Monday, December 12, 2011

In which we ponder the existential meaning of the term "bar"

Food & Wine magazine recently named the 50 Best Bars in America. Because the topic of bars is very dear to my heart, I perused this list carefully. There are a number of San Francisco establishments on the list, like Alembic and Beretta and Comstock and Slanted Door.

Wait a second, because we have a problem.

As much as I like Slanted Door - and make no mistake, I like it a lot, I mean, I have often said that the Shaking Beef from Slanted Door would be my Death Row Last Meal - there is one significant problem with its appearance on this list.


Slanted Door HAS as bar, but it's NOT a bar. I have a CD by Pavement, but I'm not Steven Malkmus.

Not a bar.

I guess, in the World Vision of Food & Wine, anywhere that sells alcohol for onsite consumption is a "bar." So under their erroneously expansive definition, the French Laundry is a "bar." So is Yankee Stadium. And Delta Flight 2081 from Atlanta to Charlotte.

See the problem here?

What Food & Wine needs is a more restrictive definition of "bar." Here's what I propose:

A bar is an establishment that exists primarily to sell liquor and other intoxicating spirits to the public.

Sorry, Slanted Door! (And Beretta, for that matter). You are not bars. You are restaurants. The 500 Club is a bar. Bourbon & Branch is a bar. Even the Uptown is a bar, although it's a bar that masquerades as a garbage dump with shots.


Now we can talk about the 50 Best Bars or whatever. But let's talk about bars, not restaurants. You want an artisanal cocktail and a squid ink risotto? Go to Beretta. You want a shot and a beer? Go to a bar.

(BTW, I know what you're saying. You're saying Why am I reading this bullshit when I could be watching Dr. Oz and eating Candy Cane Joe-Joe's? Now, you're actually saying Doesn't Alembic serve food? Isn't it a restaurant? No. You can be a bar and still serve food, as long as you PRIMARILY exist to serve alcohol. Thus, Alembic = bar; Outback Steakhouse = Not Bar.)


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Dan said...

Allow me to chime in with my predictable 'expat perspective'. In the Czech Republic, the distinction gets WAY blurrier because almost every single restaurant has BEER TAPS. It's like some crazy world gone mad. In five years there, I only found two restaurants that didn't have beer taps and one was a Chinese restaurant in a tiny provincial backwater, the other was a mismanaged Brazilian place that went out of business instantly.

Tamagosan said...

I painted my fireplace the color of the bathroom at the Comstock (long story) and since my living room exists primarily to consume alcohol, I hereby proclaim my couch as one of the best bars in America.