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  • 5.0 star rating
    2/28/2015

    The name reminded me of the Star Wars Cantina, and it turned out to be a tiki/pirate-themed bar--probably my favorite one of its kind in SF, as it's less touristy than Smuggler's Cove, more upscale than Tiki Haven, and offers decent tropical themed drinks instead of a slew of alcoholic Jamba Juice.

    [THE AMBIANCE]

    Cantina doesn't look particularly impressive from the outside because it's situated in a rather posh neighborhood near the fancy hotels of Downtown SF, but inside it has a calming  ambiance. It's almost too nice to be called a pirate bar because it looks more like a tropical paradise resort, minus the cheesiness of resorts. Even the paraphernalia are nice--instead of random pirate weaponry plastered to the walls like in Smuggler's Cove, Cantina features sophisticated touches such as wicker lamps and soft colorful lighting.

    [THE DRANKS]

    1) A lot of us got the Pisco Punch (pisco, crushed pineapple, fresh-squeezed citrus, angostura bitters & secret sauce), which I would recommend for anyone indecisive and/or cautiously adventurous. It has a good balance of fruity vs alcoholic so it's very drinkable without tasting like fruity drinks that remind you of Hi-C or Kool-Aid.

    2) The Laughing Buddha seemed like a good choice too, though the name sounds like some sort of papaya salad fusion tapas dish.

    3) Presentation is not bad. Not flamboyantly crafty, but notable. Also, beer is served in curved glass so it's classy and British.

    [TIPS]

    - Drinks are standard for SF, ~$10
    - We came on a Friday night and it wasn't too crowded, i.e. it's not impossible to get a hold of the bartender to order drinks and you don't have to scream to talk to people next to you.
    - There is a larger lofty space in the back that can accommodate groups, but beware of the step (trust me, I've seen tipsy people trip and the bar isn't dark enough for other people not to notice)

  • 3.0 star rating
    2/19/2015
    1 check-in

    My friends and I came in here while waiting for a seat in Hogwash.

    Nothing stood out on the cocktail lost for me but the drinks were tasty. Subtracting a star for the slow service and arrogant bartenders. Another star deducted because the place is way too dark! It was so hard to even read the cocktail list. Maybe it's supposed to be an intimate vibe? It didn't really come out that way.

    Anyway, once I was back in Hogwash, I realized you can order Hogwash food to be brought into Cantina. I wish I could have known that earlier!!

  • 2.0 star rating
    2/13/2015

    Take a good read through some of the mid level, poor, and even the good reviews.  You'll notice a trend of the service here being bad and the bartenders being complete utter jerks... who serve better than average mixed drinks.

    I visited on a slow weekday night a while back and that was my exact impression of this place.  My drink was well made, quite tasty in fact... but to me it was as if I was doing the bartender a disservice by ordering a drink from him.  Very rude and offputting gentleman who just threw off the entire experience.  I've been to many 'mixologist' bars around the world, and have had much better times at other places with just as good and better made drinks.

    It's one thing to be a mixologist and able to assemble a drink well, but if you don't have a positive personality and appear to want to be serving your customers, you're doing a disservice to your 'art' (which boils down to nothing more than serving people alcohol).

  • 5.0 star rating
    12/26/2014
    1 check-in

    After a nearby bar closed at 11pm, we were on the hunt for one final drink. Cantina came to the rescue!

    The interior is dark and intimate. It was a rainy Wednesday night, so we easily found a table in the back. I had never been here, but Peter L spoke highly of their drinks.

    *Carmen amaya ($13): 1776 rye whiskey, curacao, fresh citrus & mulled basil, amontillado sherry
    *Blue ribbon sour ($15): campo de encanto pisco with fresh citrus, double down on the egg whites, add sherry & a nip of sugar
    *Laughing buddha ($11): citron vodka, lime, crushed ginger & serrano chiles, five spice secret sauce, ginger brew

    My drink was the Blue ribbon sour. After having numerous beers and apps earlier, I wanted something light and easy to drink. This was the perfect drink! I also took some sips of the Laughing buddha as well. This definitely has a spicy kick. Not for those who can't handle spice. It was a little too much for me as a last drink of the night. But I definitely see myself liking this drink if it started my night.

    Remember to check in to get $2 off your cocktail. It only works on one cocktail, so if you're really trying to save money, everyone should buy their own and get $2 off each.

    I'd definitely come back here to try their other cocktails! Next time, I'll start my night here!

  • 3.0 star rating
    12/8/2014
    1 check-in

    Explore new things Saturday night!  While I love the fact that this place is hidden away and has a super interesting take on a shot-gun-bar vibe, I'm not sure it blew me away.  

    The cocktail list was ok, but nothing particularly inspired me.  Even less inspiring were the staff.  Never have I been in a pretty full bar and there be absolutely no energy in the whole place.  Nobody was friendly.  Nobody looked enthused about serving or making drinks.  They seemed reluctant to even answer my questions about a few of the cocktails.  I think the crowd picked up on their zombie-like state and was equivalently lack luster. Kinda weird.  Maybe all the staff were hung over?  That might explain it.  The skeletal art on the walls really did mirror the dead-ness of the place, despite being full of bodies.

    That being said, if you want somewhere off the beaten path, yet still in the heart of Union Square, you might want to check it out.  If you love tequila based cocktails, this should also be your jam...if the vibe can get better than it was on my Saturday night.

  • 5.0 star rating
    12/17/2014

    One of my fav cocktail bars in union square! The drinks here are crafted very well so yes it takes time but I promise it's worth it! I've been here several times and have a such a great time.

    Don't leave without trying the PISCO punch!! It's one of their most popular drinks and after you taste it you'll know why.

    Went on a Saturday night once and they were playing good music. But it was very crowded! So worth it!

  • 5.0 star rating
    2/28/2015

    Thank u guys for all the best drinks in town. My favorite place!!! I can't only have one cause they are so good! Highly recommended !

  • 4.0 star rating
    2/7/2015

    We came here because we read Yelp reviews, and we liked what we saw!

    1. Deco: beautiful! I immediately liked the interior design and decoration of the place, and also the lighting; it was dark enough stay mysterious, yet bright enough so we don't step onto each other (well I'm 4'9 so most likely other people will be stepping on me)
    2. It was not very crowded for a Saturday night, but I have nothing to complain about that! There were 5 of us and we got to have a great conversation without yelling into each other's ears.
    3. Service: good, but not great! We sat at the bar for a bit. The guy took our orders (5 total), and came back a minute later asking us what we ordered again because he had forgotten. Again, it was not a crowded night.
    4. Music: very good! There's a DJ in the middle of the place, and he played some oldie music with a touch of modern; we loved it!
    5. Drinks: wonderful! Of course I always stick with my usual, which is any variation of a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned, so I had a Prize FIlly; it was perfect! My friends had the Laughing Buddha, which had a very surprising kick of ginger and chile to it, yum yum! The boys later on came back for some beers and more Laughing Buddha, adorbs!

    I'd definitely come back here to try out more of their cocktails. Can't wait!

  • 4.0 star rating
    12/16/2014
    1 check-in

    I think the people and the environment was really great! Its a nice classy bar. Not very crowded. The lights are dimmed. Lots of great art work on the walls.

    The customer service was good! The bartender waited to assist us and gave his suggestions. He suggested the Laughing Buddha and the Pico Punch. I did not like them both because it wasn't my cup of tea. The Laughing Buddha packed a ginger, spicy taste that gave me a bad after taste. Like drinking men's perfume. He said it was the most popular. I was disappointed. I wanted to go back and asked the bartender if I could get a different drink. haha but i decided not to.

    Honestly, even though I didn't like my drink. The customer service, the aumbiance, and hasty bartenders made it a pleasant experience. I would come here again and hopefully try a drink that I actually like.

  • 2.0 star rating
    10/27/2014
    1 check-in

    Cantina sucks

    Terrible service.. we went on a Friday night and that wasn't even busy. But still, nobody bothered to take our orders. Plus they were supposed to close at 2 but they kicked us out at 1:30, with an unfriendly attitude

    Inside was old with ripped couched

    Not sure about the quality of drinks, we ordered bottles of wine and bubbly

  • 4.0 star rating
    10/4/2014
    1 check-in

    A great blend of tropical oasis with an upscale refinement is how I would characterize the atmosphere at Cantina

    Seating is rather limited (only one large seating area in the back good for groups). The rest of the seating is cozy so get friendly with your neighbor

    Drinks were pretty solid, well made long island and could see myself coming back to see what they specialize in

    Overall Thoughts

    Fun place to stop off while bar hopping in the Fidi!

  • 3.0 star rating
    11/11/2014
    1 check-in

    Love the ambiance with its Caribbean theme and dim lighting.  That being said, the cocktails themselves were just decent overall.  My gin-based Buccaneer was a bit too light with inadequate presence of the base spirit while my bro's Laughing Buddha provided an overpowering burn on the finish from too much serrano chilies.  A second round with the Misdemeanor was a little better, though still out of balance with excess spice.

    Great bartenders though and possibly worth a revisit for the HH deal ($7 mojito/daiquiri/margarita/pisco sour) daily from 5-7 pm.  Don't forget to use the Yelp check-in offer too for $2 off your first cocktail.

  • 5.0 star rating
    2/19/2015
    1 check-in

    This is a small cantina with plenty of great atmosphere and people to hang out with on a Friday night to start off drinking and enjoying the music.  I found location using yelp and we had a great time!

  • 4.0 star rating
    8/8/2014
    1 check-in

    One of the bartenders at the #10yearsofyelp Gold Soiree event recommend this place. Why would he lie us right?

    My only complaint, this place is so small. But I didn't realize how fabulous this bar was until my group of party peeps left. Argh. my bad guys...

    Definitely worth checking out. Nice crowd, good music, cool cocktails, next time Im gonna have to find out how to get that lounge area in the corner.

    Someone said in their review that this place is a good spot to get the night started. I totally agree! Out all the bars that I visited, this one was probably one of the more memorable ones. And twas quite a boozy weekend.

  • 5.0 star rating
    8/3/2014
    2 check-ins

    This place was so small I walked by it twice before I realized where I was!

    Anyway, what a fun time this place is! Came to meet a girlfriend here after a long day at work - it was Friday and was expecting to find next to no seating. Fortunately there were plenty of open spots to sit comfortably and beat the rush. My girlfriend was running late so I decided to start the fun a little early and order myself a drink. I ordered the blackberry & cabernet caipirinha on the suggestion of my bartender - I found it surprisingly refreshing and delicious! I swear I could've drank that thing like a juice box. Who knew muddled limes and cabernet would make such a clever combination?!

    I also had the opportunity to meet another one of the bartenders, who also happened to be one of the managers (I THINK he was? I'm pretty sure he was...by this time my drink had already impaired my memory) and took it upon himself to make an off-menu drink with egg whites or something crazy like that which truly blew my mind - lord knows what else was in it, but seriously, YUM.

    This places KNOWS it's cocktails. The quality is up to par (if not above) with many of the more "upscale" bars you'd see in SoMa or in the Embarcadero. What sets this place apart is the relaxed environment which you are put in, not just by setting and decor (this place looks like a scene straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean. Where you at Jack Sparrow?) but by the staff as well. They were so friendly and amicable and made me forget that I was  waiting for my friend.

    Such a GREAT quality find in one of the most visited areas of the city. A great place to start OR spend your night (they have a DJ on the weekends!). You won't be disappointed.

  • 4.0 star rating
    7/14/2014
    1 check-in
    Listed in The Bay Area

    We really enjoyed this little bar!

    We went here to do some pre-gaming before a show at the Nourse (a 3-5 minute cab ride.)  

