By Cory Sklar
By Alee Karim
By Christina Li
By Dave Pehling
By Ian S. Port
By SF Weekly
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
Specs' leaves me with a bad feeling. Not for what it is, but because of my behavior there a few years ago. I was drinking a beer, and the bartender made a martini for someone else, poured it into its stemmed glass, and then poured the dregs into a smaller glass, which she left on the counter in front of me. I attempted to drink the little glass, in a fit of either dipsomania or the idea that she had given it to me. Sure, it was a lame move on my part, but at the time I didn't think it was worthy of the tongue-lashing she gave me. Whew, she was pissed. I felt ashamed. Still do. It didn't help that I got hate mail from a guy who called me an out-of-control drunk.
So when my friend begged me to go there last week, I was dubious. Scared, even. Have you noticed that I take great care in describing the servers who are kind to me? You can give me rotten persimmons on a bed of poop and I won't bat an eye if you have a good personality. But if shit goes down and you are mean to me, or anyone else in my vicinity, well, let's just say that the pen is mightier than the sword. Or so I like to think. "I hate that place," I told my friend, who of course then asked me why, and then I of course had to tell my sad story.
"That was entirely your fault," he said. Touché.
12 William Saroyan Place
San Francisco, CA 94133-4400
Category: Bars and Clubs
Region: North Beach/ Chinatown
So, Specs', I return to you, the penitent, prodigal sot.
This time I ordered a club soda. Here's one good thing about ordering non-alcoholic drinks in a bar: Most of the time they just give them to you for free. Especially when they are ordered along with a beer by someone who is actually imbibing. I think this is the mark of a truly classy place, because they seem to be honoring the designated driver. Well, Specs' didn't throw in the soda, but that's okay — I owed them anyway.
I guess if I was going to do the whole recovery thing I was supposed to make amends to Specs'. But how?
"Leave a big tip, for starters," said my friend. But I always do that anyway. No, this would have to be something spectacular. Fabulous. Primo. Kardashian.
The inside of Specs' is like grandma's attic, if she collected beer signs. She wasn't much for housekeeping, either, and once guessed Rumpelstiltskin's name when he was spinning straw into gold with an overturned banana-seat bike in her garage. Granny is sort of intellectual, so she even guessed the original German pronunciation of his name, "Rumpelstilzchen." (She's also kind of a pedant.)
Now that you have the lay of the place, let us turn to the clientele, which has an average age of about 56, give or take a few young Norwegian tourists. They aren't as Beat Generation as Vesuvio's, and nowhere near as dandy as Tosca's, but they are tuned in enough to remember when Ralph Nader was a consumer advocate. They also like to fashion shoulder bags out of Guatemalan fabric and don't see a need to ever, ever part with a book. Turn-ons: Makin' love in a Chevy Van. Turn-offs: Gluten.
So, what do you get the bar that has everything? "I'm sure she got over it," said my friend, referring to the bartender I angered over six years ago. I can't even remember which one she was, but chances are she still works there.
I decided that the best thing to do was to hide something exciting somewhere on the premises, for someone to come across and be delighted by. Nude pictures of myself were too risky, because they could end up in the wrong hands and on the wrong website. No, this would have to be family-friendly.
Earlier that day I was in line at Safeway and I started a conversation with the elderly woman in front of me. She was buying fresh flowers, brownie mix, and toilet paper, sure signs of a grandchild's first apartment. "No," she replied, "it's my sister. We've just moved her to a care facility." We chatted for a bit, and I used my Safeway number to get her a discount, and when she was leaving she grabbed my hand and shoved a $20 See's Candies gift certificate into it. She also called me "honey." This was a charmed gift certificate, and it was the perfect thing to hide in Specs'.
I looked around the room and saw a million places that it could be shoved. Question was, did I want it to be found quickly or in several years? Should someone casually come across it while searching for a dropped pen, or should I aim it at the keen-eyed gumshoe who would catch any anomaly in the photo display?
I can't tell you what I decided. In fact I can't tell you where I put it. It's up to you to go there, buy a bunch of drinks, and then search for it. There's $20 worth of butter-rum truffles at stake.
"Pretty shrewd," said my companion, who swore our secret would die with him. Yeah, so what if the bartender was eyeing me suspiciously while I lingered to hide the thing? One day she would see the method to my madness. Mostly though, I felt that my hands were now cleansed of my past sins.
"Buy you a martini?" I asked him.