The Plough and the Stars
116 Clement Street
There are three things that make a pub an Irish pub: endless Guinness on draft, great pub food and live music every night. In the Richmond section of San Francisco, the Plough and the Stars on Clement Street is the perfect pub. Described as a small pub with big character, the Plough and the Stars is very traditional. It sticks with the basics of good food, good drinks and a place to make good friends. There’s not a cartoon leprechaun or ‘kiss me I’m Irish’ button in sight. And the Plough and the Stars is one for the only place in the Bay Area where you can get your trad music fix. Session nights are Tuesdays and Sundays, but there’s traditional entertainment every night. The décor and relaxed atmosphere of the Plough and the Stars would make you think you’re in Ireland, without ever stamping your passport.
Johnny Foley’s Irish Pub and Restaurant
243 O’Farrell Street
Any place that has Murphy’s Stout on tap has my vote for best Irish pub! Johnny Foley’s in Union Squareis right in the middle of the highly trafficked tourist part of San Francisco. The pub’s name sake, Johnny Foley is a San Francisco ledgend and an Irish renaissance man; being a athlete, newspaper writer, a singer and a troublemaker from Waterford. Though you may not immediately think you’re in the mood for an Irish meal while sightseeing, as soon as you walk into Johnny Foley’s, you’ll be ready for a hearty shepherd’s pie and a pint. Spacious and recently renovated, Johnny Foley’s is a great place to have a party or special occasion. Johnny Foley’s also has a modernized menu, which takes tradition Irish meals and brings them to the California coast. But many traditional pub characteristics can still be found, like dark wooden furniture, old family pictures on every wall and snugs (small private seating areas, where in 1800’s Ireland, women would sit to enjoy the pub, but ignore the men!).
Martin Mack’s Restaurant and Bar
1568 Haight Street
When traveling thought San Francisco, you have to visit historic Haight-Ashbury streets. In the 1960’s, hippies and beatniks from across the country flocked to the epicenter of peace and love. And while walking past the protest site and music shops, I can only wonder that if 40 years ago, some hippie had the same thought I have, “man, I could go for a Guinness right now.” Martin Mack’s on Haight Street has solved that problem. Recently renovated, Martin Mack’s makes for a nice place to have a traditional Irish dinner or to stop in and have a pint. Martin Mack’s not only has good food, like fish and chips and Irish stew, but there’s table quiz and football and rugby on the bar TVs. Martin Mack’s may be the only place in Haight where you can escape jam bands for the Bothy Band.