Slideshow: Where Bartenders Drink in San Francisco

Jason
Jason "Buffalo" LoGrasso of Rich Table
Favorite dive bar: I like my dive bars dark and creepy. Rite Spot Cafe in the Mission suits me just fine. They have a stage area where I presume music is played, carpets, and a vintage Hamilton Beach mixer that has never been turned on. Did I mention carpets? 

Where do you love to go for cocktails? These days I'm behind the bar most nights so my cocktailing has been reduced to weekend brunch hours. Recently I had a mezcal michelada at Mission Bowling Club that rocked my world. Also 15 Romolo has really fun brunch concoctions. One needs only to order food and you are treated to a complimentary "waffle shot". Boozy mapley deliciousness. 

Where do you go for beer? I'll probably catch some slack for this one, but I'm obsessed with the beer situation at Steep Brew. Steep Brew? Yes, that is what Whole Foods Potrero calls their little downstairs cafe. They have about a dozen or so rotating taps of super local and off the wall choices and some hard to find bottles. I live 2 blocks away so there is the convenience factor, just forget about chatting up the bartender and earning a free beer. This is, after all, a grocery store. 

[Photograph: Wes Rowe]

Maxine Giammo of Hog & Rocks
Maxine Giammo of Hog & Rocks
Favorite dive bar: Pop's at 24th and York. Monday nights Tuffy gives out free bacon, Tuesday/Wednesday $1 beers, and air hockey. Tricycle races in the summertime. El Rio isn't a dive bar,   but the ladies who've owned it for the last 20 years know the importance of bringing quality of life to a neighborhood. Free oyster Fridays, backyard bbqs, burlesque, and punk shows.

Where do you love to go for cocktails? The Hideout at Dalva. When I get off work, all I want to do is sit in a dungeon of my own discontent and warm myself with drink and company. Dalva has the trifecta: stony darkness, couches, and a concise, balanced cocktail list. I love their current gin-heavy menu. The G&C (gin and celery) is amazingly complex; something to ponder as I unwind from a long night. Also: The Alembic is an institution by this point but the food is great and Daniel's drinks are always elegantly balanced and delicious. I get the Southern Exposure. And 15 Romolo's crew  is always chill, even in the midst of North Beach. And I like what they're doing with sherry right now. 

Where do you go for beer? I like neighborhood dives for beer. The Sycamore has Hitachino on tap and a patio. Solid and sold!

[Photo: Blair Sneddon]

Steven Liles of Smuggler's Cove
Steven Liles of Smuggler's Cove
Favorite dive bar: Spec's Twelve Adler Museum bar in North Beach. I first stepped into this place in 1987 (a little underage). It screams San Francisco. Haunt to artists, poets, business types, merchant marines, and just about anybody. It has wild decor that you can spend hours staring at, a big wheel of Gouda to munch on, and atmosphere that can't be replicated. 

Where do you love to go for cocktails? Maven stands out for me. Kate Bolton has been creating some amazing drinks, all meant to be paired with the food that they serve. Very seasonal and creative. There is a Swedish Cup on the menu: gin, lemon, ginger, Swedish Punsch, and tarragon that is just delicious.

Where do you go for beer? Two places spring to mind. Toronado and Abbot's Cellar. Toronado is a bare-bones beer bar and Abbot's Cellar is an elegant spot with delicious food. Both have incredible selections of beer from all over the world. including a healthy dose of Belgian beers, which I love.

[Photo: Jenn Farrington]

Kate Bolton of Maven
Kate Bolton of Maven
Favorite dive bar: Molotov's: it's next door to Maven and the staff is super cool. It's always nice having a place to go after work where you feel comfortable and like they know you.

Where do you love to go for cocktails? Tacolicious/Mosto: Margaritas and mezcal.  The margaritas are perfectly balanced and served in the perfect atmosphere. It just feels right. The mezcal selection is really extensive; it's a great place to try new mezcals that I may not have seen or had before. Not to mention the tacos are amazing! I also love the bartenders at Rye. They are fun, personable and professional. The other night they made me an awesome Gin Old Fashioned with Martin Miller's, a sugar cube, Peychaud's and Falernum bitters, and a grapefruit peel, served on sexy ice. I usually trust whatever they would like to make. I also like to drink classic cocktails at Churchill; I know I can order something like a Sazerac or Manhattan there and it will be expertly made. Plus their hand selected Elijah Craig barrel is a beautiful bourbon to sip on...really smooth and a little sweet.

[Photograph: Wes Rowe]

Jason Brown of Txoko
Jason Brown of Txoko
Favorite dive bar: Li Po in Chinatown, High Tide in the Tenderloin. I often find that after having cocktails at Bourbon & Branch or another legit cocktail spot, I need a cheap beer to finish the evening. High Tide always works.

Favorite spot for cocktails: Two Sisters, Smuggler's Cove, Cantina, Bourbon & Branch.

Where he drinks beer: Za Pizza on Russian Hill; I think they might have the best Trumer in the city.

Where he drinks wine: I have to say Kokkari Estiatorio. It's the only place I consistently order wine. They have Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko by the glass, which is one of my favorite wines in the world.

[Photo: Txoko]

Chris Lane of Lolinda
Chris Lane of Lolinda
Favorite dive bar: My favorite dive bar closed a number of years ago. It was called Biggums, and it was the most spectacular pit ever. I think if you ordered anything other than a tall Budweiser and a whiskey you would be shot. Slayer and Sam Cooke would usually follow each other on the juke at least 5 times a night and it was a rotating cast of tattooed degenerates, metal heads and neighborhood punks. Nowadays if it has a pool table, cold beer, and a non digital juke, that's good enough for me. I rarely get out there, but I love Wild Side West in Bernal. 

Where do you love to go for cocktails? The Bay is so rich with great drinking spots and great bartenders. Someone doing great work is always left out with questions like these. Places like The Alembic, Comstock, and the Hideout...as well as The Slanted Door all immediately come to mind. Jasper's is always cool and the crew at Wilson and Wilson is great. But in no particular order, here are a few places that I try to frequent as much as I can. 

Prizefighter: This is a fantastic bar without pretension, and sports some of the most hospitable bartenders I know. I almost always start out with a Jack Rose...usually followed by a Oaxacan Stand Off.

Big 4: This is a beautiful restaurant bar in the Huntington hotel. Dark wood interior, studded leather chairs...piano player.  Whenever I'm here i feel like the outside world dosen't matter and i can kind of just leave the tape on pause.

Smuggler's Cove: I have just never had a bad time in this bar. I am totally convinced that Martin and the gang have more fun than anyone else in this city. I always have to order a Painkiller #2 when I'm here...if my liver can take it..a succession of Puka Punches and Jet Pilots are sure to follow.

Bar Agricole: Consistently one of the best bars locally. They execute amazing classics night after night and make it look easy.

Heaven's Dog: I'm a bit biased because I used to work here but I still keep coming back. Erik Adkins has done a fantastic job of staffing this place with a really impressive rotation of talent.

Where do you go for beer? I'm pretty simple when it comes to beer...I actually prefer it out of a bottle. Heinold's First and Last Chance in Jack London is still my favorite for afternoon beers. CommonWealth cafe is another great one. It's a little Scottish pub that is as much neighborhood as it is a destination. Good beer, good food. Really nice people.

[Photo: Aubrie Pick]

Ethan Terry of Heaven's Dog
Ethan Terry of Heaven's Dog
Favorite dive bar: My favorite is my local(ish) haunt, Molotov's in the Lower Haight. Cheap booze, obsessively manicured rock and roll jukebox, pinball machines, dog-friendly attitude and a mixed crowd always prove for a raucous good time. 

Where do you love to go for cocktails? My mainstay is the Comstock Saloon in North Beach. The barkeeps there are experts at whipping you up something mood-dependent, and it's always spot on. In addition, the atmosphere is enchantingly authentic and refreshingly unpretentious. 

Where do you go for beer? It might sound obvious, but when I'm seeking beer specifically, I head to City Beer Store in SOMA. The masterful beer geeks who hold down the fort are always enthusiastic to help you find exactly what you're looking for, whether it's something you're taking home, or whether you intend for them to pop it open for you so you can enjoy it right there in their tasting room. Their selection is mind boggling.

Note: Heaven's Dog is temporarily closed for repairs.

Dominic Alling of Beretta
Dominic Alling of Beretta
Favorite dive bar: Beretta staff favorites have to be the Lone Palm and Mission Bar. Close enough to make last call, good booze, good music. Blind Cat is also making their mark, the most impressive $5 Bloody Mary I've ever seen (Sundays only) and an impressive selection of high end whiskeys.

Where do you love to go for cocktails? Hands down my favorite place to drink in the city is The Hideout in Dalva. The space is comfortable and unassuming and the bartenders are always on point. The drink menu itself is interesting and approachable and you can grab a Martinez while your friend drinks their Dalva made Jameson/Ginger and everyone's happy.

Where do you go for beer? Amnesia always has great live music playing and has a good selection of beer. Monk's Kettle if you want something special (those guys seriously know their beer). Napper Tandy is definitely the game day go to.

