The Lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
February 24, 2015

Trouble in Paradise at Tosca. Photo: ©


The 21 Club’s vintage sign. Yelp photo by Brian J.

I was reading some Facebook news this weekend and was so sorry to learn that Isaac Shumway is no longer the lead bartender at ~TOSCA CAFE~. Taking over his position is Joe Cleveland (formerly head barman at Coqueta and for Michael Chiarello’s restaurant group). Previously, he worked with José Andrés for Oyamel and Minibar in Washington, D.C.

A connection in our local real estate scene tipped me off that the pocket-sized bar ~BIG~, known for its fantastic craft cocktails during its run under bartenders Brian Felley and Mo Hodges, would be opening once again, in the 21 Club in the Tenderloin (just across from Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi’s upcoming Loco’l). While Felley and Hodges are busy with their own soon-to-open bar, Benjamin Cooper, which we reported on a couple weeks ago, Scoop confirms this new Big is from Jordan Langer (Big, Oddjob), Pete Glickshtern (Jones, Oddjob), Ryan Melchiano, and Ryan Hisamune.

They will reportedly continue Big’s bespoke format: no cocktail list, just talk with the bartender and tell them what you like. The 21 Club will stay open until the license transfer is complete (you can read an homage to the dive bar here); look for a summer opening. I also learned this will be just the beginning of changes to the building, which is going to be revitalized. 98 Turk St. at Taylor.

Over on Divisadero, Dajani Group’s ~BAR 821~ just reopened after a monthlong remodel. Changes include more seating at the extended bar and a bigger back bar, highlighting a large selection of amari and a new amaro-themed cocktail list. 821 Divisadero St. at McAllister.


The exterior of Tupper & Reed. Photo courtesy of Doug Dalton.

Sound the trumpets: ~TUPPER & REED~ is opening this week, a new bar from the Future Bars team (Bourbon & Branch, Swig, Local Edition, Devil’s Acre, Wilson and Wilson, Tradition, Rickhouse, Cask) in the former Beckett’s in Berkeley. Brian Sheehy and Doug Dalton are taking the space back to its roots, way back, when it was a music store (Tupper and Reed), which John Tupper and Lawrence Reed started in 1906 and opened in the storybook structure in 1925.

You will see many elements that highlight the building’s early musical heritage, from the original signage that is back up to signs painted on the brick walls, plus lots of rustic wood, pendant lights, and archways over the doors. The space has two levels: the upstairs bar has a reservations-only area (you can reserve here), with a library of rare and hard-to-find spirits (Pappy in the house), and 110 seats. There are two fireplaces, and you’ll find one in a listening room, along with an Edison gramophone (which was originally sold in the Tupper and Reed store!) and old Victrola records—but there’s room for just a couple of people in the listening room.

There’s a huge wooden staircase, and downstairs is where you’ll find another 2,000 square feet, with a bar and 120 seats. The menu will include some elements from their other bars, like punch bowls, and you’ll find some classic cocktails on the menu too.

The plan is to soft open this Wednesday February 25th, and officially open for business on Friday February 27th. Hours will be Mon-Sat 4pm-2am, closed Sun. 2271 Shattuck Ave. at Bancroft, Berkeley, 510-900-2588.


The busy tasting scene at Rhone Rangers; photo courtesy of Rhone Rangers.

Tonight, Tuesday February 24th, catch the Agricole Rum Extravaganza on the patio at K&L Wines in SoMa. As the name would suggest, the party is all about rhum agricole, with legendary rum fiend Ed Hamilton. They’ll be shaking up drinks and opening rare rum bottles all night, and there will also be snacks like jerk chicken wings, salt cod fritters, and goat curry. The party runs from 6pm-9pm, and tickets are $50 per person. 638 4th St. at Bluxome, 415-896-1734.

Don’t miss this When Sipsmith Met Sherry cocktail party at ~LOLINDA~ on Wednesday February 25th from 5:30pm until 9:30pm. Lolinda’s Nora Furst has paired up with Trick Dog’s Caitlin Laman and Sipsmith’s Leilani Vella to create cocktails using sherry and gin, all to benefit those who have been displaced by Ellis Act evictions in San Francisco, with proceeds going to the San Francisco Tenants Union. You can take a look at the cocktail menu here; all cocktails will be priced at $12.

The Rhone Rangers are swinging into town March 27th and 28th, for their fab annual Bay Area Rhone Tasting. Events include a winemaker dinner in the Presidio on Friday March 27th, a grand tasting in Richmond on Saturday March 28th, and the seminar series on American Rhones wines. Tickets begin at $75, and prices for the different events vary. You can also buy weekend passes and packages; head here for details on prices, locations, and time of specific events.

February 17, 2015

Some of the many fabulous Japanese beers now lining the shelves at Umami Mart in Oakland. Photo: Umami Mart.

Just in case you’d like to be tasting and learning about wine before getting ready for your Oscars party on Sunday February 22nd, here’s a class you can take at ~HEIRLOOM CAFE~ with owner Matt Straus (it’s a two-hour curriculum covering the building blocks of wine understanding and appreciation). You’ll taste eight wines and talk about some wine basics. 12pm. Tickets are $40.

Get your tickets now for In Pursuit of Balance, a tasting featuring 33 wineries (selected by the IPOB organization) pouring chardonnay and pinot noir. The San Francisco event is on Monday March 16th; it will also be happening in New York, Houston, and Tokyo and Osaka! $125.

Congrats to Yoko Kumano and Kayoko Akabori of ~UMAMI MART~ in Oakland, who just got their off-sale liquor license, allowing them to sell sake, wine, and beer at their shop, which means they will be the nation’s first Japanese beer shop! They are stocking around 25 Japanese beers (lots of microbreweries and plenty of Hitachino too), and you’ll also find mirin and vermouth! Read their blog post for even more background on this exciting development. 815 Broadway at 8th St., Oakland, 510-250-9559.

Cider lovers, mark your calendars for the second annual Cider Summit SF, featuring artisanal ciders from around the world, more than 120 in all. It will be held at the Civil War Parade Ground in The Presidio on Saturday April 25th, 12pm-6pm. Tickets just went on sale and are $35 in advance, $40 at the door; they include a souvenir tasting glass and 10 tasting tickets. Additional tasting tickets will be available for sale on-site at $2 per ticket.   

February 10, 2015

So while cocktail meisters Brian Felley and Mo Hodges (previously at Big) have been busy working with the R&B Lab group—who own and operate all the restaurants inside the Hotel G, including the recently opened Klyde Café & Wine Bar and 398 Restaurant & Bar—it ends up there’s one more exciting project that’s going to be under that umbrella as well. Brian and Mo will also be co-owners of the new ~BENJAMIN COOPER~, a cocktail and oyster bar they are opening at 398 Geary! There will be around 50 seats, and they hope to open around the end of February or early March. The name is an amalgam of their parents’ surnames and is also a fictional character (more on this mysterious man soon).

We’ll also have details on the cocktails, oysters, bar team, décor, and more in coming weeks. Just know there’s going to be another fantastic watering hole coming to Union Square soon! And it’s worth noting, the duo will still be leading the bar at 398 as well. 398 Geary St. at Mason.


The exterior of Georges, which will become The Barrel Room in April. Yelp photo by Zoey W.

~THE BARREL ROOM~ is moving their San Francisco location in the Tenderloin to the Financial District in mid-April. Owners Sarah Trubnick and Carolyn Johnson have partnered with Stephen Deyton (Park Tavern) and Jay Marx (Georges) on the project, which will function as a retail shop and tasting room during the day, and then transition into a wine bar in the evenings. In addition, there will be a restaurant next door (in the former Georges location) serving lunch and dinner.

The wine list will offer at least 50 selections by the glass, available as flights. On the beer list you’ll find craft beers, and they’ve also added a full liquor license. Cocktails will also be available in flights, which should be fun. Executive chef Manuel Hewitt of Barrel Room Rockridge will be responsible for the menu, which will rotate through different regions on a quarterly basis. There will be in-house charcuterie, along with oysters, caviar, and daily seafood specials.

