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San Francisco Gay Bars Guide - Best San Francisco Gay Nightlife

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SliderBar - restaurant/mixed bar

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photo by Andrew Collins
SliderBar (2295 Market St., 415-431-7700)

 

SF Eagle - gay bar

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photo by Andrew Collins

One of the most famous gay leather bars in the country for more than three decades, the SF Eagle (398 12th St.) temporarily shut down in 2011 and looked, for a while, destined to be replaced with a mixed lounge/restaurant. Thankfully, this legendary space in SoMa was brought back to life by new owners in 2013, and it's now going strong, although - like most historically leather-flavored hangouts - it draws a more eclectic bunch of gay dudes (and even a few women) these days: bears, otters, hipsters, and so on, but usually still some men in leather and fetish gear, too. And, of course, it's still a happily cruise-y place, its best attribute perhaps being the expansive patio out back, which has its own small bar to one side.

 

Starlight Room - mixed bar/restaurant

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photo by Andrew Collins
Starlight Room (Sir Francis Drake Hotel, 450 Powell St., 415-395-8595)

The Stud - gay bar

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photo by Andrew Collins

Another of San Francisco's most fabled gay institutions, the Stud (399 9th St., 415-863-6623)  opened many years before the majority of its patrons were born, in 1966. What you'll find going on at this rocking SoMa club depends entirely on the night of the week. The lineup and themes change somewhat often and include Frolic costume-and-dance celebration on second Saturdays, Thai-themed Go Bang! on first Saturdays, Dark Room dance parties on fourth Saturdays, and Meow Mix variety shows on Tuesdays - there's plenty to keep you entertained. Like the Endup, the Stud's popularity has waxed and waned over the years, but you can usually count on a colorful crowd most nights.

Sugar Cafe - mixed bar/cafe

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photo by Andrew Collins
Sugar Cafe (679 Sutter St., 415-441-5678)

 

Toad Hall - gay bar

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photo by Andrew Collins
An easy-going hangout in the Castro that for many years was known as the Pendulum, Toad Hall (4146 18th St., 415-621-2811) is within a stone's throw of several other neighborhood gay bars nearby the famous intersection of 18th and Castro. There's a nice patio inside, and the happy hours here are quite well-attended.

Trax - gay bar

Trax (1437 Haight St., 415-864-4213)

 

Truck - gay bar

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photo by Andrew Collins

On the SoMa side of the Mission District, Truck (1900 Folsom St., 415-252-0306) is one of the relatively younger queer bars in the city, and it's somewhat emblematic of the steady move away from predictable Castro standbys to more crowd-varied, cheeky, edgy, and fun spots in other parts of the city. Truck within striking distance of the other gay hangouts in SoMa, not to mention all the LGBT-popular restaurants in the Mission. And there's seriously excellent bar food here, too - try a burger with chipotle aioli, cheese, and a fried egg. Truck pulls in the Folsom Leather crowd, daddies, bears and cubs, alt dudes and (and more than a few dykes), rockers, and scenesters. To be sure, it's not everybody's mug of beer, but loyalists adore it.

Twin Peaks Tavern - gay bar

photo by Andrew Collins
One of San Francisco's venerable gay-nightlife icons, Twin Peaks Tavern (401 Castro St., 415-864-9470) is said to have been the very first gay bar in America to have clear (as opposed to opaque or covered) glass windows, something unheard back when it opened in the early '70s. Two lesbians opened the bar, but it's had a mostly male following over the years, and these days it tends to draw a somewhat seasoned bunch of guys, and a few women. As dozens of bars and have come and gone over the decades in the Castro, the Twin Peaks has become something of a legend. And if for historic reasons if nothing else, it's worth dropping in for a drink and soaking up the neighborhood atmosphere.

Wild West Side - mixed bar

Equal parts kitschy and dive-y, this somewhat out-of-the-way (for tourists, at least) bar with a particularly strong lesbian following has long been a fixture in quirky, if increasingly gentrified, Bernal Heights. Wild West Side (424 Cortland Ave., 415-647-3099) along the neighborhood's main thoroughfare, Cortland Avenue, and it's notable for having one of the better juke boxes among the city's LGBT bars. The crowd is generally a bit older and diverse than that of the city's best-known dyke bar, the Lexington Club, and as it's the only queer bar in this part of the city, it also pulls in a fair number of Bernal Heights gay dudes, bisexuals, and hetero neighborhood folks. Wild West Side has a lovely back patio, perfect on a warm evening.

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