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Bars & Clubs

Best Saloons to Make You Feel Like a Prospector 

By Lou Bustamante

The Gold Rush days in San Francisco may be past, but that doesn't mean you can't relive the thrill of drinking like you spent the whole day mining — even if now it's Bitcoins instead of nuggets. Much of the era's grandeur may have given way during the Great Quake, but here are five places you can kick the dust off your boots like a true forty-niner.

A convincing vision of what a Barbary Coast saloon looked and felt like can be found at Comstock Saloon (155 Columbus, 617-0071, comstocksaloon.com), which has old tile floors, big wooden bars, and a system of motorized fans that feels especially authentic in the 1907 building. The soup of the day at the bar is always whiskey, but the list of classic cocktails made with old-fashioned care always strikes it rich.

Bix Restaurant (56 Gold, 433-6300, bixrestaurant.com) may not have an 1850s feel to it, but this spot marks the former location of an assay office where miners would take their gold to be weighed and valued during the Gold Rush. Still, the two-level restaurant bar with jazzy piano music, good classic drinks, and elegantly refined California cuisine is a worthy destination to celebrate like you hit the mother lode.

This La Lengua tavern may not have been around during the Gold Rush either, but The Rock Bar (80 29th St., 550-6664, rockbarsf.com) would have made any miner feel comfortable — the rock-lined building and dark, cave-like interior is decorated with geodes, scales, and geological specimens. Great cocktails, cheap drink specials, and takeout food from the Front Porch across the street make any modern day prospector feel loaded.

Tradition Bar (441 Jones, 474-2284, tradbar.com), a Tenderloin spot from the folks who brought you Bourbon & Branch, perfectly captures the splendor of those old hotel bars. High ceilings, stained wood embellishments, and precise and delicious cocktails make for a bar where a prospector would have lived out his golden years.

Its new location in Fisherman's Wharf may draw in more tourists than locals these days, but the storied Gold Dust Lounge's (165 Jefferson, 397-1695, golddustsf.com) drink specials and old-timey décor entice us enough to dodge the crowds enjoying a "San Francisco experience." Stopping by is in some ways like panning for gold: a valuable reminder that there are still sparkles in the silt of the neighborhood's tourist traps.

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