Hotel lounges are my fall back when looking for a place to have a cocktail and conversation -- a spot with a reasonable decibel level and a place to sit. In any town, you can find the quiet lounge with a predictably bad cocktail. So, I've picked a few hotel lounges where you have a shot at actually lounging, while getting a good drink in the process.
If you're new to San Francisco and the Bay Area, keep in mind, that as with any metropolitan area, the sleepy lounge that drew you in on Tuesday night, might be packed when Friday and Saturday night come around. The hours immediately after work can be similarly frenetic.
Union Square - SoMa - Financial District
This could be my favorite escape from the work and shopping frenzy of Union Square and the Financial District. The Four Seasons Bar is what you'd expect at the Four Seasons -- elegant, mellow, not trendy, not stiff. With a little timing and some luck, a window seat offers a view of the architecture and activity outside. The bar has live piano music from Tuesday through Saturday, and the setting is classy without attitude.
757 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Telephone: (415) 633-3000
A drink here never fails to please first-time visitors. There's the view, the cable car ride to the top, and a post-Mark stroll on Nob Hill. Add in a great cocktail menu and a spring or autumn sunset.
Early evenings on weekdays are usually a dream, with few crowds and low ambient sound for chatting. There's also no cover charge before the musical entertainment which begins at 9p some evenings, 7p or 7:30p on others.
InterContinental Mark Hopkins
One Nob Hill
San Francisco, CA 94108 Telephone: (415) 392 3434
The Ritz is truly old school, with its perch on San Francisco's Nob Hill -- an original hangout of the Big Four. If Victorian decor and harps are your style -- and even if they're not -- the Lobby Lounge will soothe with its afternoon tea, featuring a harpist and traditional tea fixings. At dusk, jazz fills the lounge. Did I mention the fireplace and the view? (Reservations are recommended for afternoon tea at the Ritz.)
600 Stockton (at California Street)
San Francisco, CA 94108
Telephone: (415) 773-6198
The Lobby Bar's quick popularity thrust it from lesser known lounge to hot spot. So although it was, in the beginning, a nice contrast to the scene at the W Hotel’s XYZ bar (a young, hip, loud slice of L.A. life) beware that after-work hours and weekends draw a crowd.
During less crowded times, the Lobby Bar at the St. Regis welcomes and embraces with earth tones, soft nooks, and a room-length gas fireplace that doubles as a sculpture. Enjoy good cocktails and conversation-friendly sofas and chairs.
125 3rd Street
San Francisco, CA Telephone: (415) 284-4000
Michael Mina's Clock Bar is new in 2008 and has regular buzz as a result. Owing to its Union Square location, it's also a hot spot for visitors and conventioneers, which changes the temperament from visit to visit.
The ambiance is sophisticated lounge with classic cocktails, in a modest-sized space. Michael Mina's renowned restaurant is just a across the way, meaning the small plate bar eats (black truffle popcorn, lobster corn dogs) are worth an order as an accompaniment to the main event (drinks).
335 Powell Street
San Francisco, California 94102
Telephone: (415) 397-9222
Like Clock Bar (above) Bar 888 opened its doors to San Francisco in 2008. The atmosphere leans more toward cool and modern, less 50s comfort. The bar's speciality is grappa, so if you've got Italian blood and are accustomed to a shot of grappa in your morning coffee (caffe corretto) wander over to Bar 888 for a specially-brewed elixir or straight digestivo.
Intercontinental San Francisco
888 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Telephone: (888) 811-4273
Campton Place is a small piece of quiet off the busy Union Square area. The hotel is known for its high thread-count comfort, the restaurant for its French cuisine, and the bar for its mahogany warmth and charm. It's classic and not a trendy hot spot -- which is why it's a choice place to retreat for a cocktail. For some it may just be too mellow on a weekend night. But you can definitely talk.
340 Stockton Street
San Francisco, California 94108
Telephone: (415) 781-5555
Embarcadero - Financial District
The Mandarin Lounge might be best described as "mauve." It feels like the color mauve -- subtle and warm. The split-level lobby lounge has ample sofas and upholstered chairs. On weekday evenings enjoy live piano music as you recline on your divan. The staff is utterly attentive and the Mandarin is a real escape from the always-urgent business just outside its door.
222 Sansome Street
San Francisco, CA 94104
Telephone: (415) 276-9888