Best (and Definitely Most Eccentric) Barkeep San Francisco 2003 - Bobby Cobby
When Bobby Cobby took over the Owl Tree bar in 1977, he realized that he'd found another suitable place to house the thousands of owl-related items he'd collected since childhood (he rotates his stock of owl paraphernalia among home, storage, and bar). Bobby has since decorated the dim dive with owl paintings, owl sculptures (in wood and metal), and an owl made of macramé; he's even got owl-shaped menus. Clearly, the Owl Tree is the product of an unchecked obsession, and its bizarre but cozy ambience attracts a motley clientele of old-timers, hipsters, and show-biz types just passing through town (like Rob Lowe and Katharine Hepburn). With his clean apron, starched white shirt, and elegant wave of white hair, the elderly Bobby is a stately presence behind the bar, and he brooks no nonsense. Order a "martini up with olives" and you may receive the caustic response, "Just order the drink; don't tell me how to make it." Attempts at conversation unrelated to drinkin' -- asking him about his Jack Russell terrier, who sleeps on a cushion behind the bar, for instance -- usually draw a gravelly, one-word response. Bobby has a big fan base, however, judging from the amount of owl kitsch given to him by what he refers to as "my night owls." It's darn near impossible not to succumb to the lure of the Owl, and when you do, you'll find other reasons to love the place -- like the comfy seats, the jukebox filled with oldies and crooners, the free wet-naps, and the freakishly tasty (and addictive) seasoned bar snacks.