Topsy's Fun House Bar
Topsy’s Fun House is a circus-themed bar in San Francisco’s financial district, inspired by the original 1920’s Topsy’s Fun House, once located at Ocean Beach.
The bar is close to the Montgomery metro station but is also walking distance to the nightlife of North Beach, the restaurants of Little Italy, and the hole-in-the-wall bars of China Town.
Come here for the kooky ambiance, the happy hour, the moderately priced beer, and the live music. There are a number of circus-themed cocktails as well.
Make reservations if you’ve got more than five people and want a table.
I arrived at Topsy’s at 8:00 pm, and saw that it was slightly packed, but not to the point of being physically uncomfortable or uncivilized. I didn’t have to elbow past people or step on toes. The crowd looked like the typical San Francisco crew- the kind of people who work ten hours at the next big tech company, and then get a beer after work.
I waited by the bar, hoping for either a seat, or the bartender’s attention. I got a seat in only a few minutes; getting the bartender’s attention took a little longer.
As soon as I sat down, I noticed that the bar stool was on a spring. It was a fun surprise, and I enjoyed bouncing around on the stool. It’s not so bouncy that you’re at risk of falling (unless you’ve had one too many drinks).
The service was definitely a little slow. The bartenders were polite, and clearly working hard, but it was a long wait before I got served.
Feeling a little adventurous, I ordered the spiced margarita, and my friend ordered the old flame.
WARNING: When ordering the Old Flame, make sure to get the bartender to warn your first. They take a small blow torch to your glass, and it’s a beautiful eruption of blue flame. But do you notice that there’s no photo of this amazing flame?! Make sure you tell your bartender you want to take a photo of the flame; the burst of fire only lasts a second, and my bartender gave me no warning, so I wasn’t able to get the shot.
The drink itself smelled a little like burnt plastic. But it was cool to see a bigass flame light up the dim bar for a second.
And these guys don’t kid around when they say spiced margarita. It was really spicy, so much so that I needed two cups of water to accompany the beverage. But then again, I have a sensitive palate.
Both drinks were strong, and discussing and comparing the unique beverages made for fun conversation.
Taco Tuesday is a fun draw, with $3 tacos. Wing Wednesday is also a thing, and you can get wings, beer, and a shot for $18. But the kitchen closes between 9 and 10, so don’t expect to come in late and get fed.
The ambiance of this place is great. It’s the little details that make it stand out. The springy bar stools. A ‘clown’s apartment’ upstairs, with all manner of toys, visible through a glass ceiling.
A giant nut-cracker by the bathrooms.
The live music was genuinely entertaining, and did not take up unnecessary space with a giant stage or anything like that. Sometimes it was a little too loud to talk over, but that’s normal with live music in a bar.
There is outdoor seating, which is nice, because the bar can get a little loud. You’ll need to get there early to snag a seat outside though, as there are only a few tables.
The bar seemed to be more of an after-work kind of place- so while it was packed at 8, it was only about half-full by 10, and more fit for intimate conversation.
I felt it was a great place to start the night, especially after a long work day; it really set the tone as a lighthearted, fun evening. Maybe not the best place to meet new people and make friends, as it all seemed to be coworkers or people on dates, who just wanted to chat with each other.
After you’re finished with your drinks, tacos, or wings, you have a choice to make.
Do I go South, to the BART / MUNI, toward home, bed, and a good night’s sleep? Or do I go North, in search of greasy food, interesting company, and unique bars like Comstock, The Devil’s Acre, and Vesuvio?
Obviously I went North.
Topsy’s is on Kearny and Bush. A quick walk North on Kearny will bring you to Kearny and Broadway; make a left turn here and you’ll be at the beating heart of North Beach- Columbus and Broadway.
Wander around here, after a few drinks at Topsy’s, and you’ll enjoy cheap Chinese food, cheaper pizza, and an endless string of unique bars.