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Drifting by

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culture@sfbg.com

THE WEEKNIGHTER “It’s all fun and games and whippings until the end when everyone is really drunk. Then it’s just a bunch of wasted people rubbing their penises on things. That’s when I go inside and lock my door.” I was telling this to the bartender and a couple people sitting next to me. We were talking about the Folsom Street Fair.

“Yeah,” the woman on my left replied, “that’s when we got real busy actually, right when the fair started to close down.” She bartends at the Cat Club, which, along with Driftwood (1225 Folsom, SF. www.driftwoodbarsf.com), and my apartment, are all on Folsom Street. Just then “No Diggity” came on over the speakers and we each bobbed to the music in our own way. We were hanging out doing what bartenders do, drinking and talking about the other places we’ve worked and who we know in common. “I’m actually buying all the drinks for this guy tonight,” the lady said, pointing to the dude next to her.

He responded, “Yeah, I was mugged at gunpoint the other night, over in the Lower Haight. They got my wallet and my phone. Luckily they caught the bastards since I ran into someone right after and had them call the cops and tell them the license plate number.”

During the Folsom Street Fair a bunch of us put chairs on the sidewalk and hung out all afternoon watching the spectacle. At one point my friend Lauryn said, “It’s days like this that remind me why I love San Francisco. If this kind of fuckery can still happen, maybe the city isn’t dead after all.” For some reason, the guy telling me about his mugging reminded me of this. He was a bartender, not a startup bro, but still it made me think about how all these people who view San Francisco as a tech utopia seem to forget this is a real-ass city, where nasty things happen. Don’t get me wrong, nobody deserves to be mugged, and certainly not this nice guy I was having a drink with at the bar, but in weird way, hearing about these kinds of shitty things also reminded me that SF isn’t some bland bubble yet. If the “let the free market decide” people had complete reign over this city, eventually there wouldn’t be any muggings at all because the only people left here would be rich. But also, there may not be an entire day of people in leather beating and fellating each other in the streets.

We chatted a little more and had a shot before the two sitting by me went over to Death Guild. That just left me and the bartender. “I moved here three years ago with only $500 to my name,” he told me, “I couldn’t have picked a worse time to come to SF. It took me forever to find a place to live, so I slept on couches and worked a million hours and eventually moved into an SRO until I could afford to move into an apartment. But I did it all because I love this city and I knew I needed to be here.”

Eventually three guys came into the bar. They were all from other countries and were living in Sonoma doing some impressive vintners internship. They finally had a night off and were blowing off steam. After some drinks, the Aussie guy asked where they could meet some girls around there. I thought about it, “It’s a Monday night guys, and you’re in a neighborhood of mostly gay bars.” I told them.

“There’s the EndUp,” the barkeep said. And I laughed out loud. “No really,” he responded, “attractive straight girls actually go there now.” To which I thought, maybe the city is dead after all.

Stuart Schuffman aka Broke-Ass Stuart is a travel writer, poet, and TV host. You can find his online shenanigans at www.brokeassstuart.com

 

Straight shooter

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culture@sfbg.com

THE WEEKNIGHTER I’ve never been hunting and I’ve only shot a gun on one occasion. OK, it was multiple guns on the same occasion in a shooting range in San Diego, but still I’ve only shot at things once in my life. I guess I did a good job of killing the piece of paper I was shooting at since my friend Josh told me I had good aim for a beginner. It was pretty easy considering the target just hung there and took the abuse.

Despite my lack of hunting prowess and experience, I’ve been to Bloodhound (1145 Folsom, SF. www.bloodhoundsf.com) lots of times. Even though it’s a hunting lodge theme bar, I’m pretty sure it would be frowned upon if you were to walk in there brandishing a hunting rifle. And by frowned upon, I mean people would flee from there as quickly as possible screaming horrible, terrified profanities about someone having a gun. They might do the same if you walked in there dressed like you were going on a hunting expedition, except instead of frightened running and yelling about firearms, it would be about your atrocious attire. Even San Francisco has standards when it comes to what you wear.

I went on a date there once with someone whose ex-boyfriend was employed by my ex-girlfriend’s current boyfriend. It was some San Francisco shit to say the least. I went on another date there where a crazy lady yelled confusing obscenities at my date while also trying to woo her. That was also some San Francisco shit. Considering that Bloodhound is on Folsom between Seventh and Eighth, it is basically surrounded by San Francisco shit. And I mean this in a literal sense this time. People poop everywhere in SoMa.

I like Bloodhound. It’s got fancy drinks and lots of wood and light bulbs that look old timey but aren’t because actual old timey light bulbs probably wouldn’t light. I know a lot of SF bars have this look now but Bloodhound opened in 2009 so it was ahead of the curve. Plus it has stencils of birds on the ceiling, chandeliers made out of antlers, and dead animal parts on the walls. I think this is supposed to make you think about shooting stuff and since everyone knows shooting stuff makes you thirsty, your mind will get tricked into buying some fancy cocktails. I really like Bloodhound’s fancy cocktails, especially the one named the Bloodhound. This is great just in case you get so drunk you forget where you are. If you remember the name of your drink, you’ll also know where it is that you’re drinking. This also works in reverse.

In case you still had any doubts that Bloodhound is your local hunting lodge in the heart of San Francisco, you must visit the website. Once you get there, you will be serenaded by the sweet and twangy sounds of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood doing their rendition of “Jackson.” (No Ted Nugent, though.) I’ve never been to a hunting lodge or to Jackson, but I imagine this website feels exactly like a hunting lodge in Jackson would feel. The website even has a game you can play that lets you shoot stuff! I’m getting thirsty just thinking about it!

Hopefully one day soon you and me can go to Bloodhound together and plan our first hunting trip. And in case we just get too wasted to follow through on our plans, let’s just settle on playing Big Buck Hunter and call it a day.

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, and TV host. You can find his online shenanigans at www.brokeassstuart.com.

 

Pedaling and feasting

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FEAST: COAST BY BIKE I spent my vacations on my bicycle this summer, pedaling from southern Oregon to San Luis Obispo and looping through the Santa Cruz Mountains on three separate bike tours, covering almost 1,000 miles over three weeks, fully loaded with camping and other gear.

It was as healthy, athletic, and adventurous as it sounds — but it also involved some serious feasting along the way. We were often ravenously hungry when we would stop for meals, eager to splurge on whatever struck our fancy on the menus, or just feel an almost irrational appreciation for simple snacks.

