San Francisco’s Definitive Happy Hours

20 of the very best

Is there a stranger term than “happy hour”? Lexically speaking, it works, since both words begin with the letter h, but the phrase isn’t even alliterative. First off, the term itself is a misnomer: If you went anywhere after a shitty day at work hoping to tie one on for cheap, only to find out the drink specials lasted but one hour, you’d experience a soul-annihilating unhappiness equal in weight and volume to the primal scream of Nov. 8, 2016.

The days are growing longer now, and eventually we we will put this dam-eroding winter behind us. A sunny afternoon in Dolores Park remains the happy hour of choice for tens of thousands of discerning S.F. residents, but we offer some of our favorites in the hope that you have a good time — and also because we know that happy hour is just a jumping-off point for some of the best worst nights you’ll ever have, when you start drinking early and party until late.

Pi Bar (Photo by Christopher Victorio)

Pi Bar
Daily, 3:14-6:28 p.m.

π r²? Do the math, genius! The folks behind Pi Bar in the Mission take the formula for the area of a circle so seriously that they’ve made it the basis for happy hour, which begins promptly at 3:14 p.m. and runs for three hours and 14 minutes. During that window, you can get a slice of cheese pizza and beer from the daily draft board for only $7.75. Oh, and they’ll be celebrating Pi Day next Tuesday, March 14.
1432 Valencia St., 415-970-9670 or

Monday – Friday, 2:30-7 p.m.
We like a happy hour that starts before the kids have even left school, just so we can set a bad example. We also like options. At this SoMa Italian restaurant and pizzeria, you can get a $3 Fort Point Kolsch, a $5 glass of Cava Brut, a $5 slice of pepperoni, a $6 Jersey burger, or one of an astounding 11 pizzas for $26 or less. It’s as if you just turned off Exit 7A on the Turnpike.
145 Second St., 415-912-1502 or

Monday – Friday, 4-7 p.m.
The “happiest of hours” at this Central SoMa spot is arguably a little more food- than drink-heavy, and that’s all right. $2 fish tacos and $7 truffle fries just give our bellies a platform to handle more $10 cocktails-of-the-day and $5 Devil Dancer Triple IPA (among a whole lot more).
860 Folsom St., 415-995-2061or

Last Call
Daily, noon – 7 p.m.
This dog-friendly gay dive has the best jukebox in the Castro, and every single day of the week, from the noon opening until 7 p.m., you can listen to vintage ’80s alt-rock while drinking $3 well drinks, $2 PBR on draft, and selected bottled beers for $3. As the image of Queen Victoria on the wall reminds you, anyone can get the clap, so don’t get too giddy.
3899 18th St., 415-861-1310 or

Daily, 3-6 p.m.
Sometimes, you just want to keep things nice and simple. One of the few restaurants in Mid-Market to survive 2016 unscathed, comfort food-focused Corridor has a great selection of cocktails, beer, and wine — and from 3-6 p.m., everything is five bucks. Don’t forget some calamari misto while you’re at it.
100 Van Ness Ave., 415-400-4979 or

Monday – Friday, 4-6 p.m.
Both locations of the Roman-style pizzeria from fast-casual empire Back of the House want to make sure you don’t go overboard with excessive drinking, so while cocktails and wines by the glass are $6 on weekdays afternoons, so are the small versions of pizzas like spicy fennel sausage with mozzarella and onion.
2975 Chestnut St., 415-673-7100; 37 Yerba Buena Lane, 415-872-7363;

El Techo (Photo by Christopher Victorio)

El Techo
Monday – Friday, 4-6 p.m.

The highest aerie from which one may drink in the Mission is as classy as you might think, with a pitcher of sangria going for a mere $18 and a tequla blanco flight — Fortaleza, Chinaco, Siembra Azul — setting you back a mere $13. Guacamole, an empanada de carne, and fried chicken thighs at this fifth-floor rooftop bar are only $5 each, too.
2516 Mission St., 415-550-6970 or

Mister Jiu’s
Tuesday – Sunday, 5-7 p.m.
To hell with happy hour when you can have “sour hour,” wherein you may throw back a Yanjing Lager for $4, a Villmade Rose for $11, or any one of a trio of sours — Midori, amaretto, and whiskey — for $8 each. You’re probably going to want some shrimp chips, too, and by the way, oysters are $3 each at all times.
28 Waverly Place, 415-857-9688 or

DOSA on Fillmore
Monday – Thursday, 5-7 p.m. and 9 p.m. – 11 p.m.
We love a late-night happy hour as much as anyone, and the South Indian champs at DOSA have a $6 beer, an $11 Hacienda Sotol cocktail, $8 wines, and plenty of little bites like a pappadum and chutney sampler for $4 or Chennai chicken for $8. In other words, it is simply not possible to go awry.
1700 Fillmore St., 415-441-3672 or

Finn Town
Monday – Friday, 5-7 p.m.
Know your audience, they say. Ryan Scott’s Finn Town read the room right, and while this might be a shortish happy hour, the $1.50 oysters, $2.50 Oysters Rockefeller, and $7 glasses of rosé are a nice combination for unwinding in style.
2251 Market St., 415-626-3466 or

