The Lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
April 17, 2018

The fantastic 500 Club sign. Long may it bubble. Yelp photo by Nick S.

Last year, dive bar lovers across the city were worried over the news that the ~500 CLUB~ was up for sale, and now a friend in the Mission let me know that it has been sold (and heard it could possibly be the whole building and business).

I reached out to the bar but haven’t heard back, so this is an unconfirmed rumor for now. But my source was pretty solid, so we’ll have to see who’s taking it over, and what their plans are before getting worried or too upset. (Fingers crossed for old school SF owners who “get it,” plllllease.) Let’s just hope the process of bringing it up to code (which will have to happen with a new owner) won’t completely thrash the patina of that special bar. Will keep you posted if I hear anything about the new owner. Hit me up if you do! 500 Guerrero St. at 17th St.

~NICKIES~ bar has been holding it down in the Lower Haight for a loooong time (since 1948, as Nickies Barbecue, and then as a reggae spot, dancehall, dive bar, and Irish sports bar for the past 10 years—and has always had the name Nickies), but according to an ABC license transfer and Facebook post, they are closing and new owners are taking over. (I reached out to the bar to find out any closing date info.) And the Nickies name legacy also seems to be ending since the transfer says Haight and Fillmore Trading Company, and it looks like the owner of Kezar Pub is taking it over, so at least a beloved local sports bar is moving in. 466 Haight St. at Webster, 415-255-0300.


Shake it, don’t break it at Women Movers & Shakers: Spring Cocktails of the Farmers Market. Photo: Amanda Lynn Photography.


The new Hotel Kabuki bar. Photo: Aubrie Pick.

After getting your swerve on this Wednesday April 18th at Women Movers & Shakers: Spring Cocktails of the Farmers Market to the Ferry Building (click to my original post for a discount code!), you can follow up with a party with Hangar One in Alameda on Thursday April 19th to celebrate their newest addition to their vodka family: Fog Point. You’ll get to taste this special vodka made from fog catching (it’s true!) and even watch a fog-catching demo (by Chris Fogliatti, no less—maybe he’s Karl the Fog?), plus there will be some Fog-centric cocktails by Runway Spirits, and bites by Blue Heron Catering to keep you from getting too foggy. Your ticket also includes a bottle of this unique vodka! Tickets are $152.98 per person, with additional guest tickets available at only $15 a person (Fog Point bottle not included). Tickets and more here. 5:30pm-7:30pm. 2505 Monarch St., Alameda.

And then on Friday April 20th, if you’re not busy smoking out in the park, you can celebrate the arrival of spring and cherry blossoms with global whiskies in Japantown’s newly remodeled ~HOTEL KABUKI~. This spring whiskey tasting with Reza Esmaili includes these global whiskies from Japan (Fukano, Kurayoshi, Ohishi, Nikka); Taiwan (Kavalan); India (Amrut, Rampur); and Seattle (Westland). There will also be Harajuku Girl Japanese-style rice lager from SF’s HolyCraft Brewery Co. There will be llve art by Helice Wen and beats provided by DJ Billy Vidal. Tickets: $29.95-$49.95. 5:30pm-8pm. Sakura Ballroom. Hotel Kabuki, 1625 Post St. at Laguna.

April 10, 2018

Get ready to enjoy School Night at The Pearl. Photo via The Pearl’s Facebook page.

Some new bars are coming soon, starting with a new pop-up project from Traci Des Jardins, who will be hosting a semipermanent bar in ~THE PEARL~ in Dogpatch, Sunday through Wednesday nights. It’s going to be called School Night, and Eater writes that it will open at the end of April. There will be cocktails from Arguello’s fantastico bar director Enrique Sanchez, who will assuredly be featuring agave spirits—and some whiskeys too. Mexican snacks, check. Stand by for more deets in the coming days. 601 19th St. at 3rd St.

Over in Cow Hollow, there’s a pisco- and Japanese whisky-focused bar in the works, highlighting Nikkei cuisine (the Japanese-influenced food and drink you find in Peru—and on the menu at La Mar locally). This new project is from John Park, a partner in Whitechapel and Novela, and it will be opening in the former Ottimista Restaurant and Bar on Union. Eater found a classified ad mentioning it will be open nightly and will offer weekend brunch. Stand by for updates. 1838 Union St. at Laguna.

Mezcal lovers: do not miss this event from the Mezcalistas, Mezcal Cocktail Mission on Sunday April 15th. It’s a mezcal cocktail competition at ~TRES~ (3pm-6pm), with some amazing contestants from up and down the West Coast and amazing judges as well. The goal: to create the seminal mezcal cocktail, like the way a margarita screams tequila, or a Mahattan screams rye whiskey. Next up will be the East Coast heat on April 23rd, and then the six finalists will be flown to Mexico City for the grand finale on May 14th. Tickets: $15 pre-sale, $20 day of event. 130 Townsend St. at 2nd St.

