Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Farina neighbors really, really pissed off

Photo courtesy katerw on FlickrNeighbors of Mission District Italian place Farina are upset over how the restaurants' customers are double parking their cars and worried about the rooftop seating and the full liquor license.

They think the joint is going to become a haven for loudmouth drunktards who will scream from the rooftop and puke all over their streets and leave their cars in all kinds of illegal places.

Eighty of them complained to the restaurant owners before the place was even built -- parking was already out of control. Then they found out about the roof seating and full bar and got more pissed.

Then 50 wrote letters against the place to the Planning Commission. The commission approved the restaurant anyway and everyone got triple pissed.

The restaurant opened in June, approximately, which apparently pissed the neighbors off even more.

One neighbor got so pissed he was arrested for throwing paint on cars parked illegally outside the restaurant. The only witness was someone from the restaurant so the charges were dropped.

But just to give you a sense of how being pissed can change a man: the guy allegedly throwing paint is, by day, working as a criminal attorney.

Also, he told SF Magazine, on the record, as Matt Wilson, the following: "I just want everyone to know that this restaurant has fucked me."

Like I said: Piiiiissed.

SF Magazine, which wrote about the whole situation (offline, since it is now the year 1993), thinks Farina's owners need to learn to be more nice and friendly to the quadruple-pissed neighbors, because after all Delfina, Range and Bar Tartine have learned to do so.

Either that or just keep having them hauled off to jail for being so damned pissed all the time.

(Photo courtesy of katerw on Flickr via Creative Commons license.)

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Attention SF drunktards: An 80-proof shot is not good for your stomach, energy, emotions, walking or hangover!

Listen, new-money Web 2.0 Yelper yuppie dude, with your $15 fresh-fruit cocktails and your single-malt snobbery, throwing your Google stock option money across bars all over town: Jordan Mackay at 7X7 magazine has a message for you.

He knows you've read all about Italian bitters like Fernet Banca on the Web and maybe in a newspaper you accidentally read once, on a train or something.

It's cute you order a round of "amari" after dinner (small plates, probably), and before leaving the first bar, and before stumbling home.

But stop hoping it will brighten your mood, or give you energy, or digest your food, or make the evil hangover go away. Unlike your useless herbal supplements, which merely waste money, bitters contain alcohol and drinking more than one "is like taking the carpool lane to the Big Hurt," no matter what they tell you at R Bar.

Which, by the way, is kind of a retarded, Web 2.0 name for a bar, and needs an apostrophe. (OK, maybe Jordan didn't say that part.)

7X7: The Day After Amaro

(Photos courtesy thepartycow on Flickr and Adam j r on Flickr.)

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Beer ruined by male insecurity

Beer is so rarely served in properly-shaped glassware that places like Toronado, Magnolia Brewery and Alembic have made their names just by having the proper crystal in their cabinets, and Dean Biersch is touting proper glasses as part of his forthcoming tavern in Sonoma.

And the reason you can't get the proper glass for, say, your Trumer Pils at just any old neighborhood pub is that men are afraid of having smaller-than-average ... vessels of beer. Ya, that's it, that's what their insecure about the size of.

The owner of Magnolia and Alembic Dave McLean reveals all in a recent 7X7 blurb:
“You’d be very surprised at how sensitive some men get about being served a smaller glass than the others at their table,” he says. “Must be a masculinity thing.”

... We try it out. In a tulip glass, his exquisitely hoppy Proving Ground IPA smells powerfully like a stroll through a flowering mountain meadow. But in a pint glass, the aromas dissipate.
So even though Belgian ales and hoppy beers are best served in a tulip glass and pilsners in narrow cylinders, they usually aren't, because some whiny man might whine. 7X7:

European mean are apparently much more sophisticated about the whole thing. Typical.

7X7: Beer Genius

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Early returns on District: Horrible service, bad design, painful acoustics, rude overcharging, mixed food. But otherwise, uh, 'very good.'

Fatemeh at Gastronomie realizes District has only been open two weeks, and realizes that it's more of a bar than a restaurant. Nevertheless, she is pissed off.

I'm not sure what the trouble is.

Sure, her eardrums nearly exploded from the "acoustic nightmare."

Yes, the cramped design left her "bumped" every two minutes or so (paging Michael Bauer ...).

Oh, and maybe the bartender forgot her three-item order. Twice.

Granted, her Carpaccio was "swimming" in what appeared to be bottled Caesar-salad dressing.

But is this really such a big deal?

After all, to make up for all its mistakes, the bar-staurant generously berated her date for underpaying for a bottle wine, before grumpily admitting the humiliating incident had been their fault due to a misreading of the menu.

Such sweethearts!

Fatemeh worries:
Is it fair to judge a restaurant a mere two weeks after opening and post a negative review on a public blog? Probably not.
Actually, given that we're all adults and understand that the place may well improve in time, and given that it's open for business and accepting money, it's totally fair.

And given Fatemeh's review, it's totally awesome.

