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Toronado

YOUR RATING = None |
BA SCORE
95
world-class

326 Reviews
ToronadoToronado
PLACE INFO

Type: Bar

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

(415) 863-2276 | map
www.toronado.com

Notes:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate

PLACE STATS
Place Score:
95
Reviews:
326
Ratings:
472
Avg:
4.26
pDev:
13.85%
 
 
Taps:
43
Bottles/Cans:
0
Cask:
Y
Beer-to-Go:
Y
View: Place Ratings | Events
User Reviews
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Reviews: 326 | Ratings: 472
Photo of GClarkage
4.6/5  rDev +8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5

Where to start...this is my first ever review on BA, so I decided to do it on my favorite pub in SF. After reading all the reviews I have decided that I pretty much agree with everything except for the service. Depending on where you grew up, the atmosphere will either be a plus or a minus. I grew up in the Bay Area, but not on SF, but felt prefectly fine sitting, chatting and drinking at the Toronado. It's not in the best of area's, but not in the worst either. Since discovering this place about 6 months ago, I have never been acosted by anyone trying to panhandle or sell me drugs. The parking isn't exactly fun, but my friend and I have always been lucky enough to get a spot close by. Even if we do have to run out and put another 4 quarters in the meter. Admittedly, the place is kinda dark and a bit gloomy, but I have never had a problem with the cleanliness. It's a very different place. You will find all sorts of people there. From businessmen, to jocks, to foreign visitors...or anyone. Even dogs! One of the bartenders has two cute dogs that will even sit next to you on a bar stool and share a drink with you if you call him up. I guess that's fine since there is not food served there and they are very friendly dogs. They have a jukebox for entertainment which has a VERY ecclectic assortment of music. From Johnny Cash, to random local punk bands to modern popular music. As for the beer (the main reason you are reading this), the selection is incredible. Only one other bar I have been to has more taps (The Englander in San Leandro), but they don't even come close when it comes to Belgium beers. The prices are pretty decent, especially if you come during happy hour during the week. They are $1 off all draft beers except for a select few. So, you can get a Belguim beer that you may have not heard of from anywhere from $3.25-7.25 poured in a authentic brewery glass. The majority of the beers are in the $3.25 to $5.50 range, plus a dollar off during happy hour equates to very good prices. Where else can you get a Radenberger pils served in a 1/2 liter glass for $2.50!! The food next door is very good (Mystic Pizza to the right and a great sausage place to the left) and you can bring them in the bar to eat. They will just bang on the wall when they are ready for you to pick them up. Lastly, the service is fine. As long as you aren't a drunk idiot or an jerk, you won't have a problem. Sometimes they can be a bit of a smartass, but hey, are you there to have a few beers and fun, or to be bothered by a few smart remarks. If you have a decent sense of humor, are down to earth and want a great selection of beer, this is the place to come. Just bring cash and enjoy a few hours here. That's what I try to do once every week or so.

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Photo of axisjones
4.94/5  rDev +16%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

This bar is a beer lovers paradise. While alot of people has knocked the service, the bartenders respect beer more than any other bar i have ever been to. Every beer is served in its proper glass with the right head (the aventinus is a sight to behold). I ordered a Westy 12 off the bottled list, and the bartender apologized that he had to pour a little in the chalice to keep it from overflowing. He was also good for recommending followup beers. The selection is unbeatable, especially for belgium and northwest junkies. The prices are generally cheaper than other bars comparatively, but hardly any of the list can be found in other bars.

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Photo of drewbage
4.13/5  rDev -3.1%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 5 | service: 2.5 | selection: 5

I recently made another pilgrimage to the rightly infamous Toronado bar during their annual Barleywine Festival.

My first impression of the place when I walked in was : "Oh my god, what have I gotten myself into?" The Toronado feels like a cross between a bad biker bar and a hippie hang.

But oh the difference looking up and seeing that beer list makes. When last our hero was there, it was the Barleywine festival. So right off the bat there were 51 barleywines on tap/cask. This is almost all of Toronado's taps and handpumps. (Others were saved for varioushouse beers like Cantillion Vingeronne, etc) Now when the Barleywine festival first starts there isn't room to spit in the joint as everyone is packed in.You better be quick to order too. Get your three-four samples and get out of the way. Oh and if you want a chance to try them all, get there on one of the first two days.. by Sunday evening there were already out of 15+ barleywines.

Service is questionable here. The bartenders definately rule the roost and have been trained in the New York school of rude. But if you're quick with your orders or smart with their questions, they don't mind.

