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.

Bar Tartine Friday, Jun 22 2007 

561 Valencia ~ WEBSITE ~ (415) 487-1600

6:00pm Tuesday 6 March 2007

Prologue: I believe this place is not exactly spacious. Perhaps it is not as tiny as the first “B”, but nevertheless I do not suspect that is is large. Their spartan website certainly does not suggest a sprawling establishment. I also have the impression that the restaurant is very popular, so my strategy is to get in when they open so as to secure a spot at what I suspect is going to turn out to be a smallish bar-scape. Of course, we all know that size doesn’t (necessarily) matter, so I am going to sally forth and suss out what there is to be sussed at Bar Tartine. I’m also going to be trotting out the new Bars Bar The Book Business cards, so if you want one, you know where to find me. Oh, and Paladin thinks it’s a beer & wine only bar, so make of that what you will. After my own over-indulgence in vodka-redbulls at the Flambe Lounge party on Saturday night, I suppose could use a night off the hard stuff, so to speak.

Afterword: I was right — Bar Tartine is small.  And they only serve wine (so Paladin was half-right).  Furthermore, Bar Tartine is more of a restaurant with a bar in it at which you are encouraged to eat (sliverware, plates, and napkins are already set out) than a bar in the traditional sense where food also happens to be served.  In fact, long and inviting white marble counter with barstools (and hooks!) notwithstanding, it is truly mystifying that Bar Tartine is listed in The Book under “Bars” at all yet not at all under “Restaurants”. 

I can only conclude they are trying to keep the place somewhat under wraps.  This would also explain the lack of their having any sign outside whatsoever.  Let’s just say this: unless you are looking for Bar Tartine specifically, or unless you are wierdly attracted to flickering candlelight in a mothlike manner, I don’t think you are going to end up there.

Which is sort of too bad, really, becasue Bar Tartine is a very charming spot.  The aforementioned candlelight is augmented by a pair of very decorative sconces behind the bar.  While noticeably not necessarily thrilled that only half of us were going to be eating, our server was nonetheless pleasant enough and kept the non-dining Barflies plied with mini loaves of deliciously warm bread (presumeably the product of the bakery side of the Tartine operation which, if it is nearby, is a similarly incognito establishment).  There are plenty of wines available by the glass — even a decent pink one — the menu looked interesting, and the dishes sampled by the (lucky!) Barflies on their way to the One Man Star Wars show were all apparently quite tasty.  In short, if you are in the Mission and in the mood for some wine, a little romantic ambiance, and a bite (or more) to eat, Bar Tartine will do nicely, especially if it is early in the evening.  They did seem to be filling up quickly as we were leaving, and indeed Chica Cherry told me she had been disappointed in a previous drop-in attempt.

Speaking of whom, Chica Cherry says she is having no troubles whatsoever seeing the latest RSS feeds from this blog with her Firefox browser subscription.  And Miss Olive, who had never heard of RSS before I ranted and raved about it at Ace’s on “All 4 A’s in One Day Day”, says she followed the instructions provided on the “What the Hell is RSS?” page and encountered not a moment’s difficulty subscribing via Bloglines, where she has been reading all about the latest Bars By The Book developments ever since.  So, if you are one of the people who I have heard rumors of who has been unsucessful in subscribing to the feed, please plan to come to “THE NEXT BAR!” so that I can explain it to you in person.  Or e-mail me, and I will send you more detailed directions.   Please.  I’m asking nicely.  Don’t make me beg. 

Bathroom Biography:
One, unisex, candles in there, too.  One corner dominated by a large floral arrangement, which, on the occasion of my visit, consisted of lovely lillies to which I am particularly allergic, but as I managed to avoid anaphylactic shock, perhaps someone had been thoughtful enough to remove the pollen from the petals.  Bottom line: do it — you can get a better glimpse into the open kitchen from the door, and maybe one of the chefs will be cute.

Bus Stop Friday, Jun 22 2007 

1901 Union ~ WEBSITE ~ (415) 567-6905

8:00pm Friday 25 May 2007

 Prologue: Their website is SUPER ANNOYING. Do not click on the link to it unless you want to be directed to a page that plays music which you cannot turn off and is not very informative, at that. (Oh, well, it’s a Bar in the Marina, so what else can you really expect besides a dose of obnoxiousness?) On the plus side of things, the Bus Stop is the first Bar That Is Also a Cocktail Lounge, which is certainly something worth noting. It is also the last Bar that starts with a “B”.  So really, why would you not check it out with me…? 

You might also consider reading Mark Morford’s reflection on excessive drinking beforehand.  I can’t decide if he is pro or con (or has just given up on deciding) in his conclusion, but I do enjoy his prose. And it’s a nice reminder that maintaining the ability to remain upright is essential to say, any “artistic adventure considerably illuminated by champagne” (which is a phrase that appears on the first page of a book called  “Babbitt” by Sinclair Lewis that is otherwise a terrible waste of time so don’t bother reading it because this phrase is the best part of the book, trust me). 

Afterword:  Let me begin this little synopsis by apologizing for taking so long to write it.  I am well aware of the first rule of ridiculous blogging: “update, update, update” — but what can I say?  I wanted to wait until I had time to write something worthy of my Bus Stop experience (and I have been nursing a broken toe — more or less — keep reading).

Paladin and I took the bus to the Bus Stop, because I am nothing if not a propos.  I was excited as I always am on the threshold of “THE NEXT BAR!”, but I do have to admit that my initial impression was somewhat less-than-enthusiastic.  This did not phase me in the least, of course, because I was expecting a pretty stereotypical Marina (and therefore largely unpleasant) hangout, so the fact that the Bus Stop seemed only about 50% stereotypical Marina clientele was actually a plus.  You see, the Bus Stop is actually not a “Marina bar”.  It’s really one of the oldest bars in San Francisco (est. 1900) and what it is is a neighborhood Bar that just happens to be in the neighborhood of the Marina (of course Paladin will debate semantics with you for hours between what is the Marina vs. what constitutes Cow Hollow, but come on, what is the difference, these days, hair-gel-wise?).  What this means is that there are stereotypical Marina-types in there, but at least half the people there are from the neighborhood from well before the designation “Marina” took on its dot-bomb negative connotations, so once you settle in and realize this, you will calm down about the fact that people might be looking at you a little funny, because if you are not from the Marina (or Cow Hollow), they are just wondering what you are doing there, that’s all.

Which is to say that the Bus Stop did not immediately strike me as a destination spot.  What the Bus Stop also happens to be is a sports bar — with 22 tv screens of various sizes all turned to sports and a back room full of pool tables.  So if you want to see sports, I suppose you might head there from elsewhere on purpose, but that’s not why I go to Bars, is it?  So I can’t assess the Bus Stop from the perspective of a sports bar afficinado.

But I can (oh, and I will!)  assess the Bus Stop from a Barfly perspective and as it turns out, the main reason I didn’t like the Bus Stop more immediately is because I allowed myself to be seduced by their window seats, which are bright (being in the windows and all) and do have railings just wide enough to balance a drink on, and even have the same stools as the bar, but I had separation anxiety from the bartender as soon as I had turned my back on him to look out the window and let’s face it, the bar is always the best place to be. 

So when the 25-somethings thronging the bar cleared out to go and peer at the rest of us from their peripheral tables, we moved to the middle of the bar and I instantly felt much more at home.  It is possible this was occasioned, at least in part, to the arrival of the newest Barfly, Scotty, who had ventured blocks (blocks!) outside of his usual drinking zone and obviously needed The Hostess to create the illusion of the familiar if he was going to make it through the requisite Drink.  But meeing Ron, the bartender, was also definitely a factor in the merriment which ensued.  (And I don’t even think I ever got around to telling him the fascinating fact that the Bus Stop is the first Bar In The Book that is also a Cocktail Lounge!)

While Scotty was being miffed by the presense of the creepy guy at the end of the bar with the terrible pick-up lines (he actually asked me if I was his new belly dance instructor, if you can even believe it!) — who has already been 86-ed from where you can otherwise find Scotty enjoying a vodka concoction — and Paladin disappeared outside on the premise of taking a suspiciously long phone call (that could have easily been four cigarettes in a row), I remained calm by focusing on the example Ron set by his sublime equanimity when I explained Bars By The Book to him.  He didn’t bat an eye.  He didn’t seem to care.  He served a bunch of other people their drinks and then, without seeming to have paid any mind whatsoever to what I had told him about the Bus Stop being the # 15 Bar in The Book, served me a complimentary (my favorite kind!) cocktail and started putting the venerable history of the Bus Stop into proper perspective for a new-comer like me.

