Toronado

BA SCORE
95
world-class

482 Ratings
ToronadoToronado
PLACE INFO

Type: Bar

547 Haight St
San Francisco, California, 94117-3406
United States

(415) 863-2276 | map
toronado.com

Notes:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate

PLACE STATS
Score:
95
Ratings:
482
Reviews:
329
Avg:
4.3
pDev:
11.86%
 
 
Taps:
43
Bottles/Cans:
0
Cask:
Y
Beer-to-Go:
Y
View: Place Reviews | Events
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 482 |  Reviews: 329
Photo of callmescraps
4.06/5  rDev -5.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5

Finally stopped by the famous Toronado while I was in town on business. It was fairly jumping for 2:30 on a Friday, but I still almost walked right past it.

Atmosphere - It was very laid back but lively when I was there. A good crowd of folks who really seemed into beer. Struck up conversations with nice people. Everyone was having a good time and chatting, very mellow. I do have to say that it's a dingy, dirty kind of joint. A solid layer of filth on everything. I don't personally have a problem with that, and thought it contributed to the atmosphere. But some folks might think it's downright nasty, and I couldn't really argue with that.

Quality - The beers on were very good. Not a bum one in the bunch.

Service - Friendly and efficient. When the glass was empty I promptly got a new one.

Selection - Very good bottle selection, good taps. Lots of local stuff, which was great. I was just slightly disappointed because I was hoping to find more stuff that I don't see around pretty regularly.

Price - Fantastic, frankly. Most drinks were $3, and the most expensive I think was $5. Checked the bottle prices and they were totally bar-reasonable.

This is a great, mellow spot, at least during the day. It's small, so I can see it getting over-crowded easily. It's sort of reached epic status, which is surprising once you've been there. It seems like a great neighborhood joint with a very good selection. I'll stop in when I'm in the area, certainly, but the amount of hubbub surrounding the place is surprising.

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Photo of photomike
3.8/5  rDev -11.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 2 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

Let me preface this review by saying that while I know this score isn't going to come out super high grades wise, I love this bar and would spend every night drinking here if I could.

The atmosphere is generally good, but can be obnoxious at time. The music is usually very loud, but often quite good, and everyone seems pretty happy to be sitting in one of the most respected beer bars in the world. The walls are covered in beer memorabilia and tap handles, and everything feels a bit grungy. The bathrooms are dirty and covered in graffiti and locals know of a smell called the "toronado funk." For all its imperfections, though, this place has charm. At the Toronado, you are always in the presence of beer lovers.

General quality is high. The beers are always poured well and the taps are well-maintained. That said, the place is pretty poorly laid out, and when it gets crowded (as it very often does) this can be somewhat of a problem. The narrow entrance fills with people and you usually have to squeeze to get to the back room, where you will be lucky to get a table. Also, as I'm sure has been mentioned hundreds of times in here, the bar is cash only.

The service is where the Toronado really lacks. Put bluntly, the bartenders can be jerks. They are no-fuss kinda guys that expect you to know what you want and have cash in hand to pay them for it. If its crowded, and you are unsure of your order when the bartenders approach, get to the back of the line, mister. On the few times I've been in there when it isn't crowded, they are alright guys, but most times, its alll business.

Their beer selection is unparalleled. There are always more good taps on any given night than I can drink in one session. That's the only complaint I got. Usually about 70% American craft stuff, some Belgian, some German. Almost always 3-5 taps from Russian River and two from Moonlight. Great, great, stuff. This is what makes the Toronado so amazing.

You might be wondering, 4.5 for food? Mike, you can't BUY any food there! Well, look at it this way. You can bring whatever you want into the Toro to eat, and you are surrounded by good, cheap food. Between Rosamunde's (legendary) sausages next door (where they ask you, "for here, to go, or next door"), Ali Baba's Cove a couple doors down (great lamb/beef shawerma) and all the other restaurants around, your hunger will be satisfied, and for dirt cheap prices.

Speaking of cheap stuff, Toronados taps are usually great prices as well. $3 pints of Pliny at happy hour. I dare you to beat that.