Food doesn't exist, but Mythic Pizza rocks as does the Sausage joint and the Toronado allows you to bring their stuff in. (High advisable during the BW fest)

Don't forget to bring cash here to the bar as they'll laugh at you if you try and pay credit. There's an ATM right outside Mythic Pizza for the purpose of rescuing lost Toronado souls!

Remember, this is one of the place that I tell people they must go to if they're looking for beer in San Francisco. Yeah.. service can be mean.. yeah the place is 3 screws away from collapsing.. but that beer list and the quality of the beer wash away a lot of sins.

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Photo of SeanChouffe
3.56/5  rDev -16.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 2.5 | selection: 4.5

I spent a few hours in Tornado with some family and friends. The atmosphere is pleasant, but the music was too loud for talking over. The clientele were relatively young and (working class) trendy. The selection of beer was quite good, but the service was chez pretence. Once my brother-in-law irritated one of the "servers" -- that ended up being the kiss of death. We had to wait extra long to get the next round.
There are numerous beers on tap and in the bottle. Many European beers, craft beers and a fair selection of Belgians. Parking is a world class nightmare.

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Photo of boussh
3.8/5  rDev -10.8%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 4.5

My first trip to Toronado will most likely be my last. The selection of beers was great, but when asking questions about some rare Belguim beers, the bartender was rude and arrogant. So I tried on of thier cask ales, which I will say was pour properly and was great ( Moonligh Brewing Twisted Feet). They don't have food, so if you are hungery the pizza palce next door is a good place to get a slice. I think you can bring it in to Toronado, but I wasn't going to ask the bartender another question.
Two drunks away from dive bar status this palce is dark and gloomy with a decent jukebox. The beer selction runs the gammut and so does the price range. To help the pocket book hit happyhour where I think it's a buck off draft beers, but again that question thing with the man behind the bar.

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Photo of quetzpalin
3.65/5  rDev -14.3%
vibe: 3 | quality: 5 | service: 1 | selection: 5

Where to start? The Toronado is sui generous, the one and only, in all it's tattered glory. It is by turns sublime and vile, but never pedestrian. I have had the best beer experience of my life, and the most atrocious service of my life within those confines. Let’s start with the sublime; We were there on our regular roving Wednesday happy hour, happily testing the wide selection of superb Belgians (as I recall, I had a Duchesse, Walt went with the Maredsous, Natasha, as usual, the Hoegaarden, Karen had the Chimay, and Chops bucked the trend with a Moonlight, either Death & Taxes or Twist of Fate) on tap. Much laughter and frivolity ensued as the next round included a Rojo (Bass with a bit of Lindeman’s Lambic), a Delerium Noel, and a few Cuvee Noels (yes, it was December). I don’t remember the list of the next round, but you get the idea of the quality of selection. All on tap in the right glasses. A buddy of a buddy happened to have drifted over at some point to our table, and in our highly discerning state he was able to talk us into trying a $35 bottle, sight unseen. We were promised not to be disappointed, and I have probably never been less disappointed in my life. We were suddenly drinking an effervescent ambrosia the likes of which I had never imagined. It was, of course, Deus Brut Des Flandres. I was floored to still be able to be astonished by the Toronado after all these years. I should have known that to frequent this bar is to always be ready to be floored by something astounding.

On the other hand, as has been mentioned, the service can be a bit, well, less than exemplary. The best example is the time we went in with some friends in part to catch a ball game on TV. The front room was full so we went into the back, where the TV was on, but tuned to the wrong channel. We asked for it to be changed as we ordered the first round (it has a piece of plexiglass preventing unauthorized channel changing). We asked politely, since it was actually busy, when we ordered the second round, tipping generously as an incentive. When Natasha finally got too tired of waiting, she went to ask a third time. After another 10 minutes, he came over with remote in hand, looked at us, looked up at the TV, and began clicking through the channels. When he got to the game, he paused, gave us another look, and…changed it back to the channel it was on when we walked in. He walked away as we all sat there slack-jawed.

This, as well, was an astounding experience. I am actually enough of a regular now to get free beers from the bartenders every once in a while, but I still don’t like the attitude, even if it’s not aimed at me anymore. It’s probably just as well, because that attitude keeps me from being too much of a regular, and has probably saved me hundreds and hundreds of dollars over the years. I still haven’t tipped that waiter (the one who frequently wears a baseball cap). He must think I am the cheapest bastard on earth. Or maybe he remembers. Who knows. That is what you get with the Toronado. Walt actually got a quarter thrown back at him by one of nicer bartenders, yet we will both be there this Wednesday, anxiously trying the new arrivals…

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Photo of GCBrewingCo
4.18/5  rDev -1.9%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

The Torando is in a lousy location. If you only get asked a handfull of times about alcohol and drugs on the way there you are doing pretty good.

