The Lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
October 28, 2014

The Lexington Club’s iconic sign. Photo from Facebook.

It can seem surprising that SF only has one lesbian bar, and what’s even more surprising is that the only one we do have is going to be closing. I KNOW. After 18 years in business in the Mission, the ~LEXINGTON CLUB~ is going to be closing in early 2015. Owner Lila Thirkield decided to sell The Lex—citing financial difficulties—to an “undisclosed buyer.” Since the bar’s lesbian legacy is not going to be upheld, she is taking the name and website with her (you may see some some future “Lex” events, time will tell). She is going to be focusing her energy on Virgil’s Sea Room in Bernal, where she is a business partner.

You can read Thirkield’s note on Facebook here, and there’s much more in this thoughtful interview with 48 Hills. And that’s pretty much it for gay bars in the Mission. SF, you are getting harder to recognize. 3464 19th St. at Mission, 415-863-2052.


A seriously icy punch at CUESA’s Cocktails of the Farmers Market last spring. Photo by Tory Putnam via Facebook.

CUESA and The Exploratorium have paired up for the last Cocktails of the Farmers Market event of 2014. It’s on Wednesday November 12th and is all about the science of cocktail making, called The Chemistry of the Cocktail. Thirteen bartenders and eight chefs from around the bay will utilize farmers’ market produce to create drinks and bites, all with a scientific bent. The chain reactions will be popping from 5:30pm-8pm at the Ferry Building. Tickets are $45 per person and include 2 full-size drinks, 11 sample-size drinks, and all the bites you can manage.

October 21, 2014

The counter at West Coast Wine Cheese. Photo courtesy West Coast Wine Cheese.


The wall of wine. Photo courtesy West Coast Wine Cheese.

Not too long ago, we mentioned ~WEST COAST WINE-CHEESE~ was coming to Cow Hollow, a wine and small plates bistro from Chris Wanner and Lindsey Repose. Well, this duo of wine professionals just tied the knot, and now they have opened their stylish hangout (but they will be keeping things unpretentious).

You can take a look at their West Coast-driven wine list and learn about the winemakers (which are listed with each wine). There are plenty of cheeses, salumi, and small plates like rillettes, salads, and a couple of sweets too. You will also find some beers on the list.

And since the Giants are in the World Series (!!!), you can enjoy a glass of the Mumm Napa Brut Prestige (Giants label) sparkling wine while watching the game on the flatscreens in there. Oh yeah, and they added some Saigon-style chicken wings too. Hours are Tue-Fri 4pm-10pm, Sat-Sun 12pm-10pm. 2165 Union St. at Fillmore, 415-577-9357.


A look into Liquid Gold. Photo courtesy of Tim Lee.

We have been tracking the progress of ~LIQUID GOLD~ since the very beginning, and now owner Tim Lee has let us know the grand opening is this Saturday October 25th.

It’s a casual neighborhood bottle shop and taproom, with 45 seats in all. You can sidle up to the bar, grab a spot in the window or at the loungy couch area, and start taking your pick from breweries like Track 7, Fort Point, Pine Street, and Almanac (there are 30 mostly local craft beers on draft, but they’ll feature some rare ones from around the U.S. as well). Local wineries on tap include the Winery SF, Cellars 33, and Bluxome Street. Even better: Liquid Gold ended up getting their off-sale license for beer and wine after all, so you can bring any discoveries home with you.

Hours for now are Mon-Thu 2pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 2pm-12am, and Sun 1pm-8pm (they may open earlier for sporting events). Speaking of: they have TVs in there, so you can watch the Giants! 1040 Hyde St. at California, 415-660-5142.


The exterior of the beloved Esta Noche. Yelp photo by James Z.

After the sad closure of Esta Noche, the Mission bar is now being transformed by the same team behind Wish in SoMa. The new project, called ~BOND~, will be opening in the next three weeks, after renovations are completed. About that name: it’s got nothing to do with 007, but is instead based on “the inner bond that draws one person to another,” a quote from Rumi. The ties that bind us? Yeah, we’re not going in there without a safe word.

