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By Anna Roth
By Anna Roth
By Anna Roth
By Anna Roth
Burritt Room: First things first: The name of the bar/lounge/venue is the Burritt Room, which is inside the Crescent Hotel. This boutique hotel "chain" (the other location being in Beverly Hills) is sleek and polished, but with enough antique design elements to bring it down to earth. The same aesthetic applies to the bar, which is located on the second floor. Chandeliers and candles give warmth to the deep wood floor, modern couches, and stark white piano. The bar is front and center with a jaw-dropping selection of spirits. Beer and wine are here, too, but very much an afterthought. You're here for a cocktail, and each libation comes with paragraph-long menu description that somehow neglects to reveal the price (the cocktails are all $10). Another notable feature: The Burritt Room is open daily at 5 p.m., so if you need a drink on Christmas, yep, it's open. 417 Stockton, 400-0500, crescentsf.com.
Butter: Its cheeky trailer park decor — something like a retro diner crossed with a NASCAR fan's rec room — has made Butter a favorite of club-crawling ironists. After drinking or dancing up an appetite, patrons hit the double-wide food stand for inexpensive "trailer treats" like mini corn dogs, deep fried mac 'n' cheese, and Frito pie. The custom drink menu features similarly thematic concoctions, including such lowbrow libations as the Shotgun Wedding (bourbon and a Bud), the Bitchin' Camaro (Sailor Jerry rum and Dr. Pepper), and Prom Night Punch (apple vodka, cranberry juice, and 7Up). You gotta hand it to a place whose idea of "bottle service" is a pint of PBR with a mini bottle of Fernet Branca — though you should be warned that the drink prices aren't quite as bottom-shelf as the trashy attitude might lead you to believe. 354 11th St., 863-5964, smoothasbutter.com.
Cantina: Cantina has mastered the art of fresh Latin cocktails — available here by both the glass and the pitcher. Bartenders muddle drinks made with their house-grown citrus (supposedly the trees are in Santa Clara) while Union Square/Nob Hillers get rowdy. Signature drinks include the Five-Spice Margarita and Blackberry Cabernet Caipirinha, and wine and beer aficionados also have plenty of choices, including many local and South American options such as Cusqueña, Negra Modelo, Moylan's, Speakeasy, Bear Republic, and more. If it's jammed up front at the bar, retreat to the back or downstairs where there's a lot more lounge space. 580 Sutter, 398-0195, cantinasf.com.
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Casanova Lounge: Hipsters and locals pack the worn velvet couches of this charming, dimly lit Mission District dive for pocket-change happy hour specials, cool DJ nights, and a stocked jukebox. The decor accents — like vintage lamps and black velvet paintings — might make you wonder if the owners had raided every thrift shop in the county, while the retro-hip fashions of the regulars only reinforce that idea. Nightly DJs spin everything from indie, Britpop, and punk to Latin boogie, soul oldies, and honky tonk. Unless it's a major holiday, there's never a cover charge. 527 Valencia, 863-9328, casanovasf.com.
Comstock Saloon: The Barbary Coast re-created by the Comstock Saloon would have appeared to the denizens of the 19th-century vice district as a utopian fantasy. The saloon's booths are occupied by mixed groups, the bartenders have all their teeth, and the booze won't make you go blind. That doesn't make the romance it stages any less potent, because everything about the place is so beautifully realized. Jonny Raglin and Jeff Hollinger's take on classic cocktails such as Pisco Punches and South Sides is deft, and even defter is the way chef Carlo Espinas lightens and modernizes Victorian dishes — beans and salt pork, Hamburg steak, beef-shank and bone marrow pie — so they feel as contemporary as a well-made Manhattan. 155 Columbus, 617-0071, comstocksaloon.com.
E&O Asian Kitchen: E&O is a big, fun-filled Disneyfied version of some Southeast Asian trading post, with towering ceilings, a split-level dining room, equatorial-rustic objets d'art, and a tasty selection of Indonesian, Malaysian, and Vietnamese delicacies. The dumplings, spring rolls, satays, and stir-fries are especially tasty with one of the house tropical cocktails or a flagon of Indian lager, and don't pass up the crunchy corn fritters, the house specialty. The mood is frolicsome and festive; opt for the mezzanine if you're in a more intimate mood. Tasty, reasonably priced lunch menu, too. 314 Sutter, 693-0303, eosanfrancisco.com.
Elixir Saloon: The Hunt-In Club. Swede's. Club Corona. There's allegedly been a bar at this address since the mid-1800s — with the current corner space in operation since just after the 1906 quake — and you can sense some of that history at Elixir. Ornamental antique lamps hang from the deep crimson ceiling, illuminating walls cluttered with framed artwork that reflects the saloon's past, while a vintage dark-wood bar back looks to be older than the age of many clientele combined. And speaking of clientele, Elixir's demographic and atmosphere can change with the hour: it's sunny and bright during the day, then shadowy and candlelit at night, and the crowd can be either raucous and loud or refined and quiet. Some come for the classy artisanal cocktails, served in a manner that made Elixir the city's first "certified green" bar. Others are content to pump money into the digital jukebox, which may play hardcore punk and classic jazz or Top 40 hip-hop and twanging country. If you're not into what's happening at the moment, come back another time. The bar'll still be here. It probably always will. 3200 16th St., 552-1633, elixirsf.com.