Castro Bars

While the Castro's vibrant LGBT-friendly nightlife scene is best known to outsiders for tight tees, cheap cocktails and throbbing dance music, insiders know there's more to Castro bars than sweaty clubs and drunken boys. Stroll through the few square blocks after dark and--besides the requisite number of sweaty clubs--you'll find a beer-focused punk-rock bar, hip live music venue and a number of spots to fill up on both food and booze.

Updated: June 13, 2010

Where to Drink


Moby Dick

4049 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Stiff drinks and a slightly more mature (in attitude, not necessarily age) crowd make this corner Castro bar a favorite in the neighborhood, even after 30+ years. Take special note of the two-for-one frozen margaritas.


Cafe Du Nord

2170 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94114

This dark underground venue sports Victorian-era decor that could seem incongruous with the modern up-and-coming bands that perform here, however the result is a hip nighttime hangout that's part speakeasy and part live-music club.


Lucky 13

2140 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94114

A laid-back rocker's bar with a long list of brews and free popcorn, this grimy Market Street spot welcomes both the tattooed set and their virgin-skinned friends. Head out back to the tiny patio for a smoke if that's your thing.


Twin Peaks Tavern

401 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

This legendary neighborhood bar with a mostly gay clientele offers large windows with a nearly panoramic view of Castro district foot traffic. It's definitely a "Cheers" sort of spot though, so don't be discouraged by surly regulars.


Badlands

4121 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

To get your fix of Madonna videos and vodka-crans, this dance club on 18th Street can't be beat. Go in knowing the crowd--almost entirely male, drunk and better dancers than you--and you won't regret waiting a half hour to get in.


The Lookout

3600 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

A city view, better-than-average bar food and friendly bartenders make for a winning combination at this popular Castro spot--noticeable by the good-looking patrons that spill out of the upstairs balcony both day and night.


Blackbird

2124 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94114

In a sea of bars that cater willfully to an appletini-ordering crowd, this slightly more upscale spot aims to show its neighborhood crowd the way with a list of six well-crafted cocktails, 10 beers (including some solid microbrews) on tap and nearly all sustainably-produced wines.