As for the renovations, apparently the building used to house a three-story hotel, but the top two floors were destroyed in a fire in the 1970s. Rather than rebuild those levels, the owner turned the space into a one-story building, with a stairwell dead-ending onto the roof. This old architecture has been emphasized and exposed, and the hotel reception area is now restored, along with a lit arch and some windows that have been opened back up. Look for occasional DJ nights and mostly custom-recorded music on the sound system that’s designed by Barry Katz of JK Sound. Hours will likely be daily 4pm-2am. 3079 16th St. at Valencia.


Afternoon aperitivo at Locanda. Photo courtesy Locanda.

After our tablehopper aperitivo event at 54 Mint in July, we are so happy to see the Italian tradition of aperitivo hour taking off, at 54 Mint (with specials from 4pm-6pm), at Plin on weekends, and now at ~LOCANDA~ on Sunday through Thursday from 5:30pm-6:30pm. Drink specials include $8 cocktails, glasses of wine for $6, and $4 Moretti; all drinks come with complimentary marinated olives and chips cacio e pepe.

October 14, 2014

A peek at the Fez Room (pre-transformation). Photo via Facebook.

It’s true, two of SF’s fabulous drag queens and personalities, Heklina (TrannyShack) and D’Arcy Drollinger, have taken over the long-closed ~OASIS~ in SoMa (most recently Caliente), and will be reopening the 6,000-square-foot venue back under the Oasis name, with their target set for New Year’s Eve (hopefully the project won’t run on drag queen time and be late, because they want to get it open!). Additional partners in the venture are Geoff Benjamin and Jason Beebout (of Samiam).

Heklina and D’Arcy have been doing shows and events together the past couple of years, and have been searching for and looking at numerous venues to claim as their own (Heklina says, “I wanted my own little birdcage!”). With so many venues in the performance world closing, these two are excited to offer, as Heklina puts it, “an oasis of performance, drag, and glamour to keep the flag flying!” Acts will be hosted from around the world, ranging from drag to theater to cabaret. Heklina adds there will be some nightclub and promoter nights to pay the bills, but they want it to be different, and not yet another space with flyers of shirtless boys.

The space is currently being gutted, with the floors being made even (can’t have anyone falling in their heels), the stage being built, the walls getting painted, the space getting zhooshed, and many more improvements. Alas, the old swimming pool was filled in long ago. The space also include the neighboring VSF, which will be transformed into the Fez Room (it already has a Moroccan vibe to it) and has its own bar. Stand by for an update before we hop into 2015. You can follow along on their Facebook page, which is where they’re posting updates (along with fun pics of the space when it was the Leatherneck bar). 298 11th St. at Folsom.


Opening night at Richmond Republic Draught House. Photo: Tim McLaughlin.

About a year ago, we mentioned two of the partners in Chomp N’ Swig (David Heft and Albert Lara Rodriguez) were partnering with Ender Markal to open a new business in the former Haig’s Delicacies space. A couple of weeks ago, they opened ~RICHMOND REPUBLIC DRAUGHT HOUSE~, which is currently serving 24 beers on draft (and one nitro), plus a cider and sour. David Heft mentioned the taps are almost all Bay Area craft beers, except when there’s a beer they just want to try and they go out-of-bounds. There’s a mug club too: for $150, you can enjoy free beer on Tuesdays, you’ll always get $1 off your beer, and there’s going to be an annual party.

There’s a full kitchen, and the food will be launching next weekend (Friday October 24th), with high-end burgers, housemade sausages, a big salad, and other bar bites like wings and nachos.

It’s a big space with room for 92—there’s a long bar and a main room, as well as a mezzanine. They also play the game on three big screens plus a projector. Hours (for now) are Mon-Wed 5pm-12am, Thu-Fri 5pm-2am, Sat 10am-2am, and Sun 10am-12am. 642 Clement St. at 8th Ave., 415-702-6069.


