Best Place to Drink Before a Fillmore Concert
The Social Study
1795 Geary Blvd., 415-292-7417 or thesocialstudysf.com
The days of acid tests are over, which means the best you’ll find by way of libations at the iconic Fillmore is a $14 plastic cup of beer. If drinking before a concert is on the schedule, your best bet is to head a block down Geary and enjoy the cozy confines of The Social Study. There’s no hard liquor, but the bar has a lovely selection of draft beers and truly phenomenal sangria available. Wine drinkers will be well-covered, too. Arrive early to play one of the many board games stashed throughout the premises, and for the peckish, a menu of treats like Cuban sliders, potato bruschetta, and marinated olives await.
Best Way to Time Travel Back to the 1920s
501 Jones St., 415-891-9744 or thespeakeasysf.com
Below a fairly non-descript North Beach street, there is a secret world of casinos, stiff drinks, and crooked dealings. The Speakeasy SF is an immersive experience set in the 1920s, where patrons mingle with a sizeable cast on a choose-your-own-adventure of sorts. Attendees are invited to move between the bar, casino, and cabaret as they see fit, and while the actors tend not to interact with the audience, you may be offered a sip of a flask or taught the can-can. Yes, the casino chips are fake, but the drinks are as real as President Warren G. Harding’s eyebrows. Speakeasy SF is unlike anything else in the city, and a great way to escape the grind of real life for a few colorful hours.
Best Local Strain
Gone are the days of smoking only whatever that dude from the movie theater has in his jacket. We now have a surplus of options when it comes to everyone’s favorite flower. Hailing from the Emerald Triangle of Mendocino and Humboldt counties, Flow Kana represents a collective of small farmers who put organic growing methods, quality care, and superior products first. From the low-THC, high-CBD blend Luck of New York to the heavier high and delectable flavor of Ogre Berry Kush, the brands distributed by Flow Kana continually impress. Available directly from their site or at nearby dispensaries like Grass Roots, Lux Collective, and Mission Organic, local cannabis consumers can keep the good times rolling with ease.
Best Undercover Giant Pregame Spot
3rd Street Grill
695 Third St., 415-538-0804 or 3rdstreetgrill.com
Going to watch a Giants game at the park usually entails a few drinks or even a meal before first pitch. But finding a place where you can actually sit down near AT&T Park — let alone order — is becoming a tougher order than expecting the bullpen to hold a late-game lead. Thankfully 3rd Street Grill is a hidden gem in a sea of trendy bars. Often full of open tables on game night, this spot is two blocks from the diamond and a great way to take down a pitcher or two before cheering on the orange and black. They also have burgers, chicken wings, salads, and more, but be warned. The proprietor has a delightful habit of insisting you order the special.
Best Niche Trivia
’90s Simpsons at the Knockout
3223 Mission St., 415-550-6994 or theknockoutsf.com
Every fourth Sunday at the Knockout, a battle of epically nerdy proportions is waged. However, this war doesn’t feature 20-sided die or Magic cards, but Ned Flanders and the Kwik-E-Mart. Simpsons trivia at the Knockout features Duff beer on tap, three classic episodes screened between rounds, and some of the most specific, insanely difficult questions known to man. Based only on show’s Golden Age — seasons that aired in the 1990s — the point of Simpsons trivia isn’t so much to win but to endure. Keep a look out for one heroic individual who comes dressed as a different character and has, by most accounts, taken first place almost every time. We must beat him! It’s what Bleeding Gums Murphy would want.
Best $5 Bloody Mary
Pete’s On Green
570 Green St., 415-398-2551 or petestavernsf.com
Sorry Zeitgeist — it’s time to step down. The best Bloody Mary in San Francisco now goes to Pete’s on Green in North Beach. The spicy-but-not-that-spicy Bloody Mary is a breakfast unto itself, coming larded up with two strips of bacon, onion rings, pickled veggies, and lime. And it’s only $5 on the weekends. As one might guess, it’s pretty boozy, which is always nice, and Pete’s cushioned outdoor seating doesn’t hurt, either.
Best Pool Party Where You Can’t Swim
601 Eddy St., 415-776-1380 or jdvhotels.com
Don’t let the name fool you: The “Skinny Dip” party at the Phoenix Hotel is not, in fact, a pool party. It’s more like a dance party around a pool, because, guess what? Only hotel guests are allowed to swim in it. (And don’t even try jumping in. Security guards patrol the perimeter.) It helps that the event attracts big-name acts like Toro y Moi, Shiba San, and The Magician, and it’s nice to catch them somewhere other than a nightclub. Still, who wouldn’t want to jump in a pool after getting sweaty on the dance floor?
Best Boozy Slushie
Piña Colada, El Techo de Lolinda
2516 Mission St., 415-550-6970 or eltechosf.com
Blender drinks are perfectly acceptable if they’re served with little cocktail umbrellas and a bizarrely shaped glass, and that’s just how they do it at the Mission District rooftop bar of El Techo de Lolinda. Piña Coladas get a pretty bad rap, but that’s because they’re usually made with a mix instead of genuine coconut cream. El Techo uses the good stuff, and also a blend of three premium rums. But the presentation of El Techo’s piña colada is what makes it a visual party, and it comes in a glass as big as those tacky margarita glasses tourists walk around with in Vegas.
Best Bar Up For Sale on Craigslist
Noc Noc on Broadway
515 Broadway, 415-994-2806 or nocnocs.com
Psst — wanna buy a bar on Craigslist? That opportunity exists, as the North Beach location of the bar Noc Noc is listed for sale. The deal, as offered, will set you back $129,000 (with a two-year lease of nearly five grand a month, plus a four-year option remaining). This space doesn’t have the same lovably bizarre sculpted tables and seating as the Lower Haight Noc Noc, but the two-year-old North Beach location does come with some pretty cool art and — more importantly — a Type 41 California ABC liquor license. If you’ve ever dreamed of owning your own San Francisco bar, this is your chance to Noc Noc it out of the park.
Classiest Place to Drink Champagne With Mom
528 Laguna St., 415-741-1729 or riddlersf.com
Named for a method of getting cloudy sediment to come together for easy removal from the bottle, Hayes Valley’s smallish but extremely convivial women-run Champagne bar is the ideal place for blowing off steam after work in a very classy fashion: with a shot and a bump. (That would be bubbles and caviar.) But The Riddler is also mom-friendly, in the best possible way. She gave birth to you, she deserves the best, and that comes in the form of tater tot waffles, sparkling rose, and a “Joan,” a glass of house wine filled to the brim. Lova ya, ma.
Best Beer Alternative at a Bar
Kombucha at Thee Parkside
1600 17th St., 415-252-1330 or theeparkside.com
When something sells out, you know it’s gotta be good. That’s the case with Boochcraft’s kombuchas, which Thee Parkside has been serving on tap for the last few months. At seven percent ABV, they pack about the same punch as a beer but taste a lot sweeter and bubblier. For $7, you can get a tall glass filled to the brim with either ginger lime or grapefruit hibiscus. Tap beers mostly go for $6, so for a $1 more, are you really going to opt for the same ol’ ale when you can give your taste buds a jolt?
Best Place to Feel Like You’re in Tron
Coin-Op Game Room
508 Fourth St., 628-444-3277 or coinopsf.com
The sign on the second floor at Coin-Op Game Room reads “Flynn’s.” It’s not a watering hole for disgraced national security advisers but a reference to ’80s cult-classic Tron, and the upstairs bar is indeed a pure homage to some Jeff Bridges sci-fi weirdness. You can play Q-Bert, Galaga, and Walking Dead pinball, then get some wood-fired pizzas downstairs. Thumb through the menu, designed to look like a 1950s pulp novel about tales from outer space, while drinking a Konami Code (house-spiced tequila, mezcal, amaretto, lime, and agave). Best of all, Coin-Op swaps out its arcade games every month.
Best Place for Mezcal
2323 Polk St., 415-441-2323 or mezcalitosf.com
Four dozen varieties of mezcal greet you as you walk into this Russian Hill establishment, which might be a Oaxacan restaurant with a killer drink list or else a mezcal bar with a great food menu. Either way, the hamachi ceviche and fish tacos are the ideal accompaniment to a happy hour spent sipping your way through the liquor of the agave espadin. For cocktails, there’s a mezcal Negroni and a mezcal Vieux Carre, but we’re partial to the maracuya sour (Siete Misterios mezcal, passionfruit, vanilla agave, lime, egg whites, and Peychauds bitters). Trust.
