It's March Madness, which means it’s a great time to post up at one of the best sports bars. San Francisco has lots—but what makes these bars the greatest? Plenty of televisions, happy hour deals, an interesting selection of the best craft beers and delectable snacks to soak up all that celebratory (or sorrow-drowning) beer. Here are ten top spots to cheer on your teams.
RECOMMENDED: The best bars in San Francisco
Best sportsbars in San Francisco
The absolute closest watering hole to AT&T Park—in fact, it’s actually connected to the stadium—is Public House. A high-end sports bar option from chef Traci Des Jardins, Public House has 26 TVs and 21 beers on tap, most of which are local brews like Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA, Almanac Blueberry Jack, and Faction Alternative Facts Session IPA. The food is upscale pub grub: think their signature Public House wings, spicy pulled pork sliders with cabbage onion slaw, and potato chips with crusted fried pickles. If you've got tickets to a game, grab a plastic cup of your favorite draft beer before using Public House’s secret entrance to get into the stadium.
Lower Haight is dotted with unpretentious sports bars, but one that stands above the rest is Mad Dog in the Fog. Quite possibly the best place to watch European soccer and rugby, Mad Dog is known for drawing anglophile and expat crowds at 5am on a weekday—if it’s a Manchester United versus Liverpool game. It's a good spot for large groups, as there are several big booths, including one that has its own self-serve beer tap. The bar is stocked with an evolving selection of over 150 different beers from across the world, while the food is straightforward with dishes like classic buffalo wings, bangers and mash and our personal favorite: hearty nachos layered with jack cheddar cheese, black beans, jalapeños, sour cream and fresh salsa. And for those early morning matches? Ask for an English breakfast.
During college football season, The Brick Yard in Cow Hollow is the place to see and be seen. It’s the ideal spot to watch daytime weekend games while enjoying a lively atmosphere and boozy brunch. (We’re suckers for their breakfast pizza topped with softly scrambled egg whites, thin proscuitto, arugula, mascarpone cheese and bernaise sauce.) There's a ton of seating here for both intimate couples and bigger groups, in addition to a massive bar. Definitely take advantage of weekday happy hour (from 4-7pm with $3 beers, $5 glasses of wine and bartenders' choice cocktails, plus tasty snacks all under $10 each), regardless of the game schedule.
Out in the Inner Sunset, Yancy’s Saloon is that large-and-in-charge, far-from-fancy sports bar decorated with hanging plants. It’s the kind of place that doesn’t have a website or craft cocktails, but everyone knows it and everyone goes there. The drinks are strong and cheap, the bartenders fast and friendly and the crowd young and ready to have a good time. Not only does Yancy’s show sporting events, but you can also play plenty of games there—darts anyone? There's no kitchen, but bar-goers are invited to bring in food from nearby establishments and eat while sipping one of Yancy’s beers or beverages. Score.
Though it might have some of the worst restrooms in all of the city (especially for ladies), we’ve spent many a happy evening watching the Giants at Bus Stop. The bar, which has been around since 1901, sits on the corner of Union and Laguna—just behind the bus stop. It’s a no-frills sort of place that has buckets of beers, shot specials, pool in back and plenty of televisions. Frequent customers are warmly welcomed by friendly bartenders, and the atmosphere is one of camaraderie. Come here often enough and Bus Stop will begin to feel like Cheers. Seriously.
Shanghai Kelly’s is another long-standing sports bar that holds court on a corner—of Polk and Broadway, since 1985. It’s on the smaller side, so if you’re interested in watching a big game be sure to get there early to secure a seat at the bar. The best spot in the house is by the front window: you can make the nook your own private party and still have access to the televisions and bar. There’s no food here, but plenty of icy cold beer on tap and a no-nonsense bartending staff. "Have a good time tonight! Don’t worry about tomorrow!" is Shanghai Kelly’s official motto, and one that we gladly raise a beer and say cheers to.
San Francisco’s most well-known sports bar is Kezar Pub. The watering hole is on Stanyon directly across the street from Kezar Stadium, the original home of the 49ers. The place is decorated in a warm reds and woods, and is almost always packed. Like its sister bar, Mad Dog in the Fog, Kezar shows just about every sporting event imaginable, from European rugby to International tennis matches. There’s a large variety of rotating beers on tap and a menu filled with quintessential sports bar fare: homemade potato chips with ranch dressing, world famous spicy Buffalo wings and a chicken club sandwich loaded with Swiss, bacon, avocado and lettuce. Kezar, you're a classic.
Over in South Beach, directly in front of Giants Stadium, sits Pete’s Tavern. This sports bar is crowded on game days—especially right before, after, and even during big events. It's a super big space with two floors, plenty of seating for groups and a bar that sits in the middle of the room with chairs on all sides. There are 22 enormous flat screens, a Giants-centric cocktail list (with drinks like the Mad-Bum Mai Tai), a beer list that represents locals such as 21st Amendment and Lagunitas and a food spread that includes house-smoked barbecue, sandwiches, burgers and macaroni and cheese.
Mission Bowling Club isn’t your typical sports bar. It’s more of a sporting bar where groups of young folk gather for good eats and a round or two of bowling. However, those in the know head to Mission Bowl when they're looking for an uncrowded place to enjoy an important game. A projector covers one entire wall of the bar, making it an ideal spot to watch without drunken interruptions. It’s also a perfect place to host a group event that involves watching a game. The staff is incredibly friendly and the cocktail list is stellar, with innovative takes on traditional beverages. The food is quite good, too—Mission Bowl’s burger is one of the best in town, and their fried chicken sandwich with kale slaw, smoky sweet maple aioli and bourbon pickled jalapeños is a must-order.