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Cocktails, old-school bars, and someplace for Angela Lansbury...

chrisheadrick Aug 5, 2011 07:44 PM

Hey, San Francisco--coming too see you again soon after a long time away. Can you wise SF Chowhounders recommend tips on these three subjects for me?:

1. Where is the 'fine art of the cocktail' being practiced now? I've been to the great speakeasies of New York (Little Branch, PDT, Milk & Honey, Death and Co.).....who is practicing such an art in SF at this time? Looking for exceptionally-mixed cocktails.

2. What bars can you recommend with an old-school feel....I mean dark wood, tin-stamped roof, leather booths--a feeling of history and character to them. They can even be new bars, if they re-create an old-school drinking establishment well.

3. I'll be taking my adorable 70-something parents to SF over the holidays, and want to scout out some locations. Mom is exactly like Angela Lansbury. Where would you take Ms. Lansbury if she was in town, to tickle her senses with dainty, pretty things or lovely, genteel surroundings? Someone told me about the bakery 'Miette', which looks wonderful.

Thanks, SF--I know these should be easy for ya.


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  1. j
    jman1 RE: chrisheadrick Aug 5, 2011 10:09 PM

    Cocktails. It's not a hip place, so may not be what you are looking for, but the cocktails at the 5th floor lobby bar at the Four Seasons are exceptionally good.

    And, at a restaurant bar, the cocktails at Bar Agricole are very good. A friend rates the cocktails at Range best.

    Bar Agricole
    355 11th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

    1. bbulkow RE: chrisheadrick Aug 5, 2011 11:35 PM

      Your number one stop for mixology will be bourbon and branch, easily the equal of the NY places you mention. Check the website to get an invite. Other than B&B, it's really the restaurant bars pouring it on. Places like Gitane, Zero Zero, Beretta, Heaven's Dog, a bunch of others - not the scene you're talking about, but good.

      For old school, you might try Heinhold's First and Last Chance. It's in oakland, but it's right by the ferry terminal. It might be the oldest continually operating bar, and it's very much a locals joint. You can't get mixed drinks there - it's sort of a pre-prohibition place, it's all shots and beer - and it's a hop-skip if you take the ferry, which is super fun.

      Gitane Restaurant & Bar
      6 Claude Lane, San Francisco, CA 94108

      Heaven's Dog
      1148 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

      Last Chances
      3400 De La Cruz Blvd, Santa Clara, CA 95054

      Zero Zero
      826 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94107

      3 Replies
      1. re: bbulkow
        chrisheadrick RE: bbulkow Aug 6, 2011 10:31 AM

        Ah, yes--I've heard of Bourbon & Branch as the SF version of NY speakeasies...that name is familiar...

        Bourbon & Branch
        501 Jones St, San Francisco, CA

        1. re: chrisheadrick
          bbulkow RE: chrisheadrick Aug 6, 2011 11:07 AM

          B&B was not exactly a follower. I think it predates PDT and Death and Co - similar start times -, and postdates Little Branch and Milk and Honey. My research might be a little off, there's not a good history of the neuvo speakeasy movement on wikipedia.

          1. re: bbulkow
            sugartoof RE: bbulkow Aug 7, 2011 02:28 PM

            You got it right. Pegu, Flatiron Lounge and Milk and Honey predate Bourbon and Branch, and were probably reference points.

      2. Robert Lauriston RE: chrisheadrick Aug 6, 2011 11:34 AM

        15 Romolo has great contemporary cocktails and comes by its old-school vibe honestly, it was the bar for a Basque restaurant and hotel for almost a century.

        15 Romolo
        15 Romolo Pl, San Francisco, CA 94133

        1. Robert Lauriston RE: chrisheadrick Aug 6, 2011 12:08 PM

          For #3, maybe the Garden Court of the Palace Hotel. Breakfast, lunch, Sunday brunch, and afternoon tea only.

          Garden Court of the Palace Hotel
          2 New Montgomery St., San Francisco, CA 94105

          2 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston
            pamf RE: Robert Lauriston Aug 6, 2011 12:27 PM

            +1 on the Sheraton Palace Garden Court as a treat for mom, it's a beautiful room.

