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.

Annex, The Friday, Jun 22 2007 

6282 Mission, Daly City ~ (650) 755-9286

Prologue: The woman who answered the phone laughed when I inquired if they were open on Sundays. “This is a bar,” she giggled. Well, at least after 10am every day it is, so let’s check it out.

Afterword: It was pretty precious how the heretofore hearty Barflies had pre-conceived reasons not to venture to the wilds of Daly City. Not that I blamed them. It did seem foolhearty. And Paladin was very cranky, on account of giving up cigarettes (again) the day before and also not having had any real drinks (meaning scotch) so far (in retrospect, he really actually deserves a serious commendation). And yet, we bid the Barflies farewell and went bravely on our way.

I’m here to tell you: Daly City is no big deal. It is a little far away, but it’s not at all scary. At least not at The Annex. I mean, you might not ever choose to go there, but if you were driving by and happend to be co-incidentally thirsty, you could do a lot worse.

Especially if you are deaf. The Annex has something Paladin and I will be investigating (once we can hear ourselves think) called an “Internet Jukebox”. We are not sure how it works, but we can attest that it is possible to play at egregiously ear-piercing volumes. I, for one, wondered if they turned up the music to encourage us leave…not that we actually wanted to stay in that deafening din, mind you.

The good news is that The Annex is right next to a Daly City Municipal Parking Lot, so, if you manage to happen upon it — given the entirely unrealistic driving directions with which yellowpages.com provides you — at least you can park.

The bad news is that the nicest part of The Annex is the sidewalk. Not only is the jukebox deafening, the Bar is strangely and quite unpleasantly bright, which is odd and icomprehensible considering that there are no actual lights in the Bar; there are only tv’s, neon bar signs, and a string of Christmas lights — hardly enough illumination to explain the actual lighting situation. The overall effect is disconcerting, to say the least.

With this many strikes against it, The Annex needed to have some serious cocktails to get us on its side. Alas, the watery drinks we had did not exactly endear us to the establishment. It didn’t help matters that “Ick Blick & Yick” was what I was thinking when I saw all the wads of gum where Hooks should have been…

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not unhappy I went to The Annex. A truer test of my mettle could not have been devised. It would have been easy to abdicate the adventure once the Barflies understandably took their leave. It would have been a snap to summarily dismiss The Annex in the first place on the grounds that is not even located in the city and county of San Francisco. But then I wouldn’t be doing this by The Book, now, would I?

Bathroom Biography:
I didn’t even check. But I’m sure it was loud in there, too.

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).

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.

Beauty Bar Friday, Jun 22 2007 

2299 Mission ~ WEBSITE ~ (415) 285-0323

9:00pm Saturday 31 March 2007

Prologue: In keeping with my new paradigm of visiting Bars when they are likely to be “happening”, I am moseying back to the Mission to check out Beauty Bar when the manager, Shane, assured me the joint would be jumping, so to speak. I’ve had the two free drink tokens Shane gave me the night I met him at Arrow burning a hole in my coin purse all this time, and I feel like cutting loose and shaking my ass to some pfunky phresh beats, so let’s hope DJ Omar is up to snuff.

Shane said Saturdays at 10:00 pm are pretty popular, so I’m going to try and sneak in before things get too crazy. But, party animal that I am (ha-ha), I’m committed to staying at least until 10:30, and if I’m having a blast, I’ll be there even later. Shane also warned me that some thefts have occurred here, so don’t bring big purses and keep your wits about you — you’ve been warned!

Now, I’ve been to the Beauty Bar in L.A., and I have to tell you, I didn’t get the whole manicure gimmick. The L.A. location also did henna tattoos, which was fun, but no dice at the San Francisco spot. So I’m going there to dance, and to drink (although not necessarily in that order). But I will be happy to consult with you on nail polish hue selection, should you find yourself too tipsy to decide.

Afterword: OK, I still don’t get the manicure thing. I even saw someone having her nails done, and I was truly puzzled as to why. But I was on my second huge and 100% strong drink, so I didn’t actually care. (Sorry to report that I don’t even know how much the drink cost because the first round was free and Paladin was paying thereafter. I can tell you that it’s worth whatever they are charging because the alcohol is definitely not diluted.) It did strike me, though, that as long as they are going to have old-fashioned hair-drying chairs strewn about, they might as well offer blow-drying. I would totally pay to have someone else blow dry my hair because when I do it myself, I have to keep setting down my drink.