Best Tiki Bar
375 Bush St., 415-985-6375 or paganidol.com
The tiki revival is more than welcome, and it’s not just because in lieu of coffee in the office kitchen, the SF Weekly staff starts every day with a team-building exercise in the form of a volcano bowl. Building off immutable classics like Tonga Room or Forbidden Island, Future Bars’ Pagan Idol squeezes the seven seas like a lemon wedge, creating ridiculously great (and just plain ridiculous) drinks full of fire, flowers, and falernum. Book a tiki hut for four, or just elbow up next to the moai on a bar stool for a Daybreaker or a Planters Punch. Pele demands tribute!
Best Art Bar (Whatever That Means)
18 Harlan Place, 415-760-4713 or barfluxus.com
From the Dadaists to the absinthe-soaked bohemians of the late 19th-century, the connection between a good drink and the avant-garde is eternal. The concept of an “art bar” seems ripe for parody, but Bar Fluxus (in the Hotel des Arts) in Union Square has a calendar that’s too packed with salsa, comedy, karaoke, and Planned Parenthood fundraisers to accrue even a single eye-roll. The interior is an homage to Yoko Ono, John Cage, and Marcel Duchamp, and the cocktails — like an herbaceous Devil’s Lettuce made with gin, fennel, hops, and tonic — are even more serious-playful.
3174 16th St., 415-400-4748 or overproofsf.com
ABV, 16th Street’s preeminent cocktail spot, took some unused space upstairs in the rear and turned it into something meant to rival Trick Dog’s ever-mutating menu: bar-within-a-bar Over Proof, which serves four food-accompanied drinks for a set price. It began over the winter with the rum-centric Flip-Flop and has since shifted to whiskey with Double Back ($60, open through July 28). There will be two further versions until the winter, when the entire underlying concept changes. But for now, there are rifles and skins on the wall, two seatings a night, and a high-energy vibe intent on impressing patrons with Over Proof’s mixological prowess.
Best S.F. Beer Tour
415-484-5240 or vantigosf.com
Remember that bus tour of Rome where the bored emcee mumbled something into the mic about the Spanish Steps and you fell asleep? Vantigo is the total opposite of that. A charter service that drives you around the Bay Area in a VW microbus, Vantigo’s red 1971 workhorse Lillie takes you up to Wine Country or down Highway 1, but the joys of riding around San Francisco breweries led by a knowledgeable docent are unbeatable. You get a three-and-a-half-hour tour to at least three breweries — like Cellarmaker, Harmonic, or Magnolia — at least one of which involves a facility tour, plus snacks and water for the ride.
Most Deservedly Over-Awarded Bar
3010 20th St., 415-471-2999 or trickdogbar.com
Trick Dog is becoming the Andy Warhol of bars. It’s almost like, could you please stop winning so many accolades for a second? Because there are other worthy contenders in the shadows here. At the same time, nine menus deep into its ever-shifting cocktail excellence — this iteration is all about Mission muralists, with drinks named for Sam Flores, Jeremy Fish, Mel Waters, Sirron Norris, and others — nothing about Trick Dog suggests it’s coasting or resting on its laurels. This dog deserves all the treats.
Best Nightlife Spot That Stayed Alive
399 Ninth St., 415-863-6623 or studsf.com
In spite of being open since the 1960s and standing in the same spot since the 1987, SoMa gay bar The Stud looked like it was destined for closure after the rent tripled last summer. Then a collective of 18 queer nightlife folks bought it, renegotiated a two-year lease, and breathed new life into the programming while running it as the first co-operative club in the U.S. It had always been a welcoming spot for drag queens, leatherfolk, and weirdos — but now it’s open seven nights a week, with parties and shows for every subculture in the LGBTQ spectrum, from punk-art night Desperate Living to drag extravaganza Vivvy’s Grand Opening to dance party Towne & Country. Stay studly, San Francisco.
