The Lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
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.

September 3, 2014

Mark Bright in front of his new baby. Photo: ©


The bar (and groovy stools) at Les Clos. Photo courtesy of Les Clos.


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


You’ll assuredly get a fresh pour at Les Clos. Photo courtesy of Les Clos.

Last Friday, I enjoyed a quick sneak peek of ~BRIGHT’S LES CLOS~, a wine bar, an all-day café, retail wine shop, and much more, hopefully opening around September 15th-20th, ABC permit pending. Mark Bright is well known internationally, whether you are drinking off his award-winning wine list at Saison (where he is a partner) or at the neighborhood-friendly Vinyl (he opened it with Kristopher Esqueda, the other half of their consulting partnership as Markris Wine Group), or you know him via his wine fund and brokerage, Bright Wine Fund, or you’re a client of his Cellar Master cellaring and wine management company. He’s a powerhouse of activity, connections, and deep knowledge, and it’s amazing to see how far he has come since he burst onto our local wine scene in 2004, when Rajat Parr hired him as the sommelier for Restaurant Michael Mina. Fortunately Saison is just a hop and a skip down Townsend to Les Clos, so Mark will be able to easily bounce between the two. (Well, when he’s in the country.)

Anyone who knows Mark knows how much he loves and lives for Burgundy, so it will be figuring prominently on the primarily French list (and the shelves) at Les Clos, from bottles from the ’70s to some selections you can’t find elsewhere. But you’ll also find frappato from COS (Sicily) and chardonnay from Kistler (Sonoma Coast), all available in 3-, 6- and 10-ounce pours—there will be 40 selections by the glass in all. You can order off the menu, try out a creative flight (served blind, and geared for those studying for their MS exam), or take a deep dive into the InVine list on the iPad, which will also feature some fabulous wines from Chablis, the Rhone, the Loire, and oui, Champagne. There are also five beers on tap, plus sherries, vermouths, and sake by the glass.

The GM, head sommelier, and a partner in Les Clos is Cara Patricia Higgins, who was the lead sommelier at Hakkasan. She has been running the operations of Bright Wine Fund and acting as cellar master of Saison.

Now, a big announcement about the project is that pastry chef Shawn Gawle, who has been at Saison since it was on Folsom Street, has left the restaurant and is going to be the chef of Les Clos. Some folks may not be aware his background covers both savory and sweet experiences, and lucky for us, his résumé includes L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in New York, so expect some amazing potatoes in SF soon. Heh. But we’ll also be enjoying some exquisite canelés, so we all win on that too.

His preview menu includes simpler dishes like oysters two different ways, charcuterie, cheese, and three different types of caviar (which they are basically breaking even on, so enjoy it), but the rest of the lunch and dinner menu features many of the classic and rustic French dishes you want ($12-$28), including frisée aux lardons, tête de cochon with gribiche and fried capers, bone marrow, moules à la provençale, roasted sweetbreads, and Parisienne gnocchi gratinée with Comté. It just makes you want to drink exquisite wine, right? What’s amazing is they aren’t even working with a full kitchen.

There will also be a fab breakfast every day, something lacking in the neighborhood (Mark lives almost across the street, so he knows), plus takeaway lunches and dinners you can heat up later. Also look for some special Humphry Slocombe flavors and sundaes, and items from Le Marais Bakery. While the place is meant to be welcoming, of course the dishes and presentations will be quality, from Heath plates to universal stem glasses by Gabriel-Glas. There’s a gorg orange La Marzocco espresso machine, with orange Le Creuset cups to match, and the coffee is from Sightglass.

The 1,200-square-foot space has two different live edge cedar bars—the farther one will be used for special education sessions and tastings—and the flat-screen TVs will show maps of Burgundy, but you might see some wine events and auctions on there too. The bar chairs look like a variation on the classic Eames lounge chair and are incredibly comfortable.

The main room has about 10 Parisian-style tables, and there’s a loungy area in the back with couches and tufted chairs, which is sure to become “sommelier corner.” You’ll see some fun lithos of the famous Willi’s Wine Bar (Mark says he came up with the name for Les Clos while he was there and drinking some Raveneau) and vintage maps, and there’s a lot of retail space in the back. On your way to a party and need a bottle chilled down asap? Boom, there’s a Wine Well Chiller. Want to show up with some caviar too? You can purchase that too (just don’t forget to call me, mmmkay?).

Whether you want to come by for a late breakfast, an afternoon glass of wine and a snack, or do it up for dinner, the all-day format will have you covered. Hours are looking like Mon-Fri 8am-12am, Sat-Sun 10am-12am. Follow along on Twitter for updates on the official opening date. 234 Townsend St. at 3rd St., 415-795-1422.


Screens upon screens at The San Francisco Athletic Club. Yelp photo by Janet Z.

Football season is upon us, which means many of your favorite bars have special hours and food options to keep you cheering all Sunday long.