[Photo: Aubrie Pick]

Shawn Vergara of Blackbird
Shawn Vergara of Blackbird
Favorite dive bar: I live just a couple blocks above the Lower Haight. When I want a great selection of local/import beers on draught, I sometimes head over to the Toronado where I'm greeted with the wafting smell of stale, old beer. It somehow lures you in, like a moth to a flame. But if you ask the bartender too many questions, expect to get burned. You don't go in here to talk about beer, you go in here to drink beer. That's how they like it. I like to come here to get away to clear my head and just disappear in to the woodwork. When I'm done, I head over to the Rosamunde Sausage Grill right next door to help soak up some of the booze.

Favorite cocktail bar: We consider 15 Romolo to be our "step sister" bar, and I say this with the utmost respect. We cover for each other a couple times a year so that our whole can staff can get together and blow off some steam. What I like about 15 Romolo is that you immediately step back in to a speakeasy of days gone by. They have a great cocktail program. Their selection of spirits is vast with knowledge to match, and they also have some interesting bar snacks.

[Photo: William Rittenhouse]

Aaron Gregory Smith of 15 Romolo
Aaron Gregory Smith of 15 Romolo
Favorite dive bar: Aub Zam Zam. Decent spirits selection, jukebox built into the wall. Hawaii West: one block from home, always quiet, pool table, jukebox. Li Po Lounge: fun to make people drink the house mai tai and shots of that weird Chinese liqueur that they use in it.

Where do you love to go for cocktails? Alembic. Tacolicious for a pitcher of some margarita variation. Recently had one with blood orange and tarragon...don't remember the name but it was awesome. Smuggler's Cove. Order a Mai Tai, if drinking independently, or a Scorpion Bowl, if there with friends.

Where do you go for beer? I tend to stay close to home (North Beach) when I am going out for a pint...I like Kennedy's Irish Pub because they have pitchers and because they have air hockey, foosball, and Big Buck Hunter, as well as access to slightly overpriced but above average Indian fare (lamb dosa is great there) Church Key has some pretty cool rotating taps, Comstock has the cleanest tasting beer this side of market, and finally, Rogue is great because of their open air patio where they allow me to drink with my dog.

[Photo: Valter Fabiano]

Jeff Lyon of Range (and the upcoming Third Rail)
Jeff Lyon of Range (and the upcoming Third Rail)
Favorite dive bar: I lived in the Mission on Valencia for years, and the Latin American was my stop. I've always liked Mission Bar for its tough/friendly vibe.  I moved a little south of the Mission recently, and end up at Rock Bar and the Royal Cuckoo fairly often, but I gotta say: Broken Record has the most kick-ass whiskey selection of any dive bar I've ever seen.    

Where do you love to go for cocktails? I think Alembic has a great vibe (especially when Daniel is there), and one of the best Vieux Carres around.  Bloodhound is one of my all-around favorite places simply because they strike that balance between a cocktail bar and a laid-back neighborhood bar. Now I feel obligated to mention a bunch of others: Comstock, 15 Romolo, Heaven's Dog, Rickhouse, Prizefighter, and so on... 

Where do you go for beer? If I want to try beer that I can't really get anywhere else, I go to Monk's Kettle or Abbot's Cellar. The staff at both places are knowledgeable and helpful in steering me to just the right beer, and the food is hearty and beer-friendly. If I want to have a few beers with a friend and I want a large selection I still like Toronado. It's got that not-quite-divey beer bar down pat.

Erik Adkins of The Slanted Door Group
Erik Adkins of The Slanted Door Group
Favorite dive bar: Dalva, located in on 16th Street in the Mission, has always been a favorite neighborhood bar of mine. The best part is that they now have a separate bar in the back called the Hideout where you can get a proper cocktail. Good drinks shouldn't always be served in fancy digs.

Where else do you like to go for cocktails? My favorite spot in San Francisco is Bar Agricole. They make clean, elegant, well balanced drinks with spirits from craft distillers. They also have a deep respect for hospitality. I go for the Presidente.  Its a difficult drink to make well and they make the best one that I have had.

In the East Bay I like the Prizefighter in Emeryville.  This bar was opened by two veteran bartenders, Dylan O'Brian, who used to work at Bloodhound and Churchill, and Jon Santer who opened Bourbon and Branch and Heaven's Dog. Prizefighter is the bar that everyone would want as their local. These guys make really great drinks without all of the fuss and self-consciousness of most craft cocktail bars. I go here to catch up with old friends, drink mescal and sangrita and play shuffle board.

Where do you go for beer? If you are in San Francisco you have to go to Toronado. This is a California beer mecca. It's a real San Francisco icon. If you are in Oakland then The Trappist is the place to drink Belgium beers. This small, long narrow space reminds me of an old world pub with its wood paneled walls. They are the local authority on Belgian beers.

Matt Conway, Absinthe Brasserie & Bar
Matt Conway, Absinthe Brasserie & Bar
Favorite dive bar:Molotov's. Dark, grimy, cheap, punk/metal juke. Is the Hemlock still a dive? If so, that's up there, too.

