The Lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
February 21, 2017

A peek into the new lobby of the Tilden Hotel. (Images of The Douglas Room are forthcoming.) Photo via Facebook.

The tradition of Mo Hodges and Brian Felley (Benjamin Cooper, Big) opening bars in old hotels runs deep, and here’s their third project to follow that path: ~THE DOUGLAS ROOM~. It’s opening in the former Fish & Farm/Mark Twain Hotel in Union Square, which has been transformed/”reboutiqued” into the chic and stylish Tilden Hotel. There are 45 seats total, including the bar, and it has a spiffy look. They are planning to open by the end of the week.

The duo are working with two ex-Rx bartenders, Michael Carlisi and Keith Bracewell, who will be the managing staff. While the craft cocktails at Benjamin Cooper are known for changing up a fair amount, the ones at The Douglas Room will be holding steady. You can take a look at the preview menu of original cocktails here. They’re as clever as always, like the Tele Novela (Partida tequila, celery, strawberry, Chareau, aquavit, kümmel, verjus, lemon) and the Tennessee Pillow (Jack Daniels No. 7, Lo-Fi sweet vermouth, lemon, egg white, dill). Wine, beer, sherry, and more will also be available.

There’s not only a bar but a full kitchen as well, so Hodges and Felley are working with chefs Glen Schwartz (398 Brasserie) and Tim Malloy (who is back from Seattle, previously at Local’s Corner) on a cheeky menu that pays homage to some East Coast favorites, including an Italian hoagie (ham, capicola, mortadella, Genoa salami, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayonnaise) on an Amoroso roll that’s flown in from Phildelphia; ditto the Philly cheesesteak Whiz Wit, with rib-eye, caramelized onions, and Cheese Whiz on an Amoroso roll.

You’ll find some Cali seasonality in the Dougie Fresh Salad, and the tagliatelle with green garlic, fava greens and beans, and a farm egg. Even the bar snacks are a touch upscale (and truly reflect the bar provenance), with sweetbread nuggets made with Ancho Reyes BBQ sauce (that sounds hella genius) and Hudson Valley duck wings with Cointreau and Calabrian chile. Burger, check. Baked oysters too. You can take a peek at a preview of the food menu here.

Good news: the kitchen will be open until 1am nightly, with bar hours from 5pm-2am. Hours will eventually be expanded to include lunch and weekend brunch as well. 345 Taylor St. at O’Farrell.

February 14, 2017

The iconic Old Ship Saloon sign. Yelp photo by Rachel H.

We keep hearing so many stories of our treasured old-school SF dives being bought, sold, gutted, razed, made over, and basically having any scrap of their former soul sucked out of them. But fortunately, SF’s oldest bar, the ~OLD SHIP SALOON~, which is being sold by longtime owner Bill Duffy, will end up in good hands.

When I saw the ABC license transfer hit the wires with Eric Passetti’s name on it, I was like, huh, this is interesting. (Passetti is a partner with Dennis Leary in local businesses like Natoma Cabana, Terminus, Rx.) I received a call back from Erik Hopfinger, who is the consulting chef for the new iteration of the Old Ship and will potentially be joining partners Marc Bruschera and Tod Alsman (R Bar, Wreck Room). (You can read more on how Duffy decided to pass the torch here.)

He mentioned that once the transfer goes through in 30-45 days, they will be closing for a deep clean and to reconfigure the bar, but it’s more like “putting new rims” on a car, Hopfinger stated. They also plan to add some outside tables and take advantage of the sunlight they get down there.

As for the menu, it’s going to maintain a tavern feeling, with a burger, of course, and salads and some healthy eats as well. Hopfinger said he’d like to offer a staff meal for people in the industry (shot, beer, late-night dinner), and they really want to be a local staff bar for folks who work nearby, serving until 1am. Local workers in the area will be able to pick up a brown bag lunch, with a sandwich, soup, and cookie combo, or stick around for a fast-casual lunch. Hopfinger is also researching old-school cookbooks so they can pay homage to the bar’s history, which dates back to 1851. He said to expect some pickled items on the menu. We can also get excited to try some of Alsman’s charcuterie and bacon; it ends up he is quite the aficionado.

Stand by for future updates in about a month or so. I’ll be able to share more about the bar program then as well. 298 Pacific Ave. at Battery, 415-788-2222.


The amber onyx bar at Rusted Mule. Photo via Facebook.

Over in Polk Gulch, the fomer Sudachi is now the ~RUSTED MULE~, a project from Kristian Cosentino (Dirty Water), Richard Vila (Poquito), Christina Mae Henderson, and Chris Mansury. It’s a huge space, with room for 140 people, and has three lounges plus a mezzanine for private groups. Hoodline reports it has a “soft steampunk” look, with original brick walls and pieces from local artists. The amber onyx bar is where you’ll find “fun and throwback drinks,” mules on tap (made with lime and ginger beer), and plenty of wine and beer. Chef Glen Schwartz (Dirty Water) is behind the pub-style menu, with fun snacks to start (carrot corn dogs, why not?) and will be ramping up in the next couple of weeks. 5pm-2am daily. 1217 Sutter St. at Polk.

