The Lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
July 29, 2014

A look into the lounge. Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Champagne Society.

Fellow Champagne lovers, you now have a new clubhouse to hang out in: the ~SAN FRANCISCO CHAMPAGNE SOCIETY~. Owner Bill Marci is a Champagne fanatic, and has created a very intimate tasting room space in SoMa where fellow enthusiasts can make a reservation, and then come drink very special bubbles. His loft space was inspired by the many personal-feeling tasting rooms he has encountered in France, when you can sit with the winemaker and learn about their wines. Marci is particularly taken with small grower-producers, and he may also include some cava, Prosecco, and other sparkling wines down the road.

Reservations are accepted from 11am-10pm (email here) (you can also text to that address), and there’s also the option to take over the space for a private event (there’s room for 15). You can arrange for certain Champagnes to be poured, or in the case of Friday nights, there are flights already set up. Take a look at the inaugural flights for Friday August 1st, featuring Champagnes from Marc Hebrart and L. Aubry Fils, available individually or as four two-ounce pours for $45. The address will be revealed once your reservation is made. Salud!


The bar at Red Dog. Photo: Dana Eastland. ©

Brush up on your cocktail knowledge on Sunday evenings at ~RED DOG~’s new Cocktail University. Every month, they’ll select a different cocktail theme, like a historical period, a region, or a specific style, and then bar manager James Goad will lead a small cocktail seminar on the theme, with food to pair. The first in the series is this Sunday August 3rd at 6pm, and the theme is New Orleans. Drinks will be along the lines of a Ramos Fizz, Sazerac, and Vieux Carré, and for food look for cornmeal fried oysters and green tomatoes with rémoulade, dirty rice arancini, and Lake Tahoe crawfish étouffée, with beignets for dessert. The seminars cost $45 per person and are limited to ten people, so email for your spot now.

July 22, 2014

The future home of Citizen Fox. Image from Google Maps street view.

Eater brings news that the large space at the corner of 18th Street and Mission is (officially) spoken for. There’s been speculation about this space for a long time, and now we’ve got some details. The owner is Deborah Blum, one of the partners behind Lolinda, Beretta, and Starbelly. This one is called ~CITIZEN FOX~ and is going to be a brewery and beer incubator with Rich Higgins serving as brewmaster and educator. There will also be a full range of beer education opportunities, including classes and workshops on beermaking and tasting, and even a brewing internship program.

As for food, Blum hasn’t offered many details on what will be coming out of the kitchen (or who the chef is), but word is that it will be California style and casual. There is also a full bar, and we received word that Ramen Shop bar manager Chris Lane, who worked with Blum at Lolinda, will be consulting on the cocktails here. His menu at Citizen Fox will focus on freshness, with infusions, shrubs, and brightly flavored garnishes.

Reportedly, the team is hoping to open the 2,400-square-foot space in early November, though given the scope of the project that seems awfully ambitious. Oh, and if this all sounds familiar, you might be thinking of Brew U, which we reported on in May and is also plotting a Mission location. 2205 Mission St. at 18th St.


Photo courtesy of Biondivino.


Classic Genovese bruschette at Biondivino. Photo courtesy of Biondivino.

Fans of the cheerful ~BIONDIVINO~ on Russian Hill, its walls packed with incredible Italian wines, have another reason to come visit the shop: owner Ceri Smith is launching an aperitivo and wine bar pop-up on Thursday July 24th, Troëggi a Biondivino, offering a variety of bruschette in the evening (this is what happens when Emanuele Fromento of Ai Troëggi—the natural wine and bruschetta bar in Genova—visits SF for a month). There will be some classic Genovese bruschette (on Josey Baker bread), ranging from freshly made pesto to one with Taleggio, zucchini, and prosciutto cotto. Oh yes, and there’s bruschetta with Gorgonzola and mostarda di Cremona, and the “spussona” version, with Gorgonzola, onion, and spicy arugula. There will be about 15 in all, $4-$12, plus some cheese and salumi plates, and tiramisù for dessert.