    The drinks are great. I tried the mojito (they have a daily special of $7 between 5pm-7pm.) I ordered the blackberry & cabernet caipirinha, which was amazing. Super fresh ingredients and was easy on the tongue (didn't give you the chills after each drink.)

    The ambiance is cool - the bartender wasn't super friendly and you aren't greated when you come in, but that's OK. The drinks made up for it.

  • 5.0 star rating
    1/19/2015

    I had an incredible birthday at Cantina this month! We brought a Vietnamese fare of bahn mi and siracha chips to share and my friends gathered in the upstairs back space. I can't tell you how many of my guests approached me to say what a great space for mingling it was! The staff, led by Brian, was so friendly and accommodating as well! Everyone left happy and tipsy. I can't wait for another opportunity to celebrate at Cantina!

  • 4.0 star rating
    5/4/2014
    1 check-in

    Ohhhh shit. These cocktails are fantastic! If I hadn't been so tired and falling asleep at the bar, I would have sat there all night and tried the entire drink menu. Instead, I only managed to finish one drink (the blackberry basil cooler was super tasty) and take a few sips of another. When did I become so lame?

  • 5.0 star rating
    2/2/2015

    craft cocktails at there finest. Watching the bartenders make drinks was truly impressive. My wife had a Margarita. It was delicious  my buddy had a pisco sour and it was the best he has ever had. Great place.

  • 4.0 star rating
    11/16/2014
    1 check-in

    I'm obsessed with Cantina. It's a small Latin-themed bar with a spectacular drinks menu. Every drink tastes great. The vibe is relaxed and inviting. There's a good crowd. The only thing I can knock them for is that the drinks aren't always consistent depending on which bartender you get. But even then, still haven't had a truly bad drink!

    Definitely recommend.

  • 5.0 star rating
    1/26/2015

    Fantastic drinks. I would come again when in California.

  • 5.0 star rating
    1/20/2015
    1 check-in

    Very well made drinks.
    Tried the pisco sour, mojito, laughing Buddha.
    Love the ambiance as well.  It is dimly lit and cozy.
    An excellent bar overall.

  • 4.0 star rating
    9/19/2014

    For those of us that live in the lower nob hill upper tenderloin tendernob nobbytender thing we know there are no shortage of bars and places to grab a quick bite. The key to making it in this area though is not spending a ton of money in the tourist traps.

    Nestled in by nearby Library Bar and Golden Gate Tap Room. Cantina is a great alternative to the crowded places nearby and refreshingly low key. Love the theme inside with money pasted on the walls. I also haven't seen many bars in the city that have a lot of tequila options. Tequila is a lost alcohol so glad that they know their tequila and will make recommendations depending on what type drink you order. They have margarita options as well as several complex cocktails.

    I haven't seen this much care go into making a cocktail since the equally as fun and inviting local edition a few blocks away. Watching bartenders who know what they are doing is an experience in itself with fresh fruit garnishes and egg whites made right in front of you. It can take a little longer but it is worth the wait when you see the finished products.

    The location itself is actually larger than it looks. You might actually miss this place if you are walking down the street especially across the street. They usually have music playing and a live dj will come out late at night on most nights and play a great r&b or hip hop set. There isn't really much room to dance but the beats will definitely make you want to move your feet.

    The place is really narrow but extends pretty far back once you are inside. It can get crowded in the entry way but you should make your way to the back for extra seating and a lounge area that any one can sit in. I am all for lounges if they are equal opportunity and that's what you get here. Its a kind of place to stop by for that random Tuesday or Wednesday night drink because you always know what you are going to get. It also feels like a locals kind of place. People are loyal to this place and the service shows how much they appreciate that here. Can come here to watch a football game or just relax in the back with someone special. Sometimes its nice not to be bothered by a waiter or be surrounded by a ton of people. Sometimes you just want to get away and hold a fancy cocktail for a while.

    I have never been on a Friday or Saturday night so I am not sure how crazy it can get there but the off nights are worth stopping by for.

