The Lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
April 15, 2014

A look into the Harper & Rye space (on March 30th). Photo via Harper & Rye on Twitter.

Last September, we were the first to report on who was taking over the ~RED DEVIL LOUNGE~ on Polk: Jamal Blake-Williams, previously a bar manager at The Tipsy Pig and Mamacita. Based on a few clues on Twitter, we figured out it’s going to be called ~HARPER & RYE~ (named after his business partner’s children).

As you can see, they have uncovered the windows, and will be adding more windows on the Polk Street side that will slide open. There will be a pool table where the stage was (along with some seating), and there’s a mezzanine area as well. The look will feature a lot of wood, and wall textures will add visual interest and contrast. There is a significant amount of seating that has been added, and they want to be able to easily accommodate larger groups. To that end, there will also be more large-format drinking options like punches and batched cocktails. The list itself will be “fairly refined,” offering five or six cocktails that will cover all the main spirits (bourbon, vodka, etc.). The plan is to open in late May. Follow along on Twitter here. 1695 Polk St. at Clay.


A rendering of the upstairs room (and bar) at Gaspar. Via Facebook.

Good news, my fellow fans of Kevin Diedrich’s bartending ways—he’s currently consulting for the upcoming ~GASPAR BRASSERIE~ that will be opening downtown. He shared a few details on what he has in store: “really heavy on Cognac, Calvados, Armagnac, and absinthe cocktails. The menu will also consist of other spirits to balance out the heavy brandy cocktails. Definitely incorporating French aperitifs into many of them. The menu will be really approachable and balanced. I’m trying to keep to the theme of a French brasserie, but with contemporary cocktail twists.”

So yes, we’ll be drinking pastis before you know it. You’ll find Diedrich behind the stick when Gaspar opens sometime in May. One cool addition to the space: as you can see in the rendering, there will be a bar upstairs (in addition to the bar downstairs). Stand by for more on Gaspar in a couple of weeks! 185 Sutter St. at Kearny.


Part of the new lounge area at Mercer. Photo: Natasha Gillett.

Earlier in the year, we wrote about ~MERCER~, the club and event space moving into the former Project One. Owners Sean and Isabel Manchester (Mighty, Chambers Eat + Drink) just officially reopened the space last weekend, with the goal of offering “great music in a casual space with gracious service and no attitude.”

James Downs (Chambers, Sugar House in Detroit) is running the bar, offering “honest drinks made with care…No hand-carved ice, no unicorn tears, and no 20-minute wait while your drink is muddled, strained, and doused with tinctures. Okay, maybe just a few tinctures.”  

Since it’s in the design district, it’s also meant to be a place to hang out after work (and not just late into the night). Look for a happy hour every Tue-Fri 5pm-9pm with beer and drink specials (there’s a lounge area), and the beats will starting kicking in on the 222 Hyde TurboSound rig after 9pm, with an eclectic lineup (including J Boogie and Vikter Duplaix and their monthly “Daylight” every fourth Friday). 255 Rhode Island St. at 15th St.


The vacant 65 Club space on Taylor. Photo via Phantom Coast’s Facebook page.

Last June, we mentioned a big gastropub and brewery coming to one of the city’s sketchier corners (Turk and Taylor): ~PHANTOM COAST BREWERY~. It ends up the project has fallen through—Eater reports the new owners of the building have different plans for the space. Yeah, bummer. So Keith Wilson and Casey Gray (of Tope in North Beach) are on the hunt for a new location. We’ll see if this phantom project finds a new harbor. 65 Taylor St. at Turk.


Glasses of mezcal, ready for a tasting at Tres. Photo from Facebook.

Perhaps you have noticed that mezcal is all the rage these days, and perhaps you’d like to learn more about it. Or perhaps you’re already well versed in mezcal, and relish an opportunity to geek out. Either way, you’ll be stoked at the Vino de Mezcal: An Evening with Erick “Almamezcalera” Rodriguez at ~TRES~ on Thursday April 24th from 7pm-10pm.