            And right across the street on New Montgomery is the newly refurbished House of Shields. Which has been re-opened by a local chef, cleaned-up, but all the original style of the 1908 bar is still evident.

            1. re: pamf
              chrisheadrick RE: pamf Aug 6, 2011 08:04 PM

              Ohmigawd--just Google image searched it--she'll love it for tea.

          2. m
            ML8000 RE: chrisheadrick Aug 6, 2011 12:09 PM

            You might check out Hayes Street Grill for Mom/Angela Lansbury...genteel, old school fish restaurant and full bar. Might also consider the Dining Room at the Ritz before it changes over to the new place in Sept.

            Hayes Street Grill
            324 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

            3 Replies
            1. re: ML8000
              Robert Lauriston RE: ML8000 Aug 6, 2011 12:25 PM

              I like Hayes Street, but to me the atmosphere is more 70s than old-school. It was inspired by old-school places, particularly Tadich.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                jman1 RE: Robert Lauriston Aug 6, 2011 12:49 PM

                Probably depends on the individual, but 70's could qualify as Old School. Someone 70 now was in their 30's in that decade and may well recall it fondly.

                BTW, I've never been tempted to enter the Hayes Street Grill. Just looked at the website (opened in '79). Always occupied the niche "80's place" in my mind, but for no good reason (probably the looks from the outside). Seemed past it's prime by the time I moved here.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  ML8000 RE: Robert Lauriston Aug 6, 2011 12:57 PM

                  Bah...the green carpeting and nunnery decor is era-less. It seriously reminds me of a convent in the English countryside...a place perfectly suited for Angela Lansbury.

              2. bbulkow RE: chrisheadrick Aug 6, 2011 12:24 PM

                Maybe a martini at Tadich for #2?

                1. artychokeasana RE: chrisheadrick Aug 6, 2011 01:09 PM

                  Speaking of the Palce hotel-the Pied Piper bar within is pretty dang old school and has a great Maxfield Parrish painting in it.

                  Pied Piper Bar
                  Market New Montgomery, San Francisco, CA 94102

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: artychokeasana
                    Robert Lauriston RE: artychokeasana Aug 6, 2011 01:19 PM

                    The Pied Piper painting is great, but the new bar feels fake retro to me, and the prices are nuts.

                    Pied Piper Bar
                    Market New Montgomery, San Francisco, CA 94102

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                      artychokeasana RE: Robert Lauriston Aug 6, 2011 01:44 PM

                      When was the remodel?

                      1. re: artychokeasana
                        Robert Lauriston RE: artychokeasana Aug 6, 2011 05:13 PM

                        I guess 20 years ago. It may not have changed, it feels fake to me but stuff from that era sometimes does when it's restored to like-new condition.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                          steve h. RE: Robert Lauriston Aug 6, 2011 05:44 PM

                          Maxfield's is an interesting bar: the mural is iconic as is the Palace Hotel. Still, the room promises more than it can deliver. Specifically, the crowd is Moscone Center exhibitors/attendees and the barkeeps are not mixologists. Food is pretty crummy, too.
                          Don't get me wrong, I've spent many an hour there. It's just not that good. Final nail in the coffin: it is in no way related to the St. Regis' King Cole Bar in Manhattan (home to another Maxfield mural and, arguably, the birthplace of the red snapper - aka bloody mary).

                          1. re: steve h.
                            chrisheadrick RE: steve h. Aug 6, 2011 07:10 PM

                            Ah, 'twould be nice to catch a good mural. Was so sad to have Cafe Des Artistes in Manhattan close just before I got there for a visit.

                  2. k
                    Keesey RE: chrisheadrick Aug 6, 2011 01:22 PM

                    1. The Burritt Room has very refined mixologists... a whole slew of liqueurs and bitters line their counter top much like Death & Co. Cantina is also great using a lot of fresh squeezed fruit juices in their cocktails. My favorite in SF though is The Smuggler's Cove, a rum bar with an awesome pirate, nautical theme.

