January 15, 2013

January 15, 2013
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Photo via Tosca Cafe’s Facebook page.

Big news swept through the city with the announcement in the Business Times that ~TOSCA CAFE~ has been saved (owner Jeannette Etheredge reportedly owed $100,000 in back rent and was being evicted). Taking over the legendary location is Ken Friedman and chef April Bloomfield, known for swell New York establishments the Spotted Pig, the Breslin, and John Dory Oyster Bar. The Michelin-winning duo just signed a 10-year lease, and while they plan to renovate the space (and expand the dining area), they will be preserving a lot of what makes Tosca great (although I have a feeling Tosca’s notorious cash-only policy will be ending, and maybe that house cappuccino will finally taste good).

Joking aside, I am really torn by this news. On one hand, thank God the bar has been saved by people who I trust will do right by it. But there’s another part of me that wishes it could stay exactly as it is. I love the moody ambiance, the opera on the jukebox, the white-jacketed waiters, the utterly hilarious Edith Head graffiti in the pink women’s bathroom, the occasional peek into Jeannette’s amazing and memorabilia-covered office (which needs to be shellacked and left exactly as it is). And let’s not forget the always entertaining cast of characters who wander in there. It was one of the last bars where I could still surreptitiously smoke after the ban (mind you, I quit over 10 years ago, but still). With these upcoming changes, well, things will be different. I guess it’s another era for the space, but it doesn’t mean I won’t be pouring out some of my Negroni for the 20-plus years of wonderfully vivid memories I have had at this seminal SF bar. Stand by for more in the coming months. 242 Columbus Ave. at Broadway.

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The view from the balcony at Trick Dog. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

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The bar at Trick Dog. Photo from Facebook.

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The impressive liquor at Trick Dog, in genius sliding shelves. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

A report by Dana Massey-Todd. As reported on tablehopper back in 2010, the Mission has a new high-end watering hole: ~TRICK DOG~. It has finally arrived, after much waiting and excitement. It officially opened its doors on Monday January 7th and has been raking in the praise (and crowds) ever since—it is currently blowing up Twitter in mentions, and I’ve even heard of lines to get in. Yeah, this town loves its bars.

The bar comes from the Bon Vivants, Josh Harris and Scott Baird, who also run Rio Grande, and the third partner is Jason Henton. The bar is quite a labor of love and takes its name from a trick dog toy that Harris’s father gave him as a child. Most of the construction materials in the bar were not repurposed so much as lovingly collected over the years that the partners have been working together. As such, most of the elements have a story, whether it’s the history of the cast-iron beams that form the base of the bar (they’re originally from the Warfield building) or the large-format line drawing of a vintage Playboy pinup by Nicole Hayden.

The space is well designed (in conjunction with Wylie Price Design) without being fussy. It’s divided into a downstairs bar area and an upstairs lofted space with chairs and tables. The seats are all vintage Steelcase, reupholstered by Allison Weber, a friend and colleague of the partners. The space is fairly neutral, in varying shades of industrial gray, which provides a nice foil for color to pop. And pop it does: the menu is a Pantone book, modified to list the drinks—take a look at both the menu and design here. There is also a gallery wall upstairs of bright prints by Ed Panar that bring an unexpected and fun splash of color.

The drinks are well crafted, but Harris says the point of the bar is not to be just a cocktail nerd haven. They want folks in the mood for a glass of wine or nice beer to feel comfortable too. That said, the cocktails look pretty serious, like the Alligator Alley (olive oil-infused Broker’s gin, Imbue vermouth, Tempus Fugit quinquina, green Chartreuse) or Gypsy Tan (Rittenhouse 100 rye, Mandarine Napoléon orange liqueur, Fernet Branca, ginger, lemon, Erdinger Weissbier, nutmeg).

The food from Chester Watson (working closely with Baird) is high-end bar food, with a Scotch egg (yesss!), a classier take on pimento cheese, salted and buttered radishes, and chicken nuggets. Grub Street has a copy of the current menu, so you can start plotting your beverage snacks now. Plus, the kitchen is open until 1:30am, which adds a great spot for late-night dining to the neighborhood. It’s open daily, 3pm-2am. 3010 20th St. at Florida, 415-471-2999.

