Food & Drink

The Philosophy of Drunk


THE WEEKNIGHTER  Weekends are for amateurs. Weeknights are for pros. That’s why each week Broke-Ass Stuart ( will be exploring a different San Francisco bar, bringing you stories about the places and people who make San Francisco one of the most phenomenal cities in the world. Who wants a drink?

“I feel like I’m on vacation in my own town! I’ve literally never walked around here in the 12 years I’ve lived in San Francisco!”

I was excitedly telling this to Alex as we walked out of the West Portal Muni tunnel towards the Philosopher’s Club (824 Ulloa St, SF.415-753-0599). Sometimes you get stuck in a rut and feel like you’ve seen everything there is to see in San Francisco, and then one day, you decide to do something different.

I’d heard great things about the Philosopher’s Club for a long time, that it was a solid dive bar with friendly regulars and a cool staff. Also, when I’d written an article about SF’s writer bars years before, someone had gotten butt-hurt at me in the comments about not including the Philosopher’s Club, so I figured it had a literary bent as well. Because of all this I’d somehow built it into my mind as a dark, cave-like, candlelit bar, where old men screamed at each other about Dostoevsky and James Joyce. Of course, like nearly everything, I was completely wrong.

Walking in on Tuesday evening I found a well-enough lighted bar that had no cave-like tendencies at all. The Grateful Dead wafted from the speakers and instead of old curmudgeons arguing about Oliver Wendell Holmes, I found people a variety of ages watching a couple teams on TV doing hockey stuff. Helmets of 10 or so football teams sat above the back bar near a ton of SF Giants bobbleheads surveying the scene and mildly nodding their accession.

“It’s a fucking sports bar?” I asked Alex, who’d been there before. “I was thinking these particular philosophers would be closer to the Dalai Lama than to Yogi Berra” to which Alex simply pointed to the ceiling and said, “Actually the Dalai Lama is right there”.

Looking up I saw a big chunk cut out of the ceiling and in the space left over was a mural. The center of it was painted blue and ringing it were about 30 or so philosophers peering down on the patrons disapprovingly while we drank. John Lennon was looking directly at us, arms crossed. Mark Twain looked askance, refusing to make eye contact. And MLK whispered to Gandhi that he had a dream that one day Broke-Ass Stuart would be able to walk out of a bar not completely shit-faced.

Okay, maybe I was projecting a bit, but it is a little weird to literally get looked down upon by the greatest minds in history while getting tanked. When Mother Theresa is keeping tabs on your bar tab, it makes getting a good buzz on a little awkward.

Or it doesn’t. The great thing about the Philosopher’s Club is that they actually don’t give a fuck. I almost wonder if the name is some kind of joke the owner started with his buddies like, “You know who are great philosophers? Drunk people, that’s who!” and thusly named the bar. Truthfully, I don’t even know. I forgot to ask the bartender because I was too caught up in checking out the old photos and death notices on the wall, singing along to “Sugaree”, and admiring that the men’s room had a trough.

That night Alex and I joined the philosopher’s club by getting drunk at the Philosopher’s Club and all was right with the world. I think it’s time I start exploring more San Francisco neighborhoods I never go to. Maybe your neighborhood is next.

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


Out of focus


THE WEEKNIGHTER  Weekends are for amateurs. Weeknights are for pros. That’s why each week Broke-Ass Stuart ( will be exploring a different San Francisco bar, bringing you stories about the places and people who make San Francisco one of the most phenomenal cities in the world. Who wants a drink?

I was standing at the bar ordering a round of drinks for my friends when I noticed something slowly creeping in and out of my peripheral vision. It was just on the edge of my consciousness, like the very beginnings of a psychedelic trip, and for a split second I thought, “Jesus Christ! One of these strange bastards dosed my drink. This night is about to get really fucking weird.”

And then I saw the movement again and I focused on it. Reflected in the mirror of the back bar was an animatronic rat sliding up and down the wall. It was around Halloween and Mission Bar (2695 Mission St, SF. 415-647-2300) was completely decked out like the Spirit Halloween store had sneezed all over the walls.