Best Dog-Friendly Bar
Emperor Norton’s Boozeland
510 Larkin St., 415-926-8118, no website
It’s not just a lack of “No Dogs Allowed” signs on a bar’s door that make it dog-friendly. The staff, the atmosphere, and the company. Emperor Norton’s Boozeland checks off all of those and more: The music isn’t overwhelming, there’s a back patio for lounging in the sunshine, the bartenders don’t get bitchy if people ask for a cup of water for their dog, and there’s always another pooch in the bar to say hi to (often sitting on a barstool of their very own). Molotov’s was a close second, but let’s be honest, not every pup likes metal.
Best Venue for Seeing a Broad Array of Acts in One Week
1805 Geary Blvd., 415-346-6000 or thefillmore.com
The Fillmore has been around since 1912, served a number of purposes before becoming promoter Bill Graham’s launching pad. There, he hosted wild rock ’n’ roll concerts for the Who, the Grateful Dead, Nico, and the Doors. Shows at the Fillmore have since mellowed out — bye-bye, strobe lights and offstage dancers — and the array of acts that play there has become more eclectic. On any given week, you’ll find an assortment of pop, rock, indie, electronic, and even hip-hop artists playing. D.C. rapper Wale recently played a show 24 hours after singer-songwriter Aimee Mann took the stage, and it’s not unusual to see throwback bands like Squirrel Nut Zippers and Simple Plan wedged between diametrically different acts on the calendar, like punk-rock band Bleached or British classical-crossover trio Clean Bandit.
Best Way to Get High Without Smoking Weed
Available at The Apothecarium, SPARC, and Harvest Dispensary. $3-$40; getmellows.com
It’s almost hard to believe that these decadent, made-by-hand marshmallows have weed in them, because you seriously can’t taste it. Made with single-origin Red Congolese sativa, each marshmallow contains 5 milligrams of THC, and come by the dozen. But it’s not the low dosage that makes the mellows so delicious (and seemingly innocent). It’s the goodies sprinkled on top. Mellows come in a multitude of flavors, like birthday cake, S’mores, Orange Dreamsicle, and raspberry rose lychee, each with its own special toppings. Chunks of pretzels are embedded in the peanut butter pretzel ones and the strawberry shortcake is smothered in cake crumbs and dried strawberries. If you have a hard time making up your mind, opt for an assorted box of six.
The Loft at Public Works
161 Erie St., 415-496-6738 or publicsf.com
If you’ve never realized that there’s a second bar and dance floor at Public Works called the Loft, you’re not alone, because it’s hidden upstairs around a corner. Being hard to find actually works in the Loft’s favor, as there’s generally elbow room on the dance floor, and you never have to wait long to get a drink. A two-story, built-in structure that’s sort of like a kid’s clubhouse — or treehouse sans tree — has nooks and crannies to sit in, with great views of the dance floor. The lighting is soft and yellow, and films are occasionally projected onto screens on two of the walls. There’s also a wooden barricade of sorts that splits the room in two, great for shy people who want something to hide behind while dancing.
Best Place to Dress Up Like a Dinosaur (Or Zookeeper)
Sunday, June 4, noon to 8 p.m., on Treasure Island. $19.50-$40; dirtybirdrecords.com/bbq
If you want to let your freak flag fly, do it at Dirtybird BBQ. The annual event, put on by the San Francisco tech-house label of the same name, is your chance to don a wizard cape, dress up like a cheeseburger, or wear that sexy see-through dress you have no idea why you bought. Anything goes, and you’ll definitely get at least one high-five from a stranger, because the crowd is that friendly. Come hungry for barbecue by Dirtybird’s master chef Grillson, and play a few carnival games like “Hit the Milk Jugs with the Balls.”
Best Dispensary For Feeling Like You’re in Westworld
1077 Post St., 415-346-4338 or grassrootssf.com
The interior design in dispensaries is often drab, clinical, and — more often than not — bathed in white. Not so with Grass Roots. With its grandiose mahogany counter, tufted red leather chairs, antique hanging light fixtures, and ornate, patterned wallpapers, it looks more like a Wild West saloon or a set from HBO’ sci-fi series. The lavish decor even extends to the inventory, which, instead of being listed on a chalkboard or large TV screen, is compiled into large, red-leather-bound menus as if you were ordering dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant.