April 3, 2018

Girl Scout Cookie Cocktail Week at The Alembic. Photo courtesy of The Alembic.

Some quick updates on new bars that are coming soon. First up, Justin Lew and Ian Scalzo, the team behind Horsefeather, are getting closer on opening ~LAST RITES~, their new tropical bar that is taking over the former The Residence. They are taking their inspiration from the pulp literature of Polynesian noir, and with local designer and fabricator Brian Sullivan and interior designer James Lagoc (Nopa, Bi-Rite, Horsefeather), they are re-creating the feeling of being marooned in a tropical jungle, complete with a real airplane fuselage turned into a bar, seating enveloped by enormous banyan tree roots, stacked stone booths in a dense jungle canopy, and nine-foot-tall stone skull idols. There will be more than 150 rums on the back bar, and the menu will feature twists on Polynesian-style cocktails using some local spirits and ingredients. They are currently looking at May for the opening, so stand by. 718 14th St. at Church.

Some big news over at the 12-year-old ~THE ALEMBIC~: it ends up it has been sold to Mikha Diaz (Two Sisters Bar and Books) and Christin Evans (Booksmith, The Bindery) and has suddenly closed while they overhaul the concept and space over the next two months. It also means the entire team (including talented chef Rachel Aronow—someone snap her up!) has been let go while they install their own people. Eater reports that will be chef Dylan Barry (Johnston’s Saltbox in San Carlos), bar manager Katheryn Kulczyk (Two Sisters), and Brandon Cardelli (Two Sisters). They are reportedly going to bring the menu back to being more casual and neighborhood-friendly (think sliders and wings), but the classic and seasonal classic cocktail menu format will remain. And…there will be books in the house (when the owners are from the Booksmith and the former Two Sisters Bar and Books, this shouldn’t be a surprise).

Some Aussie bar and restaurant owners (behind The Winery, Gazebo, Cargo, and The Stables in Sydney) have taken over the former Mercedes Restaurant in the Financial District (which was squeezed out after decades) and are opening ~HOTEL SAN FRANCISCO~. They will be creating a 75-seat bar with a “glam rock setting,” offering cocktails (including barrel-aged house cocktails served in custom-etched glass bottles), 25 wines by the glass, bar bites (duck confit crostini), and a strong focus on the music (courtesy of Mustard, an Australian music branding company). L.A.-based branding firm The Imagists is behind the design, which will be assuredly Instagram-ready with a palm-leaf mural on the brick back bar by Serge Gay Jr., stools upholstered in pink leather, teal glass tables and velvet chairs with brass frames, tassel chandeliers, and yes, neon. There’s also a basement lounge coming soon.

Lunch will also be available, led by chef Keven Wilson (RN74, Perbacco, Volta)—there will be a fried chicken sandwich, grain bowl with seasonal vegetables, and a pork sandwich with cracklings. Opening in April, hours will be Mon-Wed 11am-11pm, Thu-Fri 11am-1am, Sat 4pm-1am, closed Sun. Happy hour Mon-Fri 4pm-6pm. 653 Commercial St. at Kearny.

Quick update that ~SAN FRANCISCO BREWING CO.~ is getting ready to open its doors in Ghirardelli Square the last week of April. It’s going to be home of the city’s first self-serve beer wall (the WallTender from Table Tap)—you can use prepaid RFID cards and sample beer by the ounce until you find your perfect pint. There will also be a full bar, pub fare (bacon-wrapped dates, pizzas), and an outdoor beer garden complete with fire pits. It will open for dinner to start, followed by lunch, brunch, and brewery tours shortly thereafter. 3150 Polk St. at Beach.

March 27, 2018

Shake it, don’t break it at Women Movers & Shakers: Spring Cocktails of the Farmers Market. Photo: Amanda Lynn Photography.

The CUESA and USBG crew are back at it, bringing Women Movers & Shakers: Spring Cocktails of the Farmers Market to the Ferry Building on Wednesday April 18th. It’s going to be a night of strong drinks and strong women, with an all-women lineup of bartenders (like Jessi Mess, Absinthe; Elisa Prado, 15 Romolo; and Meryll Cawn, Hi-Lo Club) and chefs (including Adriana Lahl, Sal de Vida; Amy Brown, Marla Bakery Restaurant; Binita Pradhan, Bini’s Kitchen; Rachel Aranow, The Alembic; and others!). Everyone receives three full-sized signature cocktails, along with unlimited sample-size drinks, all showcasing farmers market produce. 5:30pm-8pm. Tickets are currently $60. Use discount code “tablehoppermoverandshaker” for $5 off!

