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Seven Great NYC Bars and Their SF Equivalents

Updated: Sep 03, 2016 14:10
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This originally appeared in my Weeknighter column for 7×7.

Our Weeknighter columnist Stuart Schuffman recently spent some time in the Big Apple and we tasked him with finding San Francisco’s synonymous bars across the country. So when you’re away from your SF homeland, find solace while tippling in these East Coast equals:

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Mcsorley’s in NYC and The Saloon in SF are the oldest bars in each city.

McSorely’s Old Ale House: Reputed to be the oldest bar in NYC, McSorley’s slogan is “We’ve been here since before you were born.” I guess they aren’t lying considering they opened in 1854. In that time they’ve served everyone from Abe Lincoln to John Lennon to Woody Guthrie and just looking around the place you can tell it’s old. There are multiple generations of cobwebs on the chandeliers and old timey memorabilia covers just about every surface. In fact, thinking about it right now I just realized that pretty much every new bar that has opened in NYC in the past 5 years is just trying to look like McSorely’s.

SF Equivalent: The Saloon – SF’s oldest bar, one that was saved from the 1906 earthquake and fire because of it’s whorehouse upstairs


The Eagle Bar: New York’s best-loved leather bar brags that it has “the hottest men, great pool tables, and serious cruising.” These are all things that I would want from a bar if I were into big, hairy men who wore leather. They also famously have kick-ass rooftop beer busts on Sunday afternoons when the weather is nice. Cold beer, hot dudes, and even hotter weather sounds pretty perfect if bear bars are your thing.

SF Equivalent: The SF Eagle – Pretty much everything that was just said above except there’s a back yard instead of a rooftop. Also, does this mean the eagle is America’s gayest animal?


Brandy’s Piano Bar: A small and unlikely hidden gem in the Upper East Side, Brandy’s Piano Bar is just too much fucking fun. Everybody gets drunk and everybody sings along to every song that’s played…even if they don’t actually know all the words. It’s like the living embodiment of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” except gayer and with show tunes.

SF Equivalent: Martuni’s – Goddamn I love Martuni’s


Radegast Hall and Biergarten: Five or six years ago, someone had the brilliant idea of putting a Bavarian style beer garden in the middle of Williamsburg. And they did it fully proper even having the barmaids dress like beer wenches (I don’t know if they still have to dress like that). But really, what else could you want from life other than humongous steins of beer, hot sausages and schnitzel, and really long tables to hang out with all your friends at? I hope your answer is beer wench outfits.

SF Equivalent: Biergarten – while there are no beer wenches there is a dude who totally looks like he could be Viking or an extra in Game of Thrones.


Union Pool: An old pool supply store that was turned into the most hipster of Williamsburg Hipster bars, Union Pool is pretty much Williamsburg distilled. Inside the bar is a big open space with rad DJs and booths, and the backyard has a taco truck, picnic tables, and a even a fire pit for the winter time. They also have a back room where you can see bands that are like so obscure you haven’t even heard of them.The italicization was meant to emphasize that I was making a very tired hipster joke.

SF Equivalent: Zeitgiest – This is only because Zeitgeist is a Mission staple that everyone must visit and at both bars you are guaranteed to run into someone you know, most likely someone you haven’t seen in years.


Little Branch: One of New York City’s first speakeasy style bars, the exterior of Little Branch is literally a shitty looking door that looks like it goes to nowhere. Once you enter though, you descend a staircase and enter a veritable heaven for people who love fancy drinks. This is the first bar where I ever saw people hand chip ice for their cocktails and now that I think of it, the first bar where I ever saw people truly put care and thought into the ingredients in their drinks. Six or seven years later, all I really want is a shot and a beer and to not have to wait 30 minutes for a goddamn cocktail.

SF Equivalent: Bourbon and Branch – SF’s first speakeasy style bar which helped usher in the era of mustachioed and suspendered bartenders as well as really beautifully done cocktails.


Winnie’s Bar and Restaurant: Weird 90s videos that don’t quite make sense with the song they accompany, play on a giant old big screen TV while someone sings karaoke. This is the first thing you see when you enter Winnie’s and it is also what makes you fall in love with the place. One time I saw an old drunk Chinese guy (who I later found out was the owner) wrestle another old drunk Chinese guy out of his chair and onto the ground. That same night a random guy wander in with a giant blue Muppet. That’s the kind of weird shit that happens here and why it’s perfect. I wish I were at Winnie’s right now.

SF Equivalent: The Bow Bow Lounge – Equally weird and full of drunk people doing karaoke. Things have happened at the Bow Bow Lounge that I will never admit in public, and they usually begin with Mama Candy forcing me to drink Chinese whiskey.


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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero":SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.