Needless to say, I was relieved that no one had slipped LSD into one of my vodka sodas. The last thing I wanted to deal with was 12 hours of getting confused by the way a Muni bus’s hydraulics sound like Chewbacca. Plus the vibes over in that part of the Mission can be a bit sinister sometimes, and Mission Bar reflects this perfectly, which is exactly why I like it.

This may be too on the nose, but Mission Bar is the quintessential Mission dive bar. It’s dark, there’s a pool table, and dogs are always scurrying around. Plus the booze is exceptionally cheap; if I’m not mistaken, well drinks are $3.50, possibly $4. DO YOU HEAR ME EVERY NEW BAR IN SAN FRANCISCO?!?! I always forget how cheap it is until I go in and order a drink, then when I hear what the total is, I smile with all my teeth, tell the bartender how much I love him or her, and then wonder why I bother going to any other bars.

That night I collected the round of drinks and sloshed them over to the table where a bunch of my favorite people in the world were sitting. “Guess what guys,” I said as I handed them their beverages, “nobody dosed my drink!” They all looked like I was nuts and like maybe someone had actually dosed me. They obviously had no idea what I was talking about. I decided to drop the subject.

I wish I could tell you exactly which of my favorite people in the world were having a mellow night of drinks with me at Mission Bar that night. But the truth is, many of the stories I write for The Weeknighter are amalgamations of multiple evenings spent in a single bar, spread out through my dozen or so years in San Francisco.

Was it the first night we drank at Mission Bar after Marina got back from the Peace Corps? Maybe. Was it one of the last nights before Jeremy and Erin started keeping grown-up hours because they had a baby on the way? That could be it too. Truthfully it doesn’t matter; the great thing about spending a third of your life in a city is that the places you go become the stories themselves, and all the things that happen in them are just the decorations, kinda like the animatronic rat scooting along the wall.

These things creep into the peripheral of your memory and you need to focus on them to remember which parts were real. The unfortunate part about Mission Bar (read: fortunate part) is, considering how strong and cheap the drinks are, it’s pretty hard to focus on anything once you’ve been there for an hour. So the stories blend together and you just leave happy that no one dosed your drink with LSD.

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

Drinking with DiMaggio


THE WEEKNIGHTER Weekends are for amateurs. Weeknights are for pros. That’s why each week Broke-Ass Stuart ( will be exploring a different San Francisco bar, bringing you stories about the places and people who make San Francisco one of the most phenomenal cities in the world. Who wants a drink?

“It’s like we’re doing a double play tonight,” Anna said as she, Wes, and I sat down at the bar. “Oh! That’s good, are you gonna use that? If not I will,” I replied. We had just come from Prubechu, a new Guamanian restaurant on Mission Street where we’d had dinner. Anna is the food editor at SF Weekly so she was researching it for work, and since I am, in some capacity, a professional barfly, this was work for both of us. Wes is food photographer and the cat behind Wes Burger, but on this evening he was just along for the ride.

None of us had spent any time at the Double Play Bar and Grill (2401 16th St, SF. 415-621-9859) before so we didn’t know what to expect. I was hoping for weird looking old guys who’d been in the Mission their whole lives and still referred to Cesar Chavez as Army Street. Maybe cats who were old enough to have seen a game at Seals Stadium, the ballpark that had once been across the street but was now a shopping center housing a Safeway, a Boston Market, and a 24 Hour Fitness that always smells like chlorine and sweaty balls. It’s a terrible smell, really.

Seals Stadium had been a part of baseball history: It’s where the first West Coast MLB game took place when the Giants thrashed the Dodgers 8-0 in 1958. It was also the stadium where Joe DiMaggio played as a member of the San Francisco Seals, where Willie Mays played his first game as a San Francisco Giant, and the home stadium of the San Francisco Seals that Lefty O’Doul managed 1937-1951. In fact when Lefty heard they were building a new stadium at Candlestick Point he said it was, “…the most ridiculous site for a ball park I’ve ever seen. When I was a child, the wind would blow the sheep I was herding off Candlestick Hill.” Considering the Double Play Bar first opened in 1909, it had been witness to all of this.

Walking in the other night we were greeted by walls that were literally covered in sports memorabilia. There were old mitts, vintage photos, ball caps, and even original signage from Seals Stadium. There were also TVs broadcasting various sports highlights, a whole bunch of police badges framed, and even more sports memorabilia. What there wasn’t, though, were people.