There will be a variety of natural wines poured, just $10 a glass, including two sparklers, three to five whites, and three to five reds, plus a rosé. If you come by from 5pm-7pm and order a glass of wine, in true aperitivo fashion, you’ll be gifted a mini bruschetta (with pesto, tomato, garlic, and olive oil). It’s an informal gathering, but you’ll still have a spot to perch at tables. Wine bar hours will be Wed-Sun 5pm-11pm (or closing) from now through August 31st.

While you’re in the shop, be sure to check out the growing shelf of artisan food items from Italy and Spain that Ceri is stocking these days for the eli-men-ta-ri part of her business, including hard-to-find pastas, honey, spices, tins of canned fish, and more. She is planning to source more items like colatura and bottarga, and have “pre-offers” for people to purchase them before they’re stocked (subscribe to her newsletter to keep up on that). Look for this to evolve in coming weeks.

Another thing to look forward to: she is going to be offering classes on wine, food, ingredients, beer, and more. We’ll keep you posted (and may even be teaching a class ourselves!). 1415 Green St. at Polk, 415-673-2320.


Broc wines. Photo from Facebook.

Attention winos, we have a trio of events for you to consider. This Saturday July 26th is the annual Broctacular event at ~BROC CELLARS~, an open house at their winery facility in Berkeley. It’s a low-key event, with pours of recent wine releases, some vittles provided by Naked Lunch, and there will be some local tunes. $25, includes all wine and food ($12.50 for wine club members). Tickets here. 1pm-5pm. 1310 5th St. at Gilman, Berkeley.

Also in the 510: Saturday August 2nd will be the ninth annual Urban Wine Xperience in Jack London Square (on the Ferry Lawn), courtesy of the East Bay Vintners Alliance. More than 20 East Bay urban wineries will pour a wide array of their white, rosé, red, and dessert wines. There will also be food and live music. Tickets are $35 for wine club members, $45 for advance tickets, and $60 at the door. Designated drivers receive discounted tickets at $15. Tickets can be purchased online. 1pm-5pm.

Back in the city, on Sunday August 3rd, Pamela Busch of The Vinguard is hosting a Vin de France Seminar and Tasting at ~TERROIR NATURAL WINE BAR AND MERCHANT~. From the event press release: “Some of the most captivating wines being made today are vin de France, formerly known as vin de table. From the Loire Valley to Provence, VDF producers are shaking up the AOC system (appellation d’origine contrôlée) and at the same time preserving a lot of winemaking traditions and old grape varieties.” Pamela will be moderating a one-hour seminar at 2pm about vin de France; a walk-around tasting with 20 wines will be held from 3pm-5pm. The seminar and tasting is $45; tasting only for $25. Tickets and more here. 2pm-5pm. 1116 Folsom St. at 7th St.


Open Range on, uh, the open range. Photo: Dana Eastland. ©


The setting for lunch, with pairings. Photo: Dana Eastland. ©


Plantings at Casey Flat Ranch. Photo from Facebook.

A field report by Dana Eastland: Capay Valley in Yolo County is well known for its produce and organic farms, but it’s also home to a wine region, the Capay Valley AVA. It was established in 2002, and remains a bit of a secret, especially compared with Napa, just to the west. The valley floor is quite hot, but high above it in the Vaca Mountains is Casey Flat Ranch, a former cattle ranch and retreat owned by the Morey family. At about 2,000 feet, this new winery is able to make wines with the balance that comes from elevation and rocky mountain soils. It was only planted in 2004, and winemaker Laura Barrett has been working with the Morey family and viticulturalist Tom Prentice since to make wines using both Bordeaux and Rhône varieties.

I had a chance to visit the ranch in May to taste some of the wines. It’s definitely a trek up the mountain, and feels way more remote than just an hour and a half from downtown San Francisco. The ranch itself is home to several vineyards, and Barrett is making some lovely estate wines. I particularly enjoyed the whites, including the 2012 viognier, which is herbaceous and fresh, with apricot and a touch of nuttiness, and the 2013 sauvignon blanc, with a hint of tropical fruit and balanced acidity. They’re also making a rosé, which has a nice fullness and fruit to it, without veering into overly sweet territory.

They also have their “Open Range” series, which is made with fruit from various regions in California, depending on the year. The 2011 Open Range Red Wine we tried was pretty much ideal for barbecue. At $18, it’s a perfect bottle to bring to a party. Bottles are available for retail purchase at Andronico’s in San Francisco and select Whole Foods markets in the Bay Area, or you can purchase them directly through their website.

Because Casey Flat is still, in many ways, an experiment for everyone involved in the project, they are still trying out new ways of planting and harvesting their grapes, and Barrett is still finding ways to create balanced wines in their specific climate. If you’re into wine and learning how winemakers work with their property to make the best possible bottles, this is an excellent opportunity to watch a winery in an unusual location develop. Plus, it’s still a bit of a hidden gem, and who doesn’t love that?

They’ve recently started offering ranch tours and tastings, if you want to visit the property (you do, believe me). “Level One” tastings are available seven days a week by appointment, March-November, and are $85 per person (two person minimum), including wine tastings and bites. “Level Two” tastings are available two Thursdays a month, and include a full ranch tour, along with lunch and wine pairings, for $135 per person (four person minimum). More details and contact information can be found here. Casey Flat Ranch, Capay Valley, 415-435-2225.

July 15, 2014

Seating at The Tradesman. Photo: Dana Eastland. ©


The Tradesman exterior. Photo: Dana Eastland. ©


The walnut bar. Photo: Dana Eastland. ©


A closer look at that custom furniture. Photo: Dana Eastland. ©

Due to open within the next couple of weeks is ~THE TRADESMAN~, a neighborhood bar from Zarin Gollogly and Spencer Lafrenz, both known around town for their work as a woodworking duo, Harrison Woodworking + Design (they are behind some of the custom work at Hog & Rocks and Hi Lo BBQ). The Tradesman is going into the Central Kitchen/Trick Dog building, and the casual vibe and beer-and-wine format (no hard liquor) will provide the missing piece of the building’s puzzle. This project has been six years in the making, and the gents have conceptualized, designed, and constructed the entire bar and restaurant.  

Because of their close relationship with Hog & Rocks’ Scott Youkilis on his own projects, he is working with them on crafting their menu, which Youkilis is calling California casual; Bryan Baker (previously Hog & Rocks) is the chef. The Tradesman will offer the same menu for lunch and dinner, with a brunch menu on the weekends. Since they’re a wine and beer bar, look primarily for snacks, shared plates, and a few sandwiches and full-size plates.

Some sample menu items include snacks like roasted vegetables and burrata on chickpea lavash (which is gluten-free, and the burrata is one of Bryan’s specialities—if you’ve ordered burrata at Mozzeria, Maverick, Hi Lo, or Hog & Rocks in the last three years, you’ve had his amazing burrata) and there is also a goat tartare with cured egg yolk, watercress, horseradish, and country bread (Bryan worked in the Caribbean and cooked a lot of goat—he is going to be working with Marin Sun Farms and buying whole goats). Some smaller shared plates include fried “chicken nuggets” tossed in a Thai-inspired chile fish sauce with black garlic sauce, and an inventive rutabaga ceviche with apples and plantain chips. There will also be a burger on the menu that gets a healthy dollop of peanut butter (like they say, don’t knock it until you try it—I had my first peanut butter burger in New Orleans and it was pretty rad).

I spoke with GM Curt Polikoff about his beer and wine selections, and he says there will be 30 wines by the glass, averaging $12, but ranging from $9-$15. Wines will come from around the world, and he wants each to exhibit a sense of place, as well as be balanced, integrated, and good with food. There will be eight beers on tap, and while it’s hard to pinpoint the actual selections right now (some are very limited), there will be a range of picks, from Anchor to Drake’s 1500 Pale Ale to a sour (Cuvée des Jacobins Rouge), plus they hope to get Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Breakfast on tap too. There will also be bottled beers, and you’ll find some unpretentious ones on there as well, don’t worry—they are really taking the neighborhood hangout vibe seriously.