Favorite cocktail bar: What I love about bars is the feeling, the "emotional experience" of being in them, the interaction with the bartenders, other patrons, etc. Yeah, and the cocktails, too, but at this stage of the game there are heaps of places to get a good drink in SF/Bay Area that I don't really make that part of my deciding where I'm headed on a night off. That said, I've recently had stellar drinks at AQ, Jasper's, and of course, Smuggler's Cove. I love to sit at the bar at Comstock (I realize I may be a bit biased) and talk some shit, have a boot, repeat. Alembic is always good, too.

Where to go for beer Toronado because the service is just so fantastic; Healthy Spirits for retail because those guys are such ridiculous beer geeks.

Where do you like to drink wine? Nopa. Chris Deegan's list is tits. Tons of cool producers, reasonably priced, well informed staff. Even just drinking by the glass selections, you're going to learn something new and discover something amazing every time. And they have a handsome selection of sherry, which I love.

[Photo: Aubrie Pick]

Zack Hirsekorn of Twenty Five Lusk
Zack Hirsekorn of Twenty Five Lusk
Favorite dive bar: My favorite dive bar has to be Trad’r Sam. It is right near my house and is one of the first bars I went to when I moved to San Francisco. Fred is a great bartender and every time I go in we have a good time chatting it up, especially about our beloved San Jose Sharks. Beware of those scorpion bowls though.

Where do you love to go for cocktails? I really like the bar program at Bar Agricole. Their entire setup, from glassware to their house made bitters program is very impressive. Their Rye Gin Old Fashioned is a favorite of mine. However, my favorite cocktails right now are at Aziza in the Richmond District.  Their innovative menu design and expansive offering is truly unique and I enjoy their truly seasonal approach with respect to produce.

Where do you go for beer? My beer bar of choice would have to be Church Key in North Beach. It has an extensive bottle list and great tap offerings that feature some limited production seasonal beers from some of my favorite producers.

[Photo: Aubrie Pick]

Richard Woodruff of Chambers Eat + Drink
Richard Woodruff of Chambers Eat + Drink
Favorite dive bar: My favorite is one that I frequent often after work, The Bigfoot Lodge on Polk and Washington. It's decently affordable, well stocked with cold beer and the shot of whiskey I desire after a 8-10 hour shift. Always a decent attitude and I'm usually rolling in past midnight with co-workers.

Where do you love to go for cocktails? I am constantly doing "research" on cocktails all over this city. There are three that come to mind that have had me smacking my lips in delight: a) The Alembic for the best sour of any kind, b) Madrone for a solid concoction off their massive menu written on the chalk walls (not to mention they sell 4505 Meats chicharrones), and c) The Tunnel Top for one of my favorite happy hour bartenders, Brian Johnson.

Where do you go for beer? The mecca for all things beer has been my go-to, my favorite, my frequently recommended and dearly loved Toronado. Secondly, with just steps from my house, Fat Angel has an incredibly well curated and constantly revolving beer program (not to mention a kitchen that kicks out killer food made for sharing). Lastly, a new beer program and location from the owners of the old Koko Cocktails at their new spot on Polk and Pine, The Hi Lo Club, offers a wide selection of Cali local favs as well as some one-off brewmaster collaborations and seasonal selections.

Eric Hammermaster of Bar 888
Eric Hammermaster of Bar 888
Favorite dive bar: I'm going way out there, all the way to Port Costa along the Carquinas straight (still technically the Bay Area) to a place called the Warehouse Cafe. Why go out there you ask? You wouldn't know it, but this unassuming place has an incredible bottled beer selection with a full bar as well. Jukebox, pool table, snappy light hearted bartenders and a giant stuffed polar bear make this place one of my faves.

Where do you love to go for cocktails? My favorite place to go for cocktails in the city would have to be 83 Proof. There is no cocktail list but they have great bartenders who will whip you up a drink tailored to you.

Where do you go for beer? Being a beer aficionado, I'll give the nod to The Trappist out in Oakland. They have a wonderful carousel of beers on tap, (almost all Belgian brews) as well as a great bottle list. It has a very mellow, alehouse vibe and it seems like everyone there is a regular!

[Photo: Connie Perez-Wong]

H. Joseph Ehrmann of Elixir
H. Joseph Ehrmann of Elixir
Favorite dive bar: Casanova Lounge—it is where I used to drink before I opened my own bar. Great feel, casual bartenders, good music, and awesome velvet naked lady paintings!  

Where do you love to go for cocktails? Comstock Saloon—I'm a saloon guy, what can I say?

Where do you go for beer? 21st Amendment. They make great beer and have a fun atmosphere.