Molly Freedenberg

More treasures from the Island


By Molly Freedenberg

Still a little fuzzy on what the Treasure Island Music Festival was like? Think blue skies, a slight breeze, and the scenes yours truly captured below.

Not even the brief power blackout could ruin Zion I’s upbeat, playful mood. When the sound and video stopped working, the freestylin’ MCs just worked harder to keep the crowd going.

Feast: 7 homey hearths


Amber is my living room, and not just because I really like Pabst Blue Ribbon and smoking inside. It’s also because I live in a city where rents are high and living space is scarce, where community rooms are shared with multiple people (if there are community rooms at all), and backyards tend only to be big enough for the recycling bin. In suburban places, people share community and comfort around backyard barbecue pits and luxurious living-room couches. They have dinner parties and cocktail hours and invite friends over for tea. But here, we go to bars and restaurants and taverns and coffee shops. These are the places where we meet our neighbors, celebrate special occasions, while away idle hours, have intense conversations. And so, in many ways, these places — particularly those in our neighborhoods — become extensions of our homes and hearths. As the cold weather approaches (global warming willing), I’ve been thinking more about the literal interpretation of hearth; Amber serves me for late-night writing sessions and drunken postdate tell-alls, but where will I go when I want to curl up with a hot chocolate — or a hot toddy — and a long Russian novel? When I want to play Trivial Pursuit late into the cold night with a small group of good friends? When the weather outside is frightful and my date is so delightful? Where, by god, are the fireplaces? In this city of Edwardian apartments retrofitted with gas heaters (and roomies who have to get up early), here is a list of places with flickering flames and belly-warming booze.


I don’t think the Irish invented the fireplace, but they may have the patent on its best use. Wood paneling? A flaming heat source? Thick beer and hot soup? All Irish pubs seem to have ’em — and this Irish-style Richmond locale is no different. Stumbling into the Bitter End feels a bit like wandering into an O’Malley’s or a McSweeney’s in any country in the world — and with items like shepherd’s pie, Gaelic chicken with whiskey, and beer-battered appetizers on the menu, it’s almost like wandering into one in Ireland itself.

441 Clement, SF. (415) 221-9538


Sometimes you want cozy and kooky all in the same shot — and those are the times you end up at McKenzie’s. This small local favorite is half neighborhood bar in a mountain town (downstairs) and half cheap hostel (upstairs). Either way, it’s charming: small tables cluster around a fireplace over which a flat-screen television broadcasts sports, a jukebox blasts cheesy-but-lovable ’80s hits, and a live-feed video camera in the upstairs lounge, its images visible to every patron downstairs, lends itself to endless prank possibilities.

5320 Geary, SF. (415) 379-6814


Wanting no frills in Nob Hill? Try Zeki’s, which boasts two fireplaces — one by the pool table and one directly across from the leather-lined bar. With paraphernalia from old movies lining the walls and a good selection of European beers on tap, you’ll quickly see why this is a favorite spot for both old-school regulars and just-stumbled-in newbies.

1319 California, SF. (415) 928-0677,


If ever there were a place that personified hearth, it would be John Barleycorn, the little mountain lodge in the city that’s in danger of disappearing by November. This is the place to order strong whiskey from a salty but jovial bartender, to sip it while sitting on church pews in front of roaring flames, to break out a game of rummy or Scrabble (housed in a cozy room behind the chimney) long after you’d already planned to go home.

1415 Larkin, SF. (415) 771-1620


A cross between a dive bar and a swanky hipster joint, this Sunset watering hole embodies the schizophrenia of its up-and-coming neighborhood. Which seems to be fine with the down-to-earth drinkers who perch on leather couches around the neon-lit fireplace that anchors the room’s otherwise understated decor.

603 Irving, SF. (415) 731-6433


A favorite of lesbians citywide and heteros in the know, this Bernal Heights beauty is most famous for its gorgeous garden patio. But a woodstove, a great jukebox, and strong, well-made drinks also make it perfect for those cold, foggy nights when all you want is a soft scarf, a smooth Scotch, and someone — boy, boi, or girl — to spoon with.

424 Cortland, SF. (415) 647-3099


OK. Including Hidden Vine may be cheating, as this secret hideaway doesn’t have a fireplace per se. But it’s sure got the atmosphere. Though this is a high-end drinkery, featuring a different wine region every month and offering an impressive selection of artisanal cheeses, the Vine is more comfy than chichi. And a display of white votive candles gives the impression — if not the heat — of a fireplace’s warmth.

620 Post, SF. (415) 674-3567,*

Feast: 5 East Bay breakfasts


San Francisco is a city of the night. We like to go out late, stay out till early, and start our days when most other cities are half-finished with theirs. But if the city is ruled by the moon (and maybe some MDMA), the East Bay is ruled by the sun — and not just because they actually get some. Sure, there are places in Berkeley and Oakland to go after dark, but our sisters across the water are places best experienced while clear yellow light is still shining through green trees onto wide streets lined with charming wooden houses — or charming little breakfast spots. I won’t argue that the East Bay has better breakfast places than San Francisco does — though the competition is formidable — but I will say that if I’m in Emeryville or Alameda, the likelihood of me getting up in time to have breakfast is much, much greater than if I’ve spent the last hours of yesterday and the first of today in the Mission or Polk Gulch. And so here is a guide to my favorite places to enjoy that first meal of the day at a time when you don’t have to call it dinner, and in a place where being up that early is, well, worth it.


There’s nothing that says Berkeley like Sunday brunch at the Thai Temple: ethnic food, an eccentric crowd, ridiculous prices, and a certain amount of in-the-know-ness that’s required to even find yourself there. Sure, the mango and sweet rice or spicy green beans and tofu are more lunch fare than what we’d traditionally think of as breakfast food, but the temple starts serving them at 9 a.m. — and the delicious and just-oily-enough meat or veggie options are the perfect hangover cure for a night out in the city. A few extra hints: bring your own drinks, unless you want the stellar Thai iced tea; get there before 12:30 p.m., when they start running out of the good stuff; and, if in a group, use a divide-and-conquer, multiline approach to ordering. Then stretch out on the lawn of the library next door for a nice, sunny afternoon nap.

