Pin It

Dragon Lounge 

Wednesday, Sep 19 2007
Comments

Some things seem purely male to me. Take, for example, setting off fireworks. I have zero interest in that activity and I don't understand people who hoard fireworks all year and then go all nuts on the Fourth of July. The guys I grew up with in Illinois would rent vans so they could cross state lines to buy cartloads of M-80s, WizzBangers, FaceRippers, and FingerBlasters. They'd ceremoniously trot out their loot at Independence Day barbecues like they were holding the Torah on Yom Kippur, and all the other little guys would gather 'round with anxious faces for the sacrament. Having by that time already sat through fella after fella squirting lighter fluid on lit coals, that was usually my cue to grab the last Rice Krispie treat and take my leave.

Another male thing I just don't get is the fascination with car chases in movies. To me that's just God's little way of giving you a bathroom break in an otherwise suspenseful film.

"Oh! It's comin' up," said the guy to my right at the Dragon Lounge on Taraval. We were sitting at the bar watching Bullitt, a film that is apparently known for having the greatest car chase of all time.

I suppose sitting at a bar in the afternoon is another purely male thing, only this one I get. I am usually the only female in these situations, especially at older dives.

I was pleasantly surprised when I walked into the Dragon Lounge, because the peel 'n' stick signage they have in their front window didn't exactly evoke a rich, cream-filled center. But the place is actually quite cute and cozy. My only quibble would be the overpowering smell of disinfectant, which I suppose was better than whatever it was trying to cover up.

The real key to this place, however, was the bartender, Bobby. For any of you bemoaning the loss of San Francisco watering holes run by older bartenders bursting with personality, the Dragon Lounge is for you. Now, Bobby's not exactly crotchety, which is the norm in an old-school barkeep, but he is funny and full of stories.

"What are you poppin' there, Bobby?" asked a patron, inquiring about the pills he was taking.

"It's my fourth Viagra and I still don't feel a thing," he quipped back. Bobby has a crew cut and glasses with a black band holding them to his head, and he wears sporty leisure ensembles. He called me "sweetie" and told me a story about how he threw up all over his date when he was 22. He never drank gin again. I loved this guy. When I asked him what time the place opened (9:30 a.m.!) he told me that the staff comes in at nine and kicks out all of the Chinese guys who smoked too much opium and passed out on the floor the night before.

Ike and Tina's version of "Proud Mary" was playing on the jukebox. It was all I could do not to jump out of my stool and start shakin' it like a retarded go-go dancer at the precise point where the horns come in. A patron asked Bobby whether he was rockin' to the music, and Bobby said he could handle anything except that rap stuff. When someone plays a rap song, "I go back there and I pull the plug," he told us.

Then the car chase came on the TV screen, and a hush fell over the bar. For those of you who don't know, Bullitt takes place in San Francisco, and the actors race all over the city. "There's the Safeway in the Marina!" observed one guy. In fact, Steve McQueen goes from the Marina to North Beach to Candlestick in about five minutes, just like we can! The hot pursuit didn't seem like that great of shakes to me, but I suppose it was the first of its kind or something. I must say that it was nice to be sharing something on the TV with the men around me that wasn't sports.

I recognized one black guy in the movie as being a big TV actor in the '70s.

"Hey," I said. "That's that one guy!"

"Sidney Poitier," said the man on my right with the gin-blossomed nose. I wasn't sure who the actor was, but I was quite sure it wasn't Sidney Poitier (turns out it was Georg Stanford Brown, of Roots and The Rookies fame). Have you noticed that whenever there is a black character from the Bullitt era and he isn't playing a thug or the guy who gets killed in the first five minutes, that some dude always says, "That's Sidney Poitier!"?

Bobby asked me how I liked my drink. I said it was great, and then he went into a story about dirty martinis.

"The first time someone asked me for one of those things," he said, "I had no idea what they wanted. I have been a bartender for a long time," (29 years at the Dragon), "and now they have these dirty martinis." He ended up making that initial cocktail with sweet as well as dry vermouth. A good guess.

From there we got onto the subject of mojitos. Oh God, if you go to the Dragon, don't play rap music, and don't make Bobby drink (or have to make) a mojito.

"I don't care for them," he told me. "I tried it once, and after about the third one I realized it wasn't my thing."

An older lady came in and sat to my left. She was from London, as it turned out, and she ordered a hot toddy. What a strange mix of characters I had plunked myself next to. Each bar in San Francisco is its own little universe, and places like the Dragon Lounge are drifting farther and farther off into the distance.

I realized that I had to get going if I was going to avoid terrible traffic. I asked Bobby what driving route he preferred, and we both came to the conclusion that there really was no "good" way around the city at rush hour. "Just stay here and have a few more martinis till the time passes!" he offered. I made a joke about not wanting to barf all over my date and sadly demurred. A bar writer has to have her limits.

"See ya, sweetie," he said to me on my way out.

Now there goes the last of the red hot San Francisco bartenders, I said to myself.

About The Author

Katy St. Clair

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Slideshows

  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed