The Best Bars In The Mission
photo credit: Brit Finnegan
You could buy a map of the Mission and some push pins and start working your way through the neighborhood's many bars trying to find your favorites. But that energy is probably better spent doing more interesting things, like learning how to surf or looking cool lounging in Dolores Park. Use this guide instead. It has some of the best bars in the Mission, from casual beer spots with excellent fried chicken sandwiches to energetic wine bars with dance floors and disco balls. But if you’re looking for the best bars around the entire city, we’ve got a guide for that too.
Cozy, chill, and beautifully designed, this casual wine bar is an ideal place for a date over a refreshing wine cocktail. Buddy also has a full rotating food menu that’s both fancy and funky. We’re talking walnut levain bread with pumpkin miso butter and apricot mustarda, golden beets with pickled grapes , and a hearty mortadella sandwich that will probably inspire you to sink into the comfy banquette and linger until closing time. This is one of our favorite places to meet up with friends for an hour to discuss culturally relevant things right now.
There’s nowhere else in the city where you can indulge in a glass of pét-nat while listening to a DJ set inside of a space that’s greener than Redwood National Park. This plant shop-wine bar hybrid is usually packed with self-described “plant parents” chatting about watering habits while snacking on cheese boards or salads from the all-vegetarian menu. Even if you can’t keep a pothos alive, the high-ceilinged, frond-filled place is still the answer to "What should we do tonight?” Come with a date you want to impress or before dinner at one of the neighborhood's great restaurants and get buzzed off some orange wine while sitting under a towering ponytail palm.
Natural wine bars in the city are as common as black puffer jackets. But natural wine bars where you can also dance? Head to this new spot in the Mission for that. Bar Part Time just feels like a party thanks to its fun checkered floors, a DJ spinning records in the corner, and a disco ball overhead. Sure, the shelves filled with vinyl and the high ratio of beanies per capita make this spot feel trendier than a fancy soap store, but it’s not hard to have a good time here. The cushy booths are exactly where we want to be on a Thursday night with friends.
ABV is a great get-to-know-you bar, which is why it's high on our list of great spots for first (or 20th) dates. This casual place is the right size where it’s not crammed-full tiny, but isn’t so big that you’ll be fighting a crowd for drinks. The cocktails are about three steps above most other spots, and they have snacks like cheese and charcuterie boards that feel plucked out of the top wine bars in the city. But if you’re really hungry, the burger is one of the best in the city.
This cocktail bar in the Mission also doubles as a restaurant with great shareable plates, sandwiches, and fish and chips. They also don’t go overboard with the nautical theme. So, if you’re looking for a spot to drink, fuel up, and meet on a patio under a large flapping sail—or inside a space that looks like the cabin of a wooden ship—this place is it.
From Mission St., Casements looks like any other Irish pub, but when you step inside, you'll discover it's also a super lively queer bar with leather couches and a jukebox. Grab a drink from the cozy indoor bar and make a beeline toward the main event: a hidden back patio that feels like a slice of a V.I.P. section at Outside Lands. Full of plants, murals, and an eclectic mix of furniture, this patio is taken over nightly by friend groups so large you’ll wonder how they all know each other. Everyone is drinking something crafted from the long list of whiskeys, picking a local beer, or sipping on elegantly served frozé all while they all chat with almost-strangers at one of the liveliest bars in the neighborhood.
Bar Gemini is more than just another natural wine bar. It’s got a mid-century modern scene with sauna decor vibes and excellent small plates—which, as it turns out, is different from most natural wine bars. This spot from the team at Gemini Bottle Co. and Ernest is drenched in warm moody lighting and bumping music that pairs suspiciously well with macabeu. Featuring 11 wines by the glass (and four on tap) alongside bar bites like a decadent grilled cheese and cacio e pepe deviled eggs, Bar Gemini is an obvious drinks-and-snacks weekend destination.
For excellent cocktails and snacky plates that can be finished relatively quickly (you know, in case the person you're with starts spouting conspiracy theories), suggest meeting up at True Laurel. The Mission cocktail bar incorporates things like redwood tips into their rotating menu of delicious drinks, and has a small food menu of light bites like candied nuts, a great patty melt, and a meyer lemon curd tartlet.
You’re here for strong margaritas, like knock-you-onto-the-floor strong. Aside from that, this place has just about every kind of patron you could imagine, from lifers to recent grads who still don’t know about the fog line. It gets loud and packed and, odds are, you’re going to end up having conversations with complete strangers while in line at the bar or waiting for the bathroom. Whether you remember the conversation comes down to how many of those margaritas you’ve had.
Lone Palm is a dive bar that decided to class things up a bit. The candles, white tablecloths, and neon lights make it feel like a swanky Art Deco lounge in South Beach—or Rick Blaine’s gambling den in Casablanca. But it’s here, on a quiet block in the Mission. But don’t let the seductive interiors fool you into thinking this place doesn’t do pours for the people. Lone Palm has stiff drinks that are also affordable, and bowls of Goldfish crackers that will snap you out of feeling like you’re in a sweaty club in Miami Vice. You’d be just as good sipping on a martini in Don Johnson’s suit as you would throwing back a cheap well shot at the bar, which makes Lone Palm great for any occasion.
