The Lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
November 25, 2014

Viola Buitoni. Yeah, you’ll have fun learning from her. Photo from

Hayes Valley’s ~NOIR LOUNGE~ has secured a full liquor license, Hoodline reports. In fitting with their 1940s film noir theme, the drink list is focused on the classics (with a spin, naturally). There’s a French 75 made with gin, sugar cubes, and lemon juice; a Vieux Carré with Cognac, rye, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, and Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters; and the Horse’s Neck, with bourbon or rye, ginger beer, lemon juice, and lemon peel. They’ve also begun working on a microbrewing operation and will soon be offering 2 of their own beers on tap, in addition to 10 guest taps. If you’re feeling jazzy, check out their live piano music Sun-Thu 7pm-10pm. 581 Hayes St. at Laguna, 415-431-6647.

Surely you know by now that the tablehopper is a big fan of aperitivo: the drinks, the food, the tradition of slowing down and socializing before a meal. And Italian hospitality is rightfully world famous. Join Viola Buitoni at ~18 REASONS~ on Friday December 12th for Aperitivo: The Italian Art of Entertaining, a class on hosting Italian style. Buitoni will show you how to prepare eight different aperitif snacks and offer some tips and tricks so you can actually relax and enjoy your parties. The class runs from 6pm-9:30pm and costs $85 per person, $75 for 18 Reasons members. Tickets include the class, dinner, and wine.

It’s time for the annual Champagne Tasting at ~ARLEQUIN WINE MERCHANT~ on Thursday December 4th. More than 75 Champagnes will be poured at the event, which runs from 6pm-8pm. The tasting costs $75 per person, and tickets can be purchased by calling 415-863-1104.

November 18, 2014

The iconic Nite Cap sign. Yelp photo by Ric S.

As mentioned on tablehopper last year, Tenderloin dive bar ~NITE CAP~ was purchased by a team of new partners including Dave Esler of Hog & Rocks. After a remodel, it has reopened, though Esler swears it hasn’t changed too much. According to Scoop, the new Nite Cap is focused on shot-and-a-beer combos and is not all about mixology or fancy cocktails. The inside has been gutted and redone, though, and there’s been a lot of work done to the exterior as well. The sign now lights up completely, but otherwise is unchanged. 699 O’Farrell St. at Hyde, 415-931-9508.

The Trocadero has done a quick switcheroo to ~RX~, Eater reports. The bar is from owners Dennis Leary and Eric Passetti, and it is focused on the, ahem, medicinal qualities of alcohol. The menu is based on the Prohibition-era prescriptions people could get for booze and includes drinks made using tinctures and digestifs. They’ve changed the decor a bit, too, making the space a bit warmer and darker, but not changing the layout significantly. 701 Geary St. at Leavenworth, 415-952-0481.


The Old Devil Moon partners, from left to right: Will Marshall, Chris Cohen, and Andrew Kelley. Photo courtesy Old Devil Moon.

Three self-identified “beer geeks” are getting ready to open a bar in Bernal, called ~OLD DEVIL MOON~. The project comes from Chris Cohen, cicerone and board member of the San Francisco Homebrewers Guild, Andrew Kelley, also a cicerone and former manager of Los Angeles beer spot Little Bear, and Will Marshall, an accountant with a love of beer. The partners are opening their bar in the former La Terraza space on Mission Street and are planning to offer an excellent list of beers on tap and in bottles. The bar will have a Southern bent, so it should be comfortable and welcoming, and they’ve also got a full liquor license, so there will be cocktails. You’ll also find a menu designed to pair well with beer, including burgers, of course. They’re still at least several months away from opening while the space is under construction (interiors are from Kelly Malone). 3472 Mission St. at Cortland.


Some of the Beaujolais on offer at Arlequin’s 2012 bash. Photo from Facebook.

What a wonderful time of year this is! Commercial crab season just opened, white truffle season continues, and now the Beaujolais is arriving from France! This Thursday November 20th, catch the seventh annual Beaujolais Bash at ~ARLEQUIN WINE MERCHANT~ from 6pm-8pm. In addition to the Beaujolais Nouveau, they’ll also be pouring a selection of Cru Beaujolais from various vintages. Tickets are $35 per person at the door and include plenty of tastes. All wines will be available for purchase, at a special 10 percent discount for the event.

November 4, 2014

Partner John Vuong is giving you some public notice, yo. Photo courtesy of Michael Ireland.

Last week, Eater noted the ABC license activity and players for ~PIVOT~, a project that is coming to the Inner Richmond. I reached out to Michael Ireland—a well-respected sommelier who has worked at The French Laundry, Quince, Benu, The Restaurant at Meadowood, and consults for Verbena and Gather restaurants—for some details on the project. He’s partnering with John Vuong (Ame, Gary Danko) to open a wine bar and retail shop just next door to the Bitter End, hopefully in spring of 2015.

The name is inspired by the fact that these two friends have quite the fine-dining background, but want to pivot into something more casual, creating an atmosphere that is warm, comfortable, and authentic. They are both Bay Area natives—Ireland lives within walking distance of the business and is excited to bring something new to the neighborhood.

The plan is to have an extensive selection of 30 wines by the glass, ranging from a $6 glass from a keg to more expensive and rare picks. Ireland says they’ll all have a “high yum factor” and they look forward to matching people with exactly what they like, because that’s what these two do. Look for some special wines from Ireland’s and Vuong’s personal collections, with some folks consigning some bottles too.

