Best New Neighborhood Bar - 2001
Charlie's is a lot of things: It's a great place to dine. It's a great place to have a drink. It's a great place to see and be seen. It's a great place to -- ahem -- make a new friend. In short, it's the best thing to happen to Union Street in a long time. Charlie's central Union Street location brings together a healthy demographic of twenty- and thirtysomethings from the surrounding neighborhoods -- those who crave a little sophistication, minus the pretense. Its hip and happening bar scene has brought South of Market cool to little ol' Cow Hollow, without the residue of beer scum on the floor. The décor is as sleek as the crowd (outdoor seating with heat lamps, zinc-topped tables and bar, ergonomic chairs, flat-screen TVs, deco-inspired light sconces), creating a warm, funky ambience. Unlike at the Blue Light or, eek!, the Bus Stop, a woman who patronizes Charlie's can rest assured she will not be pounced on by that 30-year-old dot-com geek reliving his Phi Delt days. Rather, she'll most likely encounter a man here who is decent enough to clearly introduce himself, and even more decent to offer a trip up to the sometimes insanely crowded bar. And it's a heterogeneous mix: The happy-hour suits linger on to mingle quite effortlessly with the late-night fashionistas. After the kitchen closes, the lights dim and house music is cranked up even louder -- inspiring the most timid to let loose. Who can ignore the mighty power of pheromones? Or good wine? And let's not underestimate the impact of the many mirrors, which offer both inconspicuous glances and good chi. Try, if you can, to swing by Charlie's during the week. With the weekend comes the inevitable trickling of the bridge-and-tunnel crowd (including more silicon than the valley), which, if you've already knocked a few back, actually makes for great entertainment value.