Erick Rodriguez of Wahaka Mezcal will be pouring small-batch “vino de mezcal” from all over Mexico, so-called because they aren’t from the “mezcal” appellation but are produced in the same way. Rodriguez travels all over Mexico to find these special spirits, and this is a unique opportunity to taste them and talk to him about mezcal and the process of distilling it. The event is raising funds for Fundación Agaves Silvestres, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the reforestation of wild agaves in Mexico. Tickets to the event are $125 and include lots of mezcal as well as bites to pair with the tastes. 130 Townsend St. at Stanford, 415-227-0500.

April 8, 2014

458 Grove St. Image from Google Streetview.

Hoodline reports that Hayes Valley is about to get a new wine bar (just around the corner from Fig & Thistle, no less). It’s called ~BIRBA~, which is Italian for “little troublemaker” or “rascal,” and comes from owner Angie Valgiusti, who previously was the sommelier at Slanted Door and consulted on the wine list at Bar Jules. She only just signed the lease, and plans to open the small wine bar with a back garden sometime in the next three to six months. There won’t be a full kitchen, but you will find some small bites to go with the wines. She’s hoping to provide a good place for those looking for a bite and a glass of wine before or after a show. For now, she’s still in the planning stages, but we’ll let you know when we hear more. 458 Grove St. at Gough.


A margie at Copita awaits! Photo via Facebook.

A few items to note in the dranks world: the Bay Area Reporter (via Eater) mentions Shawn Vergara (Blackbird) is partnering with his sister, Tiffny Vergara Chung, to open a beer-centric arcade bar in the Castro. The working title is ~PROJECT 22~ (subject to change), and they will be serving 25 craft beers, wine on tap, and low-alcohol cocktails, along with 10 coin-operated classic arcade games, like Pac-Man and Galaga (they hope to boost that number to 20 eventually). Craige Walters will be behind the interior design. The project should open in late summer at the 2200 Market Street mixed-use building, The Century (where the former Leticia’s and then Thai House used to be, and where Bandidos will be opening later this year from the Hi Tops team). Hours will be 3pm-2am. 2200 Market St. at 15th Street.

The bar community just got someone back from the land of brand ambassadorship: Jackie Patterson Brennan has left her traveling job with Solerno and will now be back behind the stick at ~HARD WATER~ on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Look forward to seeing you, Jackers!

Recently opened bar and restaurant ~THE SQUARE~ has announced their new bar manager, Claire Sprouse. She previously worked at Rickhouse and Tradition, and you can check out her cocktail list at The Square starting Monday April 14th. The list will have a focus on 20th-century classics and drinks that will pair well with the food. Look out for the muddled old fashioned or the Twentieth Century cocktail with gin, cacao, Lillet Blanc, and lemon. 1707 Powell St. at Columbus, 415-525-3579.

One way to feel better about tax day next week is to sign up for a spot at ~COPITA~’s Tequila Tuesday/Agave Girls event on April 15th from 6:30pm-8:30pm. For $68 (not including gratuity), you can enjoy a multicourse meal by chef Gonzalo Rivera with paired cocktails featuring Clase Azul tequila, and the education part of the evening will be led by Joanne Weir. Tickets and details on the menu can be found here. Two words: lobster tacos. 739 Bridgeway, Sausalito, 415-331-7400.


The excellent, classic Negroni is getting its due in June, during Negroni Week, when local bars will celebrate the vermilion-hued concoction. The week is sponsored by Campari and is a weeklong fundraiser for the SF-Marin Food Bank (or other charities that are near and dear to local bars’ hearts). Look out for Negroni-themed bar crawls and other events as we get closer to June. In the meantime, they’re looking for bars to participate in this doubly excellent cause: promoting Negronis, and raising money for charity. If you’d be interested in participating, head here to sign up.

April 1, 2014

Sign from the former Hogan’s Goat Tavern. Yelp photo by Mike R.

Next Tuesday, April 8th, the former Hogan’s Goat Tavern in Dogpatch, which closed at the end of last year, is reopening as ~THE SEA STAR~. It comes from Chris Lawrence and Brad LaMotte, the pair behind Southern Pacific Brewing Company in the Mission. It’s still a neighborhood dive bar, the pair says, with a pool table, jukebox, and 12 beers on tap. They’ve also got some classic cocktails, but don’t worry, nothing fancy. They’re opening softly on Friday April 4th, with a grand opening on Tuesday April 8th. Hours will be 2pm-2am daily; they’ll open an hour before all Giants home games too. 2289 3rd St. at 20th St., 415-552-9144.


