The Lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
December 5, 2017

Tartine’s new director of bar operations, Julian Cox.

Some exciting news at ~TARTINE MANUFACTORY~: they have landed a Type 47 liquor license and will be launching a full bar program in the spring. Overseeing the boozy magic will be Julian Cox, Tartine’s new director of bar operations. Cox was most recently director of beverage for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises in Chicago, and previously was making a name for himself in Los Angeles at Rivera, Redbird, Bestia, Otium, and Sotto. In 2014, Food & Wine named him one of the 10 most influential bartenders in the past 10 years.

As for Tartine, he plans to create a bar program based around the seasonality and deep sourcing that guides the culinary side: “I’m looking forward to taking advantage of the amazing regional produce and discovering new distilleries we can highlight at the bar.” Look for small producers, housemade bitters, cordials, and tinctures, plus fresh juices and some experimental zhoosh with dehydrated ingredients. He’ll also be using blocks of ice from a Clinebell machine, so expect some impressive ice too.


The bar at Starbelly will soon be serving cocktails with liquor (and not just wine). Photo via Facebook.

Another SF establishment that will soon be slinging drinks is ~STARBELLY~ in the Castro, which has been serving beer and wine and wine-based cocktails for the past eight-plus years. But come January (or so they’re hoping and aiming for), actual boozy cocktails will be on the list as well—they bought the license from the closed Forbes Island.

The team is currently tasting through the list and drinks—they will continue to follow their cocktail style of refreshing and citrus-based drinks, with fresh fruit and herbs. The Pimm’s Cup will now get a little bit of actual liquor, along with other drinks that will be more fortified, and there will be some amaro as well. 3583 16th St. at Market.


Just a small section of the long bar at Junior. Instagram photo via @juniorbarsf.


The spacious bar area at The Snug. Photo: Jonathan Racusin.


The Prickly Pear at The Snug. Photo: Jonathan Racusin.


The main floor and stage area at Emporium. Photo: ©


The upstairs skydeck at Emporium, with a second bar and pool tables. Photo: ©

Another week, another new bar. Wait, make that two. And an arcade.

Now open on 24th Street in the former Jack’s Club is ~JUNIOR~ from Matty Conway, Anthony Healy-London, and Josh McAdam (Brass Tacks), who joined up with David Ruiz (most recently the bar manager at Padrecito). It’s spacious, and Sayre Ziskin (who designed Brass Tacks and Anina) did a gorgeous job, with a colorful painted ceiling and wall murals, groovy light fixtures, large windows, and plenty of seating. Take a look at Ruiz’s menu here, which has a range of cocktails for $12 and plenty of beers to keep you happy. And they open early! Hours are Mon-Fri 2pm-2am and Sat-Sun 12pm-2am. 2545 24th St. at Utah.

Last week, I swung by the preopening party for ~THE SNUG~, which is now open on Fillmore and Clay in Pacific Heights. Partners Zack Schwab, Shane Matthews, Brian Shin, and Jacob Racusin (The Alembic) wanted to create a neighborhood bar, offering well-made cocktails, plus craft beers and bar food that is definitely a level above the usual.

The cocktail list features creative spins on classic recipes, highlighting housemade ingredients and seasonality. There are a couple of exclusive bourbon selections, cocktails on tap, and 14 taps of beers and ciders, plus a cask ale and plenty of bottles highlighting sours, stouts, and strong ales.

Chef Brian Shin (Alinea, Corton, Benu, In Situ) is making some creative and well-executed bar food, from Korean fried chicken wings to a Spam musubi lettuce wrap with housemade Spam. He also is utilizing the space’s tandoori oven (it was previously Mehfil Indian Cuisine), with dishes like sesame naan and shiitake hummus. Check out the menu here.

The space has an approachable and clean look, with a long bar top (31 feet of Douglas fir!) and plenty of other wood elements, from the round swivel bar seats to the high-top tables with room for six each across from the bar. The front area flanking the street has low industrial/metal stools, which won’t be the coziest in the winter, but you’ll just need to drink more; there’s also an upstairs mezzanine with more seating. Britt Hull of Tide Design Co. is behind the design. Open Sun-Thu 4pm-12am and Fri-Sat 4pm-2am; kitchen until 11pm. Brunch and outdoor seating will come next. 2301 Fillmore St. at Clay.

And after being vacant for almost as long as I have lived in the Western Addition, and three years of construction, the Harding Theater on Divisadero was saved from demolition and is now open again and home to ~EMPORIUM~, an arcade bar and event venue. The space is massive (more than 12,000 feet) and dates back to 1926—you’ll note some original architectural details, like the molding along the ceiling. There’s room for 900 guests, with a stage, original balcony level with some seating, and a skydeck with a second bar and pool tables.

There are more than 50 games, including Skee-Ball, air hockey, pinball, vintage arcade games like Pac-Man, plus Killer Queen and more. The 30-foot movie screen and 19-foot-tall projection screen will come in handy for viewings and big games, and there are plenty of display screens for private events too. Live music, DJs, and more will be programmed as well.

The cocktail list is still being tweaked, but there are a couple on tap, along with all-American craft beers—20 taps overall. They will be rotating beers often, but some initial selections include Social Kitchen & Brewery pils, Altamont Maui Waui IPA, Fieldwork Sensee Party Hazy IPA, and High Water Campfire nitro stout. There are also canned beers too. Interestingly there isn’t a food offering/kitchen, but outside food is allowed in.

The project is from Danny and Doug Marks, who also have three locations in Chicago. 21 and over. Business hours this week are Mon-Thu 4pm-2am, Fri 3pm-2am, Sat-Sun 12pm-2am. 616 Divisadero St. at Hayes.


It’s Champagne o’clock. Photo: ©

‘Tis the season (to be drinking), and let’s start with my favorite seasonal event, the Grower-Producer Champagne Tasting event at ~ARLEQUIN WINE MERCHANT~. There will be more than 45 grower Champagnes, including pours of Agrapart, Tarlant, Vesselle, Egly-Ouriet, Soutiran, Bérêche, J. Lassalle, Collin, Chartogne-Taillet, and Marie Courtin. And when you choose your favorites to buy, you get 10 percent off the retail price! $75. Thu Dec 14th. 5:30pm-8pm. (You can also say hello to the new beverage director Phillip Acquafresca, formerly of Cask and Slanted Door.)

More Champagne: if you have some family in from out of town and they want a view and some bubbles, ~EPIC STEAK~ is hosting their Champagne Hour every Wednesday from 5pm-7pm (so it’s actually two hours), pouring Veuve Clicquot at 50 percent off—and they’ll saber a bottle at kickoff time. So that glass of Veuve Yellow Label is just $13 instead of $26 (or get a bottle for $52), and a bottle of Grand Dame 2006 is $150 (original price: $300).

Need something stronger? Tonight, Tuesday December 5th, ~CAPO’S~ is hosting their fifth anniversary on National Repeal Day. There will be live music, actors in 1920s looks, standing passed bites at the bar, and the first 33 people will receive a free flask to commemorate the year 1933, when Prohibition came to an end. 4pm-10pm. (Capo’s is also collaborating with the nearby The Speakeasy.)

This event has been rescheduled to Thursday January 18th. On Thursday December 7th, Reza Esmaili is hosting a hands-on tequila and whiskey mixing class, partnering with Casa Noble Tequila and High West Whiskey. 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.

~MONK’S KETTLE~ is celebrating their 10 year anniversary (Sat December 9th-Mon December 18th) with a series of events called Ten Days for a Decade; check out the party lineup here. They will also be giving a take-home beer glass to all patrons that week, until they run out.

Another spot celebrating 10 years is ~THE TRAPPIST~ in Oakland on Saturday December 9th. Ten of their favorite brewer friends have each made a special for beer (including Jackie O’s in Ohio and Allagash from Maine), which they will be releasing at the event on draft (and several are also available in either bottle or can). Details here. 12pm to close.

Beer lovers will also want to note SF Beer Week is running from February 9th-18th, and tickets for some of the events are on sale now (like the gala, which always sells out).

On Wednesday December 13th, the ~ARGUELLO~ team is hosting a night of boozin’ and tequila education (er, tasting) with El Tesoro. For $65, you get a welcome beverage, bites, an interactive cocktail salt-making session, and four one-ounce tasting pours. Tickets here. And don’t forget to drink water!

If you want a festive backdrop to your holiday beverages, be sure to check out my piece from last week.