All said, the Toronado rules. Just know the unwritten rules and bring cash.

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Photo of bret27
4.08/5  rDev -5.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 2.5 | selection: 5 | food: 3

This is kind of an institution. When you're a beer bar that breweries make some of the best beer in the world for your anniversary you know you're good.

The beer selection of course is world class. When I was there recently they had to name a few, a BW and lambic from FW, Speedway stout, few selections from Lost Abbey including Cable car, Temptation, pliny, mortification, and hopfather from RR, and several from Moonlight Brewing.

The only bad thing about this place is the snooty/rude service at times. I was recently there at the 22nd anniversary party. I had no problems w/my 'down and dirty cash only attitude' but you get that vibe of the customers as being day laborers during the depression and the bartenders thinking they are choosing the best, and have the god-given right to do so. I'm sure its a bit better on an average slower night, and will go back.

Just depends on how you weight service and amazing beer.

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Photo of gabeerfan
4.71/5  rDev +9.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

If I was into beer when I lived in S.F., I would have lived at this place.
The decor is dive-bar and the clientele can make it seem maybe a little feaux-dive. But once you get to the restroom, you realize that this is a dive bar.
Service was great. We sat at the bar and were well taken care of by our bartender when we explained we were beer geeks from Georgia. He gave us well-thought out recommendations and let us sample a couple of beers. He shared a couple of toasts with us and introduced us to a fellow BA'er who we chatted with the rest of the evening.
The draft list was extensive, with very few things on the list that we can get in GA. My wife opted for a couple Moonlight brews which has a very limited distribution. While I enjoyed a Russian River Damnation and an Alpine Nelson.
No food served in the bar, but there is food immediately around the area, but later in the evening, it can get a little more difficult to find food nearby.
I guess proximity to such good breweries reflects in the pricing. Everything was less than what I'm used to paying in Atlanta for more commonly available beers.
If you are in S.F., this is a must stop.

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Photo of MasterSki
4.94/5  rDev +14.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

I recently flew to San Francisco to attend the Toronado 22nd Anniversary Party and pick up a few bottles of Cable Car. Stopped in three consecutive days, just to see what it was like when it wasn't a madhouse.

Atmosphere - It's dive-bar chic. This place ain't gonna win any beauty pageants, and the washrooms are used at one's one risk. That being said, it's full of a ridiculous amount of breweriana, an inexpensive jukebox full of good tunes, retro cash registers (that don't go past $99), and an old-school board listing the brews on tap. Seating consists of the bar, a few four-person tables along the wall, and a small room near the back with a few tables. They opened up an auxiliary room for the big party where there was free food, but that's not typical.

Quality - There aren't too many bad brews to be found on the tap or bottle list. Obviously there aren't any macros to be found within shooting distance of the place (and I really get the sense that if you walked in with a Coors you'd be shot on sight). No discernible off-flavors from the tap lines, bottles are cellared appropriately, etc. This is about the last place you'd be worried about the staff mistreating your brew.

Service - Wow! I know that sometimes these guys get a bad rap, but if you're a serious beer-lover they will treat you right. Basically they have license to be assholes back to customers who are assholes. I heard all kinds of people bitching and moaning that the bartender wouldn't sell them Cable Car or took too long to serve them - if the bartenders know you, they will sell you the beers you want and look after you. I don't think I ever had to wait more than a few minutes to get a drink, even during the insanity of the 22nd Anniversary Party. The staff was always happy to pour samples and answer questions. My wife even got the mutton-chop bartender to crack a smile (briefly). Alene, Stuart (sp?), Dave, Princess - you guys made it an amazing weekend.

Selection - Putting aside the utter ridiculousness of quadruple-fisting Humulus Lager, Cable Car, Abacus, and Nelson, this bar has a seriously awesome selection 7 days a week. There are session beers galore (Moonlight lagers, RR Blind Pig), local stuff I've never heard of like Marin Star Brew, old favorites like Pliny the Elder, oddball offerings like Mortification, plenty of solid Belgian and German brews, etc., etc. The selection is well thought out, with a plethora of styles and options. The bottle list is up-to-date, with harder to find offerings like Hommage and Sang Royal. I don't think any single worthy brew available to them sneaks by - you can pretty much count on it showing up at some point.