  • 4.0 star rating
    5/20/2014
    1 check-in
    Listed in City by the Bay

    The Laughing Buddha is seriously spicy.  At first I thought I'd have trouble drinking it (those serranos give it a pretty hefty kick!) but after a few sips I was really enjoying the most unique cocktail I've had in awhile.  

    Not the best place for a large group (there were eight of us) but a few guys sitting in the back area were nice enough to relocate so we could take over the back area.  Thank you, random strangers!  Quaint place, laid back vibe, and great cocktails.

  • 3.0 star rating
    1/6/2015
    1 check-in

    I want to love this place so much, I really do. Beautiful interior and atmosphere, delicious drinks, and not too overly crowded and chatty where my friends and I couldn't sit and have a comfortable conversation.

    But damn...these bartenders. Just because we are not (yet) rich, successful, middle-aged, classy (although not trashy) ladies and gents does not give you the right to shower us with your uncouth "holier than thou" curtness. Yes, you all are talented, I must say, but please...

    Get. Over. Yourselves.

  • 5.0 star rating
    4/3/2014

    Nice, chic, elegant, quiet -- cool place!

    Have tried the laughing buddha (hanger one buddha's hand citron vodka, crushed ginger, and serrano chiles, ginger brew) and that was pretty tasty. Other favorites are probably the pisco punch (how can you go wrong with that).

    Some places to sit, very dark setting, but very nice. Cool place for a date or to hang with friends.

  • 5.0 star rating
    10/19/2014

    Makes the best pisco punch cocktails in the city! Discovered this place on a cocktail walking tour around Union Square.

    Check out some photos from the experience here:

    eatsporkjew.com/recipes/…

  • 4.0 star rating
    2/27/2014
    1 check-in

    A small spot just off union square that was nice to duck into for a drink before dinner. 3.75 stars

    Highlights:
    - Laughing Buddha: super spicy drink! Like burn your throat spicy, but mixed with citrus and good if you have just one.
    - Daiquiri: the true non-blended kind on happy hour special was good
    - Nice bar: tall shelves with candle lights within it
    - Seating area: long bar up front in the skinny hallway and a cozier area for small groups in the back

    Lowlights:
    - Inconsistency: we got a few rounds and different bartenders made the same drink very differently (ex short stemmed glass chilled vs tall with ice)

    Enjoyed our few rounds here and would come back.

  • 2.0 star rating
    1/5/2015
    2 check-ins

    I was given a mojito with no fresh mint.  Boo.  Everyone else got fresh mint.  I should have refused the drink and walked out!

  • 4.0 star rating
    9/5/2014 Updated review

    Lol at the older review. I actually came back and had a great time. I still think the cocktails are too expensive but the bartenders are really great at mixing off menu stuff. I juts asked for a sour Dillon cocktail and got one of the best drink I've had in the city.

    They should fix the bathroom. It's all the way in the back, looks like a Safeway bathroom, and was disgusting when I went there last month.

    2.0 star rating
    11/15/2012 Previous review
    I went there on a Wednesday and it was pretty packed. Maybe 30 to 45 people... but only one server.… Read more
  • 5.0 star rating
    12/16/2014
    1 check-in

    Awesome service and well crafted cocktails. Hit the downstairs bar if it gets crowded up top.

  • 3.0 star rating
    7/14/2014
    2 check-ins

    Cantina is not a place I would frequent for a night out at a bar. I'm more of a divey/affordable bar type of girl. I like getting drinks around the $4-7 range - difficult to find in SF, but definitely doable.

    Cantina is in the $10-14 per drink range. You pay for the quality. I appreciate that they use fresh fruit and ingredients in their drinks. Definitely makes the drinks more enjoyable and delectable. The spicy drinks are great! The laughing buddha is a gem - serrano chiles, ginger root, and vodka make this drink something special. It's a really fun drink.

    If I could afford it, I would go to Cantina more than just a couple times a year. But I save it for special occasions or when I'm trying to have a classy night out.

    One of the bartenders looks like he hates life and is forced to make drinks. But I can understand how his job takes a lot of concentration and probably involves frustration here and there.

