Now Open: Hard Water


The horseshoe bar (and big buoy light). Photo: ©


The bar at night. Photo courtesy of Hard Water.


Shelves o’ whiskey. Photo courtesy of Hard Water.

On Friday evening I had a chance to check out ~HARD WATER~, Charles Phan’s new bar and kitchen at Pier 3 that is opening Thursday March 14th. (Every time I mentioned it to someone this past weekend, I had to say the name in my best Don LaFontaine voice, as if I were announcing an action flick: HARD WATER.) The space (designed by Olle Lundberg) is actually not that large—just 1,300 square feet—and pretty spare. It’s all about the horseshoe marble-topped bar at the center—surrounded by wood-topped stools—and a massive, barnacle-encrusted buoy that was cut in half and turned into an overhead light. There are also some marble high-top tables and counters around the periphery of the space.

The most eye-catching feature is the back-lit wall lined with rare and historic whiskeys that will quietly beckon you to open your wallet and whip out your credit card (although some are not for sale, sorry). Bar director Erik Adkins has been collecting out-of-production, rare, and allocated whiskeys for the past 10 years, and so now here’s the result from all that bourbon bunkering. You’ll have more than 150 American whiskeys to try in all, whew.

Although it’s cool to turn people on to Rittenhouse 21, 23, and 25 years, there are also some barrels that have been recently acquired for the bar, from 9- and 10-year barrels of Willett to Buffalo Trace Weller 107, plus barrel-strength Four Roses, and Heaven Hill Elijah Craig 12 year (which is also non-chill filtered, for you bourbon geeks). There are six to eight cocktails (with American whiskey as their base), like the à la Louisiane and the Dixie. Behind the stick, you’ll also see Joel Baker full time, and some shifts by bartenders like Jennifer Colliau and Ethan Terry.

I was happy to see chef de cuisine Melissa Perfit in the open kitchen, who some of you may recognize from Hog Island and Bar Crudo. The New Orleans-inspired menu is full of bar- (and bourbon-) friendly bites, like cornmeal-crusted alligator and stuffed artichoke, plus larger dishes like seafood gumbo, fried chicken, smothered pork shank, and okra étouffée (peek at the menu and pricing here). There’s also a raw bar, with crab, shrimp, oysters, and Louisiana crawfish. Don’t feel like having a whiskey? (I hope you get that figured out soon.) Check out the wine list from Chaylee Priete, which includes some local wines by the glass from Scholium Project, Wind Gap, and Tendu.

Hours to start are lunch daily 11:30am-2:30pm and dinner 5:30pm-midnight (subject to change in opening weeks). There is also going to be a takeout window, and some seating outside too. The place looks smart in the daylight, and I can see it getting totally packed as a popular after-work destination (and yet with all those hard surfaces, I wonder how loud it’s going to be—but hey, that’s how it goes at HARD WATER). Pier 3, The Embarcadero at Washington, 415-392-3021.