Ace’s Friday, Jun 22 2007 

998 Sutter (415) 673-0644

Prologue: Open “every day from 6am ’til 2am” –so they say — what’s not to like?

Afterword: What a cheerful place to start this admitedly somewhat daunting adventure; Ace’s set the bar perhaps a bit high for “All 4 A’s in One Day Day”. Per force, the visit was ameliorated auspiciously by the appearance of three Barflies, bearing birthday gifts for the Hostess, no less!

Ace’s makes the most of its corner location with walls of windows, which allow one to enjoy the sunshine, should one find oneself there on such a lovely sunny afternoon as we did (who knows what it looks like at night?). It’s obviously a bar with a local clientele, but I certainly felt very welcome, despite never having been there before, and notwithstanding the fact that we were taking so many pictures that we could have been mistaken for <shudder> tourists. There are many large-flat-screen tv’s mounted about for sports viewing, but there is also a jukebox stocked with everything from the Ramones to Willie Nelson. There is some original art on the walls, as well as an apparently compelling mug shot of a very young Frank Sinatra.

Eric was our bartender of record, and Paladin and I were delighted that he already knew that Bloody Marys taste better with lemons than limes. All the mixed drinks he made for the Barflies were tasty and filled to the brim. Four dollar beers and five dollar cocktails confirmed my original suspicion that Ace’s was going to prove to be a stellar start to this sojourn.

Bathroom Biography:
One, unisex, MUCH cleaner than you would think; huge, nice pink lighting (so you will think you look pretty), overwhelming scent of air-freshining product (but in an inarguably good way); plenty of supplies; Bottom line: Do It.

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Amnesia Bar Inc. Friday, Jun 22 2007 

853 Valencia      ~     WEBSITE      ~     (415) 970-0012

Prologue: This place seems a little impressed with itself — when you get their voice mail they actually imply they may be “too busy to answer the phone” — but I’m working on finding out what time they will actually be open on “All 4 A’s in One Day Day”…

Afterword: OK, this place is probably a lot more happening later at night, but it also seems to be more of a performance venue with a bar, than a bar where things are performed, if you know what I mean. Granted, we got there seconds before 6pm — when they allegedly open — but we were basically disuaded from trying to enter by someone setting up for the 7:30 show, which she attempted to assure us was worth staying around in the increasingly cold Mission for.

Thank heaven for the Hostess’ dedication to “All 4 A’s in One Day Day”! And thank Bacchus for Sean, who was tending bar and instantly understood the importance of the Barflies being able to come in and belly up, so to speak. How hilarious, when, after such strife, I asked for a vodka martini — when I had been duly warned during dinner at a taqueria down the street that Amnesia was a beer & wine & <ick> soju only joint. But Sean didn’t kick me out, so I settled for a glass of Voigner, and the Baflies and I sized up the joint.

It’s not exactly spacious. But all the lights are red, so everyone looks their best. And we were witnessing some sort of show setting-up, so we were basically backstage for something (either Klezmer music, a puppet show, or a band — depending on who we asked). A priceless memory was made when one of the evening’s eventual performers came back to our end of the bar and asked, a bit frantically, “did I drop my nose here?” It is not as if you can go just anywhere and hear something like that, after all.

My final analysis of Amnesia is that the bartenders are wonderful. They “GET IT”, and will answer any number of questions you ask. Is it a venue with a bar or a bar with a stage — you should decide for yourself. But I do think you will have a better time there if they are having a show in which you are interested. That is probably why they have the website — to keep out interlopers such as myself and the Barflies. But they were ultimately hospitable, never the less. Which, I must say (pun intended) speaks volumes.

Bathroom Biography:
One for each traditional gender, differentiated by somewhat ambiguous pictures on each door (ladies, walk to the back–what follows applies to ladies’ accommodations only); quite unsavory at first — force necessary to engage lock; soap: implied but not actual; paper towels: strangely very high on the wall (decidely not ADA compliant, in case you manage to get a wheechair in the first place). Bottom line: Wait if Possible.

Arrow, formerly known as. Now dba Matador. Friday, Jun 22 2007 

10 6th Street ~ (415) 252-8043

UPDATE: Arrow closed for 6 months.  Sold and re-opened as Matador in October 2007!

One of the Barflies read something about this a couple weeks ago, and we were in the neighborhood (to see a play, not to buy crack) so we decided to check out the new place.  The landlord has painted over the arrow on the door, but the sign overhead still says “Arrow” (for now at least, there are some kind of issues with changing it going on).  The wierd cave crap is gone, and the lighting in the bathroom is better, but the rest of the bar is pretty damn dark, which is really ok, because the new Latin-esque art behind the bar way up on the wall is not much to look at.  Shari and all the old staff is gone, but the new owners — Evan and Anthony — are super cool.  They let us in even though they weren’t technically open the night we ventured in the unlocked door.  Evan even gave us our first round on the house (always a good thing!).  And they gave us the lowdown on how the Matador came to be…

Evan and Anthony used to run a bar called Gestalt at 16th and Valencia.  They bought the Arrow business from the guy who owned it (and who still owns the Beauty Bar).  Some sprinkler renovation done by the landlord during the six months the place was closed is responsible for getting rid of the cave crap, but Anthony picked the new name.  Perhaps he was influenced by his cute girlfriend, Marisol, a friendly chica who is very passionate about Latin music and we can look forward to her musical selections at Matador.  She played us some songs from her favorite band, Cafe Tacuba, and I have to say, you should check out their music. 

