Serious Eats: Drinks
Where to Drink on San Francisco's Divisadero Street
When I first moved to San Francisco, I lived a few blocks off of Divisadero in... the Western Addition? Lower Haight? Nopa? The "Divisadero Corridor?" Whatever you want to call it, the southern stretch of Divis is one of my absolute favorite parts of town. It's where I got to really make San Francisco my own, to discover my regular spots where I'd post up after a long workday, meet friends for brunch, and take out-of-towners to give them a taste of the city.
It's also where I fell in love with the polarity of the San Francisco bar scene. Divis is the kind of place where you can get a fancy pants cocktail at one spot and a beer-and-a-shot next door. It's a neighborhood that still feels like a neighborhood, and the most successful drinking establishments are the ones that are filled with locals and regulars.
Whether you're feeling like a fresh local beer, a tasty glass of wine, a craft cocktail, or, yes, a shot of whiskey, it's all within a couple of blocks: the Divisadero strip is studded with places that have drinks very much worth drinking. Bonus: there are no major hills to climb in the midst of your bar crawling. So where should you go to drink on Divis? Here are our top five spots for your drinking pleasure, along with some current drinks of choice (plus, a bonus happy hour for your bar crawl snacking needs).
"Let's meet at The Page" seems to be something of a mantra for the neighborhood. And when I think of a 'regulars' bar, The Page immediately comes to mind. Perched on the corner of Divis and, yes, Page, you've got three rooms of carpeted floors, beat-up armchairs, two pool tables, and groups of friends taking down Little Chihuahua burritos over beers.
And beer—good beer that doesn't cost too much—is definitely the name of the game at The Page. They've got a frequently rotating selection of drafts, and you can almost always count on the selection to be stellar. Always check out their "New and Notable" board first; currently, they've got the delicious Flowering Gose from local beer stars Almanac Brewery, a Game of Thrones tie-in stout from Ommegang, and Petrus sour pale. On a cool night, nothing hits the spot like the bourbon barrel aged stout from Anderson Valley Brewing. The smoky, coffee-laced stout is rich and remarkably balanced, with a clean finish and delicate carbonation. Even better, during happy hour (every day from 5 to 7 p.m.) the beer's only $4 (it's $5 otherwise).
A relative newcomer to the street, Wine Kitchen is slowly but surely gaining a regular crowd drawn by their wine list: they've got four wines on tap, a hefty by-the-glass selection, and bottles at a good range of prices and origins. When we visited, there were families tucking into small plates, couples sharing sips, and an attentive bar staff happy to help us pick a glass of something tasty and unique.
We loved their recommendation, a refreshing and mineral-laden glass of red from Corsican winery Domaine Abbatucci ($13 for a glass, $52 for a bottle). Despite its overall lightness, the wine, made from Sciaccarellu grapes, has a deep, fruity flavor. It's suggested as a good pairing for Wine Kitchen's corn gnocchi, served with sweet cherry tomatoes.
Ziryab went through something of a rebirth this year. The Mediterranean restaurant traded in its hookah pipes for an extensive whiskey selection and craft cocktail menu, with housemade ginger beer on tap and a hand cut ice program. In turn, it went from one of those spots I'd pass without a second thought to a new favorite drinking destination of mine. There are always seats open at their bar, and they've got a front patio with the requisite heat lamps, too.
Bar Manager Zach Taylor is changing up many of his cocktail offerings, but a few staples are remaining including the Ziryab Manhattan (with date-infused rye) and the Ostwald Ripened ($10), easily one of the more interesting drinks available on Divisadero. Gantous & Abou Raad arak, which is a bit like ouzo or pastis, is mixed with Bols yogurt liqueur, Pavan muscat grape and orange blossom liqueur, and freshly grated cinnamon. The strong anise flavor of the arak dominates, sweetly tempered with the creaminess of the yogurt liqueur. It's a good drink on its own but would be even better paired with one of Ziryab's bold, meaty dishes—next time, I'll drink it alongside the lamb meatballs or braised lamb shank.
Nopa is often credited with 'making' the neighborhood around it, and even inspiring one of the area's newer names (the abbreviation stands for "north of the Panhandle," referring to the spit of greenery extending out of Golden Gate Park). And almost a decade later, the two-story restaurant is still. always. packed.
But if Nopa is a cult, consider me a Kool-aid drinker. I kind of love everything about the spot—the burger, the French toast, the monster pork chop, and the fact that they serve the full dinner menu until 1 a.m., which is a rarity in this town. The cocktails, too, are consistently fantastic. I've been obsessed with the Dawn ($10) for quite a while now—the blend of 8-year Flor de Caña rum, Rothman & Winter apricot liqueur, Amaro Nonino, and lemon is as smooth as they come. The rich sweetness of the aged rum and the grappa-based amaro stars, perfectly balanced by the fresh lemon's acidity.
I think I end up at Club Waziema more than any other bar on Divis. Why? Because it's kind of perfect—from the ornate red-pattered wallpaper, to the back rooms that just keep on going, to the pitchers of beer, to the fact that it's actually an Ethiopian restaurant that also happens to be the best dive on the block (the food's pretty good, and cheap too). Waziema is a place you can sit at the bar and have a midweek heart-to-heart, or a place where you can take over the jukebox and have a rowdy Saturday night dance party.
Waziema has a solid draft beer list, almost all offered by the pitcher. But this is a bar where I like to stay simple, and get to the point, with a bottle of PBR and a Bulleit, neat ($10 for both). Whether you're sipping or shooting your bourbon, PBR tastes awfully refreshing after a long night of Divisadero bar crawling. It goes well with some injera, too.
Bonus: Happy Hour at Bar Crudo
There's no reason to do this bar crawl on an empty stomach, especially when there's Bar Crudo's happy hour to hit. From 5 to 6:30 p.m., gorge on briny dollar oysters and marinated mussels; $6 bowls of smoked paprika-laced manilla clams, bacon-rich seafood chowder, and shishito peppers; and $10 plates of pan-seared fish tacos. If you're ready to start drinking, their drink specials are nothing to complain about, with $4 drafts and $6 glasses of wine. It's a perfect spot to get a night out on Divisadero started.
About the author: Lauren Sloss is a bicoastal food-lover who is based in San Francisco. Some of her favorite things include The Black Keys, goat gouda, and guacamole. You can follow her on Twitter @laurensloss.