“Does this place ever get busy?” I asked the bartender looking over at the three or four random drunk people at the short end of the bar. “Oh yeah,” she replied. “During the day it gets pretty slammed. We get a lot of people from the surrounding businesses who come in here for lunch and then from pretty much three o’clock till it gets dark we have a pretty steady crowd. Lots of union folks.” I suddenly realized that, if having a union job means getting to start drinking at 3pm, I’d chosen the wrong field.

As I got up to scope the place out and gawk at the walls, Wes asked the bartender, “Isn’t there some big backroom here?” Apparently there was one but it had gotten torn down so that the property owner could build new condos. The backroom had had a giant meticulously painted mural of a ball game at Seals Stadium; it had taken up the entire room. As I was sitting down back on my stool the barkeep was already closing up. “What time do you close?” I asked looking at my phone. It was 9pm.

“It varies,” the barkeep told me, “Usually around now. But you should really try coming by here at three.”

Can’t win ’em all.

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

A really good kiss


THE WEEKNIGHTER Weekends are for amateurs. Weeknights are for pros. That’s why each week Broke-Ass Stuart ( will be exploring a different San Francisco bar, bringing you stories about the places and people who make San Francisco one of the most phenomenal cities in the world. Who wants a drink?

 I used to hang out at the Noc Noc (557 Haight Street, SF. 415-861-5811) for too many hours in a row just so I could make out with the bartender after she got off work. She’d feed me bottles of powerful sake and I’d sit around bullshitting with the half dozen or so other dudes who’d come by with hopes of getting in her pants.

“This might be the night,” I imagined them telling themselves each evening on the walk over; it was the same thing regulars patrons of hot bartenders have been telling themselves since the day hot bartenders were invented.

I’d convinced myself I wasn’t one of them, since it was me that she made out with after her shift, but more often than not she’d get off and we’d cross Haight Streeet to Molotov’s so I could watch her play pool with all the dudes who hung around fawning over her at the bar. I’m not a competitive person and even more so, hate being forced into vying for someone’s attention, so I got tired of the scene fairly quickly and stopped doing it. Still, she was a really good kisser.   

I spent a lot of time at the Noc Noc in my youth though. Many years ago I dated a USF girl who was under 21 and we’d go there because she and her friends could get in. They never carded back in those days (don’t worry ABC, they do now) and we’d sit on the Beetlejuice looking chairs, amongst the psychedelic cave paintings and the black lights, drinking sake and beer. I’d tell those naïve USF kids wild stories about what it was like to be over 21 even though I was just barely so, but it was good enough to impress them and my girlfriend and I would make out and be in love up and down Haight Street. Other people would see us and feel sick or jealous or both. She was also a really good kisser.

The name Noc Noc derives from Nocturnal Nocturne. When Ernest Takai opened the Lower Haight joint in 1986 it was the “first place to play industrial, ambient, dance, acid jazz in San Francisco” or so the website tells me. I didn’t know any of this stuff until right now when I went to the Noc Noc’s website. Anytime I’d ever asked anyone at the bar why the place looked so fucking perfectly unusual I got a bunch of drunk stories that basically amounted to “some crazy ass Japanese dude opened the place and I think he was an artist and liked music or something,” which was good enough for me.

Vagueness makes a bar story good and allows room for mystery, which is something the world is sorely lacking these days. When you can answer any question that’s ever been asked, simply by Googling it, mystery becomes the first casualty of too much information.   

One of my favorite Joni Mitchell lines is, “Everything comes and goes, marked by lovers and styles of clothes.” And like always, Joni is right. We keep track of who we were back when, by remembering the people we dated and the silly shit we wore. But the same goes for the places we hung out in. The Noc Noc opened in 1986 and its dark corners and dark beats have been a cornerstone for kissing San Franciscans ever since. Making out with someone is one of the last bits of mystery left in the world. You have no idea where that path will lead but the initial excitement it makes you feel is worth all the Googleable knowledge in the world. Google is a lot of things, but it will never be a really good kisser.

