By Omar Mamoon
By Kate Williams
By Pete Kane
By Molly Gore
By Lou Bustamante
By Anna Roth
Are you familiar with the term "catfish?" That's a person with a phony Internet avatar/photo that is sexually attractive enough to make people want to interact with them instead of run to the nearest eye-wash station. It could be a shot of the person 20 years ago, before the meth. Or it could be a shot of some random, hot frat dude, while the real guy looks more like the comic book store owner on The Simpsons. Or the mom from What's Eating Gilbert Grape. Or Lotney "Sloth" Fratelli from The Goonies. Or Rick Santorum.
Frankie's Bohemian Café is a catfish.
It sits on a tree-lined corner, painted a rich, inviting red. A green-and-white striped awning dips down over the façade like a dainty unibrow. Above it, painted in delightful old country script, is the name of the Czech-ish bar/bistro. It's adorable.
San Francisco, CA 94115
Region: Japantown/Pacific Heights
Cross the threshold, however, and charms begin to fade faster than Justin Bieber's star power. It's a one-room saloon, with a bar with stools on the right and tables and chairs everywhere else. The walls are a garish purple-red. Two big TVs above the bar play sports, which is pretty necessary in most watering holes, but damn they are ugly. When sports are on TV there are also bars of information flashing at you along the bottom, windows popping in and out of people swinging golf clubs while the basketball game is going on, and quick flashes to big dudes in suits with even more screens behind them giving commentary about whatever. I felt like I was in a video game.
However, I persevered. I sat down at a table with my friend and we decided to order the chili cheese fries and then get the fuck out. We were really hungry but also wanted to catch up, but nothing in Frankie's compelled us to "pull up a chair and spill your guts." No, that would be better suited to the Lion Bar down the street. The food looked pretty good though, albeit pricey. $10 for chili cheese fries? $24 for a steak? At a place that looked like some kid's converted garage?
We were the only people there, except for the bartender who was fiddling with his cellphone and ignoring us. Eventually he came over and took our order.
Instead of talking we of course stared at the horrible television sets, because we are primates and shiny things that flit and flicker can keep us rapt until we notice our partner needs grooming. Kate Upton was on the TV, then it would switch to a massive guy (had to be ex-NFL) chuckling about her, and then back to another shot of her, then back to him, this time with his finger pointed up because he was obviously coming to some deep conclusion about her.
Frankie's was playing what I call modern-day dude rock, like the Killers, The Kings of Leon, and whatever twang-a-dang funky BS the Red Hot Chili Peppers have just put out. The bartender had walked out the front door with a hamburger on a plate, ostensibly for the Fishbowl next door, which used to be owned by Frankie's but now isn't, but folks still order the food. Anyway, a guy came in and looked around for the staff then eventually sat on a stool. Now my friend and I had something to watch instead of the TV. The bartender still didn't return and the guy was getting anxious. He started to pace and sigh really loudly, which is always exciting to watch. He had a folded up newspaper that he kept moving from underneath each arm. Finally he made an exasperated pitch for the door but of course the bartender walked back in at just that time. The man looked at his watch dramatically but decided to stay and order food. So there was that.
But the adventure wasn't over. The bartender went into the back and then came out with a big bowl of french fries completely covered in greasy chili and cheese. Not gonna lie, it looked hella good. He plonked it down in front of the two of us and then walked away. There were forks on the table so I guess we were supposed to share the entire trough like we were on a date. It took about 10 minutes to get some plates out of him; more then enough time to try the fries and figure out that there was not a lot of flavor there. It needed salt, which for bar food is really saying something. But, like sports on the tee-vee, once the carbs hit my mouth it was hard to stop my brain's rewards circuit: Dip fork put in mouth dip fork put in mouth. It wasn't until about the fifth bite that I began to feel sick. We both locked eyes, fork in hand, and then put our utensils down. There's no excuse for eating food like this if you aren't stoned.
He never brought the check, so I walked up to the bar and gave him my card. The end total seemed a bit high for chili fries and two sodas, $15, but whatever. If by "Bohemian" they mean laid-back, almost nonexistent service at European-economy-in-shambles prices, then they nailed that shit.