First up, ~ROCK BAR~ will not only be opening at 10am every Sunday starting September 7th, but they’ll also be offering delivery of brunch dishes from sister restaurant Front Porch until 2:30pm. Perhaps shrimp and grits is just the thing to get you through the morning, or maybe chicken and waffles is more your style. Either way, both go great with a Bloody Mary and some good ole American football. Some days, they just might fire up the grill in the afternoon too. 80 29th St. at Tiffany, 415-550-6664.

Downtown, ~BARTLETT HALL~ is opening at 9:30am every Saturday and Sunday for NFL and college football games. In addition to drinks from the bar, they’ve got a special brunch menu for game days, with chicken wings with fermented pepper sauce, kimchi, and bacon aioli; the Maverick burger; and lamb and potato hash with roasted garlic, spinach, pickled plum, and eggs. The brunch menu is available from 9:30am-2:30pm. 242 O’Farrell St. at Powell, 415-433-4332.

Starting Saturday September 13th, ~LA URBANA~ will be open all day for brunch and football in El Garaje, starting at 11am on Saturdays and 10am on Sundays. Sangria, cold beer, and tacos will all be on offer. Sat 11am-4pm, Sun 10am-4pm. (Also worth noting: starting September 16th, El Garaje will be hosting Taco Tuesdays all night, with street tacos for $1.75, or get two tacos and a shot of mezcal for $7. Heat seekers will want to request chef Julio’s new muy caliente salsa.)

~THE SAN FRANCISCO ATHLETIC CLUB~ is also open for every NFL game—you can check their schedule right here. Games will be shown on their huge television screens, and you can reserve a booth for large groups in advance, if you’re so inclined. During games, there will be drink specials, as well. 1750 Divisadero St. at Bush, 415-923-8989.


The latest drinks at Loló. Photo: Wes Rowe.

~LOLÓ~ has a new cocktail menu, inspired by the Lotería card game. The drinks are all named after the graphics in the game, including Las Jaras (the arrows) with gin, rosemary-infused whiskey, St. Germain, and lemon, and El Diablito (little devil) with Wahaka mezcal, Ancho Reyes, Aperol, lime, and grapefruit soda. Check out the colorful menu here.

Some liquor license activity tipped us off to some changes at Tenderloin dive bar ~HARRINGTON’S HARRY PUB~ (not to be confused with Harrington’s in the Financial District). Turns out it’s being purchased by the team behind Irish Bank. Peter Friel, one of the owners, reports that they won’t be making any major changes to the bar. They want to keep it an Irish bar, just with a few improvements to the cleanliness and the food. They haven’t taken possession of it quite yet, but once they do, more of the details will be worked out. 460 Larkin St. at Turk, 415-775-1150.


The Trappist, ready for your sour and bitter needs. Photo from Facebook.

Fans of sour and bitter beers will be excited to check out Sour/Bitter Fest at ~THE TRAPPIST~ in Oakland. On Saturday September 6th, they’ll be taking over the parking lot with 16 beers from eight different breweries (everyone is bringing one sour and one bitter brew) and bites to pair. Participating breweries include Sante Adairius, Craftsman, Tahoe Mountain, and Rare Barrel. Restaurants including the Trappist (of course), Miss Ollie’s, Ramen Shop, and Perdition Smokehouse will be serving bites, some made with beer. The event goes from 2pm-5pm and tickets are $62 per person, including all beer and food samples, as well as a special glass commemorating the event. 460 8th St. at Broadway, Oakland, 415-238-8900.

While we’re on the topic of beer, don’t forget that Oktoberfest is approaching fast. ~MONK’S KETTLE~ is celebrating with a selection of gravity firkins from Germany, starting Saturday September 20th. Don’t forget, they’ll be closed until then, getting their new outdoor patio ready.

~SCHROEDER’S~ will be kicking off their fest on Friday September 19th from 3pm-8pm with an outdoor beer garden on Front Street. There will be special beers, along with live music from the Schwabenland German Band. The following weekends, you can also find live music inside the restaurant, along with special menu items like Wiener schnitzel, spaetzle, and pretzels. Music will be on Fridays and Saturdays from 6pm-9pm until October 5th. 240 Front St. at Sacramento, 415-421-4778.


Get serious about mezcal on Sunday September 14th at the Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle at Public Works from 3pm-7pm. The event includes tastings of the spirit, from both small and large producers, along with cocktails and bites from local restaurants like La Urbana, Loló, and Sabrosa. Oh yeah, and Don Bugito will be in the house!

There will be opportunities to talk with mezcal experts and producers, along with guided tastings and some new arrivals from Mexico. Some of the speakers include Erick Rodriguez of Almamezcalera (he’s known at the Indiana Jones of mezcal, apparently), Graciela Angeles Carreño of Real Minero, and Cecilia Murrieta of La Niña del Mezcal. It’s all being put on by Mezcalistas and Agave Tip. Tickets are $60 per person for general admission and $100 for VIP, which gets you in early and gives you access to a special VIP area with cocktails and food. Public Works, 161 Erie St. at Mission.