There are 47 seats, with a large, beautifully sanded, smooth walnut bar that everything is centered around. It’s a masculine space, and as you’d expect, there’s a lot of custom woodwork, starting with the white oak doors and claro walnut inside, plus custom lights too. Everything in there was made by them or shop-made, which is really cool (it fits right in to the neighborhood, which is still manufacturing textiles, goods, and furniture). The custom tables and chairs lend an eclectic, warm feeling to the still-industrial space. There are also skylights, high ceilings (like Salumeria, it was formerly a sausage smoking factory), and there’s a massive roll-up door, which will contribute to an indoor-outdoor feeling. There are two televisions above the bar, which will be turned on only for big games or major events.

They are hoping to soft open within the next couple weeks—you can keep checking in on their Facebook page for updates. Of course we’ll let you know as well.

Hours will be Tue-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm and 4pm-12am (Fri until 1am), Sat 10am-2:30pm (brunch) and 4pm-1am, and Sun 10am-4pm (brunch and lunch). 753 Alabama St. at 20th St.


The entrance into Natoma Cabana. Photo: Jessica Stout Paul.


Natoma Cabana’s airy (and plant-filled) space. Photo: Jessica Stout Paul.


The groovy exterior. Photo: Jessica Stout Paul.

The latest in Dennis Leary and Eric Passetti’s mini bar empire is opening this Thursday in SoMa, ~NATOMA CABANA~. As we mentioned before, it’s opening in the former John Colins space, which is a pretty cool building, with tall ceilings, skylights, and brick walls (they just sandblasted the brick and timber, so the look is really clean). The vibe is a bit “adult garden party” since Leary can’t seem to stop buying ferns and plants (they look great in the space) and there’s some great light, but it’s going to be too rowdy to call it a fern bar—he said it makes him think of a warehouse party from the late ’80s or early ’90s.

The front of the building features an eye-catching graffiti piece by Ian Ross, a friend of Passetti’s since kindergarten who also happened to do some commissioned artwork for Facebook. Leary notes it creates an artsy juxtaposition to all the glass towers in the area.

Per their other ventures together (Trocadero Club, Cafe Terminus), Leary and Passetti want to create a space that is meant to be fun and easygoing, with cocktails that are well crafted and delicious. But you won’t find any fussy mixology here—it’s about friendly bartenders who will remember you. You can have a look at a preview cocktail menu here—drinks will be $11, and the Natoma Paloma is now the Natoma Punch, FYI.

The official opening is this Thursday July 17th. Hours will be Mon-Sat 2pm-2am. 90 Natoma St. at 2nd St., 415-952-0481.


The torpedo of taps at Barrel Head Brewhouse. Photo: Dana Eastland. ©

~BARTLETT HALL~ in downtown is now brewing and serving their own beer. Christopher Wike, the brewmaster, is working on beers that will appeal to both beer snobs and newbies, including the Hoppy Scotsman, a hop-driven Scotch ale, or the In the Barrel, a West Coast pilsner that’s finished Kölsch style. You can pair the beers with Emmanuel Eng’s updated pub fare, like chicken wings with fermented pepper sauce, kimchi, and bacon aioli, plus a selection of pizzas, and larger plates including a burger made with kobe beef and served with rarebit and caramelized onions (whoa Nelly). Hours are 11am-2am daily. 242 O’Farrell St. at Cyril Magnin, 415-433-4332.

In case you missed the news during the World Cup, ~BARREL HEAD BREWHOUSE~ is now pouring their house-brewed beers as well. They’ve got three new varieties of beer, in addition to guest taps. 1785 Fulton St. at Masonic, 415-416-6989.

~THE ABBOT’S CELLAR~ has been holding down Valencia Street for two years now, and they are having a beer cellar sale to celebrate! Many of the beers they’ve been tucking away are now ready to enjoy, and will be for sale on Saturday July 26th from 11am-1pm. They’ve put together boxed sets of various beers, including verticals that will allow you to try various vintages of the same beer (like the Deschutes Mirror Mirror from 2009-2014 for $50). You can also check out collaboration sets and some limited sets from Russian River Brewing, to name just a few of the choices.

July 8, 2014

Tim Stookey and Leslie Cole on the town. Photo courtesy of Tim Stookey.

