Diving in S.F.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the colloquial use of the word ‘dive’ to describe a ‘drinking den’ or ‘other disreputable place of resort’ comes from the fact  that these types of establishments were originally housed in cellars or basements, into which ‘frequenters may ‘dive’ without observation.


Aunt Charlies Gay Dive Bar

Helen had a conference in San Francisco and I was lucky enough to tag along. I lived in S.F. decades ago, and have visited a half-dozen times since. So I have done all the touristy things and explored all the neighborhoods. Helen was conferencing all day and I had an afternoon free, at a bit of a loss of what to do.

As I walked through parts of the city that I vaguely remember from my past. I wondered if some of the old drinking establishments I had frequented back in the day were still around decades later. A light bulb! The plan hit me; A tour of as many dive bars as I could. Revisit some old haunts and find some new ones. I can think of worse ways to spend an afternoon. It’s amazing how many bars you can hit in that short time. Even with a only one cheap beer per bar, I was a little staggered at the end of the crawl.



There were a lot of lessons learned on this day. Here’s 3 of them.

1) Signs you’re in an SF Dive Bar:

  • A slightly sticky floor with the smell of stale beer
  • Ice in the urinal
  • A jukebox full of punk rock
  • The only food is frito-lay products, in small bags; beef jerky if you’re lucky

I think it might be Cash Only.

2) SF Dive Bars Hours. They open early. Skip the double latte; start the day right with a double jack and coke.

A patron of the Brown Jug catching some rays open a 6 am

A patron of the Brown Jug catching some rays.
Open at 6 am – every day of the year.

3) Things Not to do in a SF Dive Bar:

Uncle Charles. With the best 85 year old deaf bartender in town

Freaky “Aunt Charlies’. With the best 85-year-old deaf bartender in town.

  • Don’t go into a gay dive bar in The Tenderloin alone. Not even in the middle of the day.
  • Don’t order an espresso. They’ve only got drip coffee from the decade-old coffee maker.
  • Don’t touch anything in the bathroom. Use your shoe where possible to open door, flush toilet etc..
  • Don’t eat the home-made pickled cocktail onions in a mason jar on the bar.
  • Don’t make eye contact.
  • Don’t ask if they have a local craft organic IPA on tap. All they have is Pabst Blue Ribbon !
Salon tavern bartender.. " All we have on tap is Pabst and it ran out yeserday?

The Salon tavern bartender.. “All we have on tap is PBR and it ran out yesterday.”

Categories: San Francisco, CA - October 2014 | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Diving in S.F.

  1. Celia Tapping

    You’re not safe to be let out alone!!!!!!! 😉 Mum xx

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Erin

    Is H happy that she “had” to go to a conference instead?

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