December 16, 2014

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.