1911 Russell, Berk. (510) 849-3419


The name may be silly, but the Mexican-inspired fare at this Old Town Oakland eatery is serious. The real draw is the back patio, which manages — with large umbrellas and red and white checkered tablecloths — to be both classy and casual at the same time. But crispy potatoes served with sour cream, savory crepes with chicken-apple sausage, and an omelet made with slow-roasted pork would even make sitting inside worth it. Extra extra bonus points for including a Michelada (a beer and tomato juice cocktail, sometimes called a poor man’s Bloody Mary) on the menu, as most people have never even heard of it.

719 Washington, Oakl. (510) 465-5400,


Don’t let the fact that you have to order at the counter fool you — this is no fast-food bagel joint. It’s cornmeal blueberry pancakes and bacon-onion scrambles so deliciously and lovingly prepared that when you’re done, you’ll hardly remember that no one showed up at your table with a notepad. Plus, you can enjoy your meal either in the intimate dining room — breakfast with your best bud, anyone? — or on the back patio. Who needs table service too?

1235 San Pablo, Albany. (510) 526-6325


I love breakfast food. Always have, even if I’m eating it at midnight. So it’s hard to make me unhappy with an early-day menu. But it’s equally hard to impress me with every single part of a breakfast — and Café Cacao manages it. You could argue I’m distracted by the aroma of chocolate wafting over from the Scharffen Berger factory next door, or that I’m charmed by the classy-yet-casual Eurostyle architecture. But I know it’s really that the eggs are poached to perfection, the levain toast has just the right combination of texture and taste, the rosemary brown butter is rich and flavorful without being too heavy, the accompanying salad is fresh and not overdressed, and the hot chocolate (made with real chocolate) is the best I’ve ever had in my life.

914 Heinz, Berk. (510) 843-6000,


How is it that Venus is both pretty and unpredictable? With breakfast haunts, usually you have to choose one or the other. But not at this lovely, less crowded alternative to La Note. Brick walls and a map-inspired (or maybe collage-inspired) menu give it a homey feel. Creative options — from a framboise mimosa to Indian breakfast served with banana raita — make the food distinctive. And true culinary virtuosity — the fresh fruit and cashew, almond, and poppyseed brittle over yogurt could make me give up omelets forever — make the establishment worth trying again and again. Plus, everything here is seasonal, organic, and sustainable: good for your body and your conscience.

2327 Shattuck, Berk. (510) 540-5950,

Feast: 5 sexy suppers


Some dates are sweet. You go to a nice restaurant with lacy tablecloths, order food that won’t make your breath stink later, have polite conversation while shyly catching each other’s eye over the rim of your wine glass, and hold hands tentatively as you walk to the car, wondering if you’ll share a delicate kiss before you part ways for the night. But these aren’t usually the dates I want. More often, I like my dates down and dirty, boozy and bawdy, or, at the very least, out of the ordinary. I want to be either seduced by the cuisine or seduced by my company, but either way, I want my evening out to get me off. Here are some date destinations that are a guaranteed sure thing.


You can’t talk about food and sex and San Francisco without talking about this SoMa phenomenon. The food is good — the crab cakes are more crab than filler, and the beef in the steak salad was good quality — but the real reason you’re here is the drag show, though "drag show" is an anemic phrase for describing what you’ll see. This swanky spot features some of the hottest women this side of the Y chromosome (or Thailand) and some of the best dramatic performances this side of the Fringe Festival. My personal favorite? Red-haired Ginger, who downed a liter of Grey Goose and a bottle of "pills" while lip-syncing to "All by Myself." Pair her performance with the mint-heavy pomegranate mojito, and you’ll find yourself trying to take her home at the end of the night. (Note: She won’t go — she has a beau.)

201 Ninth St., SF. (415) 255-2742,


You know those fantasies you have about being royalty in some foreign country while you seduce your polite, well-mannered, yet kinky lover-to-be over a plate of something steamy? This is the place you want to do it. The main dining room isn’t much to look at, but get a reservation for the Fantasy Room and you’ll find yourself in a private, beaded booth with cucumber-infused drinking water, warm towels scented with rose water, and Indian food served more elegantly than you ever imagined it could be (think geometric plates and California cuisine–<\d>style garnishes). The prix-fixe menu is a bit overpriced, but the Kama Sutra cocktail really is titilutf8g. And there’s something to be said for having control over your own lights and playing shoeless footsy under your private table.

1122 Post, SF. (415) 775-1988,


San Francisco does dive bars, and does them well. But this city also does sexy elegance in a way that’s particularly ours, and Ovation is a perfect example. This hotel restaurant is opulent and classically romantic, with green velvet chairs and white tablecloths and entrées that cost more than most parking tickets. But in true Bay Area style, it’s also accessible, comfortable, and beautiful in an understated way — all of which make it sneakily sexy. The small, intimate bar grounds the dining room, and a fireplace warms the dignified décor, which might otherwise seem cold and baroque. Plus, is there anything hotter than illicit bathroom sex when you’re all dressed up?

333 Fulton, SF. (415) 553-8100


I’m not sure I understand the appeal of oysters. I’ve trained myself to like them, especially with a bit of horseradish and ketchup. But are they really an aphrodisiac? Is it because of their obvious resemblance to female body parts? Or is it because you know that if your date can handle their mucusy texture and fishy flavor, they surely can handle, uh, yours? I can’t begin to guess. I prefer the sides of broccoli and fries (both well made) over the seafood at this joint in the Safeway district. But there’s one thing I find truly sexy about Woodhouse oysters: on Tuesday nights, they’re $1 apiece. Which means that after filling up, there’s still enough cash for a shot of tequila at the Transfer and coffee in the morning. And what’s sexier than shellfish? A date that doesn’t break the bank.

