Lately, it seems like every time you ask your friends to go out they say, “no” and offer up a thin excuse, like they need to get work done this weekend (even though you know that’s absolutely not going to happen). Or they’d rather watch a movie at home tonight (again) instead of grabbing dinner and drinks with you. And every time this happens, you die a little on the inside - you like going out, and you don’t want them to miss all the action. So if you need to find a way to convince them to join you, we’re here to help.
This guide is a one-two punch. The first of each of the two places is set up to bring their guard down - they’re casual, lively, and fun. They also have good food and drinks, and are the kind of spots that will get them excited to keep the night going after they’ve settled in. That’s where the second destination comes in. These bars are within walking distance and are ideal for keeping the conversations going, whether you stay for one round or ten.
It’s best to come to Fiorella Polk with reservations so you don’t end up waiting, which is actually perfect - with a set day and time, your friends will have a harder time backing out last-minute. Split a few great pizzas and pastas like their carbonara pie and linguine vongole, and make sure they face the big front windows so they can see everyone having fun on Polk and inevitably want to join in.
Right across from Fiorella Polk is Greens, one of the best sports bars in the city with tons of memorabilia on the walls and every game showing on their many TVs. But even if you can’t tell the difference between a fastball and a Reese’s commercial, it’s hard not to get caught up in the energy from all the fans, so you’ll still have fun hanging out. If you want to drink somewhere with a few less glowing screens though, you could go next door to Mezcalito and do flights of mezcal.
You haven’t seen your best friend since they got into a new relationship, and you just don’t know when you’re ever going to hang out again - at least, that’s what you told them when you guilted them into getting a “quick round” at ABV. The drinks are light and refreshing, and there are small plates like cheese boards you can split. This bar tends to get crowded later in the night, but you can use that to your advantage - just say you want to go somewhere more laid-back before you hear more about their love life.
Kilowatt is right down the block from ABV, 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.”
Your friends never go out because they always say they’re too tired after work and just want to unwind at home, but no one’s house is as relaxing as a trip to Noosh. This Mediterranean place is bright and open, and feels like the poolside bar at a luxury Greek resort, but it’s right here on Fillmore St. By the time everyone is done with small plates of hummus and pita sandwiches, no one will remember how wound up they were (we hope), and it shouldn’t be too hard to convince them to go somewhere else.
We usually come to The Snug early in the night for light bites and drinks before we go “out out,” but if you’re trying to continue a casual evening (that could potentially turn into a whole night), this is a great second stop. The Snug gets full, but never “we can’t find a seat” packed. Come here when you’re done with dinner and sip on their delicious cocktails like the spicy Prickly Pear with mezcal or the gin and maraschino Aviation they have on tap.
The tiny dining room at this Middle Eastern restaurant always has a sociable buzz and servers whizzing around, and all of the food from the sweet muhammara dip to the lamb shanks are delicious. When you’re halfway through your mezze sampler and a bottle of wine, start dropping hints about how it’s been forever since you went out in the Castro. Hopefully, they’ll forget that early bedtime they have scheduled.
When you get to this Castro sports bar after dinner, the room will probably be filled with people eating fried chicken sandwiches and wings, but you’ll still be able to find a table in the back or an open spot at the bar. Enjoy a few drinks while you pet every dog that comes by, or fake catch-up on all the sportsball playing on the TVs on the wall.
Book a table at Farmhouse Kitchen and show them how much fun it is to do dinner instead of washing clothes on a Saturday night. With its bright lights and servers dressed in tropical shirts, this place feels like a party, and their Thai food is some of the best in the city. By the time you’re done with your panang neua and papaya salad, no one will be thinking about the laundry they were supposed to be doing anymore.
Keep the energy alive after dinner at Farmhouse Kitchen and walk to Trick Dog. This bar is small but it does get lively. They also make some of the best and most creative cocktails in the city from their always-changing themed menu. But if you want something more laid-back, True Laurel around the corner is quieter and has equally delicious drinks.
Everything at this place in the Mission is about as good as it gets. The small plates like the homemade mozzarella sticks and meatballs are delicious, the pizzas have a chewy and crispy crust and toppings like smoked mozzarella and eggplant. They also have a good selection of wines by the glass. By the time you’re done eating, you’ll want to keep the night going by drinking somewhere else.
Unlike a lot of the rowdy bars around this part of the Mission, Wildhawk feels like a lounge that’s specifically made for talking to the people around you. The specialty here is martinis, and their house version comes in a frozen sake bottle, so your drink stays perfectly chilled in between the dramatic pauses in the story you’re telling.
If you’re looking to hang out with your friend on a work night, Comstock Saloon is a short walk from FiDi. But unlike other FiDi bars where people kill time during rush hour before jumping on a less-crowded Muni bus, people come here to hang out for a while. In addition to Prohibition-style cocktails, this place also has good bar food like burgers and pastas that are all good to split while you make your way through the drink list.
You could walk from Comstock Saloon to Mr. Bing’s while holding your breath, so distance is no excuse for your friend to leave. This bar in North Beach looks like a dive, but the liquor selection is much better than that. They also make good classic cocktails like bee's knees. But if Comstock made them want something a little stronger, go to Li Po Lounge for a mai tai, or to Bow Bow to sing karaoke before eventually calling it quits for the night. Eventually.
You know that deep down your friend still loves a good Happy Hour, so convince them to come to Bar Crudo instead of spending their night microwaving leftovers. This place has great specials on Tuesday to Sunday from 5-6:30pm - $1.50 oysters, $5 beers, and $7 glasses of wine.
If your friend is still in a money-saving mood, take them down Divis to The Page. This bar is cheap - some beers are only $3.50 - so you can hang out here for a long time without spending too much.
In the last three weeks, the most you’ve interacted with your friend is a few random texts like they’re someone you met on The League. If you have a lot of catching up to do, you might as well go to Papito Hayes like it was a first date. Load up on chorizo tacos and spicy margaritas while you get to know each other again in this small, intimate restaurant. And if you come with enough good stories, you should be able to convince them to grab another round somewhere else after.
When you need to leave Papito because other people are waiting on a table, continue the conversation a block away at Brass Tacks. This bar has a bunch of seats in the back so you can sit and keep talking over a few more rounds of drinks. You might even suggest going from here to a place like Smuggler’s Cove if you want to keep the night going even longer.
Most of the restaurants on Union St. are effectively clubs, and trying to bring your friend, who’s really into sweatpants lately, to one of them might make them run like they’re in The Purge. Instead, meet them at Kaiyo, which is a few blocks away from most of the action. The Japanese-Peruvian food here is all good, and they do small plates, so you won’t fill up while you eat and drink their creative cocktails.
If your friend is still allergic to the idea of hanging out on Union St. after dinner, go the opposite direction and grab a few beers at the Black Horse. This place is cash-only and probably the smallest bar in the city - only about 15 people can fit in the bar. By the time you get your second round, you’ll hopefully have made friends with everyone and won’t want to leave.
If your friend wants to go home after tacos, take them to Third Rail first. The front area feels like a living room with a couch, so you can make the case that hanging out here is pretty much the same thing. The drinks like their Godzilla with gin and nori or the Comeback with mezcal are also much better than anything they could probably make at home.