Waterbar exterior with Golden Gate Bridge

Waterbar boasts large windows with up-front views of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and Treasure Island. (Courtesy of Waterbar)

If you're looking to grab a drink in San Francisco, you'll find the city's bar scene is as diverse as its residents, with seemingly as many options. Even so, a few clear winners tend to stick out. Whether you're looking to blend in with the locals at a neighborhood haunt or enjoy a well-crafted cocktail in a romantic setting, U.S. News tapped a few in-the-know experts to help narrow your choices. Here's where concierges at some of San Francisco's top hotels said to go.

Trick Dog

To enjoy the inventive cocktails at Trick Dog, you'll have to head to the Mission District. There, you'll find hip locals crowding the industrial-chic bar in the early evenings while they flip through the menus – which are themselves a draw. Trick Dog’s clever menu gets revamped with a new theme semiannually, and recently, the refresh was inspired by a citywide mural project that the bar's owners coordinated.

[Read: The Best Hotels in San Francisco.]

Whatever the menu topic, the craft cocktails are always at the top of their game. Try the Tunstall & Plock, a mix of Don Q Anejo and Foursquare Port Cask Finish rums with white chocolate, tapache, pineapple, rye berries and lime. The bar menu serves a mix of healthy and comfort foods, like the popular kale salad with avocado, Parmesan, pepitos and slow-cooked egg yolk dressing, or the banana leaf shrimp dumplings with lemongrass, ginger, Thai chili and mint. It's no surprise Trick Dog was a semifinalist for a coveted James Beard Award for the Outstanding Bar Program category in 2016.

Bar Agricole


Bar Agricole

Bar Agricole (Colin Price)


A James Beard Award heavyweight, Bar Agricole has earned several nominations for Outstanding Bar Program and one win for Outstanding Restaurant Design. Located in the bustling South of Market, or SoMa, neighborhood, Bar Agricole is a go-to spot for after-work – or post-sightseeing – drinks.

"Bar Agricole has one of the top mixologists in the city. It's a cool environment," says Nancy K. DuBois, chief concierge at Cavallo Point.

The approachable, yet elegant, cocktail bar sets the tone with plenty of natural light, contemporary decor and inventive drinks, making it feel more like a restaurant than a typical bar. It has modernist accents, like wood-paneled walls and vintage swivel bar stools, and the cozy covered patio outside has ample heating. All this draws a well-heeled crowd who come to mingle with friends or even host an informal work meeting. Enjoy it all with a cocktail in hand, like the Whiz Bang, a mix of Scotch whisky, dry vermouth, grenadine and absinthe.

[Read: 5 Breweries to Try in San Francisco.]

Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar

"The top of Nob Hill is a great cocktail destination," says Tom Wolfe, chief concierge and director of heritage at the Fairmont San Francisco. "Make the rounds at a few iconic places famous for fancy cocktails." Among them, Wolfe says, is the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar, located in the lower level of his hotel.

This over-the-top Tiki hideaway features live music, a dance floor and rum-laced island drinks. The music stage is situated on a thatch-covered barge in the middle of a pool of water at the bar's center. With its super kitschy Polynesian-style decor, the restaurant and bar draw locals who want to pretend they're on vacation – if only for the evening. The menu features classic Tiki cocktails like mai tais, as well as the establishment's own tropical-inspired drinks. Groups love to order the potent A Monk Walks Into A Luau (a punch bowl is $32 for two and $56 for four) with cachaca, herbal liqueur, pineapple, grapefruit, lime, coconut and pomegranate. For an extra $12, you can have any beverage served in a freshly cored pineapple.

Horsefeather


Horsefeather exterior

Horsefeather (Deb Leal)


This Alamo Square haunt is a classic San Francisco neighborhood bar with the vibe of an artisanal cocktail lair. Inside, you'll find lots of locals from the neighborhood and a few others who have ventured from farther away to get there. "Horsefeather on Divisadero is a favorite," says Jose Lopez, chief concierge at Palace Hotel, A Luxury Collection Hotel. "A small, little cocktail bar with a lot of locals and great service but a relaxed ambiance."

[Read: 5 San Francisco Neighborhoods to Discover on Vacation.]

The atmosphere is stylish but laid-back – a great place for a low-key drink after exploring the neighborhood and snapping photos in front of San Francisco's iconic painted ladies, the brilliantly colored Victorian homes. The dog-friendly heated patio has ample seating and a handsome wood bar. If you can't find what you're looking for on the menu, the friendly mixologists take requests, though a local go-to for an early evening boost is the Blackjack – a mix of Green Chartreuse Barrel Aged Whiskey from Mosswood Distilleries, bourbon, Sibona Amaro, maple and Benedictine. Don't overlook the ever-changing gourmet bar food menu, which features dishes like stinging nettle agnolotti with homemade ricotta, lemon, garlic, breadcrumbs and chili oil, and the tuna poke bowl with unagi sauce.