Well, you know how I feel about charming gentlemen (love them!).  Ron had that one-two punch of charming gentleman plus credit-to-his-profession-of-bar-tender thing going on and I was just smitten.  I could have sat there for (even more) hours, listening to him tell me all about the long (and fajita-checkered) past of his place of employment for the last 20 (right Ron?) years … but there was an old-timey two-person table-top version of Ms Pacman I simply had to check out before I lost any semblance of reflexes, so Scotty and I went over to ask the motor cycle boys to move their helmets off the game (which they seemed happy to do, when asked politely) and I proceeded to kick some serious vintage video game ass (if I do say so myself).

It’s hard to say what happened next.  Jason (we’re giving him 12-year status) started his shift behind the bar and Ron introduced us, and the only thing better than one great bartender is a pair of them, so that was like putting frosting on ice cream.  Scotty seemed to have gotten over the fact that the Bus Stop martinis are Barbie-doll sized (although only $5.50 and made with Belevedere, to be fair), and then the Zombies showed up.  It was frankly a lot to keep track of (and the 25-somethings in the corners seemed utterly unsure of what to make of the Zombies, which was priceless, thank you, Zombies!).  And I wish I could explain the Zombies to you, but those darn Zombies don’t seem to have a permanent website I can link to, and they are beyond even my powers of description (which should tell you a lot, actually).  Suffice to say that there were Zombies.  (And really, need I say more?)

While I can’t explain the Zombies, I did get pictures with them.  Which was when Ron offered to take some pictures of all the Barflies (yes, the Zombies were ‘flies), which was when I, said what I really wanted was to go Behind the Bar and have my picture taken with him and Jason (which I learned at The Black Horse London Pub, you are supposed to wait to be asked to go Behind the Bar, well … who knew?)  My self-invitation was accepted (to my delight — it’s the best vantage point in a bar, you know…) and in the midst of a photo op. that resulted in two adorable photos, I have to admit that I did some damage to the middle toe on my right foot.  (Attention!  All my fault and damage not permanent, I promise!) 

There is a reason that one shouldn’t venture Behind the Bar unless given permission.  It can be a dangerous (or at least somewhat tricky) place and is really best left to professionals.  In the case of the Bus Stop, there is an outcropping of something that is very hard and metallic and precisely the right location to injure any appendages — however small and dainty — that may be peeking out of an open-toed shoe.  Thank Bacchus I had worn my oh-so-trendy-&-Marina-riffic wedge platform sandals that night or things could have been much worse.  I seem to have escaped permanent disfigurement, and the jury (entirely fictional as I assure you it is) is still thinking I won’t even lose the toenail.  Whew!  The toe trauma did sort of bring the evening to an end sooner than it might have otherwise wound up, but that was probably not altogether a terrible thing because the drinks at the Bus Stop are apparently full-strength (despite the size of the glassware), and hey, a mangled toenail is an excuse to take a vicodin, after all (however I think Nora Charles, who arrived — albeit fashionably — late as usual was ticked off at the somewhat sudden-seeming and certianly a bit disorganized departure, and I did spend all weekend — in-between ice-pack applications — hoping I am not on her bad side because that would be a bleak place to be … Nora?).

Alas, in the process of trying very hard to ignore the fact that my toe was probably (and in fact) bleeding rather steadily, I did not make it to the bathroom of the Bus Stop, so I cannot comment on it.  I can tell you that while I was wandering around the pool tables at the beginnng of the evening, admiring the walls of photographs of the Bar and its many years of dedicated patrons, a very nice woman named Rose thought perphaps I was lost and kindly showed me where the ladies room is (it is behind the Ms Pacman game, not in the pool table room where the gents’ lavatory is located).  So, in lieu of a Bathroom Biography, I will tell you three other useful things to know about the Bus Stop: (1) they do take credit cards; (2) they have a sign that says they charge an automatic 15% gratuity on all open tabs; (3) you cannot actually see yourself in the mirrors that are behind all the bottles on the wall Behind the Bar, which is annoying, but the wall opposite the bar is a giant mirror you can see yourself in (if you don’t mind wandering into the midst of the table-hugging 25-somethings who may already be looking askance at you, especially if you are openly consorting with Zombies).