February 7, 2017

The new Outbound from Woods Beer. Photo: Rey Romero.

As if SF Beer Week isn’t enough, there are two new places serving locally made brews. Open in the Outer Sunset is Woods Beer Co.’s fifth location, ~OUTBOUND~, a 750-square-foot space they’re calling the club car (with an outdoor patio that will open in the spring). On tap: they are pouring six to eight rotating taps of Woods Beer and hosting a 20-gallon brewing system onsite, plus a Crowler machine to package fresh beer to go. You can nab some delicious El Porteño empanadas if you need a bite. They are planning a variety of events, so follow along for updates. Open Mon-Wed 4pm-10pm, Thu 4pm-12am, Fri 3pm-12am, Sat 11am-12am, Sun 11am-10pm. 4045 Judah St. at 46th Ave.

Opening this week in Civic Center is ~FERMENTATION LAB~, a gastropub offering craft beers, fermented foods, and pub fare. Hoodline mentions the project is from Jeannie Kim of Sam’s Diner, who brought on the Beer Chef Bruce Paton (look for some unique and rare California beers, thanks to his many relationships with the brewer community). On the menu: pickled vegetables, deviled eggs, burgers, salads, and sandwiches. Open Tue-Sun 4pm-12am. 1230 Market St. at Grove, 415-626-1592.


A look at the tropical vibes at Flip-Flop at Over Proof at ABV. Photo: Wes Rowe.


The ice game at Flip Flop is STRONG. Photo: ©

Last month, I mentioned the crew at ~ABV~ (Todd Smith, Ryan Fitzgerald, and Erik Reichborn-Kjennerud) were launching their one-year pop-up series, Over Proof, on their upstairs mezzanine. They started this quarterly pop-up with Flip-Flop, a deep dive into rum and the food culture in the different regions of the world where rum is produced. If you want to take a break from this rainy, sweater weather, book a ticket to this tropical paradise, complete with vintage rum posters and beachy glassware.

The experience is a blast: everyone who bought tickets shows up at the same time, seated at high-top tables and the upstairs bar. Paired food from chef Collin Hilton and cocktails start coming out in waves, like rum ham musubi and jerked chicken wings and Pink Flamingos and a brilliant spin on a carbonated Presidente (the “Cuba Libre”). It’s impressive how quickly the team keeps the flow going, like riding a long, long wave of food and drinks. You’ll get quite the education on the different kinds of rum, the history of the cocktails, the dishes, and more, and the staff is happy to answer any questions, so take advantage and deepen your rum knowledge.

The team recently changed the days of the week Over Proof is running: it’s now just Thursday and Friday evenings, with one seating time at 7:30pm. As interest builds, they will add a Wednesday and Saturday night tasting. The price is now $66 (all-inclusive) per person on Resy. Grab some friends or a date and make it a fun night out—or do a buyout for a birthday or team outing. Flip-Flop runs through April 20th, and then a whiskey bar will start May 1st.

January 24, 2017

Duggan McDonnell, the director of beverage for China Live. Photo: Allison Weber.

Some quick updates for you, starting with the news that barman, Campo de Encanto pisco co-founder, and author Duggan McDonnell has been hired as director of beverage for ~CHINA LIVE~, opening February 23rd. He is working on everything from the cocktails to the wine list (look for some exciting pairings, from sherry to unique Italian selections) to tea service. Not only does his oversight encompass the ground-floor restaurant, Market, but also the second-floor bar, Cold Drinks, and there will be even beer and wine sold off-sale (to take home). We’ll have a closer look as things develop in the coming weeks.

Beer fans, tickets are now on sale and moving fast for SF Beer Week 2017, running February 10th-19th, with more than 125 local breweries taking part in a variety of events. Get tickets to the opening-night gala while you can.

January 17, 2017

From CUESA’s SF Jazz Cocktail Night. Photo: Amanda Lynn.

Last fall, I mentioned a new bar was taking over the former Castle Club in the Tenderloin, ~RUM & SUGAR~, and Hoodline reports it’s now open. Look for a wide selection of rums, rum-based cocktails, and local beer and wine. It’s meant to have a neighborhood vibe (dogs are welcome). Open daily 2pm-2am. 823 Geary St. at Hyde.