Last week I was very happy to see a picture on Facebook of a license transfer (posted in a bar window) and a telltale hat peeking above it. That’s right, friends, Presidio Social Club’s snazzy bar manager, Tim Stookey, is partnering with his fiancée, Leslie Cole, and her cousin, Aaron Cole, to take over the former Yong San Lounge in Lower Nob Hill. (Eater noted the license transfer as well—the past year the space was operating as The Royal Tug Yacht Club from Duncan Ley, Benjamin Bleiman, and Mark DeVito—yeah, the place with the 20-foot squid.)

Taking its place will be ~STOOKEY’S CLUB MODERNE~, a sophisticated cocktail lounge that should feel like a little time machine back to 1934, at the end of Prohibition. (The name is also a tip of the cap to the Club Moderne that used to be at 555 Sutter.) The 1930s-themed cocktail bar will feature 1930s music and décor—they are on the hunt for an Art Deco back bar, and will be putting in linoleum over the current concrete floor. The place will feel like a little jewel box where you enjoy a cocktail (or two) before or after dinner or a show, and to create a destination for people who want to spiff up and hit the town. In the spirit of creating an atmosphere of connection and conversation, Leslie Cole mentioned they want to host some monthly gatherings to discuss San Francisco history, cocktails, books, films, and the like.

We had a quick chat about the cocktail list, and Stookey is thinking about including drinks like the Corpse Reviver #2, the Southside, and a Chelsea Sidecar (he also mentioned he was considering a special cocktail that was made in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge). Of course there will be fresh and seasonal fruits and ingredients, and he’s hoping to secure a barrel of 100 Reasons rye; they will also be offering some quality wines on tap.

The current targeted opening date is October 1st, and Stookey’s departure from the Presidio Social Club (he has been there for more than seven years!) depends upon when they get the keys, which could be a couple of weeks or a month. Now we all have something to really look forward to this fall. 895 Bush St. at Taylor.


The bar at Blackbird. Photo from Facebook.

Congrats to ~BLACKBIRD~ in the Castro, which is turning five on Sunday July 20th, and you know there will be a party. At 8pm that evening, come by to check out their new barrel-aged cocktail menu (15 drinks in all!) that have been aging since Blackbird opened! The barrel-aged program will continue until y’all drink ‘em all up. Also that night: you can nosh on some cured meats, cheeses, and other light bites, plus there will be sparkling wine for $5 by the glass, and special “early bird” cocktails for $5. 2124 Market St. at Church, 415-503-0630.

Last week we broke all the details about ~ABV~, the new Mission bar from Erik Reichborn-Kjennerud (who owns Dalva/Hideout), Ryan Fitzgerald, and Todd Smith, and the latest word from Alcademics is that the space is softly opening tonight, Tuesday July 8th, but don’t all rush over at once, okay? Cheers, and enjoy the late-night bites from Kevin Cimino, served nightly until 1am. Open daily 2pm-2am. Yeah, you saw that correctly. Day drinking! 3174 16th St. at Albion, 415-400-4748.

Those industrious Bon Vivants over at ~TRICK DOG~ are switching up their seasonal menu again (remember, it changes every six months). This time, they’re phasing out the astrological menu and replacing it with “The Tourist,” a menu inspired by vintage San Francisco postcards and locations. Check out the map-style menu right here. They’ve also created some postcards that you can send to friends, just put them in the labeled box and the bar will cover postage (some restaurants used to do this back in the day). Forget drunk dialing, this is way better. 3010 20th St. at Alabama, 415- 471-2999.

One more item to note: the new bar going into the former Jazz at Pearl’s in North Beach from the Future Bars crew is going to be called ~THE DEVIL’S ACRE~. More on that project soon. 256 Columbus Ave. at Broadway.

July 1, 2014

The elm bar at ABV. Photo by Melissa Chow.


ABV’s bar, from above, with custom lighting. Photo by Melissa Chow.


The mural from Nathaniel Russell at ABV. Photo by Melissa Chow.

