Best Early Entertainment in San Francisco

Start (and Finish) Your Night Early at These San Francisco Spots

It's easy to find entertainment at the beginning and end of the day in San Francisco.

For those late night owls who love to party late and sleep in, San Francisco has a host of big-name night clubs and dance halls that get hot well after sundown.

For those who love the morning, the entire Bay Area is full of year-round outdoor activities for people who like to be out and about when the day starts.

But not many cities know how to cater to those in-between times, like the late afternoon hours after a big hike and well before the late night haunts even open.

That's the crowd for our "Early Entertainment" iist. We've tracked down the best activities for those early birds who want great entertainment but don't want to wait until midnight for it to start.

So whether it's a bar that has an all-day Happy Hour like the Lexington Club, or an eclectic space like the Minna Gallery with a rotating calendar of almost constant events, we'll make sure you don't have to sacrifice sleep to get world-class entertainment. Our list below will make sure the early birds find just as much fun as the night owls in San Francisco.


Great cocktails abound at this area bar, and young professionals pack the place in after-work flocks. Martinis are a house specialty, and sitting amid exotic furnishings and subtle lighting, you'll feel as if you're in another place or era. The bar has been around since the 1940s, and its accomplished sense of hospitality and quirkiness keeps folks returning. Plus, the jukebox maintains the period with a variety of classic crooners. Besides being a great early entertainment spot for starting out a long Haight Street romp, the bar is legendary for the crowds who flocked here simply to watch the late owner/bartender Bruno be his entertainingly grumpy self for almost fifty years.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: If you're looking for that late afternoon or early evening spot to kick off your Haight Street night, choose Zam Zam bar.

Tom's expert tip: 1940s ambience perfectly suits gin martinis and classic tunes.

Read more about Aub Zam Zam →

First Crush

A small, intimate jewel with a contemporary setting and a notable wine bar, First Crush specializes in Californian wines. The sleek, elegant establishment offers bottles, half-bottles, and flights, depending on your intent, and it presents household standards and newcomers alike. For those looking for an early spot to kick off their late night, First Crush is a fine choice. The menu, too, is upscale and well-crafted, perfectly in synch with the wines. Appetizers and desserts are particularly favored. The location is right off of Union Square and just around the corner form the Powell BART/MUNI exit, making its easily accessible via public transportation. The downstairs dining room offers a larger and more developed menu than most wine bars do.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: First Crush stays open late but also starts early. Great location by Union Square.

Tom's expert tip: If the Alaskan halibut is on the menu, don't pass it up.

Read more about First Crush →

A nightlife hotspot in the revamped and recharged Hayes Valley neighborhood, the Absinthe is very popular for lunch and dinner. For those interested in early entertainment, the small plate specials are a great snack before dinnertime. But if you stick around until night, the city's best and brightest always step into the Absinthe, definitely one of San Francisco's favorite places "to see and be seen." And their signature "Sacred Heart" cocktail alone is worth a visit. If your idea of a fun San Francisco nightlife is cheap drinks and rowdy crowds, Absinthe Brasserie is not your place. But if you want to see how San Francisco's upper-crust lets their hair down, Absinthe Brasserie is the perfect choice.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: Although Absinthe is also a great late night choice, it's usually open by 11:30 am, which makes it a great early spot, too.

Tom's expert tip: Over the years, Absinthe has put together a spectacular, highly curated wine list with hundreds of the best wines from all over the world.

Read more about Absinthe Brasserie & Bar →


Part of locally beloved Lolo restaurant, this mescal inspired, craft cocktail bar has gotten more popular by the minute. Grabbing an evening cocktail at Agave Bar is a great way to start your Mission night off. Some of the cocktails sound good enough to eat - and with good reason. Bar managers Gallardo and Vasquez are always peeking over at the kitchen to see what fresh fruits and vegetables are in store for diners that night. They take their own cocktail inspiration from whatever is fresh on the menu, which creates a perfect pairing for those who want to spin off their stool after a drink and enjoy the world-class dining going on behind them. The joyous clamor of colorful art will get you in the perfect mood for the star of the show: your cocktail.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: The large, eclectic crowd that gathers early at this hotspot makes Agave a great choice for early entertainment.

Tom's expert tip: Try "The Player" (cynar, rye whisky, grapefruit bitters, Anchor Steam beer).

