Best New Bar - 2005
While it may seem like San Francisco needs a new bar as much as a canary needs a cat, the mid-Haight/Western Addition neighborhood is surprisingly lacking in decent watering holes. Thankfully, in October of last year Leila Fakouri opened Madrone Lounge on Divisadero Street. The space is far more than just another cocktail saloon; in fact, Fakouri prefers to call it an "art lounge." Similar in spirit to 111 Minna (on a smaller scale), Madrone hosts bimonthly art exhibits, showcasing local painters, photographers, sculptors, clothes designers, and filmmakers. The bar itself is a work of art, featuring gorgeously bound drink/art menus, an elaborately detailed DJ setup, and stunningly drawn calendars. The same care goes into the infused vodka specialty cocktails, which are exotic without being overly eccentric. Plus, there's live music every Wednesday, highlighting hometown acts like Tussle and the Nervous Breakdowns, as well as a steady stream of terrific DJs like Neel N. Kizmiaz, Wisdom, and Polywog. To think that this space nearly became a Burger King several years ago.