Easily one of the busiest neighborhoods in San Francisco, Union Square always seems to be in a bustling state of flux. It is, after all, ‘the heart of the city’ and host to big-brand shopping, large hotels, lanyard-donning conference-goers, cheery out-of-towners, and construction on just about every corner. It also boasts a vibrant nightlife; check out our 10 favorite drinking spots around Union Square.
Burritt Room + Tavern
Boutique Hotel Restaurant, Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, American
Once you walk up the stairs from the hotel lobby of the boutique Mystic Hotel and through the velvet curtain entrance of the Burritt Room + Tavern, you are quickly transported to a speakeasy from yesteryear with a few modern touches. This sophisticated little spot features live jazz six nights a week, delicious New American tavern fare, and a skillfully crafted cocktail menu that puts a new spin on the classics. Their featured cocktails are updated regularly, but worry not; the friendly bartenders will gladly whip up your old favorites.
Hogwash is a neighborhood favorite. Its catchphrase, Swine + Swill, tells you simply what this cool casual spot offers: sausage and beer. Before you scrunch your face at the unexciting thought of a hotdog-and-bun combo, Hogwash has transformed the concept and bettered it by coupling homemade sausages with exciting toppings such as deep fried avocado and pickled cabbage. Pair your hearty snack with any of their 30 craft beers on tap. The friendly bartenders are happy to answer any questions you have about the brews and will let you sample them until you’ve found the right match. Tip: the fried pickles are delightful!
Walk swiftly down Sutter Street and you might miss Cantina completely. Tucked away between the many establishments along this block, this dimly lit cocktail bar is intimate and cozy – a perfect spot to enjoy a drink on a date or with a few good friends. Sip on any of their handcrafted concoctions made of only the freshest ingredients while taking in the unique Latin-inspired art that graces the walls.
If you’re coming off a long workweek and looking for a casual place to blow off some steam with your buddies or coworkers, the Golden Gate Tap Room is the spot to hit. It offers everything a great sports bar should; massive TV screens that show the best games being aired and an impressive beer selection that boasts over 100 beers. Not a big follower of sports? Almost every surface of this place is covered with pool tables, shuffleboard, SkeeBall machines, and video games to keep the fun going.
Yet another cocktail bar? Absolutely. The elusive Benjamin Cooper might prove difficult to find, but it is well worth the search. The brainchild of seasoned barmen Mo Hedges and Brian Felley; Benjamin Cooper stands out among the boisterous Union Square bars for its charming setting, wonderful staff, affordable oyster offerings, and artfully crafted, well-balanced cocktails you’ll want to write home about. Skip the line for Ruby Skye and look for the little unmarked door on Mason instead, you’ll be glad you did.
Undoubtedly one of the most popular wine bars in Union Square, ENO offers an impressive wine selection set against a cozy backdrop. Whether you’re a fan of red, white, or sparkling, you can sample the very best through their wine flights. Complete the experience with delicious charcuterie and cheese plate pairings that are updated seasonally. Best of all, the staff here is approachable and eager to help guide you through your wine discovery so you never feel intimidated. For either novice or connoisseur, ENO is a must for any wine enthusiast visiting the area.
Steps above the Stockton tunnel is Tunnel Top, an honest-to-goodness bar with good drinks at a great price. The bar’s two-story structure features an interior balcony lined with couches and tables that make for a laid-back set up, yet trendy pieces like the mannequin bird cage chandelier remind you that it’s not exactly a dive bar either. Still, the prices are indeed divey. And coupled with the fact that they play the sort of music you wish more bars played, Tunnel Top has all the makings of a good night out. Make sure you hit the ATM on your way over, this place is cash only.
The Irish Bank has a great atmosphere. Located in an alleyway called Mark Lane off of Bush Street, the outdoor patio area is the perfect spot for a pint on a sunny day. The walls of the interior are lined with vintage pictures and posters, giving it a homey feel. A traditional Irish pub, you’ll also find all your favorite Irish fare available here. Come by during one of the larger holidays, such as St. Patty’s, for their block parties and live performances.
Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, South American, American, $$$
Another spot tucked away from the rush of downtown, Hops & Hominy brings Southern comfort to the heart of San Francisco. While largely known for well-loved Southern favorites like the buttermilk fried chicken and shrimp & grits, Hops & Hominy has a large selection of cocktails and American microbrews not as easily found elsewhere. Located off of Grant Avenue between Sutter and Post, it has become a popular spot amongst locals and tourists alike, so we suggest making reservations lest your stomach is forced into an hour wait.
Union Square is not left wanting for pubs. But while some of the better-known establishments closer to the Square are filled to the brim with tourists, The White Horse maintains a great crowd without ever being crowded. Designed to replicate an old English Pub, this neighborhood favorite offers great prices for beers on tap, and a menu of quintessential pub food done right and priced even better (try the fish & chips or the spicy wings). Immediate bonus points for its free popcorn station as well!