Travel through time at 8 immersive bars + restaurants in SF + Oakland


Another year has come to a close, but in San Francisco and Oakland, the past is never past.

Feel like spending an evening in the swinging, pre-war jazz era of the 1940s? We’ve got that. Wanna escape back to the ‘90s nostalgia of your childhood? Yup, we’ve got that too.

Find an escape from the chaos of the modern era at eight bars and restaurants where immersive design and throwback menus are all you need to travel through time.

1920s: Bourbon & Branch

(Courtesy of @bourbonandbranchsf)

Nowhere in the Bay Area is as good at recalling the Prohibition era as Bourbon & Branch, the Tenderloin’s legendary speakeasy. With a password for entry, secret passages, and a historical pedigree that dates back a hundred years, the brick-walled 1920s-style hideaway is a vintage-inspired gem. You’ll need a reservation to visit the main bar or the adjacent hard-boiled detective agency Wilson & Wilson, but the Library is open to anyone who can figure out the secret code to get in. // 501 Jones St. (Tenderloin), bourbonandbranch.com

1930s: Stookey’s Club Moderne

(Courtesy of @stookeysclubmoderne)

Painstakingly designed with the verve of a 1930s cocktail joint, Stookey’s Club Moderne feels like it was snatched out of an earlier era and plopped, whole-hog, right in the heart of Lower Nob Hill. With its streamlined Dashiell Hammett style, tinted primary-colored lights and bartenders in crisp white coats, Stookey’s is one of the most transportative bars in town, especially when live jazz musicians are providing the soundtrack. The fantastically extensive drink list travels through time too, with a list that includes historical gems like the Pendennis Club (made with gin and apricot brandy), longstanding classics like the mai tai, and modern concoctions like the Winchester’s Mystery (made with bourbon and raspberry syrup). // 895 Bush St. (Lower Nob Hill), stookeysclubmoderne.com

1940s: The Dawn Club

(Courtesy of @dawnclubsf)

Once the epicenter of San Francisco’s Great Revival, the Dawn Club was lovingly restored to its pre-World War II glory back in May. Part jazz club, part cocktail lounge, the Art Deco vibe here is straight out of a black-and-white photo. It took the Dawn Club 15 years to amass its world-class whiskey collection, which they pour alongside lively cocktails that include gone-but-not-forgotten classics like the Clover Leaf (a fruity recipe made with gin and egg whites) and the Boothby (a whiskey and Champagne concoction invented pre-Prohibition). Live music gets toes tapping every night after 8pm. // 10 Annie St. (SoMa), dawnclub.com

1950s: Lion’s Den Bar & Lounge

(Courtesy of @lionsdensf)

Travel to the Chinatown of yesteryear, when the enclave drew glamorous patrons from around the city for good music, stiff drinks, and fashionable company. At the cocktail bar and club the Lion’s Den, they bring the decade alive with vintage Chinese style, historical snapshots, and a piano lounge. Signature drinks nod to the neighborhood’s nightlife history with names like Forbidden City and the Skyroom martini, and apps like fried wontons and garlic noodles are perennial Chinese American favorites. // 57 Wentworth Pl. (Chinatown), lionsdenbarandlounge.com

1960s: Bardo Lounge & Supper Club

(Courtesy of @bardo_oakland)

Decorated with authentic mid-century modern furniture scoured from around the country, the Bardo Lounge & Supper Club has an authentically swanky, vintage design mag vibe that brings the ‘60s back to life. On its menu, Bardo reaches back in time, pairing modern takes on old-school dinner party eats (think deviled eggs with braised beef cheeks and chicken liver mousse with confit citrus) with era-evoking cocktails both shaken and stirred. While there’s no official bowl to throw your keys in, if you get swept away by the mood and want to get one going, we imagine you’ll get more than a few takers. // 3343 Lakeshore Ave. (Oakland), bardooakland.com

1970s: For the Record

(Courtesy of @fortherecordsf)

With its wood paneling, patterned butterscotch yellow wall treatments and a collection of groovy lava lamps, For the Record leans hard into 1970s style. But it’s not just its design that embraces the decade; there’s soul, funk, and disco on the hifi and potluck-style eats like French onion dip and deviled eggs on the menu. Named for hit ‘70s songs, cocktails are nonetheless ultra-modern in their recipes with flavors like ube, blue spirulina, and crawfish boil bitters taking center stage. // 2120 Greenwich St. (Marina), fortherecordsf.com

1990s: Ninth Life

(Ninth Life/Nicola Parisi)

Run it back to the ‘90s at Oakland’s new bar, Ninth Life. Dressed up in colorful swirling lights, electricity-crackling plasma globes, and vintage ephemera from the mall era, this pocket-sized cocktail bar manages to evoke the nostalgia of adolescence. With upbeat jams on the sound system and drinks inspired by the era’s pop culture—think El Duderino (an homage to The Dude’s white Russian habit) and Purple Rain (a bell-pepper and red wine ode to Prince)—Ninth Life is just like that one time you partied your ass off when Jenny’s parents were out of town back in ‘94—minus the grounding you got for breaking curfew. // 1911 San Pablo Ave. (Oakland), ninthlifebar.com

Travel Through Time: Merchant Roots

(Courtesy of Merchant Roots)

Merchant Roots, the cinematically immersive fine dining restaurant from chef Ryan Shelton, is on a gastronomic journey through time. Using historical recipes, vintage inspiration, and futuristic creativity, their current menu uses every element, from the dishes and decor to the playlist and servingware, to rocket diners from the Stone Age all the way through a post-apocalyptic future with a variety of stops along the way. You’ll fill up on era-defining delights like TV dinners and chia pets. The Time Traveler theme is on the table through January 20th. // 1365 Fillmore St. (Fillmore), merchantroots.com



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top