Value - Compared to Chicago the tap prices are ridiculous. $4 for Death & Taxes ($3 during happy hour or on Saturdays)!? Cable Car was the priciest at $5. The bottle list doesn't show the same punishing markup that other SF bars do - things were about 50% more than store price. Glasses are always filled to the brim - no short pours here.

If you love beer visiting this place is as crucial as visiting Kulminator or Akkurat.

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Photo of alfrantzell
4.05/5  rDev -5.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 3 | selection: 4

Appearance: Dark, cloudy. To style for a dive bar. The walls are lined with brewery paraphernalia - signs, stickers, mirrors, and tap handles of beers extinct and extant. Behind the bar is kept every species of glassware and even a crockpot of mead - perpetually warm, unfortunately Chaucer's. Mounted deer heads stare vacantly down at you from the walls; regular customers stare vacantly up at you from the bar.

Aroma: 2-row, Saaz, B.O. Notes of weed waft in from the Lower Haight. Hints of wet dog and musky vagrant.

Taste: Lots of residual sugar on the tables and floor. Some bartenders are sweet, some sour. One is quite savory. The 5 basic tastes are all represented in the 40+ taps, casks, and long bottle list.

Mouthfeel: For food, edible arterial obstructions are available at vendors adjacent to the building. They may seem nourishing after a few drinks though your opinion may change the morning after. But who hasn't woken up next to some festering pizza they thought worthy of a Michelin Star just the night before? Live and learn.

Earfeel: Abandon all hope of verbal communication when the jukebox is on. Extended visits often result in temporary hearing loss. Knowledge of sign language or semaphore is a plus.

Drinkability: Top marks. It's easy to stop by for a quick pint only to die of alcohol poisoning.

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Photo of mobyfann
4.78/5  rDev +11.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

Toronado is a dark-lit pseudo-dive bar in the Lower Haight district of San Francisco...

Atmosphere: It's definitely a hit with the local's and is crowded most of the time, standing and waiting for a table can be part of the experience. It's minimally lit with a capacity nearing 70 people (or so) and the vibe for the three times I've been here has been positive and young... mostly people in their 20s and 30s.

Quality: Half of the features are local Cali brews (Lagunitas, Russian River, Bear Republic, etc.) and the rest are scattered (Aventinus, Dogfish Head, etc.). There are maybe a couple "meh" brews on the large list.

Service: Even though it's a busy place, that won't stop the bartender's efficiency in pouring down the drinks and raking in the massive tips he/she must earn on any night.

Selection: With the quality of brews being first-rate, the selection is vast and varying in styles, some room-temp brews and a few organics pop-up.

Food: This is in reference to the sausage stand next door that is affiliated with Toronado, the sausages are excellent and come with a choice of two toppings (kraut, onions, peppers, chili) with options of potato salad and a few other options. Also, on my recent trip a local lady (The Tamale Lady?) walked into the bar selling various tamales (in corn husks) at $4 and the whole experience was entertaining!

Value: For San Francisco these prices are very legit, most beers range from $4-6 depending on type.

Overall: In and when anyone moves to San Francisco and lives near the Lower Haight, this will probably be one of your hangout spots; especially if you appreciate quality brews and great prices... Excellent bar!

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Photo of tyanow
4.8/5  rDev +11.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

The great American Beer Bar.

Honestly, that should be all that I have to write. I travel more than most and seek beer bars wherever I go. There are great ones all over the place, but there is nothing that matches the pure beer enthusiasm of the owners/staff/patrons of this place.

It is not snobby, pretentious, or otherwise off putting - unless you go Saturday night at 11PM and the place is packed to the gills.

You have college kids drinking cask pumped porters next to businessmen enjoying a Beligian next to a biker drinking a hef.

Long live the Toronado.