There will be some delicious food as well; the consulting chef is their friend Daniel Brooks, who will also be doing a bit of a pivot since his background is primarily Michelin-starred restaurants (including Quince and in Spain). He will develop the menu and help staff and train the kitchen; someone else will captain the kitchen in the future. Look forward to seeing what he puts together.

The space was previously a retail shop, and while they don’t have to do any heavy demolition, they do plan to move the facade so they can create a small patio in the front. There will be two levels, with skylights, and about 47 seats. Look for some urban street art in the space as well. They will be open early (just before lunch) and will progress into the afternoon and evening with more food and a wine bar atmosphere. We’ll keep you posted as this one shapes up in coming months. 443 Clement St. at 6th Ave.


The interior at Alembic. Photo by Jennifer Yin via Postcard Communications.

After closing for renovations in January, ~THE ALEMBIC~’s kitchen has reopened. There is a newly expanded menu from chef Ted Fleury, including albacore crudo with kohlrabi and Asian pear ($14), chicken wings with Calabrian chile jam and green papaya ($10), and chicken liver mousse with quince, huckleberry, and fried chicken skin ($11). The menu, which you can look at here, is mostly focused on small plates, along with some new fall cocktails from Larry Piakowsky. The dining room is still under construction, but once it opens in about two months, there will also be a selection of large dishes and meat platters for sharing. Kitchen hours are Mon-Fri 4pm-12am, Sat-Sun 12pm-12am. The bar is open until 2am nightly. Welcome back, guys!

~CAFÉ COCOMO~, the salsa club that closed earlier this year after 15 years in Dogpatch, has found a new home at PlayaSF in Fisherman’s Wharf, at the former Parlor bar. Look for more parties, dancing, and theme nights, as well as dance lessons and all different types of Latin music for shaking your moneymaker. 2801 Leavenworth St. at Beach.


The Golden Gobble from Trick Dog. Photo courtesy Ryan Robles PR.

During the month of November, you can raise a glass to a good cause with the Give Back the Bird program, which benefits the SF-Marin Food Bank and is sponsored by Wild Turkey (Jupiter Olympus plays a big part in this charity fundraiser). Local bars will be offering their own take on the old-fashioned all month, and for each one they sell, $2 will be donated to the food bank.

Participants include Trick Dog (Golden Gobble: Wild Turkey rye, pumpkin spice syrup, caramel apple tincture), Smokestack (On the Drumhead: Wild Turkey 81 rye, Cole Porter syrup, orange bitters, black cardamom and juniper berry bitters), Rye (The Old Fashioned Thanksgiving: Wild Turkey 81 rye, pumpkin spice black tea syrup, bar keep apple bitters, Angostura bitters), Elixir (The Old Fashioned Pilgrim: cardamom-, cranberry-, cinnamon-infused Wild Turkey 101, honey syrup, orange bitters, orange zest), and 1760 (Old Fashioned 17: Wild Turkey rye, Campari, Cinzano 1757, Angostura bitters, orange bitters). A full list of participating bars and their cocktails can be found here. Locations and hours vary.


There is still so very much to learn and love about sherry, and author Talia Baiocchi is going to be in town this month promoting her new book, Sherry: A Modern Guide to the Wine World’s Best-Kept Secret (Ten Speed Press). It’s a fabulous book, with a deep overview of how sherry is made and its various styles, plus producer profiles and recipes for sherry-based cocktails and sherry-friendly tapas.

Catch her at ~ST. VINCENT~ on Wednesday November 5th from 5pm-6:30pm for a sherry happy hour. Then, on Thursday November 6th, she’ll be at ~OMNIVORE BOOKS~ for a sherry tasting and book signing from 6pm-8pm. For a nosh along with your sherry, catch her at ~THE SPANISH TABLE MILL VALLEY~ on Friday November 7th from 6pm-7:30pm for a sherry tasting with tapas and a book signing. Finally, on Sunday November 9th, head to ~TRICK DOG~ for another happy hour from 5pm-8pm.


Tasting wine at Odette Estate. Photo courtesy PlumpJack Group.

For an in-depth exploration of the different appellations in the Napa Valley, check out the Tour de Terroir from PlumpJack Wines on Tuesday November 11th at MatrixFillmore. The tasting features two wines each from Odette Estate, PlumpJack Winery, and Cade Estate Winery. Each of the wineries is in a different appellation in Napa, and you’ll have the opportunity to taste a white and a red from each. There will also be bites from PlumpJack Catering. The tasting runs from 5:30pm-8:30pm and tickets are $50 per person.

If you love pinot noir, you won’t want to miss PinotFest at ~FARALLON~ from 3pm-6pm on Saturday November 22nd. The popular event includes pinot noir from 60 producers on the West Coast, including Alma Rosa, Bonaccorsi, Kosta Browne, Littorai, Williams Selyem, Pey-Marin, and Twomey. And don’t worry, Farallon will be providing appetizers to keep you going. Tickets are $125 per person. 450 Post St. at Powell, 4th Floor, 415-956-6969.

October 28, 2014

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

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

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


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

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

October 21, 2014

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Afternoon aperitivo at Locanda. Photo courtesy Locanda.

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