Reopening is here, which means you’re probably thinking less about takeout and more about ways to get out of the house. We feel you. So may we suggest checking out a new San Francisco or Oakland bar? This guide has 12 new cocktail spots, breweries, and bars that debuted over the last year (or shortly before the pandemic). They all have indoor or outdoor seating, and one thing in common - they’re great places to drink that are definitely not your living room.
Kona's Street Market
Kona’s Street Market opened earlier this year by the people behind Pacific Cocktail Haven. And it’s now a staple in our SoMa bar rotation - it’s a chill, inviting place that makes us want to stay a while, whether we’re on a first date or catching up with friends. Slide into a cozy booth or sit at the bar under the neon signs (which flash the cocktail specials of the day) and sip on creative drinks. The cocktail menu here is split into different regions from around the world and highlights ingredients and spirits from each - you’ll see ube coconut cream, pandan, and shochu in the “Asia + Pacific” section, and horchata or mezcal under “Americas.” The drinks are strong, refreshing, and come together smoother than a Silk Sonic duet. And if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of the eponymous dog watching over the bar.
If your most recent “Plant Parent” experiment resulted in a beautiful monstera transforming into a fuzzy grey twig, but you still dig relaxing in a room full of greenery, head to Propagation. The Nob Hill cocktail bar features a ton of potted leafy things spread throughout a bright, airy space. Chill on a brown leather couch next to a giant palm, or post up barside alongside a massive euphorbia. At Propagation, plants don’t just exist to look pretty. Many of their excellent cocktails are also plant-focused, like the “Plantasia” with mezcal, matcha, wheatgrass, pineapple, and lime.
Red Window, the Spanish restaurant and cocktail bar in North Beach, opened in March. And ever since, they’ve been delivering refreshing, low-ABV spritzes, high balls, sangria, and other drinks that pair well with a menu of pintxos and tapas. Other reasons that make Red Window an ideal drinking place: The corner spot has two large parklets with plenty of elbow room, a bar cart they’ll roll out to your table (to make certain cocktails), and a takeout window stocked with empanadas, canned cocktails, wine, and beer to-go.
If there’s one thing we love, it’s smoky mezcal cocktails and anything with tequila. Which is why Santeria gets high marks. One of the Castro’s newest drinking spots, this place has plenty of agave-based drinks and a food menu ranging from flautas and queso fundido to carne asada and carnitas plates. Oh, and did we mention weekday Happy Hour from 3-6pm? Santeria also has a full brunch menu, and indoor and outdoor seating.
In April, the brewers with the red bike launched their first company-owned and operated taproom/restaurant in Mission Bay (in the former Little Creatures space). And we’re happy they did. The spot is spacious, and ideal for groups - there is plenty of barside seating, tables, and a patio for up to 60 people. The food menu, created by former Noosh chefs Laura and Sayat Ozyilmaz, has everything from tacos on paratha bread to truffled chicken sandwiches. And on top of all that, New Belgium Brewing is ideally located near Oracle Park and the Chase Center, so don’t be surprised if you catch us here often before a Giants game.
The laid-back nautical-themed restaurant and bar in the Mission has been around since last August. And what keeps us coming back is this ultimate trifecta - great drinks, excellent small plates, and a casual outdoor seating area. We recommend grabbing your favorite cocktail, and ordering the fish and chips, hamachi poke, or mochiko chicken bites, which come with an incredible chicken fat hot sauce. They have plenty of sidewalk seating and a large patio out back too.
The Oakland bar delayed opening for a year due to the pandemic and finally had its grand opening in March (the two co-owners launched a tamale pop up called Chancho’s in the interim). Now you can stop by their airy space for excellent cocktails, crispy flautas, churros, and our favorite dish: a scotch egg with chorizo, corn tortilla panko crust, and pickled habanero gribiche.
This Russian Hill bar had only been open for three months before the pandemic hit, so you may not have had time to check it out. But now you can (and should). Inside it’s filled with plants and makes us feel like we’re hanging out in a botanical garden. And after sitting on one of their plush chairs or booths, you’ll want to chill here with one of their colorful cocktails all day. They also have parklet seating and a lot of great food options, like a Maine-style lobster roll and fantastic deviled eggs you definitely need to get into.
Viridian in Oakland was one of our favorite new bars to hang out at before the pandemic hit (they opened in February 2020). And coming here meant enjoying a tomato beef cocktail with some desserts and dim sum, and hunkering down on a bar stool (if you were lucky enough - this place got packed) to admire the stunning neon lights. Now that indoor dining is back, so is getting to appreciate Viridian’s gorgeous space and taste their entirely new menu of things like tempura calamari okonomiyaki, walnut prawn skewers, turnip cake and XO sauce, and crispy rice tuna tartare.
Friends and Family debuted during the pandemic with takeout only, which sadly meant we had to wait awhile to catch a peek at their indoor space. But the wait was worth it. Enter and walk down a long hallway and you’ll emerge into a bright room with a curved bar, vintage cane chairs, and double doors that lead to a garden courtyard. Simply put, Friends and Family is one of the coolest spots we can think of to grab a cocktail, a slice of carrot cake, or a gooey grilled cheese sandwich, and you can bet this will be one of our go-to’s this summer.
The cocktail lounge in Downtown Oakland opened a year ago, shut down when the pandemic hit, and returned in March, which means... time to finally enjoy their lush, lounge-y vibes and experience one of the most memorable evenings you’ll have in awhile. A night here will include choosing one - or several - of their impressive, well-made cocktails: passion fruit palomas, mojitos, Mai Tais, or aguardiente with apricot, honey, and lime. It will also feature plenty of small plates reflecting the flavors of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora - incredible plantains stuffed with Impossible meat ragu and olives on top of a creamy avocado purée; gulf shrimp with a rich garlic and nit’ir qibe-spiced butter sauce; and crispy beef empanadas. Inside it’s a tropical escape with plants and plush booths. And out on the sidewalk patio, live music keeps the good time going into the night - or, at least, until your table’s time limit is up.
Another great bar impacted by the pandemic, the Oakland cocktail spot opened for takeout briefly last summer, closed in June, and is back with indoor dining in their brightly-colored space for the first time ever. Make a reservation and sit down for mussels with chorizo and a creamy garlic sauce, kale salad with pickled veggies and avocado puree, or chocolate banana cream pie, and something from their extensive list of cocktails, wine, and beer.