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A few of the 1,400 Santas at Marlena’s. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Gold Dust rendering. Image via Facebook.

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The bar at Caskhouse. Photo via Facebook.

Man oh man, another classic, quirky, SF gay bar bites the dust. This time it’s ~MARLENA’S~, a Hayes Valley mainstay that has been overserving its fabulously friendly clientele the past 23 years, blowing our minds every Christmas with the out-of-hand Santa collection, and hello, the Sunday drag shows! Well, all that is going to become a distant memory: Garry “Marlena” McLain (otherwise known as Empress XXV) is selling the bar (Grub Street has been following it here) and retiring (enjoy the much deserved time off, Garry!).

And now Hayeswire reveals the new buyers: Matt Conway (whom many of you know from Comstock and Absinthe), Anthony Healy-London (Churchill, Bloodhound, and Double Dutch), and Josh McAdam. Here’s more from Healy-London: “We are in discussion with Marlena/Gary about what of the Marlena’s traditions will continue. We understand what Marlena’s has meant (and continues to mean) to this neighborhood and we are sensitive to that in our decision-making process. We are really excited to be joining a neighborhood that we already love and know very well.” The remodel is slated to begin in March, and the bar will reopen (under a new name) in late April. And, scene. 488 Hayes St. at Octavia, 415-864-6672.

Just so you know, New Year’s Eve was the last night of business for the ~THE RRAZZ ROOM~ at the Hotel Nikko (via SFist). The Examiner reports the Rrazz Room’s operators moved to 1000 Van Ness (in the space that was previously the Showroom and Holly’s Comedy Club). 1000 Van Ness Ave. at O’Farrell, 800-380-3095.

Just an update for you: according to a post on Facebook, the ~GOLD DUST LOUNGE~ is planning to open in its new location on Fisherman’s Wharf on Friday February 1st (which will be followed with a Super Bowl Sunday event on February 3rd). Read more on its Facebook page for how to reserve your spot if you’d like to come by. 165 Jefferson St. at Taylor, 415-397-1695.

Now open in Noe Valley is ~CASKHOUSE~, previously mentioned on tablehopper as Crafthouse, in the former Joe’s 24th Street Café space. You can check out the menu of craft beers, wine, and bites here. Open Tue-Fri 4pm-12am and Sat-Sun 2pm-12am. 3853 24th St. at Vicksburg, 415-834-5005.

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The bar at Prospect. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Over at ~PROSPECT~, wine director Amy Currens has moved on—sadly she has a stress fracture that needs time to heal, so she made the difficult decision to step away from her position. Stand by for more on where she lands next after she takes some time to heal up. Taking her place is Joshua Thomas, who has worked with Prospect since 2010, when he was part of the opening team.

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The crowd at Around the World in 80 Sips in 2012. Photo © Blanchard Photographic.

If you’re looking for a chance to taste lots of wines from all over the world, head to the ~AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 SIPS~ event on Friday February 8th. The event is put on by Bottlenotes at the Golden Gate Club in the Presidio, and features more than 80 wines. There will also be small bites to keep your palate going all evening.

For the first time this year, they’ll be adding the Sherry Suite to the lineup, a once-in-a-lifetime experience sponsored by Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits, the premier retailer in the country. Enjoy access to a private suite, tasting world-class wines from Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Italy, and California. A selection of hot and cold hors d’oeuvres will be served exclusively in the Sherry Suite, and each person will receive a fabulous gift bag. Limited to 40 people.

The general tasting event runs from 7:30pm-9:30pm, with a VIP early hour from 6:30pm-7:30pm. Tickets are $75 for general admission, $125 for VIP, and $195 for the Sherry Suite, but be sure to enter Tablehopper at checkout for 40 percent off until January 31st. 135 Fisher Loop at Sheridan.