Angling

Looking for a good time in the Marina Triangle's bars

As is the case with family members, cilantro, and the recordings of Britney Spears, people tend either to love or to hate the Marina Triangle (aka the intersection of Fillmore and Greenwich). Feelings aside, one must admit that the area is as hopping as any bar destination in the city come Saturday night. Double-parked cabs bring traffic to a crawl as bachelorette parties pass groups of men with foreign accents. You'll see backward baseball caps, oxford shirts, enough tawdrywear to fill a catalog, drunken oglers, limousines, and gleaming convertible Beemers.

In other words, the Triangle is a wellspring of unabashedly hoochie yuppiedom whose tributaries flow outward toward Union and Chestnut streets. At its center is Eastside West, a relatively mellow place where you could get lucky and find a free seat at the bar -- a fine spot to scope the latest in Triangle fashions. If you find yourself freaked out by, say, a thirtysomething woman in billowing, pleated culottes, simply retire to the darkened back room. Here, Robin sips a Mojito, entranced by the neon hues of the fish tank.

"We're trying to find some kind of poking device to get the puffer fish to puff," she says, adding, "I don't like the eel."

For the record, there is no puffer fish, poking is prohibited, and the eel doesn't seem to like Robin much, either.

After a cocktail or three at Eastside West, you may be ready for MatrixFillmore, the just-off-the-Triangle heart of Marina culture. Endure the line and you'll end up in one of the most scorching venues in town. The place is so hot that one woman wipes the sweat from her cleavage as she shoulders past other maidens in low-cut jeans and achingly short skirts and stylee boys like Jean-Michel, who's suffering in his thick wool sweater.

"Well, I'm too shy to take it off," Jean-Michel explains. David dressed more wisely -- his unbuttoned shirt reveals a tiny gold cross and a flash of pectorals, one of many examples of male cleavage on the premises. A true Marina coolio, David digs the Matrix, and he's noticed that the women here aren't too hard on the eyes.

"I like them without the attitude, though," he says. "Some of these ladies have to be reminded that they're only fours or fives."

On that charming note, we return to the Triangle proper, where the Balboa Cafeoffers a more classic Marina experience. Dark wood paneling and white-jacketed bartenders give the place an old-school feel. The bar is crowded, but not ridiculously so. "It's nice to have a little quiet zone," says Veronica. Quiet? "Maybe we're screaming over the noise, but it's very comfortable, very social. It's a very exquisite break."

Elsewhere, a chipper blonde named Christine wraps an arm around her friend Emily. "We're the girls of the Marina Triangle," Christine claims. Emily denies every word of it, then disappears. So much for Triangle pride.

There's no bar at the Triangle's northwest corner (otherwise, it would be a square). Across the street from the Balboa, City Taverncompletes the circuit. The sound system pumps bass-heavy hip hop, and the Marina vibe is in full effect. Sarah has the look of a Triangle regular (revealing top, blond hair, faux fur purse) but says she's only here to meet friends. At the bar, Lisa is equally blond, and sports the kind of suntan rarely seen north of Santa Barbara.

"We're just looking to have a good time," Lisa says, revealing herself to be an unapologetic Triangle girl. "I really love the Marina. It has a certain ambience. It really does."

No one could argue with that.

 
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