Waterbar


Waterbar aerial shot

Waterbar (Courtesy of Waterbar)


When it comes to the best happy hour views in the city, Waterbar is at the top of the list. Perched on the edge of the Embarcadero waterfront, the upscale establishment boasts large picture windows with up-front views of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and Treasure Island. Go for happy hour when Waterbar serves $1.05 oysters and $8 glasses of prosecco (get there early, as it fills up quickly). Linger through the evening as the sun sets and The Bay Lights, an art installation on the Bay Bridge, flickers on.

To experience more of what San Francisco has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.

The Ultimate Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip


Photo Gallery
Man driving a convertible on Pacific Coast Highway.
Part of the Vancouver skyline, seen from Olympic Village at the end of False Creek. In the foreground is the ramp down to the watertaxi dock, with the geodesic dome of the Science Museum behind, along with some apartment buildings and offices on Quebec Street.
Beautiful Sunny Morning in Seattle With Mt Rainier
Sunset landscape of Portland, Oregon.
The shore of Columbia River in Astoria, Oregon.
Looking up at the redwood trees at Muir Woods in San Francisco.
San Francisco skyline and Bay Bridge at sunset.
Bixby Creek Bridge, along California 1
Sunset in Venice Beach with Santa Monica Pier in the distance.
San Diego
Rosarito Beach- Baja California, Mexico
|

Take a spellbinding drive, packed with exciting twists and spectacular scenery.
When you imagine driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, you might think of the thrilling stretch of coastal road between San Francisco and Los Angeles. This is one of the country's most famous drives, and for good reason. But stick to this route and you'll only see a fraction of the spectacular scenery that lines the West Coast. For a real adventure, hit the road for a longer coastal journey, from Vancouver, British Columbia, to San Diego, taking in soaring redwood forests, hidden beaches, big cities and charming seaside towns. Read on for route highlights.
(Getty Images)

Vancouver
Start your visit to Canada's western hub by orienting yourself from the top of the Vancouver Lookout Tower, which offers 360-degree panoramas of the city. Then grab a bike and pedal along the Seawall, a paved path that runs along the harbor and continues around Stanley Park. Stop in at the Vancouver Aquarium, which houses more than 50,000 animals. Also be sure to save some time to explore the city's trendy neighborhoods – Gastown's historic streets are lined with patios and twinkle lights hanging from the trees, while Yaletown's sophisticated, urban setting caters to the fashion-forward crowd.
(Getty Images)

Vancouver to Seattle
For this leg of the trip, it's best to take a break and hop on the train. The scenic four-and-a-half-hour journey hugs the coast. Sit back – and get your camera ready for those views. In Seattle, swing through Pike Place Market to watch the fishmongers toss their wares, before making your way to the original Starbucks outpost a few blocks away. And coffee isn't the only thing brewing in Seattle. Make sure to sample the local craft beer scene Fremont Brewing and Cloudburst Brewing. If it's a clear day, take a trip to the top of the Space Needle, where you'll get a glimpse of the city, water and mountains.
(Getty Images)

Seattle to Portland, Oregon
Swing south and inland to Portland, another major Pacific Northwest hub. The city is about three hours south of Seattle, nestled between the Columbia and Willamette rivers. Portland is known as the Rose City, and it's easy to see why at the International Rose Test Garden, which includes a diverse range of test plants in different varieties of the flower. Other must-see sights include Powell's City of Books and the Portland Farmer's Market. And the best way to explore the city is to get lost in its eclectic local shops, art galleries, breweries and vibrant neighborhoods.
(Getty Images)

Portland to the Oregon Coast
From Portland, drive two hours northwest to Astoria, the prime starting point for a trip along Oregon's dramatic coast. At the top of town, climb up the Astoria Column, where you'll get a fantastic vista of the Columbia River. Then, head south along Highway 101, which meanders along the coast all the way to California. You can spend days exploring the small towns, hiking trails and beaches along the coast. Don't miss Ecola State Park, where the bluffs overlook Cannon Beach's iconic Haystack Rock; Oregon Dunes, where the forest makes way into sand dunes; and the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, a 12-mile stretch of coastal road where the sunsets are breathtaking.
(Getty Images)

Southern Oregon to Redwood National Park
Just south of the Oregon-California border, you'll enter the heart of redwood country. Redwood National Park offers hiking trails through groves of the world's tallest trees, bird and wildlife spotting and coastal views. And a little farther along, you'll find Avenue of the Giants, a 31-mile stretch of Highway 101 featuring some of the largest redwoods in the world. It's touristy, but guiding your car through a massive tree trunk is a worthwhile photo op.
(Getty Images)

