In a densely populated city bounded by bay and ocean, secret nooks are a necessity. Whether it's a small dive off a Mission alleyway or a subterranean lair in North Beach, San Francisco nightlife hotspots often claim to be the "coziest nook in town."
But when it comes to cozy nooks, it's hard to beat Claude Lane, a cobblestoned necklace pressed between the mammoth buildings of Union Square. And the most beautiful gem on that necklace has to be Gitane, a recently re-designed bar and restaurant with a Spanish Happy Hour that's hard to beat.
Entrance of Claude Lane — Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy
This festive happy hour is held on the patio and runs Monday-Saturday from five o'clock until close. Each day features three complimentary rotating food offerings or snacks available from the kitchen and outdoor bar cart.
The Gitane patio and outdoor bar cart — Photo courtesy of Aubrie Pick
And we're not talking a pile of tortilla chips and a big vat of nacho cheese. These are high-quality bites that take full advantage of the organic farms that surround San Francisco. Complimentary happy hour offerings rotate frequently, featuring bites such as fried smelt and ailoi; House Marinated Stuffed Olives; and Bacaloa Fritters.
Thirsty? When the small bites are this good, you can't just wash it down with anything. The new cocktail menu includes the Niche Nieble (Vodka, Bergamot, Sage); the Gitane Gin Y Tonica (209 Gin, housemade quinine tonic, soda water); and the Casa Blanca (Gin Infused with Tumeric and Pink Peppercorns, Luxardo Maraschino,Lime). Gitane also houses one of the largest selections of sherry in the Bay Area, and features an exciting collection of Spanish wines.
The Buena Fortuna cocktail, a Gitane favorite — Photo courtesy of Aubrie Pick
After a few cocktails and bar bites at one of the best "people-watching" alleyways in town, you'll have a win-win choice: either head out into the San Francisco night for more adventure, or stay put and enjoy dinner at one of the city's most exciting restaurants.
And if the infamous fog has crept in and brought a chill, head inside for the playful and romantic interior of Gitane, gilded in rich fabrics, antique chandeliers, reptilian wallpaper and painted tapestries.
Gitane restaurant — Photo courtesy of Erin Gleeson
Chef Alicia partners with local farms and incorporates a "whole animal" program that uses everything from the head to offal. Nothing is wasted, and the new program features Boer Goats from The Long Ranch Farm in Northern California, whole lambs from McCormack Home Ranch in Camarillo, California, and whole pigs from Llano Seco Rancho Organic Farms in Chico (the only organic pig farm in California).
If you're looking for a nightlife option that is romantic but lively, head to Gitane, which honors the Spanish tradition of eating well among friends.