The best thing about this '60s-themed spot is the back room that feels like a private lounge where you can drink cocktails with vaguely retro names like the Thunderbird and the namesake Beehive with gin and honey. There’s also a bright bar up front with vintage glassware and wallpaper that look like they were taken from the set of Bewitched. And if that’s not enough theme for you, order some food—they have things like Swedish meatballs and fondue because that’s apparently what people ate back then.
Trick Dog is one of our favorite bars for starting or ending a night in the Mission. It’s nice enough that you could go there with visiting friends to show them why they need to drop everything and move to SF, but casual enough that you could grab a drink while you wait for a table at a restaurant close by. The menu changes regularly, but the cocktails always run along a central theme. The choices can be a lot to take in, but the bartenders are always willing to help you find the right drink.
Even if Zeitgeist isn’t your favorite outdoor patio bar, something about it makes it feel like the outdoor patio bar in SF. It’s big and covered in gravel, random signs, and picnic tables, and has pretty much every type of person under the sun (that would hang out in a dive). This old-school place has a long craft beer list, and sitting outside with a pitcher is the way to go, but they also have cocktails if beer isn’t your thing.
Pop’s is a neighborhood bar on 24th St. that’s been around since 1937. Part dive, part cocktail bar, anything goes at this popping spot. While the cocktails are just fine, the energy here is unmatched. Red pulsating lights and thumping beats permeate the space as people chat, dance, and flirt under the mesmerizing disco ball light. Different music nights, like the hechiceras night with rock en español, or nights with indie pop, darkwave, afrobeats, disco, R&B, and more, keep the space fresh and full of all different kinds of people. They’re even open from 6am until 2am (that’s right—20 hours straight) to serve the people getting off the night shift from the nearby hospital. Check their Instagram for the best list of all of their events and get ready for the dive bar dance party you didn’t know you needed.
Fort Point is a neo-futurist beer hall that couldn’t exist anywhere but Valencia St. The inside is simple with exposed wooden rafters, slab walls painted in primary and secondary colors, and basic gray chairs surrounding light wooden tables that look straight out of the factory floor at Wayfair. Still, you’re here for a quick drink on the makeshift patio (read: tables sitting on the sidewalk) from a selection of 18 beers, like a tart ale with mate and hibiscus and a Korean-style lager, sourced from Fort Point and other local brewers. And while you’re here, get the double cheeseburger on a sesame seed bun—it’s a little salty, but they crisp their meat up well and load it up with a tangy special sauce.
What’s that? You’re looking for an unpretentious place for an intimate night of wine, vinyl, and good food? Meet the 20 Spot. The Mission restaurant and bar with the neon “Records” sign feels like the den of a skateboarder who loves mid-century design and candlelight. It’s all very moody and casual, which is why you’ll see everyone in the neighborhood sprawled at the bar, sunk into the couch up front, or on the outdoor seats with a glass of something from Austria or Sebastopol. The food is reliable, leaning into cheese boards, small plates like an excellent chicken liver mousse, and (somewhat pricey) pizzas that are really more like personal-sized flatbreads (that are some of the best in town). Count on this place for everything from one-on-ones to full group catch-ups.
Bender’s is a classic Mission dive for drinking beer, playing pool, and shouting “I f*cking love this song” as rock ‘n’ roll blasts from the jukebox. The open space is huge, so your dozens-deep group can walk right in without getting an elbow to the face. And every square inch of the wall is covered with SF memorabilia, from photobooth strips and the old Lucky 13 sign to rotating art shows by local artists. Come here to kick back in a booth and cap off the night with a lager and some tater tots.
This cocktail bar hits that sweet spot of being affordable, impressive, and relaxing all at once. It used to be a dive but got considerably less divey after a recent makeover—there’s now a minimalist orange wave mural, geometric tiles, and an abundance of light wood accents. And even if you never saw Dalva in its old form, you should still get here for a date or quick pre-dinner drink. Come here when you want fantastic cocktails that won’t make your wallet burst into flames, since their excellent highballs achieve the rare SF feat of costing $14 or less.
El Techo is an ideal San Francisco rooftop bar: there are umbrellas in case it’s too bright, heaters for when it’s too cold, and excellent margaritas and palomas. On top of that, the views from this Mission spot are basically unbeatable. And while drinking, you might get hungry. El Techo has a menu of mostly Latin American snacks and larger plates, like chicharrones, beef empanadas that make for an easy bite, and some solid fish tacos.
When you want to “go out in the Mission” and catch up with a friend without needing to raise your voice, Shotwell’s is where it’s at. This bar on the corner of 20th and Shotwell only serves beer and wine in a dark, saloon setting that would make a 49er (not the football kind) feel right at home. While this place doesn’t serve any hard liquor, there are never any lines or crowds to get in, and seats are always available. And when you realize good beer and non-shouting conversations aren’t the only things that make a night, there’s pinball and pool, too.
Kilowatt in the Mission can get crowded, but it’s a great, casual dive to meet up with some friends. And even though it can also get rowdy later in the night, noise is an expected part of the experience when you’re surrounded by dart boards and pool tables. On most nights, it’s chill. This dive bar is one of the best places in the neighborhood to drink cheap beers, shoot pool, and have at least four conversations that lead to revelations of “we need to do this more.”