2073 Market, SF. (415) 473-CRAB,


Dinner in bed? It’s almost too obvious. But you can’t deny the appeal of overt sexuality, even if it’s delivered in a stylized, sometimes-too-LA package. The all-white dining room at this dinner-as-experience destination is striking, and I’ve rarely tasted food so delicious and subtle — particularly the vegetarian options — as it is here. And whether it was watching a tranny strip down, without fanfare or theatricality, to his bald, tattooed, masculine self, or whether it was the Late Night Sneaky I ordered (top-shelf tequila, a Corona, and an ExportA cigarette in a shot glass), or whether it was just settling into the couch cushions as my dirty martini settled into my bloodstream, it was hard to wait to jump my date until we got home.

657 Harrison, SF. (415) 348-0900,*

Careers and Ed: Paid to party



Careers and Ed: Paid to party


By Molly Freedenberg

For some of us, playing is an escape from work. But for a lucky few, playing is their work. Sound like fun? It is, say the professional partyers we interviewed. But it’s still … well … work. Below are full interviews with Juanita More, Justin Morgan, DJ Solomon, Nicole Cronin, Andie Grace, Lisa Hix, and Syd Gris — all people whose job it is to make you forget yours.


San Francisco Bay Guardian: What do you do and what are your primary duties?

Juanita More: I wear so many different hats, it’s hard to throw a label on me. But, I think the persona the public most perceives is that I am a full-time party girl. In reality, I spend the majority of my time creating, supporting and developing new ideas, artwork and events.

SFBG: Is this your primary form of income? If not, how else do you make money?

JM: What money?

The cradle will ROCK


By Molly Freedenberg

Screw my red velvet duvet cover and all its soft, squishy opulence. If only I had an extra $1300, I’d redecorate my bed with a bit of bite from Quiltsryche. But since I’m poor, I’ll just have to settle for going to sleep with Ministry on my headphones.

Bangover, by Quiltsryche

Thanks to Thrillist for the tip.

Two synthesizers and a microphone



When Chromeo released their Vice debut, She’s in Control, in 2004, the electrofunk duo from Montreal mainly stayed a cult favorite, semifamous for their single "Needy Girl" and mostly unknown otherwise. But with their just-released sophomore album, Fancy Footwork (Vice), and their tour with Jock Jams favorites Flosstradamus, it seems their ’80s pop–influenced, synth-heavy dance beats may have finally found their temporal groove. After all, if T-shirts masquerading as dresses and leggings masquerading as pants can come back, why can’t foot-tapping, bleep-blooping, stay-in-your-head-all-day music? (Especially since, unlike those other retro trends, Chromeo’s music actually works.)

But don’t think that Chromeo is just a throwback joke band, satirizing male-male ’80s pop — they call themselves "the thugged-out Hall and Oates" — the way the Darkness satirizes glam rock. Sure, the Montreal-born longtime friends, P-Thugg (Patrick Gemayel, who daylights as an accountant) and Dave-1 (Dave Macklovitch, who’s also earning his doctorate in French lit at Columbia University), have a sense of humor about their music; one look at the Fancy Footwork cover, on which synthesizers have sexy mannequin legs, tells you that — to say nothing of their claim that they’re the first successful Arab-Jewish collaboration in history.

But the music is no joke. Taking a step away from their past as hip-hop producers, the team decided to pay homage to the musicians who helped shape them, from Phil Collins to Robert Palmer.

"I grew up on MTV," Macklovitch writes in an e-mail interview. "I used to watch Billy Ocean and Huey Lewis videos and I wanted to be those guys. I got my first erection watching David Lee Roth’s ‘California Girls’ video."

It’s what made their first full-length so much fun: just like the records of those bands in the ’80s, it’s totally earnest about its danceability, its focus on relationships, and its love of computerized sounds. But rather than regurgitate the same formula, Gemayel and Macklovitch took enough time with their second disc to do something a bit different. Fancy Footwork is a more sophisticated collection of songs, both musically and thematically. "Momma’s Boy" is a funny, self-aware ode to the Oedipus complex; "Opening Up," a fresh, unusual take on the rebound relationship — which, by the way, references "Needy Girl." And if there’s any question that these are dance anthems written from a mature perspective, there’s "Bonafied Lovin’," a song about what an older man can offer a woman that her younger boyfriend can’t, from the perspective of someone who actually knows ("Never mind an SMS/ What you need is a sweet caress").

Complaints about Chromeo come mostly from the electronic music community, which argues that their simple beats and Prince-inspired melodies don’t add much to the techno canon. But Chromeo shouldn’t be compared to the Chemical Brothers. This is dance-party, road-trip, living-room-Jazzercise, and MySpace theme song music: fun taken seriously.*


With Flosstradamus, Codebreaker, and DJs Jefrodisiac and Richie Panic

Mon/23, 9 p.m.; free with RSVP at


444 Jessie, SF

(415) 625-8880

For the rest of the interview with Chromeo’s Dave-1, go to

Yay! New reasons to hate your body!


By Molly Freedenberg

Library - 386.jpg
Because all we need is another magazine telling us how thin, young, and Caucasian we’re not, a group of editors and doctors have decided to bring us a new mag, New Beauty. What’s new about New Beauty, you ask? Basically, this is a mag that does for lipo and Botox what InStyle does for lipstick and Lucky Jeans. Including the part where it reminds us we’re not rich enough to actually get what we need to be less flawed than we so clearly are.

Now, to be fair, I have to admit the magazine is well designed, and it’s refreshingly text heavy for a mag targeting women (though the font’s a bit small for my aging eyes). And New Beauty does have a panel of actual doctors, dermatologists, and scientists acting as some kind of official resource, so at least they’re not approaching such serious subjects as surgery and implants in an irresponsibly fluffy way. I also have to concede that this could be a great resource for people already interested in getting these procedures and wanting to know more about them.