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

A little help


THE WEEKNIGHTER We were all there for Kelly Malone. It was the opening for an art show she’d done, as well as a fundraiser to help her kick cancer’s ass. At least I think that’s what it was. I don’t fully recall, to tell you the truth. Most of 2011 was a blurry, self-congratulatory, victory lap for me. I had done what I set out to do, create and host a TV show based on the Broke-Ass Stuart brand I’d been hustling for a million years.

I was having a moment and it seemed a lot of other makers, doers, and shakers, who’d been creating in San Francisco for a long time, were having one, too. At least on a professional level. On a personal level, a lot of us were not so successful; Kelly was still sick, I was in a half decade long relationship that was dissolving, and other people around us were falling prey to drug addiction and suicide. Every coin has two sides.

Mini Bar (837 Divisadero, SF. 415-525-3565) was packed that night and everyone was there. This was before the mass exodus of artists had begun in earnest, before the evictions and the shakedowns, before the sad headlines and the sadder stories. Mini Bar lives up to its name, and the lot of us who were crammed into that tiny and narrow space were sweatily and unintentionally bumping and grinding in order to get a drink. “This is really good,” I told Kelly, not meaning her cancer of course, but meaning the turnout and the support from the community that had grown around her. She understood what I meant. “I know! This is amazing!” she told me before swerving away to talk to somebody who was eyeing a piece of her work.

Divisadero has changed a lot in recent years and at the time, Mini Bar was a fairly recent but very welcome addition to the neighborhood. Part of the joint’s charm is that nearly every time I go there a different artist is being featured. On weeknights it isn’t too crowded so you can walk in, peruse the wall hangings, and then actually find a seat at either the bar or one of the small tables. And usually on these nights you can also find some of the neighborhood regulars who pop in to wet their whistles on whatever the featured cocktail is that week.


But this wasn’t a regular night. This was something special. It was a gathering of the tribes in order to support one of our own. Since it opened, Mini Bar has been a hub for people who do cool shit. Maybe it’s because the owners purposefully set that vibe, or maybe it’s because Mini Bar arrived at just the right moment in that space between what Divis was and what it was becoming.

Or then again maybe it’s just because I’m only there when I’m drunk.

Kelly sold a lot of art that night, and the money raised otherwise throughout the evening also went towards her mounting medical bills. Most of us realized then and there that what we were doing was the definition of being part of a community. We’d all always figure out ways to help out when the going got fucked. Or at least for as long as we were all able to stick around.

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


On the real


THE WEEKNIGHTER Sutter Station doesn’t give a fuck. In fact, it has been steadfastly sitting on Market Street, not giving fucks since 1969. That’s before BART existed, before Tales of the City came out, and before the Beatles broke up. The United States was still tangled up in the Vietnam War when Sutter Station first opened its doors to show San Franciscans what not giving a fuck looked like.

Sutter Station is a weird and wild place. And I don’t mean weird like “Ooh, look at him, he’s walking down the street in a tutu.” And I don’t mean wild like a bunch of drunk bros screaming WOOO when their friend takes a shot. I mean weird in a disconcerting way and wild in the sense that you may genuinely get your ass kicked for acting stupid. Sutter Station is a working class bar somehow still in the heart of downtown San Francisco where Budweiser is always $3 and sometimes people get physically tossed out the back door. Those people generally deserve it, too.

There’s a legend about Sutter Station. There was once a lingerie show there. That’s it. That’s the whole legend. Stepping inside the joint you can tell that’s enough. Sutter Station is like if a Tenderloin dive bar walked over to the Financial District for a change of scenery and decided to stay. You ever sat down in a bar in the TL and said, “Gee, I wish there was a lingerie show here”? That’s my point. Some legends are legends for a reason.

Sutter Station isn’t all hard motherfuckers though, as the week draws on the crowd gets pretty diverse. People who say they “work in the FiDi” pop in for happy hour beverages, filling some of the tables with women in pencil skirts and men with their shirts tucked in. Both these genders wear North Face fleeces for some reason.

You do actually see some of these same people during other hours as well. Sometimes the ones with a drinking “preoccupation” dip in for a liquid lunch where they know none of their colleagues will find them, while others hang out far after happy hour tipsily making friends with people they’ll ignore when passing on the street the next day. Sutter Station attracts all kinds for different reasons. It attracts me for the free pizza they put out on Fridays.