There will be happy hour Monday through Friday from 4pm until 5:30pm, with $5 beer and $6 wine and cocktails. The wine bar and shop will be open daily 10am-12:30am, and the restaurant will be open 11am-12:30am. 415 Sansome St. at Commercial.


The San Francisco Belle; photo from Whiskies of the World.

I was watching the news on Friday night and was sorry to see Martin Cate of ~SMUGGLER’S COVE~ talking to a reporter on ABC about how someone (er, a drunken douche) stole a Fijian war club off the bar’s wall, one that was especially made for the bar. If you see someone with a new tiki club in their apartment or dorm room, please whack them with it and then call Cate.

Scotch lovers will be able to get their heat on at this upcoming Scotch party hosted by Nell Waters of SOAK fame, an upcoming urban bathhouse project in SF and advocate of Healthy Hedonism (it’s a lifestyle). There will be Scotches, ryes, Japanese whiskies, and single malts, plus some bites like oysters, Tartine bread with blue cheese, and Negroni popcorn…and music by Brightline. It all goes down on Saturday February 21st. Tickets are $55. 8:30pm-12am. The Barrelhouse, 80 Tehama Alley (between 1st and 2nd streets).

Get your tickets now for the annual Whiskies of the World, coming to the (docked) SF Belle Hornblower Yacht on Saturday March 28th. You’ll meet whisky makers, distillery owners, and brand ambassadors from big brands and boutique distilleries, and sample more than 200 whiskies from all over the world. The show will feature educational master classes, mixology booths, and a full dinner. Tickets are $125. 6pm-9pm. Pier 3, Embarcadero.

Good news: ~WING WINGS~ in the Lower Haight is now serving beer and wine (and sake too), from Almanac IPA to wine from E40, plus you can order beer with your delivery order. Sweet. So the next time you are burning your mouth off with too much Hella Hot sauce, a swig of Golden Gate Gose can help extinguish the fuego.

Just a reminder: last month we broke the news ~BOXING ROOM~ was going to launch a full bar (yay), featuring classic and straightforward New Orleans cocktails from Jonny Raglin (director of bar operations for The Absinthe Group). You can now get your Hurricane and Sazerac on, just in time for Mardi Gras. There are some new menu items, too, including an expanded seafood bar (raw littleneck clams, marinated mussels, a Gulf shrimp cocktail, New Orleans-style barbecued shrimp, a boozy oyster shooter) and Taste of the Swamp (turtle soup, fried frog legs, alligator sauce piquante).

February 3, 2015

Streamline glam outside Stookey’s Club Moderne. Photo: ©


The busy bar at Stookey’s Club Moderne. Photo: ©


The 20th Century at Stookey’s Club Moderne. Photo: ©

On Saturday evening, I swung by the brand-new ~STOOKEY’S CLUB MODERNE~, which has opened its doors in the former Yong San Lounge (and short-lived The Royal Tug Yacht Club) in Lower Nob Hill. It was an especially swanky time to come by since owners Tim Stookey (formerly at Presidio Social Club) and siblings Leslie and Aaron Cole were holding a private party, with members of the Art Deco Society of California in all their Deco finery in attendance. I think I saw Dashiell Hammett there. I could be mistaken.

Neo-speakeasy this is not—it’s a post-Prohibition themed bar, evoking the 1930s-1940s with its Streamline Moderne look and sound (the music was from an extensive private collection, featuring some rare recordings of the period). There are glamorous and gleaming silver sconces, a multicolored linoleum floor (and bar top), and you’ll notice more vintage design details and artwork in the coming weeks. They also did some modern upgrades: all beer and wine are on tap and much of the lighting is energy-saving LED. Another eco touch: you won’t find any plastic in your glass since they use paper straws and bamboo skewers.

The white-jacketed bartenders can shake up a variety of cocktails featuring spirits appropriate to the Deco time period, with a number of SF classics (pisco punch, Irish coffee, and the mai tai) and highballs too—all served in vintage glassware. You can take a look at the cocktail list and bar menu here. Don’t miss the 20th Century, with its whispering notes of cacao, and Stookey’s trademark 100 Reasons Rye (James Pepper rye, Punt e Mes, Cointreau, Regan’s orange bitters, $13). Almost all the other cocktails are $11, sweet.