Oh, and lest you think this toe thing was trivial, it actually trumped the Offical Photo outside the Bar.  This has led to a new Policy: the Official Photo will henceforth be taken at the beginning of the Offical Visit.  Missing 2 shots out of 15 is enough already!  This also pushes back our visit to the # 16 Bar, because I need to convalesce a bit until I am in shape to salsa with Jonny-Georgia.  In the meantime, why don’t you go to the Bus Stop and tell me what their bathrooms are like…?

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.

Cigar Bar and Grill Wednesday, Dec 27 2006 

850 Montgomery ~ WEBSITE ~ (415) 398-0850

6:30pm Friday 14 August 2007

Prologue: In all honesty, The Hostess is not in the mood to party at present. Truth be told, she has been feeling rather blue lately, but stumbling around the Mystery Mansion leaving crumpled tissues and empty vodka bottles all over the place is getting old, and maybe drinking in public will do her some good. After all, at least she will have to get dressed…

The Cigar Bar and Grill seems as good a place as any to reluctantly re-enter society. If the place turns out to be as heinous crowd-wise as it well may, at least there are a dizzying variety of specialty cocktails to provide a couple of hours of distraction from, well, from whatever it would be better from which to be distracted.

While Friday seems a bit hasty (and an evening more likely to be heinous crowd-wise than next Tuesday, which I was considering), the above-mentioned gloom must not be permitted to last any longer. Who knows, maybe my new hero — Mr. Paul Addis (aka the only person I have ever heard intelligently discuss a certain subject) — will surprise me and show up and allow me to buy him a drink. Or six.   (UPDATE:OK, so in the time it has taken me to write this, it turns out that Mr. Addis is probably a certified nut-job with an arson habit, but The Hostess has a historic weakness for men whose sanity is questionable at best, as many a Barfly can attest.)

Anyone who wants to buy me a drink needs to show up early. There’s no telling how long I’ll be able to keep up the complete charade of a happy person. (Alcohol is ultimately a depressant, you know …) Forbidden topics of conversation will be fire, anything that happened in the state of Nevada recently, and anyone’s whereabouts for the last three weeks (of course, Mr. Addis can talk about anything he likes, as long as he lets me sit on his lap). Tell me this doesn’t sound like the recipe for too much fun to possibly miss!!!

Please note: Barflies who have been to, through, near, or around the hamlet of Gerlach, NV  in the last two (2) years are politely requested to refrain from attending this Official Visit. No offense, but The Hostess needs a break from “the community” for a while. An exception will be made for any Barfly (current or potential) who brings Paul Addis to meet me. (The Hostess has nothing against alleged nut-job arsonists, after all.)  Especially if said Barfly proceeds to buy my new friend Paul and I drinks…

Afterword: What can I say? I mean besides: my uncanny ability to foresee certain aspects of the future may or may not have anything to do with the fact that I am a Pisces…

Granted, I was not feeling at all sociable as I arrived at the Cigar Bar and Grill at the appointed hour (see above). But not even my anti-social mood could account for the heinous-beyond-even-my-own-pessimistic-expectations nature of the teeming masses I found there. I was only able to endure being on the premises on account of three factors:

  1. I was feeling smug about being correct in pre-supposing that the crowd was going to be heinous.
  2. Chica Cherry was on her way.
  3. Jonny-Georgia was rumored to be joining us.

I tell you, though, these three mitigating factors notwithstanding, the crowd’s surreal heinousness was more than I could bear directly, so I headed to a secluded vantage point from which to survey it…

As it happens, the Cigar Bar and Grill is located on the ground floor of what is otherwise an office building with a courtyard. The Cigar Bar and Grill has completely taken over this outdoor space, but there are levels of inter-office terraces, at least one of which was accessible on the Official Visit. I found this perch furnished with comfortable outdoor furniture and made myself comfortable, thanking all the gods that I had been sure to B my own B to sustain me until a Barfly arrived to escort me through the throng below.

Because I sure as hell wasn’t going down there alone. It was beyond heinous. It was like a pathetic game of musical chairs, except there was no music, no one who had a chair was leaving it for anything, and too many ridiculous-looking young men were standing around in cliques holding lit cigars (note: I did not say smoking cigars) and stinking up the place. As if that weren’t enough, everyone was apparently screaming at the top of their lungs — the net effect being, of course, that no one could hear a word anyone else was saying and the raucous din was undoubtedly permanently injuring the eardrums of everyone present. (Note to people who speak in public places: if anyone besides the persons you are addressing can hear you, TONE IT DOWN, YOU LOUDMOUTHS!)

