The Best Bars In The Mission
You’re going out in the Mission. Here are the best bars in the area.
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 planking or learning how to play the harp. 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.
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photo credit: Albert Law/Buddy
Cozy, chill, and beautifully designed, the casual wine bar is an ideal place to drop in (they don’t take reservations), for a refreshing wine cocktail. Buddy also has a full food menu that’s both fancy and funky. We’re talking whole baby turnips with a flavorful smoked oyster ranch, tuna confit with a soft egg and a side of saltine crackers, 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.
photo credit: Ulysses Ortega
Bar Part Time
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.
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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.
photo credit: Lost Resort
This cocktail bar in the Mission also doubles as a restaurant with great shareable plates, burgers, 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.
photo credit: Matthew Millman
Wildhawk has some of the best cocktails you can find in the Mission. This place looks like a Victorian salon, and has dark floral wallpaper and cushioned seats if you want to lounge while talking about your best day ever with a friend over a gin-based cocktail. It's also sandwiched between Valencia and Mission Streets, but doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic. So it's the perfect bar for having one or two drinks before dinner in the area without having to battle a lot of crowds.
The Best Restaurants In The Mission
photo credit: Mary Lagier
For excellent cocktails and snacky plates that can be finished relatively quickly (you know, in case the person you're with starts spouting Avril Lavigne conspiracy theories), suggest meeting up at True Laurel. The Mission cocktail bar incorporates things like snap peas or redwood tips into their delicious drinks, and has a rotating food menu of small dishes like candied nuts, cornmeal hushpuppies, a great patty melt, and more.
Latin American Club
You’re here for strong margaritas, like Popeye-after-a-green-juice strong. Aside from that, this place has just about every kind of person you could imagine coming across inside a bar, from lifers to recent grads still breaking in their first puffy vests. 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.
photo credit: Krescent Carasso
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 cash-only 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.
One of the better beer bars in the city, Monk’s Kettle is always one of the first places we recommend in the Mission. This spot has lots of outdoor tables for day drinking, and a good inside area for when the weather inevitably turns and you forgot your jacket. Most importantly, the beer list would make Pliny the Younger jump for joy. If you get that joke, you'll probably become a regular at this place. Don't sleep on the fried chicken sandwich.
El Techo de Lolinda
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 some solid fish tacos, chicharrones, and a decent chicken adobo with rice and beans that’s also big enough to share.
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) or Dolores from Westworld feel at home. While this place doesn’t serve rum or bourbon or tequila, there are never any lines or crowds to get in, and seats are always available. And when you realize good beer and alone time 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.”