The Mix

The hottest and hippest new bars

There's always something in the air when you step into a hot new bar. It might be excitement, attitude, marijuana smoke, or all three, but at Valencia Street's The Phoenix, the most striking thing is good old-fashioned heat. The place is sweltering as a result of a boisterous, largely Anglo-Celtic crew that has packed this tony Irish pub to capacity on a Saturday night. The music is pumping, and the crowd spans all ages -- a skinny girl in sneakers, an older cat who looks a bit like Jerry Garcia, and a righteously intoxicated thirtysomething woman who, for a brief period, is unable to locate her jacket, her purse, or her shoes.

She's not the only one partying hard. "I've been drinking since 7 this morning," says Paul, a Brit from Birmingham. Paul asks, "Did you see the football match today? England beat Germany 5-1. Monumental!" He's here "because my mate runs the place, and he's got some good old acid house -- sometimes."

Sometimes?

"Put that in," says Paul. "Say, "with an acid house tinge.'"

OK: There's a definite old-school, acid house tinge in the air courtesy of the ubiquitous DJ. It fades to a shadow out front, where the smoking scene includes Samantha, from Ireland, who's visiting the city on holiday. "We thought we'd check out this area," she says. "[The Mission] is the second hippest place in the States, apparently, according to the guidebook, but we can't work out what the first hippest place is. It doesn't say."

Ah, hipness -- that elusive and much-sought quality that seems to be spreading deeper into the 'hood. You'll find some at 21st Street's lounge-y new Monkey Club, where the air is cool (thanks to an open window) and the acid jazz is tinged with hints of flamenco. Fine young women in cleavage-revealing evening dresses cram into huge, comfy-looking booths. At the bar, Lia has passed on the extensive cocktail list in favor of a Jägermeister-Red Bull. A few seats down, Kathy is also drinking a Jäger-Red Bull, which may be the hot new drink. "It's so seductive," Kathy says. "It tastes like a drug, a little like cough syrup. Every time I take a sip, it's a different flavor. It's ... it's good. You really have to try one."

Fair enough. At the ultra-clubby Cloud 9 Motelat Seventh near Market -- where the line is daunting, the house music tinged with trance and big beat, and the cloud-white décor (including a revolving circular bed) surreal -- a Jägermeister-Red Bull on the rocks tastes a bit like ... a SweeTARTS candy? Regardless, it's surprisingly exquisite. Tonight Cloud 9 is home to dozens of card-carrying members of the international brother- and sisterhood of scenesters -- girls in cowboy hats and baby tees, boys in guayabera shirts, a long-haired guy in leopard-print pants, the young hipstress with the pink jumpsuit and wraparound rimless sunglasses. There's a VIP room, of course, in which we meet Billy, who tried his first Jäger-Red Bull last weekend ("Damn impressed"). Mona, a Brazilian, has never had one ("That doesn't sound like a good combination," she says, wincing), but Valentino has ("Not a fan") and so has Alex the bartender, who prefers her Jäger-Red Bulls in shot form ("More refreshing").

In other words, Fernet-Red Bull can't be far off.

But to return to Cloud 9 -- well, as Ray says, "It's, like, the hot new spot." Ray's looking ferocious with his tattooed arms and red muscle shirt, and has managed to bring three dates, all of whom bear a striking resemblance to Pamela Anderson and follow Ray wherever he goes.

How does he pull that off?

Says Ray, with all earnestness: "Because I'm a pimp."

 
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