But Jesus. Is this what it’s coming to? Facelifts for 20 somethings? Preventative Botox? And treating these kinds of procedures as normally as we’d treat self-tanners or slimming pantyhose? I know it’s just a reflection of our culture and all, so perhaps I should be complaining about that, not the fact that the magazine is (wisely, from a financial standpoint) capitalizing on it.

But I believe the role of the media is to shape culture as much as reflect it. And by its very existence, this magazine is pushing us even more in the direction of age-phobic, superficial self-loathing. Sigh. I guess it’s back to Bitch and Bust and Cunt for me.

Pro Prokofiev


By Molly Freedenberg

When I heard the San Francisco Symphony is hosting a Prokofiev festival – ten whole days devoted to one composer – I figured I should probably know who this guy is. If our city’s esteemed symphony thinks he’s so important, shouldn’t I know why? So I set out doing my research, sure that I knew nothing about the little bugger.

Turns out I’m more familiar with the Soviet musician than I thought – and so, probably, are most of us. He’s the composer responsible for Peter and the Wolf – that famous piece used in elementary schools across the country to teach the kiddies about classical music. He also wrote the most famous version of Romeo and Juliet, the one written for the original Kirov Theatre production. He mastered several genres of music, wrote for film and for children as well as for symphonies, and basically kicked musical ass all over the world. And far from being a hero just to the classical set, he had such far reach that seminal punk band The Damned actually put out a 7” single dedicated to him, appropriately named “Prokofiev.” Which is to say, dude’s pretty badass. Or, you know, he was (he died in 1953).

It seems he was also a bit of an oddball. The little child prodigy started playing piano and composing music before most of us stopped sucking our thumbs – and yet, his first piece in the key of F completely skipped using the B-flat key because he didn’t like touching the black keys. (Wtf?) Later, teenage Sergei was known in the St. Petersburg music scene for being an enfant terrible(i.e. a pain in the ass), and now is considered one of the most important, and quirkiest, composers of the 20th century. thomas.gif

All of which is why conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and four virtuosic soloists are dedicating a quarter of a month to the Russian firebrand. And though the festival started June 14, you haven’t missed your chance to hear Prokofiev’s music for yourself. On June 22 and 23, see “Films, Frenzies, Fairy Tales,” featuring Prokofiev’s scores for the film Lieutenant Kije and the ballet Cinderella. And on June 24, see “Primitive and Refined,” a program featuring Piano Concerto No. 4 for the left hand (written for Paul Wittgenstein, who lost an arm in World War I), and two pieces inspired by Slavic paganism. For more information and ticket prices, visit the Symphony website.

Flipping for Pride



It isn’t easy being a male cheerleader. Never mind that any cheerleading above the junior high school level requires not only coordination, commitment, skill, and athleticism but also just plain balls. Cheerleading carries a stigma of being fluffy, froofy, and effeminate: if sports were food, many people would consider cheerleading cotton candy. And that’s just for women. God forbid you should have a Y chromosome and think it might be fun to do back tucks, throw people into the air, or dance in sync with 20 other people. If you’re a spirit-squad hetero, you probably spend all your time proving it. And if you’re gay? Better bone up on those self-defense classes — and then get ready for your career as a wisecracking, flamboyant sitcom roommate.

That is, unless you’re a member of CHEER SF, the world’s first and longest-running LGBT-identified cheerleading squad. Yes, you’ve seen them at practically every major queer-oriented event, but what do you really know about them? Though the all-volunteer squad is officially coed, its makeup of more than 30 members now tends to be 75 percent male, and most of them are gay — CHEER SF started in 1980, in fact, as an all-gay male squad of five members. Even more important, they’re serious cheerleaders, performing gravity-defying stunts, remarkably syncopated dance moves, awe-inspiring gymnastics, and all. Volunteers are asked to make a one-year commitment, show up for three-hour rehearsals every Tuesday, and promise to perform 10 times a year (with another 20 events optional). Not to mention the financial investment: polyester performance uniforms, plus T-shirts, shorts, and shoes, which can add up to $400 before cheer camp and travel costs.

No, this is no swishy, ironic version of Will Ferrell’s famous SNL skits. This is the kind of squad that, if you saw them compete on CNN, would make you go, "Holy crap, they’re amazing."


Look closely and you’ll see something else that sets CHEER SF apart, aside from its dude-to-dudette ratio: inclusiveness of ethnicities, sizes, ages, and gender identifications. And if you have any familiarity with cheerleading, you’d notice something else unusual: men in the air.

In traditional cheerleading, men and women have traditional roles. Men are bases and tumblers, valued for strength and stability. Women are fliers and dancers, valued for lightness and cuteness in a short skirt. Not so with CHEER SF, which has been sending men into the air for 20 years. The result is not only revolutionary — something that, like sideways haircuts and oversize sunglasses, the mainstream has finally picked up on way after the gay community discovered it — but also spectacular.

"Guys that fly, they’re awesome," said main choreographer and creative director Morgan Craig, a former dancer and gymnast who joined the squad after he was handed a flyer in the Castro 16 years ago. "Right now, one of our male fliers does a double full basket."

I’m not touching that comment with a 10-inch pole.

Of course, not all guys can, or want to, fly. That’s why women were invited to join the squad eight years ago: there just weren’t enough small men who wanted to be thrown into the air to execute collegiate-level stunts. Now, with a coed squad, CHEER SF gets the best of both worlds: female fliers with their natural lightness, as well as male fliers, who tend to be stronger and also carry their weight in different places — making for different and often more daring stunts.


So who are these people? Former cheerleaders, dancers, and athletes. Those with experience and those with the desire to get some. People who make cheer their life, like Craig, who coaches high school and all-star teams, teaches tumbling for cheerleaders, and mixes cheer music (!) for a living. And people who hold down noncheer day jobs, like 49-year-old Steve Burke, who works as a vocational rehabilitation counselor.

