The Raven Offers Poe-like Darkness And Whiskey Flights

With whiskeys and a fun atmosphere, this SoMa bar and club stays fresh amid the churn of a most dynamic neighborhood.

Photo by Peter Lawrence Kane

When you talk about a bar on Folsom Street, especially this time of year, the mind naturally turns to a certain black-white-and-blue flag with a red heart at the top left. And yeah, there are plenty of spots in and around SoMa where BDSM participants playfully grab one another by the leather-studded collar. But among all the Folsom Street Fair naughtiness is a cocktail bar and club that caters to everyone, one whose darkness is more Poe-like than sexual-dungeon-esque.

Raven, on Folsom between Seventh and Eighth streets, is a bar and club with just the right amount of pluck and attitude to hang on.

As with much of San Francisco, Western SoMa has seen its fair share of places come and go. Luxe condos go up, while affordable spots like The Board or Pampalasa shutter. Nearby, The Stud is on borrowed time at its current location (although it will eventually relocate within the neighborhood). But Raven has managed to prosper amid all this churn, with an emphasis on quality whiskeys and fun DJ nights, and all without invoking the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore and damning you to spend eternity in your musty library perturbed by a beady-eyed bird.

Indeed, no one’s tapping, tapping at your chamber door. Instead, Raven’s staff are pouring flights of four-pour whiskies, from Ireland, Japan, and the U.S. Take the $22 Japanese offering, which includes Suntory’s agreeable blend Hibiki, the spicier Nikka Taketsuru, and the especially highly regarded Nikka Coffey Grain whisky, whose vanilla notes should please hardcore bourbon partisans as well as Japanese whisky hounds. You can get cross-cultural and build your own, with some choice bartender recommendations.

Further, this two-story venue — the leather-and-wood ground floor is a proper bar suitable for happy hour, while the club upstairs hosts Saturday throwback-video nights and such — has a respectable list of cocktails, including the summery La Ponderosa (Los Altos tequila, Ilegal mezcal joven, Vida mezcal, guava nectar, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, agave syrup, and Peychaud’s bitters). As fall approaches, consider the more autumnal Ginger Drop Kick, a house classic that hasn’t left the menu in at least five years. Made with Four Roses bourbon, Aperol, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, agave, and cold-pressed ginger juice, it’s a bit more amped-up than drinks that rely on bottled ginger beer. When you’ve had your fair share of spankings at the Cat Club or Bud Lights at the beer bust, you know what to do.

Raven, 1151 Folsom St., ravenbarsf.com

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