                    2. B&B's sister bars are The Rickhouse and Wilson & Wilson (another reservation only w/ PW bar) has the exact old school vibe you're looking for. Lesser well known - Brazen Head. Very dark lighting, clunky wrought iron table legs, actual mini lamps on tables. Also their food menu is decent!

                    3. I'll 2nd the Garden Court at the Palace Hotel suggestion. Like straight out of a period piece movie set!

                    Brazen Head
                    3166 Buchanan St, San Francisco, CA 94123

                    Palace Hotel
                    2 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA

                    Rickhouse Bar
                    246 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA

                    Smuggler's Cove
                    650 Gough St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                    Burritt Room
                    417 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94108

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Keesey
                      Robert Lauriston RE: Keesey Aug 6, 2011 05:14 PM

                      Rickhouse is a nice unpretentious place and has great cocktails.

                      Rickhouse Bar
                      246 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA

                    2. JasmineG RE: chrisheadrick Aug 6, 2011 01:44 PM

                      In addition to a number of the places already listed, I'd add Comstock Saloon: great drinks, dark wood, leather booths, etc.

                      Comstock Saloon
                      155 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: JasmineG
                        Robert Lauriston RE: JasmineG Aug 6, 2011 05:15 PM

                        Comstock is great. Beautiful room, genuine old-school. They even restored the original trough along the front of the bar.

                        1. re: JasmineG
                          selectiveomnivore RE: JasmineG Aug 7, 2011 12:13 PM

                          Comstock Saloon hits the requirement for old school, art of the cocktails, atmosphere (jazz band sometimes plays live upstairs, dark booths, old school stools, etc). They also do food.
                          Another old school vibe is House of Shields, which was beautifully restored about a year ago. Ask the bartenders about some of the classics, and they'll make you what you want, although most folks seem to order beer and mixed drinks.
                          15 Romolo makes interesting new drinks and brings some respect to the classics.

                          I'd be careful about what time to visit these places, as I know my parents don't like them when crowded, which some get very often. I'd never take them to Rickhouse on a weekend evening for example.

                          15 Romolo
                          15 Romolo Pl, San Francisco, CA 94133

                          Rickhouse Bar
                          246 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA

                          Comstock Saloon
                          155 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                        2. wolfe RE: chrisheadrick Aug 6, 2011 02:14 PM

                          Angela Landsbury when?

                          1. scottca075 RE: chrisheadrick Aug 6, 2011 06:03 PM

                            Old School, John's Grill, Johnny Foley's Irish House, The Buena Vista, the bar at Alfred's and Top of the Mark, especially Top of the Mark.

                            Buena Vista Cafe
                            2765 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                            Top of the Mark
                            Number One Nob Hill, San Francisco, CA 94108

                            John's Grill
                            63 Ellis Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                            Johnny Foley's Irish House
                            243 Ofarrell St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                            1. c
                              chrisheadrick RE: chrisheadrick Aug 6, 2011 07:05 PM

                              FANTASTIC! Thank, SF! The "A nunnery in the English countryside...perfectly suited for Angela Lansbury" made me laugh out loud! Twice, actually, because a nunnery in the English countryside is perfect atmosphere for dear old Mum.

                              Great stuff, SF!

                              1. c
                                chrisheadrick RE: chrisheadrick Aug 6, 2011 07:07 PM

                                Wolfe, you made me laugh out loud, too.

                                And FYI, Mom was a stunner in 1960.

                                1. s
                                  sugartoof RE: chrisheadrick Aug 7, 2011 02:34 PM

                                  Closest you're going to get to NY cocktails will be at 15 Romolo. Alembic (not as realized in execution), and Rickhouse. Comstock looks fun.

                                  The bars at Nopa, Spruce and Wayfare Tavern all use fresh juices, etc.

                                  I love the Tadich suggestion, and another thought is Capp's Corner for what will be a divey drink in an old Italian joint.

                                  Capp's Corner
                                  1600 Powell St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                  560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                                  15 Romolo
                                  15 Romolo Pl, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                  Rickhouse Bar
                                  246 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA

                                  Wayfare Tavern
                                  558 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

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