The Lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
February 6, 2018

The bar at the new Del Mar in the Marina. Photo: Del Mar.


The communal table at Del Mar. Photo: Del Mar.


The new Almanac Barrel House and Taproom in Alameda. Photo courtesy of Almanac.

Over in the Marina, the former HiFi Lounge has been reconcepted and redesigned into ~DEL MAR~, a tropical oasis. Partners Max Young (Mr. Smith’s, The Bamboo Hut, McNally’s Irish Pub, and The Reel Fish Shop and Grill) and Michael Wilbert (Mr. Smith’s) spent four months redesigning the space, which now includes hand-built swings and swing chairs (making it hard to tell how tipsy you really are), custom jungle print wallpaper, a spray-painted surf mural by local artist Camer1, and a bar and back bar refaced with shou sugi ban cypress from Delta Millworks in Austin, Texas (each piece of wood was specifically milled, burned, and then painted by hand). Of course there’s a tropical-inspired cocktail menu to match, including a 12-year aged rum mai tai and a Venezuelan rum old-fashioned, plus bowls for sharing and a daily slushie. Happy hour starts tomorrow (February 7th), running 5pm-8pm, plus DJs and dancing on the weekends. Sunday afternoons will be coming in the spring. 2125 Lombard St. at Fillmore.

A name change in the local spirits world: with the sale of Anchor Brewing to Sapporo Holdings Limited, Anchor Distilling Co. is now Hotaling & Co. (the company relinquished the rights to the Anchor trademark). For those of you who know your SF history, the Hotaling name should be familiar: A.P. Hotaling, who came to San Francisco during the Gold Rush, was the largest liquor wholesaler in the West, and amazingly his whiskey warehouse didn’t burn down in the 1906 quake and fire—there is both a rhyme and a special Old Potrero release named Hotaling’s in honor of the booze miracle. You can read more (and learn the rhyme) in the press release here. Dennis Carr remains the company’s president and CEO, and Hotaling & Co. will also remain under the ownership of London’s Berry Bros. & Rudd and Tony Foglio.

Big news in beer land: Jesse Friedman and Damian Fagan of Almanac Beer Co. just opened their brand-new 30,000-square-foot production brewery, barrel house, taproom, and HQ in Alameda. The Almanac Barrel House and Taproom will serve barrel-aged and fresh beers on-site (where they are brewed). There’s an indoor beer hall and an outdoor beer garden overlooking San Francisco Bay. Food is currently not available, but they will have food trucks most days, and outside food and deliveries are welcome. Kids are also welcome (supervised!) and so are dogs (on the outdoor patio only). Open Wed-Sat 12pm-8pm and Sun 12pm-6pm. 651B W Tower Ave. at Pan Am Way, Alameda Island.

(Also worth noting: last week, I featured Admiral Maltings and The Rake, which are just next door—and actually brought Almanac on board to share the space—so you can make it a double play.)

January 30, 2018

The new Hotel Kabuki bar. Photo: Aubrie Pick.


My kind of tea: Golden Tea Milk Punch. Photo: Aubrie Pick.


The lobby area at the new Hotel Kabuki. Photo: ©

Last week, I popped by a preopening party for the revamped Hotel Kabuki bar, and it’s quite a looker (the hotel just finished a $31 million renovation). I know I’ll be hosting some future meetings there, especially in the lobby—it has a fun residential style, full of interesting books and eclectic objets. There’s a large communal table near the bar, and the outdoor patio will open with fire pits in a few months.

Head bartender and beverage director Stephanie Wheeler (previously at Hojoko at The Verb Hotel in Boston and Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago) has crafted a list of Japanese-influenced cocktails, from the Yomogi Tonic (fresh pear and lime juices, housemade white miso-honey syrup, and Mixwell dandelion tonic, garnished with candy made in-house from the pulp of the juiced pears, a no-waste approach that is also reflected in their quality paper straw choice from Aardvark Straws) to a personal favorite, the Golden Tea Milk Punch (served in a teapot, with Nikka Coffey Gin, Giffard Vanilla, Japanese Sencha green tea, honey, turmeric, and coconut milk). Talk about a flu buster. The next time someone wants to meet for tea, this will be my suggestion. (You can also order it cold.) Japanese whisky and sake and beers will also be available, as well as a Japanese tea ceremony (from a custom bar cart) in the afternoon.

