Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart

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


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