You’ll probably get a chance to do that at Matador’s grand opening bash on Friday 19 October 2007, starting at 9pm.  I think I’ll try and get back there myself.  I need to see if there is an ashtray in effect (although, to be fair, it will probably just be used for needles and broken glass pipes, and a thousand more cigarette butts on that stretch of sidewalk could possibly be an improvement over what one might probably find there if one dared to look).  Also, there is something indeterminate about the actual existence of a way to hightail it out the back that merits further investigation.  And I should ascertain the dog policy before changing that category. 

I tell you, my work carefully chronicling the San Francisco drinking scene is a never-ending story…

 

Valiant attempt to re-visit: 5:00pm Wednesday 21 February 2007

Prologue: Curiouser and curiouser…the phone number is listed elsewhere as 255-7920, yet no one answered either call on a recent Tuesday night. This could be the first closed Bar. Who could have ever imagined it would happen so soon? I may have to schedule the first “B” as a backup (no pun intended) (well, ok, maybe a little intended). You’d better subscribe to this blog to be sure to get the latest updates. Hell, I might even need to check back here to keep up with myself!

Afterword: I had been assured by some trustworthy Barflies that this place was cool. What this place was is closed. There isn’t even a sign. Just a door, with an arrow painted on it. A locked door. This was very annoying. Especially irritating was the fact that I had to run the gauntlet of Crackhead Alley to discover this disappointment. I will attempt to ascertain the operational status of this place before striking it from the list. But the fact that they do not answer the phone leads me to believe that the Arrow, cool as it may have been, was no match for the Crackheads.

Postcript: Our valiant attempt to re-visit Arrow was a smashing success! And I am so pleased to report that it was well worth our diligence. Arrow is the sort of place one likes more the longer one lingers, and linger longer is what Paladin and I definitely did.

I did not think at first that we would be there long at all. My first impression was that the place was extremely dark. Then, they turned out to be out of Ketel One and Grey Goose too. And Dewar’s. Stoli’s and Johnny Walker Red had to do. I checked for hooks, and tried to make sense of the strange faux cave decor. Since the scotches-on-the-rocks at Arrow are much smaller than the full-to-the-brim martinis, I had to ask Paladin to help me finish my drink so that we could get out of there, and that’s when the bartender’s boyfriend got a phone call and she had no one else to talk to, so I introduced myself and told her what we were up to.

Shari loved the idea, and introduced us to her boyfriend, Shane (after his phone call), who just so happens to the manager of the Beauty Bar where we will be going soon (he even gave us tokens for free drinks when we get there — wasn’t that nice?). Shari and Shane were so friendly, we decided to stay and chat with them, and to have more drinks as well, as the night was still young, and the martinis were huge, after all. The four of us (the only people in the Bar for the duration of the Visit, I might mention) conversed convivially about bars, cocktail lounges, dogs (Shane and Paladin actually showed each other the pictures of theirs on their cell phones), hamburgers (if I remember correctly), periodic goings on the wagon, and found out that we have a common acquaintance in drunk Paul of North Beach.

There is no lighter or supply of matches in the Arrow, which prevented Shari from lighting some incense (I think), but when I wished out loud for a flashlight to illuminate the depths of the somewhat ridiculously large purse I bought myself for my birthday, she produced one on the spot. I think that Arrow is that kind of place where cool co-incidences just happen. And I recommend making the effort to try and be around when they are open and checking it out for yourself, especially if Shari is working. I never did figure out what is up with their erratic hours (“some days we have happy hours and some days we don’t” is as specific as Shari ever was on the subject) — or multiple phone numbers that are never answered — but Arrow seems to be more than the sum of its parts, so it’s just as well that some of the details remain a bit murky. It goes with the lighting there.

Bathroom Biography:
I took a peek. One, unisex, oddly configured and even darker than the bar itself, which is probably a good thing. Bottom line: don’t borrow Shari’s flashlight and just hope for the best.