After all, we had earned it. And with hiker-biker campsites costing just $5 per night, we could spend our vacation money on good food and drink to fill our internal fuel tanks and feed our taste for decadent delights.

There’s a certain ethos to eating on a bike tour, as I learned from my friend Jason Henderson (the SF State geography professor who writes the Guardian’s Street Fight column) and other veteran bike tourers along the way. Some young cyclists on long trips go for austerity, eating simple meals out of cans or jars to keep their costs down, but we were going for maximum enjoyment.

We cooked about half our meals, mapping out the last place to shop for fresh food before our camping destination for the night. That sometimes meant schlepping heavy groceries — fruits and vegetables, pasta and sauce, rice and beans, beer and wine — up to 10 miles.

We didn’t always use perfect judgment, such as on the long day’s ride from Humboldt Redwoods State Park to the Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area, an otherwise remote site along the Redwood Highway that nonetheless had an awesome restaurant and store, The Peg House, right outside the campground entrance.

In the mornings before breaking camp and hitting the road, usually by 8am, we made coffee and top-quality oatmeal mixed with fresh berries (occasionally picked ourselves from the roadside), brown sugar, and walnuts. This was known as the “first breakfast.”

Two or three hours into the ride, depending on the route, we would stop at some random restaurant for the second breakfast, and it was always such a treat, anything from surprisingly awesome fried chicken from a little market to the best Hangtown Fry (mmm, oysters and eggs!) I’ve ever had.

Later, we’d stop for lunch, usually famished by then, a meal that sometimes included a beer or two if we were close to our destination for the night. Occasionally, there would be a second lunch, and on a few rare occasions when there was a restaurant at the campground, a big, fat dinner feast.

That element of randomness on a slow road trip, when hunger or whims pulled us into some funky little roadside restaurant or store along California’s epic coastline, was one of the great and unexpected joys of my summer bike tours. And while there were many awesome spots we hit along the way, here’s a representative sampling, north-to-south, of a dozen meals that lingered with me:

Fried chicken at Fort Dick Market, Fort Dick
Riding from Harris Beach, Ore. toward Crescent City, that mid-morning hunger pulled us into a little roadside market, and the smell of fried chicken propelled us from there. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw for a second breakfast? Por que no? Well worth it.

Hangtown Fry at Seascape Restaurant, Trinidad
We rolled through beautiful Trinidad on one of our shortest ride days, under 30 miles, so we didn’t mind lingering down by the harbor during a long wait for a table at Seascape Restaurant. And when I put that first bite of my Hangtown Fry in my mouth, the oysters’ vital juice mixing with the cheesy eggs, I believed I reach culinary nirvana.

Sushi room service at Hotel Arcata
My riding partners had traveled all the way from Portland, so they needed a Laundromat and a night in a bed by the time we reached Arcata. The quaint and historic Hotel Arcata was great spot right on the town square, and better yet, it offered room service from Tomo Japanese Restaurant. Fat specialty sushi rolls were a decadent treat after a long ride while my friends washed their skivvies.

BBQ Oysters at The Peg House
Oh, how I wished we had known about this place before we arrived at Standish-Hickey State Park near Leggett. The store was filled with gourmet goodies and a great beer and wine selection, and the adjacent restaurant had a huge outdoor patio, a stage for live music on weekends, and a wonderfully full menu, including some of the most amazing BBQ oysters I’ve ever had, bathed in some secret sauce that I wanted to drink from a pint glass. So that night, I had two dinners.

Ribs at Bones Roadhouse in Gualala
Entering the lovely coastal town of Gualala, past the large dinosaur-shaped topiary on the edge of town, I was immediately charmed. And starving after arriving in our destination town well ahead of my traveling companions. So I hit Bones Roadhouse, a groovy spot with an ocean view and autographed dollar bills covering the walls and ceiling, and ordered a huge plate of smoked pork ribs and two local IPAs on tap. Ah, life is good.

Burger and beers at Pescadero Country Store
After a long day’s ride from San Francisco on Labor Day weekend, with only a few more miles until our Butano State Park campsite under the redwoods, this place not only had awesome gourmet burgers and two fine IPAs on tap, it also had a great little jam band playing on the sunny patio.

Pulled pork sandwich at Big Basin Store
Big Basin Redwoods State Park is a beautiful, popular spot that doesn’t seem to have a restaurant, only a little camp store. Ah, but it has recently added a little restaurant in the back, something visitors would hardly notice. And even though the menu is small, it did have some super yummy pulled pork panini sandwiches that hit the spot after a dusty ride on a dirt trail from Butano.

Coffee and Mocha at Surf City Coffee, Moss Landing
Sometime, between our first and second breakfasts, we’d stop for coffee drinks, which I’d drink as I rode from a Contigo cup that fit perfectly in one of my water bottle holders. At this cute and colorful little spot, I got one of the best mochas of the trip and picked up a bag of fresh ground coffee to go with our first breakfasts.

Whole cracked crab at Liberty Fish, Monterey
It was a big ride from Sunset State Beach all the way to Big Sur, more than 70 miles, with Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey the lunch spot at the halfway point. To mark the spot and fuel up for a big afternoon ride, I devoured a whole cracked Dungeness crab and cup of clam chowder. Then I was good to go.

Steak at Big Sur Lodge
Halfway through our first tour from SF to SLO, we decided to spend two nights under the redwoods at beautiful Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, which also had a fancy restaurant, Big Sur Lodge, right at the campground. We did some serious feasting both nights, short ribs the first night and a thick, perfectly cooked steak the second. Totally decadent, totally worth it.

Smoked albacore tacos at Ruddell’s Smokehouse, Cayucos
This tiny spot by the beach doesn’t look like much, offering mostly just smoked meat and fish tacos and sandwiches, but that’s all you need. It was so good that we even bought a pound of smoked albacore to go.

Lamb burritos at The Wild Donkey Cafe, San Luis Obispo
Offering the uniquely compelling combination of “Greek and Mexican Cuisine” (as well as a table that allowed us to keep an eye on our loaded bikes, which sometimes influenced our restaurant choices), this was a great little spot with an interesting menu, friendly service, and yummy grilled lamb burritos.