A report by Dana Eastland. As previously mentioned on tablehopper, there is a new taker for the former Tokyo Go Go space, and it’s a group with a great bar pedigree. It’s called ~ABV~ and is from Erik Reichborn-Kjennerud (who owns Dalva/Hideout), Ryan Fitzgerald (who worked at Beretta and who is currently the brand ambassador for Del Maguey mezcal), and Todd Smith (a Bourbon & Branch alum who’s currently behind the stick at Hideout). They’ve also brought on Kevin Cimino (opening sous of St. Vincent) to run the kitchen. The whole project is getting ready to open next week, and we’ve got a few details for you.

The space has been completely redone, with a long elm bar and a large mural of two hands by artist Nathaniel Russell. The mural is the focus of the front room, and sets a minimal, modern tone for the rest of the space. Most of the space is done in clean black, gray, and white, with custom tables and light fixtures designed by Fitzgerald and made by a friend and former regular (no Edison bulbs here). Interior designer Erin Altman worked on the space, as well, and designed the custom chandeliers in the back room. The space seats about 75, with a front room and another in back.

The cocktail list was developed by all three of the partners, with a focus on offering drinks with San Francisco roots and themes. There are a couple of drinks in nine different categories: highballs, mezcal, tequila, gin, Scotch, rum, vodka, brandy, and American whiskey. The team is still working out the exact cocktail menu (their original version was a little ambitious, as you might imagine from the lengthy list of categories), but some highlights include the Land’s End (Jamaican rum, lemon, curaçao, raspberry gum), which they found in the original Trader Vic’s book, and the Piña Verde (blanco tequila, lime, génépi, pineapple gum, orange bitters), which takes its inspiration from a swizzle by Marcovaldo Dionysos (a rather legendary bartender at Smuggler’s Cove). They’ve also got the Dartmoor (Calvados, lemon, juniper-infused honey syrup, basil), which is based on a drink the Smith originally tried in London and modified into a new version called the Lawnsdale, which became popular at Beretta and Bourbon & Branch. They’ve modified it once again, making it closer to a smash and the British original this time around.

As you can see, the list reflects not only the partners’ personal bartending histories in San Francisco, but also the city’s rich cocktail heritage; every drink has a story, a history, that’s rooted right here. They’ve also secured three beers on tap, all from Santa Rosa’s Moonlight Brewing Co., which can often be hard to find due to its limited production. They will offer three wines on tap, all from Steve Matthiasson. While the drink prices haven’t been finalized, they are hoping to keep everything close to a relatively approachable $10, with some drinks clocking in around $8.

As for food, the menu from chef Kevin Cimino is internationally inspired bar food, all of it intended to be eaten with your fingers. In fact, they won’t offer utensils or real plates—instead, look for compostable trays and plan to eat with your hands. The offerings are fun riffs on classics from all over the word, like the collard green “dolmas” stuffed with dirty rice, or chicken potpie empanadas. There’s also a pimento cheese burger, and a mapo sloppy joe, along with cheese and charcuterie plates. Take a look at the menu here, and be sure to note that almost everything on the menu is less than $10 (score!). Plus, the kitchen will be open until 1am daily.

Right now, they’re hoping to open next week, but that could change. We’ll let you know when they’re ready to throw the doors open. Hours are 2pm-2am daily, with food until 1am. They may add some earlier weekend hours in the coming weeks too. 3174 16th St. at Albion, 415-400-4748.

June 24, 2014

The bucolic Bloomfield Farms. Photo from Facebook.

Looking for something fab to do tonight? There are still a few tickets left for Chenin-igans, a class led by the vivacious Vinny Eng at ~18 REASONS~. You’ll taste and learn about chenin blanc from someone who is very passionate about the wines being poured. 7pm-9pm, $30-$40.

Next Monday June 30th, ~STONES THROW~ is hosting another night in their Eat Like a Chef, Drink Like a Somm charitable dinner series, with a special dinner and wine pairings from Perbacco guests co-owner and chef Staffan Terje and co-owner and wine director Umberto Gibin. It’s $75 per person for the multicourse meal (inclusive of tax and gratuity), and $50 per person for beverage pairings. All proceeds benefit the SF-Marin Food Bank. Make your reservation from 6pm-8:45pm. Guests joining are also encouraged to donate a nonperishable food item to the drive. Look at the menu and reserve your spot here.

