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Best of the Bay 2013: Game-Changer Bars

Four new haunts bucking neighborhood norms

Low Key on Lower Polk: Avoid the table-dancing types at Vertigo and duck into Hi-Lo Club, where you can get a well-balanced cocktail without a side of falling over drunk. The fact that you can have a conversation without shouting—from a replica cable car booth, no less—seals the deal. 1423 Polk St. (near Pine St.)

Divisadero for Grown-Ups: Don’t get us wrong: Club Waziema, Mini Bar, and Lion Pub are all crucial NoPa gathering spots—for those who were toddlers in the Clinton years. But now, there’s a place for people who drink their grapes in the proper glassware. Wine Kitchen matches mourvèdre and rosé to a cheese plate—dodging menu of sweetbreads, grilled scallops, and the like—so you can skip the subpar stemware and soggy nachos just down the street. 507 Divisadero St. (near Hayes St.), 415-525-3485

Next-Generation Noe Valley: In addition to its abundance of greasy dives, creaky taverns, and dim sports bars—all with their devoted denizens—Noe Valley now has a hangout for neighborhood newbies. Caskhouse’s tightly edited craft beer selection spans the West Coast, rotating through hard-to-find brews like Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA and Sonoma Springs’ Lil’ Chief Pale Ale (sorry, PBR lovers—stick to the Mission). Its reclaimed black walnut bar is surrounded nightly by well-heeled startup pros downing homemade pretzel bites. Attention, Noe techies: This is your Cheers. 3853 24th St. (at Vicksburg St.), 415-834-5005

South Beach Sports Hater: Eschewing the foam fingers and Bud-heavy pitchers that define most bars bordering AT&T Park, the Alchemist Bar and Lounge dares to blast vintage horror flicks on the wall in lieu of a sports-blaring flat-screen TV. Despite the gothic vibe, though, owner Kinson Lau wants his bar to feel cozy—hence, the pseudo-Victorian divans and the non-snooty bartenders. Go before 8 p.m. on a weeknight for $5 sparkling cava or $1 off beers, then head straight for a game of shuffleboard—that’s just about as sporty as it’s going to get in here. 679 3rd St. (near Townsend St.), 415-746-9968 


Read more Best of the Bay
Best of the Bay 2013: Bayview Fix-ups
Best of the Bay 2013: Brunch Without Borders
Best of the Bay 2013: Game-Changer Bars
Best of the Bay 2013: New Subspecies
Best of the Bay 2013: Upgraded Napa Agenda
Best of the Bay 2013: Culture
Best of the Bay 2013: Food
Best of the Bay 2013: Recreation 
Best of the Bay 2013: Socializing
Best of the Bay 2013: Style


Originally published in the July 2013 issue of San Francisco.

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