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Photo of DaveFL1976
4.3/5  rDev 0%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 5

What a cool area. Is there any other area more cool for a location than Haight Street in San Francisco? Am I overusing the term cool? That might be a sign of my uncoolness, and I realize that.

A $10 cab ride (at breakneck speeds, catching air numerous times) from the Wharf area.

Your first obsticle is the Dutch Door. Do not forget to open it upon entering, and do not forget to close it once you enter.

Tons of beer memorabelia on the wals, along with bottles and tap handles from years past. Nice digs. Not fancy, but to the point. This is a beer bar.

When you walk in, look up and you'll see the tap list, full of fantastic beers. I must admit, on my one and only visit, I did not find anything particularly Earth-shattering. Still, though. Top notch tap and bottle selection.

No food to speak of and the service wasn't all that warm. Maybe this particular 4:30 on a Thursday Afternoon didn't give me the experience of one of the best beer bars in the country. Well, no maybe about it. It just didn't.

Still, with 100% certainty, a place you should check out when in the San Francisco area.

Come with no expectations and a thirsty pallate and you'll walk away happy. And drunk.

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Photo of Gigantis
4.74/5  rDev +10.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

Had to give this place a try when I was in San Fran a month ago. I kind of went in expecting some surly service and mean looks from the locals along with great beer. Well, I certainly got great beer!

When I went in (on a Saturday) the place was busy, but not slammed/standing room only. There were a few seats at the bar available and me and my friend took two of them. It's L-shaped really and not by any means gigantic. From our vantage point, we could look up and see lots and lots of tabs hanging from the wall/ceiling. We could not see the beer list, which is a chalk board on a beam that half the bar is not privy to.

This did not matter because I knew I wanted Pliny and I knew they would have it. It was delicious and the bar tender was very warm and friendly and even answered my friend's questions about framboise. Yes, she actually did not make fun of him at all. We were hungry and our neighbor recommended that we try to sausage place next door. They had a couple of buddies there that took our seats - and actually gave them back to us when we returned w/ the sausages (which are awesome at the place next to Toronado by the way).

I had another two beers - Consecration and Twist of Fate from the cask. The bartenders were always helpful and, while I expected a level of sneering enmity, were nothing but nice as hell. The patrons there were also very nice and we had what can only be described as a wonderful time.

The only thing I can even remotely cite as disappointing is the sort of ho-hum atmosphere. I guess I maybe expected a more rollicking, wild place. I'm sure it gets that way at times, but I actually almost appreciate the understated nature of the place. When we left (around 11) there was a line to get in. They probably could use about twice the space. Oh well, I feel very good about my experience there. It lived up to the hype and eviscerated all the criticism I have heard to this point. Lovely place in a lovely city.

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Photo of Jmoore50
4.29/5  rDev -0.2%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3 | selection: 5

This place is bad ass. It is not very big and it is pretty crowded all the time. It is tucked away also. So I walked in and sat down. I am 21 and was by far the youngest in there by at least ten years. Of course I was given a hard time but I was willing to put up with some shit because of the selection of brews that they have. It was the first time I had Pliny the Elder and it was on tap. Great. I ordered the beer and sat down and enjoyed it. I had another one and left.
The next day I took a friend and the British bartender was an ass hole and gave us a good hard time. Screw him, I got Pliny and Consecration on tap for about ten bucks. Awesome. There is so much to look at and the service, once picked on, is great. You can tell there are the regulars that come there all the time, and why not? The beer selection was out of this world and the environment was great. Next time I go in there I will tell the bartender to go f himself and have a great array of brews all in my grasp.
Exciting place.
J

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Photo of mongodestroy
4.94/5  rDev +14.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

I just moved back to the bay area from Fresno where my local bar had a lot to say about the Toronado. Visiting the Toronado was one of the most amazing experiences in my life. Great pub experiences are few and far between. We got there early around noon and were able to establish a rapport with the bartender. My glass was never empty for more then a minute before I got served. Even despite my foul of not tipping after every beer and waiting till the end, the service was great. I believe this is because we got there early before it got too busy and were able to chat with the bartender. The music was a bit on the loud side but contributed to a unique experience. I can see how people have gotten bad service since the place is run on their terms and there is certainly no shortage of patrons. Beer selection was amazing as amazing as it could have been.

