The Lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
December 16, 2014
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The Clover Leaf cocktail. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The main bar. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Various vintage pharmacy items. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The vintage cocktail shaker. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The main room at Devil’s Acre. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The downstairs bar at Devil’s Acre (Remedie). Photo: © tablehopper.com.

On Sunday evening, I swung by the ~DEVIL’S ACRE~ in North Beach for the first night of the bar’s (very quiet) soft opening—the official opening is Wednesday December 17th. “The Devil’s Acre” was a nickname a section of the neighborhood used to have (it wasn’t just known as the Barbary Coast). More fun trivia: did you know the word “hoodlum” originates from the area as well?

The spacious project is in the former Jazz at Pearl’s, a location that was vacant for some time, just next door to Tosca and Specs’. The Future Bars team (Bourbon & Branch, Tradition, The Wilson, Local Edition, Cask, and the upcoming Tupper & Reed in Berkeley) gutted the space and completely built it back out as a Barbary Coast bar—at one time it was a hotel and pharmacy, with a jewelry shop and Chinese-American cigar-rolling shop upstairs.

The vibe is very much a pharmacy-saloon-apothecary hybrid, with one wall lined with a collection of vintage pharmacy containers, and many little remedy bottles above the bar. The bartenders wear cowhide aprons that mimic old pharmacist aprons, which had to be sturdy enough to protect them from corrosive substances (fun fact: the aprons are the same cowhide as the padded rail along the bar). And about that amazing bar: it was originally from Pennsylvania, and then was shipped to someone in Hawaii, who never did anything with it, so now here it is in San Francisco. It’s a beaut.

The bar menu is a booklet designed like an almanac, and in between the cocktail sections (“Period Specific Classics” and “Barbary Coast Originals”) are ads for neighboring businesses, like Comstock Saloon, Tony Nik’s, and Naked Lunch. (Classy, that.)

The bar is a partial homage to Jerry Thomas’ How to Mix Drinks: A Bon Vivant’s Companion, the first cocktail book, which was printed in 1862. Partner Doug Dalton says the goal was to put a spin on some of the cocktails and make them more palatable, and also serve other drinks of that era. Bar leads Darren Crawford (who has lived in North Beach the past 10 years and has worked at Tony Nik’s) and Jay Pouliot (Tradition, Alchemist, Cotogna, Beretta) include a pisco punch, bourbon crusta, and sherry cobbler (Harry Johnson, 1888) on the menu.

I tried the Clover Leaf (inspired by Harry MacElhone and the old Waldorf Astoria, 1910), shaken with jonge genever, Carpano bianco, lemon, grenadine, egg white, and a mint leaf, an ideal cocktail to start the night with. The Golden Era features gin, applejack, dry vermouth, lemon, aromatic bitters, and an orchard syrup that was was potent with the flavor of apple and spice—it’s a bewitching, fragrant, balanced cocktail.

Further into the almanac is a soda fountain section, where you can enjoy that same orchard syrup in a soda, along with a root beer, a lemon-lime soda, ginger beer, and other bubbly drinks made with real syrups. Sodas were how pharmacists used to serve bitter medications, and I know exactly where I’m heading the next time I have a nasty hangover: I’ll try the ammonia Coke, which was once used as an antacid.

There is also a section of pharmacy remedies and elixirs: you can order an aromatic elixir or surfeit water (a cordial) with an immunity tonic, or maybe an energy boost is what you need? There’s even a love potion. (You can also add some of these remedies to your cocktails.) Isn’t this fun? And just wait until you see the vintage mechanized cocktail shakers on the bar.

There’s a lot of seating in the main room (perfect if you’re waiting for your table at Tosca), and the large windows that look out on Columbus keep it from feeling like a hidden speakeasy. There are so many quality details, from the beautiful wallpaper to the elaborate medallions on the ceiling, plus chairs with striped silk backrests, and inlaid in the wood floors are reproductions of pharmacist pill tiles (which they would use to prepare medications on).

Downstairs is the Remedie room, which will be open all the time (unless someone has a private buyout). It’s the perfect private party room, with its own bar, and vintage chairs and tables. Open Tue 5pm-2am, Wed-Sat 3pm-2am, Sun 3pm-12am, closed Mon. 256 Columbus Ave. at Broadway.

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Some of the sherries at Sherry Christmas 2013. Photo by Balthazar Digital Media via Facebook.

December 15th marked the 129th anniversary of the death of Jerry Thomas, the famed bartender and pioneer of American cocktailing, and the author of How to Mix Drinks: A Bon Vivant’s Companion. He was a champion of genever, the Dutch spirit that was a predecessor to gin, and to celebrate, Bols is hosting several events all around the bay this week. Until December 21st, check out specials at bars including Prizefighter in Emeryville, Bocanova in Oakland, and Lolinda, Rich Table, and Comstock Saloon in San Francisco. Check out the full lineup of participating bars here, and raise a glass to a true spirits pioneer!

Here at tablehopper, the belief is that you can never have enough sherry, and ~15 ROMOLO~ agrees. This year, don’t miss their Third Annual Sherry Christmas celebration, when they offer a special menu of food designed to pair with a selection of 18 different sherries by the glass. Check out the menu here. 15 Romolo Pl. at Broadway, 415-398-1359.

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The exterior of Specchio (then Piattini, now Buffalo Club). Yelp photo by Thomas R.

As previously mentioned on tablehopper, the team behind Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem and Tonic has taken over the former Specchio/Piattini in the Mission. The new project is called ~BUFFALO CLUB~, and the partners are Duncan Ley, Ben Bleiman, Mark Devito, and Joshua Callen. Devito says the concept for this location will be a bit less themed than nearby Dr. Teeth, though it will still be fun and visually interesting. They’re keeping the Italian spirit alive, with mostly pizza on the menu, along with some charcuterie and salads. They’ve been working on a sourdough-style dough, and toppings will be creative, beyond the usual pepperoni. Devito wasn’t prepared to divulge too many details, but he did say there would be at least two pizza offerings that were in the piadine vein, with fresh greens on top of the crust.