Chica Cherry arrived and repositioned me at a table just inside the door, the better to glimpse Jonny-Georgia as immediately as possible if he showed up.  Ever a dear, Chica Cherry even made her way through the three-deep hordes at the bar to procure us proper drinks.  This task proved just too much for me, so if you want to know about the hook situation at Cigar Bar and Grill, maybe ask Chica Cherry if she checked this out.  After drinking and screaming across the table in a largely vain attempt to hear each other, Jonny-Georgia did appear, and I’ll be damned if that boy’s movie-star smile doesn’t immediately ameliorate just about anything, including the din at the Cigar Bar and Grill. 

We had more drinks.  We hollered back and forth.  I heard a band tuning up, and we all decided it was time to go.  Jonny-Georgia had been regaling us with tales of something called “blackberry margaritas” which the Cigar Bar and Grill was lacking, and I was uncharacteristically intrigued by the unlikely-sounding concoction.

It was while Jonny-Georgia was gallantly hailing us a cab that I noticed the preposterousness of the Cigar Bar and Grill’s being one of The Bars That Promote Littering.  Get this: I actually saw persons — as in more than one — walking down the street, tossing cigarettes onto the sidewalk, and then entering the Cigar Bar and Grill, presumably to stand around holding lit cigars. 

It was absolutely and positively too much.  I’m quite sure I ranted and raved about this the whole time we were in the cab.  Fortunately, my outrage was no match for the surprisingly refreshing blackberry margarita concoction I subsequently found myself enjoying, Chica Cherry’s mysterious abdication of chaperonage duty notwithstanding…

Bathroom Biography:
You have to wander around and down some hallways to find them, but they are serviceable enough, and certainly a tranquil relief from the noise level in the Bar.

Club Mari-S Wednesday, Dec 27 2006 

1581 Webster ~ (415) 673-5636

6:00pm Friday 21 September 2007

Prologue: I bought a new, cute shirt.  I’m going to put it on and I’m going out.  I’ll start at Club Mari-S. Depending on how that goes, I’ll either stay put, or I’ll wander someplace else.  My plan is to stay out until I get a compliment on my new, cute shirt. Might take an hour.  Might take all night.  Fishing for compliments beats doing homework, especially on a Friday night.

The ban on “burners” will be lifted, on a trial basis for this Official Visit.  But I still don’t want to hear about “it”.  Any of “it”.  Period.  Any questions means you probably shouldn’t come (unless you bring Paul Addis with you).

Afterword:  I never thought I would be at a loss for words to describe an Official Visit.  Yet the only adjective that seems even halfway adequate as a descriptor of our experience at Club Mari-S is “epic”.   Chica Cherry and I agreed as we left that this Official Visit was not only “one for the books” — as the saying goes — but that it may well end up being the Best Official Visit in terms of hilarity (not to mention sheer tenacity).

The entrance to Club Mari-S is beyond nondescript.  It looks like a delivery side door for the brightly lit restaurant next door, which is where I actually went in my new, cute shirt.  While perhaps this had something to do with my moth-like attraction to wrongness in many things, it could also be explained by the fact that I was in the Japantown mall for the first time in my life and was a little overwhelmed by feeling as if I had wandered into some B-movie remake of Blade Runner starring Hello Kitty.

Thank heavens that Chica Cherry, local gal that she is, was not similarly bedazzled by Japanese signage.  She called me from the actual Club Mari-S and we met at the door where she gave me the news that the Bar was definitely “not open”.  Well, that was obviously utter nonsense, seeing as she had just come from inside of it, and the door was quite entirely unlocked.  As I was in no mood for defeat, I dragged Chica Cherry back inside to pay my Official Visit to Club Mari-S, even though she assured me there was no one inside to compliment me on my new, cute shirt.

One’s first impression of Club Mari-S must be that it is overwhelming green.  It is overwhelmingly green and suede.  It is also a karaoke bar (which was probably obvious once I mentioned it is in the Japantown mall, but there are many uncertainties that remain about Club Mari-S, so I want to provide as much explicit detail as possible).  It was also, at the time I stood there gaping at its green suedeness, completely devoid of customers.  But there was a bar, and bottles of liquor, and someone banging around in the back, so I decided to have a seat and see what happened (rather to Chica Cherry’s dismay, I think, but she did take the bar stool next to me). 