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Photo of route66pubs
4.1/5  rDev -4.7%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5

After all I had been hearing and reading about this place, I was anxious to finally get a chance to try it. I will say that their tap selection was pretty solid, with some great local stuff and a good bit of rare stuff as well. The service was not outstanding, but not terrible either (I'd heard some horror stories).

This "hole-in-the-wall" reminded me in some ways of my beloved local hangout "The Verdugo." The tap selection was great and the group of people hanging around seemed like a good, eclectic group / mix.

I think that the big down side for me was waiting for the first pour, when it seemed like it took 20 minutes just to be noticed. The next two treks to the bar, though, improved that dramatically. Don't expect any friendly face time from the bartender, though.

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Photo of BevMoPatrick1
4.53/5  rDev +5.3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

I grew up in the East Bay and was back in town for my sister's graduation, so I had to at least make the trip worth my while in checking out a few beer spots that I never had the opportunity to appreciate as a kid. Toronado didn't dissapoint. This place was amazing, I hadn't been to the Haight district in years so location and atmosphere was awesome. It was packed but service was suprisingly prompt. Selection was great, had the Russian River Mortification, and Sierra Nevada Porter on cask. Will definetely be back. It was happy hour as well so the dollar off the already great prices was an added bonus.

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Photo of BasementBrewerSF
4.72/5  rDev +9.8%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5

Toronado is the best beer bar in San Francisco, period.

It is not without its problem though. On most weekend nights, almost every weekend night, the bar is overflowing with patrons and it takes quite a while to get a drink from the one or two bartenders. The bartenders are quick and knowledgeable but expect the customer to know what they want, and questions are not easily answered in the loud bar.

Getting the negative out of the way, they have the best selection in town. A consistantly rotating menu of extremely rare and limited edition beers makes trips to Toronado a regular must, for any local. They also host breweries on a regular basis. This is quite a treat, but again the bar gets really crowded.

Any serious beer traveler must make a stop at this legendary bar. No bar in the city, or anywhere else I have traveled, has this quality and selection of beer.

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Photo of NikkiMacBrain
4.72/5  rDev +9.8%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5

Well. I finally got around to the Toronado after hearing about it from customers for years. Outstanding taps and hand pumps, great prices, great atmosphere (if you're a dive bar guy like I am). It's cash-only, which is unexpected but no inconvenience, really.

So, the service issue. As an obvious out-of-towner (was on my way out with my bag and all) I felt a little looked over at first. But, to be fair, the place was jumping and there appeared to be one guy on the bar and one working the tables. They were pretty busy. As I got to chat up the bartender a bit and he learned that I worked retail, things warmed up and I realized how curt I can get on the job--especially when someone asks me if we carry IPA or if we have anything 'medium'. We carry over 400 bottles at the shop I work at, I've been doing this for over 5 years now--and I still don't know what that means.

Overall, an outstanding bar and one I'll be spending some time and cash in when I'm in town. Do yourself a favor: get over yourself, be patient waiting for your drink and enjoy one of the best selections of taps in the US.

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Photo of braddo
4.94/5  rDev +14.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

Best bartender to ever pour a pint. What you see is what you get. Great prices and great selection. Belly up to the bar and you won't want to leave. Take a pass on the mead in the crock pot behind the bar. They don't serve food but you can buy a sausage next door and bring it back to the bar. This will be the fist place I go when I go back to San Fran.

Sampled:
Pliny the Elder Double IPA (Draught) - Beer Advocate's rating lives up to the hype! Huge floral and citrus taste.

Saison Dupont (Draught) - Refreshing and crisp. True to the style. Perfect for a hot summer day. May be better buying in a bottle from the store. A pint costs a small fortune.

Sierra Nevada Chico IPA (Cask) - Taste of citrus and hops. Heavy hop aroma like many Sierra Nevada offerings.

Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA (Draught) - Malty flavor and heavy hop aroma. Worthy of topping any IPA list.

http://www.burrstreetbrewblog.com/2009/03/san-francisco-beer-week.html

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Photo of raoulduke37
4.7/5  rDev +9.3%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5

This is about the 6th or 7th time I've been here, and I finally decided to review the place. First off, I am yet to experience any of the so-called bad service that anybody has spoken of yet. To those poster's credit, I agree that the bartenders are a bit "gruff" not unlike old Scottish sea captains in the early 19th century, but none-the-less, I have yet had an experience where I have been disrespected, or not accomodated in any way (and that includes half pints to my g/f, who was most definitely respected as well). My advice for anyone who goes here is simply: read the menu first (it's posted on the wall), decide what you want, speak clearly, and leave a decent tip. Follow those suggestions, and I guarantee you that you'll enjoy your experience here. Well, that takes care of the atmosphere and service...as far as quality and selection, this is also pretty amazing - lots of Belgians and German beers on tap, and some DFH, Marin, RR, and lots of others. I found that going around December is a really good time because you get all the exciting seasonal brews. Basically, if you are in the city, this place is a must, even if you're just stopping in for a pint of Pliny. I'd like to get up here for some of their festivals, but it is a 370 mile drive for me. Last but not least, the place has the greatest prices out of ANY beer bar I've ever been to, period. Happy hour is from opening (11:30) until 6 pm, in which case ALL beers are $1 off their already low price. I will keep coming back here.

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Photo of JoeySchlitz
3.8/5  rDev -11.6%
vibe: 2 | quality: 5 | service: 2 | selection: 5

I've been meaning to write a review of one of the local haunts but just haven't had time lately (until now). The Toronado is a beer institution in SF and in northern California. They continually bring in some of the best brewers and beers from the west coast and usually offer them at great prices (the bottles on the other hand are a different story - be prepared to be gouged). Overall a very good place to get a great beer, but there can be times where it's horrendous. Those are usually when the place is completely overcrowded and the staff is overwhelmed - it happens a lot too. I think that they revel in knowing that so many people will put up with just about anything to get a glass of great beer and that they really don't have to cater to anyone. Given the continual feedback on BA and also other forums (Yelp, etc.) with the service issue one would think that they would act upon it. But that would be if that experience was out of line with their expectations - so I don't expect anything to change. Good and bad - well I guess no place is perfect.

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Photo of JoshuaCain
4.1/5  rDev -4.7%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3 | selection: 5

definitely the premier beer bar in SF. the location couldn't be easier to get to, and depending when you are there the selection can range from great to mind blowing. the vibe is pretty relaxed, but a fair amount of douchebag type brahs will almost certainly be there, as well as alot of pretentious hipsters. if you are like me and don't like to talk to anyone anyway this will not be a problem. the service seems fine as long as you don't act like a total beer noob and get on their nerves. price is average for the neighborhood.

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Photo of xhcadamx
4.72/5  rDev +9.8%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5

A - this place screams dive bar with a shit ton of cool beer paraphernalia.

Q - There is a lot of beer pride in this joint. Proper glassware, serving temperatures. No beer faux pas to speak of

S - I have only been once and it was a weeknight at 1000pm so the service was spot on. The bouncer was the liveliest guy in there.

S - AMAZING selection. If you want it more than likely they have it. Nice cask selection too.

F - no food served here but you can bring in food from other places. The pizza place is nice and cheap, I have heard great things about the sausage place

V - Great prices.

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Photo of John_M
5/5  rDev +16.3%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

Visited the Toronado today... clearly the dive bar to end all dive bars.

The smallish Toronado beer bar is located in the lower Haight and fits in well with the other smoke shops, hair salons and cafes in the area. Given the fame of the Toronado, I guess I can see where one might come here with certain preconceived expectations. The place, of course, is a complete dive/dump, with bumper stickers, signs, cartoons and paraphenelia plastered every where. If that's not enough to convey the proper vibe, the day I was there the background music consisted of blaring metal music and later ZZ Top. Although I don't think there is anything dirty about the Toronado, the place just exudes a certain seediness. The patrons fit in perfectly with the neighborhood, and run the gamut from beer advocate beer geeks to skid row bums that can barely remember their own name. It just doesn't get any better then this.

