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mixtress

San Francisco Lounges

115 posts in this topic

I will be heading to San Francisco next week, and I am looking for a few recommendations for great cocktail lounges in the area. Julios new spot Tres Agaves is on my list, are there any other not to be missed watering holes?

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ha! I'm on the same mission, in the city early part of the week. So far I've got Frisson on my list, looking for more suggestions.

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Enrico's in North Beach is always fun, and you can pick up a Mr. Mojito muddler!

Tuesday night (and Friday) is a good night to check out the Orbit Room Cafe, as Alberta should be behind the stick.

Some bars that are classic; but, may not have great cocktails are Vesuvio and Tosca.

For drinks and food two places I haven't been to that are high on my list to try are Range and Aziza.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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ha!  I'm on the same mission, in the city early part of the week.  So far I've got Frisson on my list, looking for more suggestions.

Frisson has a lovely bar and lounge area and some interesting house cocktails as well. They stock Vya vermouth which has been discussed on these boards a bit. The interior is pretty interesting in terms of design; you can get a preview by looking at their website. We also had a great meal there about a month ago.

Vesuvio's is fun and an institution; especially nice if you can get there off-peak regarding Friday and Saturday night. Even in that situation it can be fun to people watch. I like to sit upstairs. I would order pretty straightforwardly there though, as eje alluded to. Tosca is right across the street so you can look in both places. Frisson is within walking distance of these two as well if the weather is not too wild.

And again, per eje's post, Orbit Room with Alberta in the house is a good bet for an interesting cocktail.

There are a bunch of new wine bar places that I haven't checked out yet, but one place I like for their huge selection of Austrian and German wines by the glass is Bacar. (South of Market, between 3rd and 4th). Bacar is also a restaurant, but the lounge area is pretty big.


Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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You might also try Cortez in the Adagio Hotel on Geary.

I've heard good things about Bix but haven't been there in years.


Janet A. Zimmerman, aka "JAZ"
Manager
jzimmerman@eGullet.org
eG Ethics signatory
Author, The Healthy Pressure Cooker Cookbook and All About Cooking for Two

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Cortez, Frisson, Enricos, East Side West Raw Bar, Absinthe, The Starlight Room, Rye, Aziza, Tres Agaves, Bix, The Orbit Room...I'll post some more tomorrow, including a few gems in the Bay Area that are not in San Fran but close by. :laugh:

Cheers!!

- Jay -


Edited by crabbjay (log)

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Most of the places I know of have been mentioned, but there are some bartender names that might help.

I haven't actually been to these places (except for Enricos, many years ago), but I do know their reputations, and I've met some of these bartenders.

I'll be off to SF myself in a couple of months, so this thread is proving very helpful to me, too. Thanks guys.

David Nepove

Enrico's

Jacques Bezuidenhout

Tres Agave

(Plus Charles Vexenat, a wonderful guy, though I think he might have left already.)

Dahi

Swig

561 Geary Street (at Taylor)

San Francisco, CA 94102

http://www.swigbar.com/

Don't know much about Swig, though I've spoken to Dahi. Seems like a great place.

Duggan McDonnell

Frisson Restaurant

Victoria Damato-Moran

Capp's Corner Restaurant

At the corner of Green & Powell. North Beach

I don't know much about Capp's Corner, but I know Victoria from her days at another joint in SF, Tony Nik’s, and that might be worth checking out, too.


“The practice is to commence with a brandy or gin ‘cocktail’ before breakfast, by way of an appetizer. Subsequently, a ‘digester’ will be needed. Then, in due course and at certain intervals, a ‘refresher,’ a ‘reposer,’ a ‘settler,’ a ‘cooler,’ an ‘invigorator,’ a ‘sparkler,’ and a ‘rouser,’ pending the final ‘nightcap,’ or midnight dram.” Life and Society in America by Samuel Phillips Day. Published by Newman and Co., 1880.

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Dahi

Swig

561 Geary Street (at Taylor)

San Francisco, CA 94102

http://www.swigbar.com/

Don't know much about Swig, though I've spoken to Dahi.  Seems like a great place.

A friend of mine and I decided to check out Swig a couple of months ago. We got there around 10:30 on a Thursday. We were carded at the door (not awful at our ages, actually), and walked into a crowded, throbbingly loud room. Under the right circumstances, it might have been okay, but we wanted a place where we could talk and not have to wait in line for drinks, so we left and went across the street to Cortez.


Janet A. Zimmerman, aka "JAZ"
Manager
jzimmerman@eGullet.org
eG Ethics signatory
Author, The Healthy Pressure Cooker Cookbook and All About Cooking for Two

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Some Hotel Bars that also may not have great cocktails, (YMMV,) but are worth checking out for one reason or another.

The Tonga Room at the Fairmont is probably worth visiting, if for no other reason than the fake hurricane when the band stage is mechanically pushed out into the middle of the tiki lagoon. Very Disneyland.

The Pied Piper Bar at the Palace hotel is nice; but, the last time I went they told me they couldn't make a Sazerac, so I've been holding a grudge. Pretty good Martinis and not a bad Old-Fashioned, if I remember correctly.

