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It’s Happy Hour Somewhere! The Standard Guide to Bar Specials in San Francisco

Written by Sarah HoltzResearch by Shelley D. FargoPublished Oct. 13, 2022 • 2:30pm
Leo Gutierrez serves up drinks at The Wooden Nickel. | Justin Katigbak for The Standard

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In a city with such an emphasis on food and nightlife like San Francisco, the demand for happy hour at local bars is a foregone conclusion. But the stats are also in—the majority of San Franciscans love a drink special. A new San Francisco Standard voter poll found that half of residents regularly flock to their local lounge for cocktail hour. 

The history of the happy hour traces back to World War I, when the U.S. Navy hosted weekly variety shows to deaden the doldrums of life at sea. Happy hour gained its spirit during Prohibition, when Americans who wished to imbibe used the term to describe clandestine cocktail hours at speakeasies and inside homes.

Customers at Santeria enjoying cocktails and bar bites. | Justin Katigbak for The Standard

Today, happy hour is a delightful contradiction in terms, typically lasting more than 60 minutes sometime between the hours of 4 and 8 p.m.—after nine-to-fivers get off work. But Eddie Hernandez, a photographer, dating coach and author of the local Substack, “Eddie’s List,” has proven that in SF, it’s almost always happy hour somewhere.

Driven by a desire to get San Franciscans back to restaurants in the wake of the pandemic, Hernandez compiled a comprehensive database of happy hour specials in San Francisco, which he updates monthly. He realized that happy hour information is scattered across business websites and Instagrams, and that it’s rarely aggregated in an organized manner. 

Drinks on special at The Wooden Nickel in the Mission District. | Justin Katigbak for The Standard

“My main focus is helping out local businesses, especially for those that don’t have dedicated PR resources,” Hernandez said. That’s why most of his favorite SF happy hours take place at your average neighborhood pub.

But as a dating coach, Hernandez also constantly fields requests for next-level restaurant and bar recommendations, so he has his go-tos at the ready. He sends people to Lush Lounge in Lower Nob Hill, partly because their happy hour might be the longest in the city—3-7 p.m. on weekdays and 1-7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. For a sweeping view of the bay and a solid deal on empanadas, Hernandez points cocktailians to Peruvian eatery La Mar on Pier 3. 

Lily Kope (left) and Karl Helm (right) enjoy drinks and tacos at The Wooden Nickel. | Justin Katigbak for The Standard

Building on Eddie’s SF Happy Hour Directory, The Standard updated, expanded and mapped out nearly 100 of the city’s happy hours and curated a selection of bars that transcend the 4 to 8 p.m. draught beer special. Follow our map and staff picks below to your next night out. Cheers!

The Standard Guide to SF Happy Hours

5 SF Happy Hours for the Fashionably Late

The Madrigal

100 Van Ness Ave.
(415) 796-2531
Vibe: Midcentury modern lounge with a secret candy and cereal-garnished cocktail menu
Happy Hour Specials: $10 cocktails and $2 raw oysters until 10:45 p.m.

The Wooden Nickel

1900 Folsom St.
(415) 252-0306
Vibe: Down-to-earth watering hole with a pool table and vintage decor
Happy Hour Specials: Half-price taco pairs on Taco Tuesday and drink specials until 9:30 p.m. every day of the week

440 Castro

440 Castro St.
(415) 621-8732
Vibe: Queer-friendly bar across from the Castro Theatre that’s been around in various incarnations since 1979
Happy Hour Specials: Any beer you want for $3 til 2 a.m. on Tuesdays

Chome

2193 Mission St.
(415) 757-0922
Vibe: Pint-sized izakaya with an outlandish sense of humor
Happy Hour Specials: Two daily happy hours in the early evening and late (10-11 p.m.) with deals on food, beer, cocktails and sake

Vic’s Winehouse

1870 Fillmore St.
(619) 381-2576

Vibe: Velvet-adorned jazz bar that pays homage to Amy Winehouse, Billie Holiday and other dearly departed legends with old photos and nightly music
Happy Hour Specials: Wine by the glass, beer, sangria and saketini every weekday and until 11:30 p.m. on Tuesdays 

Happy hour at the Madrigal in Civic Center runs until 10:45 p.m. | Courtesy The Madrigal

5 SF Happy Hours with Filling Food

620 Jones

620 Jones St.
(415) 845-2257
Vibe: Buzzy rooftop bar surrounded by plants that serves international small plates and entrees 
Happy Hour Specials: Typical deals on beer, wine and cocktails, but the food is the real star here—look no further than the local IPA-battered crispy cauliflower

Beach Chalet

1000 Great Hwy
(415) 386-8439
Vibe: Historic restaurant and brewery where Golden Gate Park meets the ocean
Happy Hour Specials: Bar bites menu nods to the way San Franciscans might’ve vacationed at the turn of the century, with deviled eggs and smoked bratwurst

PABU Izakaya

101 California St.
(415) 535-0184
Vibe: Ultra-modern, high-ceilinged eatery on the ground floor of a FiDi office building
Happy Hour Specials: Japanese beer, sake, whiskey and surprisingly hearty small plates, including Berkshire pork ribs

