Civic Center and Hayes Valley
Hayes Valley bleeds into Lower Haight (Haight St. btw. Dividadero and Octavia) and supplies most of the neighborhood bars. For proof that the independent spirit of the Haight lives on in spite of encroaching commercialism, stop in and have a drink at the Noc Noc (557 Haight St., 415/861-5811, www.nocnocs.com, nightly 5 p.m.–2 a.m.). The whole small bar is alive with modern art, and there’s no mass-produced American beer on the menu. Enjoy imported and microbrews on tap, California wine, and even premium sake. DJs spin every night of the week. Do take care when you walk from public transit to the bar—the Lower Haight area can be sketchy at night, especially if you’re a woman walking alone.
Mad Dog in the Fog (530 Haight St., 415/626-7279, nightly 5 p.m.–2 a.m.) feels as much like an English (or Irish, depending on whom you talk to) pub as you can find on the left coast of America. You’ll meet rowdy expat Londoners and authentic Haight weirdos here when you in come for a pint of Guinness. You can watch a game of real football on the televisions, or enjoy the DJs on weekends.
In this part of the City, you can find just about any style of bar you want. If the young punk scene is what you crave, go to Molotov’s (582 Haight St., 415/558-8019, Mon.–Fri. 4 p.m.–2 a.m., Sat.–Sun. noon–2 a.m.). Cement and stainless steel provide the perfect backdrop for the tattooed and pierced clientele. The jukebox is hand-stocked with classic and unusual punk music. Strong drinks served in the big bar room please the crowd, which can get rowdy on weekends.
The bar scene heads upscale with Cav (1666 Market St., 415/437-1770, www.cavwinebar.com, Mon.–Thurs. 5:30 p.m.–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat 5:30 p.m.–midnight). This wine bar offers a wide array of still, sparkling, and dessert wines by the glass and by the bottle as well as in tasting flights for those who prefer variety. The small plates menu pairs perfectly with the wines.
If what you really want is a dive bar, Place Pigalle (520 Hayes St., 415/552-2671) is the place for you. This hidden gem in Hayes Valley offers beer and wine only, a pool table, lots of sofas for lounging, and an uncrowded genuinely laid-back vibe on weeknights and even sometimes on weekends. The too-cool-for-school hipster vibe somehow missed this place, which manages to maintain its friendly neighborhood feel.
Not your slick, shiny nightclub, the Rickshaw Stop (155 Fell St., 415/861-2011, www.rickshawstop.com, Wed.–Thurs. 5 p.m.–midnight, Fri.–Sat. 5 p.m.–2 a.m.) in the Hayes Valley neighborhood next door to the Civic Center welcomes one and all with a cavernous lower bar/room/stage area/dance floor, and a quirky balcony area complete with comfy old sofas. Up-and-coming live acts play here, DJs spin, and special events and parties add to the action most every week. Have a drink, enjoy the music, grab a small bite if you’re hungry, and get comfortable! You’ll feel almost as though you’re in a friendly neighborhood coffee shop (albeit a really big one) than some fancy nightspot.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition