The Lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
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.

December 19, 2017

The plaster wall sculpture by Nicholas Roberto at True Laurel. Photo: Wes Rowe.


The main bar at True Laurel. Photo: Wes Rowe.


The tasting bar with reserved seating will open in 2018. Photo: Wes Rowe.


Crispy hen-of-the-woods mushrooms with sour cream and alliums dip. Photo: Wes Rowe.

Opening this Friday December 22nd is a new project from David Barzelay and Nicolas Torres of Lazy Bear: ~TRUE LAUREL~. This stylish bar was designed along with Nicholas Roberto, and the former woodsy look of The Tradesman has been replaced with new materials like powder-coated steel, concrete, and a plaster wall sculpture. True to its name, the main bar is made from a cross section of a laurel tree and is inlaid with white-green quartzite.

There is also an eight-person back bar that will open in 2018, offering a tasting menu of five tasting-sized cocktails with dishes from the kitchen. There will be two seating times per night and a designated bartender.

Unlike Lazy Bear, the bar is walk-in only (no reservations), and it has a more relaxed style and vibe, whether you want a drink and a bite or are looking for more of a meal (there is both bar and table seating).

The cocktails by Torres are ingredient-driven, with a focus on seasonality and minimal waste, so he utilizes everything from the pith to the pit when possible. He also likes to utilize wines from around the world and apéritifs in his drinks, making them even more food-friendly.

Cocktails include the Top Dawg (house Shinko pear tonic, rancio wine, carbonated and served tall with a black sudachi and smoked salt rim) and the Shaker Lemon Stirred (with Meyer lemon fino sherry, moscato chinato, and wheat vodka, served up with a candied and charred lemon wheel). They run $14-$16 each.

There are some fun vintage elements, from the glassware to some spirits like bourbon from the 1940s-50s, bottled and labeled specifically for the San Francisco Pacific-Union Club.

As for the menu from Barzelay and chef de cuisine Geoff Davis, look for fun shared plates like Dungeness crab and aged cheddar fondue served with toasts; charred pumpkin lettuce wraps; crispy hen-of-the-woods mushrooms with sour cream and alliums dip; and a TL patty melt.

Hours will be daily 4pm-2am. The kitchen opens at 5pm, with last call for the kitchen at 1am. They will be closed for a Christmas break from December 24th-25th. 753 Alabama St. at 19th St. 


A rendering of the upstairs balcony at August Hall.


A rendering of the main space at August Hall.

Back in March, we learned that Nate Valentine (Umami, Mamacita, The Tipsy Pig, Padrecito, Harper & Rye, Ambassador, Double Dutch) was partnering with Scott Murphy (Deckstar, Eventbrite, SnowGlobe Music Festival), Chad Donnelly (SnowGlobe Music Festival), and Justin Roja (Redford Bar | Eat, Rambler at Hotel Zeppelin) to take over Ruby Skye and Slide and open ~AUGUST HALL~ and ~FIFTH ARROW~ in their places. A bit more detail has been released, with some renderings and timing (they are targeting spring 2018).

To recap, they are opening in the historic Native Sons of the Golden West building and are taking some inspiration from the building’s history. August Hall (named after its 1890s architect, August Headman) is going to be a live music and special event venue, with room for 750 guests for concerts and up to 1,000 guests for dance events. It will feature a modernist style (designed by Britt Hull of the Tide Design Co. and Parisa O’Connell Interior Design), state-of-the-art-technical elements (including a sound system by d&b audiotechnik), three full bars with food service, and top artists presented through Live Nation Entertainment. Jodi Goodman, president at Live Nation Northern California, says, ”August Hall is destined to become an iconic, must-visit venue in the Bay Area, and we look forward to releasing an inspiring schedule of shows in the coming months.” This is shaping up to be a pretty amazing new venue.

Fifth Arrow is going to be the downstairs cocktail, dining, and gaming parlor with three bowling lanes (the first and only in Union Square)—it was originally a 1930s Prohibition speakeasy. (It takes its name from the target point used by bowling aficionados for optimal scoring.)

Stand by for news about upcoming shows, menus (chef Todd Shoberg is no longer involved), and more soon. 420 Mason St. at Geary.


The Speakeasy Tap Room is open once again. Photo via Facebook.

After a nine-month hiatus, Speakeasy Ales & Lagers is back in business and has reopened its newly remodeled Hunters Point taproom (it has an expanded 17-line draft system and new copper-top tables and lighting). Ces Butner (Hunters Point Brewery LLC) is the new owner—it’s refreshing news that he’s a local African-American businessperson with three decades of experience in the craft beer industry (instead of some big beer company). Butner will open up the brewery to additional regional brands in need of a local facility looking to enhance their production numbers. He says, “We have a 60,000-barrel facility and we’re looking forward to inviting brands in need of a brewing facility to collaborate with us in 2018.” Brand-new crowlers as well as growlers will now be available

Bottle production for retail distribution throughout California and select markets across the country will kick back in on January 1st, 2018, and there will be a grand opening event at the brewery on Saturday January 27th. Open Tue-Thu 3pm-9pm, Fri-Sat 12pm-10pm, and Sun 12pm-8pm. 1195 Evans Ave. at Keith.

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.