Old Bus Tavern Opening in Bernal July 23rd

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The major burger at Old Bus Tavern. Photo by Karl Mollohan.

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Chili at Old Bus Tavern. Photo by Karl Mollohan.

A report by Dana Eastland. Last week we mentioned that Bernal brewery and chili spot ~OLD BUS TAVERN~ was getting ready to open with a series of test dinners, and now we’ve got an opening date: Thursday July 23rd.

The project, from partners Jimmy Simpson, John Zirinsky, and Bennett Buchanan, is part brewery, part bar, part restaurant. The space, which seats 49 in 2,000 square feet, was designed by Sarah Greenwood Design out of New York, with Thomas Pippin of Lifebox Studios. Their aim was to bring together the warmth and hospitality of a residential space (kind of like being at a party at your coolest, most design-forward friend’s house) and the cool, industrial feel of an active, functioning brewery. There is a 16-foot standing bar in front of the brewing space, so that beer lovers can check out the action, and a 22-foot bar for drinking and dining. The space is rendered in neutral colors in order to showcase a collection of colorful Navajo rugs from the 1970s. Along with some retro-chic accents, the vibe is rather American road trip, which is appropriate given the team’s beginnings in a 1971 Volkswagen bus. Speaking of that bus, they plan to have it up and running as a mobile beer and food business later this summer.

As for beer, they’re serving a selection of their own, along with 11 guest taps (all sourced from within 50 miles of San Francisco) and 12 bottles. House brews to look for include the chili porter, made with fresno and habanero pepper, and the lemon basil saison, brewed with Meyer lemon zest and basil.

The cocktail list focuses on three spirits—whiskey, tequila, and mezcal—with cocktails from bar consultant Christina Cabrera (previous projects include Novela and 15 Romolo), featuring full, fruity, spicy flavors. The spicy OBT margarita is made with tequila, orange curaçao, housemade poblano pepper syrup, and firewater tincture, while the Kerby Lane is bourbon, sherry, strawberry, fennel, and lemon. The bar will also offer two shandies made with Old Bus beers and five different shot-and-a-beer combos, like the Coal Miner’s Daughter (Irish whiskey with chili porter). Take a look at all the beverages right here.

As for food, the Cincinnati-style chili ($15) is a highlight of the small menu. It’s slow-cooked with beef chuck and pequin chiles, and you’ll probably want to order it with a side of buckwheat cornbread ($8) too. And of course we have to mention the burger ($18) with housemade bacon and fried onions (just LOOK at that bad boy). There are also bar snacks, like the pickled quail eggs ($8)—also with fried onions—and chicharrónes with black beans, scarlet turnip, and grilled roses ($8). Check out the full menu here.

Also worth noting: all menu prices include tax and service, so there is no need to tip. As they say on the menu and website, “Our revenue-sharing system allows us to pay our entire staff a living wage.” Old Bus Tavern hours will be Wed-Sun 5:30pm-12am, brunch coming later this summer. 3193 Mission St. at Fair, 415-843-1938.