What happened was that a very young Asian boy came out of the back and looked awfully startled to see the two of us sitting at the bar.  In fact, he could have been more dismayed than Chica Cherry.  With the language barrier, it was hard to tell.  But no amount of dismay was going to dissuade The Hostess from crossing Club Mari-S off the list then and there.  I  had already determined that the place did not qualify for a re-visit.  (Is there anyone who looks good surrounded by green suede?  Even my new, cute shirt was suffering…)  So I pulled out a $20 bill and somehow convinced the boy to pour us two shots of vodka.  The money seemed to make the boy feel better, but the shots of warm vodka did nothing to comfort Chica Cherry.  “We are drinking shots?” she asked me, incredulously. 

“If you want Barfly credit, we are!” I cheerfully informed her.  And so we did.  (Chica Cherry has her eyes on the Fabulous Prize, I think.)  We thanked him in Japanese (Chica Cherry being sufficiently fluent in Japanese to make this happen).  And the Asian boy got caught up in the excitement and was further persuaded to take our picture before escorting us out (and locking the door securely behind us, I’m sure).  We laughed all the way to the Boom Boom Room, where Doug the Slug found us later and from whence he took us to an Asian restaurant up the street where we worked out the addition of Article 5 to Chapter 1, Part 3 of The Rules, just in case we ever manage to pull off another coup-de-closed-Bar.

The Hostess hopes that this account of the Official Visit to Club Mari-S inspires anyone pursuing a goal who is suddenly faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.  Hell, even she found some solace by recalling this success story more than once over the course of the difficult fall that was to unfold.  After all, if a lady can get a drink in a Bar that is closed, surely she can (and in fact did) handle graduate school, a terrorist attack, and a federal felony charge with something approximating equanimity (more about all this later, of course…)

Bathroom Biography:
We ducked in on our way out.  It’s green and suede, too.  And immaculately clean, which may or may not typically be in direct proportion to the number (or lack thereof) of customers.

Club 93 Wednesday, Dec 27 2006 

93 9th St. ~ WEBSITE ~ (415) 621-6333

6:00pm Thursday 6 December 2007

Preamble:

Oh goody: “the holidays” are here… (The Hostess sighed on December 5th)

An orphan’s least favorite time of the year got off to an even worse than usual start this year (and last year was tough to beat, which you can read about at the bottom of the Various Marginalia page). I had grandly planned to get this bar crawl jump-started with “Hanukkah Happy Hours”. Yep, 8 Bars in 8 nights. Granted, this was an ambitious undertaking after so long, but I geared up for it. I not only re-arranged my workout schedule, I modified my alcohol intake to lower my tolerance thusly likewise lowering my upcoming Bar tabs (note the brilliant behind-the-scenes logic at work here).

However, like so many of the best laid plans, “Hanukkah Happy Hours” was led agley. I blame the resignation of Bars By The Book’s Jewish consultant for the fact that I thought Hanukkah starting on Wednesday meant that December 5 was the first night. Which is the night the happy hours were scheduled to start. Spending Tuesday at jury duty prevented my recalibrating the time-line to start that night. And being the stickler for strict religious observance that I am, I could hardly have something called “Hanukkah Happy Hours” that missed the crucial first night of the celebration, now could I?

“The 12 Nights of Cocktails” was considered. Briefly. I had my doubts about 8 Bars in 8 nights, so I had to conclude that a dozen was really going to be a bit much, financially and hepatotoxically. So — in a stroke of genius — I decided to split the difference and plan a 4 evening event henceforth known as “The Hostess’ Third Annual Holiday Lark”. (Twelve minus eight equals four. Work with me, people…)

That’s right: the next 4 Bars in 4 successive nights. Completely achievable. Totally do-able. Fail-safe, foolproof, and unflappably festive. Or not. We’ll see. Here’s the schedule:

  1. 6:00pm Thursday 12/6: Club 93; 93 9th St. @ (Mission & Market, MAP) — We toast Hanukkah and wonder why there are so many different ways to spell it.
  2. 5:30pm Friday 12/7: Coco’s Bar; 4541 Mission @ (Santa Rosa & Harrington, MAP) — We toast Christmas and wonder whence the idea of the flying reindeer originated.
  3. 6:30pm Saturday 12/8: Costellos Four Deuces; 2319 Taraval @ (33rd Ave., MAP) — We toast Kwanza and wonder if this makes us Politically Correct.
  4. 4:30pm Sunday 12/9: Cresta’s Twenty Two Eleven Club; 2211 Polk @ (Vallejo, MAP) — We toast the perennial underdog “Other”, but especially the pagans who started this holiday madness in the first place while innocently trying to concoct rituals that would bring back the sun.

