Sports bars and hotel bars tend to be open Sunday, but others may be closed. A few establishments—especially wine bars and restaurant bars—also close Monday. Last call is typically 1:30 am; Financial District bars catering to the after-work crowd, however, may stop serving as early as 9 or 10 pm, and generally close by midnight at the latest. Bands and performers usually take the stage between 8 and 11 pm. A handful of after-hours clubs are open until 4 am or all night.
You're better off taking public transportation or taxis on weekend nights, unless you're heading downtown (Financial District or Union Square) and are willing to park in a lot. There's only street parking in North Beach, the Mission, Castro, and the Haight, and finding a spot can be practically impossible. Muni stops running between 1 am and 5 am but has its limited Owl Service on nine lines—including the N, L, 90, 91, 14, and 22—every 30 minutes, though service cuts have made a dent in convenience and frequency; check www.sfmuni.com for details. You can sometimes hail a taxi on the street in well-trodden nightlife locations like North Beach or the Mission, but you can also call for one (415/626–2345 Yellow Cab, 415/648–3181 Arrow). Cabs in SF are more expensive than in other areas in the United States; expect to pay at least $15 to get anywhere within the city. Keep in mind that BART service across the bay stops shortly after midnight.
Entertainment information is printed in the pink Sunday "Datebook" section (www.sfgate.com/datebook) and the more calendar-based Thursday "96 Hours" section (www.sfgate.com/96hours) in the San Francisco Chronicle. Also consult any of the free alternative weeklies, notably the SF Weekly (www.sfweekly.com), which blurbs nightclubs and music, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian (www.sfbg.com), which lists neighborhood, avant-garde, and budget events. SF Station (www.sfstation.com; online only) has an up-to-date calendar of entertainment goings-on.
Top 5 Bars
Cliff House: Granted, it's pricey and the interior is ho-hum, but huge picture windows with views of the rolling Pacific remind you why you came here in the first place.
El Rio: The perfect dive, with $2.50 drink specials, a stellar patio, and an ever-changing calendar of events (free oysters on Friday, salsa Sunday...)
Hôtel Biron: Everything a small wine bar should be: intimate, stylish, and slightly hard to find, with an eclectic wine list and good small plates.
Smuggler's Cove: Despite the gaudy (and distracting) pirate theme, this joint serves superb cocktails. Rum is king, with over 200 different styles available.
Vesuvio Café: One of those rare bars with a fleet of regulars that everyone knows about. It's in one of the most touristy parts of town, but still manages to be cool.
By law, bars and clubs are smoke-free, except for the very few that are staffed entirely by the owners.
Tickets and Covers
The cover charge at smaller, less popular clubs ranges from $5 to $10, and credit cards are rarely accepted for this. Covers at larger venues may spike to $30, and tickets usually can be purchased through Tickets.com or Ticketweb.com. Bars often have covers for live music—usually $5 to $15.
What to Wear
Except for a few skyline lounges, you're not expected to dress up. Still, San Franciscans are a stylish bunch. For women, dressed-up jeans with heels and cute tops are one popular uniform; for guys it's button-up shirts or designer tees and well-tailored jeans. Of course, stylish means a black designer outfit at one place and funky thrift-store togs at another, so you have to use your judgment.
Bars for a Ballgame
Two bars near the Giants' AT&T Park are especially popular on game day.
MoMo's. Stylish American restaurant and trendy bar, MoMo's has an outdoor patio perfect for sunny days; it's the most popular pre- and postgame bar. The individual pizzas are tasty—and big enough to share. 760 2nd St., at King St., SoMa, San Francisco, CA, 94107. 415/227–8660. www.sfmomos.com.
Nova Bar and Restaurant. Fans thirsty for chic cocktails and hungering for hearty servings of mac and cheese pack this bar before and after Giants games. Year-round the Sunday brunch (many eggs Benedict options) is a good bet. 555 2nd St., near Bryant St., SoMa, San Francisco, CA, 94107. 415/543–2282. www.novabar.com.