AOL PICK from our Editors
From Mad Men-esque cocktail lounges and down-and-dirty dives to dance-till-you-drop clubs and over-the-top tiki bars, San Francisco will happily quench your thirst whatever you crave. Happy hours are always popular during the week, as the ranks of financial workers, creative types and shopgirls file into the many bars and lounges clustered around downtown, SoMa and elsewhere. The nightlife scene after dinner usually gets going by 10PM and last call is typically around 2AM. Most clubs charge a cover, but they're not usually too hard on the wallet.
Neighborhood: SoMa (South of Market)
Like a stylish chameleon, 111 Minna deftly changes from art gallery by day to vibrant happy hour spot to energetic dance club by night. Located in a cobblestone alley (the address is its name) in SoMa, the industrial space has managed to maintain its popularity over the years by striking the perfect balance of unpretentiousness and cool. Dance events, starring various hot DJs, rock the warehouse space Wednesdays through Saturdays. This place is cool because it appeals to city dwellers, visitors and suburbanites (who head into the city via any number of bridges) who pack the place mostly Thursday through Sunday. Make sure to check a schedule before you head out to enjoy the party.)
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Neighborhood: Pacific Heights/Japantown
It's the ultimate insider neighborhood lounge, with no sign indicating the chill-romantic scene inside. Located on the corner of Divisadero and Sacramento streets, an abundance of plants and green ivy surround the entrance. Inside, non-blaring dance music plays while comfy chairs, a fireplace and dim lighting create a lovely ambience to enjoy the delicious specialty drinks with fresh-squeezed juices (orange, grapefruit, cantaloupe, you name it) and complimentary cheese and crackers for which it's known. Classic mojitos and margaritas are delicious. Although it started life more than 40 years ago as a gay bar, today Lion is a favorite of singles and couples of all stripes. One thing to note: It's a cash-only bar (don't worry, there's an ATM located inside). Parking can be hard to find.
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Neighborhood: Hayes Valley
It's the perfect dive bar in a prime location (if a little bit hidden) smack-dab in the middle of Hayes Street. Hipster/artsy denizens of the neighborhood can be found hanging out in this Parisian-boho joint any night of the week. The draw? An excellent selection of reasonable priced micro-brews, wine and sake, plus chill seating, pool table and a cool mix of music from jazz to dance tunes and indie faves. If your scene is the antithesis of scene-y, you'll be happy here.
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Neighborhood: The Mission
It's all about the beer at this neighborhood tavern that's comfortably sophisticated. More than 150 bottled beers (including those from local craft breweries, Belgium, Germany and more) plus 24 poured on tap plus a serious selection of vintage (cellared) brews keep customers happy. The gourmet pub fare is delicious and the menu features food and brew pairings, such as housemade veggie burger (hey, it's San Francisco) with Pilsner, Hefeweizen or Brown Ale. Not to be missed: the giant pretzel with stone-ground mustard and cheddar-ale sauce. Located in the heart of the Mission, rife with dives, Monk's is a nice alternative that's consistently good and usually packed.
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Oenophiles will never want to leave this swank wine bar/tasting room showcasing Napa and Northern California wines. Decorated in rich warm woods and Cali-chic furnishings, the vibe is sophisticated and relaxed, the perfect place for a delicious swill. Located downtown on the charming Yerba Buena Lane promenade, wine lovers have eight California wineries (among them Chateau Montelena, Fritz Winery, Mount Eden Vineyards and Saintsbury) from which to sip and sample. A lounge and communal bar with a rotating menu of season bites—cheese, caviar, fruit, seafood and the like—offer the perfect place to unwind. After a long work (or tourist) day, you can't do much better than hunkering down here with good company and nowhere else to be. It's the next best thing to tasting in Napa. It's open till midnight on Friday and Saturday, till 10PM on Thursday and till 9PM Monday through Wednesday.
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