Hands off

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culture@sfbg.com

THE WEEKNIGHTER I have no idea why we were out in the Inner Sunset that night. I’m pretty sure we all lived in the Mission, but I could be wrong, it was at least 10 years ago. I just know there were like seven of us and just as we were about to leave the bar, another group of five of our friends, including Bhi Bhiman, randomly walked in. These kinds of things don’t really happen any more once you’re in your thirties in San Francisco. The tightknit group of people who you spent all your time with in your twenties are now scattered across the world and wrapped up in things like babies, and mortgages, and careers, and have better things to do than drag themselves through the city’s dive bars in the 1am darkness.

“Out of all the gin joints in all the world,” Bhi said, and I thought he was clever because, even though I hadn’t seen Casablanca yet, I knew it was something that people said and this was the perfect situation for it. We said our hellos and all shared a shot and when Tia, my girlfriend at the time, said she had to pee, I told her we’d meet her outside.

Five or six of us stood outside bullshitting as two really trashed guys walked swerving down the sidewalk. Just as they turned to head into the bar, Tia was walking out. One of them said something, threw his arms around her, and began pushing her towards the wall. She yelped “STU!” and those of us outside turned around immediately. When I threw him off her, the creep hit the door with a bang just as the rest of our large group was walking out. The other guy got in my face just as all 11 of my friends from both inside and outside the bar, surrounded the two of them. “The smartest thing you and Rapey Hands over here can do is leave right now,” I said, and they quickly scuttled the fuck away. I was glad for that, I didn’t want a 12-on-two beat down on my conscious.

This obviously has bears no reflection on Yancy’s (724 Irving, SF. 415-665-6551), the story just popped into my head. In fact, I fucking love Yancy’s. It’s got cheap drinks and smart-mouthed bartenders.

It’s also decorated with weird memorabilia, stained glass, and hanging potted plants. It’s got a great darts set up, and it’s big enough to accommodate any sized party. Hell, I’ve even brought my 40+ person pub crawl here a number of times. Yancy’s is always a great time.

But for some reason my mind keeps coming back to that story. Maybe it’s because I’m tired of all the shit that the women I love have to deal with. Maybe it’s because I wish there always happened to be a group of 12 guys around to intimidate anyone who tries to sexually assault someone.

Maybe it’s just because certain things will always trigger certain memories and Yancy’s just happens to trigger this one in me. All I know is that the world is a fucked up place and that we have to look out for each other. If you see someone who looks like they might be in trouble, stop and ask if they are OK. If they aren’t, call the cops. If your friends are actually catcalling women, tell them that they are fucking creeps. When things go wrong don’t put the blame on the women involved.

And most importantly: Guys, stop being Rapey Hands.

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, and TV host. You can find his online shenanigans at www.brokeassstuart.com.

Go west

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joe@sfbg.com

FEAST: WESTERN NEIGHBORHOODS Vacations are expensive. But if you’re a Bay Area cat hankering for new eats to explore, check out a magical, far-off foggy place many call the Outerlands: San Francisco’s oft-ignored Inner and Outer Richmond and Sunset neighborhoods. (And yes, there’s even a restaurant called Outerlands at 4001 Judah, serving local, organic food.)

For our staycation food tour, stretch and saunter sleepily down Clement Street. The sun is rising and the fog is low, but Toy Boat Dessert Café (401 Clement) is open early. Your creamy cup of coffee is accompanied by a cavalcade of toys, from Pee-wee Herman’s Chairy to Buzz Lightyear. The joint is a people-watching feast, as elderly couples canoodle and tiny tykes buck on the café’s mechanical horse.

Perhaps you’re a bang-flipping Missionite. For the trendy at heart, coast your fixie to the Outer Sunset’s Andytown Coffee Roasters. (3655 Lawton) The wood panel-meets-Apple Store look appeals to laptop-workers, but delish plum mint scones crumble tastily and the signature Snowy Plover (coffee soda mix) will furiously spin anyone’s bike legs ’round.

Duly caffeinated, jitter on to breakfast. The fancy route leads to Eats (50 Clement). Chomp the fluffiest waffles in the Richmond, or order any skillet-bound breakfast and chew slowly, savoring every spicy sensation.

Should your stomach growl for bigger portions, the Irving Street Café (716 Irving) serves up mighty omelets and keeps the coffee pouring. It’s tastier than most greasy-spoon diners, and one’s hunger is easily conquered for under ten greenbacks. The old-school atmosphere (and signed Chris Isaak poster) encourages one to hum rock ‘n’ roll.

As the morning fog burns off and that lunch bell clangs, head to Uncle Boy’s (245 Balboa). Any ’80s-’90s hip-hoppers will bop right at home here, as the chefs flip their heads with a well-met “yo.” Check out the cool Niners schwag as your Pool Boy burger juicily bursts under the slatherings of chipotle sauce. The garden patties handily convert die-hard meat lovers.

Not feelin’ burgers? Drown your tortilla desires in the Taco Shop at Underdogs (1824 Irving), where the fish tacos — imported from Nick’s on Polk — perfectly complement all the beer you’re about to chug.

Snacky lunch alternatives await at Wing Lee Bakery (503 Clement) and Good Luck Dim Sum (736 Clement), which offer perfect contrasting su bao options. Wing Lee’s savory pork bun sports some BBQ tang, whereas Good Luck’s buns are fluffy and sweet.

As evening hits, Karl the Fog slowly caresses the ‘hood again. Hop the 31 Balboa to 19th Avenue, where the unassuming Han Il Kwan (1802 Balboa) awaits. Mind your drool as the waitress slices succulent beef from its bone for your stew. Hankering for Russian fare? Head to Cinderella Bakery & Café, though the delicious stuffed Chicken Cutlet a la Kiev isn’t the star (the side of freshly baked rye bread steals the show).

The chill late night begs for warm dessert. Follow the intoxicating sweet scent to Genki Ramen (3944 Clement) for crepes, or nurse an after dinner drink at Tee Off Bar (3129 Clement) and play Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. With a wee bit o’luck, perhaps you’ll find an Irish band furiously fiddling at Plough & Stars (116 Clement), where Kilkenny cream ale offers a lighter alternative to heavy stouts.