Bacchus Wine Bar Friday, Jun 22 2007 

1954 Hyde ~ (415) 928-2633

5:30pm Wednesday 21 February 2007

(or 6:00pm-ish if Arrow is actually going to start co-operating and be open at 5:00)

Prologue: …or postponed indefinitely, depending on what happens, or not, at Arrow. I really did think I could make it out of the first letter of the alphabet without so much trial and tribulation. Silly me! Anyway, Bacchus is an apparently tiny place, so I did want to get there early in order to secure a barstool, but I appear to be at the mercy of Arrow at this point, so it’s anyone’s guess where I will be and when I will be there. If Arrow is still padlocked at 5:00, I suppose I will just head for Bacchus anyway, since I can always go back there again if Arrow ever decides to open its doors and I need to have a do-over for the sake of the whole alphabetical order on which I am the one insisting, after all.

Afterword: Elated by our alphabetical triumph at Arrow, but hopelessly late according to the advertised timetable (this is going to be a persistent problem, I can tell), we could not have gone directly to a more diametrically opposed Bar to Arrow than Bacchus.

It’s as tiny as they say, and then some. But in a jewelbox way. It’s lovely and inviting and I was instantly delighted to be there. It’s really so enchanting that you may very well feel extra-especially suave settling into one of the somewhat strange barstools. I certainly did. There were only a few other patrons on that Wednesday evening, which added to my enjoyment since I do not actually like people. If the place was packed, I am sure it would be much less pleasant. At least for me.

It ain’t cheap, either. But they take credit cards, so who cares? I had a $10 glass of some Pinot or another, but a better deal is the Cool Red flight that Paladin wisely ordered, at $13. The music was super groovy — and it turned out that what was playing was a CD called “Bacchus Chilled Wine volume 1”, which you can buy like I did, if you are so inclined.

Bacchus is where I decided that any bartender’s good side can be detected by divulging the details of Bars By The Book (of course it is very early in the proceedings, so it may well be too soon to say, but the first bartender who proves me wrong here is going to be very disappointing, to say the least). Sy seemed stand-offish from the get-go, but when I told him why we were there, his French haughtiness was decidely mellowed. (In Sy’s defense, I think that Paladin initially asked him if he was German, which would have been undstandably annoying to a Frenchman.) And Sy made sure I realized that Bacchus acually does have hooks, despite my certainty that there were none (you just have to really look — they’re there). As to dogs, there is a caveat: purse-sized only, preferably French (bien sur!).

Bathroom Biography
One, unisex. Gloriously gleaming! Almost as large (or small) as the Bar itself. Teriffic tiling and a gorgeous mirror. Soap: out, but the overall ambiance is so appealing that you won’t even mind. Bottom line: Do It (even if you don’t think you have to — at least go check your hair and makeup).

Black Horse London Pub, The Friday, Jun 22 2007 

1514 Union ~ WEBSITE ~ (415) 928-2414

Easter Sunday afternoon 8 April 2007

Prologue: What better way to follow the Big Wheel Races down Lombard Street than a visit to a pub in the vicinity? (Take a taxi if you want, but rumor has it Wanda is going to be there and she likes to walk. What the hell – thanks to global warming, it’s bound to be a beautiful day.) And what more festive Easter fare can there be but pastrami sandwiches? I’m really looking forward to drinking at The Black Horse London Pub. Not only do the proprietors understand that definite articles are not to be included in alphabetization (always a good sign) but it is purportedly the smallest Bar in San Francisco (7 x 19 feet — can you imagine it?!?). As if those weren’t reasons enough to drink there, they also have their own Rules (which they call “Tenets” and looky at the first one: “Thou Shall give priority seating to all Women in the Bar. (If you need further explication, please see “Exit.”)” — does this place scream “Grenadine” or what?

Afterword: The afternoon began with a quite a bang at the Big Wheel Races, which I am not even going to try to describe here because, let’s face it, either you were there and you know there really aren’t words to do them justice (especially if you saw the guy in the kilt wipe out at the end of the last race, let’s just say he was wearing his attire – ahem – traditionally), or you weren’t there, and really, you should have been.  Anyway, The Black Horse London Pub is a pleasant stroll away from the curvy part of Lombard Street, and Wanda and I sauntered there, as planned, marvelling all the way that we managed to locate each other in the masses at the races,  speculating as to whether their greatness will translate on YouTube, and wondering if The Black Horse London Pub was really going to be open on Easter Sunday…

Which it was.  And there was already a regular there (hi Allen!).  We introduced ourselves to the bartender, whose name is Dave, which is always a good sign for me because all the guys named Dave I have ever met have been nice ones (Allen says watch out for Georges, though).  This particular Dave is also adorable, I might add.  He introduced us to Allen and proceeded to apologize for the small selection of beers available that afternoon.  (Apparently the previous evening had depleted the ususal inventory.)  Since all they sell is beer (ok, and cider), it didn’t matter to me that they only had four varieties, because, as some of us agreed later, beer is pretty much beer (you had to be there, this was positively profound at the time). 