"My life is doing good things and getting paid for it and doing good things and not getting paid for it," he said.

Oh yeah. Did I mention one tiny detail? CHEER SF saves lives. Its mission is to raise money to help those with HIV, AIDS, cancer, and other life-challenging diseases. Some proceeds come from performance fees (CHEER SF has performed everywhere from Singapore to San Diego), but most are donations dropped in the "spirit bucket" passed around at every performance. In its 27-year history, the group has raised nearly $100,000, Burke said, "mostly one dollar at a time." This year, it expects to make its largest donation ever — more than $30,000.

Burke said the do-gooding is the primary reason CHEER SF is just as fun, if not more, as the cheering he did at Sacramento State in 1980. Back then "you were out there supporting your teams and your school, and that was really rewarding," he said. "But with CHEER SF, everybody’s our team."


As for the current state of men in cheerleading, Burke and Craig say it isn’t as bad as it used to be, thanks in large part to Bring It On (a.k.a. the Best Movie Ever) and regular CNN coverage of cheerleading competitions, which bring to light just how cool — and difficult and dangerous — cheerleading can be.

But with charity cheer squads modeled off CHEER SF popping up all over the country, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say our local LGBT-identified team has had something to do with heating up the cheerleading climate too.

As Burke said, "Cheerleading can change the world."<\!s>*

Playing hooky from Pride? Go to the garden.


By Molly Freedenberg
mutisia sublata.jpg

Looking to take a break from Pride madness next Sunday? How about a good old-fashioned Garden Party? The UC Botanical Garden is holding a fundraiser called inflorescence! [sic] from 2pm to 6pm, featuring food, wine tasting, a silent auction, and music by jazzy, eclectic VidyA and vintage, acoustic Dodge’s Sundodgers (think polkas and waltzes, Hawaiian music, traditional Mexican tunes, and plenty more music you can dance to). Oh yeah, and gorgeous June-blooming flowers (like the mutisia sublata, pictured right), of course. Tickets are $45 in advance, $50 at the door. Buy yours and get more information on the event’s website.

Location info: UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive, Berk. (510) 643-2755 x03,

Transported SF is on a roll (but doesn’t fucking roll on Shabbos)


By Molly Freedenberg

It’s about time to talk about TransportedSF, not just because they have another kickass event coming up June 21, but because their sexy little crew dubbed “The Nomads” just graced a page in our equally sexy Scene Magazine (on newstands last week, and online for, well, ever.)

So. Here’s the deal with the Transported crew: they’re awesome. Need more information than that? Okay, fine. The idea is this: a biodiesel bus taking passengers on themed adventures throughout the city, from hosted dinners to impromptu outdoor DJ parties to movie nights. The bus picks you up at the Rite Spot, gives you a night to remember, and drops you back off at a reasonable hour. You drink, play, or simply don’t have to worry about driving. In exchange, you pay a nominal fee.

The view inside — part lounge, part partymobile. The very back of the bus acts as a dance floor or movie screen, depending on the night’s theme (and the time of night).

The guys at the helm (literally and metaphorically) are Jens-Peter Jungclaussen (yes, he’s German), who has traditionally used his bus (named Das Frachtgut, meaning “The Good Freight,” though Jungclaussen might change it to something English mouths can better pronounce) for educational and corporate events; and Alxndr Warnow, a DJ, promoter, and photographer who’s worked with Jungclaussen for more than two years. Most importantly, these guys are fun. Which pretty much guarantees their events are fun. Case in point? Our Big Lebowski tour a few weeks ago.

I heart (Ba)carbs


By Molly Freedenberg

You’d think that if I was going to rave about Bacar, it’d be for its swank, open design. Or for the stellar wine selection. Or even for the existence of an on-site sommelier there to answer questions with words like “oaky” and “hint of grapefruit” (and with a straight face). Maybe you’d even expect me to talk about the food, which I didn’t try, but my neighbors during a recent visit swore was fab-u-lous.bacar.jpg

But no. I’m going to talk about the bread. Fresh and warm and served with a ramekin of butter that was not only soft enough to spread but also arrived with a stripe of rock salt for flavor and flair. And this basket o’ goodness isn’t just one variety of bread either, oh no. It’s cornbread with a hint of spice and a blissfully subtle sweetness. Some kind of white bread that’s soft and dense on the inside, and crusty (but not hard) on the outside. And a brown bread highlighted – but not overpowered – by herbs.

You can get the bread as part of a meal, one you’re surely sharing with some well-paid love interest while wearing your best heels or your most recently pressed shirt. But I prefer to get it by itself, accompanied only by a bottle of half-price wine (a Monday special! Woohoo!) and the company of a good gossipy friend. There’s nothing like carbs and confidential information to end your workday right…

Bars of mystery


Sometimes you just want to get into trouble: drink too much, dance too crazy, see the sun rise on a workday, do some ill-advised flirting, steal a kiss (or more) in a bar bathroom, follow a shot of Patrón with a cocaine back. It isn’t too hard to get into trouble in this city, where the only rule seems to be that there are no rules (except that last call’s at two, sigh). But sometimes you need a little push — and a little unpredictability — to explore the outer reaches of your comfort zone. A few weeks here and you already know a hundred places to get your drink on: swanky places, divey places, places with good music or music so bad it feels good. It’s hard to remain anonymous, however, when you’re sipping Fat Tire and smoking spliffs on the same outdoor patio you visit every Friday, or ordering Maker’s on the rocks from the bartender who’s best friends with your last lover. And when it comes to enjoying a bit of mischief, anonymity is key. You need the unknown. A puzzle unsolved. A night stretching out before you whose story has yet to be written — the most important element being that its setting has yet to be, well, set. Which is where I come in.

Just call me Nancy Drink, Cocktail Detective. My mission? To scour the city for bars of mystery: those places you’ve passed but never entered, places whose very names are enigmas, and places so random, so hidden, so far away or just plain weird that you’ve never heard of them at all. The places where no one would think to look for you.