This tour is only a sampling, and many local favorites await (we didn’t even get to any sushi!). But for non-Richmond or Sunset dwellers, sailing into the misty sea-soaked western neighborhoods can be like landing in an entirely different city where hundreds of new tasty eateries await. Just remember to wear your hoodie. *

 

Making a splash

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culture@sfbg.com

FEAST: PARIS Our first night in Paris was the stuff of foodie dreams: digging into steak tartare and downing natural wines with Autour d’un Verre restaurant co-owners and chefs Vikki Perry and Kevin Blackwell — at another well-known restaurant, Les Fines Gueules, where the conversation flowed freely, and the couple’s young daughter and pet dog under the table rounded out the comfortable, friendly atmosphere.

Though this was the first time I had met Perry, Blackwell, Perry’s mum, and everyone else working at and/or dining in the restaurant, the meal resembled a close family gathering. My husband and I traveled to Paris because I had been reading A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway’s memoir of the city in the 1920s. We were in the middle of a two-week European vacation with extended family, and a spontaneous two-and-a-half days of love and adventure in the City of Light was enticing. Knowing there was no way we could adequately see all of the sights in two days and manage to enjoy ourselves, we decided to forgo the tours and the queues altogether. Like Hemingway, we nestled our memories in Parisian cafés. And Blackwell and Perry, whose brother happens to be married to my husband’s sister, were the perfect guides.

The couple’s philosophy at Autour d’un Verre — simple cooking that highlights the quality of locally sourced organic ingredients — paired well with our own philosophy on good eating. A surprise to us, though: this minimalist ideology extended to Paris’ natural wine movement as well. Perry and Blackwell swear by natural wines, which are made without added chemicals, and hark back to ancient days, when wine was made merely of fermented crushed grapes, no yeast, enzymes, or extraneous tannins added. These kinds of wine are becoming ubiquitous in California, but in France — where experimentation can often be limited by cultural and economic concerns — they’ve really started to take off in the past few years. “Once you get into natural wines you won’t want anything else,” Perry said. “They are crisper with a stronger sense of fruit; there’s a freshness to natural wines. The character of the grapes and the nature and essence of the terroir are able to come through due to the lack of chemicals used, that can often hide these natural qualities in industrial wines.”

Some experts argue that natural wines are healthier because your liver is spared from processing chemicals and sulfites (which can exacerbate certain allergies and health conditions). Others argue that natural wines are no healthier than industrial wines — and that natural wine-lovers forgive a lot of flaws in flavor and execution, thus drinking inferior wines.

Perry and Blackwell regularly attend natural wine tastings at Parisian restaurants (sometimes their own) and throughout France, where they discover new winemakers or choose which wines to carry from their existing French suppliers.

“We’ve developed strong friendships with almost all the winemakers we work with,” Perry said.

And people are paying attention. According to Perry, French food critics now almost exclusively drink natural wines, leading more and more Parisian restaurants to stock at least a few bottles in hopes of getting good reviews.

“Natural wine is a little bit everywhere,” Perry said. “Whereas before, natural wines in a restaurant were a sure sign that the food you would get would be of high quality, locally sourced and generally cared about, this is no longer the case.”

Perry and Blackwell directed us to the Michelin-star L’Agapé, where dining room manager Shawn Joyeux helped us pick out a wonderful French wine — which just happened to be natural — to accompany our fresh, delicious, prix-fixe seven-course meal.

The wine — a white blend, though colored an unusual dark amber — was unlike any we had ever tasted. When we struggled to come up with a description, and asked if it contained a hint of apple, Joyeux confirmed.

“But it’s like an apple that has ripened on the branch, fallen to the ground, laid there for a few days, and someone picked it up and mashed it between their hands,” Joyeux said.

We were impressed: His colorful description perfectly captured the taste. “The flavor is magnificent,” he said. (Joyeux spoke the truth — although many friends I’ve repeated his description to have recoiled.)

Perry confirmed that there can be a lack of understanding toward unique natural wines. “Customers who are used to industrial wines sometimes have difficulties adjusting their tastes to natural wines that are very different,” she said. “They will sometimes mistake the differences as faults.”

On our last night in Paris, we found L’Etiquette — a wine shop on Ile Saint Louis specializing in organic wines from small French producers. After a quick interrogation regarding our preferences (a crisp white) and exactly when we would be imbibing (post haste), the proprietor was more than happy to help us pick out a natural wine, uncork it, and make us promise to let it breathe for no longer than 10 minutes.

Bottle in hand, we traveled to the Champ de Mars where we joined groups of families, friends, and couples of all ages on picnic blankets in front of the Eiffel Tower. At exactly 10pm, the iconic landmark began to sparkle.

Maybe it was the light show (which repeats hourly between 8pm and 1am), or the happy picnicking families, or, as Perry described, maybe it was “that happy, ‘life’s not so bad’ feeling you get from natural wines.” Whatever the reason, we fell in love with Paris, wine and all.

Southern light

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marke@sfbg.com

FEAST: ITALY There are 22 Caravaggio paintings in southern mainland Italy, and we were determined to feast our eyes on every last one of them this past May. (We got up all the way up to 21: one was on loan to the Dallas Museum of Art.) As important: We would eat and drink a wide path to each painting, leaving no plate unlicked in that famously delicious part of the world. Here are some highlights.

 

ROME

While you’re basically tripping over ancient ruins and gorgeous people everywhere you turn, Rome’s chic bistro and cute street food scene will have your head in the culinary clouds. Several experiences really stood out: relaxing in the super old-school family feel of Trattoria di Carmine (squid casserole, insanely layered eggplant parmagiana, gorgeous citrusy anchovies); wandering through the Jewish ghetto devouring as many traditional fried artichokes as we could; scooping up all the gelato at Giolitti; dropping into the trendy spots of the Pigneto neighborhood (kind of like the Mission, gentrification woes and all); drinking and dancing all night at one of the best clubs I’ve been to, Frutta e Verdura.

But there are three I keep coming back to. One is the fantastic, kind-of-hidden lunch treasure Coso near the Spanish Steps, with its lovely takes on classics like hefty but somehow delicate polpette (meatballs) and cacio e vaniglia (a sweet twist on Rome’s eternal pasta dish, spaghetti with cheese and ground pepper). Another was the almost too-hip, yet still laid-back, scene at Barzilai — how those fashionable scruffy models could eat all that rich, irresistible sfumato de artichoke and asparagus flan, we couldn’t figure. But the top of it all was a trip out to the suburbs to visit the fabled Betto e Mary, which serves pretty much what the gladiators ate, but in a family atmosphere, its walls lined with socialist memorabilia. Here we had a vast assortment of interestingly prepared sweetbreads (thymus in lemon, fried pancreas), pasta sauce with more unfamiliar animal parts, and calf’s brain in a zingy orange tomato sauce. Those gladiators sure loved their organs!

