The Big Game: Best Bars for Watching Sports in San Francisco
By Tom Molanphy
San Francisco Local Expert
Cheers, groans, beer, and plenty of big-screen TVs - they're the major components of any popular sports bar, and we bring you the top entries in San Francisco. Meet your buddies for wings, nachos, and a full slate of football, basketball, boxing, baseball, hockey, and NASCAR. And San Francisco takes its food as seriously as it does its sports, so don't be surprised if those buffalo wings comes with a side of organic Napa Valley horse radish sauce.
Even if you happen to come alone, you can count on finding a crowd to hang with, as long as you're wearing the right colors and logos! 10Best readers give a big, overall thumbs-up to Lefty O'Doul's and they applaud Bus Stop for its tasty bar food - a must when you're following a big game.
And, although San Franciscans are fiercely loyal to their sports teams (and ready at the drop of a yellow flag to give Raiders and A's fans from across the bay a good ribbing), the town recognizes that swapping sports stories is a great way to turn strangers into friendly drinking buddies. Don't be shy about your own allegiances, either; San Francisco is a tourist town, so locals are used to getting an earful from out-of-towners about their own favorite teams.
The best sports bars in San Francisco? Game on!
10 Greens Sports Bar
Tucked away on Polk Street and adorned with ball caps and other memorabilia, this small sports bar is a favorite with locals. It's a great place any time, but at happy hour (Monday through Friday, 4pm till 7pm), you can relax with the after-work crowd and take advantage of reduced drink prices. Microbrews and draft beers are constantly popular, but don't expect snacks, because no food is served. (Patrons are, however, invited to have take-out delivered to their tables from local eateries -- Greens conveniently keeps menus on-hand.) Lots of sports competition can be caught on 25 TVs and two large-screen models. Satellite and high-definition reception ensure that the action is crystal-clear. (415-775-4287)
9 Union Square Sports Bar
One of the area's most established saloons, Union Square Sports Bar promises 27 TVs, nine satellites, and a range of draft and bottled beers. It also boasts a wealth of sports memorabilia that confirms its long existence. If you tire of televised games, try your hand at pool, pinball, or video games. There's also a great jukebox if you crave some rhythmic tunes. Conveniently located near area shopping, restaurants and hotels. This is bear-bones style of establishment, really targeting those who just want to watch games and drink. If that tires you out, head to nearby Foley's for a bar with a little more character. (415-345-8484)
8 Bus Stop
Conducive to nights of rowdy cheering and rooting for your favorite team, Bus Stop is a true sports-lover's haven. It's been around for a century, and its longevity can certainly be attributed, in part, to dynamic crowds and ever-present drinks. Stake out a table near the octagonal windows up front, or join a friendly game at one of the pool tables. Great, affordable cocktails are even better amid the sports memorabilia. During happy hour, drink prices are even further reduced. Located in the vibrant, up-and-coming Cow Hollow neighborhood, the location also offers shopping, a diversity of restaurants and some engaging nightlife options. (415-567-6905)
7 Zeke's Sports Bar & Grill
A short walk from AT&T Park, Zeke's just seems right for sports and beer. It's also a fantastic place to catch the game on one of 16 TVs, whether your passion is football, hockey, baseball, basketball, or more. Zeke's food menu is a riot of pub fare, including great burgers and appetizers. Dartboards, pool tables, bar dice, and cribbage boards add to the fun, especially when televised games drag. Folks are incredibly friendly too, which is always a plus. Smart casual dress. If there's a Giants home game going on, be prepared for a fairly packed bar and service that makes take awhile. (415-392-5311)
6 Mucky Duck
Billing itself as "a friendly pub," this neighborhood hangout does indeed have a relaxed, "come as you are" ambience. It boasts nine large-screen TVs, pool tables, dart boards, a terrific jukebox, sports memorabilia, and a great bar staff. When the game's on, it's especially pleasant, and you'll want to kick back with a draft beer (among the selections: Death & Taxes Dark Beer, Mucky Duck Pale Ale, and Stella Artois) and root alongside other sociable fans. The place also serves a kicking Bloody Mary. The one drawback is that the Duck can be fairly smoky, but if you're cool with that, it's cool with you. (415-661-4340)
