Dirty Habit (photo credit: Eric Wolfinger)


Alta CA (photo credit: Alanna Hale)

7 restaurants where you want to eat at the bar

What’s not to like about eating at the bar? You get all the perks of a table—great service, comfortable chairs, and lively conversation—without the fuss of a reservation. It’s as easy as pulling up a stool and greeting the barkeep. Even better is when the bar delivers its own set of specials, priced just right for one or a crowd.

Dirty Habit
A bar, a pub, and a club, Dirty Habit delivers high quality food in a lounge-y space, complete with barrel-aged spirits and creative cocktails. With the two-and-a-half-year-old ban on selling foie gras in California recently overturned by a federal judge, Dirty Habit launched a four course foie gras tasting menu (for $80 or $130 with wine pairings), aptly named a Celebration of Foie Gras. The classic torchon is here, seasoned with jerk spices and guava jelly, as is seared foie gras atop an aged rib eye steak with black truffle. Chef David Bazirgan also gives diners the chance to experience foie at full throttle, both in the foie gras butter with white truffle and Parmesan and the oysters poached in foie gras fat. Now cue the sighs of happiness.
Where: 12 Fourth St., San Francisco, CA 94103 (5th floor of the Hotel Palomar)
Telephone: 415-348-1555

Boxing Room
Remodeled just in time for Mardi Gras and Carnival season, Boxing Room has launched a new cocktail program that tips its hat to New Orleans’ revered cocktail culture. From a classic Sazerac to the more modern Hurricane, the drinks pair well with bites from the expanded seafood bar. Try the new smoked catfish salad or oysters Simoneaux, laced with the region’s incomparable tasso ham. And if can't decide between your bar cravings, the turtle soup, frog’s legs, and alligator sauce piquant on a new sampling platter, fittingly called Taste of the Swamp, will have you humming “laissez les bons temps rouler” in no time.
Where: 399 Grove St., San Francisco, CA 94102
Telephone: 415-430-6590

The Progress
Opened in mid-December in a building that was built in 1911 to house the Progress Theater, The Progress sports warmly sleek, washed concrete walls and layers of honeyed woods. Once standing room only, the bar now features tall seating and full service. Make that more than full—only in the bar is the entire menu also available a la carte, served in portions suitable for one. Ask for the Banchan platter, a sort of amuse bouche when served in the dining room. It's available in the bar as portion-sized snacks. For $5 each, you can select from the chef’s daily offerings, which range from croquettes and Lapsong sausages to jerkies and pickled vegetables. Pair these bites with a movie-themed cocktail, such as the popcorn-infused Concession, and your night at the theater is complete.
Where: 1525 Fillmore St., San Francisco, CA 94115
Telephone: 415-673-1294

The Ice Cream Bar
Ice cream gets the grown-up treatment at The Ice Cream Bar. There are no tables per se, but a seat at the counter gets you a drink like no other in town. White-capped soda jerks craft modernized versions of phosphates, sodas, and remedies like the Cracked Cola, prepared with locally made cola syrup, vermouth, and Morello cherries. Add a scoop of ice cream at your own risk. A flight of mead from the San Francisco Mead Company reveals in each floral note why this ancient elixir, known as the drink of the gods, deserves a place at the table… ahem, counter. The retro interior resembles an old diner, with an art deco sign and a marble counter that was built in the 1930s.
Where: 815 Cole St., San Francisco, CA 94117
Telephone: 415-742-4932

Alta CA
Regulars know eating at the bar means easy, spontaneous conversation, and at Alta CA’s diamond-shaped bar, the talk might revolve around the cool tools at each bartender’s post. Lean in to witness the development of a Hang Glider cocktail—constructed inside a clear tube and carbonated off a hose, it is then shaken before being served. It is also part of a unique bubbles flight, served only at the bar. Enjoy a half-glass each of two carbonated cocktails (Hang Gilder and Doc Holliday) plus a half-glass of sparkling wine or Champagne, all in vintage glassware, alongside plates of Alta CA’s famous beef tendon puffs and dill pickled deviled eggs, all for $30. Bubbles never had it so good.
Where: 1420 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94102
Telephone: 415-590-2585

Presidio Social Club
If the sweeping views of the Golden Gate are not enough, turn your attention towards the Presidio Social Club’s bar that runs the length of the dining room. Made of gray marble and strung with cabled Edison bulbs, the bar anchors this San Francisco landmark. Barrel-aged Negronis and classic cocktails like the whiskey smash match the mid-century vibe but hot cocktails get their due here, too. Hot buttered rum, infused with house-made butter batter, and Irish coffee with whiskey and cream warm up any fog-chilled afternoon, while the Café Jalisco, with tequila and chile, or the Drunken Earl, with rye, Drambuie, and Earl Grey tea, define the renegade spirit of San Francisco.
Where: 563 Ruger St., San Francisco, CA 94129
Telephone: 415-885-1888

Palm House
The sunny, palm frond–bedecked environs of Palm House practically beg for a Tiki-themed cocktail. Luckily, all you have to do is settle onto a cushy bar stool to experience a range of Spice Trail-inspired drinks. On the list you’ll find the likes of chipotle-mango Margaritas and Piña Coladas, but don’t miss the signature Slushy. Inside a wood and copper–accented cabinet spins a machine loaded with Mount Gay Black Barrel and Cruzan white rum, freshly squeezed lime juice, and simple syrup. Ask the barkeep for a pull of this classic blend, or customize your equator-themed cocktail with tropical fresh fruit purées like prickly pear or passion fruit. Then sit back, relax and dream of the Caribbean’s warm breezes.
Where: 2032 Union St., San Francisco, CA 94123
Telephone: 415-400-4355

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