You can't go too many blocks in San Francisco without running into an Irish pub. The Irish pubs on this list represent a cross-section of SF neighborhoods. Most bars in San Francisco pack a crowd on weekends, so keep that in mind when venturing out for a drink on Friday or Saturday.
In March, check out the San Francisco St. Patrick's Day Parade and Celebration.
Neighborhood: Fisherman’s Wharf - Ghirardelli Square
The Buena Vista Café makes the list for its Irish coffee, but it's not your traditional Irish Pub. It's a tourist draw for sure. For me, it's still a favorite stop to take the chill off a cold waterfront day when touring around with visitors.
The first U.S. glass of Irish coffee was mixed at the Buena Vista in 1952, based on a recipe from Shannon Airport in Ireland. They still whip up a literal assembly line of consistent and delicious Irish coffees. In 2006, they changed the recipe slightly by substituting Tullamore Dew whiskey for the Buena Vista blend they'd used for many years.
Neighborhood: Union Square
Johnny Foley’s is in the heart of tourist country, so the patrons are a mix of locals, expats, and visitors. It's not the pub to visit if you're looking for a local's secret. It is Union Square, after all. That does, however, make it a good spot for people watching. Foley’s is also a short walk from Union Square shopping, which is convenient for getting out of the fray, resting the feet and enjoying a beer. Some of the live music acts in the evenings are too loud for conversation, and weekends are packed, so not necessarily the best time to catch up over a pint.
The Phoenix gets good marks for its pub food and for its Mission ambiance. The menu isn't entirely Irish but they do serve an Irish breakfast, a lamb pot pie, and fish and chips. The crowd is a diverse mix, and the place is unpretentious with a local Mission feel. The Phoenix also gives you a buck off on happy-hour pints.
Address530 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA
Neighborhood: North Beach
The downtown spot has all the appeal of a classic Irish bar combined with a killer dance floor and great comedy nights too. They play house music six nights a week in their downstairs dance party room while upstairs you'll find big LCD TVs for watching the game (Kells is all about Sunday Night Football).
Neighborhood: Central to Union Square - Financial District
The interior of the Irish Bank is homey, with antiques, photographs, and a comfortable mix of bar stools and wooden tables. It's a favorite stop for many after work, but the later weekday crowd is when an interesting mix populates the place. Bartenders are knowledgeable and friendly. When sitting in the outdoor patio, which runs the length of Mark Lane, you can almost convince yourself you're sipping a pint on the streets of Dublin.
The Irish Bank makes one of the city's best Irish coffees--along with the Buena Vista and O'Reilly's. The brown sugar is the key.
Neighborhood: Outer Sunset
Cottage pies and bangers and mash are just some of the delicious items on the menu of this warm neighborhood joint. Watch chummy locals greeting each other while sports play on the projector and multiple T.V. screens. Plus, the domestic beers are only $5.
Address2328 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122-1621, USA
Neighborhood: Outer Sunset
The big hit of Durty Nelly’s is the fireplace, a warm reprieve from some of the Sunset’s cold and foggy days. Durty Nelly’s serves up Jameson and shepherd’s pie to Irish expats and San Francisco locals. It can get crazy on the weekends with live music and crowds.
Address807 Lincoln Way, San Francisco, CA 94122-2305, USA
Neighborhood: Inner Sunset
The Little Shamrock deserves mention since it's one of San Francisco's two oldest bars, the oldest being the Saloon in North Beach. Entering the pub feels like coming home to the living room, even if the room is, well, lived in. You'll find clusters of sofas with game tables and a hearth. The bar is friendly with a good selection of Irish whiskey and Guinness on tap, of course.
The pedestrian access is easy from the 9th Avenue entrance to Golden Gate Park, the San Francisco Botanical Garden, and the de Young Museum.
Neighborhood: Outer Richmond
The Blarney Stone is a favorite neighborhood pub, but it's also worth a trip to the Richmond or a detour and a stop if you're out and about at the beaches or parks. Bartenders are Irish and they know their stouts and whiskeys. It is popular and it does get crowded, but that describes just about every good spot in San Francisco. The Blarney Stone also has an Irish Bakery--John Campbell's Irish Bakery--sending out Irish soda bread and scones from the Blarney kitchen.
Neighborhood: Inner Richmond
The Plough and Stars gets consistently high marks for its Irish music and its Guinness. The pub has a full entertainment calendar, with performances most nights but not Mondays. It’s a laidback pub, although you might want to avoid weekends if crowds aren’t your thing.
Neighborhood: Inner Richmond
Ireland's 32 refers to the 32 counties of a politically United Ireland. The paraphernalia on the walls speaks of the pub's political leanings. Ireland's 32 also serves as showcase for live music. The venue helped launch the career of Zoo Station, a Bay Area U2 tribute band.
The regular band performances tend to skew the crowd a bit young, but it's also a neighborhood pub and more conducive to leisurely Guinness during less populated hours.