November 28, 2017

The cranberry Negroni at Deck the Halls. Photo: ©


The penguin wallscape at Deck the Halls. Photo: ©


The Miracle Muletide, available at PCH for the holidays. Photo: Melissa Horn.

Last week, I swung by a sneak peek of the pop-up holiday bar, ~DECK THE HALLS~, located in the former The Square (and more famously, the Washington Square Bar & Grill) in North Beach. Nick Floulis of Opavino (previously Chubby Noodle) and Shaher Misif (previously Cantina) and Ken Luciano of Guerrilla Vision (previously Forgery and Wildhawk) have put together a playful holiday cocktail menu, with a Cranberry Negroni served in an ornament, a Pecan Flip that comes with its own sparky sideshow, and The Traveling Duckie Does Deck the Halls, which comes in a snow globe…plus other surprises I don’t want to give away. There will also be a menu of small bites to keep keep your peppermint consumption in check due to the naughty elves behind the bar.

To match the holiday menu, there’s plenty of red and green and wrapping paper and a penguin village and a rooftop scene with some wasted-looking reindeer courtesy of Nick Roberto of Auspice Design. The pop-up will run until the New Year. They will be donating a portion of Deck the Hall’s proceeds to benefit North Bay wildfire relief. After the pop-up, Floulis will be opening a new restaurant in the space, Lillie Coit’s, with partners Elmer Mejicanos and John Paul Jacques later in 2018. Open Mon-Wed 3pm-12am, Thu-Fri 3pm-2am, Sat 12pm-2am, Sun 12pm-12am. 1707 Powell St. at Union.

Another holiday pop-up is happening at ~PACIFIC COCKTAIL HAVEN~ called Miracle. It’s a Christmas pop-up bar with over 50 locations around the world (from Greece to Hong Kong!), with cocktail recipes created by Nico De Soto from Mace in New York. There’s a Snowball Old Fashioned (gingerbread bourbon, wormwood bitters, lemon zest), How The Gimlet Stole Christmas (gin, sage, pine and caraway cordial), and the Run Run Rudolph (blanco tequila, coffee liqueur, iced hot chocolate, Mexican spices), among others. All cocktails are $14. Come by for over ten seasonally themed cocktails in a festive setting (and I mean festive—check this out!) through Christmas Eve (Sunday December 24th). 580 Sutter St. at Mason, 415-398-0195.

It’s also the time of year when ~15 ROMOLO~ rolls out their annual Sherry Christmas menu, with new cocktails, shareable tapas, and sherry pairings. Here’s one to look forward to: the Broken Arrow cocktail (10 yr. single malt whisky, amontillado sherry, toasted cinnamon, honey vinegar, candy cap aromatics).

Coming up on Tuesday December 5th is an Agave Girls special holiday event and tequila tasting at ~COPITA TEQUILERIA Y COMIDA~, hosted by Joanne Weir, with a menu created by Copita’s consulting executive chef Daniel Tellez alongside DOBEL tequila tastings and tequila cocktails. Plus, there’s an ugly poncho theme and the ugliest wins a bottle of tequila and a copy of Joanne’s latest cookbook. 6:30pm. Tickets are $75 per person, including food, tequila pairings, and cocktails (excluding gratuity). A percentage of proceeds from the event will go towards supporting the Redwood Credit Union North Bay Fire Relief. 739 Bridgeway, Sausalito.

And one last thing to note: if you need to stock up your home liquor cabinet (or holiday party!), owner Rami Barqawi let us know he just opened a new location of ~HEALTHY SPIRITS~ on Valencia. Look for an extensive mezcal selection at this location (their fourth!), plus their usual deep stock of whiskey, craft beers, and more. 300 Valencia St. at 14th St.

November 7, 2017

PinotFest at Farallon. Photo courtesy of Farallon.

We all love to drink great wine, but when you can also do it for charity, well, drink up! Coming up this weekend are a couple of events from Tanya and Andy Booth (owners of The Spanish Table shops), ‘Las Joyas’ Iberian Wine Tastings, featuring some top-notch Spanish and Portuguese winemakers who are coming to the Bay Area for the first time. The first event is Friday November 10th (6:30pm-9:30pm) at the Millennium Tower in SF, and then on Saturday November 11th (1pm-4pm) at the Starline Social Club in Oakland. Enjoy 25 wines, bites, and more. All the wines will be available to order on-site for pick up at a future date at your nearest Spanish Table and at one-time-only prices. Many of these wines are making their first appearance in the United States!

