Bar Basic, Orson: On the Hunt for Bargain Drinks in SOMA

Maybe Bar Basic's happy hour wasn't quite as happy as we were expecting last night. Certainly there was no trace of Back to Basic Thursday, a night that was supposed to have been devoted to affordable versions of the cocktails bartenders mixed before the average tippler knew from muddling. Instead, it was buck-off drafts, or $5 flavored specialty “martinis” the bartender seemed almost embarrassed to talk about.

Bar Basic opened just about two weeks ago, turning the old Gallery Lounge space on Brannan into a, well, basic lounge with touches worthy of sets from some high school production of Arsenic and Old Lace: Victorian wall moldings and a gold ceiling crown, with a touch of genuinely old paneling and marble at the front. The crowd: Guys in caps, keeping an eye on the West Virginia-Washington game, draining pints; a pair of skinny guys in even skinnier suits with an H&M fit; and groups of women coalescing on the long, textured banquette.

Our $6 well-gin martini wasn't bad, but the scene was too basic, even for us. With martini residue still on our lips, we ducked around the corner, up the long block of Fourth to Orson. There, couples in sweaters ringed the gray marble of the pinched-horseshoe-shaped bar, as daylight still filtered in through the high skylights. Parties of 10 or more occupied the lounge areas, including a guy in a club shirt that looked forged from metallic condom packets, and a woman with fiercely marcelled hair.

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