It is definitely, as advertised, the smallest bar in San Francisco.  While the pastrami sandwiches are apparently some sort of myth,  they do serve nice cheese plates.  And then, there are the calendars (go and ask to see them).  The most striking thing about The Black Horse London Pub, though, is how much Fun fits into such a small space.  I am talking physics-defying here.  I could not believe what a good time I was having, drinking beer of all things, talking to people (which, if you know me, you know I profess to pretty much dislike in most instances). 

Wanda said at some point, “This place is like Cheers,” to which I replied, “Only better.”  What I can’t put my finger on is the question of whether only cool, fun people go to The Black Horse London Pub, or do all people become magically transformed into cool, fun people when they walk in the door?  What I do know for certain is that everyone who was there on Sunday was cool and fun, and friendly, and downright jolly, and I didn’t even care that all they sell is beer (ok, and cider).  

Of course, meeting Shakes didn’t hurt.  He’s another regular, and was having some moving disaster, and like any intelligent, right-minded individual after my own heart, he decided the best thing to do was to head to a pub for a drink.  Dave introduced us and when I told him about Bars By The Book, he wiped an imaginary tear from his eye and said something to the effect that it was the most beautiful thing he had ever heard of, which is a much better response than the usual “why?” or “are you serious?” I typically get.  He signed up on the spot and I may or may not have fallen completely in love with him for at least that moment.  He bought Wanda and I a round of drinks, and I’m looking forward to helping him find a local favorite Bar in his new neighborhood.  Not to mention the fact that he’s in the 2007 calendar (you need to go and ask to see them, trust me), and he promised to autograph mine (whenever The Black Horse London Pub gets around to printing them out this year) — Shakes is indeed a most welcome new Barfly (hi Shakes!).  

Shakes finally decided to it was time to go and finish dealing with his moving woes.  And Wanda and I were getting around to leaving, too, but then Dave’s parents showed up to bring him Easter dinner, so of course we had to stay a little longer to chat with them.  They were just as cool and fun as everyone else there.  Dave’s mom even said if she had known that people would actually be there on Easter Sunday, she would have brought enough food for everyone (and I am not making this up).  It was a good thing we stuck around, because we got to meet James, too (hi James, are you still keeping an eye on me?). 

The Black Horse London Pub was a great place to spend Easter evening.  It’s a great place to spend any evening, really, and I plan on spending some more there.  After all, I’ll have to pick up my calendar…

As if the Big Wheel Races, and The Black Horse London Pub, and kickin’ it with Wanda wasn’t enough to make that Sunday the Best Easter Ever, wiat ’til you hear what an adventure befell me on the way home! (See the Various Marginalia page’s entry about The # 1 California bus for details — and no, I was not drinking on the bus, which is not to say I never do…)

Bathroom Biography:
One (obviously!).  Small (even more obviously), but surprisingly not the smallest I have seen (go figure!).  There’s a metal box of some sort on the wall that apparently poses some hazzard to tall (or drunk?) people, because there is a warning written on it to watch your head, but I didn’t feel the least bit menaced.  Getting to the bathroom might be tricky if there is a dart game going on (yes, there is a dart board, which is incongruous to say the least).  Bottom line: go for it — as all they serve is beer (ok, and cider), you’re sure to need to pee, and you’ll get to meet everyone at that end of the bar on your way.

Casanova Lounge Wednesday, Dec 27 2006 

527 Valencia ~ WEBSITE ~ (415) 863-9328

4:15 pm Sunday 24 June 2007

Prologue: I’ve been here before, too. Paladin and I ducked in here after the Official Visit to Bar Tartine, so he could get a real drink (i.e. scotch). But I just noticed that Casanova Lounge is the third Bar in a row That Is Also A Cocktail Lounge. That is somewhat stunning, no? Well, I think it is. And I’ll be bringing my fresh perspective to this typically Mission-y dark (but red!), dive-ish (yet vaguely hipster-leaning) Bar this Saturday (or Sunday, as was the case)! So you know: cash only and no ATM on the premises, which means bring money.

To clarify: you will find me at Casanova Lounge at or around 4:15 pm Sunday 24 June. This way I can take advantage of their happy hour ($1.00 off all drinks) from 4 – 7, and maybe some of my new bartender friends can make it (what do you say, y’all?) While the recent cyber-chaos on this ridiculous blog has left me needing the kind of night on the town that will most definitely require the better part, if not all, of at least an entire Sunday during which to recuperate, I remember what a nice Sunday afternoon some of us whiled away at Ace’s at the beginning of this adventure, and I think that sort of mellow merriment is more what I should aim for. Sorry for the persistent uncertainty, but as Chica Cherry suggested, perhaps choosing a graduate school wiped out my decision-making abilities for the forseeable future.