 

NAPLES

Probably my favorite city in the world right now — brimming with chaotic energy, street art, and strange corners and ancient alleyways, which often overflow with music and partying until 4am. The city was bombed heavily in World War II, and it looks like instead of rebuilding all those Renaissance-era monastic buildings and 17th century armories, they just graffitied them with abandon. Pizza, pizza, pizza is what you’ll get here — who’s complaining? — and a lot of bold, full-bodied wines from the surrounding Campagnia region: Taurasi red and Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo whites. Fried balls of dough and zucchini make excellent street bites. Pasta with beans and pan-fried rabbit break up the pizza routine. But perfectly blistered thin-crust pies will make you weep with joy (especially if you’ve spent all day exploring the vast ruins of Pompeii. Hopping, affordable, late-night Pizzeria I Decumani is definitely a top choice.

 

AMALFI COAST

The thin, winding cliff roads of this region are terrifying — but you’ll gladly risk death (preferably on a motorbike) for stunning views of pastel-colored towns sprawling up mountains, imposing 1,000-year-old Saracen towers left over from the coast’s Arab occupiers, and fantastic seafood galore. Every town boasts quaint delights, but my husband and I were really taken with tiny Atrani, with its staircase streets, large clock tower, and main plaza lined with good restaurants. Here we dived into octopus, sardines, squid, every kind of fish imaginable, and bright chartreuse glasses of limoncello liquor alongside the sparkling Mediterranean.

 

MATERA

The sprawling, ancient cave city of Matera, in the central south, is a home base for cucina povera, peasant cooking that serves as some of the best comfort food in the world. Among the moonlit, picturesque stone buildings jutting from their original cave bases, warm dining spots serve orecchiette (ear-shaped pasta) or cavatelli (rolled up orecchiette) cooked with the region’s leafy species of broccoli rabe and sprinkled with lard-fried breadcrumbs. Sometimes they drown the whole plate in melted mozzarella. Paired with a local primitivo wine — the Basilicata region has been producing grapes since 1300 BC — it’s pure hog heaven. “You will never have orecchiette as good as this,” said our waiter at incredible neighborhood favorite Trattoria Due Sassi as he dropped off a giant bowl to share. Why? “Because my mother makes it.”

 

TRANI

Trani is a seaside resort town on the east coast with some serious maritime history, and a cathedral — Cattedrale di San Nicola Pellegrino — that dates back to the fourth century. When we were there, it was windy and cold. No beach weekend for us, but we took necessary solace in a magical little wine shop called Enoteca de Toma Mauro. Octogenarian owner Francesco was a perfect guide to the wines of Lucania, Salento, and Puglia (the heel of Italy’s boot) in general. He also carried some killer Amaro, the favored digestif of the region — herbal and bittersweet, but with an exceptionally smooth finish, I couldn’t get enough of it. *

 

Under fire

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culture@sfbg.com

FOOD AND DRINK If you’ve ever tasted a fine mezcal, you know it’s a special thing. Bright, complex, spicy, smooth, smoky, minerally — mezcal is a spirit bursting with character. So it’s no wonder that after more than four centuries of distillation, it’s picked up its share of catchphrases. “Para todo mal, mezcal; para todo bien, también.” (For everything bad, mezcal; for everything good, the same.”) “Sip it, don’t shoot it.” “You don’t find mezcal; mezcal finds you.”

Mezcal seems to be finding a lot of people these days. In San Francisco, restaurants like Loló, La Urbana, and Nopalito — even Magnolia’s Smokestack, a brewery and BBQ spot — have lengthy lists of some of the world’s best mezcals, while cocktail bars would be hard-pressed to not have at least one mezcal drink on the menu. “It’s slow food, made the artisanal way, the way it’s always been made,” says Judah Kuper, a Coloradan who runs the brand Mezcal Vago with his friend and his father-in-law in Oaxaca, the southern Mexican state in which the bulk of all mezcal is made.

Produced in the traditional manner, the way Kuper’s fifth-generation maestro mezcalero father-in-law makes it, mezcal is an expression of true beauty—its basic ingredients quite literally earth, fire, and water. A predecessor to tequila (which is technically a type of mezcal, with its own protected denomination of origin), mezcal is essentially any distillate of the agave plant — although it can only be labeled as such if it’s made in one of eight designated Mexican states.

Its makers (mezcaleros) hand-harvest the heart (piña) of the agave (maguey, as it’s more commonly known in Mexico), roast it underground in earthen pits, crush it by hand or with a beast-drawn millstone, ferment its fibers and juices in wooden vats with airborne yeasts and water, and distill it in clay or copper stills, where it eventually drips off at about 45-55 percent alcohol by volume. These farmyard palenques are small operations, and many of their mezcaleros produce only a few hundred liters per year, making for a very unique and rare product, each batch different from the last.

Today, you can still buy extremely complex, completely organic, artisanally crafted mezcal on the roadside in Oaxaca for a few dollars a bottle. But that may not last forever.

 

GROWING PAINS

San Francisco’s Raza Zaidi has only been selling his Wahaka Mezcal brand since 2010, yet he’s seen his sales double year over year, and now he can hardly keep up with the demand. His spirits come in at an easier-to-imbibe 40-42 percent alcohol, making them a smooth entry point for those just dipping their toes into the mezcal world, but they still handily hold their own against the more potent stuff.

In the next year, he expects to ship about 32,000 bottles of five different types of mezcal from Wahaka’s palenque in San Dionisio Ocotepec, Oaxaca, all overseen by one maestro mezcalero, an equal partner in the company, who also grows all of his own maguey. Demand outpacing supply is a good problem for any business to have, but Zaidi is concerned nonetheless.

“There’s definitely [an agave] crisis right now. So at the end of this year, we’re going to have to buy from other farmers,” he admits. “The demand and growth was way larger than we expected.”

Mezcal is artisanal by nature, so it isn’t easy scale up. Agave — even its most common, cultivatable espadín variety — needs a minimum of seven years to mature. Some wild species can take upwards of 25 years to ripen, and their management and harvest-rights allocation usually fall to the tiny rural communities on whose property those plants lie.

