With the booming trend of speakeasy-style lounges, the glamor of Prohibition-era bars has been brought to life again. And with our love for one-of-a-kind cocktails and unique experiences, San Francisco is the ideal setting to track down some of the country’s best. In classic SF fashion, the restaurateurs of the city have created everything from modern interpretations and Tron-inspired decor to historic lounges designed in true turn-of-the-century style.
On our list of the city’s secret hideaways, you’ll find well-known bars, several elusive destinations and even a few members-only exclusives. But don’t worry, we have the details you need on how to get in!
Bourbon & Branch
Photo courtesy of Bourbon & Branch
Of all the speakeasies in the Bay Area, Bourbon & Branch is probably the most renown — though it still somehow manages to maintain a sense of secrecy. Maybe it’s because, inside the already covert bar, there are even more hidden rooms with completely different menus! The Library and The Main Bar are the most accessible, but if you explore a bit further, you’ll find Russell’s Room, Wilson & Wilson and The Ipswitch. To learn more about the last two, keep reading!
How to get in: To get into Bourbon & Branch, simply buzz the door on Jones, ask the hostess to put you on the waitlist, and they’ll text you if a spot opens. To get into The Library, you can enter through the unmarked door on O’Farrell using the password “books”. Or, go through the Main Bar and swing open the secret bookcase door!
Wilson & Wilson
Inside the already exclusive Bourbon & Branch, you’ll find Wilson & Wilson — the team’s most interesting and elusive bar. Designed as the fictional Wilson & Wilson Detective Agency, the completely unique menu looks like a detective dossier but features some of the most innovative mixes you’ll ever try. The Hollywood-esque detective decor will make you want to post an Instagram, but remember to follow the house rules.
How to get in: To get into Wilson & Wilson, you need to make a reservation. When you do so, you’ll get a password to use when you buzz in at the Bourbon & Branch entrance on Jones. Your Wilson & Wilson-specific word will get you in and you’re ready to investigate!
The most exclusive room within Bourbon & Branch (and perhaps in San Francisco) is located in the basement under Russell’s Room. Named after the original speakeasy which operated during Prohibition in that very location, you can only get in with a reservation through a trap door.
How to get in: Right now, you can only get into The Ipswitch if you book an event with Bourbon & Branch and cross your fingers. You’re not guaranteed to be hosted in The Ipswitch, but there’s a chance!
Photo courtesy of The Grid and Luke Beard
Brand new on the scene, The Grid is a futuristic Tron-inspired speakeasy located inside the popular Coin-Op Game Room. Unlike the arcade bar and restaurant, the more exclusive experience is reservation only and doesn’t include food. However, if craft cocktails served with style are your forte, you’ll want to make a reservation!
How to get in: The Grid can be entered by an unmarked door at 606 Bryant Street near the corner of 4th and Bryant. When you make your reservation on Yelp, you’ll get an email with further instructions.
The theme at Holy Mountain changes regularly, but it’s always located in a Mission getaway above the bustling Hawker Fare. With a completely different atmosphere from the louder restaurant below, you’ll also find a unique cocktail and snack menu based off the current theme. Stop by for a Pickle Plate and a glass of Mussolini made with tequila, cynar, vermouth and chinotto.
How to get in: Climb the mountain of stairs in the back of Hawker Fare until you pass an ominous neon logo of a triangle with a halo. Then hang a right. If you have a party of six or more, make a reservation; otherwise, just head upstairs!
From the team behind Marlowe, Park Tavern and Leo’s Oyster Bar, Marianne’s is the exclusive bar located inside The Cavalier. Though it was once a members-only destination, they now accept walk-ins and reservations from the general public. Inside, you’ll find a covert atmosphere complete with leather furniture, bookcases and art deco patterns.
How to get in: To access Marianne’s, simply check in at The Cavalier. If you have a reservation, you’ll be directed to the hidden bar; walk-ins will be added to the waitlist and texted when space is available. We suggest grabbing a drink at The Cavalier’s bar while you wait!