~JACKALOPE~, a new bar just off Polk, has softly opened in the former Mark’s Bar space. The project comes from some of the partners involved in nearby Soda Popinski’s and shares some conceptual elements. Jackalope will also have a wheel game, as well as an upstairs “duck hunt” room with an older television and some nostalgic video games. As for the cocktail list, it’s all about twists on classics like an old-fashioned and Manhattan. They’re still gearing up, so hours are a little touch and go, but by late November, the hours will be Sun-Thu 5pm-2am and Fri-Sat 3pm-2am. 1092 Post St. at Polk, no phone yet.


Jonny “Flash” Raglin showing us some tin flash. Photo: Facebook.

I was dismayed to read on Facebook that last Friday was Jonny “Flash” Raglin’s last night at ~COMSTOCK SALOON~. Fortunately he is staying in The Absinthe Group family—he’s just moving over to the upcoming ~888 BRANNAN PROJECT~. Founder Bill Russell-Shapiro tells me they just got their permit a week or two ago, and hope to start work later this month. It looks like late March/early April is the new target for this 5,400-square-foot Spanish project that is a full buildout, which has chef Ryan McIlwraith (previously the opening chef de cuisine at Coqueta) leading the kitchen. The restaurant will be open all day.

Raglin—who did a lot of the design and development at Comstock—is going to be the project manager at 888 Brannan (which is still unnamed), and once the project opens, he will stay on as the operations manager and will also be running the bar and cocktail program. Raglin assured me he’ll sling drinks again at Comstock from time to time, but for now, he’s going to have both of his hands full with this very big project. I know many of us will miss seeing him at Comstock, but that just means we get to torture Jeff “Jefe” Hollinger all the more. 888 Brannan at 8th St.


Bubbly with a view at the Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting in 2012. Photo from Wine & Spirits’ website.

Coming up on Tuesday October 21st is one of the most fun wine events of the year, the 11th annual Wine & Spirits Magazine’s Top 100 Tasting Event. You will be able to taste wines from the Top 100 wineries of 2014, with many of the winemakers present. There will also be great food, from oysters to cheeses, and bites from new and notable restaurants like 1760, Dirty Habit, Stones Throw, Shed, Lolo, and the Barrel Room.

The event is at City View at Metreon, and fingers crossed for some gorgeous fall weather so we can enjoy our Louis Roederer and Dom Ruinart on the outdoor terrace, am I right? Get your tickets here, which range from early VIP entrance ($150 at 5:30pm) to general admission ($110 at 6:30pm). The event is a benefit for San Francisco Baykeeper, supporting their initiatives that fight water pollution. See you there! City View at Metreon, 135 4th St., 4th Floor.


The wine library at Press Club. Photo from Facebook.


The patio at Jax Vineyards tasting room. Photo from Facebook.

If you’d like to learn a bit more about wine, check out the tasting series from ~PRESS CLUB~ called “Taste Wine Like a Pro.” The classes meet monthly, with a different theme for each class. On Wednesday October 22nd, sommelier Mauro Cirilli will be pouring “Anything Odd” wines from unusual regions or made with unusual processes, including orange wine. Wines include the 2013 Jambalaia, La Clarine Farm, Sierra Foothills and 2010 Vitovska, Zidarich, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy. In November, you’ll learn about good wines for Thanksgiving, and December is all about bubbles from all over. The series takes place from 6pm-7:30pm and costs $50 per person. Head here for tickets and more information.

Jax Vineyards in Calistoga has opened a tasting room in SoMa, in an old family warehouse. They are open for tasting by appointment Monday through Friday, as well as a happy hour Wednesday through Friday from 4pm-8pm. You can try out flights and glasses of wine, as well as bottles to enjoy there or take home. There’s also a cute little patio too. 326 Brannan St. at 2nd St., 415-446-9505.

On Wednesday November 5th, Russian River Valley wines will take over the General’s Residence in Fort Mason, with Single Vineyard Night from 6:30pm-8:30pm. A huge line-up of Russian River wines will be available, including Davis Bynum, Sojourn Cellars, and C. Donatiello. There will be food from City Kitchen and Truffle Gateau,along with like music and a silent auction. Tickets are $55, with additional seminars and raffle tickets available for $25-$50. General’s Residence, 1 Fort Mason at Franklin.