5 Abbey Tavern
Nominally an Irish pub, this casual establishment serves a number of entertainment needs. DJs spin music to dance by, live bands play, and pool, darts, and video games are there for the masses to enjoy. You'll also find a dozen international brews on tap, and happy hour (weekdays from 4pm till 7pm) makes drink prices even more affordable. Even so, sports reign on a variety of TVs, including two big-screens and three HDTV plasma screens. The breadth of programming means you can catch everything from Nascar to horse-racing, along with hurling, Aussie rules rugby, soccer, golf, boxing, and more. Although there's no cover, certain televised sports events may incur charges from $10 to $20. Casual and often rowdy. (415-221-7767, 415-221-0243)
4 Mad Dog in the Fog
Given its colorful name, there's little doubt that this place serves up a good time. The Brit-style pub offers heaping helpings of beer, soccer, and other sports, and once in awhile, it presents live musical acts. One of the place's biggest draws, though, is the twice-weekly trivia quiz, which pits folks against each other for fun and prizes. Pub food comprises the menu, and additional perks include a great social scene, happy hour deals, and a much-loved weekend breakfast, British-style. And with its location on lower Haight Street, after you've enjoyed your game, you'll be in prime position to roll out the door and get the real games of the night started. (415-626-7279, 415-442-7994)
3 Kezar Pub
Fifteen televisions and great satellite reception ensure that there's always a game or match on the tube at this neighborhood sports bar. Regulars thrill to everything from football to rugby, and brief distraction is afforded by pool tables and dart boards. If you're hungry, the menu consists of basic bar food like hamburgers and wings. Plus, Kezar offers a variety of draft beers to wash everything down. On weekends, a hearty Sunday brunch regularly pulls in patrons. The location can't be beat, either. If you're ready to celebrate your team's victory, you're at the end of Haight Street and can start a slow pub crawl from upper to lower Haight. (415-386-9292)
2 Lefty O'Doul's Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge
Besides a well-stocked bar and a popular buffet-style menu, Lefty O'Doul's is chock-full of San Francisco sports memorabilia and history. Founded in 1958 by legendary Giants hitter Lefty O'Doul, the bar quickly became a favorite hangout for local sports celebrities. Although the bar is in the heart of the Union Square tourist area, locals abound here, so don't be shy. Shoulder up to any one of the friendly locals at the bar to get an earful of San Francisco sports history - or maybe a hot tip on what your next stop should be. And if you just need a quick drink and want to save your appetite for something a bit more fancy, consider the up and coming Fifth Floor Restaurant, just down the street. ((415) 982-8900)
1 Yancy's Saloon
Yancy's is near the Mucky Duck, another sports bar in the 9th and Irving area, but Yancy's is roomier. When there's not too much fog, the shutters and windows of Yancy's are flung open and allow for great people-watching if the game gets slow. Besides the sports bar requisite of TVs every where you turn, Yancy's is also popular with locals, just in case you want to get the nitty-gritty on the San Francisco sports scene straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. Lots of options once the game is finished, from hopping on the N-Judah line right outside the door for a trip to Ocean Beach to a casual stroll through Golden Gate Park, just a block away. ((415) 665-6551)
About Tom Molanphy
The only thing that Tom Molanphy loves more than the food, art, music, and culture of San Francisco is sharing it with others. San Francisco never gets old for Tom! Tom has lived in the San Francisco Bay area since 2000. He teaches writing, journalism and literature at the Academy of Art University in downtown San Francisco. His latest book, Loud Memories Of A Quiet Life, is available through Outpost19.
Read more about Tom Molanphy here.