Devil’s Acre is already a mysterious and popular location for an evening cocktail. Inspired by the historic Barbary Coast, the main bar program celebrates the combination of saloon keeper and pharmacist. Take your remedy even further inside the underground Remedie Room. The low ceiling, cavern-like space and historic decor will take you back in time — and so will the craft cocktails!
How to get in: To ensure you get into the Remedie Room, book a private event. When there isn’t an event taking place, follow the wall to the right of the entrance all the way to the end. There, you’ll find a hidden staircase and the entrance to the subterranean bar.
Photo courtesy of Oddjob
SRO stands for standing room only and the name fits, because only 16 people will fit inside this bar at one time. Nestled inside Oddjob, the 1920s decor matches the Prohibition-style cocktail program. Simply tell the bartender what you like and don’t like, and the server will craft something to fit your tastes.
How to get in: Simply enter Oddjob from Washburn Alley, turn left and continue through the curtains.
The HogsHead Reserve
San Francisco’s The Barrel Room has become a destination for fine wine and crafted food. But below the restaurant, you’ll find an even more exciting spot — The HogsHead Reserve. The year-round prohibition era cocktail program offers a completely different menu inside a dark and sultry room that was once a bank vault.
How to get in: In addition to the restaurant, The Barrel Room offers a wine and retail shop where you can purchase world class wines. To get into The HogsHead Reserve, continue through the store to find a staircase leading downstairs and into the bar. Make a reservation via email or phone to ensure you get in.
The Battery itself is a private, members-only club where you’ll find exclusive dinners, live music events, tastings, cultural talks and more. To become a member, you have to be invited by a current member and then approved. Or, you can be brought along as a guest. Once inside, you’ll find, among other things, the hidden Musto Bar. Decorated in green and gold, the elegant space is the most exclusive destination inside an already exclusive club where you can get a specially tailored cocktail just for you!
How to get in: As a member or as the guest of a member, you can only enter The Musto Bar through a secret bookcase lever inside The Battery.
Tivoli Sour Room
Photo courtesy of Mikkeller
Mikkeller is already one of San Francisco’s most interesting bars. With a full kitchen, 40 taps, two cask handles, a specialized bottle selection and exclusive house brewed beers, it’s a must-try in the city. In the underground cellar, you’ll find an exclusive sour beer destination with a distinctly different atmosphere. The Tivoli Sour Room drops the dark demeanor of Mikkeller in favor of a bright, mint-green and psychedelic setting where you’ll find some of the best Lambic and sour beer produced in the world.
How to get in: As soon as you reach the bar inside Mikkeller, turn right and walk down the stairway. Hang a left, head down the hall and pucker up!
The Gotham Club
The Gotham Club originated in 1883 when the San Francisco Giants were the New York Gothams. The team moved to SF in 1958, but the club wasn’t reinstated until 2013. If you’ve ever played for the New York Gothams, the New York Giants or the San Francisco Giants, you’re already a member. If you haven’t played for any of those teams (or any teams at all), you can still come as a guest or apply for membership. Then, you get access to the hidden clubhouse behind the out-of-town scoreboard in the outfield of AT&T Park. Inside, you’ll find a full bar, baseball-shaped ice cubes, a stunning view of the Portwalk, and another hidden room with a bowling alley, arcade and billiards room!
How to get in: First things first, you have to become a member or know one. Then hit the Portwalk behind AT&T Park. Just past the Virgin America Loft, look for The Gotham Club logo on an otherwise unmarked door to the left, and step inside!
The Sequoia isn’t exactly a secret (it even has a Facebook page) but, at one point, it was a members-only bar and the old-world decor gives it a classic speakeasy vibe. Located above Wayfare Tavern on the fourth floor, you’ll find a blend of 1920s design, 1940s film noir, plenty of San Francisco history, and an incredible FiDi view. Check out the menu of snacks, shareable plates and beverages before you head out!
How to get in: All you need to do to get into The Sequoia is make a reservation!
Share your favorites
Do you have a favorite hidden bar that didn’t make the list? If you’re comfortable revealing your hideaway, let us know in the comments!