The City by the Bay is known throughout the world for so many of its magical characteristics. Being inexpensive, however, is not one of them. But San Francisco is also a place that caters to all walks of life, including those that don’t want to plop down $15 per drink at a fancy lounge or club. You can save those places for the tourist, because any local will tell you that there are a bevy of dive bars and cozy cafes in town to serve you crafty cocktails or magnificent microbrews at bargain basement prices. Yet the following establishments all have a certain je ne sais quoi–so you can pour like a prince(ss) for the price of a pauper…
Toronado (547 Haight Street) The Bay Area’s proudest dive bar is also home to the most extensive collection of craft brews you’re likely to find anywhere. And best of all, they’re all reasonably priced with a daily afternoon happy hour offering a dollar off everything. Many limited release, seasonal favorites can be enjoyed for around $3-$4 a pint. You’ll find everything worth finding here, except for any Grateful Dead on the jukebox.
Columbus Cafe (562 Green Street) North Beach is home to countless bars and lounges, but Columbus Cafe is one of the best around. With a great, cozy vibe and an impressive selection of beers on draft it’s astonishing that they actually offer 2-for-1 drink specials during happy hour. The city is a better place for their generosity.
Lucky 13 (2140 Market Street) The Castro’s favorite dive bar has one of the best selections of draft beer anywhere in the city, and you’ll never find anything for more than $5. Most cocktails are around that same price and during happy hour you can take a buck off everything. And once in a while you can treat yourself to a cheap and strong jello shot.
Northstar Cafe (1560 Powell Street) Another North Beach all-star, this friendly neighborhood bar has all the hallmarks of an endearing dive; kind bartenders, free pool and popcorn, and most importantly: cheap drinks–$3 during happy hour, to be exact.
Bean Bag Coffee House (601 Divisadero Street) When it comes to good, inexpensive beer, Bean Bag can’t be beat. For under $2–that is not a typo–you can enjoy several local microbrews on draft including Lagunitas IPA and usually something from nearby 21st Amendment. Although the beer is served in a plastic cup and it used to be $1.50–it’s still the Bay’s best bargain at $1.95. Being a cafe, they also have a good food menu and free wi-fi for all to enjoy.