My childhood memories of sloppy joes involve a plastic tray, a half-pint carton of chocolate milk, and a shriveled hamburger bun soaked in a pool of mysterious red sauce. But things were different for Andy Brown, the chef at Buckshot Bar and Gameroom, a dive bar with an assortment of old arcade games and pool tables in the Inner Richmond.
When it comes to iconic American dishes, Brown thinks of his mom's cooking, whose shake and bake chicken was well known among neighbors. "She made proper mom food," he says. It's fitting then, that Brown ended up as a chef just down the street from where he grew up, cooking up a menu of childhood favorites and slightly-more-than-basic finger food. The sloppy joe may be the best thing on it.
Buckshot is part dive bar, part college kid's dream basement. It's a beer and a shot kind of place, where the chalkboard says stupid drinks cost extra, and happy hour extends from noon to 9 p.m. There's a weird dark orange hue illuminating the skeeball machines thanks to the Popsicle-orange walls and painted-over windows. Deer heads in all sizes protrude from the walls, a stuffed alligator grins over the bar, and The Last Dragon plays from a small TV. Skateboards and tattoo art cover sections of exposed brick. "The only thing that changes here is that more dead animals show up on the walls," says Brown. That, and the menu from time to time.
A tall green chalkboard wall in the back lists typical bar staples like wings and Irish nachos ranging from $3 to $8. More playful bites include the cornflake chicken, Sriracha candy bacon, a root beer float, and country fried bacon. Most of the items cater to the 20-something crowd that fills the hardwood floors shoulder-to-shoulder on Friday and Saturday nights for a DJ. I imagine it's that crowd that can scarf down more than two bites of deep fried bacon and maple syrup.
Still, Brown's ten years of experience in fine dining, and stints at places like Fleur de Lys and Campton Place comes through. The sloppy joe is a tasty hot mess of a sandwich, with sweet and tangy ground beef, a spicy mayonnaise, crunchy sweet onions, and a perfectly toasted sesame bun. The fresh-cut garlic fries on the side put most $3 fries to shame.
On Wednesdays and Sundays a skeeball league takes over, the teams dress in costume, and according to Brown, are fabulously nice people. Sounds like a perfect night for old school games, cheap beer, and proper bar food.
Buckshot Bar and Gameroom, 3848 Geary; kitchen open daily from noon to midnight.