The day I was here there was something like 40 beers on tap and the quality level was just off the charts. Three beers from RR (Pliny, Blind Pig and the porter), three beers from Schneider (Aventinus, Weisse and edel weisse), a couple of beers from Drake, Green Flash, Anchor and Speakeasy. There were also a couple of lambics, 5 or 6 Belgian trippels, dubbels and strong ales, and a few German beers for good measure.... and that's just what I can remember.

Pricing here is interesting and I assume represents market price for everything. Some of the Belgians and Barleywines struck me as expensive, but then pints of Blind Pig and Pliny were $4.50, while my 12 ounce tulip glass of Drake's imperial stout and DIPA cost just $3.50 ($4.50 for a pint). The guy next to me purchased a .5 liter of a German pilsner that cost just $3. Go figure. At the end of the day, I have to call the pricing here pretty reasonable.

A number of folks who have reviewed the Toronado have criticized the service here. Maybe they were here on an off night or something else was wrong, because I don't get it. The afternoon I was there I think there were some 20 patrons in attendance, with just the one bartender to handle the crowd. He was quick and efficient, and I never had to wait even a minute for a beer. While he didn't try to come off as my new best friend, he was pleasant enough and happy to answer any question I had. Given the crowd, I can see where he might get pissed pretty quick if you were slow to make up your mind or otherwise wasted his time. Still, considering the crowd, and considering the condition of some of the patrons sitting at the bar (who clearly were somewhat the worse for wear), I was impressed.

The Toronado is as close to perfection as I ever need to get. I'll be back every time and any time I'm in SF.

Edit from recent visit on 8/30/12. Nothing to add, except that if I could increase my score I would. Bartender (Stewert) was easily the most knowledgeable bartender I've ever run into (my jaw dropped when I heard him telling another patron about the maiden the shade beer on tap, and Ninkasi in general). He was also quick, friendly and a good conversationalist... he bought my last beer of Aventinus (he told me it was his right as a bartender when I tried to refuse... so I dumped some cash as a tip, which I told him was my right as a customer. He laughed and we smacked knuckles). I'll say no more, except.... I LOVE the Toronado!!!

Also got a sausage sandwich from the place next door (the Toronado has some arrangement with them, where you can just leave your sandwich basket from next door and the staff will take care of it). The sandwich was good, no doubt, but it wasn't exactly a culinary, life altering experience either. Still, it's nice to have the option of a bite to eat while having a beer or three.

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Photo of ipa247
4.05/5  rDev -5.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 2 | selection: 5

Yes another review of the famed Toronado. Where to start? Well I have been going here since about the mid-1990's and it really has not changed other than to get a little more crowded.

Atmosphere: a dark and dank front and back room that is perfect to hide away from your problems and the rest of the world. I have spent many a past winter day doing just that. It doesnt appear to be the cleanest of drinking environments and the restrooms are atrocious, but I do not go there for its hygienic qualities. You are gonna see lots of long hair, piercings and tatooos at this establishment. However, I do not feel uncomfortable being in there in the slightest despite being a clean cut, no ink, white male. Given its small amenities, one of my only gripes is that it can get ridiculously crowded at events like the Barleywine Festival. Just the fact that they are having an annual Barleywine festival says enough about this place.

Quality: excellent to outstanding beer selection on tap and in bottles. Lots of things on tap that are extremely hard to find including on my most recent trip, the Abyss and a host of Lost Abbey/Port Brewing products. The happy hour prices are phenomenal when compared to the quality of the beers they are pouring. Most beers only go up 1.00 per pint at the close of happy hour. Excellent Belgian beer selection in bottles at reasonable prices.

Food: none in the bar. However, there is a pizza place and a sausage place right next door which are perfect for creating that necessary food base.