The space is being updated to have a bit of a retro vibe, sort of like “an old Brooklyn pizzeria,” with wood paneling. There are also lots of tributes to the buffalo, including a disco ball buffalo head. The space and menu will be group-friendly, and they want to make sure that the place feels like a good neighborhood spot to hang out, with great cocktails. And about those cocktails: Callen is running the bar, and though they are still working out the menu, look for delicious drinks that pair well with pizza and won’t take forever to prepare. At least two rotating house cocktails will be on tap, along with six beers. There will also be some wines. Right now, the plan is to open in the first week of the new year, so stay tuned for an exact date. To start, the kitchen will be open daily 5pm-1am, with the bar staying open until 2am. 2331 Mission St. at 19th St.

Back in October, we mentioned what was replacing the former Esta Noche, ~BOND~, and SFist reports it’s now open. To recap: it’s meant to be a neighborhood bar, with classic rock, straightforward cocktails, and Sunday football. 3079 16th St. at Valencia.

December 9, 2014
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The bar at Brewcade. Photo courtesy Brewcade.

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Seating at Brewcade. Photo courtesy Brewcade.

It looks like we’re going to have a (much needed) rainy winter this year, so here’s a great way to spend some time indoors: wearing out your thumbs on 1980s vintage arcade games at ~BREWCADE~ (that link isn’t quite live yet, by the way). The bar is from Shawn Vergara of the nearby Blackbird and his sister, Tiffny Vergara Chung, and they have created a veritable fantasy playground for grown-ups. They’ve got 24 vintage gaming machines from the 1980s, offering as many as 50 different games (many machines are multiplay), along with 25 beers on tap, 5 wines on tap, and a selection of carbonated, low-alcohol cocktails. There is also a wide selection of nonalcoholic sodas, from The Fizzary, and coffee from Stumptown, along with a “French-Italian sparkling slushie.” For food, they’ve got a “munchie bar” serving inexpensive snacks ($2-$5) including caramel corn, jerky, chicharrones, and nuts.

So, about those games. The selection is impressive, and includes classics like Pac-Man and Mrs. Pacman, Tetris, and Mario Bros., as well as more obscure titles like Galaxian, Jungle Hunt, and Xevious. Here is a partial list of games on offer, but many more will be available as well. The games will take quarters, though whether or not that means the pricing will also be vintage isn’t clear yet.

The space was designed by Craige Walters, who is also responsible for Fable, Romper Room, and Golden Gate Tap Room. The retro theme has been emphasized in the space, along with an industrial vibe. There is also a patio, with four tables, and a sleek, modern wall-mounted jukebox to keep the soundtrack fun. Hours are 3pm-2am Mon-Fri and 2pm-2am Sat-Sun. 2200 Market St. #102 at 15th St., no phone.

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Moody lighting at The Basement. Photo from Yelp.

As noted back in 2013, the former 222 Hyde has closed. In its place is now ~THE BASEMENT~, Eater reports, from owner Larry Livingston of Palladium. There is only a narrow bar on the ground floor, but the large basement has been tricked out with a new sound system, and Livingston will host DJ nights on weekends, as soon as he’s locked down an entertainment license. Right now, it’s all about comedy nights, including an open mic on Thursdays. It’s beer and wine only, with a selection of beers on tap, some wine, and soju- and Champagne-based cocktails. Hours are Tue-Wed 6pm-12am, Thu-Fri 6pm-2am, Sat 7pm-2am. 222 Hyde St. at Turk, 415-742-7222.

It looks like the PlumpJack Group has made yet another acquisition, this time of the former Sloane space in the Mid-Market area. Scoop notes that they plan to reopen next year, though no word yet on any details. 1525 Mission St. at 11th St.

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The cazuela cocktail at Uno Dos Tacos. Photo courtesy Uno Dos Tacos.

~UNO DOS TACOS~ has secured their full liquor license, and that means they’re now serving a full cocktail list. Tequila and mezcal are the focus, with a house margarita, of course, available by the glass or pitcher ($8/$29). There is also a special cazuela cocktail on the list, which is kind of like a mini punch bowl: four ounces of tequila (yikes!) with grapefruit, orange, and lime juice with Jarritos soda, served in a traditional ceramic dish ($14). To go along with the new cocktail list is a new happy hour Monday through Saturday from 4pm-8pm. Margaritas are $6 each or $26 for the pitcher, beers are $4, and sangria is available for $5 a glass or $18 for a pitcher. There is also a selection of $5 snacks, including flautas, a quesadilla, and gorditas. Check out the happy hour menu here. 595 Market St. at 2nd St., 415-974-6922.

There’s a new happy hour at Café Claude Marina Monday through Friday from 4:30pm-6:30pm. The offerings include a selection of wines for $1 per ounce, $3 beers, and snacks like oysters Rockefeller ($2) and baguette sliders ($2). Check out the full happy hour menu here. 2120 Greenwich St. at Fillmore, 415-375-9550.

For a pizza happy hour, head to ~CAPO’S~ every day from 5pm-6pm for a special deal. For $8, you get a slice of their deep-dish pizza, and your choice of a soda, Pabst, or shot of well whiskey. The deal is only available at the bar, but that’s more fun, anyway.

November 25, 2014
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Viola Buitoni. Yeah, you’ll have fun learning from her. Photo from Violabuitoni.com.

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
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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.

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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.

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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
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.