Read more about Agave Bar at Lolo →

Bubble Lounge

This downtown establishment frequently draws business folks intent on relaxing after a day at the office, so the entertainment starts right as the work day ends. Wines and champagnes are prominent; in fact, the menu boasts more than 300 types of champagne (as the name would suggest). For versatility, some are available by the glass. A small selection of gourmet appetizers and tantalizing desserts can be found as well. Downstairs, there's a pool table and a second bar area. A festive, see-and-be-seen atmosphere, the Bubble Lounge lives up to its namesake. If you're looking for a lively night with a large crowd (instead of an intimate evening for two in a cozy booth that most other wine bars offer), head to Bubble Lounge.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: With a boisterous, downtown business crowd looking to unwind right after work, the Bubble Lounge is packed and active early.

Tom's expert tip: Upscale champagne bar with elegant details attracts downtown professionals.

Read more about Bubble Lounge →


If you've just finished a long day of shopping around Union Square, and you have several hours before your late night options start, head to the View Lounge. When all is said and done, the best late afternoon/early evening San Francisco can offer is the sight of the golden sun dropping into the misty blue of the Pacific. If that's your idea of great entertainment, then the View won't disappoint. And with all house drinks for $8 between 4 and 8 daily, you'll have good reason to sit and enjoy that sunset for a good, long time. If you get hungry, the delectable "chill plates" menu starts at 4.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: The best early entertainment San Francisco offers is the sunset. And the View is all about watching the sunset.

Tom's expert tip: Pair that stunning view with a sweet View Manhattan cocktail.

Read more about The View Lounge →

Photo courtesy of used in book.

A penchant for the dramatic colors this entire enterprise, which is simultaneously a restaurant, bar and (downstairs) dance club. An Asian theme is served by shoji screens, bamboo accents and a recurring dragon motif. And for those who like thier entertainment early, the classic tradition of the dinner show is a great choice. Perhaps, though, the most intriguing aspect of Asia SF is that servers are also female impersonators (or "gender illusionists," as they're called here). While watching them perform, take advantage of fantastic California-Asian cuisine, along with desserts, signature cocktails and an award-winning wine list. Required dinner reservations guarantee your table for an hour and 45 minutes.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: Asia SF takes the traditional dinner show and makes it uniquely - and unforgettably - San Francisco.

Tom's expert tip: Glamour reigns at this romantic spot where jazz and swing hold court.

Read more about AsiaSF →

Boom Boom Room

It's all about blues music at this Fillmore Street club, which also throws in soul, R&B, and gospel for interest and good measure. Regulars often follow-up a spin around the large dance floor with a drink at the bar, indulging in one of the club's killer cocktails. In fact, focus on music and dancing is the main draw, although you may want to check out the great photographs lining the walls. Since the place is open every day until 2am, you'll be able to take in a large share of fun for a good price. Most shows start by 8 pm, but the all-day drink specials is a great reason to come early. And if you need dinner, Japantown and all its savory offerings is right across the street.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: The Boom Boom Room starts booming early, with acts on stage by 8 o'clock and fantastic people-watching all day long.

Tom's expert tip: Boom Boom Room has one of the better Happy Hours in San Francisco, too.

Read more about Boom Boom Room →

111 Minna Gallery

Looking for a happening spot to decompress after a hard day pushing papers? Head to Minna Gallery, and order a signature, happy hour cocktail. Art in a variety of media adorns the walls, and lively DJs keep tunes and atmosphere at a wide-open pace. You'll find it hard to resist the beat as you head to the dance floor for a little body movement. Great for groups or for first dates – especially if your date loves to dance! You can't beat the central spot of 11 Minna, right downtown off of Market, so late night bite options abound. This eclectic space doesn't always offer dancing, so be sure to check their website ahead of time.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: If you're wandering around downtown in the late afternoon/early evening and want some entertainment, check out Minna's calendar online.

Tom's expert tip: Culture and music join forces at art gallery/nightclub.

Read more about 111 Minna Gallery →

Lexington Club

If you're looking to party from the early afternoon into the wee hours of the night, it's hard to beat Lexington's free pool and $1 PBRs all day every Monday. Self-advertised as "your friendly neighborhood dyke bar," the Lex's bartenders live up to that reputation with quick service and eager smiles. With a philosophy of "Never a cover, always a party," the Lexington is a great place to slip in during the late afternoon hours when the night hasn't quite started. If the $1 PBRs on Mondays or $3 pints on Tuesdays don't interest you, check out their excellent cocktail selection, which includes the yummy Blueberry Smash: Absolut, Blueberry Preserves and Fresh Lemon.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: The Lexington Club is always open and always fun, no matter what time of day.

Tom's expert tip: Most fun you'll find in the Mission.

Read more about Lexington Club →


Meet 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.

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