Thursday, September 18, 2014

Picturing the perfect bar

I was thinking about Cafe Du Nord closing and reopening as another generic fancy cocktail bar and that made me think about how every bar that opens now is pretty much the same.  I don't even need to go through the elements; you know them by heart.  Cocktails with 5+ ingredients, most of which you've never heard of.  Reclaimed wood.  Probably Edison bulbs.  Bartenders who look like people in Old Tyme Tintypes with waxed mustaches.  It was probably Bourbon and Branch that started this whole thing, but now it seems like Trick Dog is the purest example of the form.

Photo via Eater.
Trick Dog is what it is.  If you want to go there and drink drinks with velvet falernum and Tempus Fugit creme de noyeaux and shortbread in them, go right ahead.  I don't know what any of those things are but I'm sure they're delicious.  Well, obviously I know what shortbread is, but I don't understand how it goes into a drink with gin and vermouth.  Maybe it perches on the side and just watches and hangs out.

The problem is not that Trick Dog and bars of that ilk exist - God bless 'em, they're popular, so there's obviously a reason they exist - but that now they're the ONLY kind of bars that open.  This is the only concept now.  Fancy cocktails and small inexplicable plates of food have crowded everything else out.

And then that made me think - well, what would you want in a bar?  What's the ideal bar?  OK, here you go.

There are about 18 excellent beers on tap.  No macros on tap.  There are Bud and Miller longnecks because this is America.  There is no Coors Light of any kind available.

There is no drinks menu.  The bartender knows how to make normal drinks.  There is a nice selection of bourbon, scotch, whiskey, tequila, and other spirits.  There is no muddling.  If you ask for a mojito, the bartender will smile gently and say, "I'm sorry, we don't make mojitos."  That's if you're a girl.  If you're a guy and you ask for a mojito, the bartender will not say anything but will gently shake his head "no."  No frozen blended drinks are offered.

There is one TV.  It is usually off, unless you ask to turn it on for a Giants or 49ers game.  Then it will be turned on with the sound off.

There is a regular, old-style jukebox, not an Internet jukebox.  The jukebox is stocked either by one of the staff or someone else with excellent taste in music.  You can find the Zombies, the Commodores, the Rolling Stones' "Exile on Main Street," Tupac's "Me Against the World," the Strokes, Lefty Frizzell, and much more.

There are cups of dice behind the bar.  There is no neon inside the bar, anywhere.

There is still a working payphone in the alcove between the men's and ladies' rooms.

There are some regulars, but they are not the kind of regulars who get drunk and super loud and take over the bar and then the bartender spends the whole night hanging out at the end of the bar with them and ignoring the other customers.

The bartender makes the best old-fashioned you've ever had.  The bloody mary comes garnished with a fresh stick of celery and nothing else.  It is also delicious.

There is no food prepared onsite.  It's fine to bring in food occasionally, as long as it doesn't fill the bar with food smell and you don't make a habit of it.  This is a bar, not a restaurant or a picnic area.

Large groups of loud, drunk people may find that it takes increasingly long waits to get their drinks refreshed.

This is the perfect place to spend a few hours on a Sunday afternoon.


Allan said...


TK said...

If what I just described is the new Pop's, I'll see you there soon.

the.nicole.harvey said...

Once upon a time, Lucky 13, The Page, and a number of fine places near my old apartment. I've always considered it important that bartenders stock their own music in the juke: a happy barkeep makes for happy drinkers.

troymccluresf said...

"There are Bud and Miller longnecks because this is America"

America demands crappy foreign-owned beers?

Anonymous said...

This sounds almost exactly like The Albatross in Berkeley.

TK said...

Nicole - I liked the Page until it got totally overrun. Lucky 13 is fine.

Troy - I KNEW that would get you.

Sonia - I haven't been there in a long time, but I'm glad to hear it's still the same.

Civic Center said...

Everything but the bar dice.

Stephen said...

In fairness, to the extent that food-offering is a problem (and it is for me, I want a bar that is a bar, not a restaurant that has a bar), it's unavoidable in the Mission. You can't get a liquor license for a plain-old bar, you have to serve food (and just chips doesn't count).

Homestead sounds close to your ideal.

Rachel said...

YES. I really miss real jukeboxes. There are still a few left in this city, and I play them incessantly.
Internet jukeboxes make every place so generic.

Andrea said...

Ah, reminds me of Would you Believe? on 13th and Geary or Dizzy's what used to be on 18th and Geary. Although I haven't been to either bar in years and years.

Neon is OK if it is in the form of an Olympia Beer sign.

Jeff said...

How does the bartender make the best old fashioned you've ever had if there's no muddling allowed?

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