Anyway, Beauty Bar is the least place I am likely to have my nails done, but it is a pretty fun Bar. I timed my visit perfectly: I was there in time to snag a stool and right at 10:00, just like Shane said, there was a noticeable surge in the clientele, most of whom seemed to be in sizeable groups, and taking pictures of themselves with paparazzian panache (which makes it even more unbelieveable that Paladin and I forgot to get a picture of me in front with the sign!).

The doorman (says he) cards everyone, so you will feel young and cute from the get-go. Our bartender was Zak, who is pretty hot in a very heroin-chic sort of way. And Shari from Arrow was there, too — filling in on her night off, broken collar-bone notwithstanding (the girl’s dedication to bartending is really inspirational). And not only does Beauty Bar have hooks, it has hooks illuminated by strings of Christmas lights, which I think is a particularly nice touch. DJ Omar was doing his thing in the back, and doing it well, because no one was standing still (even before anyone got motivated to actually dance).

Paladin decided he needed to eat, and I think in retrospect, I should have joined him, but Jonny-Georgia and his sexy southern drawl showed up to distract me from the disastrous consequences of drinking on an empty stomach. What can I say? Dancing is more fun than eating. (To say nothing of dancing with Jonny-Georgia, ahem.) Never did find out how Beauty Bar feels about dogs, but I think dogs would be even more incongruous than the manicure stations (or people who try to eat there, judging from the looks Paladin and his burrito garnered).

Alas, I had to head to the Spectra Ball (which, as it turned out, I was already too tipsy to tolerate) so I made like Cinderella, only instead of losing a glass slipper I forgot to insist on a souvenir photo (all the more incomprehensible because there is a frickin’ photo booth inside the damn bar itself!). While the rest of the night is apparently destined to remain a bit of a blur, I’m happy to report that I do remember having a rockin’ good time at Beauty Bar. (And Shane, if you are reading this, if I could have had my hair blown dry at Beauty Bar, I would have had time to eat something before heading out of the house! How about it?)

Bathroom Biography:
I feel certain that I made a point of checking out the restroom situation. Only I can’t recall any details of the inspection. In fact, I can’t say for sure that I even ever did make it back there. But they have to have restrooms, right? Bottom line: why don’t you go and tell me?

Blur Friday, Jun 22 2007 

1121 Polk ~ (415) 567-1918

8:00pm Wednesday 25 April 2007

Prologue:  I don’t have a lot of preconceived notions about Blur.  It’s a good name for a Bar, and they seem to have dj’s who play the sort of music I like.  So I figure it will either be a pretty cool place, or totally lame and pretentious (I suspect it may be gratuitously Asian-themed, but I won’t know ’til I walk in the door).  Let’s go see which it is, shall we?

Tonight’s conversational topic will be: ziploc bags.  Specifically, I am very interested to know why the Transportation So-Called Security Administration considers ziploc bags to have anti-terrorist properties.  If anyone can explain to me how a lip gloss’s threat level is neturalized by being placed inside a ziploc bag, I will buy that person a drink.  And I do mean it.  Because really, if ziploc bags do have magical explosive deterrent powers, then why don’t we just put a couple of giant ones around oh, say Iraq and Afghanistan, and be done with all this insurgency already? 

Afterword:  The first thing about Blur is that it is not, as one might think, named after the state of one’s short-term memory the morning after spending quality time there.  It is, rather, apparently named after a band. The owner is some sort of music fan, and that’s a good thing, because the place plays a funky and eclectic mix of music. Sometimes it is a little loud, but they’ll turn it down if you ask, so no problem.

The second thing about Blur is that they have 2-for-1 Happy Hours every single day of the week between 4 and 6pm, so that is when you should go there.  Otherwise, cocktails are $7.00 (but at least the martinis are big).

The third thing about Blur is that I went there in between food menus, so I can’t tell you anything about what they will have to eat.  They used to have a sushi chef, but he just left and they were in the process of working out a new food situation when I was there.  So, by the time you go, there will probably be something on which to nosh.  But the impending food service probably does mean No Dogs Allowed.  I forgot to ask, but Blur didn’t seem like a dog place to me.

It did seem like a pretty good place to have drinks, though.  Plenty of places to sit, plush stools, groovy tunes, and no shot glasses for sale, but they do have baseball hats that say “blur” on the front and have a martini glass and “San Francisco” on the back, so of course I had to have one ($20.00, and they are non-adjustable and run big, but Paladin is going to fix mine for me, being the handy sort of chap that he is).  They also have a friendly bartender there who is somewhat inexplicably named Bernie (I say inexplicable because she is a female, and all the other Bernie’s I know — ok, the one other Bernie I know — is a male person actually named Bernard, which I actually insist on calling him, to his eternal consternation).  Bernie thought Bars By The Book was a cool idea, so of course I decided she was cool, and then I concluded she was really cool after she stood us a round of drinks (thanks, Bernie!). 