Over centuries, mezcal’s legacy has been sustainably built around a spiritual and ecological balance of only harvesting what you need, when you need it (for weddings, festivals, funerals, the todo bien and the todo mal) — not for industrial production. But that hasn’t stopped large-scale spirits companies from trying. Bacardi just added Zignum, Oaxaca’s biggest factory producer of mezcal, to its distribution portfolio. Jose Cuervo is rumored to be following suit. And if that doesn’t sound bad enough, Toby Keith (who presumably didn’t get the “sip it, don’t shoot it” memo) has his own mezcal brand called Wild Shot, whose marketing team frequently employs the hashtag #BLAMEITONTHEWORM.

 

THIRSTY FOR MAGUEY

Drive through the mountains an hour or two outside of Oaxaca City, and you wouldn’t know that an agave shortage is afoot. Agave is seemingly everywhere — lining the roads in clusters, poking out of craggy hillsides, and planted row upon row in fields. But people on the ground there tell a different story.

My tour guide described how each week more and more trucks from the country’s tequila-producing region have been coming down and carting away whatever maguey they can get their hands on, no matter the type or age. This practice not only defies tequila’s own rules and legal standards for production (that it only be made from blue Weber agave, and that it’s grown in Jalisco and some small areas of nearby states), it ravages many Oaxacans’ livelihoods and taxes the region’s immensely complex ecosystem, maybe irrevocably so.

Mezcal’s uptick in popularity isn’t insignificant to its own future, by any means, but the spirit only represents a one percent drip in the still of tequila’s massive 300 million-liter-per-year output. And last year China lifted its ban on tequila importation, spurring even more demand for the mystical maguey.

On a recent trip to visit his uncle, Salomon Rey Rodriguez, who employs an ancestral method of hand-mashing agave and distilling in small clay pots, Kuper noted, “I came around the corner and saw a whole mountainside of agave that had been wiped out by Jalisco the day before. The agave wasn’t even ripe, and that hillside represented what would have been five years of work for Tío Rey.”

While mezcal has made huge strides to shed its reputation as tequila’s “poor country cousin,” in the socio-political sense it still is. Oaxaca is one of Mexico’s poorest states, and the agave shortfall is pitting farmers and mezcaleros against themselves and their communities, forcing them to choose between selling off their agave to tequileros long before it should be harvested or letting their families go hungry.

“There is a nest of issues that boil down to the question of whether Mexico wants to copy the industrialized tequila industry or foster the growth of an industry and product line that expresses the diversity of the agriculture at its base, the many different ideas of the people making the mezcal, and provides a living to a wide swath of society,” says Max Garrone, who co-authors a blog called Mezcalistas with Susan Coss. On Sun/14 at Public Works, Garrone and Coss will host Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle, which will serve as a tasting extravaganza and summit for all matters mezcal.

“We try to tell [mezcal’s] story on several levels,” says Coss, “How it is produced, the stories of the people producing it, what issues there are impacting the industry — all in the hope to get people to love mezcal and everything it stands for as much as we do.”

 

MEZCAL AT A CROSSROADS

So what can be done to combat the crisis? Reforestation seems like an obvious place to start. Wahaka not only bought a plot of land for that purpose, but also started a nonprofit, Fundación Agaves Silvestres (Foundation for Wild Agave), to further the cause. “Our philosophy is, if we’re taking away from the land, then let’s give back,” says Zaidi, who’ll be both pouring his mezcal and speaking about the spirit’s history on one of many panels at Mexico in a Bottle. Wahaka grows its typically wild madrecuixe and tobalá varieties from seed, and after a couple of years, replants them in the mountains during the rainy season, in accordance with the strict environmental conditions under which these plants naturally flourish.

“What this comes down to is supporting the artisanal producers,” says Rachel Glueck, a former San Francisco resident and Nopa employee, who is in the process of starting a socially conscious mezcal brand with her husband in Mexico. “Finding a way to help these small mezcaleros register their product and sell it would be huge, because if they’re doing that, then they’re not going to feel like they need to sell their maguey to these industrial companies to make some money.”

Mezcal is really at a crossroads, she says. “Tequila was originally an artisanal product, but it became industrialized, and you look at the quality of tequila — it’s mono-cropped, it’s full of pesticides, it’s cloned from clones of clones of clones, and now the agave is really weak.”

But for all of these artisanal producers, there’s still a kernel of hope when it comes to building a new model for mezcal’s sustainability. “We’re kind of fortunate to have the tequila industry to study,” says Kuper. “But at the same time, never have consumers been more aware of what they’re putting in their bodies and where it comes from.”

Mezcal: Mexico In a Bottle Sun/14, 3pm-7pm, $60. Public Works, 161 Erie, SF. www.publicsf.com

 

Feasting on flacks

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THE WEEKNIGHTER Sometimes it happens. PR companies take me out, feed me, and get me boozed up. All with the hope that I will write about the place that’s feeding/boozing me. Sometimes I write about the place, sometimes I don’t. I make no promises other than I promise to consume the food and booze that’s put in front of me. I imagine I’ve had worse lifetimes, but I wouldn’t know.

This time Natalie was taking me to Chaya (132 Embarcadero, SF, (415) 777-8688) on the PR company’s dime. Sitting on the Embarcadero with staggering views of the bay, Chaya is absolutely lovely. Come at sunset to see the lights twinkle on the Emperor Norton Bridge and sit down to a romantic dinner of incredible French-Japanese fusion.

In fact, if I’m not mistaken, Chaya was one of the first places doing “fusion” back before that was a beaten and tired word in the culinary world. That’s because Chaya has been around in SF for 14 years, which is a remarkable feat in any town, but nearly magical in San Francisco. The thing is, 14 years ain’t shit compared to the fact that the family that owns the Chaya has been in the hospitality business for almost 400 years.

According to the thing Natalie just sent me (since I neglected to take notes): Chaya has an unprecedented 390-year history of restaurants owned and operated by the same Tsunoda family both in Japan and California. Chaya began under an enormous shade tree in Hayama, Japan, centuries ago, where it offered tea, sweets, and respite to weary horseback travelers.

As they say in Japan: that shit cray.

Sitting down in the back area with Natalie and Matthew, Chaya’s marketing manager, I was told about the restaurant’s all-night happy hour, which happens every day. Chaya has long been an after work staple for the well-heeled, so it only made sense to extend the length of happy hour to keep those with well-coiffed hair quaffing well-made drinks.