I have been waiting for the past month for ~BIIG~ to finish its interior so I could take some pics, but you may as well know that it’s softly open right now in its new Tenderloin location at Turk and Taylor (the former 21 Club). The bar is from Jordan Langer (Big, Oddjob), Ryan Melchiano, Pete Glickshtern (Jones, Oddjob), and Ryan Hisamune. The original Big bartenders, Brian Felley and Mo Hodges, are busy with their own bar, Benjamin Cooper, but this new incarnation will continue the legacy of making bartender’s choice cocktails for guests on the fly. You just tell the bartender your liquor preferences, spiritous or not, and look for some seasonal touches.

I’ll report back soon on the décor, which includes a herringbone marble countertop and lumber panels that were at Big’s previous location. Soft opening hours (according to Hoodline’s report) for now are Wed-Thu 5pm-10pm and Fri-Sat 6pm-1am (or thereabouts). 98 Turk St. at Taylor.

Mark your calendar and get your ticket for A Library of Libations: Winter Cocktails of the Farmers Market, coming up on Wednesday February 15th. This evening in the Ferry Building will include literary-inspired winter farmers market cocktails and bites from 20-plus Bay Area bartenders and chefs. CUESA, the San Francisco chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild, and Friends of the San Francisco Public Library are all collaborating on this event. Yup, there will be cocktails with names like From a Tale of Two Citruses to Infinite Zest, so get ready. Heh. Guests receive three full-size signature cocktails featuring Jack Daniel’s, Rabarbaro Zucca, and Ron Zacapa, along with unlimited sample-size drinks.

Early-bird tickets are $50 (ends January 18th!), general admission tickets are $55 (ends February 5th), last-minute tickets are $60 (ends February 15th)—and then you can get a season ticket for $140 (ends February 15th, more info here). 5:30pm-8pm. Ferry Building Grand Hall, 1 Ferry Building.

January 10, 2017

A look at the tropical vibes at Flip-Flop at Over Proof at ABV. Photo: Wes Rowe.


The Pink Flamingo at Flip-Flop at Over Proof at ABV. Photo: Wes Rowe.


Rum ham musubi with housemade Spam at Flip-Flop at Over Proof. Photo: Wes Rowe.


The main bar at Coin-Op in SoMa. Photo: Luke Beard.

The crew at ~ABV~ (Todd Smith, Ryan Fitzgerald, and Erik Reichborn-Kjennerud) are opening their own one-year pop-up, Over Proof, on their upstairs mezzanine. The idea is to create a different tasting menu experience each quarter, with cocktails from a single spirit category and food to match. The décor will change with each quarter as well. They’re launching with Flip-Flop, a deep dive into rum and the food culture in the different regions of the world where rum is produced. Expect beachy vibes, with vintage rum posters, bamboo, beach scenes, and tropical glassware.

The menu is $80 (inclusive of tax and gratuity) and comes with five cocktails and dishes by chef Collin Hilton (it’s not a strict food and cocktail pairing, however—things will be a bit more loose). A few items on the current menu: a vermouth-forward and hand-carbonated Presidente with rum, a Jungle Bird-inspired Pink Flamingo with rhum agricole, and dishes like Trini chow mein (the national dish of Trinidad) and a smoked lamb curry with puffed rice, coconut milk, and yogurt served on a fried plantain. You’ll also get some tableside explanation about the spirit, cocktails, and more.

The experience is reservations only (visit to reserve a seat via Resy) and would be a fun outing with a group of friends (buyouts are also available). There’s a bar area with five seats and five communal-style tables that seat between three and six guests each. There are two nightly seating times Mon-Thu at 6:30pm and 8:30pm. Each 90-minute seating will accommodate up to 25 guests, with a few seats available for walk-ins. Flip-Flop starts January 23rd and is running through April 20th, and then a whiskey bar will start May 1st.

Now open in SoMa is ~COIN-OP~, a 10,000-square-foot arcade bar, with vintage arcade games and craft cocktails from multiple bars (including a Tron-themed speakeasy). The space was previously Orson and The Drake, and the sfHEIMAT redesign features Super Mario and Pac-Man wallpaper in the bathrooms, a giant Lego cocktail table, and Star Wars tiki glassware. Coin-Op is also serving food to share (like pierogies, pizzas, and carbonara mac and cheese) and has 16 beers on tap and specialty ciders. Open 4pm-2am daily, kitchen until 1am. Happy hour is Mon-Fri 4pm-7pm. 508 4th St. at Bryant.

~TRICK DOG~ has launched its latest menu, per its biannual schedule, and this ninth menu is the Trick Dog Mural Project. The Bon Vivants (the cocktail consulting team behind Trick Dog) worked with 14 local artists to paint murals around SF (all sanctioned!), and the new menu highlights the works in a book format. There are 13 cocktails (one mural is by a duo, Kelly Tunstall and Ferris Plock), with the cocktails named after the artists. The book is for sale (you can get it at the bar or online) and will benefit two local nonprofits: Precita Eyes and Creativity Explored. Here’s a video that shows more. 3010 20th St. at Florida, 415-471-2999.