    I've been here on a Friday night around 9 pm and was able to find seating with my 2 girlfriends. It hasn't ever been too packed when I've visited, but I've always gone before 10 pm when bars start to get busy.

    To sum up, Cantina is a classy bar, with quality, freshly made drinks with natural ingredients. It has a modern, young professional vibe that is a perfect place to grab a drink or 2. If you're looking for a cheap divey bar to get drunk, Cantina is not the place.

  • 3.0 star rating
    12/21/2014
    1 check-in

    This place seems like a good spot to grab a cocktail. It gets incredibly crowded, so it's hard to have a conversation at times.

  • 4.0 star rating
    12/10/2013
    1 check-in
    Listed in Bar Scenes

    They shake up their cocktail drinks quite nicely at Cantina!  

    It's a fun bar place to be at if you want to lounge over loud music and tasty cocktails.

    Modern and hip decor.

    If you're looking for a bar hopping experience in this area, this is one of the place recommended to drop by at - well worthy to check out.  Rest assured!

  • 1.0 star rating
    8/18/2014
    1 check-in

    Ugh, what a annoying ass place.  I don't get why people like this kind of crap, but it ain't me.  Overpriced cocktails, the place is way too small, the crappy music is way too loud. and the bulk of the patrons are annoying.  Hey dude, you can't dance, and bumping into me constantly is an easy way to fall down those stairs that I can't see the bottom of.  Yeah, this place isn't my scene.  Y'all can have it.

  • 4.0 star rating
    12/8/2013
    1 check-in

    Went there with my mate on our last night in the US for drinks and had a really good time. They have a full bar and specialise in cocktails, they make very good cocktails actually (one of the better Vesper Martinis I've had), dim (converging towards the darker side) lights, comfy couches and a really relaxed and chilled ambience; I really like it.

    They have an additional area downstairs, which might open later during the night to accommodate a bigger crowd. Cantina is a great spot to hang out or take a date for drinks.

  • 4.0 star rating
    12/2/2013
    3 check-ins

    This place definitely hits the target for a laid back atmosphere, chill crowd and quite good-looking eye candy, great music filtering upstairs and downstairs, and the drinks?? On point.
    What makes this place so awesome? It's the drinks. Definitely makes me want to come back time and time again. Laughing Buddha (reminded me a bit like a moscow mule but subtle with the slice of spicy ginger), good choice of beers and Pisco Punch (my favorite).
    You can sit by the bar or get settled in the small alcove area towards the back or downstairs. I like the dim lighting, cool bartenders, and everything about it lures me back for more. Especially the drinks. Did I mention that part already? Just saying.
    Perfect place for a date, hang out spot, or somewhere to grab an awesome cocktail before heading out to go dancing (The Cellar is nearby), I would highly suggest Cantina!

  • 5.0 star rating
    7/19/2014

    I am a yuppie and I approve of this message: Cantina rocks.  They take drinks seriously.  The decor is great, but it DOES NOT take itself too seriously (I'm looking at you, Novela!!!).  And they have a DJ on Friday nights (and she was good tonight!).

    I was absolutely surprised to have such a great experience in Union Square, ye land o' tourists.  But this place was great.  I actually wonder how many folks here were from out of town... (Though I wouldn't be surprised if most folks drove here).

  • 4.0 star rating
    7/8/2014
    2 check-ins

    A fun place to be! Delicious hand crafted cocktails bursting with awesome freshness and spicy kick! You can't go wrong with a Laughing Buddha because it tastes gingery, spicy and refreshing. Their drinks are always consistent every time. Great price, great music, awesome friendly bartenders! Its cute and cozy! They have awesome drink recipes with fresh ingredients they grab from a fruit bowl at the bar! So yummy I want one now!

  • 5.0 star rating
    12/30/2013
    1 check-in

    Extremely friendly and knowledgable bartenders - check
    Happy hour until 7pm in Union Square?!? - check
    Delicious margaritas and pisco sours - double check

    Will definitely be coming back here for more!