This story starts with the enigma that is the Western Addition … oh sorry, NoPa. Which is it? The "scary" neighborhood of yore? Or the latest example of gentrification? Judging by Club Waziema, a charming Ethiopian restaurant and bar that’s a favorite of locals and virtually unknown to everyone else, the answer is both. There’s something decidedly laid-back, eclectic, and a little low-key — that is, a little Western Addition — about the place, with its red and white velvet wallpaper, low lighting in front, and a back room with a pool table that feels more like a hostel rec room than a hipster bar. But the family-run business is keeping up with the neighborhood’s growth, and hints of NoPa are creeping in: for example, the menu of microbrews listed alongside Ethiopian imports (skip the malty stout if you’re not a fan of Old English 40-ouncers; try the harrar instead). Still, this place isn’t exactly on the scenester radar yet — and it’s better for it. You’re really here for the fantastic eat-with-your-hands food and the spot’s off-the-beaten-path, what-happens-at-Club-Waziema-stays-at-Club-Waziema feel.

543 Divisadero, SF. (415) 346-6641,


With a name like Forbidden Island, I figured this must be just the joint to get into delightful, delicious trouble. I wasn’t wrong. Sprouting from an otherwise quiet street was a beacon of bamboo and booze, with a thatched ceiling and a menu of fruity rum drinks organized by strength. Enough Banana Mamacows or Macadamia Nut Chi Chis and there’s no telling what one might do — maybe even something as daring as smoking on the back patio past 9 p.m., when a neighborhood noise ordinance necessitates its closure. Nahhh … this place is still a bit too tame, a bit too Disney-does-Hawaii, for such bold moves. But a young’un celebrating a 21st birthday with a drink in a bowl could certainly do some damage.

1304 Lincoln, Alameda. (510) 749-0332,


What a strange, strange place. Where Forbidden Island’s kitsch is calculated, Bow Bow’s is completely organic. The tiny Chinatown joint has the size, shape, and ambience of a lunch counter — white walls, neon, and all. It also has karaoke, which you wouldn’t even know until you heard some drunk fucks at the end of the bar singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" … oh wait, those drunk fucks were my friends and I. There’s no stage. The screen showing lyrics is suspended between the bathroom doors. And the only person there who can sing worth a damn is the man in charge of the karaoke book (with English and Chinese selections, by the way), with a voice like Harry Nilsson’s. Everyone else seems to stumble in already drunk and high, ready to do in public what they’d normally only do alone in their car.

1155 Grant, SF. (415) 421-6730


Could this be the Bow Bow’s older, more sophisticated, yet seedier cousin? Perhaps. It’s just up Grant, casting its crimson glow onto the street. Inside, an homage to Buddha punctuates the L-shaped bar. Extra booths and a back room hide from the foyer. The usual alcohol selection shares shelves with unfamiliar liquors in small bottles with wooden tops, the ingredients written in Cantonese. The house drink is the mai tai, which is the color of roses and tastes like sweet tequila. And on the night that I visited, there on a cracked red bar stool, watching Asian television on the flat-screen TV, was the karaoke man from the Bow Bow. Coincidence? Was he following me? Or is there really some kind of connection between the bars?

916 Grant, SF. (415) 982-0072


Some of the best mysteries are those hidden in plain sight. Like Radio Habana, the hush-hush restaurant-bar nestled sneakily into a corner at 22nd Street and Valencia. Radio Habana has no sign — and it’s particularly obscured by some new construction on Valencia. But if you keep an eye out for the intentionally skewed windowpane and the metal cockroach pinned to the door, you’ll find exactly the kind of place where time stands still, where novels are written, and where stories worthy of novels are perhaps played out. The highlights? Dioramas featuring Barbie dolls, cockeyed pictures, framed homages to John Lennon and Kafka’s Metamorphosis, homemade sangria, and delicious Latin-inspired food (from a quaintly small menu) served on gorgeous, long, rectangular plates.

1109 Valencia, SF. (415) 824-7659


There’s nothing about the name of this bar that sounds appealing. I don’t want to enter a dog’s anything, much less drink in it. The consonants alone, rolling around in your mouth, taste bitter. So the mystery is, why give a place such a name? And why go here at all? Turns out this Irish bar’s moniker is a version of the across-the-pond phrase dog’s bollocks, which means, roughly, "the best ever" (though it does also translate as canine testicles). And though it’s rumored to be overrun by Marina-type college kids and sometimes smell like urine, I found it delightful late on a weeknight: dark wood, frothy Guinness, a pool table, a large, long bar where you can chat with the friendly, attractive (though Scottish!) bartender, and small nooks for more intimate conservations.

408 Clement, SF. (415) 752-1452


It was a dark and stormy night … no, wait, that was the Dark and Stormy cocktail I had at Le Colonial across the street after trying — and failing — to visit the Hidden Vine, a place so very hidden that it wasn’t even open. Apparently there was "no hot water." A likely story. Surely something unseemly was going on behind those closed doors. Nothing like a wine bar in the dark to inspire criminal activity. But that would have to wait for another investigation. I was on a very particular mission and couldn’t be distracted by just any old cries from the city’s dark underbelly, even if it was an underbelly filled with pinot noir.

1/2 Cosmo Place (at Taylor), SF. (415) 674-3567,


Barley ‘n Hops is the kind of place you’d never stumble on. You’d have to know it was there, tucked away on the second floor of the 55 Parc Hotel. It has bright lights and carpet and an airport-lounge feel. Also a sports theme, with Angels autographs on the walls, a Giants helmet on a pedestal, and televisions blaring news and sports. But I’m not fooled by such sterile-seeming ambience. I know this is a place to make secret deals, to order a hit, to plot the overthrow of an evil dictator. Or to down a few shots of Patrón and get out before I’m tempted to thwart a coup.