Afterword: Well, it turns out that Casanova Lounge is more orange than red, which you can tell if you are there on a sunny afternoon like I was. Also, despite their website stating that they do not have an ATM on the premises, there is, in fact, an ATM inside the Bar itself, right next to the door. There’s even a window, where you can enjoy the sunny vista (unless a large biker is already perched at the high table there, waiting for his boyfriend). Casanova Lounge does have the jukebox they tout-muchly on their website (more about that in a bit) and they also have not one — but four — comfy leather sofas past the bar in the back, plus another one on a small stage, so it would be a good place to arrange to meet someone you wanted to cuddle up next to for some alcohol-feuled public displays of affection. Believe you me, as the minutes ticked past and Marquise Marie did not appear, ringing up Jonny-Georgia occurred to me more than once.

Yes, I was there to meet my long-lost friend the Marquise. I was so looking forward to our happy reunion, that I didn’t even mind when my initial survey of Casanova Lounge revealed the somewhat distressing fact that the place has no back exit. By which I mean, if one were there enjoying a Long Island Iced Tea and a police officer or two were to come in looking for someone to wrongly arrest and falsely imprison, one would have to hope that they would choose another patron to harass, because there would be no way to make a run for it, so to speak, without accomplishing the highly unlikely feat of getting past the cops and then out the front door. This purely hypothetical musing has prompted a new category: “The Bars Where One Can Hightail It Out the Back”. This category does not appear at present, because a category must have an applicable post before it shows up, but I will continue to seek such an important feature in subsequent establishments and let you know where I find it. (After all, this is the sort of thing some people might find very useful to know when deciding on a Bar.)

Anyway, I got to Casanova Lounge just after they opened, so the place was pretty empty (aforementioned biker notwithstanding). I sat at the bar, confirmed hooks (and an unpleasant amount of gum), and ordered a Long Island Iced Tea (entirely co-incidental to the previous mention of this drink, I assure you). The bartender mixed me something that was tasty enough, but bore little resemblance to a glass of several different alcohols mixed with just enough Coke to pass as a glass of iced tea — which is the pretty much the point of this particular cocktail — but it was a sunny day, I was meeting Marquise Marie, and I was at a Bar, so I didn’t let this bother me.

What did start to bother me was the funky way the bar area smelled. Now I know Casanova Lounge is basically a dive bar in the Mission, and it was Sunday so the place was bound to be showing some wear and tear from the wild weekend, but an unpleasant odor is not what I want to experience from any barstool. So I was kicking it on one of the couches when Marquise Marie finally arrived.

Truth be told, we were so giddy about catching up with each other, really, we could have been anywhere. Even when a pretty below-average dj unplugged the allegedly legendary jukebox and started playing his uninspired set, we didn’t care too much. Friendship trumps sloppy drinks and crappy music every time. We barely noticed the funky lights and painting of mostly naked women on the walls. I must say, though, Casanova Lounge is really not the best Bar in which to while away an afternoon — Sunday, sunny, or otherwise. Much better spots for that would be Ace’s, Bloom’s Saloon, or of course The Black Horse London Pub. But if you are in the Mission at night, with a thirst for something liquor-ish, the Casanova Lounge will suffice. Especially if you have in tow someone you’d like to canoodle and there’s couch space available when you pop your head in. Unless, of course, you are — or have reason to suspect you might potentially be caused to be — on the lam, given the lack of an exit via which you can hightail it out the back, should this be necessary.

Bathroom Biography:
The bars on the windows pretty much preclude them as emergency exits. Other than that, the adjective that is most fitting is “desultory”. While there are worse bathrooms in other Bars, these just don’t match the aesthetic of the front of the house. An effort at some sort of decoration really should be made.

Chelsea Place Wednesday, Dec 27 2006 

641 Bush ~ (415) 989-2524

6:00pm Friday 13 July 2007

Prologue: Not much in the way of Great Expectations for Chelsea Place. It’s apparently a dive Bar, so I probably won’t be wearing my tiara. But this seems like a good place to draw your attention to Bars By The Book first Official Footnote (look over on the left, below the calendar). The Footnotes section is for links I think are especially pertinent (the WordPress links are there by default, and I figured I might as well leave them there since they are hosting this ridiculous blog for free and all), and I am sure we can all agree that The Museum of the American Cocktail deserves some sort of honorable mention on Bars By The Book’s sidebar. Check it out! It’s a museum devoted to cocktails! What a fabulous institution — knowing that there is such a place makes me feel like there is hope for civilization after all. While the Gift Shoppe does not sell shot glasses, I’ll be keeping my eye on these fine folks. They are obviously on same page as I am, and now they’re on this page, too! Do come and join me at Chelsea Place — I’m hoping to have some good news about my morning at the DMV to celebrate (notwithstanding it being Friday the 13th and all).

