Natoma Cabana, Indoor-Outdoor Fun Downtown

“This menu was stolen from Natoma Cabana,” reads the cardboard cocktail list at the bar in Dennis Leary and Eric Pasetti’s latest project. It’s an indoor-outdoor haunt, fancifully outfitted with Adirondack chairs and subtropical plants, and strung with party lights.

Together with the exposed brick, scalloped skylights, and dormers, it all forms a smart conceit, but Natoma Cabana’s downtown location might make it a happy-hour kind of place, rather than the late-night venue it seems to want to be. (If you've ever been to the Delancey in New York's Lower East Side, they're almost uncannily alike.)

[jump]Theft-deterrent message aside, the menu is compact and slightly unusual. Fives beers on tap — including Ale Industries’ Uncle Jesse's West Coast Session Ale — and five wines-by-the-glass accompany six $12 cocktails, all of them summery in nature. If you’ve ever thirsted for some homemade fireballs, they’re here, but the Wednesday night crowd seemed a tad subdued for that. It’s too bad, too, since the laddish art direction is so flawless, right down to the neon sign propagandizing “LIQUOR.”

Natoma Cabana does have a couple of ultra-lounge accents, such as very loud music and, at the time of our visit, a Reserved sign taped to fun-looking seating nest that four people could conceivably shoehorn themselves into.

Although the exterior, a black-and-white mural with a green neon arrow, is striking, one thing that’s just a shame is the noirish dead-end location. Not that it’s a bust; rather, having almost no neighbors is an untapped boon (aside from the bass pulsing over the vast, crane-studded pit that’s to become part of the Transbay Terminal). Elsewhere in SOMA, the Stud’s dead-end rear alley provides a prime location for bad boys and girls to smoke, exchange numbers and get into trouble late at night. Would that Natoma Cabana’s somewhat buttoned-down clientele embraced the demimonde like that.

Natoma Cabana, 90 Natoma, 952-0481


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