55 Parc Hotel, 55 Cyril Magnin, SF. (415) 392-8000


The first time I drove by this bar, I was on one of those strange adventures involving interpersonal dynamics and unreal drama that can’t be written about in a nonfiction format. The kind of day when my answer was, "No, dear bar, I wouldn’t believe." So of course, I had to return to this Richmond enigma as part of my search for tippling treasure. What is it, I wondered, that the bar didn’t think I’d believe? Turns out it’s that the place is so … well … normal. A bit divey, a bit upscale. Ridiculously attractive bartenders juxtaposed with middle-aged clientele rolling dice on the bar and locals playing pool in the sunken foyer. Perhaps I also wouldn’t believe that I’d find myself there on a Wednesday, swing dancing to the Rolling Stones and sipping a fantastic mojito and an impressive Godfather (whiskey and something …) before seeing dawn on yet another workday. But now, I believe. I believe.

4642 Geary, SF. (415) 752-7444


Those in the know call it "the Philly." I knew it only as the lone beacon of light in the otherwise dark and quiet West Portal neighborhood near the tunnel. From its name, you’d expect an interior wreathed by curls of smoke rising from cigarettes held by fedora-wearing men discussing Nietzsche and Kant. But the place is much more like a neighborhood pub. Unpretentious. Friendly. Comfortable. The light hanging over the pool table resembled a ’50s surfer station wagon. "Why is it called the Philosopher’s Club?" I asked the bartender, who’s also the owner. His answer, appropriately Socratic: "Why not?"

824 Ulloa, SF. (415) 753-0599

BAR 821

"If you found us, do not tell others." That’s the Bar 821 golden rule, a rule just begging to be broken if you’re a spirits sleuth like Nancy Drink. The forced speakeasy theme seems painfully pretentious — until you actually visit the tiny NoPa (yes, folks, where Club Waziema is headed, Bar 821 has already arrived) haunt. The spot offers affordable champagne cocktails, plenty of Belgian beers, and a small, swank, but surprisingly unsnooty interior perfect for intimate conversations. Get there early, though. The place stops letting people in at 11 p.m. Whether the bartenders kick you out then, though, is a nightly mystery …

821 Divisadero, SF.

Dell’uva: my kind of wine bar


By Molly Freedenberg
I like wine bars. Not only for the obvious reason — good wine — but because they tend to be small, intimate, and a bit quiet – the perfect place for an intimate conversation or romantic rendezvous. The thing about them, though, is they also often tend to be pretentious. Or stark. Or cold. Or all of the above. And this is too bad for someone like me, who enjoys the occasional dress-up affair but is more of a Pabst and jeans and easy laughter kind of girl.

Enter Dell’uva, a brand spanking new (as in, less than a month old) wine bar in North Beach. This place has the ambience of a nice coffee shop, the soundtrack of a good neighborhood bar (you might hear hip hop, indie rock, or reggae on any given night), and the visual stimulation of a sports bar (yes, there are TVs showing basketball and football – though I’m trying to convince the owners to host a Lost night when the season starts up again).

I’d dump her too


By Molly Freedenberg

I must admit, I was excited about . I like Debra Messing. I liked the First Wives Club. And I have some kind of strange, in-born affinity for the dumped, abandoned, lost, and unappreciated. (Charlie brown Christmas tree, anyone?) So I was primed and prepared to like the Will and Grace star’s new USA TV show (which premiered May 31). What’s more, the first time I saw it I was drunk, tired, and suffering the kind of insomnia born of too much wine and too much Diet Coke.


Even so.

I found the show cheesy. And irrelevant. And overacted. I can’t look past the fact that it’s a navel-gazing premise about a Hollywood executive’s wife who’s left to suffer the indignities of not getting in the good restaurants (the horror!) or hanging out with the celebrities (even more horror!) after her high powered husband dumps her without warning ort explanation. Maybe this resonates with Beverly Hills first wives, but there’s nothing universal enough in this show to extend beyond that demographic. At least, not in the first episode. “And I’m not sure there’s enough here for me to give it a second shot.

Of course, I am a never-married journalist living on a salary that affords me the kind of luxury you can enjoy with three roommates and no in-house washing machine, so I might be biased. But still. There’s so much potential with this actress (I refuse to call her an “actor”) and with this premise. Why waste it on Hollywood clichés?


Back to DVDs of Buffy and reruns of Lost for me.

Money for nothing and the booze for free


By Molly Freedenberg

During the summer of 2000, as a a recent college grad with a lot of desire to drink and only a little money with which to do it, I made a chart of Portland bars’ happy hours, drink specials, and free food nights so I’d always have know where to drink affordably. The chart was divided by day. It was color coded. It also was a ridiculous waste of time – particularly since bar policies change so often that my chart was quickly rendered obsolete.

But I stand by the fact that the idea of such a resource was a good idea: for example, it’s Wednesday, it’s two o’clock, and I’m thirsty. Oh look! The chart says it’s half off beers at My Father’s Place right now! … or whatever.

New York businesses already know that giving away alcohol is actually in their best interest. But Bay Area bars still need to catch on. “I never thought I’d say it, but SF needs to loosen up a bit,” said myopenbar staff writer Dave Schonenberg.

Well, the folks at sf.myopenbar have taken that idea (not from me, mind you) and improved upon it by about a thousand perfect. These wise folks compile a list of all the ways and places to drink for cheap or free in the SF area. And they’re actually places you’d want to go, like Amnesia for karaoke and $2 PBR, El Rio for free oysters and $2.50 drinks (today), or the Swap SF event for vodka, coffee, and clothes-sharing for $5 (Saturday). Plus, they include events like Critical Mass (Drinking on your bike is free, isn’t it?) and art gallery openings.

