Top 10-ish Irish Bars in San Francisco!

Tenderknob.com
Bay Area Review Site

I have seen a couple of really out dated blogs/reviews/lists of the top 10 Irish pubs in San Francisco. What struck me about the lists was not only were they out dated but they omitted several prominent venues, as if they done absolutely NO research on the subject. Me thinks they just googled & wrote down pieces of reviews. Bollix to that

I’ll try to be objective here but readers should know that I am a Irish bar tender in the city, my place of work will be on the list but I have chosen not to rank the bars since all have both positive features as well as bad.

Please add any bar(pub) you feel should be on the list or maybe even removed.

BTW: I have personally drank in each & every one of these pubs so these reviews are based on my own personal experiences. (That’s right I did not use Google)

I’m Starting with the first Irish bar I drank in San Francisco… so here we go!

1. Fiddlers Green
Neighborhood: Down by the wharf (yeah I’m going native in my descriptions)
I have drank in the bar on many occasions, I’ve had more than one pint with Paddy White on a Sunday afternoon. But back on topic. This place is not even mentioned in any of the top 10 lists, yet it’s one of the most well know bars in the the city, never mind the hood.
Great Guinness on draft (in my top 5 best Guinness pints list), bar tenders are extremely friendly & professional as are the owners.
Outdoor seating and a large upstairs area.

2. Blackthorn
Neighborhood: Inner Sunset
Under new ownership & newly decorated, this place has changed more than the color of the paint. New seating, tables, pool tables, photo-booth, pin ball, back heated patio, darts, live music, karaoke, Trivia, crap the list goes on… Great Guinness(in my top 5 best Guinness pints list), friendly & professional staff & management this place is a must see & try joint if your in the hood. This was the best place to watch The World Series in the hood & the add lib block party after we won was out of this world. UFC, Boxing, Football, NFL etc etc you get the picture. Joe cooks up a storm on the BBQ on Sundays & Mondays during Football season.

3. Ireland’s 32
Neighborhood: Inner Richmond
Ahh where to start, Peter Cooper took over the 32 a few years back & added his distinctive flare to this pub & this place is a pub in every sense of the word. Live music permeates the many fun filled nights I’ve spent here. Sunday is a great day to spend here, they have a kitchen, pool table upstairs. Great Guinness(in my top 5 best Guinness pints list), has one of my favorite bar tenders & probably the best female bar tender in the city, Collete (Congratz on the new bundle of joy she just had)
I digress, this is definitely a place you should swing by if even for one drink.

4. Johnny Foley’s Irish House
Civic Center/Tenderloin, Union Square (kind of hard to say but closer to Union)
Now lets be clear, this place is often referred to as a tourist joint because of its close proximity to Union Square, but I personally go to this place once a month (not as often as I wish) & it has such a great Irish feel. There’s always a very diverse crowd here (yes allot of tourists, but it also has many regulars who frequent the place. There is a live music venue down stairs & Foley’s is well know for its food.

5. O’Reilly’s  (Sadly O’Reillys is Closed)
Neighborhood: North Beach
Who ever wrote those lame top 10 lists (yes I said lame) completely omitted one of San Francisco’s most notable Irish bar & restaurant. Miles O’Reilly is one of the most well known publicans in the city & in my opinion one of the more colorful characters in the Irish nightlife scene. Great food & Great Guinness on draft (in my top 5 best Guinness pints list). Outdoor seating, great on the sunny days. Bar is very nicely decorated & you immediately get the Irish feeling as soon as you enter the bar.
This place is a highly recommended spot to check out in the city.

6. The Irish Bank
Neighborhood: Union Square-ish
Paddy’s day would not be the same without stumbling out of the alley way at least once! Mayor Willie Brown used to go here on Amateur Day (aka St. Patrick’s Day)
I just don’t get down here enough, they have a full kitchen & great menu (down to earth home cooked food). Great Guinness on draft (in my top 5 best Guinness pints list). Bar staff & management are great & professional. Probably one of the best places to go on paddy’s day due to the large outdoor alley & of course the craig here.
Nuff Said!

7. The Plough and the Stars
Neighborhood: Inner Richmond
Between the Irish flare & Irish jigs the folks at this pub really know how to throw a good shindig. But its also a great afternoon bar for a quiet drink with friends. I’ll be honest, I have not been here for about a year but only because it’s just off my beaten track!