Alchemy Bottle Shop. Photo from Facebook.

~ALCHEMY BOTTLE SHOP~ is now softly open in Oakland, selling a variety of high-end and hard-to-find spirits for boozehounds of taste. The new project comes from Tova Herman and Peter Mustacich, and the pair has stocked a selection of excellent spirits from the likes of St. George Spirits and Bummer & Lazarus, along with bitters and other mixers from small-batch producers. The space is open and airy, with an art gallery on the second level. They’re only softly open now, but in the future, they’re looking forward to offering weekly classes on cocktails and spirits, as well as tastings. Current hours are Wed-Thu 11am-7pm, Fri-Sat 11am-8pm, Sun 12pm-5pm. 3256 Grand Ave. at Valdez, Oakland, 510-488-3637.


At the TAPAS tasting. Photo via Facebook.

Comes to the seventh annual TAPAS (Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society) Grand Wine Tasting on Sunday April 27th to experience the most extensive tasting of domestically produced tempranillos and other Iberian varietal wines. Trade and consumers will be able to taste tempranillos, albariños, garnachas, verdelhos, tourigas, and many other varieties, with nearly 40 TAPAS member vintners pouring. Many TAPAS members are limited-production, family-owned wineries and will be pouring small-lot wines that are not widely available (many of the wines will also be available for sale at this event).

The event is 2pm-5pm. Get discounted advance tickets here for $35, or with the seminar for $65. (Sorry, it’s not clear how long these discounted prices are going to be available, so get them now if you’re interested!) Ticket prices will go up to $60 and $95. Golden Gate Club at the Presidio.

March 25, 2014

A rendering of Market Square at 1355 Market. Rendering from Market Square’s website.

As reported on tablehopper back in September, Kristian Cosentino, a former GM at Press Club, was getting ready to open his bar, ~DIRTY WATER~, at Market and Van Ness. (I imagine there will be some impending mix-ups: “Oh, whoops, I thought we were meeting at Dirty Habit!”) Well, anyway, Eater has word that he’s actually taken a 6,252-square-foot space (yeah, it’s a big ‘un) inside the Twitter building on Market instead. The 250-275 seat space will be designed by Arcsine. The concept generally remains unchanged: there will be a 50-foot bar, more than 100 wines by the glass, and high-end spirits, with cocktails by Ziryab bar manager Zachary Brian Taylor.

The kitchen will be run by chef Jared Gallagher, who previously worked at Chez TJ in Mountain View. His menu will have a wild-game focus, with meats cooked over a fire pit and served in large-format portions for sharing, giving the project a bit of a conquering Viking vibe. (Vikings, here is your whole chicken! Now feast!) If that’s not enough of a fancy boy’s playground for you, there will also be an outdoor patio lounge and beer garden. 1355 Market St. at 10th St.


One of the new cocktails at Greens for their new Arts & Crafts cocktail nights. Photo courtesy of Greens.

There are all kinds of new happy hours for you to check out, starting with “The Stirring Hour” at ~1760~, which runs daily from 5pm-6pm. You can get three spiritous cocktails (that aren’t on the usual cocktail menu) for $7, like gin with Strega, dry vermouth, Cocchi Americano, and lemon bitters, and bourbon with Gran Classico, Cynar, and coffee bitters. Stirred spirit-based drinks will also be available for $6 each (think Negroni, Manhattan, martini, or Boulevardier); one light and amber beer will be on the menu for $3 a pint; as well as red, white, and sparkling wines for $7 a glass. Bites include Brussels sprouts with crispy onion and aromatic herbs ($6) and shishito peppers with Castelvetrano olives and hazelnuts ($6).

~THIRD RAIL~ in Dogpatch just launched their new happy hour, which is Mon-Fri 3pm-6pm, with $2 off all 16 of their house cocktails. There’s also The Rail Shot special for $8: 8 ounces of any tap beer; 1 ounce of either Pueblo Viejo blanco, Four Roses yellow label bourbon, Flor de Caña 7-year rum, or Fernet Branca; and a 1/2 ounce of any of the jerky Phil makes (Red Eye, Jerk, Veg, or Mighty Meat).

~ALTA CA~ has a happy hour Mon-Fri from 4pm-6pm, offering special $5 glasses of wine; choose from a white or a red.