Whether you love Italian wine or want to learn more about it, ~POGGIO~ is the place to be this month with their Venti wine specials. Until October 31st, they’ll be offering 20 bottles of wine from the 20 wine regions of Italy, all priced at $20. The kitchen will be offering regional dishes to complement the wine, as well. Some of the wines include an Abbazia di Novacella, Schiava, 2011 from Trentino Alto-Adige or Lungarotti, Rubesco, Rosso di Torigiano, 2010 from Umbria. Reservations can be made by calling 415-332-7771.

October 7, 2014

Bob Sessions. Photo from Hanzell Vineyards’ Facebook page.

Ready to drink some wine? ~FOREIGN CINEMA~ is hosting Andy Peay of Peay Vineyards on Thursday October 16th as guest sommelier. He’ll be pouring special bottles all evening, as well as two flights of selections from their 2012 vintage. The special bottles and flights will be available during regular dinner service, from 5:30pm-11pm. The regular menu will be available, and reservations can be made here.

~HEIRLOOM CAFE~ will be commemorating the life of Bob Sessions, an icon of the wine world who passed away in May, on Sunday November 16th. Wines from Sessions’ Hanzell Vineyards will be poured all evening, with vintages dating as far back as 1981. The dinner will include eight (well, eight and a half) courses, each paired with two wines, and capped with a Champagne toast the Mr. Sessions’ life and legacy. The dinner begins early, at 2pm, with the toast at around 6pm. Tickets are $200 per person and include all food, wine, tax, and gratuity.


Almanac Beer Co. has been up to lots of tricks this fall, and you can catch them at a bunch of upcoming special events. First, the NotOberfest is taking over St. Gregory’s Cathedral on Friday October 17th from 6:30pm-9:30pm. Lots of breweries will be in attendance, including Anchor, Drake’s Brewing, Henhouse, and Ballast Point. Plus, 4505 Meats will be on hand serving all kinds of meaty treats. Tickets are $60 per person and include all the beer tastes and meat you can manage. 500 De Haro St. at Mariposa.

As previously reported, the Recchiutis have changed concepts at ~THELAB~, and now you can catch Taste Project dinners and special events there. On Friday October 10th and Saturday October 11th at 7pm, catch a special tasting dinner with Almanac, including multiple savory and sweet courses to pair with Almanac’s fall beers. Check out the menu here and nab a ticket here. Tickets are $95 per person, including all food and beer pairings.

You can also try out some Almanac beers at the ~BURRITT ROOM AND TAVERN~ on Friday October 10th from 6pm-8pm. Tickets are only $25 and include three bites with pairings. 417 Stockton St. at Sutter, 415-400-0561.


The freshly repaired Monkey Bar at Comstock Saloon. Photo courtesy Comstock Saloon.

How many times have bartenders helped you out of a jam, given you advice, or just poured you a drink without judgment when you really needed one? Well, recently a couple of bartenders in this town have suffered some injuries, so let’s pay it forward and help them out too. Here’s how.

The Monkey Bar at ~COMSTOCK SALOON~ was damaged last month when a driver plowed through the front and into the bar. After closing for repairs, the bar has reopened, with a special menu called “The Toughest Bar in San Francisco” and featuring drinks like a Sidecar, Drive-Thru Daiquiri, and the Skrewed Driver. It’s not all funny, though: Tyler Schweppe, a bartender who was in town visiting from Rhode Island to learn about San Francisco’s cocktail culture, was injured in the crash. He suffered a leg fracture and lacerations, and the bar will be donating $1 from every drink sold off the new menu to his medical expenses (and time away from work).

Another bartender has run into some trouble this week too. Eater reports that Roberto Chicas, a bartender at ~THE CAVALIER~, was beaten on the head with a hammer by his UberX driver on his way home from work last month. Chicas fortunately survived the brutal attack, but may lose sight in his left eye and will need multiple reconstructive surgeries.