The inside is wooden and dark. The half door keeps the transient population at bay.

The day of my visit there were a couple of dogs running around sniffing crotches inside which detracted from the whole experience. The selection is very good as was the quality and service when I visited, but the place was not busy.

They do not serve food, but the sausage place around the corner is excellent and they let you bring it in. You can park on the curb at a meter, I parked a few blocks away and will not make that mistake again.

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Photo of WetCoaster
4.14/5  rDev -2.8%
vibe: 2.5 | quality: 5 | service: 3 | selection: 5

The Toronado gets mixed reviews, and it’s easy to understand why. Depending on when you go, where you sit and who serves you, the place can run the gamut from sublime to unbearable. The only constant is beer: Unmatched in SF for variety and quality.

Located in the funky, gutter-punk infested Haight area of town, the Toronado sees its share of characters on both sides of the bar. This can be good or bad, and yes, sometimes the bartenders do run a tad on the surly side. Even at their worst, though, they are generally quite efficient and knowledgeable.

Staff and patrons aside, the atmosphere is generally tolerable, though far from cozy. The main room features a traditional wooden bar, with a few tables on the opposite wall. It has a decent jukebox and, as mentioned before, it contains a great variety of beer paraphernalia, including dozens of old taps on its flat gray walls. The barroom is somewhat open, which keeps the place fresh most of the time, but on cold, rainy nights it can be a bit drafty. The bar also has back room which, unless you’re a junkie, you should forget about: dark, dank, cold, packed with uncomfortable metal chairs and ripe with the fumes of the bar’s filthy, graffiti-covered restroom.

Ah, but it’s the beer you came for, and beer you shall have. Listed on a ceiling-mounted menu (possibly salvaged from a ‘60s McDonalds?) are the evening’s 40 tap selections, all top-notch. You’ll always find a few local craft brewers’ collections, some Belgians, some Germans, some seasonals and one or two hand-pulled real ales. There is usually at least one example of almost every genre (lager, ale, wheat, IPA, porter, stout, etc.) available on tap, with many, many more available in the bottle. And all are served in the correct glassware. It’s hard to beat.

If you find you simply can’t stand the atmosphere, or if your date is a real shrinking violet, you might want to check out the slick, upscale Thirsty Bear in SoMa. Otherwise, this is THE place for beer in SF.

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Photo of oggg
3.73/5  rDev -12.4%
vibe: 3 | quality: 5 | service: 1.5 | selection: 5 | food: 3

Walked in, lotsa regulars, long bar, lotsa tables, one tv. A TON of beer paraphenalia -- mostly old beer taps and some posters and such. The wall is lined with magnums of Duvel.

The bartender was this long haired guy who was really impatient. Not really very helpful. But the beer is served in true beer glasses: we ordered Aventinus in tall Aventinus glasses that were widened at the top. Other people were drinking belgian ales from special glasses too. I think I saw 3 beers on hand pump. and like 40 beers on tap. Aventinus, Schneider Weisse Hefeweizen... Several Belgian ales which I can't remember... Maudite, De Konnick, Unibroue, Chimay triple... just a lot of Belgian ales... other good beers -- Anderson Valley, Speakeasy, Moonlight, Full Sail, Deschutes, Hoegarden, Franziskaner, etc.

97% men. two dogs. Bartender kept picking crappy music -- country music or loud/annoying rock.

I gave the place a 3.0 for food because there's lots of cheap restaurants nearby, like Rosamunde and the shawerma place.

Summary: good for wheat beer and belgian ales, not the greatest for hanging out.

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Photo of Gueuzedude
4.45/5  rDev +4.5%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 3 | selection: 5

I love this place, this is one of the bars that cut my teeth on Belgian beers. I love the atmosphere in this place, it is a bit dive like, as others have noted, but that is exactly how I like my bars. The beer selection and quality has never been lacking, and with the yearly Barleywine festival thrown into the mix it even gets better. Well known for it's selection of bottled Belgian beers.

My only real complaint here is that if you go at the wrong time you can get some real asses behind the bar. Other times the service is great though. I almost wonder if there is a surley relative of the owner who can't be gotten rid of.

While they do not have food they allow you to bring in food from the surrounding shops, I usually go for a sausage from the place on the left.

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Photo of insomnboy
4.58/5  rDev +7.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

I visited the Toronado 3 times last month. Marvelous selection of beers, many things that I've never had a chance to try on tap before. Hop Rod, Racer 5, Black Butte Porter, Ruination, AVENTINUS!!! (so good on tap...), St. Bernadus 12....

As far as food goes, a few have mentioned the sausage place to the left, but Mystic Pizza to the right of the T is pretty righteous as well.