Afterword: “A new low in Bars By The Book,” proclaimed Paladin (mind you, this was as he began his second scotch). I think he was being a little harsh. OK, so the place is basically a total dive, but it doesn’t pretend to be anything else.  And it’s got a contingent of regulars, so it’s obviously fine for some folks — menfolks only perhaps, judging from the demographics during The Official Visit, but if there can be “chick flicks” surely there can be “boy bars”.  Besides, it was a gloriously sunny afternoon and I had triumphed over the DMV (where there is some alarming Indian-outsourcing going on that certainly bears some serious scrutiny…). It was hard to be grumpy, even if I subsequently spent the rest of the day waiting for the trunk of my car to be fixed to the tune of just under $130.00, but I decided to consider that as a learning experience. I mean, did you know that a trunk even could break? I didn’t. Until today.  So now we all know: trunks of cars can in fact break (and if the car in question is a VW Jetta, apparently you can depend on this to occur).  Anyway, being out the trunk fixing funds and having used up a bunch of leave time from work, I was still not ready to condemn Chelsea Place as being appreciably worse than, say, The Annex.

Then again, the DMV success story and balmy weather might have been to blame for my uncharacteristic feeling of good will toward an overall admitedly pretty icky place. We probably wouldn’t have stuck around for a second round, but Chica Cherry was on her way, and getting another Bar credit for a Barfly seemed like a good enough reason to tough it out for a while longer. Even if the smokers in the door were causing the whole Bar to reek like cigarette smoke. To an unprecedented degree, even. Glancing at the door, it didn’t seem crowded enough with smokers to account for the amount of smokiness in the Bar. That’s when I realized an astonishing fact: people in the Bar were smoking. And not just one of them.  At least three, maybe more.  It was so smoky, it was hard to tell. And at least one very old person down at the end of the bar was smoking a cigar. I tell you, it was surreal

I had to know how this was possible (you know how I am). I was careful to just seem innocently curious (as opposed to shocked, shocked and judgemental), and it seems as though that’s just the way it is at Chelsea Place.  A regular (whose name I failed to write down and so I cannot recall for you here)  gave me the scoop.  He also enlightened me as to the existence of a vast network of Korean-owned bars — Chelsea Place being one of them — spread all over San Francisco where petite Korean women tend bar and pour drinks for men like him who prefer to frequent these certain bars.  This man and his friends call their bar crawls among these establishments “doing the Ho Chi Minh Trail (which is pretty tragic considering that the Ho Chi Minh Trail refers to a network of trails through eastern Laos and Cambodia into South Vietnam and has nothing to do with Korea, but whatever).  I don’t know if smoking is somehow inexplicably permitted in those other Korean-owned bars, but I was beginning to get a sort of an unsettlingly racist, if not de facto lecherous, vibe from what’s-his-name, which was bumming me out because he seemed quite nice and friendly — if geographically challenged — otherwise.

I decided to get the bathroom inspection out of the way so we could beat it once Chica Cherry finally showed up and downed her qualifying drink. That’s when things got really interesting, and by interesting, I mean: disgusting. To begin with, in order to get to the restrooms, you have to wind your way down a precarious staircase straight out of the Winchester Mystery House.  Then, upon successfully negotiating the stairs, you find yourself confronted with the most desultory lavatories (I checked — the men’s is just as bad as the ladies’).  Cramped quarters, and the wierdly split toilet space from sink is bad enough.  But it’s the smell that is the real problem.  And I don’t mean the usual dive bar aroma of poorly maintained washrooms.  Chelsea Place’s bathrooms smell like the decaying remains of at least a hundred years of what is either rats — or cats that have eaten rats — that have died in the walls.  I couldn’t get out of there fast enough, but the going up the stairs isn’t any than the coming down them…

What a relief it was to see Chica Cherry when I emerged from the subterrainian unpleasantness.  And what an unexpected delight to see she had shanghaied Dug the Slug into joining us (hi, Dug!).  Paladin couldn’t take it anymore and went a few doors down to investigate if it was worth moving our collective selves to the Tunnel Top, and Dug and Chica signed my copy of the petition to get John Rinald’s name on the ballot for mayor of our fair city while finishing their qualifying round. Then Chica Cherry snapped a couple of Official Pictures of Dug and I and we headed down the street, where Paladin was valliantly attempting to order us drinks through a crowd that was four deep at the bar in the Tunnel Top — which is not a Bar, it’s a Cocktail Lounge.  It’s also infinitley nicer than Chelsea Place, so if you find yourself in a thirsty mood and on the 600-block of Bush Street, you should definitley opt for the top of the tunnel.  We had a rollicking good time there, and I got a bunch of signatures on my petition, which apparently I enjoyed more than Mr. Rinaldi, who had to resort to paying to get his name on the ballot, after whining about how “hard” signature collection is, and whose campagin has since devolved into I’m not quite sure what, so Bars By The Book has withdrawn our endorsement of Mr. Rinaldi.  The Hostess is now planning to write in the name Paul Addis as the mayor of her choice in November and urges you to do so, too, because yes, she would rather have an arsonist in that office than either someone who would sleep with his best friend’s wife or someone who is only trying to get matching funds for his next performance. Call me contrary. I’ll take it as a compliment.

