I couldn't tell if Fog City Pub and Cafe, located directly across from the Powell Street BART station, was old or new, because when I peered in it looked like a gigantic, sterile, empty Chinese restaurant. You know the kind — mauve or maroon walls, stark tables and chairs, and no carpeting. That instantly makes me feel sad.
I think Fog City is aiming to be a place for dudes to go after work and watch the game, or for entire offices to unwind over baskets of nachos, or for out-of-towners to stumble into after a long day of shopping downtown. Unfortunately, there's a lot of competition for those customers already.
I sat at the bar, between two flatscreen TVs with Tiger Woods on them. The bartender greeted me very warmly and got me a drink and a menu. Another bartender was sitting at the end of the bar, and some other employees were milling around. Besides myself, there was a table full of what looked like high schoolers. "IDs, please," said the bartender, duly looking over their documentation. One kid looked about 16, but drank like a 60-year-old rummy: a beer, a shot, and then another shot. He wore a baseball hat and had a tattoo. Dollars to doughnuts, this guy enjoys watching Ultimate Fighting matches and listens to Insane Clown Posse.
A young woman behind the bar was talking to my bartender, also a young woman. "You do realize that Sunday is Mother's Day, right?" The rest of the staff said that no, they didn't realize that. I also didn't realize it. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I seemed to remember that Mother's Day falls in May.
"Dudes, Mother's Day is in May," the Young Buck said. I was surprised that he knew this. He seemed like the sort of guy who would put a pillow over his mom's face in her sleep. The staff seemed relieved, but also a bit bummed. Mother's Day might mean a busy weekend. This place needed to be busy.
Just then, "Too Much Heaven" by the Bee Gees came on the sound system. Now, I must disclose that the Bee Gees are my all-time favorite group. There has never been a song Barry Gibb has penned that I haven't liked. But it's not a tune you would pick to set the tone for a happenin' downtown spot. It felt sort of surreal, sitting there next to the Young Buck in Fog City's cold expanse, listening to the post-disco Bee Gees.
My order came: a salad and quesadillas. I had bonded with the bartender over Iggy Pop, and now she asked me where I was from and genuinely seemed to want to know the answer. The other bartender, a real live Irishman, strolled back and forth and occasionally spoke in that quaint little way them foreigners do. All of this coalesced into me seriously beginning to love the Fog City Pub. If I worked downtown, this would be the place I would come to relax. My bartender, whose name was Kristin, was the sort of person who remembers customers and is happy to see them. What the decor lacked in warmth, the staff more than made up for.
I asked Kristin about the place, and found out that it had been open for only a month, and that it was owned by the same guy who owns Murphy's on Kearny Street. Aha! There just might be hope for this place. Murphy's is always packed, and has a ton of character and decent pub grub. If the owners can somehow transfer that shtick here, they might have something. But they need to work fast. Aesthetics are terribly important in this town, and Fog City, as it is now, is straight-up fugly. To' up from the flo' up. Crash and burn from stem to stern. Homelier than a one-eyed wombat. Not attractive. Boodisgusting (as opposed to bootilicious). Okay, I'll stop.
"Have you tried Dan Aykroyd's Skull Vodka?" Kristin asked. I thought she said "skol vodka," as in vodka with chaw in it, which sounded disgusting, but possibly highly profitable. We laughed. I was just about to ask the Young Buck whether he would buy such a product when he got up and went to sit with his other peeps.
Kristin brought me the bill with a nice smile and a free refill, and that pretty much sealed it: I want Fog City Pub and Cafe to make a million dollars. I want to single-handedly ensure that this business thrives and its staff stays gainfully employed. I want Mother's Day every weekend. I want the place to become so packed full of sports-lovin' douchebags and postwork assmunchers that I would never in my right mind set foot in it again.
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