on the page magazine
issue no. 12 summer/fall 2005
shared spaces


Dive Bars of San Francisco


words by Todd Dayton  
photographs by Greg Roden

San Francisco’s Best Dive Bars, published in 2004 by Gamble Guides, was born of six years of first-person fieldwork poring over the pours at a couple of hundred local boozeries. Just getting my feet wet as a San Franciscan, I’d stumbled out the swinging doors into a city in transition. Dives were rapidly emptying out, as a newly moneyed clientele made its way to more cleaned-up, candlelit places with hipper names and lots of drinks ending in “-tini.”

As quickly as they’d arrived, the busted-boom hordes departed—not a moment too soon for this lover of dark places where the drinking is cheap. When I started to write this guide, I revisited many of my favorite dives of old, and discovered that some no longer existed. After canvassing friends, family, and strangers for the best places to include, and then checking in for a shot and a Bud, I had a list of ninety-odd places I felt were worth sharing. I’m sure I missed a few neighborhood favorites. But if they’re dives worth their salt, Cuervo, and lime, they aren’t missing me.

eagles driftin grassland lounge owltree goldcane kimos mission bar

Todd Dayton is the author of San Francisco’s Best Dive Bars (Gamble Guides, 2004).

Greg Roden’s photographs have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle and The Dallas Morning News, among other publications (www.grphoto.net).

Gamble Guides’ dive bar series also includes books on the best dives of Chicago and New York; guides to the bars of Los Angeles and Las Vegas are forthcoming.

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