There are a few ways to help him and his family pay for his medical treatment. First, stop in at Louie’s Bar for a “Chicas’ Special” (that’s a beer with a shot of Fernet), and they’ll donate $1 to Chicas. Second, head to Twenty Five Lusk on Sunday October 12th for a special fundraiser from 2pm-5pm. It’s $35 per person at the door, and then there will be an open bar, with beer, wine, cocktails, and snacks, along with a silent auction. Anything helps, so please consider attending, donating to the auction, and spending money at the auction. Our thoughts are with Chicas and we are sending him all our positive thoughts for a speedy recovery!

September 30, 2014

The new window and updated neon at Pop’s. Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux.


The wall at Pop’s. Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux.

Now open on 24th Street in the Mission—with a fresh paint job, a lovingly restored interior (which includes a newly constructed, period-appropriate back bar), a restored neon sign, and more—is ~POP’S BAR~. There was a great piece on The Bold Italic with pics of the new digs. During the massive remodel, they discovered the bar actually dated back further than 1947—it ends up it was more like 1935 or so—and was a clubhouse during Prohibition. It’s an amazing feat that the bar has been in continuous operation since then, with no name change, and it’s something partner Michael “Spike” Krouse (Madrone Art Bar on Divis) is very proud of. He is partnering with Tom Tierney, who has been running the open-mic night at Madrone the past couple of years, and they look forward to continuing the legacy of this working-class neighborhood bar.

Bartenders are experienced and hail from places like Nopa, Dalva, and more, so while there isn’t a cocktail menu, they can pretty much make you whatever it is you’re looking for. As for prices, you can get a High Life for $2, a draft beer for $5, or an Allagash for $7, so your bases are covered. There are also drink-and-a-shot specials ($8-$10), including the popular Calle 24: a draft Tecate with a spicy salt rim and shot of tequila for $8. Arriba. They are also trying to get approval to play amplified music until 2am (it was originally until 10pm-11pm only)—they won the conditional use hearing, and are now going before the Entertainment Commission. Time will tell! Hours are 3pm-2am. 2800 24th St. at York, 415-872-5160.

Back in June, we mentioned there were some changes happening at ~HOTSPOT~, which has been closed for four months. But it looks like they prevailed with their legal action against their “slumlord” (as they stated on their Facebook page). Tenderloin Blog reports the bar is back open! Based on the photo of the entrance, it looks like it got quite a bit of a renovation. 1414 Market St. at Fell.


The main seating area at Les Clos. Photo courtesy of Les Clos.

Winos, I have some updates for you! Am thrilled with the news that the beer and wine license for ~BRIGHT’S LES CLOS~ has kicked in, which means they have now extended their hours from 8am-12am daily (and nightly!). I can’t wait to start trying items on chef Shawn Gawle’s menu with some sick wines. It’s on. You can read our extensive piece about the project here. 234 Townsend St. at 3rd St., 415-795-1422.

Another beer and wine license that has finally made its way through is at ~BELCAMPO MEAT CO.~, so now their mighty tasty burger can be paired with a glass of barbera. Many of the wines are organic and sustainable, and come from California, South Africa, France, and Italy. The beer list also has some quality picks with a strong local showing, like Anderson Valley Stout, Racer 5 IPA, Almanac Honey Saison, and Magnolia Bitter (on tap). 1998 Polk St. at Pacific, 415-660-5573.

510 residents, you should know that natural winemakers Los Pilares (from San Diego) will be at ~THE HALF ORANGE~ for a party and tasting on Thursday October 9th. Winemaker Michael Christian will be pouring not just their 2011, 2012, and 2013 vintage reds, but also some of their experimental “garage wine.” 6pm. 3340 E. 12th St. at 33rd Ave., Oakland, 510-500-3338.

I recently received an email from the fine folks at ~BAY GRAPE~ announcing their new Bespoke Wine Club. I emailed back, asking where was the fizz option, and whaddya know, they added Marcia’s Fizz Club as an option. Ha! I had a good laugh over that one. Pop! 376 Grand Ave. at Elita, Oakland, 510-686-3615.