Open Tue-Sun 4:30pm-2am. Welcome (back?) to the neighborhood! 895 Bush St. at Taylor.


The bar at Flora. Photo from Facebook.

Check out the Wines of South America at the JCCSF on Monday February 9th with master sommelier and author of the book Wines of South America, Evan Goldstein. He’ll be presenting wines from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay, and talking about the various regions and climates and what to look for when purchasing bottles. The event begins at 7pm and tickets are $35 and include the talk and tasting. JCCSF members receive 10 percent off the ticket price. 3200 California St. at Presidio, 415-292-1200.

In Oakland, ~FLORA~ is now offering cocktail classes at their bar. Matty McGee, the bar manager, will be leading two two-part series. Each class will be on Sunday evenings from 5pm-7pm, and costs $75 for a single class or $125 for both classes in the series. Classes are limited to ten students, so you’ll get lots of attention and instruction. The first series begins on Sunday February 8th and ends on Sunday March 8th, and is all about Old Fashioneds and Manhattans. YES. Learn about the history of these old-school drinks and about the importance of bitters in each drink. You’ll even make your own bitters to take home. Then, on Sunday April 12th and Sunday May 17th, learn about the difference between West Coast and East Coast Palates with different recipes for gimlets, martinis, and Tom Collins. Full details on each series as well as tickets are right here. 1900 Telegraph Ave. at 19th St., Oakland, 510-286-0100.

Don’t forget San Francisco Beer Week begins on Friday February 6th. Don’t miss the opportunity to try beer from tons of local brewers, attend workshops, pairing dinners, and more. The full schedule of happenings is here, with highlights like a Magnolia Brewing dinner at Bar Crudo, a Belgian beer and dim sum pairing at Mama Ji’s, and a yeast flavor profile workshop at Triple Voodoo Tap Room, for your deep beer nerd needs. Go out there, lather up, and get sudsy! Beer Week runs until Sunday February 15th; locations and prices of events vary.

January 20, 2015

The interior of Longitude. Photo by Gabriel Hurley.

Suzanne Long, owner of ~LONGITUDE~, is going to be teaching some classes on tiki drinks and rum in the coming weeks. First up is Tiki Mixology 101 on Monday January 26th at 8pm. You’ll learn how to mix classic tiki cocktails at home, and then go behind the bar to make your own. A photographer will be in attendance, photographing each participant, as well. The class is $100 and includes a welcome punch, two participant-made drinks, recipes, and a photograph.

Then, on Tuesday February 3rd at 6pm, check out Rum 101 Tasting and Education. You’ll learn about rum production all over the world, and get to taste at least six different rums (rumor has it Suzanne brings out some special, rare rums for these classes, so be prepared for a treat). This class is also $100 per person, including a welcome punch, six tastes, and instruction. You can reserve your spot in either class by email.


Crab in a smoky lime vinaigrette with pomegranate and celery at a recent dinner at Copita. Photo: Dana Eastland. ©

A report by Dana Eastland. On Tuesday January 27th, ~COPITA~ will be hosting another of their popular Agave Girls dinners with Tequila Herradura. From 6:30pm until 8:30pm, they’ll be pairing special tequilas and cocktails with a four-course menu from chefs Joanne Weir and Gonzalo Rivera. The menu includes dishes like pork meatballs with garlic and peanut chilmole, as well as a roasted duck breast with duck thigh carnitas, carrots, and mole negro. Check out the whole menu here.

I highly recommend taking the whole evening and riding the ferry over if the weather is nice; on a recent evening, the pleasant chill and sunset view of the bay was the perfect preamble for a warm, richly flavored dinner at Copita. The regional, modern Mexican cooking is well balanced with the warm, tiled space, and the wood-fired oven at the center of the kitchen makes the entire restaurant especially inviting. Tickets to the dinner are $65 per person and include food and beverages but not gratuity. 739 Bridgeway at Anchor, Sausalito, 415-331-7400.