Mixed Breed

Sniffing around the newest hot nightlife neighborhood of the Dogpatch

A motley crew of barhoppers rules the night in Dogpatch, a diverse and rapidly changing hodgepodge of quaint Victorians, heavy industry, and spanking-new live-work lofts. By 10 p.m. on a Friday, the workday rumble has lapsed into silence. Some bars (Franklin's, the Main Mast) are already closed. At the Sea Star Clubsports bar on Third Street near 20th, scruffy, vaguely shady-looking regulars like Frank and Jesse are outnumbered by five men in tank tops and baggy athletic gear, one of whom mumbles foreign words into the pay phone near the door.

These cats came a long way to be here. "We are from India," says Adrien, who's been visiting San Francisco for a week -- a stopover during an Alaska-to-Mexico cruise. The ship is docked nearby, so his posse adopted this timeworn watering hole as its own. "Everybody dropped in and found the joint very happening," continues Adrien, who apparently picked up a little slang during his trip. "The drinks, the music, the games, the telephone. It's, like, awesome."

Elsewhere at the Sea Star, Michael, a cabdriver, winds down after a shift that landed him smack dab in the middle of the 10th anniversary of Critical Mass. "I kind of enjoyed it, but my passenger, who was drunk and on the way to the Giants game, flipped out."

Tonight the Sea Star's relatively quiet, but not nearly as quiet as the Dogpatch Saloon, a decades-old hangout on Third and 22nd streets. The weathered plaque on the bar reads "This seat reserved for Anna E. Cole (aka Tugboat Annie, a former owner) upon request." Annie would have no problem claiming her stool at present. According to Brad the bartender, 40 people were at the bar watching the Giants game earlier. Now there's only Tom, a crusty local whose arms are emblazoned with tattoos.

"I'm just dedicated," Tom says, finishing off a bowl of chili before revealing the charm of the 'hood: "You can hang out with people who are either broke or they got millions, and you get to know all of them. It's heavily working-class, but there's also a lot of young people coming in."

Tom's right, as evidenced by a trip back to 20th Street to the month-old Sub Lounge. Frank and Jesse, from the Sea Star, stroll in and join a few dozen hipsters come to get their groove on to thumping house music and lounge in cushy airplane seats. According to Kevin, the new owner, a downstairs level will open soon, but even with one level the place has a certain vibe. The bar glows, and the lighting is deliciously dim and sultry. Welcome to Dogpatch's hot new scene.

"Now's when it's good, man, when it's small," says Erin, shaking her leather-clad heinie to the beat.

"We've had some parties in here that have just been insane," says resident DJ Smoove. "All signs are pointing toward go."

Signs also seem to point toward go at Cafe Cocomo, on Indiana near Mariposa. Searchlights slice the air out front. A patio leads to a vast dance floor lorded over by a DJ and a quartet of conga drummers. The fledgling radio station 92.7 is in the house, yet the club is a few hundred heads short of being packed to capacity. Luckily, the roving club tour known as the Mexican Bus arrives and takes over the dance floor. "It's the happening shit," says Ron, a suave dude in a bowler hat, about his method of transportation. "You've gotta come on board, bro."

Later, the bus departs for SOMA's Club Caliente, which doesn't leave a whole lot of action at Cafe Cocomo.

"Normally, it's very crowded here," says Karen, a bit perplexed. She watches the bus crew shuffle off, then has an idea: "Did you ask them where they're going?"

 
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