8. Durty Nelly’s
Neighborhood: Inner Sunset-ish
From allot of experience & many a hangover this is one of the quaintest Irish bars in the city. Serving up a Good pint & great home styled cooked food. The real wooden look & smell of this place adds to the Irish feel of the pub. Staff here are great & professional. You won’t regret going here for a pint of the dark stuff, black gold, pint of morning sunshine, yol know I mean Guinness.

9. The Chieftain
Neighborhood: SOMA
Heading down South of market area (SOMA) there are slimmer pickings when it comes to real Irish bars. The Chieftain is one of the better choices. Good food & plenty of beers on draft. It’s actually a good spot if you like to watch sports, GAA, premiership football, NBA you get the gist. I just like the feel of the place & its nice to have a local watering hole if you live in SOMA.

9. O’Neill’s
Neighborhood: SOMA
One of the newest additions, situated just by the baseball park, you know that place where those Giants won something a few months back, what was that again…?
O’Niells has it’s roots in San Mateo, it’s a very authentic Irish feel & is a very busy bar during the games.
Go Giant’s (CLOSED)

10. Kate O’Brien’s Irish Bar & Grill
Neighborhood: SOMA
Ahh this brings me back, I used to live by 8th & Folsom & in my clubbing faze this one of the most poplar starting points before we hit the clubs, we all know SOMA has had a great club scene for the past 20 years. They have a full kitchen & more space upstairs. Think I’ll take a trip down here for old time’s sake, I always loved the burgers here.

11. The Liberties
Neighborhood: Mission
Sorry since this is not really a top 10 I’m not stopping there …
Fantastic place to hangout or go for some awesome food. Great selection draft & bottled beers & they pour a mean pint here.

12. Napper Tandy
Neighborhood: Mission
Oooh! Where to start, the napper tandy has built up a great rep in San Francisco, not only with drinkers but with bartenders also, me being one of them.
Food is cheap here but you get bang for your buck. You’ll see the local feel for yourself when you walk in. Great Guinness & I’d recommend going here for brunch.

13. Abbey Tavern
Neighborhood: Inner Richmond
Good live music venue & a very laid back bar to spend the evening in. Great beer selection behind the bar. Patrons here make even the newest visitors welcome.
For you GAA & football fans, this place has it & they use it.

14. Shannon Arms
Neighborhood: Parkside
Monday Night Football is famous in this place, Teressa cooks up a different four course meal every Monday evening & you aint going to get closer to home cooked than that. I’ve had one of the best pints of Guinness here cuz they take care of there taps the right way. This is probably one of the most authentic Irish pubs around.

15. Harrington’s Bar & Grill
(There’s two with the same name but Ill get to the other one next)
Neighborhood: Financial District
Now to be honest yet again, I do not frequent this place unless I’m in the area. This is a very busy bar after folks whom work in the Financial District get out of their cubicles. They have a full kitchen but I’ve never eaten here so I will not comment on something I aint done yet. I’m basing my remarks off friends who have though.
One thing I will say they do put on a good Paddy’s Day party here & on the street. Also I don’t see Harrington’s (either of them) mentioned in any bar lists, when both clearly should have been!

16. Harrington’s Harry’s Pub
(This is the second one, but they are NOT related as far as I know)
Neighborhood: Civic Center/Tenderloin
I used to work a few blocks from here, now I want to be clear, when I use the word DIVE BAR in a sentence I use it in it’s correct meaning of the word which means the bar aint fancy but that does not mean its a dung hole.
On the contrary Harrington’s (Harry’s) Pub is a great spot, Tony who has worked here for several years has gotten me drunk on a few occasions(yes more than one) but I have returned the favor. This place has a kitchen, but I have always come here after it closes so no comment on the food. Great selection of beers & the staff & management are fantastic, yes I may be a bit biased but I am speaking from experience. This bar is in the Loin but peeps must be made aware, businesses in the Loin tend to keep the riffraff out so real regulars who actually want to wind down after a days hard graft can relax with good company, Harry’s does the same. Pop in for a pint here & you wont regret it.

17. Maggie McGarry’s
Neighborhood: North Beach
Maggies while a fairly new member to the Irish bar scene has certainly peaked the interest of many local Irish & Irish/American as well as regular locals. I have had many of my Sunset locals head that direction only because it is a Jewel in the making.
A very spacious bar with live music & I’ve seen that stage host many a band even before its was an Irish bar. The staff, one of whom I’ve had the privilege to work along side are very professional as are the owners. I can see this place making a mark on not only the hood but the city alike.