Toronado is a MUST visit when in San Francisco.

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Photo of jrancan
4.78/5  rDev +12.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

Toronado...where should I start? How about the fact that they don't serve any alcohol other than beer. No wine, liquor, and definitely no macros anywhere to be found. How about $3:50 for most pints which is a great deal in SF. They have at least 40 on tap with 3 on beer engines focused entirely on NW and Belgian beers. This is a good thing coming from the East. I got to try at least 9 or 10 beers that are not available anywhere near NJ. And that's the thing, these guys will give you multiple samples of anything before you buy it.
The place is a dive, which I love! Beer memorabilia everywhere, and punk in the jukebox...one of my all time favorite places. They don't serve any food, but there is a take out place next door that only sells sausage(vegetarian and meat), Rosamunde's. You can order up a nice sandwich and bring it back to the bar to eat while sipping your brew. My wife loved the food so much I convinced her to go back to Toronado so she could have another sandwich.

Bartenders are knowledgable.
Anyway, straight foward, hard drinkin, dive bar that is a must stop.

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Photo of WaywardSeaman
4.26/5  rDev 0%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5

It's hard to knock this place, seeing as those in the know often have it on their shortlists as one of the best beer bars in the country. The Toronado does offer an impressive taplist, with most of the 50 or so offerings coming from West Coast breweries (which isn't a disappointment if you're in town for a visit, but not so exciting if you're a regular and have expansive tastes). One of my favorite things about the T is that North Coast's Red Seal Ale is often on handpump, and all beers are $1 off before 6pm.

As touched upon in other reviews, the Haight atmosphere isn't for everyone. Since I'm young, I tend to look past that and try to enjoy the place for the beer shrine that it is. But the music from the jukebox can get a bit loud, the patrons can seem a bit off-kilter, and the staff can be a bit indifferent at times. I've never had an opportunity to speak to Dave Keene (the proprietor), but he's often hanging around and obviously takes a lot of pride in his place.

There are a number of places to eat nearby, so you'll have no problem bringing food in from the adjacent Rosamunde Sausage Grill or any other local eatery to enjoy with your beer. The T is rather small, so it can get crowded, especially when special events like the annual Barleywine Festival are taking place.

All in all, I like this place a lot. I've been stopping in for the past 3 years or so, and I find that the positives far outweigh the negatives. As far as I'm concerned, this is a must-stop if you're ever in the Bay Area.

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Photo of bigbelcher
3.06/5  rDev -28.2%
vibe: 2 | quality: 4 | service: 1 | selection: 4.5

The reputation of this bar is good, however I was very turned off by the place. The list of beers on the wall wasn't current. The tables were dirty and when I asked a bartender to clean it off they gave me a bar towel. When I took the dirty glasses and stuff and moved them to a spot near where the bouncer was standing he told me to take them to the back. I told him I am there to spend money and drink, not do their work for them. Very dissapointed.

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Photo of SamuraiJack
4.88/5  rDev +14.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

Perhaps my favorite US beer bar.
If you're a beer fan - and especially if you're a Belgian beer fan - this is a must visit. The selection is excellent. I've been to places with larger lists -- but none with a better list. Not only does Toronado not serve Budweiser or Coors - they don't even serve Sierra Nevada or Anchor Steam. There were beers on the list I didn't like - but there were literally no Bad beers on there. Period.
Of particular note are the hand-pumps (three as far as I could tell), the correct glassware (even for the Lambics) and the incredibly knowledgable bartender.
The bar is in the lower Haight (grunge and dirt) and the bar itself is definately low on ammenities. Does it matter? Not in the least.
They don't serve food but there is a good sausage place right next door and the best BBQ in the Bay Area is right across the street at Memphis Minnies.
Prices ain't cheap - but they're fair.
Thank god I live 5.5 hours away is all I have to say. I'd look like Mario Battali otherwise.

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Photo of mzwolinski
5/5  rDev +17.4%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

This is a terrific bar. I was really excited to go once I looked at their web site -- 46 beers on tap, 3 of them cask-conditioned, and all of them exceptionally well-chosen. There's also a substantial list of bottled beer, including a few collectable (and expensive) selections. I envy the SF residents who get to attend the many beer-related events at the bar. Just this month I see a tasting with Allagash and a wonderful looking Belgian beer dinner. The atmosphere was surprising -- about half the crowd has lots of body piercings and tattoos, and the other half are very obviously beer geeks. Not much in between. The barkeep was friendly and knew alot about the beer. Great happy hour prices in the afternoon. There's really not much to complain about here! An absolute must-visit should you find yourself in the city by the bay.

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Toronado in San Francisco, CA
95 out of 100 based on 326 ratings.
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