mixology tricks that look like science experiments. (Think of a poof of cotton candy that disappears when saturated by a Kahlua cold brew or ice cubes that light up when they’re touched by liquid.) 

Marina bar Westwood has transformed part of its digs into Frankenstein's laboratory for Halloween 2023. | Source: Courtesy Bucket Listers/Westwood

It’s all about making the drinks look and feel alive, explains Westwood’s general manager and beverage director, Sean Doolan. “A lot of the drinks bubble up and have character, just like Frankenstein coming to life,” he said. 

As seatings at the pop-up are timed, reservations are required. Tickets are $20, including a first drink.  

The Avenue 

📍 4822 Telegraph Ave., Oakland 

This Oakland rocker bar is ready for Halloween 365 days a year, so it only makes sense to stop in at this time of year, when its owners go all out.  

According to its proprietors, Curtis and Tana Howard, The Avenue is occasionally visited by paranormal activity—due to the spirits of neighbors and former owners, they suspect. The Howards say they have video footage of strange incidents, such as an orb coming out of a wall and Golden State Cider literally flying off shelves.  

“That was kind of unexplainable,” Curtis said. 

This year, the pair have built upon the bar’s perennial skeleton fixtures, adding themed sections, including an “alien autopsy room” inspired by Area 51, the mysterious classified U.S. Air Force testing facility, a creepy hoarders’ nest space and a lounge with frightening vintage dolls from local thrift stores that Tana has made look even creepier. 

The bar will throw a deejayed Halloween party on Oct. 28, complete with a costume contest with cash prizes and gift cards. There will also be themed drink specials, including an American Werewolf combo of a shot of silver tequila and a Coors Light, and the British version, which features gin. On Oct. 31, the Howards will have candy for trick-or-treaters and patrons.    

Super Mario Speakeasy Pop-Up at Thriller Social Club 

🗓️ Through Nov. 1 
📍 508 Fourth St., SoMa 

If you’ve always dreamed of being a player in a real-life video game, head to Thriller Social Club’s pop-up inspired by Super Mario Bros., both the classic Nintendo video game and the recently released movie. If you dress up like one of the characters, you’ll blend right in with the decor. 

Thriller Social Club's Super Mario Bros. pop-up speakeasy is decorated like Princess Peach's palace. | Source: Courtesy Thriller Social Club

Inflatables of tokens and characters, including Mario himself, adorn the upper level of the hybrid bar and arcade where the speakeasy part of the pop-up is hidden behind a door made of the shell of a Tron arcade game. Patrons can sip Princess Peach-inspired cocktails or down boba shots while playing rounds of vintage games such as air hockey or Pac-Man.    

The pop-up is open during Thriller Social Club’s regular hours, though reservations (available via Yelp) are encouraged. 

Escape to a Local Tiki Bar 

📍 Various locations

From OG tiki bar Trader Vic’s in Emeryville to the Fairmont’s legendary raining Tonga Room, the Bay Area enjoys a plethora of Polynesian-inspired cocktail lounges and dives dressed up in tropical trimmings. Halloween is all about escapism, so why not steal away to one of these island-themed watering holes for the holiday?  

The interior of Last Rites features a spooky skull on one wall. | Source: Courtesy Last Rites

Dimly lit, skull-adorned airplane fuselage-turned-bar Last Rites provides a spooky backdrop for imbibing—and kicks into Halloween high-gear with burning effigies and witches’ bundles as well as elaborately themed ritualistic cocktails, such as the Zombie Killer with coconut, rum, pineapple and cinnamon, or the flaming Caldera’s Curse with banana-spiced rum, lemon, cashew and guava.  

Last Rites' bar is made from an airplane fuselage. | Source: Courtesy Last Rites

Then there’s the Tenderloin’s Zombie Village, dedicated to the eponymous potent rum concoction. Or bow down to the spirit of tiki at Belden Place’s Pagan Idol or escape to Smuggler’s Cove, which is tucked away like a hidden gem in Hayes Valley. 

You’ll fit right in, whether you dress like a pirate or sport a Hawaiian shirt. 


📍 310 ½ Baldwin Ave., San Mateo 

Snagging a spot at this reservation-only cocktail lounge can be just as difficult as finding the entrance is, but once you do, you’re in for a magical evening, promises general manager Xian Choy. 

“Wunderbar is a fun place for the season, as it's a dark and secluded speakeasy with a secret entry involving a glowing rabbit,” Choy said. Once you find the creature, “you're transported into a classy lounge decorated with nods to classic fairy tales, including the Grimms', which include some surprisingly dark and disturbing stories.”

San Mateo's Wunderbar features tarot card-inspired cocktails that lean into a mystical theme. | Source: Courtesy Wunderbar

The bar’s tarot card-inspired cocktail menu boasts a starry Ursa Major concoction of gin, olive oil and pink peppercorns, as well as a witchy-sounding Sidewinder’s Fang with aged rum, passionfruit, fresh lime, orange and soda. If you venture down this rabbit hole, reservations are available via Tock.   


🗓️ Oct. 27-31
📍 Various Locations
🎟️ $12+ 

Of course, almost any bar can become a Halloween bar with enough costumed patrons, which is the idea behind Crawloween, an annual All Hallows’ Eve-themed pub crawl that overtakes dozens of bars in the Marina, Cow Hollow, Russian Hill and the TenderNob for three days at the end of October. 

Drawing tens of thousands of revelers, the event bills itself as San Francisco’s biggest Halloween party and resembles trick-or-treating for adults. Choose your night, then stumble or take a party bus from one bar to the next in a Ghostbusters suit or Taylor Swift-inspired ’fit. (The Crawloween holds a costume contest via Instagram if you’re competitive.) Once you sign up online, all that’s left to do is raise a glass—or glasses—to the holiday.

Christina Campodonico can be reached at
Rachel Scheier can be reached at