So we watched the Warriors lose their basketball match to Dallas (no big surprise, but still).  And we chatted about Bars and bars and Cocktail Lounges (including that “secret” bar downtown where you are supposed to have a reservation, and where Wanda is supposed to be going with me — hello, Wanda?), too, which, surprisingly, never does get old.  We idly wondered why all the other Barflies were missing out on our nice, mellow time.  But as we weren’t getting any closer to resolving the ziploc bag question, I headed off for the obligatory bathroom inspection.  That’s when a shift change occurred.  Paladin apparently said something to the new bartender about the ghastly current national pre-occupation with rehab, and the bartender said he had, in fact, just been about to play the smashingly fabulous Amy Winehouse CD which starts with the hit (not to mention Theme Song of this ridiculous blog) single, “Rehab”.  Paladin, quick thinker that he is, asked the bartender to wait until I came back to press play, and you can just imagine my delight as I returned to the bar to the strains of my new favorite song! Paladin and I serenaded the Bar and then, really — since how were we going to top that? — we decided to call it a night.

Blur is a fine spot for a drink; not at all caught up in trying too hard to be the dreaded “hip & trendy”.  It’s totally chill and currently has some tastefully done photographs of nude figures on the wall opposite the bar (the art may or may not be subject to change).  I liked it there, and I’d go back anytime, just as long as it is between 4 and 6pm.  After all, I’m fixin’ to go back to graduate school, and a schoolgirl needs to save her $$ for tuition.

Bathroom Biography
Two, one for each “His” and “Hers”. “Hers” opens into a large-ish space with one stall off to the right. The stall space is a little dark, but the rest of the room is well-lit enough for you to check your lipstick and adjust your new baseball hat to a more fetching angle. Bottom line: go for it, and so much the better if they start playing your favorite song when you get back!

Boom Boom Room Friday, Jun 22 2007 

1601 Fillmore ~ WEBSITE ~ (415) 673-8000

8:00pm Wednesday 2 May 2007

Prequel: I’m sucking it up and paying five bucks on the off chance that Mr. Bohemian Knuckle Boogie will actually play two trumpets at once before my coach turns into a pumpkin. (Who am I kidding? I’m walking to Fillmore Street. I should be alluding to a broken heel on my glass slipper, if anything…) I’m even taking the chance that I can walk up to the door of the Boom Boom Room at 8:00pm and still have a wing and a prayer (so to speak and a la the Greatest American Hero) of getting in to see the possibility of such a spectacle. That’s right, Kats & Rats (my new take on “Kats & Kittens”, isn’t it precious?), I’m not even out of the second letter of the alphabet and I’m this out of control. Who could have predicted this turn of events…? Anyway, while I have been to the Boom Boom Room before (OK, once before), I do still have questions about the place, which means that you probably do, too. So either join me, or read all about it later and wish you were there! (Oh, and, of course, no May Day bouquets — <sigh>. Feel free to bring me belated ones.)

{Superseded by “Prequel”, above —  Prologue: Sundays are no cover and free music — anyone feel like ending the weekend here with me? And this coming Sunday, May 6, there is a “Hammond B3 Organ stunningly groove oriented dance driven Soul Jazz and funky metered heavy boogie!” trio called Red 19 playing, allegedly for free at 9:30. OK, so that’s a little later than I’d like for a Sunday, and I’m seeing Bebel Gilberto at Bimbo’s the next day with the Girl Posse, which will be an awfully lot of live music in a row for me, but the only other option between now and then is Bohemian Knuckle Boogie, on Wednesday, which is a $5.00 show, and you know how The Hostess feels about paying cover charges, door fees, and “suggested donations” just to get in somewhere and have a drink. (Although it might actually be worth five bucks to see a guy play two trumpets at once.) Anyway, The Boom Boom Room is closed on Mondays, so I can’t even call them to see if “Doors @ 8:00 PM” means they are not open purely for drinking before that, so I suppose we will all have to wait until May Day for a firmer time and date. Which reminds me, back when I was a girl, May Day was the day that we all left small bouquets of flowers on the doorsteps (or in the mailboxes, or on the windshields) of the object(s) of our affection, and so much the better if the affection was undeclared and the recipient(s) got a mysterious surprise at which to wonder. Will I find a bouquet waiting for me somewhere tomorrow? Not too frickin’ likely, but if the Warriors have taken a 3-1 lead over the Dallas Mavericks in the best-of-seven quarterfinal series, you have to admit that anything is at least theoretically possible…}

Afterword: My first thought when I ambled into the Boom Boom Room and perched myself on a barstool and confirmed their hooks, was “Why don’t I come here more often?” The place has a funk-tastic vibe: very 1970’s crossed with speakeasy. They have psychedic blue pseudo-chandeliers over the bar, and candles burning in red glass holders all down the bar and at all the tables. There’s a disco ball, and a small stage at the back with a fabulous red velvet curtain. Even the padded red leather front doors are cool. They play groovy music before the bands start up, too. There’s even a happy hour (which I missed, as usual).