The Cavalier
Daily, 2:30-5:30 p.m.
It’s called “Bevvys and Bites,” and it’s more Downton Abbey than East Enders. The menu at this upscale Anglophilic pub in the Hotel Zetta in SoMa starts with a $2 quail egg with mayo and rises through $9 lamb scrumpets and a $12 take on Marlowe’s burger before busting out a $30 dish of a dozen oysters plus a bottle of rosé. Turn that $5 beer into a $10 boilermaker while you’re at it.
360 Jessie St., 415-321-6000 or

Columbus Cafe (Photo by Christopher Victorio)

Columbus Cafe
Daily, 4-8 p.m.

The gold standard for happy hour? A bar that offers it seven days a week. North Beach’s Columbus Cafe is just such a dive, for the duration of a senior French civil servant’s workday. There, every draft (except Chimay) is two-for-one — although instead of purchasing two pints simultaneously, you get a chip you may later redeem for that second beer. Confusing? Just keep drinking there, buddy.
562 Green St., 415-274-2599 or

Bus Stop
Daily, all day
The Marina’s best sports bar has a $6 Fernet-and-beer combo that’s available every day, but it’s the daily specials that get our attention. Take, for example, the $1 mini bar menu and $5 shots of Crown Royal on Thursdays, or the $1.50 tacos, $2 Coronas and Bud Lights, and $4 margaritas on Tuesdays. Not too shabby. Not too shabby at all.
1979 Union St., 415-922-5510 or

Comstock Saloon
Daily, 4-6 p.m.
We’re pretty sure the best restaurant-bar in North Beach created this “menu” to poach some of Mister Bing’s customer base. While there’s a Derby Cocktail (rye, vermouth, Curacao, lemon, and mint) for $7, we’re most intrigued by the three $7 shot-and-a-beer combos, like a Pueblo Viejo tequila plus a can of Tecate.
155 Columbus Ave., 415-617-0071 or

Monday – Friday, 3-6 p.m., Sunday, 5-10 p.m.
The number eight is considered an auspicious digit in much of East Asia, and so Michael Mina’s izakaya-style Japanese restaurant near the Embarcadero is priced accordingly. On weekday afternoons, you can have draft sake and a hamachi hand roll for $5.88 each. Feeling trashy-fabulous in that FiDi way? How about a 22-ounce Sapporo with a can of sake for $10.88?
101 California St., 415-668-7228 or

Monday – Friday, 4-7 p.m.
The punk bar that functions as Noise Pop’s de facto headquarters changes its menu often, and while we like happy hour plenty — $4 well drinks, $1 off all draft beers — it’s the “ass-end” happy hour on Monday nights that brings us true joy. It’s the same deal as the regular version, running on the lamest night of the week from 11 p.m. – 2 a.m. (There’s also a $5 PBR-and-a-shot-of-whiskey deal on Wednesdays.)
806 South Van Ness Ave., 415-824-1800 or

Belga (Photo by Christopher Victorio)

Monday – Friday, 3:30-6:30 p.m.

The pre-eminent Belgian beer bar in town throws open its windows on warm days like a proper brasserie. But even in what passes for the dead of winter around these parts, Belga has almost-all-$5 happy hour with ham-and-potato croquettes, frites, beers, and wine by the glass. The lone holdout from that price point? A $7 Vesper martini that’s well worth the extra two bucks.
2000 Union St., 415-872-7350 or

The Dorian
Tuesday – Friday, 4:30-6 p.m., and Thursday, 10 p.m. – 2 a.m.
“Good times for good times’ sake” is what the Dorian aims for, and beyond the $1 oysters and $5 truffle fries, there’s a glass of house wine for $5, a Drake’s 1500 Pale Ale for $4, and half-off a rather respectable selection of sparkling and rosé wines. Not enough? Use “The Alibi” — bourbon, salted pistachio, lemon, orange marmalade, and angostura bitters — as your excuse for ditching work early. Or, if it’s Thursday night, for not coming home early.
2001 Chestnut St., 415-814-2671 or

Two Sisters Bar and Books
Tuesday – Friday, 4-6 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 1-4 p.m.
Bibliophiles and fans of Courier New take note: This cozy-to-the-max Hayes Valley bar isn’t just a great place to meet adorable people who find Tinder horribly painful. It’s also got a solid happy hour: Draft beers are $4, house wine is $6, and various cocktails and snacks are all $5 each. Now start flirting with the bespectacled cutey reading Jane Eyre.
579 Hayes St., 415-863-3655 or

El Rio
Monday – Friday, 1-8 p.m.
The free oysters on Fridays may be gone, but “Your Dive” is still a kickass place to wile away an afternoon and evening, playing pool. Mondays mean $1 Tecate, while the other four weekdays guarantee $4 well drinks and $4 draft beers. Plus, the line for the Universal Toilet isn’t nearly as long as it is for Daytime Realness.
3158 Mission St., 415-282-3325 or

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