Then the food came out and it was glorious. I don’t remember exactly what we ate, but there was a lot of it and it was brilliant and made my mouth happy. Matthew was excited to have me eat the Temari-style sushi, which is little round balls of rice topped with fish so fresh you can almost taste their souls. If fish had souls, that is. More food followed, as did drinks with whimsical names and suddenly, somehow, I was full and drunk. Life was good.

Natalie and Matthew began telling me about something called the Kaisen platter, which is a full selection of various raw seafood meant to be shared. “That sounds amazing,” I said, “but if you actually bring that out here right now, I may cry.” I had made the mistake of saying that I would eat and drink anything they put in front of me, and the clever bastards had the balls to call my bluff. Every man has his limits and I had found mine.

It was the golden hour when I finally toppled out of Chaya. The buildings were shimmering like pyrite and by the time I made it to Market, the street had a pinkish hue.

“I think I’m gonna walk home,” I told Natalie. “If you don’t hear from me, it’s because I ruptured something and died on the way home.”

I didn’t die.

Wizard of brews

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THE WEEKNIGHTER I was hanging out with Steve Jones. I’m pretty sure it was the first time just the two of us were kicking it, even though I’d known him for years and he’d been my editor at SFBG for at least six months. There was supposed to be some kind of Mixmaster Mike event at a loft in the Dogpatch, and when we arrived, there was nothing. So we did the next best thing. We got some drinks.

After chewing on some jerky and tipping back a tipple at Third Rail, one of us remembered that Magnolia Dogpatch and Smokestack (2505 Third St, SF. www.magnoliapub.com) had recently opened nearby. And it was our job, nay, our duty to check it out.

Cruising down Third Street, me walking, Steve pushing his wild looking bike, we nearly passed Magnolia’s front door. “Is it open?” Steve asked. The windows were covered in old newspapers and the exterior looked like some rundown factory.

“I think so,” I replied. “I think I hear music.” As I pulled the door open suddenly it was that scene in The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy steps into Technicolor, except instead of badass musical munchkins, Steve and I were greeted by the smell of barbecue and the clanking and thrumming of people drinking.

Now you are looking at Steve and me. Time has stopped outside on gritty Third Street and the golden light of the wondrous inner world of Magnolia illuminates our faces as we are frozen in wide-grinned delight. And boom! Time picks back up and we step inside. Steve looks at me, “I think we made the right choice.”

“I’m gonna eat the fuck out of everything,” I respond.

There’s a trend that’s getting tired in all of San Francisco’s new bars and restaurants. You know it: reclaimed wood, exposed Edison bulbs, typewriters that, for fuck’s sake, no one will ever use. Magnolia is not like this. Yes it feels old-timey, but in a way that actually seems like it might be real. Housed in a former can factory, Magnolia looks like an indoor beer garden where the workers might have rushed to drink once the foreman blew the whistle. It harks back to the neighborhood’s dilapidated past while enticing San Francisco’s well heeled modernity. It’s magnificent.

And it has beer. Lots of it. Magnolia — an offshoot of Magnolia Pub in the Haight — brews it in mega vats (this is not a technical term) on the premises, and it’s really lovely. The beers have musical names like Cole Porter, or contain Grateful Dead references like New Speedway Bitter and Delilah Jones Rye. Oh yes, proprietor Dave McLean — I, too, am a fan of the Dead. And the food, good lord the food! Dennis Lee from Namu Gaji really did the thing this time calling it “non-denominational” BBQ, or so it says on Eater, because I’m reading that right now since I didn’t take notes. I was eating BBQ and drinking beer, man, I couldn’t take notes… I just wanna know what’s behind the door that says “Dictating.”

Steve and I stepped out of magical Magnolia-land and back onto dreary Third Street. He peddled off on his bike and I wandered over to catch the bus. I popped around the corner to take a piss before my long bus ride, and a girl rounded the corner and almost ran into me. She stopped, looked at my face, looked at my dick, then turned around and continued smoking a cigarette, with her back to me, while texting on her phone. The scene was made weirder by the fact that I was wearing a captain’s hat and probably had BBQ sauce all over my face.

And that, my friends, is how you write a story about a bar.

Stuart Schuffman aka Broke-Ass Stuart is a travel writer, poet, and TV host. You can find his online shenanigans at www.brokeassstuart.com

Sixth at the Syc

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THE WEEKNIGHTER “This place sucks now. I mean what the fuck is going on in SF?” Chloe was visiting from either Portland or LA or wherever it was she was living that wasn’t San Francisco anymore. A few of us were sitting around, drinking in the 4pm light at the front window of The Sycamore (2140 Mission, SF. www.thesycamoresf.com). A handful of folks had come out to see Chloe since she was just around for a couple days and as usual when you don’t see someone for awhile, it became a “remember when…” conversation.

“I think San Francisco is better off since the Arrow Bar closed down,” I was telling Richie Panic. “Yeah,” he responded, “you didn’t hang out at the Arrow Bar, you did time there.” In the early and mid 2000s The Arrow Bar was the ultimate hipster den of vice and many of the people around the table had all met each other there and somehow survived. Considering the bar had been on Sixth Street near Market, someone at the table made a joke about more blow being done in the bar than crack being smoked outside it, to which we all laughed. It was probably true.

Somebody got up for another round of drinks. Since The Sycamore only has wine and beer he brought back a clutch of Miller High Lifes and we resumed the game of Cards Against Humanity that we weren’t really playing. The Sycamore is perfect for this kind of afternoon. Art lines the walls and beer handles that aren’t being used at the moment hang from the ceiling. Board games are conspicuously stacked so that anyone can play them and a jukebox is stuffed with all the right tunes. It’s good for place to while away an afternoon with friends and watch the wackjobs of Mission Street putter by at a laconic pace.

“Have you been over there lately?” I asked Chloe, bringing the conversation back to The Arrow Bar. “I mean, they’ve by no means cleaned it up, but it is actually getting slightly better.”

“Ha! Could you imagine that?” she laughed. “How many seismic cultural twists would San Francisco have to go through to see a cleaned-up Sixth Street? The day Sixth Street isn’t the shadiest street ever is the day San Francisco is officially dead.” She had a point.

I headed to the bathroom and along the way saw one of my stickers on the water cooler. I didn’t know if I’d put it there or if someone else had. It’s often hard to remember details about the last time you were in a bar. When I got back to the table I was excited to see that the magic trick had worked again. You know the magic trick: It’s when you come back to the table and the food that you’d ordered earlier is miraculously there. We all dived into the fries, sliders, and pork belly doughnuts like the drunk people we were.

