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Over the Hill 

A drinking tour of Potrero

Wednesday, Mar 27 2002
If comfort is the quality you seek in a bar, you need only know one thing: Sadie's Flying Elephant, at Mariposa and Potrero, is home to one of the finest lounge chair collections in the city. The place seems built to soothe. In addition to the above-mentioned chairs, where one mellow dude spends his Saturday evening staring blankly toward the ceiling, Sadie's offers a bounty of relaxing distractions -- free popcorn, darts, chess, pool tables, and a secluded, conversation-worthy back room. A customer named Tina trekked all the way from the Castro for her second visit of the day.

"As a single chick, you can come down by yourself and not worry about feeling uncomfortable," she says. "I'll know the bartender, I'll know somebody else. It's just a good, living room-style bar."

Other customers tend to be local. Anthony, a Potrero Hill native, waxes nostalgic about the neighborhood's pre-gentrification past -- families, empty lots, kids stealing wood from construction sites to build treehouses (which might now sell for mid-six figures). Maia's here to discuss a problem. "My roommate was caught drug trafficking today," she says. "I just moved in and had no idea." (Yeah, stick with that story.) Jim, on the other hand, likes the dogs. His canine, Dakota, has a habit of greeting strangers by pressing her ass into their legs. What's the deal?

"You'll have to find out," Jim says ominously. Perhaps some day, but for now we're concerned with a more pressing question -- that is, where else can a person drink in Potrero?

The answer: A whole bunch of places (praise the lord). On 18th Street and Texas, Bloom's Saloon is one of the mellower choices. The lounge area affords a breathtaking view of the Bay Bridge, and the crowd ranges from locals young and old to Brian, who came from a play at the nearby Thick House. Brian's wearing a 101 Dalmatians tie; we suspect he's one of those flamboyant theater types.

"It's hard to imagine, isn't it?" Brian grins as he lists the professions of his companions ("Actor, actor, actor, actor"). In other words, there are no hit men in his posse.

If you like Thai mixology, venture a block up 18th to the Lingba Lounge, where cocktails run from a Long Island Iced Tea-esque Lingba Tea ("the best way to get Phuket") to the Tiger's Milk, a frozen, mocha-tasting blend of Thai iced tea, spiced rum, and Kahlúa. Amid a junglelike décor of potted palms and lush ferns, a clean-cut, Asian-Caucasian crowd listens to house music while videos depict animals (birds, fish, a bear) in water. Trippy.

Down on 17th Street, the Connecticut Yankee strikes an East Coast note (dark wood, Red Sox memorabilia). Billy came for two reasons: "One, my good friend is playing bass in [the band] Exhaust right here, and two, I'm a major Phish fan, and this bar is notorious for supporting that sort of hippie mentality."

Farther down 17th there's the live rock mecca known as the Bottom of the Hill. If you want to fit in here, it may help to acquire one of the following: sideburns, horn-rimmed glasses, dreadlocks, bangs, or any haircut that qualifies as "shaggy." BOTH's cover is reasonable, but the place can get mighty crowded.

For fun, we ask Mike how long it took to wear holes in his Chuck Taylors.

"I've had these since November," Mike says. So, five months? "No, the November before that." Ah. And the hole in his jeans? "These pants I've had since 1998." And the hole in his sweater? "That occurred last summer."

"Please send clothes," adds a concerned friend.

About The Author

Greg Hugunin

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