As real bars keep disappearing, only to be replaced by more and more craft cocktail joints, the importance of spots like Sutter Station grows. Bars are supposed to be where you unwind, have a drink, and let the day slide off you. They are there to help make merry, make friends, make lovers, make amends. I like a really nice cocktail just as much as anyone, but even more so, I like just having a drink and seeing what happens from there. The beauty of Sutter Station is that anything can happen from there. As spots like Sutter Station become harder to find in San Francisco, I can’t help but give a fuck. Luckily, Sutter Station doesn’t.

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




Look, we know how it is. Sometimes you just need to get out there — at whatever time it is — and grab a dang drink. Fret no more: Here’s our handy guide to getting a little tipsy on, round-the-clock.

View the Clocktails chart it in full and print it out (PDF) here.

NOON: The Ramp Huge, killer Bloody Marys and a heaping plate of fried calamari on the waterfront — that’s how to welcome in the afternoon, especially if you’re on your way to a ballgame. 855 Terry Francois Blvd, SF.

1PM: La Mar perfectly made Peruvian Pisco sours, sipped by the seaside — well, bayside — please. If you’re feeling especially adult, dive into a tangy, whiskey-like capitan cocktail. Pier 1.5, Embarcadero, SF.

2PM: Wild Side West The sun goddesses are usually on your side, whisking away the Bernal Heights clouds and allowing you an afternoon basking on the patio here with a tall glass of cider. 424 Cortland, SF.

3PM: Biergarten: Wednesday-Sunday, grab a glass of Hacker-Pschorr, Schneider Weisse, or Almdudler and enjoy a (hopefully) sunny Hayes Valley late afternoon. Sometimes, there’s even oompa-pah. 424 Octavia,

4PM: Yield Nothing better in the late afternoon than a great glass of sustainable vino — say, an Urban Legend pinot — and a little downtime with charm at this Dogpatch wine bar. 2490 Third St, SF.

5PM: Hopwater Dash to this too-cool spot right after work to beat the crush: 31 taps of delicious California brews — try Altamont’s Scarcity IIIPA for a quick buzz — and a singles scene that will keep you busy into the night. 850 Bush, SF.

6PM: Hi Tops This surprisingly diverse gay sports bar in the Castro boasts the city’s yummiest Michelada, the “Big Unit” tequila cocktail, awesome vintage décor, and 25-cent buffalo wings on Mondays. 2247 Market, SF.

7PM: Top of the Mark Perch atop the Mark Hopkins hotel for a perfectly made Cosmopolitan — sip it slow (it’s $14) and enjoy a near-panoramic view of San Francisco as the sun sets. 999 California, SF.

8PM: Tosca Cocktail time with classic, date-friendly flair: The recently rejuvenated North Beach fave can still make a fat lady sing with a sharp Casino Bar Negroni 1919 or fruity Zamboanga. 242 Columbus Ave, SF.

9PM: Virgil’s Sea Room Get naughtical at the hippest recent addition to the bar scene, with a cute patio, Mission-scruffy crowd, and drinks named after beloved locals like the slinky, vodka-licious Vicki Marlene. 3152 Mission, SF.

10PM: Martuni’s Show tunes + martinis = Martuni’s, and you’ll be singing your heart out at the piano with a jovial crowd of musical-lovers after a couple dirty ones, guaranteed. 4 Valencia, SF.

11PM: Li Po If you would like your mind erased with a raucous, fun-loving Chinatown crowd, order the magical Chinese Mai Tai here and hold on for dear life. 916 Grant, SF.

MIDNIGHT Nihon Whiskey Bar Slip out of the club and into something silky and sophisticated at this beautiful Japanese hot spot. Great for conversation, especially when sipping a smoky Bunnahabbain Toiteach. 1779 Folsom, SF.

1AM: 500 Club Drink in some true old school Mission atmosphere — we’re gonna recommend sticking with Fernet shots and Trumer back here, since by this point your taste buds are shot. 500 Guerrero, SF.

2AM: Sidewalk sale: Our fascistic 2am closing time? It’s 3am, really, if you count the socializing crowds cast out on the sidewalk, flasks flashing. Locally bottled Cyrus Noble bourbon is really good from a flask.

3AM: The after party: “Back to mine” shouts the lucky lady with accommodating neighbors, and off you go. Don’t settle for Smirnoff-chugging: our own Hangar One vodka, made from grapes, will win the night.