There are also some food options, from a Japanese bento breakfast and breakfast buffet to small evening bites like shishito peppers with avocado cream and serrano peppers, chicken karaage, plus okonomiyaki and a chicken katsu slider. Happy hour is daily 4pm-6pm. Bar hours Sun-Thu 4pm-11pm and Fri-Sat 4pm-12am. 1625 Post St. at Laguna.


The exterior of the now-closed Gangway. Photo by the ever-talented @darwinbell.

Man, it’s time to pour out the strongest vodka soda you’ve ever had, because ~THE GANGWAY~—the city’s oldest continuously operating gay bar—has officially closed and transferred their liquor license to the new owner (Sam Young, who is behind the nearby and completely non-gay Kozy Kar). The new project is listed as Young’s Kung Fu Action Theatre & Laundry. I never heard back from Young on his plans for the space back in August, when we first learned he was buying the bar, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

I was sorry to see all the posts from my friends over the weekend. There are a bunch of memories (many of them hazy) from that spot, which was open all day, so you can just imagine. 841 Larkin St. at Geary, 415-776-6828.

January 23, 2018

The rake at work at Admiral Maltings in Alameda. Photo via Facebook.

Yo, winos! I know there are a bunch of Robert Sinskey Vineyards fans out there, and he’s going to be at ~FOREIGN CINEMA~ this Thursday January 25th. You’ll not only enjoy pours of his organic, biodynamic-certified wines that are built for food, but you’ll also get to chat with him.

Wine director Shannon Tucker is going to be hosting six winemakers from the West Coast throughout the year at Foreign Cinema, here’s the list so you can mark your calendar: March 8th, with Jill Klein Matthiasson from Matthiasson Wines; May 17th, with Andrew Mariani from Scribe Winery; July 19th, with Jesse Skiles of Fausse Piste; September 6th, with Andy Peay of Peay Vineyards; and November 8th, with Eric Sussman from Radio-Coteau.

You looking ahead to SF Beer Week (Feb 9th-18th)? A bunch of events are on the calendar, from brunches to brewery tours. But if you are eager to crack into a cold one right now, Fort Point Beer is hosting a can release party for their new Resonance this Saturday January 27th at Drexl Bar in Oakland (5pm-10pm). Here’s more: “Resonance is an elegant new take on the classic saison style. A blend of two fermentations—one dry and earthy, one tart—creates juicy citrus notes, balanced by subtle spice and an effervescent finish.” After the initial release event, the beer will be available at locations throughout California starting January 31st. 

While we’re in the East Bay, there’s something new brewing in Alameda: Ron Silberstein of ThirstyBear Brewing Company, Dave McLean of Magnolia Brewing Company, and Curtis Davenport, who has an extensive background in organic farming and small batch malting, came together to launch ~ADMIRAL MALTINGS~ last fall. Their 20,000-square-foot malthouse is the first barley floor-malting facility in California since pre-Prohibition, and California’s only CCOF-certified malting operation. They are partnering with California farmers to source quality and sustainably grown grain and produce exceptional handcrafted malt that will express local terroir.

But the news is that there’s a new onsite pub overlooking their floor-malting production, The Rake. They will exclusively serve beers brewed with Admiral malts—featuring 20 beers on draft and two cask-conditioned ales—all accompanied with rustic pub food, like cured meats, cheese boards, sandwiches (Reuben, Italian hoagie), snacks like smoked whitefish toast and pickled quail eggs, and more. The Rake opens on Friday January 26th. Hours are Mon-Fri 3pm-9pm, Sat 12pm-9pm, and Sun 12pm-8pm. The Rake will soon open for lunch (during the week) once they are up and running. 651 W. Tower Ave. at Pan Am Way, Alameda.