(I haven't found any other early reviews, except for a few written before District's opening. Including this one from the 7x7 blog that recommends District because it is owned by "these tall good-looking guys who could have stepped straight out of the cast of Melrose Place." Great. That really speaks to me!)

Full review:

Gastronomie: District Wine Bar. Just Another Pretty Face?

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Vessel charging $500 per table; new age of excess

I almost forgot to post my front page story from Friday's Business Times:

A spate of new bars are riding the second dot-com wave, targeting conspicuous consumers with new fees and rules.

My lead example is Vessel, already open many nights as part of its "soft opening" and set to formally open Feb. 22. Vessel is on Campton Place, across from the hotel and next door to Alfred's steakhouse.

The bar cost $1 million - $5 million to build but is hoping to swiftly recoup that from consumers, charging nighttime rates of $500 for a full, 12-person table and $250 for a half table. That's just to sit down, not including bottle service or other drinks.

I also mention the Ambassador, opened in January and reserving booths for people spending hundreds of dollars on bottle service, and of course Bourbon and Branch, where you need a reservation in advance and have a time limit on your visit.

Finally, there's "Mister," a forthcoming Financial District barbershop-and-bar, which targets affluent young financial services types and offers memberships at the "player," "hitter" and "mogul" level.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Selling booze: two approaches.

So you want to sell some booze. By the glass, that is, rather than by the case.

There are two theories on how best to do this.

The first, epitomized by Bourbon and Branch, is to make your place first hard to find, with no signage in a nasty part of town, and second hard to get into, with a locked door and reservations-only policy. There is a time limit governing how long you may stay.

There are two ways to interpret this approach. The less charitable one is to say such a joint actually won't make much selling alcohol because of sometimes apathetic service, arbitrary ordering restrictions and a holier-than-thou attitude. Maybe the real intent is to appeal to masochistic diners who derive more pleasure from the illusion of exclusivity and popularity than from actual hospitality -- or who mistake one for the other.

The more charitable way to interpret this approach is as a very savvy way to provide top service only to people who spend lots of money on fancy bourbons, scotches, rums and tequilas, the kind of folks who frequent cigar bars and steak houses. These people get attentive service and can stay as long as they want despite the written policies. They can backsass the bartender. And, just maybe, they'll eventually fill up enough of your bar to make it quite profitable.

I remain wholly unconvinced this is what is intended at B&B, or if it is intended that it will work as a business venture.

But there is a counter-trend, or at least a Second Way. Let's use Perbacco as an example, since they just opened and I just drank there.

Perbacco is located in an accessible, safe part of town -- the financial district, next door to Aqua and Tadich Grill -- that also happens to be populated by lots of people with money to spend. There is a sign on the door and good windows. To ensure good service, they have been hiring
staff away from other places, including the lead sommelier from Aqua.

If you want to visit, you just open the big, glass door under the big, fat sign, and walk right up to the bar. People have found this system so appealing that there are regularly huge crowds filling up Perbacco's bar most weeknights. I see them on my way home from work.

The coolest part, though, is the wine menu. Check it out in PDF. Not only do there seem to be many wines by the glass, and of a high quality, you can get everything in a quarter or half bottle.

There's not a lot to interpret in this approach. It straightforward, transparent and hospitable.

(A publicist tried to convince me this is a trend at restaurants around the city. I'm not so sure -- seems to me half bottles and wines by-the-glass have been gaining traction for many years. Do put your thoughts on this in the comments.)

(For the record, I paid my own way at Perbacco, as always.)

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

If you could please buy many more overpriced cocktails, much more often, that would be greeaat ...

So 7X7 Magazine assembles six nightclub owners to talk business and, whaddya know, they immediately start railing on how San Franciscans don't go out enough, don't spend enough money, things are soo much better in New York and Las Vegas, yadda yadda.

Call it part deux of The Eternal Wait for Big Expense Accounts, in which everyone from pension fund managers to the lowliest general manager awaits a massive litter of business fatcats to justify excessive investment in some niche of the hospitality sector.

Some choice quotes:
There's a lot of money in San Francisco. but people don't go out and spend it as much ... In NYC you don't even need a great concept. You could open anything and people will come in.
--Todd Palmerton, co-owner, Mamacita and Doubledutch
LA, New York and Miami have the entertainment business driving a lot of the nightlife, especially on the weekdays when you have movie premiers. You get the fashion house
that wants to show off some new line, an agency that just signed a bunch of new actors or models. We don't have that here.
--Hugo Gamboa, co-owner, Suite One8One, Impala, Marina Sports, Mas Sake Freestyle, Glo
This is a very expensive city to live in. Unless you have a high-paying job, it's very expensive to live here, never mind go out.
--Sunwoo Hwang, owner, Vessel
And, inevitably:
During the dot-com era there was a much greater cross section of people in SF [with money --ed.], so many more people went out every night ... I definitely think we have not rebounded from that.
--Gina Milano, founder, Bambuddha

As much as I like to be snarky lately, there are actually some good insights there.

Read the story for the full roundtable, including more on the dangers of hip-hop, an owner cheating on his wife in his club and the resurgence of cocaine in SF.

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