Northern California Coast to San Francisco
The highway leads out of the redwood forest and emerges above the ocean. From here, you'll pick up the famed California State Route 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway. The drive hugs the coast as you move south, passing through seaside communities like Fort Bragg, home to the sea glass-strewn Glass Beach, and Mendocino, a charming town with a strong arts scene. Nature enthusiasts will fall in love with the seascapes around Bodega Bay in California's Sonoma County and the picturesque Point Reyes National Seashore. Spend some time and soak in the scenery before you make your way across the Golden Gate Bridge to San Francisco.
(Getty Images)

San Francisco to Big Sur
The heart of the Pacific Coast Highway, this scenic stretch is the stuff of road trip bucket lists. From San Francisco, Highway 1 passes by swaths of undeveloped coastline before reaching Monterey, a town that's famous for its aquarium and its connection to author John Steinbeck. Just south is the ritzy community of Pebble Beach, where you can cruise along world-class golf links and pristine beaches on 17-Mile Drive. The road then winds up and down along the cliffs past photogenic spots like Bixby Bridge, and offers plenty of places to get out and stretch your legs, including Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
(Getty Images)

Big Sur to Santa Monica
As the Pacific Coast Highway continues south, the road's curves start to straighten out. Keep an eye on the hills as you pass through the small town of San Simeon. Drive on to Santa Barbara, a popular hub with a charming downtown and a delightful local wine scene. Not far south, Ventura and Oxnard are the departure point for daytrips to the picturesque isles of Channel Islands National Park.
(Getty Images)

Santa Monica to San Diego
A beach suburb outside of Los Angeles, Santa Monica not only sits on the Pacific Coast Highway, it's a hub for another great American drive: Route 66. Spend some time on the pier, with its iconic Ferris wheel or peruse the shops on the car-free Third Street Promenade. From here, you can head down to San Diego in about three hours, but you'll want to carve out some time to enjoy the coastal drive through communities, such as Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach. As you near San Diego, make a detour to La Jolla, where sea caves and sea lions draw crowds of onlookers.
(Getty Images)

Bonus: Mexico
If you've made it all the way from Canada to San Diego, you might as well push a little farther. About a half-hour south of the city is San Ysidro, where you'll find a border crossing into Tijuana, Mexico. Take the car (check your rental car agreement) and venture farther afield – Valle de Guadalupe is a popular wine destination. Getting into Mexico is fairly straightforward; getting back across into the U.S. takes time. Another tip: Global Entry members can use their SENTRI membership cards for a shorter wait.
(Getty Images)

Man driving a convertible on Pacific Coast Highway.
Part of the Vancouver skyline, seen from Olympic Village at the end of False Creek. In the foreground is the ramp down to the watertaxi dock, with the geodesic dome of the Science Museum behind, along with some apartment buildings and offices on Quebec Street.
Beautiful Sunny Morning in Seattle With Mt Rainier
Sunset landscape of Portland, Oregon.
The shore of Columbia River in Astoria, Oregon.
Looking up at the redwood trees at Muir Woods in San Francisco.
San Francisco skyline and Bay Bridge at sunset.
Bixby Creek Bridge, along California 1
Sunset in Venice Beach with Santa Monica Pier in the distance.
San Diego
Rosarito Beach- Baja California, Mexico

Take a spellbinding drive, packed with exciting twists and spectacular scenery.
When you imagine driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, you might think of the thrilling stretch of coastal road between San Francisco and Los Angeles. This is one of the country's most famous drives, and for good reason. But stick to this route and you'll only see a fraction of the spectacular scenery that lines the West Coast. For a real adventure, hit the road for a longer coastal journey, from Vancouver, British Columbia, to San Diego, taking in soaring redwood forests, hidden beaches, big cities and charming seaside towns. Read on for route highlights.
(Getty Images)

Vancouver
Start your visit to Canada's western hub by orienting yourself from the top of the Vancouver Lookout Tower, which offers 360-degree panoramas of the city. Then grab a bike and pedal along the Seawall, a paved path that runs along the harbor and continues around Stanley Park. Stop in at the Vancouver Aquarium, which houses more than 50,000 animals. Also be sure to save some time to explore the city's trendy neighborhoods – Gastown's historic streets are lined with patios and twinkle lights hanging from the trees, while Yaletown's sophisticated, urban setting caters to the fashion-forward crowd.
(Getty Images)

Vancouver to Seattle
For this leg of the trip, it's best to take a break and hop on the train. The scenic four-and-a-half-hour journey hugs the coast. Sit back – and get your camera ready for those views. In Seattle, swing through Pike Place Market to watch the fishmongers toss their wares, before making your way to the original Starbucks outpost a few blocks away. And coffee isn't the only thing brewing in Seattle. Make sure to sample the local craft beer scene Fremont Brewing and Cloudburst Brewing. If it's a clear day, take a trip to the top of the Space Needle, where you'll get a glimpse of the city, water and mountains.
(Getty Images)