Over at ~GREENS~, lead bartender Christian Zamora has developed an “Arts & Crafts pop-up bar” running Fri-Sun 5pm-9pm. There are cocktails like a Oaxacan margarita with mezcal, tequila, blood orange, cinnamon-cayenne salt, and lime; a Pimm’s Cup; and a rotating selection of “Arts & Crafts” cocktails, four in all. They hope to build enough momentum with the bar program to extend it to every night of the week, but for now, it’s just on the weekends.

March 18, 2014

The back room, home to SRO. Photo: ©


The intimate bar area. Photo: ©


The back bar at SRO. Photo: ©

Last week I swung by ~ODDJOB~ in SoMa for a sneak peek of the new cocktail-centric bar that I mentioned awhile back was going to be opening in the back area. It’s called SRO, a play on the fact the room is (mostly) standing room only, although there are also some SROs not too far away on 9th Street. Anyway.

The intimate back bar has a swanky look, with a vintage chandelier, dim lighting, a draped velvet ceiling, and diamond-shaped wall panels with burgundy bison leather in the middle. There are some seats at the small bar, but like its name hints, there isn’t a whole lot of seating. (It would be a great spot for a cocktail party—you can rent it out.) If you take a look at the front corner of the bar, you’ll see a rotating case all tricked out in velvet (previously at a pawn shop) that is now showcasing 32 bottles of high-end spirits.

Running the show is Joey Picchi, previously at Martins West. He comes from the local restaurant biz—his family owned Paul Joe’s in San Carlos. This is his first gig in SF, and he’s fired up. There is no cocktail menu—all the drinks are custom made and on the fly (you thought I was going to say bespoke, but no!). Picchi is making all his own syrups, bitters, and purées, and said he likes to feature adventurous ingredients. Since there is limited space, the spirits will veer toward the higher end. The cocktails will range from $14-$16, so don’t let that SRO name fool you.

SRO should be all dialed in on Wednesday, and the grand opening is this Friday March 21st. Hours will be Tue-Sat 5pm-2am. 1337 Mission St. at Washburn (near 9th St).


A rendering of the patio at Dirty Habit. Rendering courtesy Dawson Design via Dirty Habit.

As reported in tablehopper in December, Fifth Floor in the Palomar Hotel has closed for a remodel and rebranding. The announcement has been made, and the new name is, er, ~DIRTY HABIT~, perhaps with the intent of getting the Health Department’s attention right away? Or to make people think you’re meeting up at a strip club? Anyway, the new space is supposed to be “a mysterious and sultry space” with an edgy, urban vibe. Well then. The focus has shifted decisively to the bar area, where cocktails from bar manager Brian Means will be poured, with a full menu by chef David Bazirgan. There will also be a heated patio (featuring a fireplace, fancy!), where the full menu will be available. The opening is currently set for May. 12 4th St. at Market, 415-348-1555.


On Thursday March 20th, head to ~ELIXIR~ at 7pm for their Cocktail Club weekly meeting. This time around, author Fred Minnick will be there, discussing his new book, Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch, and Irish Whiskey. Books will be available for purchase, as well as tastings of SIA Scotch, from local entrepreneur Carin Luna-Ostaseski. The event is free, with books and drinks available for purchase. 3200 16th St. at Guererro, 415-552-1633.

Here’s a chance to taste lots of mezcal from lots of brands, all in one place. On Sunday March 23rd, ~TRES~ is hosting a mezcal tasting party called La Ruta del Mezcal, from 2pm-6pm. Twelve mezcal brands will be in attendance, including Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal and Mezcal Tosba. In addition to the mezcal tasting, they’ll be roasting a whole pig for street-style tacos, and you can order food off the menu too. Tickets are $35 and include mezcal tasting; all food will be available for additional purchase. 130 Townsend St. at 2nd St., 415-227-0500.


Baker & Banker. Photo via B&B’s Facebook page.

