S.F. watering holes among Esquire's best

Esquire magazine’s June issue features its annual installment of “Best Bars in America.” Four San Francisco bars are included; here are excerpts from the report.

21 Club

You’re having: Something stiff

This is one of those places where you can show up by yourself and not feel like a creep. It has huge windows that look out on the intersection of Turk and Taylor streets in the Tenderloin. You never really know what’s going to happen or what you’re going to see. Could be a street brawl or a car collision; sometimes you’ll see people running away from something, people checking every parked car for an unlocked door, or hookers walking the drag or freshening up their makeup. 98 Turk St.; (415) 771-9655

Cantina

You’re having: A duende cocktail

Alembic, Elixir and Rye are among places doing very serious cocktails in The City. Now, having this many good choices is like having no choice at all, and whenyou’ve got no choice, you punt. So because Cantina not only makes excellent drinks but, unlike the others, is also within easy football-kicking range of most downtown hotels, it gets our nod. 580 Sutter St.; (415) 398-0195

Toronado

You’re having: A pint of the Pliny the Elder

Most bars that offer a serious selection of microbrews and imports on tap pull in a crowd that tends toward freshly laundered jeans. That’s not the Toronado’s style. The only attempt at decor here is the profusion of retired tap handles festooning the walls and the highly covetable “Toronado by Oldsmobile” sign. The beers and ales, however, are hardcore, as are the bartenders, customers and sausages you can bring in from the joint next door. 547 Haight St.; (415) 863-2276

Tosca Cafe

You’re having: Anything but the house cocktail (brandy and hot chocolate — pass)

Beauty isn’t everything, it’s true. But it’s still worth plenty in this world, and this is one pretty beautiful old bar. Looking like its fixtures were bought from whoever supplied the joint pictured in Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks,” Tosca’s is a monument to chrome and red leatherette and burnished wood. 242 Columbus Ave.; (415) 986-9651

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