Waterbar

399 The Embarcadero
(415) 284-9922
Vibe: Spacious seafood house with panoramic views of the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island
Happy Hour Specials: Focusing on sustainable aquaculture, the oysters are the best deal here, with a $1.55 daily selection served with nasturtium mignonette  

Doppio Zero

395 Hayes St.
(415) 624-3634
Vibe: Contemporary tavern with lofty beams and a wood-fired pizza oven
Happy Hour Specials: First and foremost a Neapolitan pizzeria—ranking among the top 50 pizzas in the world—its “spritzer hour” offers discounted antipasto and 6-inch pies

Taco Tuesday at The Wooden Nickel features $1.50 shrimp tacos. | Justin Katigbak for The Standard

5 SF Happy Hours with Creative Cocktails 

Smuggler’s Cove

650 Gough St.
(415) 869-1900

Vibe: Campy fun voyage to parts unknown at this rum runners’ concept bar
Happy Hour Specials: Here, happy hour is truly limited to 60 minutes every day, and the deal is $2 off (mostly rum) escapist cocktails

Blackbird

2124 Market St.
(415) 872-5310

Vibe: Unpretentious drinking den with a dark wooden interior and red leather booths
Happy Hour Specials: Classic cocktails and a signature vodka drink—the Early Bird, which is mixed with elderflower and lemon 

La Mar

PIER 1 1/2 The Embarcadero N
(415) 397-8880
Vibe: Vast Peruvian cebicheria with an outdoor patio that overlooks the Embarcadero and accommodates large groups
Happy Hour Specials: Celebrity chef Gaston Acurio specializes in cebiche and empanadas, which are about $10 off at happy hour, but don’t sleep on the $13 pisco sour, either

Scoma’s

1965 Al Scoma Way
(415) 771-4383

Vibe: Storied wharf mainstay where you can see fishers catching what might end up on your plate
Happy Hour Specials: Only offering deals on Mondays and Thursdays, but the Bloody Mary oyster shooter shows off what Scoma’s is known for

Alchemist Bar & Lounge

679 Third St.
(415) 746-9968

Vibe: Cavernous lair with old-timey relics that could have been props from the Sherlock Holmes reboot
Happy Hour Specials: Daily deals on libations across the menu, but don’t expect any price breaks on event days at nearby Oracle Park

See Also

La Mar Cebicheria Peruana’s pisco sour | Courtesy La Mar

5 SF Happy Hours with the Best Brews

Santería

2251 Market St.
(415) 896-4496

Vibe: Margarita joint with folk art adorning the walls that pays homage to the restaurant’s namesake spiritual practice 
Happy Hour Specials: Healthy selection of $5 cervezas and around $10 off each margarita pitcher

Harry’s Bar

2020 Fillmore St.
(415) 921-1000

Vibe: Ornamented with paintings of mythical figures and mahogany Corinthian columns, Harry’s is easily one of the classiest sports bars in the city 
Happy Hour Specials: A selection of West Coast draughts are $6-8 weekdays from 4-6 p.m.

Thriller Social Club

508 Fourth St.
(415) 706-6568
Vibe: Flashy arcade bar for the wide-eyed kid in all of us
Happy Hour Specials: Half off all beers (for the legal adult in all of us)

Mr. Digby’s 

1199 Church St.
(415) 896-4973

Vibe: Well-lit bistro with plaid wallpaper and a handsome parklet out front
Happy Hour Specials: Home of the $4 Montucky tall boy for one magic hour every day

Harborview Restaurant & Bar

4 Embarcadero Center, Street Level
(415) 399-1200
Vibe: Elegant dim sum banquet room with an outdoor patio overlooking the Bay
Happy Hour Specials: The brews match the views—Asian lagers and local crafts are all $8 or under

Ericka Schell, co-owner of Old Devil Moon, hands a beer to a customer. | Jana Ašenbrennerová for The Standard

5 SF Happy Hours with the Wildest Wines

Press Club

20 Yerba Buena Lane
(415) 744-5000

Vibe: The Four Seasons Hotel’s sleek, subterranean wine cellar
Happy Hour Specials: They knock $2 off wines by the glass and 20% off bottles for the after-work crowd on weekdays 

111 Minna Gallery

111 Minna St.
(415) 974-1719

Vibe: Contemporary art gallery with a stylish, angular bar that hosts community events
Happy Hour Specials: $2 off across the drink menu on weekdays and occasional artist-vintner label collabs 

McCormick & Kuleto’s

900 North Point St.
(415) 929-1730

Vibe: Ghirardelli Square surf and turf mainstay with a wall of windows overlooking the water
Happy Hour Specials: $9.50 California varietals 

Ozumo

161 Steuart St.
(415) 882-1333

Vibe: Casual luxury is the fortunate central contradiction of this sushi bar and robata grill with an Embarcadero view
Happy Hour Specials: Cava and sake selections are $7 and up

Corx Wine Cafe

3240 Geary Blvd.
(415) 702-6157

Vibe: True to its name, this cozy haunt is punctuated by recycled wine cork art
Happy Hour Specials: $9 house wine pairs well with a decently discounted charcuterie board

Bartender Rene Sanchez serves wine at 20 Spot. | Juliana Yamada for The Standard

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Sarah Holtz can be reached at [email protected]


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