4AM: The after-after party: Nothing is better (or more romantic) than a bottle of Roederer Estate brut downed between swingset rides at Alamo Square Park — watch you don’t get a ticket, though.

5AM: The morning cap: Slip on those shades as the sun slips up — it’s time for a fizzy pick-me-up. Some Alameda-made St. George gin with a splash of sparkling grapefruit will get you up and at ’em.

6AM: Gino and Carlo: Morning shots! This North Beach classic — since 1942 — sports good old-fashioned Italian moxie, a ton of tipsy Beat history, and strong enough pours to wake you right up. 548 Green, SF.

7AM: Ace’s Budweiser for breakfast? Hey, you’ve come this far. Sink deep into the couches of this proud, dimly lit Nob Hill dive, and clink cans with your fellow “morning people.” 998 Sutter, SF.

8AM: Bechelli’s Flower Market Café A well-kept secret: the Flower Market Fizz, with orange juice, gin, and egg whites, is one of the best wake up calls around. Nice breakfast too, if you’re into that. 698 Brannan, SF.

9AM: Beach Chalet Nothing beats a refreshing peach Bellini after your morning run along Ocean Beach (or to steel you for a day of sightseeing with guests). You can get these by the pitcher here! 1000 Great Highway, SF.

10AM: Buena Vista Café Was the contemporary Irish Coffee really invented here in 1952? Who cares, this is the perfect time to down a couple delicious ones — before the Fisherman’s Wharf tourists rush in. 2765 Hyde, SF.

11AM: Cafe Flore Mornings on Flore’s spacious patio are a quiet, sunny Castro treatany kind of margarita you want in a European atmosphere, brimming with gorgeous people, of course. 2298 Market, SF.


Tapping back


THE WEEKNIGHTER Weekends are for amateurs. Weeknights are for pros. That’s why each week Broke-Ass Stuart ( will be exploring a different San Francisco bar, bringing you stories about the places and people who make San Francisco one of the most phenomenal cities in the world. Who wants a drink?

Sometimes I wish I could become unstuck in time — you know, in a Vonnegutian sense — and pop back into my own body at different times of my life. I’d love to once again see and feel who I was when I first visited the Gold Cane (1569 Haight, SF. 415-626-1112), back when I was 21, back when I was new to San Francisco, back when San Francisco was, well, different than it is now. They say Virginia is for lovers. Back then San Francisco was for freaks and weirdos. And I felt like I was both.

If I could pop into my own body that night when I was first visiting the Gold Cane, it would be 2002 and I’d be 21. My bed at the time was an air mattress and I slept in a living room that I shared with my friend Mani in a two-bedroom flat at Haight and Central. My hair was three different colors, my pants hung to my ass, and I wore an absurdly long hemp belt that dangled past my knees.

Walking in that night, I saw a barroom split in half: the right side was where the bar was and the left was full of tables. Beer signs and Giants paraphernalia littered the walls, as did old photos and art. Some mean fucker was running the pool table in the back and drunk people were doing drunk people things. It was perfect, and is pretty much exactly the same way today.

That night I met a pretty blond girl whose name I’ll never remember. We flirted for awhile, and I got her number, and when I left I imaged myself and the pretty blonde girl having a sweet summer fling and her letting me sometimes use her Internet to check my email. The place I was staying didn’t have Internet, and in 2002 W-Fi didn’t exist. I never ended up seeing the pretty blonde girl again because the next week I met my first love on the 71 bus.

If I could become unstuck in time I’d pop back into myself on the twentysomething-ish time I visited the Gold Cane. It was my first SantaCon and I’d turned 29 the night before. I’d somehow managed to lose everyone in my group and met some new friends at The Page. We got some food at The Little Chihuahua and then meandered up to the Gold Cane because it felt like the right thing to do. Walking in that night I saw an Irishman with white hair behind the bar, a jukebox playing impeccable tunes, and drunk people doing drunk people things. It was perfect and is pretty much exactly the same way today.