As Tiny Tim says, “…bless us, everyone!”

 

Prologue: They take credit cards, how bad can the place be? I am personally going to try and get there early, before their alleged happy hour ends at 6:00.

Afterword: The weather outside was frightful but inside Club 93 was so delightful…really, all initial impressions to the contrary — the first of many “holiday miracles”, to be sure:

I was supposed to meet a guy named Bob at Club 93 that dark and stormy night. But that Bob decided the combination of driving from the geographic unfortunateness that is San Mateo, plus the increasingly inclement weather, divided by the sketchy neighborhood where Club 93 is located wasn’t his kind of math. I’d cast aspersions on that Bob, but he’s not really worth the effort.  Just imagine my surprise when the nice man I asked to take the Official Photo before it got too impossibly rainy turned out to be named…Bob! Henceforth known as Coincidence Bob, this Bob also happens to be the current President of the San Francisco Tavern Pool Association, which was having its board meeting at Club 93 that very evening.  (Heads up, ladies!  The Association needs females quite urgently.  Teams regularly must forfeit matches on account of not having the requisite girl in attendance, which means the odds of drinking for free and having men try to get your phone number must be pretty damn good…)  We chatted amicably for quite a while. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

“Who are you?” asked a woman who seemed to be loitering in the doorway to Club 93 as I tentatively attempted to enter the premises. Turns out she was trying to identify Pool Leaguers, rather than keep strangers out of the place, so I made it inside. Turns out she was also the bartender (hi, Coco!) for the first part of the evening, anyway. “Make Your Drunk Dials As Dirty As Your Martinis”, it said around the rim of my glass, which made me smile. That’s when I met Coincidence Bob and he agreed to take my picture.

“You aren’t from here, are you?” quipped an apparent regular Club 93 customer as we wrapped up the photo shoot.

“Actually, we both live here,” I retorted, feeling feisty at being presumed a tourist.

“Then you should know better than to use a camera like that on this street,” he said.

I think that chap was being overly harsh. Club 93 is on 9th St., which is three whole giant SOMA blocks away from the crack-head crevasse that is 6th St. And besides, the camera never has worked quite right since it fell off a fire escape in North Beach, and I could use an excuse to get a new one.  Either way, I didn’t feel like I was taking any risks on that stretch of sidewalk at the time, and so you shouldn’t be especially paranoid, either (and really, who knows what that chap was on?).

After all, I’d already sized up the joint. There’s a somewhat dilapidated (but allegedly functional) piano just inside the door. There are ceiling fans (which The Hostess loves, but for some reason they are only hanging over where the bartenders work at Club 93).  And there are 20 beers on tap — everything from PBR to Stella. Plus a pool table.  And a jukebox (more about this later). To say nothing of the “secret room” downstairs, which Coincidence Bob showed me. You probably won’t get the Grand Tour, so you’ll have to settle for my minimalist revelation thereof: it contains a periwinkle blue pool table. (Admit it, don’t you occasionally wish you were me?!?)

Upon the conclusion of my Grand Tour, what to my wondering eyes should appear but none other than Ms Olive! “Men Are Like Martinis, the Stiffer the Better” it said around the rim of my next glass, and I must confess, we drank a toast to my days of being at the mercy of the availability of a certain little blue pill being over — good riddance (& Happy Hanukkah, of course, to that particular piece of work)!

It seemed like we were waiting for something, but the weather was getting worse and Ms Olive was being cagey. We passed some pleasant time learning about a drink called Chocolate Cake, which is consumed thusly: you dredge a lemon in sugar, bite the lemon, shoot a combination of Frangelica and vanilla vodka…and the whole thing allegedly tastes like a slice of chocolate cake in your mouth (unless you throw up, I guess). Club 93 lacking at least half of the necessary ingredients, we did not get to put this hypothesis to the test, but The Hostess remains firmly intrigued.

