At an establishment that bills itself as San Francisco's premier dive venue, you'd best not be expecting some slick Olympic setup. No, ping-pong on Thee Parkside's back patio is a ramshackle affair. The table sags and the paddles are frayed (last time we were there, one paddle had the editorial comment “Loser!” scrawled on its surface). But the bar's proprietors know that ping-pong, when played slightly sauced in a crowded area, is simultaneously excellent physical exercise and a great icebreaker. Every missed ball sends players scrambling around the patio in pursuit, scooting under picnic tables and requesting help from various strangers. There's usually only one ball, so no one can afford to lose it. Playing ping-pong here won't showcase your style or sang-froid, but Thee Parkside embraces ping-pong's dorkiness, and lets everyone's inner rec-room geek re-emerge.
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