I haven't been to The Redwood Room at the Clift Hotel; but, some aquaintances say that it is very nice. Might be a velvet rope kind of place, though.

Another bar/restaurant I've had good cocktails at in the past (haven't been for a couple years) is Absinthe. I know The Ministry of Rum's Edward Hamilton did a rum tasting there a couple weeks ago, so they must still be paying some attention to cocktails.

Oh, and for some stiff drinks and cranky old school bartenders in one of the longest running restaurants in San Francisco, I would be remiss if I didn't mention The Tadich Grill.

edit - added Tadich Grill


Edited by eje (log)

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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I haven't been to The Redwood Room at the Clift Hotel; but, some aquaintances say that it is very nice.  Might be a velvet rope kind of place, though.

Another bar/restaurant I've had good cocktails at in the past (haven't been for a couple years) is Absinthe.  I know The Ministry of Rum's Edward Hamilton did a rum tasting there a couple weeks ago, so they must still be paying some attention to cocktails.

We went to the Redwood Room 3 or 4 years ago. I don't know if it has changed management since then. It is an absolutely classically gorgeous space with redwood panelling and leather chairs, etc. We stopped here before dinner somewhere else and were dressed up a bit. I don't remember having to run a gauntlet but the prices are steep. (This is located a few block west of Union Sq on Geary).

Speaking of tiki drinks, has anyone been to the Trader Vics on Van Ness near City Hall (old Stars location)? We enjoy relaxing at the Trader Vic's down here on the Peninsula in Palo Alto but I've not been to new SF location. If you go, try the "Suffering Bastard". (They use the rum version and garnish it with mint and cucumber.) Yum.

Absinthe does have a nice selection of heritage or classic cocktails. They have had Aviations, Sazeracs and other classic cocktails there for at least 8 years or so. There is not a lounge area per se, but there is a pretty big bar.

Zuni Cafe is a few blocks from Absinthe and also has a very nice looking bar--long copper bar with all glass windows behind the bar. If you go at an off-peak time there should also be a few small tables available. They have a good selection of booze and you can get a good cocktail. I've usually ordered pretty straigthtforward drinks there though, such as a Negroni or a Hendricks martini. I've experienced some uneven service at the bar there so I might chat up the bartender a bit to make sure I knew what I was getting and to avoid disappointment.

Zuni and Absinthe are within walking distance of each other and The Orbit Room is a short drive from there.


Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Zuni and Absinthe are within walking distance of each other and The Orbit Room is a short drive from there.

We walk from Orbit Room to Zuni all the time... not that far at all.


Anita Crotty travel writer & mexican-food addictwww.marriedwithdinner.com

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Zuni and Absinthe are within walking distance of each other and The Orbit Room is a short drive from there.

We walk from Orbit Room to Zuni all the time... not that far at all.

Thanks, my memory was playing tricks on me regarding how many blocks apart they are.


"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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This is great - wish I could extend my stay. Any suggestions for retail shops? I'm always searching for something new.

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Most of the places I know of have been mentioned, but there are some bartender names that might help.

I haven't actually been to these places (except for Enricos, many years ago), but I do know their reputations, and I've met some of these bartenders.

Gary,

I read and enjoy your cocktailian columns for the SF Chronicle.

Since the fictional bar is located in San Francisco, I have always wondered if it was based on some real bar here or some other personal experience.

Forgive me if you have covered this in some previous thread.

Just Curious,

Erik


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Most of the places I know of have been mentioned, but there are some bartender names that might help.

I haven't actually been to these places (except for Enricos, many years ago), but I do know their reputations, and I've met some of these bartenders.

I'll be off to SF myself in a couple of months, so this thread is proving very helpful to me, too.  Thanks guys.

David Nepove

Enrico's

Jacques Bezuidenhout

Tres Agave

(Plus Charles Vexenat, a wonderful guy, though I think he might have left already.)

Dahi

Swig

561 Geary Street (at Taylor)

San Francisco, CA 94102

http://www.swigbar.com/

Don't know much about Swig, though I've spoken to Dahi.  Seems like a great place.

Duggan McDonnell

Frisson Restaurant

Victoria Damato-Moran

Capp's Corner Restaurant

At the corner of Green & Powell. North Beach

I don't know much about Capp's Corner, but I know Victoria from her days at another joint in SF, Tony Nik’s, and that might be worth checking out, too.

Charles has indeed left Tres Agaves, though Jacques is picking up more bar shifts, and I will try not to let you down.

David is still at Enrico's for another month (Thurs-Sunday), before leaving to become the mixologist for Southern Wine & Spirits in Northern California. Thomas Waugh is also at Enrico's, and is full of interesting ideas.

Absinthe has a great selection of spirits and an extensive cocktail menu. They have started a program of Thursday night "bar school", with experts in the various spirits doing seminars. I have not attended, but there is more information on their website.

The Redwood Room is very pricey ($8 Heineken), and their menu is mostly vodka drinks, but the room is worth a look.

The Starlight Room is a great place for a cocktail before about 9pm, when the cover charge starts and the throng starts teeming. Great sunset view, and the dance floor looks over Union Square.