Tickets for Friday in SF are $50; tickets for Saturday in Oakland are $45. Enjoy a special tablehopper $10 discount with code spanishtable10. Each event will also be making donations to Fire Relief Funds and Futures Without Violence.

Next up, Big Night Restaurant Group’s newest wine bar and oysterette ~PETIT MARLOWE~ is hosting a Monday Night Wine Dinner Series featuring California winemakers, with 50 percent of profits donated to benefit Tipping Point’s Napa and Sonoma emergency relief fund. Each dinner will feature a special five-course menu with pairings. Monday November 20th is a Thanksgiving Crab Feast with Charles Neal Selections ($150 per person) and Monday November 27th is with Copain Winery’s Wells Guthrie ($150 per person). There is a $30 discount offered to those who reserve seats for both dinners.

And on Saturday November 18th is the 19th annual PinotFest and The Great Big Bacchanalia, where more than 50 top pinot producers from California and Oregon will be at ~FARALLON~. There will be a North Bay fire relief benefit raffle that will be accompanying the tasting, with 100 percent of funds to be donated from tickets selling at $25 apiece or five for $100. Raffle prizes include more than 20 magnums of wine, staycations, and Sophienwald fine stemware. 3pm-6pm. Tickets are $125; more info here.


The new loungy vibe at Herlen Place. Photo courtesy of Herlen Place.

The next time you’re downtown (or losing your mind from holiday shopping), there are a couple of new places to get your wine on and take a load off. The former Rouge et Blanc is now ~HERLEN PLACE~ from Laurent Manrique and the Café de la Presse team, with co-owner and chef Patrick Albert. The 70-seat spot has a bar, communal table, and sidewalk seating, with lots of natural light and living room-style loungy furnishings.

Expect a vegetable-centric, small plates menu with simple dishes like deviled eggs and whole roasted cauliflower; coffee and brunchy items are available from 8am-2:30pm. Wines by the glass span Old and New World, with many French vintages as well as organic, biodynamic, and/or sustainable selections. Open 8am-9:30pm. 334 Grant Ave. at Harlan, 415-391-0207.

The former Tout Sweet café in Macy’s Union Square is now a wine bar, named, shockingly, The Wine Bar. It’s casual and nothing fancy, but offers a range of Napa Valley wines by the taste, half glass, and glass, along with some salads and choose-your-own platters of cheese, vegetables, and more. You can come by and listen to wine expert Leslie Sbrocco speak about wine pairings this Wednesday November 8th at 5:30pm. The Wine Bar at Macy’s Union Square, Level 3, 251 Geary St. at Stockton.

October 31, 2017

The bar at Charmaine’s. Photo courtesy of John Nieto (all shot on iPhone).


An array of cocktails at Charmaine’s. Photo: ©


The ultimate bar hot dog. Photo: ©


Just one of the stunning views at Charmaine’s. Photo: John Nieto.

How did we get so lucky to have a Kelly Wearstler-designed project in San Francisco? It’s just the dose of funky LA glam and international bohemian vintage style we needed to shake up our adverse-to-design-risk city, truth.

Last week, during that last gasp of Indian summer weather and warm nights, I was lucky to get a sneak peek of the new rooftop bar ~CHARMAINE’S~ at the San Francisco Proper Hotel. (This is the second part of the project to open, first was Villon downstairs—the all-day La Bande is next and last.)

It’s pretty breathtaking—you won’t believe the unobstructed views from the outdoor tables, complete with fire pits and heaters and striped chairs. The design inside is eclectic and unique, from the seating and eye-catching tables spanning the ’50s and ’70s to the special rugs and carpets, which only add to the low-slung residential feel. There are all kinds of seating areas, with 50 inside and 75 on the patio. It’s a place where you’ll want to hang out with friends. Just pretend you’re at a party at your rich friend’s penthouse (we should all have one of those). It’s going to be the hottest private event buyout, mark my words.

The gents of BVHospitality (Josh Harris, Morgan Schick) have created a cocktail menu around “shit you want to drink on a roof” (LOL), taking some inspiration from places they have enjoyed drinking outside, like Thailand, the Mediterranean, and Paris. All the cocktail names (17 in all) refer to any albums and songs that feature a cover of “Up on the Roof.” Heh.