Service: as most have described. Anywhere from indifferent to downright rude and combative. Not sure where these bartenders receive their training as the owner appears to be a super nice guy. I will give you a example of the wonderful service that my friends and I were provided on a recent visit. I left a 1.00 tip on three beers and the bartender went so far as to come out from behind the bar, walk over to our full table, and in a rude, aggressive tell me "I think you left this on the bar." Believe me there was no misunderstanding and he wouldnt look my way the rest of the night when trying to order beers. Had to have my other buddy order them who incidentally tipped the same amount and received no guff. Sorry buddy but you are not curing cancer, you are pouring beer. Enough said on this topic.

Anyway, I will be back again soon. Too many good beers to try and too many Tnado festivals to attend. A recommended spot if you want to get your beer drink on. Just be sure to tip well and be prepared for some potential shrapnel.

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Photo of waltonc
3.71/5  rDev -13.7%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 5 | service: 1 | selection: 5

I won't belabor the point, as there are plenty of Toronado reviews. The atmosphere is a dingy dive bar. Which is fine, in my opinion.

Service is not good. It seems that the service is intentionally not good and that Toronado makes no apologies for this. The bartenders generally have a surly attitude. That's their prerogative, however there have been occasions where friends of mine have ordered beers and been told by the bartender that they don't have the requested beer, then the bartender immediately turns to a new customer to take their order. When in fact they did have the particular beer. A specific example of this occurred on the Firestone 12 release night. A friend asked for one of the Firestone beers that was specially on tap for the occasion, and the bartender gave him a reaction like "no, you idiot, can't you see that it's not on the board and we don't have it? Next customer!" A few seconds later, we saw another bartender pouring the requested beer for someone else. As I said, it's their prerogative, but you don't come across very well when being surly and wrong.

That said, the selection is always good, and occasionally exceptional, such as that Firestone release event, where they had a keg of Firestone 10 and a firkin of Firestone 12. Another example was the Lost Abbey Cable Car release last August. The list goes on and on.

Prices on tap beer are usually very good. However, Toronado charges quite a bit for some of their rarer bottles. For example, last August they were selling the 2007 Cable Car for about $80.

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Photo of CheeseTurds
4.05/5  rDev -5.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 3 | selection: 4

Does Toronado really need any more reviews? Probably not, but here goes anyway.

I live in the neighborhood and this is where I drink most often. Why?

-great selection of beers that rotates frequently. Even when I'm there a lot, I can always find something new to try (and that's totally disregarding the bottle list!)
-tap beers are cheaper than most other bars and are therefore even cheaper if you get the pre-6 pm happy hour price
-lots of special events sponsored by local breweries means you get a lot of limited brews that you may not see anywhere else.

For anyone who's never been there, here's the quicklist of things to know:
-cash only, no tabs.
-the seating usually gets taken quickly and it's not the easiest bar to stand in. So, if you're visiting with more than 2 people, you might end up standing around uncomfortably
-yes, you can bring food in from outside
-no, they don't serve liquor. Also, the wine options are really slim.
-they're really strict about the "no kids" rule. It's 21 and up only here.
-and the most common topic on these reviews: service. Well, it's important to remember that this is as a BAR in the Lower Haight. Sure, the staff and patrons know a lot about their beer and you can ask questions, learn something, have great beer conversations, but that does not make this a beer education center. The majority of patrons are locals who are there to unwind and/or get their drink on. Therefore, the bartenders are there to sling drinks, especially when it's busy. Yes, they get testy if you're being a square peg with your requests, but what bartender wouldn't? I know this can be disappointing for those who would like a personal, well-attended experience, but that's not what this place is about. Also, it is the Lower Haight. You will be rubbing elbows with all kinds of interesting folks who are up to interesting shit, but it's definitely a safe bar. The only violence I've seen has stemmed from jock types who get pissed that they can't use a credit card or order a jack-and-coke. I think if have good bar manners and any kind of dive bar experience, you won't find anything odd about the service or atmosphere here. Just grab a drink, hopefully you can grab a seat, and take in your uniquely Toronado experience.

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Toronado in San Francisco, CA
4.3 out of 5 based on 482 ratings.
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