Maybe the Boom Boom Room is just my kind of place. Or maybe the fact that the Boom Boom Room is so vastly superior in atmosphere, noise level, and bartender caliber than the Bar up the street I had stopped at on my way there (hey, I was early and confused about the “Doors @ 8:00PM thing”), but I really did wonder — out loud, even — “Why don’t I come here more often?”

Now, in case you were wondering, “Doors @ 8:00PM” seems to mean that if you get there before that, when they do actually close the above-mentioned padded red leather doors and station a doorman in them (perhaps the one named Bill I met who was happy to be in the Official Photo — hi, Bill!) to collect the cover charge, it appears that you get to stay and see the show for free. At least on $5.00 show night. (Or, at least the night I was there.) This is good information, because the Boom Boom Room takes cash only, and maybe you will have forgotten to stop at the ATM machine first. (Or maybe the person who is supposed to be buying you drinks has inexplicably had a missing ATM card for weeks. Or whatever.)

Stop at the lame Bar up the street notwithstanding, I was early enough to get in for free, and I got down to the business of waiting for the show to start. This was not as fascinating as it might sound, but I did get a chance to sit almost everywhere: at the middle of the bar, at the end of the bar nearest the stage (and the charming VIP booth), at two of the tables (avoid the one second-closest to the stage if possible, there’s kind of a blinding situation from one of the stage lights). I liked the end of the bar the best, but if you want to recline, the tables are the way to go. Eventually, the band showed up and watching them set up and listening to their sound check was pleasantly diversionary. I sort of wished they would just start the show already, but they seemed determined to wait, which I decided I couldn’t really, it being a “school night” and all. Besides, I only saw one trumpet, and as you know I was there to see Mr. Bohemian Knuckle Boogie play two trumpets at once. So I said good-bye to Tiger (self-proclaimed “bartender extraordinare”, and she did produce a pen when I asked some guy texting on his cell phone for one, so I’m not going to aruge — hi, Tiger!) and met Bill on the way out, where there is, I am happy to report, an ashtray.

They could change the music more often, because the third time the same music looped around it was starting to get a mite old. That, and I’m pretty sure it’s No Dogs Allowed (unless your dog can play an instrument, don’t even ask). However, if you find yourself on Fillmore Street, it’s worth wandering down to the Boom Boom Room for a round or two. And not only because it’s so much better than the Bar up the street — the Boom Boom Room is actually sort of legendary and deserves to be a destination. I’m definitely going back.

Bathroom Biography:
One for each: “Ladies” and “Gents”. If you are confused, each door is painted with colorful pictures of a couple of each gender (although in San Francisco this might just add to any confusion). The Ladies room is clean enough, a bit dark, but there’s plenty of toilet paper (even though none of it might actually be in the dispenser). Bottom line: go for it. You’ll walk past the backstage door and maybe it will be open and you’ll get invited in!

Brazen Head Friday, Jun 22 2007 

3166 Buchanan ~ WEBSITE ~ (415) 921-7600

5:30pm Friday 11 May 2007

Prologue: I’ve been to Brazen Head, and I don’t recall it being particularly bar-ish. It’s a restaurant (see pages 967 and 972 in The Book). It’s a restaurant that does not take reservations, aka an annoying restaurant. But it is also the thirteenth Bar in The Book, so I’m going. You can check back here for details, or you could join me and see for yourself: is it a Bar with tables and food, or a restaurant with a bar in it? The topic of conversation will be this heat wave, unless I get fiesty and then it will be why would a restaurant not take reservations? Oh, and wear something cute. I’m sporting a new low cut and flirty sundress, even if the fog has come back…

Afterword: First, let me apologize for taking so long to apprise you of my Brazen Head visit. I know some of you have been on the eager to read all about it, but I really wanted to wait ’til I had time to do the write-up the justice that the place deserves. With that, let me say that being #13 isn’t fazing Brazen Head in any way, shape, form, or fashion. Unless Alembic lists itself under “Bars” in next year’s yellow pages, Brazen Head might just singlehandedly put to rest that whole “13 is unlucky” superstition, once and for all.