There’s a new beverage director and cocktail list at ~GLENA’S~ in Dogpatch, with Matthew Campbell (previously Comal and The Advocate) leading the helm. Take a look at the expanded menu here that is now 14 strong. Who can resist the Fluffy Chihuahua? 632 20th St. at 3rd St.

Cider lovers, on Saturday April 14th, Cider Summit SF returns, where you can taste nearly 200 ciders, both local faves and other regional and international ciders, along with cider cocktails. 1pm-5pm. Tickets: $40 in advance and $45 at the door (cash only), and VIP tickets (early access to the event from 12pm-1pm, souvenir tasting glass, and 18 tasting tickets) are $50. Civil War Parade Ground in the Presidio.

March 20, 2018

The handcrafted bar at Howells. Photos courtesy of Howells.


Looking down on the bar from the mezzanine.

A couple of weeks ago, I got a sneak peek of ~HOWELLS~ wine bar, which just opened in the former Mezes in the Marina. You’ll recognize Nate Welch behind the bar; he managed the California Wine Merchant for a decade and has now partnered with some other folks on this project (Sameet Mehta and Adam Weiner). There’s a spacious and beautiful bar (25 feet!), built by Welch’s father-in-law, Don McCall. It’s rustic and so handcrafted, made of walnut and roof metal from a old barn that suffered in the Butte Fire of 2015, with hickory frames, wood dowels, and a resin top. (McCall is quite the craftsman—he has been working on the bar since September!) The space has bright blue vinyl bar chairs with tufted backs, and there are skylights, Deco-style brass sconces, an unusual chandelier made of sticks, and a pressed tin ceiling that is actually made of acoustic tiles.

It’s a handsome space, and there’s also a mezzanine with more seating and a private cellar room you can rent for tastings of high-end and rare wines, with room for six to eight people. There are also plans to open the back patio soon for brunch.

The main wine list has 20 by the glass, featuring a variety of Californian, old-world, and Southern Hemisphere wines. There’s quite a cellar list of high-end wines too.

Chef Sarah Galloway (formerly Spruce, Trestle, Stones Throw, Mason Pacific) is offering a Cali comfort menu that spans cheese and charcuterie options, plus sandwiches, salads, and some Midwestern dishes (with a touch of Cali) like stuffed peppers and beef stroganoff. Dishes will range around $8-$16, but you can also splurge on some caviar from The Caviar Co.

While the block doesn’t seem to be wanting for wine options, they have created a space and vibe that is a bit different than the others, and they want guests to come by for dinner, or a glass before or after. Opening hours will be daily 4pm-12am and until 2am Thu-Sat. 2373 Chestnut St. at Divisadero, 415-814-2150.


The Deco vibes of the Rumpus Room on 6th Street. Yelp photo via business owner.


Surf’s up! The new Mavericks menu at Lord George is all about spring break. Photo courtesy of Lord George.

With so many high-concept bars opening these days, it makes me happy to see a classic, Deco-inspired bar that has the same kind of feels as Dalva open up, and it has a cheeky name to boot. Meet ~THE RUMPUS ROOM~, newly open in SoMa in the former Matador/Showdown (and as I fondly but blurrily remember, The Arrow Bar), and I’m sure some old-timers could tell us many more names since the location has continuously operated as a bar since 1935. It has some Deco decor, and there’s even a Photo-matica photo booth.

Hoodline reports the owner is longtime bartender Roxzanna De Marco (Amnesia, Southern Pacific Brewing), and she obviously knows what the people want: $5 well drinks (and she loves tequila, so it’s a good one), with most draft beers at $6 and a draft Budweiser at $3. There’s a cocktail menu, a Moscow Mule on tap, and happy hour runs from 12pm-5pm, when most drinks are $1 cheaper. Look for some DJ nights too. Open 12pm-2am. 10 6th St. at Market, 415-780-5651.

It’s about that time, when ~LORD GEORGE~ launches their next guest Mavericks menu—this time it’s Brian Means (previously bar director for Michael Mina and currently at PCH), who has designed a spring break-themed cocktail menu (complete with handwritten postcards!) filled with tropical flavors. Peep the menu here, it runs until July 1st (and the bar donates 50 cents of every Mavericks cocktail sold to the guest bartender’s charity of choice). 555 2nd St. at Brannan, 415-660-7633.

The Bay Area Anti-Temperance Society and the California Cocktail Club—plus The Speakeasy—are hosting an event on Thursday March 22nd to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the end of Prohibition, and you’ll be on the U.S.S. Potomac in Oakland! Of course, there will be cocktails, plus music and tours. More details and tickets here.