Seattle to Portland, Oregon
Swing south and inland to Portland, another major Pacific Northwest hub. The city is about three hours south of Seattle, nestled between the Columbia and Willamette rivers. Portland is known as the Rose City, and it's easy to see why at the International Rose Test Garden, which includes a diverse range of test plants in different varieties of the flower. Other must-see sights include Powell's City of Books and the Portland Farmer's Market. And the best way to explore the city is to get lost in its eclectic local shops, art galleries, breweries and vibrant neighborhoods.
(Getty Images)

Portland to the Oregon Coast
From Portland, drive two hours northwest to Astoria, the prime starting point for a trip along Oregon's dramatic coast. At the top of town, climb up the Astoria Column, where you'll get a fantastic vista of the Columbia River. Then, head south along Highway 101, which meanders along the coast all the way to California. You can spend days exploring the small towns, hiking trails and beaches along the coast. Don't miss Ecola State Park, where the bluffs overlook Cannon Beach's iconic Haystack Rock; Oregon Dunes, where the forest makes way into sand dunes; and the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, a 12-mile stretch of coastal road where the sunsets are breathtaking.
(Getty Images)

Southern Oregon to Redwood National Park
Just south of the Oregon-California border, you'll enter the heart of redwood country. Redwood National Park offers hiking trails through groves of the world's tallest trees, bird and wildlife spotting and coastal views. And a little farther along, you'll find Avenue of the Giants, a 31-mile stretch of Highway 101 featuring some of the largest redwoods in the world. It's touristy, but guiding your car through a massive tree trunk is a worthwhile photo op.
(Getty Images)

Northern California Coast to San Francisco
The highway leads out of the redwood forest and emerges above the ocean. From here, you'll pick up the famed California State Route 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway. The drive hugs the coast as you move south, passing through seaside communities like Fort Bragg, home to the sea glass-strewn Glass Beach, and Mendocino, a charming town with a strong arts scene. Nature enthusiasts will fall in love with the seascapes around Bodega Bay in California's Sonoma County and the picturesque Point Reyes National Seashore. Spend some time and soak in the scenery before you make your way across the Golden Gate Bridge to San Francisco.
(Getty Images)

San Francisco to Big Sur
The heart of the Pacific Coast Highway, this scenic stretch is the stuff of road trip bucket lists. From San Francisco, Highway 1 passes by swaths of undeveloped coastline before reaching Monterey, a town that's famous for its aquarium and its connection to author John Steinbeck. Just south is the ritzy community of Pebble Beach, where you can cruise along world-class golf links and pristine beaches on 17-Mile Drive. The road then winds up and down along the cliffs past photogenic spots like Bixby Bridge, and offers plenty of places to get out and stretch your legs, including Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
(Getty Images)

Big Sur to Santa Monica
As the Pacific Coast Highway continues south, the road's curves start to straighten out. Keep an eye on the hills as you pass through the small town of San Simeon. Drive on to Santa Barbara, a popular hub with a charming downtown and a delightful local wine scene. Not far south, Ventura and Oxnard are the departure point for daytrips to the picturesque isles of Channel Islands National Park.
(Getty Images)

Santa Monica to San Diego
A beach suburb outside of Los Angeles, Santa Monica not only sits on the Pacific Coast Highway, it's a hub for another great American drive: Route 66. Spend some time on the pier, with its iconic Ferris wheel or peruse the shops on the car-free Third Street Promenade. From here, you can head down to San Diego in about three hours, but you'll want to carve out some time to enjoy the coastal drive through communities, such as Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach. As you near San Diego, make a detour to La Jolla, where sea caves and sea lions draw crowds of onlookers.
(Getty Images)

Bonus: Mexico
If you've made it all the way from Canada to San Diego, you might as well push a little farther. About a half-hour south of the city is San Ysidro, where you'll find a border crossing into Tijuana, Mexico. Take the car (check your rental car agreement) and venture farther afield – Valle de Guadalupe is a popular wine destination. Getting into Mexico is fairly straightforward; getting back across into the U.S. takes time. Another tip: Global Entry members can use their SENTRI membership cards for a shorter wait.
(Getty Images)

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Tags: San Francisco, travel, vacations, food and drink


Jenna Scatena writes about San Francisco for U.S. News & World Report. Her work has appeared in Afar; BBC Travel; San Francisco Chronicle; Sunset; Travel + Leisure; Marie Claire; O, The Oprah Magazine; Vogue; Self; Delta Sky; Mr Porter; Via; and C California Style, and her stories have been anthologized in The Best Women's Travel Writing Volume 9 (Travelers' Tales) and An Innocent Abroad (Lonely Planet). You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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