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6 San Francisco Dive Bars to Visit While You Still Can

By Sarah Baird


From the July/August 2016 issue

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Aunt Charlie's

Photo by James Hosking

Aunt Charlie's

What's the rush? With the city’s surging rents, let’s just say that if you want to drink at these bars, it’s a good idea to call ahead.

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It seems as though every other week, a San Francisco neighborhood bar that’s catered to passionate regulars for decades goes under to make way for a glitzy condo or a new restaurant with a rooftop bar. All the more reason to visit these classic watering holes while you can. 

1. Zam Zam
Moorish archways welcome you at this dive, built 75 years ago by Assyrian immigrants in the Lower Haight. Above the bar, you’ll find an elaborate mural of a Persian fairy tale.

2. Aunt Charlie’s
House rule #1 at Aunt Charlie’s, a cozy, mirror-lined gay bar from the ’80s: Keep your phone in your pocket—especially during the legendary drag shows.

3. Lone Palm
Candlelight, white tablecloths, Miami Vice-like neon signage: The beloved Lone Palm, a couple of blocks from Dolores Park, is sexy and cheesy at once. Roll with it.

4. Lucky 13
Rumors circulate regularly that developers are planning to bulldoze this rock and roll roadhouse. Go now, drink beer, and flip through the punk albums on the jukebox.

5. Martuni’s
Have a favorite show tune? The kind sir with the encyclopedic knowledge behind the piano can play it while you sing. Do so right, with a lemon drop in hand.

6. Trad’r Sam
Opened in 1937, Trad’r Sam is the city’s oldest tiki bar still in operation. Sidle up to the half-moon-shaped counter for a mai tai, which was born in the Bay Area.

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