18. Dubliner
Neighborhood: Noe Valley
Now I know there’s more than one, but I’m going to focus on Vince’s original pub, the one in Noe Valley by 24th street. You can’t really build a pub much better than this, in my mind its the perfect size & dimensions.
The Guinness here is damn good (yes on my list) (damn does that make six now?), the bar tenders like many other bars are excellent, the owner & management know their stuff, hell when you open more than one bar, you know your doing something right.
This place is a definite must visit if your in the hood, you should make a point of heading down here for a pint of the good stuff.

18. Martin Mack’s
Neighborhood: Haight-Ashbury(hippie town)
Marin Mack’s, where to begin? For those of you who love to watch sports, sit down & have a good old fish & chips (or whatever you fancy) while downing a few pints, then later on listening to some good Irish Jig’s & talking the Craig with the boys & girls then this place is for you, specifically Sunday afternoons & evenings. Great Guinness as expected & you will find the crowd mostly Irish, but a fun bunch they are. Food here is damn good if I do say so my self.
But as us Irish will tell yol! What’s the use of having good food if you don’t have good company to enjoy it with.
Highly recommended you swing by here!

19. Anu
Neighborhood: SOMA
Now I know it’s more of a night clubbing dance bar, but I’m adding it to the list out of respect of one of the very successful publicans who was taken from us way to early!
Daithi Donnelly a visionary who started Anu on a street where no one had any business being there & was successful, he then started Swig, Bourbon and Branch, Cask and Rickhouse came along later. Anu (with a feada) means Irish Goddess well one of the three.
On this Paddies Day I want ye all to lift yer glasses & remember this man.
There is an Irish Pub missing in San Francisco because this man is no longer with us.

20. Danny Coyle’s
Neighborhood: Haight-Ashbury(hippie town)
Not far from Marin Mack’s, Siobhan the owner has made this place a great football(soccer) hang out, they have several large HD screens, where you can watch major fights including UFC. All in all this is a Great little haunt on the Haight.

21. McTeagues Saloon
Neighborhood: TenderNob
Now I have left this place for last cuz its complicated! (Nah not really, Ive left the best til last in my humble opinion)
This is my local & it’s actually sort of technically a Texas slash Irish bar. Miles O’Reilly is part owner (just thought I’d mention that)
But if you ask any regular they will tell you it’s more Irish than many Irish bars they have been in. It is one of the busiest bars in the city & it is packed on a Friday & Saturday night. Loads of local Irish drink here & that’s as plain as the nose on your face when you walk in. The general area is one of the newer local hot spots in the city & I’ve watched it grow of the past few years. The staff here are off the hook & know how to take care of the regulars. The management know their stuff & the bar looks great.
Again I am very Biased when I write this but there’s only one way to say it, go there during the week, any evening & you will see what I’m talking about.
Plenty of booths, TVs for all yer sporting needs, two bars front & back. It’s a very comfortable bar to lounge in during the week & you can party on the weekend.
The Patrons here are what a good bar should have, it’s a very friendly bar to drink at any time, even when its packed. They have great door staff & look after their customers with a passion.
All of the above points are what attracted me here in the first place OH & being 4 blocks from the old pad didn’t hurt either.
(Oh & no I don’t work here, just in case you were thinking that!)
Nuff Said!

Now Ive also noticed bars on some lists that have no reason being there.
Buena Vista
This is not a Irish bar, it’s known for being the first bar to serve Irish Coffee’s that’s it. Still a nice place, very touristy but still nice none the less!
Kennedy’s
Sorry I was around when this place was opened & I’m not going to get into the details but the opening history which I have insight into makes this a token Irish bar only. So No Comment, those of you who know the story, well you know what I’m talking about.

Some other top 10 lists that may interest you or just to compare
bestofsanfrancisco
About.com
Nileguide
Yelp
7×7
citysearch
VirtualTourist
Uptake.com

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One Response to Top 10-ish Irish Bars in San Francisco!

  1. Trever B. says:

    Wow, It’s about time some one who actually knows what they are talking about wrote a good top 10 or in this case top 20 reviews. Every one of the others are missing vital pubs or have listed ones that should not be there. Pig & whistle is a English Bar, Buena Vista is a American tourist bar. Very Nicely written!




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