Bathroom Biography:
See above.  Enough said.

Danny Coyle’s Wednesday, Dec 27 2006 

668 Haight ~ (415) 558-8375

5:30pm Thursday 27 December 2007

Prologue:  I have this crazy theory that if I can get out of the “C” Bars before this crappy year ends, then 2008 will be a better set of 12 months for me.  Perhaps it’ll be downright dandy.  So Nora Charles and I are going to Danny Coyle’s to have our welcome home party from our Oliver’s Twisted Christmas (provided we survive that extravaganza).  I have my doubts that we’ll be up for too much more than propping up the bar by then, but Thursday is the only night Danny Coyle’s doesn’t have some wacky theme night.  Plus, it’s a “college bar” and school’s out, so mabye some grown-ups will venture in from the neighborhood and buy us drinks.  That’s the plan, at least.  We’ll see how it goes…

Delaney’s Bar Wednesday, Dec 27 2006 

2241 Chestnut ~ (415) 931-8529

4:30pm Saturday 26 January 2008

Prologue: ‘Aye, another Irish pub. This town is riddled with them, apparently. Hell, I just celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. day in one (not on our list) with Nora Charles (the pre-cocktail hour cocktails actually being her idea — brilliant Irish lass that she is). Well, let’s see how this one compares, shall we? Come and weigh in on whether or not “The Bars That Are Irish Pubs” ought to be a feature The Hostess tracks for you. Just please try not to fall off your bar stool in shock: I’ve switched to Manhattans for duration of this frosty cold spell … (at least until I can find a bartender who knows how to make a Sazerac without asking me what is in one, although it suddenly occurs to me that Michael might be just such a bartender — and he works not that far from Delaney’s — should their own bartenders fail to satisfy this Sazerac Attack by which I have been quite, if inexplicably, seized recently). And speaking of brown-hued drinks, The Hostess has finally come across a “w—pedia” version she can actually endorse. I’m reserving the right to be skeptical as to the site’s authoritativeness, but I applaud their concept. Enjoy!

Ms Olive Says:
January 25, 2008 at 3:31 am edit

  1. Ugh! I am going to Blackwells to taste wines from the Rhone! Can’t we make it Sunday? Sorry i don’t mean to winnnne but somebody has got to leave some comments.

Unfortunately, no, Ms Olive. The Hostess has to go investigate a new San Francisco live music venue on Sunday with her tragically un-hip, smooth-jazz friends. (Someone has to go along to add some semblance of classiness to this jaunt!) Enjoy your wine-tasting, though, dear. I’ll make sure the Barflies intrepid enough to brave the downpour (& the Marina zip code) on Saturday drink a toast to you…

Afterword:  Wow.  As a fine fellow named Dave who spends a lot of time at Delaney’s Bar pointed out, it’s a very un-Marina Bar that just happens to be located smack dab in the middle of the Marina.  We got ourselves a new Barfly (hi, Malvolio!).  There was much merriment and copious drinking.  There was free popcorn.  And then The Hostess noticed the brass pole inexplicably extending from the floor to the ceiling at a corner opposite the bar.  If you weren’t there, you’ll just have to wait to hear exactly what happened next, but if you are among those who have heard the rumor about The Hostess’ days as a certain kind of dancer in Tucson, you can probably guess what ensued …

Double Dutch Wednesday, Dec 27 2006 

3192 16th ~ (415) 503-1670

6:00pm Wednesday 27 February 2008

Prologue: As part of my continued (and, it must be said, quite valiant) effort to make Bars By The Book accessible to the greatest number of Barflies in the most geographically desirable fashions, the Official Visit to Double Dutch has been scheduled with the next Bar in mind. Please excuse the short notice, but really, if The Hostess can keep up with herself, how difficult can this actually be? Double Dutch is probably not going to a place for lingering, so get there early if you are planning on dropping by, or you risk missing out on whatever other bar(s) to which I may subsequently abscond. Oh, and please make a note of noting Double Dutch’s smoking refuse receptacle status if you do venture there — I’ve been a bit lax about verifying this vital bit of Bar information lately, and you know how I loathe an incomplete database!

Afterword: Pardon the to wait for the full review, but I had to at least try to do the place justice. Allow me to say, unequivocally and for the record, that Double Dutch may very well be my new favorite Bar. In fact, I am seriously considering spending every Sunday evening there from now on, as soon as I get a chance. (Brian and Darin — see you soon & xo!)

Have you ever walked into a bar and thought to yourself that this was where you were supposed to be all along? Well, this has happened to The Hostess a couple of times, although I’ve always wound up let down in the end — by a change of ownership, a rise in drink prices and infestation of the insufferable, etc. My delight upon walking into Double Dutch, then, can only be characterized as the triumph of hope over experience. Yes, like a third marriage. But I don’t care. The fact that I can still get a thrill like I did when I walked into Double Dutch means I am not as jaded a cynic as I purport to be. That is, apparently, perhaps.

