The Most Boring Birthday Happy Hour Crawl: Union Square, San Francisco

I had the most boring happy hour birthday crawl by myself in San Francisco.

I’m a lightweight which makes any type of bar crawl impossible.

On my birthday I found myself in San Francisco alone. I flew out mid-day with Jake meeting me after a work conference later that night.

My grand plan was to wander around the general vicinity of my hotel and happy hour hop.

San Francisco is one of the most expensive places to live in the United States. The rent and property prices are insane. It’s not unusual to see happy hour cocktails go for $12. This is unheard of in the Twin Cities. Despite the high cost of living, there are plenty of more affordable food and beverage options around the city.

Here are a few happy hour specials we found within walking distance of Union Square.

A Quick Note On Getting Around Town
For most of our trip we walked. If you don’t mind walking and scaling some steep hills, you can easily reach Fisherman’s Wharf, the Ferry Building Marketplace, the financial district, Chinatown and North Beach from Union Square. Of course Uber and Lyft operate here.

We took The BART train a couple of times. From Union Square, the BART is an easy ride to and from the airport. It does cost $10 each way which makes me feel bad for ever complaining about Twin Cities public transit prices. The BART is also the cheapest way to get to from the Oakland stadium at $5 each way. If there’s more than one person and/or you have lots of luggage, an Uber/Lyft might work well.

The Cavalier


Back to the shortest birthday bar crawl:

I began my birthday crawl at The Cavalier which describes itself as a “London inspired Brasserie.”

Happy Hour (called “Bevies and Bites) currently runs every day between 2:30-5:30 p.m. The mid-day menu offers eight dishes and discounted beverages.

In addition to the small plates, the Cavalier offers a couple cocktails for $8. If you are into oysters, San Francisco is your city. The Cavalier, like many restaurants offer $1.50 oysters on their Bevies and bites menu (some restaurants even offer $1 oysters).

Because my intention was to happy hour crawl, I just ordered the Crispy Brussel Sprout Chips ($5) and Old Fashioned ($8). The brussels sprout chips were actually incredible. I happily nibbled each crispy leaf seasoned with something sweet, salty and savory. The menu description mentions vadouvan curry and lemon zest

Next to me, a couple split the $12 “Marlowe” Burger (with caramelized onions, cheddar, bacon, and horseradish aoli). It looked sizable and delicious.

The Old Fashioned single-handedly derailed my birthday happy hour crawl for it was strong. Also, there’s the whole being tired from traveling, dehydrated and hungry which didn’t help. I felt bad leaving part of my drink on the counter. The bartender looked concerned.

Super Duper
The next stop on my tour was supposed to be E&O Kitchen. Happy hour here often gets mentioned online and includes $6 cocktails and glasses of wine plus a menu of affordable snacks including $1 dumplings, $1 oysters with kimchee cocktail sauce, $4 steamed duck buns and satays ($2-3 each).

But, alas, I was in no condition for another cocktail. I beelined to a burger place I passed on the way to The Cavalier called Super Duper.

Super Duper’s slogan is “Fast food. Slow food values.” The beef is local and humanely raised. The buns are baked locally and the milkshakes are made with organic cream.

Even though Super Duper calls itself fast food it makes absolutely no apologies for their prices. They feel that a burger isn’t supposed to cost $3. I can’t exactly remember their happy hour deal, but if you order a burger, beer and fries you get a discount (the fries might have been free). I paid about $12 for this meal.

Free toppings include lettuce, tomato, red onions, jalapenos, grilled onions, and pickles.

The whole grain bun was a little bit healthy tasting, but all together the perfectly seasoned beef patty, cheddar cheese, shaved onions, fresh lettuce tomato and mayo made for a high quality burger. The fries weren’t anything exciting. Maybe the garlic fries are the way to go.  However, the ketchup Super Duper serves (Sir Kensington’s) is outstanding. I usually never want to try anyone’s new and exciting take on ketchup. This fresh, tomatoey tasting ketchup was an exception.

You can actually find Sir Kensington’s ketchup at Target, Lunds & Whole Foods!

Plus, there are big jars of homemade crunchy pickles by the soda machines. Grab a seat on the patio outside and watch the world go by as you enjoy your meal.

The European

Happy Hour at the European currently runs every day between 4-7 p.m.  Specials include some discounted glasses of house wine, $7 cocktails, $4 beers  and small plates.

I enjoyed a large glass of rose spritzer. Jake stuck with his IPA’s. The menu lists a few options online, but we found more on the printed menu when we visited.

We shared a big bowl of spicy padron peppers, a $14 cheese plate and housemade chicken fingers with some type of red pepper dip. The padron peppers reminded me of shishito peppers except that every one was spicy – spicier than the spiciest shishito.

Fancy Toast at Mazarine Coffee

This isn’t a happy hour special but a good food I want to tell you about.

Mazarine Coffee is a fancy coffee shop. Hipster, if you must. Espresso drinks and pour overs are made very carefully. When I ordered an iced coffee with a shot of vanilla, the employee gently told me they don’t offer flavor shots. My Midwestern sensibilities were shook. However, they did have simple syrup for my iced coffee so all was forgiven quickly.

Really outstanding is the toast. There are many types, including sweet and savory, from cinnamon creme fraiche to beet hummus or smoked salmon.

I ordered the Fig Jam & Ricotta toast. It was worth the $8. This thick piece of toasted pan de mie was carefully topped with sweet fig jam, creamy ricotta, honey drizzle and sprinkled with salt and pepper. I was full all morning. You could easily replicate this sweet and savory combination at home.

More San Francisco posts from this trip:

The Places:

The Cavalier 
360 Jessie St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 321-6000

Super Duper Burgers (This location near Union Square)
721 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 538-3437

The European Bar & Lounge
490 Geary St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 345-2301

Mazarine Coffee
720 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 398-7700

4 Comments

  1. Came down here just to say that I laughed out loud at “The bartender looked concerned.” I really enjoyed this post!
    -fellow Midwestern lightweight

  2. I never order old fashioned for this reason, I enjoy them, but its an after dinner, and I am sitting here for another hour beverage for me. My chuckle moment was about the bun tasting too healthy, not interested! I want lots of butter on a bun, or a I will just skip it!

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