15 SF Bars Where You Can Actually Meet People

It’s time to get out of your corner booth at the usual place and mix things up.
15 SF Bars Where You Can Actually Meet People image

photo credit: Mary Lagier

SF isn’t exactly a city where it's easy to have a meet-cute at a bar—most people are too busy hiking or cowering from the fog for that kind of thing. And the bars that we do have tend to be ones where people stick to their own friends. But there are a handful of bars where you won’t be given weird looks for trying to talk to someone outside of your circle—whether it's for love or a deep platonic connection. 

So when you’re tired of just going to the park every weekend and want to do more than stare at your phone for three hours straight, do the unimaginable—and head out to some of these spots where the work of meeting someone new is easy.




$$$$Perfect For:Dancing
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Madrone Art Bar in NoPa is a chameleon and SF rite-of-passage. Everyone from die-hard Bay Area locals to newly arrived transplants comes here at least once. With a giant dance floor and a wide variety of themed nights, from MoTown Mondays to fringe, and Emo vs Pop-Punk, there’s something for everyone. Do some diligence and find what night your preferred crowd will take over the dance floor and get ready for an experience.

photo credit: Brit Finnegan

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Bar Par Time in the Mission is the natural wine bar that some people might describe as “just like Brooklyn.” While we’re not ready to make such bold claims, the dance floor packed with people holding wine glasses and bottles above their heads as they try to dance certainly does not feel like SF. It’s a madhouse here on the weekends, with the line stretching around the block. So come early if you want easier access to the disco ball. But then again, you never know who you’ll meet in line.

photo credit: Melissa Zink

If you’re looking for someone who lives in Mission Bay (a.k.a. works in tech), a Giants fan who stumbled here after a game, or a reggaetón lover, Cavaña is the spot for you. This rooftop bar at the top of the Luma hotel is one of the few actually good hotel bars in the city. A tropical oasis with nice bay views, great cocktails, and surprisingly good arepas transforms into an all-out party fueled by Latin hits on weekend nights. The small, pseudo-dance floor always has space for one more.

Right next to El Rio in Bernal Heights is Mothership, a sci-fi-themed cocktail bar with purple lights, a big dance floor, and a big, pink-lit back patio. Home to a frequent set of DJ events, look at the calendar and come here for whatever music strikes your mood. And maybe fall in love with someone else that shares your amazing taste.

Break the ice with someone you might spend the rest of your life with by obliterating them in Super Smash Bros. The Detour, a Duboce Triangle barcade, hosts weekly events like Smash Bros. tournaments, drag bingo, and board game nights—prime opportunities to brush hands with a cutie during an intense round of Codenames. Basically, get here when you need to swap doom-swiping for organized fun and cold hard face-to-face interaction.

High Treason in the Richmond is a locals-filled spot for wine, vinyl, and meeting someone new who also likes getting on their high horse. If any of that sounds like you, then run to this dark, sultry space and you’ll surely hit it off with a fellow music-lover. 

photo credit: Ricky Rodriguez

$$$$Perfect For:Walk-Ins

A femme-centered queer bar in the Mission, Mother is where to go when you’re looking for the spot with the most suitable suitors who also so happen to love purple lighting. Music is pumping at just the right volume, so you can hear the character you just met who also has seen the Harvey Milk documentary projected on the wall. Everyone here always seems to be down bad, and with cheap, (cash-only) drinks it’s a great place to stop by in hopes of meeting your future lover.

Since 1978, El Rio in Bernal Heights has been the SF queer community’s ol’ reliable. The place to be is the giant back patio. It has themed dance parties like R&B and Ribs, Club Latino, and Infinite Pride. You never know what, or who, you’ll stumble into here, but you’ll always leave with a story or a person. 

Club Waziema is an enigma of a bar on Divisadero that is supposedly also an Ethiopian restaurant, but we’ve never seen any food. Instead, this is a dive bar that’s perfect for meandering between the chatting stage, the dancing stage, and vice versa. Through some magic of acoustic design, the music from the front never bleeds into the back, making it truly feel like two spots in one. The energy is different, too. Everyone tends to get down in the back, while those up front truly can’t be bothered to look past the eyes of their new situationship. Club Waziema covers almost all of your needs, now, if only we could get some food. 

Do you like beer? Do you like drinking beer outside at communal picnic tables where the probability of mingling with other picnic tables is high? If yes and yes, Zeitgeist on the northern edge of the Mission might be for you. The back patio is the main event, so pull up and grab a pitcher and sit down next to some randos and see where the night takes you.

In a city that goes to sleep early, Hi Tops is somehow always full of people flirting like their faces might fall off. This looks like a sports bar with a full lineup of TVs covering the wall, and it is that, but it’s also the best place to start your night in the Castro before you inevitably end up at Beaux or an unlisted venue on this list: the house of that guy you just met.

Down south at UCLA, there are plaques on the ground that read “All roads lead to Westwood.” How pretentious. Everyone knows all roads to Beaux. Beaux is a queer bar in the Castro where the music never stops pumping, the drinks never stop flowing, and the drag shows go late. A perfect recipe for a memorable night with some memorable people.

If you find yourself sad and alone on Polk—also known as Polk Gulch or whatever Google is calling it nowadays—stumble your way into Hi-Lo Club. This spot isn’t a dive bar, but it’s not exactly a fancy cocktail bar either. It’s nice, but not too nice, and there are always people standing around chatting. If something gets serious you can always take a seat and bump knees in the intimate booths.

Unlike most other spots in this guide, Li Po Cocktail Lounge is never filled to the brim. That doesn’t matter because, on any day of the week, you’re certain to run into someone who is looking for the strongest mai tai in town and a piece of Chinatown history—and those are always the types of people with the best stories. Also known as our types of people. 

At Geelou, conversation starters include, “Wow, this jazz band sure is nice,” and “So, did you ever play an instrument?” This sexy little jazz bar in the Marina is the block’s hottest place to listen to live music and play some pool. There are also booths to get cozy with someone who just bought you an espresso martini. Since this is a Marina bar, know that this crowd is full of people who still wear Greek life letters unironically. Hopefully, you're into that kind of thing too.

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The patio at El Rio with seats, LGBTQ+ flags, and pom poms overhead

Call them what you want. Happening. Cool. Busy. Vibing.

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