Shake up your after-hours game with these eight San Francisco bars that take theme to the next level.
Themed bars are always in danger of being over-the-top, resulting in a space that’s cliche and kitschy rather than fun and unique. But some bars really do theme right, and those locations are gold — perfect for jazzing up the ol’ dive bar routine.
Here are 8 themed bars that are sure to become new staples to your bar repertoire!
Theme: Private Detective Agency
Location: 505 Jones St in the Tenderloin
This private detective-themed drinking spot is so cleverly hidden that it’s a bar-within-a-speakeasy. To infiltrate the small room, you must first be led through Bourbon & Branch (featured further down on the list) and enter through two password-protected doors. Reservations are highly recommended since the bar enforces a strict 28-person limit to preserve a secretive feel.
Location: 662 Mission St in Financial District/SoMa
Novela: making reading fun since 2013. Except substitute reading with drinking, and you have an accurate picture of what goes down in this new literary bar.
Theme: Trailer Trash
Location: 354 11th St in SoMa
Sick of the somewhat pretentious standards that so many dive bars seem to be aspiring to? Here’s one bar that pursues the very opposite.
If you’re looking for a place to relive those booze-filled college days (complete with jello shots!), Butter it is. As for reservations, you can throw those away (along with your inhibitions) at the door.
Theme: Film Noir
Location: 581 Hayes St in Hayes Valley
Noir Lounge is one of those rare locations that is practically built for date night — cuddle with your significant other (or try out a potential candidate) on one of their vintage couches while watching one of the film noir screenings that are projected on to the walls. Complete the picture with a glass of wine or beer from their extensive list and relax to the quiet piano music that filters through the bar.
Theme: Late ’70s and Early ’80s Pornos
Location: 1548 Polk St in Nob Hill
Relive the glory days of Generation X at this retro, perverted bar that makes you uncomfortable in all the right ways. Kozy Kar is the bar version of that greasy, perpetually drunk uncle (or is he your cousin twice-removed?) who refuses to be seen without his trusty pair of bell-bottoms.
Theme: 1920 Speakeasy
Location: 501 Jones St in the Tenderloin
The father to Wilson and Wilson, Bourbon & Branch is an original speakeasy complete with a password protected front door. To get the password to the Bourbon, make sure to reserve ahead.here.
Theme: Vintage Journalism
Location: 691 Market St in Financial District/SoMa
You don’t simply walk into a different time period with the Local Edition; you descend into one. Located underground, the Local Edition is the lovechild of film noir meets Beat Generation Ernest Hemingway. That is, it’s a dark and mysterious newspaper bar set in the ’50s.
Location: 650 Gough St in the Fillmore
At Smuggler’s Cove, the rum is never gone.
Among the other Tiki bars in San Francisco, Smuggler’s Cove is king: it’s the most widely publicized and a classic gateway bar to other Tiki shacks around the City. A little bit kitschy, a little bit gimmicky and a whole lot of fun, Smuggler’s Cove is best for those who just want to have a cliche Caribbean experience. Pirates of the Caribbean, of course.
San Francisco is chock-full of numerous theme bars — what’s your favorite?
[Featured Image: Smuggler’s Cove by Kellan via Flickr]