Pop! goes Monterey


By Molly Freedenberg
In case you hadn’t heard (though you’d have to have spent the past two months on acid to have missed the news by now), this year is the 40th anniversary of just about every major event that defined the music and culture of the 60s. Which means this summer should be full of all kinds of cool, interesting, psychedelic, retro events celebrating that fact. (Check out our Summer Guide list of Summer of Love events to see some of them.) Like this one, a screening of a documentary about and made at the original Monterey Pop Festival (and an interview with the filmmaker). Sure, it’s in Monterey, but you were thinking of taking a road trip next weekend anyway, right?

And if you’re not sure what the hell I’m talking about or why you should care, check out the wikipedia entry on the Festival that launched the careers of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin to America, acted as the precursor to Woodstock, and brought Moog’s synthesizer to the Doors’ attention here.

Thinking p.i.n.k.


By Molly Freedenberg

Some scientists try to cure cancer. Some build robots that vacuum our houses for us. But the really important scientists are the ones developing new beverages for upscale clients. Like p.i.n.k., a vodka that has caffeine and guarana already in it so you don’t have to mix it with cloying, syrupy, expensive Red Bull. Superfluous? Or brilliant? Can’t it be both? I’m sure you’re just dying to know…

See? p.i.n.k. is s.w.a.n.k. (Apparently, the name is an acronym for the distilling process, which is a ginormous company secret.)

Support your local band…shell


panhandle_bandshell_logo.jpgSome people make plans to spend their summer drinking beer and barbecuing beef ribs. Others have slightly more ambitious goals. Like the people behind the Panhandle Bandshell project, a temporary installation made from reclaimed materials meant as a community performance and acoustic music space. These architects, artists, activists, freaks, friends, and volunteers are spending their whole summer doing manual labor for the collective good.

So how can we help them? (Other than drinking a beer and eating a rib in their honor?) There are all kinds of ways to be found on their website. But the most immediate is to stop by tonight’s fundraising event at Madrone. There will be a silent auction featuring local merchant wares and art, a short bandshell design presentation, and music and performance by Dr. Abacus, Allison Lovejoy, Clide vs Crocodiles,Cohen, and DJ Delachaux.

INFO: Wednesday, May 16. 8pm-2am. $5-$20 sliding scale. Madrone Lounge, Divisadero at Fell, SF.

L’Bel of the ball


By Molly Freedenberg

We get press releases all the time asking us to consume things, listen to things, attend things, write about things – from the International Conference of This and Such (no, I usually don’t go) to caffeinated vodka (damn straight I’m going to try that one…). But unless these releases have something to do with what I’m working on right this second — as in, I’m invited to a press conference on proper pool enjoyment techniques the week I’m doing Summer Guide — or they’re offering me something I actually really want — as in, Hey! Have this pair of oxblood knee-high boots from Fluevog for free! — they usually go into the Pile o’ Papers to be Looked at and Thrown Away Later.

Library - 343.jpg
Forty feet o’ spa goodness

But not when I got the invite for a mini-facial, skin consultation, and make-up application from the cosmetics company L’Bel. I mean, hey. The release said “Mobile Spa.” I imagined it something like a fancy pizza delivery service: “Hello, I’d like to order a facial, a hand massage, and some flattery. Please hold the speech about how quitting smoking would be better for my skin. Please drop these off at 135 Mississippi in Potrero Hill at 2pm. Oh, wait. That’s nap time. How about 3?” Who can resist that? Not me, the girl whose vanity (I mean, uh, whose dedication to the health of her skin) is only matched by her supreme laziness.

Library - 345.jpg
Ain’t no trash in this trailer

I Dig Digg


By Molly Freedenberg

mezzanine - 01.jpg A party just isn’t a party without a soldering gun. That’s what I always say. At least, that’s what I’m going to say now that I’ve been to last night’s Digg user appreciation party at Mezzanine, where I made my own electronic digg counter.mezzaninenegative - 02.jpg

For $15, I purchased a kit for the smaller-than-palm-sized blinking toy that the Make Magazine editor at the table was wearing. Then I sat down, held my Corona between my knees, and assembled the battery-powered device with the help of a cute bespectacled girl and one 700-degree sautering iron.

When I was finished, I had a new skill (I can solder!) – and a nifty device hanging from my neck that counts how many times its button has been pushed (or “dug”) and displays the number in L.E.D. lights. Sure, from afar it looked like any other annoying blinking glowing device that ravers love to wear (which is why I had to pretend to be fire-dancing with it all night), but at least **I** knew the truth: it wasn’t the sign of my affinity for pacifiers and necklaces made of candy. It was the sign of my affinity for geeks and for doing projects while drinking. Much better.mezzanine - 14.jpg

And in case you were wondering, I got over 100 diggs before I managed to break my new toy (and only, like, three quarters of them were my friends and me pushing the button over and over). Which is pretty close to the number this article got. Not bad. Not bad at all.

An Experiment: Hang up that Hangover


By Molly Freedenberg

The jury’s out on what exactly causes a hangover. Some say it’s dehydration. Others claim there’s something in the alcohol itself that poisons you. I even had a nutritionist once tell me that it’s essentially a large-scale sugar crash (since alcohol is a sugar, it’s like eating nothing but Snickers bars for seven hours and then wondering why you feel like crap the next morning). I don’t know about any of those, but I’d like to add something to the list: our bi-annual FEAST supplement. That’s right. I’ve been editing this baby (to be published April 4) for almost a month now, and doing my job well (which translates into: eating and drinking as much as possible at as many places as possible) has meant waking up half that month’s mornings with a dry throat, fuzzy brain, rumbly tummy, and insatiable hunger for sleep.

After discussing this phenomenon with my coworkers, who I roped in to doing my “research” with me, I decided it was time to do a Guardian-wide experiment. In a building full of people who know how to play as hard as they work, someone must have the perfect hangover cure. And even if no one did, with drinkers this devoted, surely we’d have plenty of opportunities to test the snake oils we’ve all heard about but never tried (Almonds before drinking? Primrose oil? Lemon juice in black coffee? And strangest of all: running? Are you kidding me?).

And so.