Best Local Edible Company
Available at The Green Cross, 4218 Mission St., 415-648-4420 or incredimeds.myshopify.com
Since 2004, San Francisco cannabis confectionary IncrediMeds has served delectable, if not outright irresistible, edibles to the masses. Available exclusively at The Green Cross, the city’s first legal dispensary, IncrediMeds offers a range of products that go beyond mere chocolate bars and gummy candies (although they sell those, too). Cookie snobs will have a conniption fit choosing a flavor — strawberry white chocolate or Reese’s Pieces? — and those partial to savory treats can snack on the garlic rye chips. Vegans and gluten-free eaters can also find stuff to eat, choosing from olive oil, honey, and various teas.
Best Vape Pen That Won’t Break Within a Month
It’s a dirty little secret of vape pens that many are poorly constructed and start breaking down within weeks of their purchase. One of the most reliable, compact, affordable pen units this stoner has found comes from the Cannabis Cup-winning Gold Drop. This thin, lightweight baby has an exceedingly simple design that’s great for beginners and has adjustable voltage. The charger is one of those discreet USB units that plugs right into a computer, so your boss is none the wiser when you’re powering up for that after-work puff. Its disposable cartridges are sold separately, but there’s space for them in the sleek, wallet-size carrying case in which your Gold Drop pen is sold.
Best Weed Ad on Muni Buses
122 10th St., 415-872-9488 or urbanpharm.com
You know you’re in San Francisco when you see Muni buses with images of big ol’ kind buds plastered on the side. Most local billboard operators like Clear Channel still refuse to run cannabis advertising, and California laws for advertising the sticky-icky remain fairly strict. But the SFMTA has made the call to allow marijuana ads, with occasionally hilarious results. In and of themselves, Muni ads for SoMa dispensary Urban Pharm are all that funny. But the sight of gigantic buds on a city-owned public transit vehicle, accompanied with phrases like “I (Heart) Dab Bar!” and “MASSIVE Concentrate Selection” gives one the giggles even without the benefit of hitting the water pipe.
Best New Edible
Organicares Hazelnug Spread
You’ve heard of cannabis edibles, but make way for cannabis “spreadables.” This delicious, Nutella-like goop is made from a hash-oil hybrid and pairs perfectly with bread, bananas, a spoon, or just your finger. Available in full-size, one-cup canisters or smaller quarter-cup servings, the hazelnut-and-cocoa combo will have a special place on the roof of your mouth. And if your prefer the savory edibles to the sweet, the San Jose-based Organicares also makes a cannabis-infused BBQ Chex Mix.
Best New Drinkable
Somatik Cannabis Coffee
Coffee drinkers can achieve a new kind of high with a bottled-cannabis beverage that showed up on Bay Area dispensary shelves this year. Your two favorite addictions are brewed together in Somatik Medical Cannabis–Infused Cold Brew, a high-octane caffeinated drink made with one of San Francisco’s favorite artisan coffee roasters, Ritual. Somatik is sold at dispensaries and via delivery from CANNVIS. One eight-ounce bottle of Somatik is infused with 15 milligrams of THC, adequate for a full morning or afternoon of buzz even those of us who “medicate” daily.
Best Homer Simpson-Looking Edible
Strictly Edibles Birthday Cake Donuts
Hilariously mimicking the exact appearance of the doughnuts Homer Simpson eats on The Simpsons, Strictly Edibles Birthday Cake Donuts create a cartoon reality in more ways than one. Sold in packs of three, each has an impressive 100 milligrams of THC. So you can down one for a perfectly fine high, or put away all three and go for the full-on doughnut daze. They’re made with coconut oil, which not only neutralizes the danky cannabis taste but also speeds up the THC effect. And with a spot-on Homer Simpson look, they’re more like d’oh-nuts, amirite?
