Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Bars That Time Forgot, an occasional series, vol. V: The Embers

I lived on Frederick Street in the early 90's, not far from the now-trendy Inner Sunset, which back then just Just a Neighborhood and not a thing real estate agents put on flyers.  It was just regular stuff.  Still a great neighborhood, just relatively undiscovered, I guess.

One place that didn't want to be discovered was The Embers, a depressing and frightening dive bar at 627 Irving, between 7th and 8th.  The Embers was a small dark room with the usual dive bar accoutrements, like old guys chainsmoking in front of Bud bottles and a surly (at least that's how I remember him) bartender.  You can still get all that stuff today if you know where to look.  But the Embers had one terrifying feature that other dive bars lacked: the walls were covered in pictures of CLOWNS. AAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

It's surprisingly difficult to find pictures of this haunting decor online.  Of course I was young and stupid and it never occurred to me to take pictures.  Back then, taking pictures required carrying a camera around with you, so it wasn't as convenient.  Also, parking was easier.  Anyway.  Luckily, I found some pics on, and hopefully the owner of doesn't get mad at me for using them here.

You can get kind of a sense of what was going on from these pictures, but it doesn't really convey the full horror of walls covered in clown pictures.  It was really something.

Jack Boulware wrote a great piece on the bar for SF Weekly:
Neither clowns nor smokes have ruined business for the Embers, which Jack has operated since 1969 at its present Irving Street location, and run in other Geary Boulevard incarnations since 1955. The clown motif began with Jack's wife, who installed four clown pictures originally to fill up a blank wall of the joint. Customers latched onto the idea and kept bringing in more and more clown artifacts, many from all over the world, until today the bar is literally packed with clown images.
"Some girl brought me in one last week," says Jack, a spry 70-year-old in blue striped sport shirt and khakis.

The Embers sadly passed in 1996.  Now it's Pluto's, some kind of faux health food place I think?  I went there once and couldn't figure it out.


Greg said...

Pluto's is a chain of sorts that has hopelessly outdated decor and you have to tell the poor guy behind the counter every ingredient in your meal and they make it for you. It's actually pretty good and some people are loyal to it, but I never go there and I literally live around the corner from it. I'd much rather have had the Embers than this bland, sterile thing in its place. But never fear - I'm sure it will soon become a tea shop, or a bakery, or an ice cream shoppe as part of the renaming of the Inner Sunset the Westside Treat District.

Stoney said...

As long as Yellow Submarine stands, I'm okay.

GP3K said...

Not a fan of Pluto's.

We would use another good neighborhood watering hole in the Sunset, but it would suit me just fine if it were to settle in somewhere between 25th Ave and Sunset Blvd.

I moved here a few years too late to have seen Embers.