Swig is often packed and loud, and while the back bar is impressive in its variety, I don't think of it as a cocktail lounge. I too have skipped across the street to Cortez for a cocktail when things look too crazy.

Cortez has a great cocktail menu (the Elderflower No. 10 is a favorite, though I prefer it as a Collins).

Eastside West gets a little crazy with the Marina crowd on the weekends, but EJ (Eric Johnson) always seems to have to have time to concoct something special for discriminating palates. He mans the mahogany Thurs-Sunday. I recommend naming a base spirit and letting him work his magic.

Zuni bugs me because there are no barstools.

Orbit Room should be on any cocktail crawl, especially if Alberta is working.

Frisson, well, decide for yourself. I feel the bar is shunted to the side, too dark in front, too bright behind, and the cocktails too sweet.

I have heard great things about Range, but have not had the time to check it out. Their daily specials include a cocktail of the day.

Levende Lounge has a great rum selection and an interesting cocktail menu (or am I prejudiced because they named a cocktail after me?)...

Vesuvio and Tosca are great bars, not for the cocktails but for the atmosphere. Don't miss Specs' on the alley next to Tosca.

Rye is a new place by the owners of 15 Romolo & Rosewood. Small and comfortable, and close to my house. Yay.

Pesce has a good cocktail menu, but is more of an eating bar, but the food is great (Venetian small plates), and there are usually some seasonal fruits in the cocktail mix.

As retail shops go, my favorite is John Walker & Co. (Sutter & Kearny). Not the largest selection, but well-chosen.

Enjoy, and take a cab. The city's only 7 miles square.

Cheers,

Marco


Edited by cocktailgeek (log)

Marcovaldo Dionysos

Cocktail Geek

cocktailgeek@yahoo.com

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Thank you very much, cocktailgeek. A great, knowledgable overview.

I'm looking forward to trying both Tres Agaves and Enrico's. Not sure why I haven't made it to the latter in all these years. Thanks for mentioning the elderflower drink at Cortez as well. (I'll have to check at Cesar's (Berkeley) next time to see if they use elderflower in any of their cocktails, I have had their non-alcoholic elderflower drink).

Thanks for pointing out that Zuni doesn't have barstools! I've only been to Frisson once, but we managed (unwittingly, perhaps) to avoid any sweetish cocktails.


"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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I actually prefer to stand at the bar rather than sit. Maybe I'm odd that way...


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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I actually prefer to stand at the bar rather than sit.  Maybe I'm odd that way...

I don't mind it either if there is enough space. (Zuni's bar is very long). It's easier to interact if you're group is 3 or 4 people and it can fell more elegant to lean against the bar rather than perch on a barstool.


"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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If anyone is looking for an excuse to get to Tres Agaves, The Museum of the American Cocktail has organized a seminar there March 16th. It's from 6-7:30 and the cost is $45 in advance for non-members.

Da-Me Agave! Great Tequilas from Mexico!

Enjoy an evening of tequila and tequila cocktails at Tres Agaves on Thursday, March 16th. Join Julio Bermejo, the Ambassador of Tequila, and Master Mixologist Dale DeGroff while you taste your way around Mexico from Los Altos to the Lowlands. Sample the 1948 origimal recipe for the Tequila Sunrise and many of the new libations created with this unique and complex spirit. Delicious appetizers will be served.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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This is fantastic, I will have more than enough options for cocktails during my visit. Thanks for all of your imput, I'll report on my findings. :biggrin:

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Rye is a new place by the owners of 15 Romolo & Rosewood.  Small and comfortable, and close to my house.  Yay.

Oh, perfect!

We're going to Canteen tonight. This is right around the corner.

Thanks!

-Erik

PS. As far as I know, Aziza is still open. They were recently featured on "Check Please: Bay Area" and I haven't heard anything about them closing.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Rye is a new place by the owners of 15 Romolo & Rosewood.  Small and comfortable, and close to my house.  Yay.

Oh, perfect!

We're going to Canteen tonight. This is right around the corner.

Thanks!

-Erik

PS. As far as I know, Aziza is still open. They were recently featured on "Check Please: Bay Area" and I haven't heard anything about them closing.

Sorry, my mistake. I was thinking of another place. If you make the trip out Geary that far, Tommy's mexican Restaurant is at 23rd with the largest selection of 100% agave tequila outside Mexico.


Marcovaldo Dionysos

Cocktail Geek

cocktailgeek@yahoo.com

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Finally got to range for cocktails and dinner last night, and have to say they did not disappoint.

I had a delicious "1794" (Old Overholt, Cinzano, Campari, flamed orange twist) and my wife had their cocktail of the day, the refreshing "Peach Bum" (Muddled Peach Leaves(!), Santa Teresa Rum, Lemon, Blenheim Ginger Ale).

The food was good, too...


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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I may be out of date a bit not having lived in the City for awhile, but The place if you were a native was The Big 4 lounge in the Huntington.

The old real SF.

Special kundo's for anyone who can name who the big 4 were.

Yank

PS: The restaurant wasn't bad either. Great SF waiters; probably all retired by now.

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