That night I met a pretty brown-haired girl. We drank and talked and laughed and spilled shit all over our Santa costumes. San Francisco was still full of freak and weirdos and we were of that ilk. The pretty brown-haired girl and I hit it off, but I had a girlfriend so I smartly dipped before I did something stupid. I’m not gonna say that being drunk in the Gold Cane makes you do stupid things, but it certainly doesn’t stop you from doing them either.

I dream about time travel a lot, both throughout the centuries and throughout my own life. If I’m time traveling within the Gold Cane I can do both, considering the bar has been around since 1926. I know the Gold Cane has some really cool history but I’m always too drunk to find out what it is, so I just tell my own stories instead.

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


Aloha, partner


THE WEEKNIGHTER Weekends are for amateurs. Weeknights are for pros. That’s why each week Broke-Ass Stuart ( will be exploring a different San Francisco bar, bringing you stories about the places and people who make San Francisco one of the most phenomenal cities in the world. Who wants a drink?

It was nighttime in North Beach and that series of New York Magazine articles had come out earlier in the day. You know the ones: They were saying how San Francisco was more New York than New York, and then demonstrated it by needling us on how tech was ruining our wonderful town. I was bummed.

It was like reading about the reasons they closed Tu-Lan a while back: You knew terrible things were happening, but up until then you were able to suspend your disbelief. I’d finished a vodka soda at Mr. Bing’s with a friend and then decided to see what else I could drink my way into. I imagine it’s that same sentiment that lands most people in Hawaii West (729 Vallejo, SF. 415-362-3220).

Even though I’d miraculously never been there before, this divey North Beach tiki bar felt like home as soon as I walked in. A guy was face-timing with his girlfriend while playing himself at pool, soul and funk emanated from the Music Choice channel on the TV, and a legless foosball table sat abandoned on a side table. It was my kind of rundown, my kind of weird. The bartender asked my name and then introduced me to the six or seven other patrons sitting at the bar. Their friendliness was overwhelming.

“How the fuck have I never been in here before?” I asked myself as I looked at the scores of pool trophies, tiny drink umbrellas, and the laminated poster suggesting a slew of different tropical cocktails. Hawaii West had been around for roughly 50 years, the bartender told me, but she didn’t know much about its history. I gave her my info and asked her to have the owner contact me so I could find out.

A few days later I got a text from Nolan Kellet, Hawaii West’s owner, a union roofer who’s been a building inspector on military bases throughout the US for the past decade. In our conversation he told me how his grandmother moved from Hawaii to SF in the early ’60s and opened the Aloha Café. His father, one-time president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1225, reopened the place in 1969 naming it Hawaii West, while his mother worked there serving longshoremen in the ’70s and ’80s and Academy of Art students in the ’90s.

“I remember as young boy in the early ’70s,” Kellet told me, “Hells’ Angels frequented the bar until the police station moved in across the street. I remember motorcycles lined up and down both sides of Vallejo Street. Wish I had some pics. They gave me rides through the Broadway tunnel and around Fisherman’s Wharf at a young age.”

Old bars are like the rings inside a tree trunk, they’re witnesses to history and become a record of it simply by existing. Hawaii West exemplifies this brilliantly. Walking in, you know great stories live there, you just have to dig a little deeper to get them.

“You guys get busy?” I asked the bartender as I was leaving. “Not really,” she told me. “You can pretty much come here with a group of friends anytime and take over the place.” I walked out of there drunk and smiling because I realized New York Magazine had missed a crucial point: We still have Hawaii West.

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

Full steam ahead


BEER Just across McCovey Cove from AT&T Park, the San Francisco Giants and Anchor Brewing Company are concocting a beer-filled future for Pier 48. As part of the Mission Rock development project, the new Anchor brewery, slotted to break ground in late 2015, would allow Anchor to quadruple production and remain in San Francisco.

The proposed brewery will eventually contain a restaurant, museum, educational space, and distillery. It’s being designed with giant windows that will offer an unprecedented view of operations. Brewing would be transparent enough to be observed while casually strolling the pier or even from certain seats inside the ballpark.

“As you come in and you look into the brewery, the first thing you’ll see will be one of the cold fermentors,” says architect Olle Lundberg, referring to the large cooling pans or “cool ships” Anchor still uses to chill its boiled beer batches. “The bar for the restaurant will look out over that, so you’ll be looking out over this kind of sea of beer into the brewery. If that doesn’t inspire you to drink, I don’t know what will.”