Double Dutch is also the perfect example of what is wrong with that stupid yelp-y website (and no, I am NOT going to link to it, for crissakes!). If you were to waste your time and read the yelping about Double Dutch, you would think that the place is a total dive with a disgusting bathroom. Ergo, you would be tragically misinformed. Double Dutch is, in point of fact, completely darling and there is nothing whatsoever wrong with the bathrooms.

There are really only three things wrong with Double Dutch:

  1. Parking is a bi-atch (hardly Double Dutch’s fault).
  2. The Bar is currently one That Promotes Littering (but Brian, the bartender, is commendably irked by this and Darin, the owner, has promised to look into the kinds of retro-tastic smoking refuse receptacles recently seen — and appreciated — at Deco Lounge and Deluxe Club).
  3. While agreeably open seven days a week, the Double Dutch doors are locked until 5:00pm each and every one of those days, which means this Bar is actually only open at night, and completely precludes my whiling away Sunday afternoons here, which should be against the law, if you ask me.

Now, let me tell you about all the things at Double Dutch that are right…to begin with, there are hooks, and they are nicely illuminated. Speaking of lighting, there are divinely funky neon chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. You can also bring a dog with you (at least, you can if you are the owner). There’s a long, inviting bar running down the left of the space, and banquette seating along the right side that is vaguely reminiscent of a bygone era (or two). How else to explain my being struck by the following notion out of nowhere: you know how those crazy kids on “Beverly Hills, 90210” cobbled a bar they called “After Dark” onto their Peach Pit Diner high school hangout when they got to be old enough to drink legally? Well, Double Dutch seems like the sort of bar that Arthur “Herbert” Fonzarelli might have tacked on to Arnold’s Drive-In Restaurant after he got his G.E.D. Or maybe I was just in a giddy mood because I had found a parking space, but I don’t think so…

For one thing, the rumored re-appearance of Marquise Marie on the Barfly radar rapidly proved to have been a ruse. The Hostess, then, was at a Bar by herself, again. Sigerson evinced zero interest in gallantly gallivanting a few blocks to rescue me from sipping solitarily (although, to be fair, he had already done just that a mere six days ago). All other usual suspects had been so put off by the yelp-ing drones that the possibility of their dropping by Double Dutch never even existed. Well, thank goodness for my own resolve to see this quest through — and for the friendly demeanor of a bartender named Brian (hi, Brian!) — or no one would ever know the extent of the simple pleasures to be had at this Bar.

I told Brian what I was up to. I gave him a card. It is a true measure of how much I enjoyed Double Dutch on its own merits that I wasn’t put off when free drinks didn’t ensue. Instead, I learned that their Happy Hour is from 5 – 7 each evening, when beers are $1 cheaper and liquor is doubly discounted. Every night there are dj’s starting at 10:00pm, except on Tuesdays, when there is a painter-in-residence whose paintings you can purchase on the spot — as soon as the paint has dried — if the mood strikes you. As if all this weren’t enough for such a pretty small Bar to have going on, on Sundays, all Hangar One drinks are only $5.00!!! That’s right: Hangar One and anything-you-can-fit-in-a-glass for five bucks! (You can see, now, of course, why I am so dejected that they don’t open until 5:00pm…)

As I was getting the scoop on Double Dutch, Darin (the aforementioned proprietor) sidled over and Brian introduced us. We both wondered out loud why we looked so familiar to each other. Well, it turns out that Darin used to work at Hangar One, of all places, and we deduced that he must have been there the afternoon I spent visiting that delightful distillery in Alameda. This bit of Darin’s resume also explains Double Dutch’s great vodka selection (and its being Hangar One heaven on Sundays). After convincing Darin to seriously consider correcting the Promotion of Littering outside of the premises, I was thoroughly smitten with the place (and that was before I noticed the Lite Brite sign behind the bar — various varieties of vodkas and happy childhood toy memories, too? — straight up Bar bliss!)

I felt so comfortable and relaxed in the friendly environs that I really didn’t want to tear myself away. Alas, the absconding I alluded to above was imminent, and time was of the essence if Brian was going to have any sunlight left to illuminate the Official Photo. The Hostess can’t wait to get back to Double Dutch, with or without you…

Bathroom Biography:
There are two, both unisex, which should cut down nicely on lines for the ladies. The one I used was pristine. The walls are painted black, and then intentionally and artfully completely graffitied with day-glo paint. So much so that if a vandal wanted to add to the melange, it wouldn’t be worth the effort because nothing would stand out on the kaleidoscopic walls. The sink is small, but elegantly situated in the corner, leaving more room to maneuver in the small space. The hand dryer is an absolute modern engineering marvel — it literally blows the water off your hands (hold onto your rings!). Bottom line: go for it & yelp-schmelp.