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.
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.
“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.
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
100 Van Ness Ave.
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.
1900 Folsom St.
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 St.
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
2193 Mission St.
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
1870 Fillmore St.
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
5 SF Happy Hours with Filling Food
620 Jones St.
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
1000 Great Hwy
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
101 California St.
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
399 The Embarcadero
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
395 Hayes St.
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
5 SF Happy Hours with Creative Cocktails
650 Gough St.
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
2124 Market St.
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
PIER 1 1/2 The Embarcadero N
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
1965 Al Scoma Way
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
679 Third St.
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
5 SF Happy Hours with the Best Brews
2251 Market St.
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
2020 Fillmore St.
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.
508 Fourth St.
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)
1199 Church St.
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
4 Embarcadero Center, Street Level
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
5 SF Happy Hours with the Wildest Wines
20 Yerba Buena Lane
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 St.
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
900 North Point St.
Vibe: Ghirardelli Square surf and turf mainstay with a wall of windows overlooking the water
Happy Hour Specials: $9.50 California varietals
161 Steuart St.
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
3240 Geary Blvd.
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
Sarah Holtz can be reached at [email protected]