After eating and drinking some more, people began to head off in their own directions on whatever adventure their day-drinking would lead them on. I said bye to whomever was still left and gave Chloe a hug. “It’s really weird,” she said. “I basically grew up here, and it’s like every time I come back to visit, it’s so drastically different that I barely recognize it.”

I walked out Sycamore’s door, turned around, and did my best Humphrey Bogart, “At least we’ll always have Sixth Street.” And then I went home.

Stuart Schuffman aka Broke-Ass Stuart is a travel writer, poet, and TV host. You can find his online shenanigans at www.brokeassstuart.com

 

Call the Pope

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THE WEEKNIGHTER It’s a funny thing to be filling out a job application and have to put your previous employer as Tony the Pope. But that’s the name I know him by, and truthfully, I don’t wanna know his real last name, anyways. I prefer to have at least a little bit of mystery in my life.

I had been working at The Unresolved Love Life of Evelyn Lee, which may be the longest name for a bar ever, when I got news that the bar had been sold to Tony and would now be called Mission Hill Saloon (491 Potrero, SF. 415-552-5545)… again. It had been Mission Hill before it was Evelyn Lee, and apparently Tony was changing it back. Regardless, I came to love working at the place and didn’t care what it was called as long as I had a shift or two.

Depending on the bar, the regulars can either be the best or worst thing about it. The jury is still out about which category Mission Hill’s falls into. Or at least, that’s the kind of shit I’d talk to them while behind the bar. A bartender’s best weapon is his wit, and working at Mission Hill Saloon was a good test of mine every time I was at the stick. The crowd ranges from hipsters to cooks and construction workers — and all of them are prepared to give you a hard time for absolutely no reason at all. And that’s just how I like it.

I experienced one of my most ridiculous San Francisco moments ever while working there. I’d been chatting with a girl on OkCupid, and we had made plans to grab a drink on Sunday evening. We never discussed where I worked so we were both surprised when she came in on my Thursday night shift. Coincidently, she lived above the bar. That is some serious San Francisco shit right there. We went out once and decided it would be easier to just be friends considering she lived above the bar I worked at. [Good call — Ed.]

The Mission Hill Saloon is in an old building. I’m not sure of its age, but it’s old enough. One night, Raph, one of the regulars, told me — as I was closing the bar at 2am — that the place was seriously haunted and that he wouldn’t want to be in there all by himself at night. He gave me a wink as I ushered him out the door and locked it behind him. The asshole knew I had at least an hour of closing duties, by myself, in that old bar. I didn’t want him to know that his saying that shit really spooked me, and I put at least $5 in the jukebox so I wouldn’t hear any late night creepy old building sounds. Nothing ghostly ended up happening. Or if it did, I couldn’t hear it over the jams.

Unfortunately I only worked at Mission Hill Saloon for a little while. After Tony bought the bar he decided to work as many shifts on his own as he could, just to keep costs down. I completely understood, and I knew he’d be a great reference for whatever my next bar gig would be. Which is why I found myself filling out an application and using Tony the Pope as a previous employer. Tony may not be a religious man, but he sure does pour some strong-ass holy water. Plus, now it’s nice to be on the other side of the bar — so I can join the peanut gallery and give him shit.

P.S. This Weeknighter is dedicated to Ashley Dickinson who loves Mission Hill almost as much as I do.

Stuart Schuffman aka Broke-Ass Stuart is a travel writer, poet, and TV host. You can find his online shenanigans at www.brokeassstuart.com

Starred, Striped

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THE WEEKNIGHTER Dave’s bar is America. I don’t mean that in the sense that you walk in the door and get the hairy eyeball, with a chaser of, “What the kind of hippie-communist-homo are you?” (Spoken in a drawl, of course). I mean it in the most basic sense — the mythic melting pot of equality and freedom. When you enter Dave’s (29 Third St, SF) you are entering a new world. It doesn’t matter how much you make (or don’t make), what you drive, or whether you work on construction sites or the human brain. All of that is left at the door. The only thing that matters is if you like to drink.

There are no mustachioed bartenders in suspenders playing with tinctures distilled from random Amazonian berries you’ve never heard of. Instead, you’re often greeted by an Irish lady who you can tell won’t take any shit, but who will also chat with you all day long. This is a fucking bar, man. Some days you show up and there’s free food put out. Other days you sit on a stool and somebody you’ve never met buys a round for the entire bar. It’s almost like Dave’s has some supernatural ability to give you whatever it is that you need on that particular day.

You sit at that bar long enough you’ll hear every kind of story imaginable, from every kind of person. You’ll walk in just to have a quick shot and a beer — and leave four hours later, having met, dunk, and talked shit with a car salesman from Oklahoma, a recently off-work janitor, a tech millionaire, and someone whose family has had 49ers season tickets since they played at Kezar Stadium. You will never see any of these people again in your life, unless you go back to Dave’s.

I’ve actually taken a few girls on first dates to Dave’s. I mean, we didn’t spend the entire time there, but used it more as a meeting place from which to embark on the rest of our activities. You’re probably saying, “Hey Stu, why would you take girl you’re trying to impress, and with whom you’re hoping to touch special places, to a dive bar like Dave’s?” Besides the fact that I’m broke and can actually afford the awesomely cheap drinks, Dave’s, in its own way, makes everyone feel comfortable. It was voted least pretentious bar in SF for this reason. Dave’s is the bar that everyone has had a good time at, even if they’ve never been there before.

These days I worry about places like Dave’s. Sure it’s been there for like 30 years or something, but it doesn’t have the shine and sheen that so many recently opened bars in SF have. For those of us who know better, this is exactly why it’s attractive. I just worry that the Robert Moseses of the world, the people who would plow a giant freeway through quaint Greenwich Village, have too much steam behind them right now. These are the people who don’t realize that having reclaimed wood and Edison bulbs and $13 cocktails doesn’t make a place special. In fact, it makes a place just like everywhere else. I’ll take a shot and a beer at Dave’s over all that fluff any day of the week. Hell, I’ll probably see you there.

Stuart Schuffman aka Broke-Ass Stuart is a travel writer, poet, and TV host. You can find his online shenanigans at www.brokeassstuart.com