Resident Picks: Our Favorite Themed Bars in San Francisco

November 1, 2019

San Francisco residents know how to create a memorable night out. The city is filled with themed bars that do much more than just serve drinks—many of which are within walking distance of The Harrison. Here are some of our favorites.

1. Bourbon & Branch

501 Jones St – Tenderloin
Open Mon–Sun from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Sip on handcrafted cocktails in this hidden bar located inconspicuously behind an unmarked door in the Tenderloin district. What sets this speakeasy-themed bar apart from others is the history behind its location. From 1921 to 1933—the height of the Prohibition era—the location operated as an illegal speakeasy.

To access their main room and full drink menu, make a reservation. You’ll need a password to enter as a walk-in (check their website for the current one) and access their library room (limited drink menu, limited seating).

2. Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar

950 Mason Street – Nob Hill
Terrace Level of the Fairmont Hotel
Open Wed–Sun
Dinner from 5–10 p.m. | 21+ from 10 p.m. to close

The infamous Tonga Room started as an indoor pool in 1929 and was transformed into a Hawaiian-esque lagoon in 1945 by MGM set director Mel Melvin. Since then, it’s played into its décor by serving Polynesian-fusion cuisine and tropical drinks, while The Island Groove Band performs live music. Dinner is served Wednesday through Sunday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., after which the room turns into a 21-and-up tiki dance party.

3. Novela

662 Mission Street – SoMa
Open 7 nights a week; hours vary by day

Around the corner from SFMOMA lies the book lover’s dream bar. Step into the space with the feel of someone’s home library, and you’ll be right at home among the books and reading chairs. Only, you’re not here to read—just to appreciate all things literary with the comfort of a delicious beverage. Novela serves cocktails named for well-known literary characters, each crafted with the essence of that character in mind. The “Christopher Robin,” for example, is made with gin, carrot juice, ginger, lemon and tonic. A fitting homage to Christopher Robin’s pal, Rabbit.

4. Smuggler’s Cove

650 Gough St – Hayes Valley
Open 7 nights a week from 5 p.m. to 1:15 a.m.

Yes, it’s another tiki bar on the list. However, the experience you’re getting at Smuggler’s Cove is much different than that of the Tonga Room. If the Tonga Room is Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, then Smuggler’s Cove is Pirates of the Caribbean. Inside this nearly hidden bar (it’s very obscure from the outside), you’ll be transported onto a pirate ship that serves over 80 rum cocktails crafted from the 550+ rum varieties on their shelves at any given time.

5. Noir Lounge

581 Hayes St – Hayes Valley
Open 7 days a week; hours vary by day

A restaurant and bar, Noir Lounge pays tribute to the spirit of film noir through its atmosphere, food and drinks. They serve craft cocktails, local wines and beers, and locally sourced chef creations. The most popular part of Noir Lounge is its back room, which features plush seating and has nightly showings of noir films on a 100” screen. This room can also be booked for private events!

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