~BAKER & BANKER~ has brought on sommelier Mark Thompson (Saison, Masa’s, A16, Rubicon). Look for him to be making some updates to the list, and on Monday March 31st, he will be hosting Sonoma Coast’s Freeman Vineyard & Winery for a winemaker dinner. The five-course dinner is $65 for food and an additional $55 for wine pairings (exclusive of tax and gratuity). There will be sea urchin panna cotta with Monterey abalone paired with the 2012 Ryo-Fu chardonnay, and look for a variety of pinots with quail and Devil’s Gulch rabbit. Seatings at 6pm and 8pm. Reservations: on OpenTable or call 415-351-2500.

March 11, 2014

The original Darling’s sign. Photo courtesy of Bar Dogwood.

Last year, Diablo Dish noted that ~BAR DOGWOOD~ in Oakland was going to be expanding into the space next door (which is along 17th Street and also around the corner, on Broadway), and now we have some details to share. Owner Alexeis Filipello is going to be calling it ~DARLING’S~, an homage to the space’s former existence as Darling’s Pharmacy in the 1920s (Filipello found this out after some research at the Hall of Records—most recently it was a jewelry store). The look will definitely be riffing on the pharmacy theme—Filipello plans to reuse some of the old pharmacy cabinets she found in the basement, as well as integrating tile, marble, and lots of wood. She is also having special brass lights made, and the bar is going to be custom made (look for some ornate metalwork and hand-cut glass).

Darling’s will primarily be used as a space for private events and overflow (there’s room for about 60), and will be open as a bar Thu-Sat. There will be housemade phosphates, lactarts, and other old-school soda jerk-inspired adult drinks. It will also have its own seasonal cocktail list. The spirits options are going to be a bit more limited than your usual bar lineup, although there will be a large selection of small-batch whiskeys, tequilas, and mezcals.

In order to create a walkway in between the bars, Dogwood’s meat counter is going to be ripped up and relocated to Darling’s. The menu will include even more house-cured meats, sandwiches, and more cold items, like salads and a new offering of crudos.

Filipello mentioned that once Darling’s is open, she plans to make both bars a technology-free zone and ban phone use. She says, “I’m tired of people not interacting. I want to have an atmosphere conducive to socializing. Sure, if you need to send a quick text, okay, but no more of people just staring at their phones.” To that, I say amen. Look for an opening in November or thereabouts. The entrance is at 1635 Broadway at 17th St., Oakland.


The Berlinetta Lounge. Photo from Facebook.

On Thursday March 13th, Italian winemaker Luca Currado of Vietti wines in Piedmont will be at ~SPRUCE~. He’ll be serving a selection of his wines, available by the glass or paired with a tasting menu from chef John Madriaga. Reservations are encouraged, but bar and lounge seating will be held for walk-ins.

Wine lovers won’t want to miss this class with Bar Boulud’s Michael Madrigale, who is in town to teach a class on Sunday March 16th at ~18 REASONS~: What Sommeliers Drink When They’re Picking Up the Tab. The class is 3pm-5pm, $40 for 18 Reasons members, $50 for the general public.

~BERLINETTA LOUNGE~ is hosting a few wine events in the coming months, called Flights + Bites, with a new theme each month. On Tuesday March 18th, the theme is green wines (natural, eco-friendly, and biodynamic), with six pours including the 2010 Chateau Montelena cabernet sauvignon and 2012 Hartford Court Russian River pinot noir. Six bites will be paired with the wines, including a tombo tuna with artichokes, spring onions, and tonnato sauce, and a chicken liver tartine with blood orange and black truffle. On Tuesday April 15th, the theme is tax-season wines, and then on Thursday May 29th the lounge will welcome Greg Brewer (winemaker at Melville Winery and his own label, Brewer-Clifton), who will share his pours. The evenings run from 6pm-8pm and cost $25 per person; call 415-400-0554 for reservations. 417 Stockton St. at Bush, 415-400-0555.


Wine tasting at Urban Legend Cellars at a past Passport to the East Bay Wineries. Photo from Facebook.

The sixth annual Passport to the East Bay Wineries is coming up on Saturday and Sunday March 15th and 16th. The event, which celebrates winemakers in the East Bay (it’s California’s largest urban winemaking region), takes you to 13 different wineries in Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, and Castro Valley, where you can taste wine from more than 20 producers. You’ll find live music, food pairings, and wines that include single varieties and unusual blends. Tickets are $40 per person for just Saturday, $65 for both days, and $10 for designated drivers. The event runs from 12pm-5pm both days; locations vary.