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A shot of Jameson Original Whiskey, in a bar in San Francisco, on St. Patrick’s Day. Photography by Angela DeCenzo

How to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in San Francisco Like a Local

In a city with a storied Irish history, you’re bound to have a legendary St. Paddy’s Day whatever neighborhood you find yourself in.

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When miners struck gold in California in the 1850s, they struck Irish green, too. It didn’t take long for San Francisco’s Irish population to quickly expand, so much so that Marin County was nicknamed “Little Ireland.” And the city’s first parade and subsequent grand ball were hallmarks of early St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the U.S.

Today, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in San Francisco are true to the city’s Irish roots, with some West Coast flair. Be as laidback as you want to be, or not — green beer is hardly a requirement to have a good time on St. Paddy’s Day. (But if that is your preferred way to celebrate, no judgement here.) You can watch a game, drink a cocktail, and revel in the Irish ways in however you choose — there’s no wrong way to ring in St. Paddy’s Day.

If You’re a Sports Nut: Final Final

If you’re a sports fan in San Francisco, odds are good that you’ve visited the Final Final. It’s been a fixture of the Marina District for 40 years; owner/operator Arnold Prien, his wife, and their three sons can always be found behind the bar, pulling pints and serving bar favorites like wings, sausages, and nachos. Spend your St. Patrick’s Day watching a game, i.e. the start to March Madness, on one of the 12 TVs, or shoot a game of pool with your buddies. No matter what, Arnold and his family are going to make you feel like you never left your living room (in the best way possible).

Final Final, 2990 Baker Street, Cow Hollow, San Francisco;

If You’re a Traditionalist: Elixir

The bar currently known as Elixir is a veritable piece of San Francisco’s history; it’s been open since 1858, and was an Irish pub, a gay bar, and a dive, among other incarnations. Now, under the proprietorship of H. Joseph Ehrmann, it’s a fancy-schmancy cocktail bar where you’ll feel equally at home ordering a complicated drink or just sampling one of over 450 whiskeys on offer. (Obviously you’ll be sipping on Jameson for SPD, though.) The crowd at Elixir on St. Patrick’s Day will probably be the same crowd that’s there every night, so expect to find a mix of hipsters, neighbors, and a tourist or two who’s making a pilgrimage to one of the best bars in America.

Elixir; 3200 16th Street, Mission District, San Francisco;

If You’re a Foodie: The Snug

The Snug is relatively new to the Pacific Heights neighborhood, and it’s been welcomed with open arms. Maybe that has to do with the house-made dill pickles. Or the house-made hotdogs with ham-hock ketchup and shiso relish. Or the truffle corn fritters. It could also be the season-inspired cocktail menu, featuring gems like the bar’s special Old Fashioned. Whatever it is, it’s working. For a St. Paddy’s Day that’s heavy on the gourmet and light on the blarney, the Snug is where you’re going to want to be.

The Snug; 2301 Fillmore Street, Lower Pacific Heights, San Francisco;

If You’re a Nostalgia King: Doc’s Clock

Remember when you were a kid and you used to play shuffleboard and listen to some cool tunes on the jukebox? Clearly not, but if you’re still nostalgic for a time you never experienced, hit up Doc’s Clock and create some new memories to look back on. Their cocktail menu is simple: whiskey; beer; tequila; “other shit.” (Seriously, those are the categories.) This is where you want to be on St. Patrick’s Day for stiff pours of whiskey, no-holds-barred games of shuffleboard, and an all-around good time.

Doc’s Clock; 2417 Mission Street, The Mission, San Francisco,

If You’re a Cocktail Connoisseur: Cold Drinks

Tucked away atop Chinatown’s newest sensation, the restaurant-slash-shopping emporium China Live, is Shanghai-inspired Cold Drinks, a cocktail den that combines the varied flavors of East Asia with Scotch. Lots of Scotch. The vibe is glamorous and a bit over the top, with sleek decor and a tuxedo-ed staff that will make you feel like you’re in a James Bond film. Sip on a Rule Breaker, a riff on a cocktail that was popular at the 1916 Panama-Pacific International Exposition — it’s the best way to spend your St. Patty’s Day in style.

Cold Drinks; 644 Broadway, Financial District, San Francisco;

If You’re a Social Butterfly: Chambers

If you’re more interested in the celebratory aspect of St. Patrick’s Day than the Irish part, grab a group of friends and head to Chambers. This Tenderloin hotspot is dark, sexy, and distinctly not boisterous, at least not in the dive bar/pub sense. The food menu is varied, with everything from a Wagyu burger to a killer beet salad with pear and goat cheese, and the drinks are on point. Skip the shamrock-themed specials you might find elsewhere; Chambers is all you’ll need to make everyone happy.

Chambers; 601 Eddy Street, Cathedral Hill, San Francisco;

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