“Hi-yeah,” said the bartender, whose name turned out to be Michael (hi Michael!) when I sashayed through the door in my — as promised — new low cut and flirty sundress (off-shore gale-force winds notwithstanding). And I knew, instantly, that Brazen Head was going to be a great place to spend the evening. There was a larger bar area than I remembered, and Michael was so immediately friendly, that I was almost giddy. (Of course, I was the only customer at that early hour, and with my whole not-liking-people thing, this didn’t hurt.) As I checked for hooks, Michael made me a martini, and started politely offering to close the door if I was freezing. There being no one else there to size up, I introduced myself to Michael and a waitress named Patricia (hi Patricia!) and told them about Bars By The Book. Lively and engaging conversation ensued…

Then other, apparently regular, patrons started coming in. Michael (impressively) greeted every one of them by name, too. Somewhere around the time that Paladin showed up, I decided that Brazen Head is at least 50-50, Bar-restaurant-wise. (And given the size of the kitchen, I might say it’s 60-40 Bar — but they do a nice job separating the drinkers from the diners, especially considering the total square footage, so don’t let this stop you from making plans to eat there. Their burgers do come — delightfully, I must say — with a side of mashed potatoes, after all.)

So regular customers came, and went, and more came. Brazen Head seems to be a Bar where certain people make a point of going on a somewhat regular basis. I do suppose this is somewhat by design, because there is absolutely no sign out front anywhere, so there’s not much of a chance of a random vagabond straggling in. (And there’s that whole no reservation thing, which also serves to keep out the hoi-polloi, which I understand in terms of Brazen Head, and actually appreciate in their case). There is even a secret parking plan, but you’re going to have to go and be friendly enough to get them to tell you about it, because if there’s one thing I take seriously, it’s secrets. Also, on the third Sunday in September, Brazen Head shuts down their short Marina block for a party featuring the usual festivities, the proceeds of which benefit the Susan G. Komen breast cancer cause, which is a nice gesture, don’t you agree?

There are two small tv’s, the volumes of which are never turned on (so Michael assured me), so you can keep an eye on the activities of any local sports teams that might finally be doing something noteworthy (“We Believe!” blah, blah, blah) whilst drinking. A martini appears to cost $8.00, which is a bit much, but Michael didn’t even mind when I ordered a Smoky Mirror (mustn’t let Laphroaig go to waste when it’s available, right?) and had Paladin tell him how to make one, which is worth something, because I am sure bartenders find this irksome (and I certainly don’t blame them), yet Michael, to his credit, didn’t even flinch.

What can I say? We were having a high time and didn’t want to leave. (That, plus Paladin had eaten next to nothing all day long and was totally slurring his words after his third Dewars rocks.) We decided to abandon our previous plan to wander elsewhere for cheaper fare and stay at Brazen Head for dinner. It was still early enough that we had our pick of tables and so Table One it was (very cozy, next to the bobble-head display case, and still basically in the bar area). Then I sent the drunk Barfly home (by public transportation, don’t worry) and returned to the bar for my dessert…

Michael introduced me to his colleague Steve(n) (hi Steve!) and I turned my attention to the two young gentlemen to my right, Bob and Wyatt (hi guys!). They were completely charming chaps and I just have to say: to those of you gals in this town who bemoan the alleged dearth of potential beaux, get out of your apartment and go to a Bar!!! I’m just thirteen Bars into the 130 in The Book and I have already met more friendly, good-looking, conversationally-endurable men than I can shake a swizzle stick at (perhaps I should create another category…?). Truly.

Anyway, Bob and Wyatt kept me excellent company for my dessert drink. One of them had just gotten back from Hawaii and the other one had just returned from the Ritz Carlton at Half Moon Bay (clearly, these are people with whom I should spend more quality time, guys?). Eventually it was time to blow (the by now very busy) Michael a kiss and brace myself against the frigid windy weather outside the non-descript (from the street) door to make my way over the hill — just in time to see the Warriors beat the Utah Jazz by, like 20 points, thereby confirming my long-held suspicion that the NBA finals are totally fixed so as to sell the most television commercials. But I didn’t care about the sorry state of professional sports, because I had just had a wonderful evening at Brazen Head on which to dwell in my dreams…

Bathroom Biography:
One for each. Look to the right as you enter to get a sense of how small the kitchen is. The restrooms are long and narrow, reminding me of a train, for some reason. The sink is more like half-a-sink, but is actually pretty cute and definitely in keeping with the dimensions of the space, so it works. The mirror is double-hinged, which should mean that you can check your hair from three angles, but only one hinge was operational on my visit. Bottom line: go for it — being confident that you look good from at least two angles is a bonus.

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