January 16, 2018

The Almanac Taproom cheeseburger, now available at your bar stool at Junior. Photo courtesy of Junior.


Tequila Ocho is coming to Arguello on February 7th.

Have you checked out the recently opened ~JUNIOR~, just off 24th Street and Potrero? If you’re wondering where you’re going to eat after having a drink, you can actually order a cheeseburger ($15) from the nearby Almanac Taproom and never have to leave your bar stool. And yes, you can get fries with that ($5). 2545 24th St. at Utah.

Love tequila? Love Tequila Ocho? Then you’ll want to come to the upcoming ~ARGUELLO~ Experience Tasting on Wednesday February 7th, from 6pm-8pm. Tickets ($75) include a welcome cocktail, seasoned salt-making, and four 1-ounce tasting pours with accompanying bites. Seating is limited! You’ll learn about the Camarena family, who is in their eighth decade of making exceptional 100 percent blue agave tequila. 50 Moraga Ave. at Graham St., in the Presidio.

There’s a new lead bartender at ~MOSTO~, Candice Jae (previously Alchemist, Dosa, and Lolinda), who has expanded the cocktail list (with drinks like the Si Fig, a briny cocktail with mezcal, gin, Chareau aloe liqueur, fig purée, lemon, and cardamom bitters). And there’s a new design and botanas menu too, with additions like a Dungeness crab tostada and Don Bugito cricket tostada (you can scratch “I ate crickets” off your list). And $1 tacos on Tuesdays! Yup, $1 for al pastor and El Califa (nopales y queso) tacos. Don’t forget the daily happy hour (5pm-7pm), with $6 margs, $5 tortas, and $3 Tecates. There are also 200 tequilas and 210 mezcals, so come on by and start working through that list! 741 Valencia St. at 18th St.

One more thing to note: I’d like to applaud the Tacolicious group for launching a no-straw policy at their restaurants (and you thought The Make-Out Room was the only one!). They realized their restaurants go through more than 180,000 plastic straws per year, so they decided to ban plastic straws at all of their five Tacolicious restaurants, plus their Ferry Plaza Farmers Market stand, cantina Bar San Pancho, and tequila bar Mosto. A 100 percent paper straw from Aardvark Straws will be available upon request. This is in addition to their recent certification as an “Ocean-Friendly Restaurant” from Surfrider Foundation—the goal of the program is to eliminate plastic pollution, while also addressing ways that restaurants can help protect the coast through conservation efforts. Hey restaurants, check it out!

January 9, 2018

Seasonal cocktails will be in abundance at Paws & Pours: Cocktails of the Farmers Market. Photo: Amanda Lynn Photography.

A couple of cocktail events to warm you up this January! On Thursday January 18th, Reza Esmaili is hosting a hands-on tequila and whiskey mixing and tasting class, partnering with Casa Noble Tequila and High West Whiskey, and Tim Zohn (formerly The Alembic, AQ) will be joining him. You’ll enjoy cocktails, bites, and learn some tips and techniques behind the bar. 6:30pm-8:30pm. $59, tickets here. At ~TRACE~ upstairs at W San Francisco, 181 3rd St. at Howard.

At the end of the month, on Wednesday January 31st, CUESA and the San Francisco chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild are hosting a warm and cuddly winter edition of their seasonal fundraisers, Paws & Pours: Cocktails of the Farmers Market, in partnership with the San Francisco SPCA. You get to enjoy seasonal ruff-freshments (ha-ha!) and vegetarian bites from top bartenders and chefs (including Dirty Habit, Horsefeather, The Front Porch) in the Ferry Building’s Grand Hall. Plus, the SF SPCA will host a doggy petting enclosure, where you’ll have the chance to cuddle with some adorable pups! Yes, fun. Sign-ups to snuggle with a pooch are first come, first served, so don’t delay in arriving.

Guests receive three full-size signature cocktails with the featured spirits, along with unlimited sample-size drinks; restaurants serve small bites, and CUESA, the USBG, and SF SPCA will provide some games and prizes.

Tickets are $60. Use code “tablehopperpartyanimal” for $5 off. 5:30pm-8pm.