At long last, Ms Olive could finally stop anxiously checking her cell phone, because Chica Cherry showed up with my Hanukkah surprise present — Mama Pearl! — on her arm (not to mention, more chocolate coins than any of us would ever be able to eat). And I’ll be damned if “We Are Family” didn’t immediately start playing on the (obviously Jewish) jukebox at right then and there. We sang, we drank, we danced, we had a shift change (hi, Kobe!), and we drank some more. The Tavern Pool Associates finished their meeting and we mingled. I met a woman named Cassandra (according to my notes) with a great sense of style, when I complimented her on her snazzy threads and she complimented me on my new coat, which I really thought made me look sort of like a cow — its being black and white — but this notion was unanimously dispelled (got to love drunk people’s aesthetic!).

Alas, it came to be time for us to go. But we had started the dreaded holiday season off on the right foot, that much was certain. We had braved a skeezy street corner, met a slew of nice new folks, and inarguably experienced Club 93 to its fullest extent. Later on — as we were inexplicably getting kicked out of a cab while dropping Mama Pearl off (which is a whole other story, obviously) — I was positively seized by the holiday spirit and I had to remark, ‘ere the cab drove out of sight,

Happy Hanukkah to all,

And to all, a good night!

It was really a more magical beginning to the (at that time) half-hearted Holiday Lark than a Dickensian Orphan like The Hostess could even imagine. It was more of a miracle than that oil lasting eight nights back in ye Olde Testament tymes. In fact, the next morning, I was actually not despondent upon awakening, for a change. Could have been the vodka. Might have been the jukebox. But I think it was the stellar company aided and abetted by some Club 93 mojo. I wouldn’t necessarily plan another evening around it, but if I were in the neighborhood, I’d definitely drop by Club 93 for another round.

Bathroom Biography:
Ms Olive went first.  Her review was not glowing.  She proclaimed it a “den of dismay” (and while I duly noted this, I did have to ask her the following evening to help me translate my transcription).  I didn’t think the facilities were that bad at all.  I’ve seen much worse and so could you.  If you’ve gotten past the ambiance of the neighborhood, the bathroom is not going to scare you. 

Coco’s Bar Wednesday, Dec 27 2006 

4541 Mission ~ (415) 334-6863

5:30pm Friday 7 December 2007

Prologue: Is this Bar in Twin Peaks, or is it in Daly City? Since I have never heard of any of this Bar’s cross streets, there’s only one way to find out for sure, apparently, and it ain’t “the internets”. This might be a gay Bar. This might be a Mexican Bar. This might be a gay, Mexican Bar. Grab your umbrella and let’s go hablamos some espanol like the person who answered the phone when I called to see if they would be open for business. I may need some serious backup on this one, so I hope one or more of you intrepid Barflies steps up to this mysterious plate with me. I’m heading there straight from work, so by all means let me know if you’d like me to swing by and pick you up on my way in order to help me look for a parking space and/or masquerade as a member of my illusionary “security detail”.

Afterword: Wow. Let me just say this about our Christmas celebration at Coco’s Bar: it’s a damn shame that My New Hero couldn’t have been there. Wait ’til you hear the whole story…

Costellos Four Deuces Wednesday, Dec 27 2006 

2319 Taraval ~ (415)731-2164 566-9122

6:30pm Saturday 8 December 2007

Prologue: Unless I’m mistaken, this marks a new direction for Bars By The Book. Have we ventured West of Divisadero before? Well, we’ve certainly never been within (admitedly somewhat pushing the envelope of) strolling distance of the Great Highway before, so there’s the value-added possibility of a tipsy moonlit walk on the beach (weather and footwear permitting). Plus, this oddly-named Bar is also a Cocktail Lounge, so it’ll be like stabbing two olives with one toothpick (or something). I will personally be fresh from the salon (because, after all, nothing fosters the elusive “holiday spirit” like spending an obscene amount of money on one’s coiffure), so do your hair and do make your way Westward for what will be, at least, a fetching Official Picture. Just be sure to bring cash, because Costellos Four Deuces does not take credit cards, and who knows how far away the closest ATM will be that far out in the Avenues?

Afterword:  Leave it to The Hostess to walk into a Bar and plop down on a stool in between the owner and his cousin.  And leave it to Bars By The Book to assure you that it won’t be the last time I pay a visit to Costellos Four Deuces.  This place could make one consider moving this far out in the Avenues, just so it could be one’s neighborhood Bar.  When you hear the whole story (coming soon!), you’ll want to travel out there yourself to check it out…

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