The cocktails are all $15, from the Proper Cup, a seasonal Pimm’s (right now with blackberry and black pepper, but will be moving to fruits like pear and pomegranate), to really playful executions, like the Express Transit (Jameson Black Barrel whiskey, Cointreau, Earl Grey, whey, lemon, soda), served with shortbread. I loved the inventiveness of the Let Me Touch Your Mind, which is basically a blended piña colada (Banks 5 rum, coconut cream, pineapple, lime) topped with a Negroni. RIDIC! And then there’s my new favorite martini, dear lord is the On the Moon amazing: Grey Goose vodka or Bombay Sapphire East gin, Jardesca white, California Aqua Vitae aquavit, and bay laurel brine, served up with a cornichon. It’s salty and so aromatic and goes down way too easy.

There are some large-format offerings (including one with a supplement of Perrier-Jouët Champagne), and there will be some group packages in the works. You can also look over the wines and California beers.

As for the food menu, look for some mighty tasty bar bites from chef Jason Franey. There’s the Charmaine’s hot dog ($14), with Bavarian mustard, fermented lettuce, and a tender milk and honey bun. We inhaled the beef slider ($12), so juicy and rich, with cheddar cheese, tomato confit, and special sauce. I’m hoping the grilled cheese with smoked sturgeon comes back, I don’t see it on the opening menu. Wah. Anyway. Churros with urfa-spiced chocolate banana dip will be a worthy distraction. And then there’s that view…

Open 5pm-2am. Proper Hotel, 1100 Market St. at Jones, 415-735-7777.


Anchor Public Taps. Photo: Erin Conger.


The Ernesto at Lágrimas at Over Proof. Photo: Wes Rowe.

The news that Sapporo bought Anchor Brewing Company was quite the surprise this year, and now there’s a new taproom that seemed to come out of nowhere called ~ANCHOR PUBLIC TAPS~—it just opened about a week ago. You can come to taste The Potrero Project, a collection of beers exclusively brewed in this pilot brewery and bar. The current list includes a pale ale and Berliner weisse, plus classic Anchor brews like their porter, Liberty Ale, and collaborations too (Wild Card Saison with Brewery Ommegang, Anchored at Local with Local Brewing, and Barbary Coast Red Rye Ale with ThirstyBear Brewing). Check the tap list for updates.

There’s plenty of seating, and there are also food trucks scheduled daily, like Señor Sisig and Sam’s Chowder Mobile, plus a calendar of special events, including game nights and more. Open daily 11am-9pm. 495 De Haro St. at Mariposa.

You ready for the fourth and final iteration of Over Proof at ~ABV~? It starts on November 9th and will be called Lágrimas, named after the first hundred or so drops out of a mezcal still. Yup, it’s an homage to the almighty agave, with five (or so) mezcal- and tequila-based cocktails, like clarified goat milk punch, plus some rare selections of mezcals, tequila, raicilla, bacanora, and sotol. Dishes will include mushroom huarache with grilled hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, squash blossoms, and huitlacoche; carne adobada; and blue corn-chestnut tamales with housemade peanut mole and charred sweet potato. 

Best of all, Over Proof will be donating a portion of the first week’s profits to charities that are helping to rebuild after Mexico’s devastating earthquakes. So book now. You have until February 24th to experience it, and it’s going to be quite the finale. $75 plus tax, fees, and gratuity. Two seatings every Thu-Sat, 6:30pm and 9pm. (It’s also perfect for private events on off nights, in case you’re looking for something special.)

A new bar project is coming to the Outer Sunset, ~WHITE CAP~, due to open Friday November 10th. Partners Matt Lopez and Carlos Yturria (both surfers) teamed up to create an elevated spot to grab a drink, but it will be less of a sandy surfer hangout and more of a “grown-up” neighborhood bar with well-made cocktails—even though it will be just two blocks from the beach. There will be a regular menu plus eight specialty drinks and changing themes each quarter. Also look for sherries chosen by Yturria and a slushie machine. Shane Curnyn (who did Bar Agricole) is behind the design, which features an L-shaped bar and banquettes. Open daily 2pm-2am. 3608 Taraval St. at 46th St.