Best Adorable Marijuana-Leaf Party Decoration
Papel Picado from Canna Reign Studios
If you’re not familiar with the term, papeles picados are decorative, tissue-paper cut-outs seen in Mexican folk art, particularly around Day of the Dead. Local crafters Canna Reign studios have done marijuana-leaf versions of papel picado, and they are just the damned cutest party favors you can string up. Canna Reign’s papel picado come in oodles of different designs, a couple of which say the word “cannabis” for anyone who needs to be reminded what that ubiquitous leaf really is. The intricate artistry of these gorgeous banners is dazzling, and the string is made of “high”-quality cotton baker’s twine, so the decorations can be reused for numerous marijuana-themed parties and events.
Best Infused Salad Dressing
Forbidden Valley Ranch
You’ll definitely want to eat your vegetables when they’re coated with Flourish Edibles’ Forbidden Valley Ranch dressing. And unlike the crappy, mass-market salad dressing which it parodies, Forbidden Valley Ranch is a great gourmet dressing made with all-natural ingredients. After tracking it down at various Bay Area dispensaries, the veggie tray will be the first thing that disappears the next time you’re entertaining.
Best Cannabis Solution for Menstrual Cramps
Whoopi & Maya’s Medical Cannabis Rub
Yes, the “Whoopi” in Whoopi & Maya is Academy Award-winning actress and daytime talk show host Whoopi Goldberg, and her latest venture is a relief for anyone whooped with menstrual pain or cramping. A partnership with San Francisco’s all-female cannabis company Om Edibles, Whoopi & Maya offers a range of topicals and edibles all suited toward treating period-related discomfort. In addition to the topical ointment, Whoopi & Maya also offers cannabis tinctures, edibles, and bath salts designed for menstrual relief. You can’t always get high all day when the monthlies arrive, but this ointment from Whoopi can cushion the edge.
Best Dispensary Where You Can Use a Credit or Debit Card
1933 Mission St., 415-562-6334 or medithrive.com
One of the seedier aspects of the local marijuana industry is that every transaction has to be cash-only, no matter how classy the dispensary. But Visa, MasterCard, and some banks are beginning to relax these rules, and a handful of dispensaries now take plastic. In addition to the refined, high-end interior and design reminiscent of a futuristic Stanley Kubrick movie, Medithrive’s Mission Street location is also a place where you can also bust out that platinum rewards card. And there’s surely no better way to build up credit-card rewards and airline miles than by buying weed.
Best Dispensary to Linger At
1256 Mission St., 415-252-7727 or sparcsf.com
There was a time when the goal of visiting a cannabis dispensary was to get in and get out as quickly as possible without being spotted by any of your co-workers. Things have changed, and dispensaries like Sparc are setting the bar, well, pretty high. At Sparc’s lounge, patrons can enjoy complimentary use of Volcano vaporizers, as well as an events calendar that features things like a drag night called Dab Queens. There are frequently free samples and presentations from quality vendors like hmbldt. If you have a prickly roommate or you just can’t wait to get home before trying your new purchase, it’s hard to beat the vibes at Sparc.
Best Spot to Watch a Concert
Upstairs, at the Independent
628 Divisadero St., 415-771-1421 or theindependentsf.com
While there may be much debate over which venue in San Francisco is the best place to catch a show, the upstairs section of the Independent is as good as it gets. Given the intimate nature of the Independent, the upstairs view offers an unparalleled view from what amounts to a small balcony that extends towards the left side of the stage. How does one get up that mythical set of stairs at the venue’s rear? The answer isn’t entirely clear, but dedicated music fans can surely crack the code and enjoy their next Independent show from the secluded confines of its upper floor.
Best Local Edible
Kiva’s Blueberry Terra Bites
If you’ve ever had a case of the Mondays, you’ll want to make sure you have a tin of Kiva’s Blueberry Terra Bites close by. This local edible company has been noted for the elegance of its THC-infused snacks. A fan favorite, Kiva’s Terra Bites are chocolate-covered blueberries packed with precisely 5 mg of THC, offering a delectable bite that is equal parts medicine and deliciousness. For the cannabis connoisseur on the go or anyone eager to dose while still keeping a low-profile, Kiva’s Blueberry Terra Bites fit the bill as an essential addition to any stoner’s pocket.
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