S.F.’s Smallest, Coziest Watering Holes

Hey, bigger isn’t always better. Yep, we all know that good things come in small packages, so we’ve rounded up a list of some of S.F.’s tiniest bars to wet your whistle. (We can’t deny that we’ve got a soft spot for a good, ol'-fashioned hole in the wall — or shall we say, watering hole-in-the-wall?)
From intimate wine lounges to pint-sized English pubs, some of the city’s biggest gems also happen to have the smallest footprint. Whether you’re bellying up to the bar with an old friend or sipping a Manhattan on a first date, you won’t have to battle a sea of thirsty patrons at one of these cozy cantinas. Is it 5 p.m. yet?!

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Photographed by Ashley Batz.
Bacchus Wine Bar
This neighborhood wine bar is a favorite among its Russian Hill residents. And, while they may want it to remain a well-kept secret, the humble hangout is too good not to share. Though not the most spacious (roughly 20 seats), the quiet ambiance offers a comfortable place to enjoy a glass and expand your wine knowledge with its international selection. Whether out with friends or on a date, tasting or toasting, this mellow spot won’t disappoint.

Bacchus Wine Bar, 1954 Hyde Street (at Union Street); 415-928-2633.
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Photographed by Ashley Batz.
Bar 821
You could easily walk right past this watering hole if you aren't paying attention. The meager marquis might not immediately beckon you, but you’ll be glad you decided to venture inside. A popular Divisadero hangout, with a friendly local vibe, Bar 821 serves good, reasonably priced cocktails, plain and simple. It also offers some great nightly drink specials to remain a player in the competitive Divis happy hour scene. The small, square space might not be huge, but offers ample seating at low bar tables, so grab a drink, have a seat, and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.

Bar 821, 821 Divisadero Street (between Fulton and McAllister streets); 415-569-3986.
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Photographed by Ashley Batz.
Black Horse London Deli
Widely recognized as the smallest bar in San Francisco, the Black Horse Deli is an easy addition to any S.F. bucket list. Slightly bigger than a breadbox, walls adorned with soccer pendants, and proudly serving bottled beer from an ice-filled bathtub, this itty-bitty British pub is not lacking in charm. Go early and cross your fingers you can nab one of the eight (count ‘em, eight) seats at the welcoming bar and prepare to make seven new friends.

Black Horse London Deli, 1514 Union Street (at Van Ness Avenue); No phone.
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Photographed by Ashley Batz.
Fig and Thistle
What this new Hayes Valley hot spot lacks in square footage, it more than makes up for in ambiance. Bright, modern decor and a great wine and beer selection makes this urban lair the perfect spot to meet with friends for a post-work sip. Arrive early to get one of the 25 seats and be sure to try its meat and cheese offerings. Oh, and rumor has it, the cute space used to be a therapist’s office. Well, if you ask us, its charming makeover is just what the doctor ordered.

Fig and Thistle, 313 Ivy Street (at Gough Street); 415-617-9825.
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Photographed by Ashley Batz.
Wish Bar and Lounge
This sexy SoMa hot spot is everything a lounge should be and more. The decor is seductive, with walls draped in red velvet, leather accents, and glowing candlelight. The space is long and narrow, and while only 1,500 square feet, low tables and plush leather couches manage to make it feel cozy rather than cramped. And, as if that weren't enough, the swanky venue offers nightly DJs regularly spinning house music. Table for two, please.

Wish Bar and Lounge, 1539 Folsom Street (at Norfolk Street); 415-431-1661.
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Photographed by Ashley Batz.
Two Sisters Bar and Books
Hayes Valley continues to impress us with new boutiques, restaurants, and bars popping up all the time. And, one of the newest kids on the block, Two Sisters Bar and Books, is at the top of our list. One step inside the warm, comforting space and you feel as if you’ve been transported into your great aunt’s living room, only with better cocktails. Pull up a seat at one of the handful of bar stools to watch the chef in action or grab a small round table and peruse one of the many books lining the shelves for a truly unique bar experience.

Two Sisters Bar and Books, 579 Hayes Street (at Laguna Street); 415-863-3655.
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Photographed by Ashley Batz.
Tunnel Top
If the name didn’t give it away, this S.F. staple sits atop the Stockton Tunnel just outside of Union Square. So, if the hustle and bustle of downtown has you craving a cocktail, this dive bar is your escape. The jukebox, albeit filled with good music, is usually playing a little too loudly, and you can expect at least a few of the bar stools to be permanently occupied by regulars. Be sure to take your glass upstairs for a seat on the small surrounding balcony that offers the best view of the action below.

Tunnel Top, 601 Bush Street (at Stockton Street); 415-760-4713.
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Photographed by Ashley Batz.
Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon
We know it can be tough to get San Franciscans to venture outside of our wonderful city, but this historic Oakland landmark is worth a trip across the bridge. Built in 1880 using timber from a whaling ship, the tiny saloon has preserved its incredible history and to this day maintains the original tables where Jack London often rested his cup. From the tilting floor (a side effect of the 1906 earthquake) to the antique gas lamps, this place is full of character and truly one of a kind.

Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon, 48 Webster Street (at Embarcadero West); 510-839-6761.
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Photographed by Ashley Batz.
The Hideout at Dalva
A bar within a bar? That’s right, this hidden gem (okay, so maybe the secret is out) is tucked inside popular Mission spot, Dalva. It’s worth a walk past the main bar to experience this dimly lit speakeasy, nestled privately in the back, away from the crowd. The small, secluded space is dimly lit, with comfy leather banquets and an even smaller intimate upstairs lounge. Worth a visit for the killer handcrafted cocktails and good tunes (genre depends on who happens to be bartending and manning the iPod that night).

The Hideout, 3121 16th Street (at Valencia Street); 415-252-7740.