6 Of The Coolest Hidden Bars In SF

One of the hottest trends in the San Francisco nightlife scene right now? Bars within bars. While the concept may seem confusing, it’s really quite simple. A bar or restaurant that has extra space, say a downstairs, upstairs, or back room, opens a distinct experience in this space. Bar owners and restauranteurs are able to engage with more diverse clientele and experiment with different recipes, techniques, and ideas. To witness the trend first hand, head to one of the following spots.

DSC_1360-EditPhoto Credit: Wes Rowe

Over Proof

Upstairs at Mission watering hole ABV, you’ll find Over Proof, a bar with a special prix-fix cocktail-and-food paired menu that changes every three months. Similar to the Mina Test Kitchen, each concept has a new name and focus. The first concept was called Flip-Flop and featured rum drinks and tropical-inspired cuisine. Currently, Over Proof is in its third iteration. Called Este Oeste, this theme highlights gin and sherry cocktails and Spanish cuisine. Reservations are required and the experience is available Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.


Louie’s Gen-Gen Room

To get to Louie’s Gen-Gen Room, one must walk through the restaurant Liholiho Yacht Club past the bar, open kitchen, and dining room and down the stairs. Here, discover an intimate space with a Hawaiian seaside mural, innovative cocktails, and sensational bar snacks. The libations are colorful with a hint of tiki influence; each comes in an eclectic vessel. As for the food? Think pigs in a blanket with housemade spam and pepper jack cheese, artichoke dip with kimchi-cheese sauce, and grilled cheese sandwich with black truffles and honey butter. It’s all finger-licking good!


Cold Drinks

China Live is a Chinese restaurant and food emporium in China Town. It has a bustling bar downstairs, so most people might not know about its decadent upstairs cocktail haven, Cold Drinks. Mixologist and cocktail expert Duggan McDonnell is behind the drink menu which includes a wide selection of Scotch whiskey. According to McDonnell, Scotch allows the bartender to be unusually creative. “It affords the mixologist a bounty, so much variety to layer into cocktails,” McDonnell says. “How did we discover this? By sipping, stirring and shaking, of course. Trust us. Come, and play. As Fräulein Maria in The Sound of Music sang: ‘When you know the notes to sing, you can sing most any thing!’ ”

©2016 gavinfarrington.comPhoto Credit: Gavin Farrington

The Sequoia

Even big name chefs like Tyler Florence have jumped on the bar-within-a-bar trend. At his downtown San Francisco restaurant Wayfare Tavern, a super exclusive top floor bar, The Sequoia, opened in February. Located on the 4th floor, The Sequoia, which is available for private events, has a separate entrance next to the restaurant


The Linden Room

Adjacent to Kim Alter’s spectacular Nightbird restaurant is the Linden Room. This tiny space serves as a waiting room for the Hayes Valley eatery. However, with only six seats and superb cocktails—that are both inspired by the seasonal and perfectly-crafted classics—it sometimes has a wait of its own.


The Concorde

Similar to Over Proof, is a new pop-up concept in the back room at the recently removed Matrix SF. This old Marina standby will feature a new theme in its back bar space every quarter. The first concept is The Concorde and it mimics the classic London hotel bar scene of the 20th century. Martinis are prepared table side and paired with tea sandwiches. The Concorde is open Thursdays through Saturdays starting at 8 pm.