On Sunday July 13th from 4pm-9pm, head to Bloomfield Farms in Petaluma with David Lynch, Bill Niles, and the crew at ~ST. VINCENT~ for a three-course farm dinner with lots of wine (but only if you’re not still drunk and rowdy from the World Cup final game at noon that day!). They’ll transport you to the farm, with HenHouse Saison, Wind Gap rosé, and a snack for the ride. Then, you’ll get to tour the farm, hang out in the sunshine, and enjoy dinner in the barn. The menu features produce from Bloomfield Farms and their neighbors, and there will be lots of wine from Wind Gap, Kutch, and Banshee. Tickets are $165 and include tax, gratuity, and transportation (but not the $10 service fee).


A look from above (on the mezzanine). Photo courtesy of Drexl Bar.


The bar area. Photo courtesy of Drexl Bar.

We told you about ~DREXL BAR~ at the end of last year—a bar coming to Uptown Oakland from Demetrius “Deech” Chapin-Rienzo (a partner in Vintage 415) and Adi Taylor—and we’re happy to announce the bar is now softly open. To recap, it’s meant to be a neighborhood hangout, with well-made (but not too fussy) cocktails, plenty of room to chill, and there’s also a mezzanine with Skee-Ball and Pac-Man for those who would like another way to forget their workday.

Howie Slater is running the bar, with cocktails like a Navy-strength Jamaican rum collins with maraschino liqueur topped with Schofferhofer grapefruit beer; a variation on an Americano using Carpano Bianco vermouth, Cocchi Americano, and sparkling wine; and some classics like the Vieux Carré, Boulevardier, Scofflaw, Last Word, Remember the Maine, and the Corpse Reviver No. 2. You’ll also find wine on tap (white, red, and rosé) and good beers. There are other local bartenders pulling shifts, so you may see some familiar faces, and Sundays and Mondays will probably draw an industry crowd.

The interior has some industrial and metal finishes, softened with faintly glowing globe lights overhead, natural-modern wood stools, weathered murals on the walls (vintage wallpaper and exposed plaster were uncovered during demolition), and wood floors. It’s a high-ceilinged space, with tall windows that let in nice light in the early evening. There’s a variety of seating, whether you want a spot at the black-tiled bar, a high-top table by the window, or the more loungy area with booths and cocktail tables. There’s also the upstairs mezzanine, with couches, more tables, and the games we mentioned.

Drexl is conveniently a couple of blocks from The Fox, so you can swing by for a pre- or postshow drink, and the early hours also make it a good after-work spot. There are plans to add some bar snacks and bites, stand by on that. Initial hours are looking like Sun-Thu 5pm-12am and Fri-Sat 5pm-2am (subject to change as needed). 382 19th St. at Franklin, Oakland.


Hawthorn’s lounge area and bar. Photo by Mike DiMonaco of Mad Imaging.

On Tuesday July 1st, the subterranean ~HAWTHORN~ is opening downtown in the former Lot 46. It’s a cocktail lounge and club—with a very souped-up sound system—from partners Chadwick Baumbach (Kimpton Group, La Costanera) and Gabriel McWilliams, with Jenny Kiely (Mars Bar) running the front of the house and Nate Mezmer (EyeHeartSF) doing the talent booking. They aim to offer a bar and lounge experience in the earlier evening, followed by dancing and music later at night.

Ethan Terry, an alum of Alembic and 15 Romolo, created the bar menu, with twists on the standard nightclub drinks, like a high-end take on the Midori sour called the “Mucho Melon Sour” with vodka, fresh cantaloupe, and housemade jalapeño juice, lemon, Chareau Aloe liqueur, and egg white. As for that sound system, it’s a custom-built Void Tri Motion from the U.K. (apparently the first in North America). Hours will be Tue-Wed 5pm-12am, Thu-Fri 4pm-2am, Sat 7pm-2am. 46 Geary St. at Kearny, 415-693-9255.