Anchor has been poised to expand for years. It even has a copper German brewhouse ready to install in the new facility. It’s been sitting in storage since it was purchased in the early 1990s by then-CEO Fritz Maytag. He left the collection of kettles, mash tuns, and fermentors unused when his plans for a new brewery were sidelined by that rarest of business concerns: happiness.

“In 1990 the brewery was doing about 100,000 barrels, which made it the number one craft brewery in the country,” says CEO Keith Greggor in his cheery British accent. “Further expansion was going to be very difficult, very costly. At the same time, [Maytag] got very interested in distilling and he decided, ‘You know what? I’m number one. I don’t need to focus on being the biggest and the baddest. I’m happy with what I’m doing and I’m going to focus on distilling now.’ And he was one of the first in that kind of craft distilling revolution that’s happened.”

This was the second craft revolution that Maytag, the great-grandson of Maytag Appliance founder Frederick Maytag, helped to ignite. In 1965, he was enjoying a “Steam Beer” at a North Beach restaurant when he was told it would be the last he would ever have: the brewery, which had survived Prohibition decades earlier, was closing. Hearing this, he purchased a controlling share of the company, saving from extinction not only a brewery in operation since 1896, but one of the only known styles of beer to have originated in America. “Steam Beer,” technically classified as “California Common Beer,” is a lager fermented at ale temperatures.

But times have changed since 1965. Craft brewing has been revived in America to the point that decorative plastic hops are A Thing. And competition demands more than being the only kid on the block with flavorful barley-pop. So in addition to the new brewery plans, Anchor will be discontinuing its bock beer and Humming Ale, while offering a new saison and an IPA.

“We like to say that we’re resting those beers,” says Greggor of the discontinued lines. “We have to respond to the consumer and retail demand for beer. And the demand for today is: ‘I want new. I want new.'”

And new it will be. Since 2010, when Maytag sold the brewery to the Griffin Group of Novato, most noted for their work with Skyy Vodka, Anchor has introduced several new beers to its regular line, including Brekle’s Brown, California Lager, and Big Leaf Maple. One the most recent is Small Beer, which draws from well-trod brewing techniques, making a lighter, more session-able ale from the mash of Old Foghorn — a more robust, flavorful brew.

And the Mission Rock development hopes to get even more out of those spent grains. As part of a proposed district-wide energy management facility, Anchor’s waste and run-off could be used to create methane for heating, and gray-water for toilets and sprinklers.

“We’re looking at all kinds of crazy, fun ideas for waste recapture,” says Fran Weld, director of real estate for the Giants. (The team, which is partnered with the Port of San Francisco on the project, asked Anchor to be the first tenant.) “The idea of looking at a district-wide solution is you can consolidate all of those chilling towers and boilers that the developers would otherwise build. You can do fewer of them because of the fact that you’re meeting the demands of the site as a whole — so your baseline of required energy is much lower.”

Still awaiting final approval from city agencies, the Mission Rock plan also includes mixed-use office, retail, restaurant, and manufacturing spaces, as well as affordable housing. But perhaps most remarkable is the development will enable San Francisco’s oldest and largest manufacturer to remain within the city, though at no small cost.

“You can imagine there are much, much cheaper places for them to build this facility,” says Lundberg, whose design firm is joint-venturing the project with Bohlin Cywinski Jackson. “They could just keep Potrero Hill as a kind of, you know, boutique signature facility and then make most of their product in Chico or somewhere. But instead they’ve decided that they really want to be here and they want to do it all here and there’s a big number attached to that.”

When asked if he has considered a opening an additional brewery elsewhere (as Petaluma-based Lagunitas has done in Chicago), Greggor is almost offended.

“I believe that Anchor belongs in San Francisco. That’s our history, that’s our heritage,” says Greggor. “People have an affinity to us, whether they drink beer or not, they like us being part of the city. They applaud our efforts to stay on in the city and make beer here even though it’s a very expensive environment to do so. And we ourselves are all committed personally and passionately to the city. And we don’t want to go anywhere else! We’ll make less money and live here, please.” *

Thirsty for more? Check out all the sudsy goings-on at SF Beer Week (, including events featuring Anchor beers, now through Sun/16.