Whether you’re looking for drag that slays, somewhere to watch “the game,” or just a nice dive to let your hair down among San Franciscans of the homosexual persuasion, here are the best gay bars to visit in the gayest little city in the world (written by a very biased gay dude in San Francisco).
1. The Stud Bar, 1535 Folsom St.
While the clean-cut crowd stays in the Castro, the rest of San Francisco’s queer scene congregates in SoMA, where you’ll find The Stud and a mix of hairy chests, jean jackets, off-duty drag queens, and working drag queens. This bar has been home to creative outsiders since the late 60s when folks like John Waters frequented it. Go Friday night for the Something party, hosted by the salty VivyAnne Forermove. You’ll see local queens cover everything from Robyn and Whitney Houston to Bjork and Marilyn Manson.
2. Oasis, 298 11th St
In the event it’s Saturday and you’re craving drag, try the recently opened Oasis. What it lacks in gritty charm, it makes up for in space and a sparkly new stage.
3. Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, 133 Turk St
Smack dab in the middle of the Tenderloin sits a piece of Old-School San Fran and a digital detox. This bar does not allow cell phones. (They’ll tell you once at the door, both verbally and by sign, and then confront your texting ass.) The walls of the long, narrow space are plastered with NSFW reading material from the 70s that is heavy on the Burt Reynolds vibes. Go Thursday night, after 10PM, for the disco dance party.
4. Hi Tops Sports Bar, 2247 Market St
Most likely place to meet young guys who have “Masc4Masc” in their dating app profile.
5. The Eagle, 398 12th St
The Eagle is a go-to for the crowd that attends Folsom Street Fair, the biggest fetish convention on the planet. On Sundays, they throw a backyard BBQ. Show up in the early afternoon for all-you-can-drink Miller Lite specials.
6. Lone Star Saloon, 1354 Harrison St
Another highlight of SoMa, Lone Star is equal parts hipsters and bears—the sort of low-key spot where you’ll probably make friends with the folks sitting by your side.
7. Toad Hall, 4146 18th St
So you want to meet a one-night friend and dance to Britney Spears at 1AM? your Uber to Toad Hall in the heart of the Castro.
8. Hole in the Wall Saloon, 1369 Folsom St
This pub, run by bikers, is great when you want a quiet dive. Go on Thursdays, take off your shirt, get a deal on your drink.
9. Twin Peaks Tavern, 401 Castro St
Back in the 70s, gay bars in town blacked out their windows so that pedestrians couldn’t see in and gay patrons could drink in privacy. In 1972, Twin Peaks, next-door to the famous Castro theater, bucked that trend and catered to the out and proud. It’s an iconic spot (with an iconic sign) that attracts gay guys of all ages.
10. Powerhouse, 1347 Folsom St
Let’s just say this leather spot is NOT for prudes.
11. El Rio, 3158 Mission St
Over in the Mission District, El Rio has created a safe space for folks of any ID—gay men, lesbians, radical punks, and just about anyone else. Their backyard is one of the best outdoors spaces to drink in town and home to many of the most frequented gay parties in San Francisco, including Mango for the ladies and Hard French for the guys. Chat up somebody cute and challenge them to a game of shuffleboard.
Photo by Flickr/gazeronly