Best North Beach Bar - 2009
Specs' Twelve Adler Museum Cafe
Specs' is one of the few bars left where you can ask for a martini and get a cold glass of gin and a little vermouth without having to answer a bunch of damn fool questions. That alone would qualify this venerable North Beach hideaway for übersaloon status, but there's so much more to the place: the old-salt pro-union merchant marine ambience; the Ahab-era slicing implement used to carve wedges of Swiss cheese; the eclectic neighborhood clientele, a genial melting pot of writers, bartenders, strippers, musicians, angry poets, and wide-eyed tourists; and the flags, masks, Inuit art, sharks' jaws, model ships, and graffiti that cover the worn-wood walls and ceiling. Most important is Specs Simmons himself, the spellbinding Boston metalworker, folksinger, and political activist who opened the joint in 1968. His saloon, which in previous incarnations was a Chinese joss house, a lesbian bar, and a jazz club, is the quintessential San Francisco hangout.