Not many places in San Francisco offer handcrafted cocktails in a cool lounge just down the street from go-go dancers slinging shots on tables. The Castro District bar scene is as diverse and eclectic as the people who come and go. Here is our guide to the top 10 bars you should you try.
There’s an old jukebox blasting out rock and roll and punk classics. Towards the back, a popcorn machine is perfect for late night munching. And with over 30 beers on draft to keep you satisfied, Lucky 13 is a dark, moody bar with an unapologetic aesthetic. This bar hinges on their consistent regulars that come for good beer, with good prices. Make sure to come sooner than later, because condos will soon be replacing the beloved pub. So, next time you’re looking for a laid back, no-frills bar with plenty of room for groups and open before noon, duck into Lucky 13 for a cold one.
Looking for a spot with all the swanky style and class but without the uptight pretentiousness? No need to venture down to North Beach or SOMA because Blackbird will not only quench your thirst, it will also leave you wanting more. Their craft cocktails will entice during any season of the year. Currently, their new B-Side cocktail menu has more street cred than most bars with Neo-classic drinks named after hip-hop songs and references. Who doesn’t enjoy yelling ‘Bonita Applebum’ from across the bar? The large open space is perfect for the whole crew, and a back ‘den’ area with a pool table and photo booth for more intimate gatherings.
‘Strong pour, good price,’ is a common phrase said around The Mix. It’s a very matter of fact statement that only a true neighborhood bar with frequent happy-hour specials could pull off. And The Mix is just that, the neighborhood bar you can crawl into around 6 am with your dog(s), set up camp in the open back patio and try to remember the previous night with a bloody mary. With a diverse crowd of all ages, this casual and welcoming bar is the ideal chill spot for those nights off, and a great pre-game place for the long nights ahead.
More on the outskirts of the Castro District, the Pilsner Inn possesses that laid back, beer-after-work feel, but with all your favorite aspects. A variety of local draft beer, Old gay men with their dogs, TVs that play the best sports games without being an annoyance and a roomy, gorgeous backyard surrounded by twinkly lights. There’s even a section outside for non-smokers who actually want fresh air. In the winter there’s a cozy window spot right up front that gives you that cool café vibe, but better because you’re drinking beer. Come for the back patio, stay for the company.
The Edge consistently proves their neighborhood bar aesthetic, while keeping it fun and exciting. With a weekly schedule full of events ranging from Musical Mondays and Wednesdays to their epic Monster Show every Thursday, there’s never a boring night. If the singing queens aren’t your thing, then wait for the happy hour 24 ounce mason jar long island iced tea to kick in and you’ll be on the stage with them. And who can beat a weekend happy hour of noon- 9 pm?
If dancing is on the agenda for the night, then SF Badlands is the place to be. With the biggest dance floor in the Castro, there’s no need for themed nights because every night is a guarantee dance party. Whether you’re strutting in with your crew ready to get down in the middle, or hanging along the side looking available but not too available, there’s room for all. The diverse staff caters perfectly to the melting pot of locals and visitors that make up the Castro.
The only gay sports bar in the Castro, Hi Tops provides much more than good booze and large TVs. Hi Tops became a Castro Staple after Jamie Lauren, a Top Chef All-Star, helped create the modern and delicious food menu and Sports Illustrated featured the bar in 2013. While serving up 25 cent wings every Monday and free whiskey shots given out by boys in jock straps during ‘gym class’ on Thursday, there’s something for everyone. Along with their house made cocktails, many fancy the specialty haterade drink that comes in handy when their team is having a rough game. Sports fanatic or not, Hi Tops welcomes all patrons with the promise of a good time.
One of the more prominent bars in the Castro because of the location, The Lookout provides ample people watching with its wrap-around balcony. Perched on the second story, overlooking the infamous six-way intersection on Market, this bar is the place to be for any neighborhood event such as Pride weekend or The Castro Street Fair. The most popular event is Jock Sundays dedicated to raising funds for LGBT sports teams and organizations, with a few athletic boys and girls running around, of course. This open space is the ultimate day-drinking bar, for locals and visitors alike.
Every Monday night there is a DJ spinning banging ’90s pop music. If that doesn’t make you lose your mind with excitement, then you probably shouldn’t be in the Castro, anyway. Q Bar is a turn and burn dance club that keeps the drinks simple, and the music flowing to ensure an enjoyable evening. Don’t be fooled by the mellow vibes during the day, by 9 pm the tables and chairs are stripped and the dance floor is open for business. Don’t miss out on Booty Call Wednesday where buying a drink gets you a free shot from 9 pm to 11 pm!
Right across the street from the Castro Muni Station, this historic landmark is one of the oldest gay bars in the city. Twin Peaks Tavern was the first bar to have open windows in the front to show their patrons weren’t afraid of being seen in a gay bar. With the panoramic view of Castro and Market Street, there’s always something to see and someone to watch. They’re well known for their Irish coffee drinks and an abundant amount of regulars with the best stories. And a definite bonus of sharing a wall with Hot Cookie is having the best smelling bathroom in the Castro.