Does Universal Cafe Mix the Best Bloody Mary in S.F.?

A few weeks ago, we were strapped into a leather seat on an eastbound jet, watching a World Cup game on a television the size of a postcard. Our neighbor, a shy 10-year old, kept leaning over to his left to sneak peeks at the action. We made some small talk. He and his younger brother divided their time between Anchorage and Louisville. His father, a trombonist, occupied the seat in front of us and pored over staff papers for the entire flight. The kid had a sweet, slightly defeated air ― and a cowboy hat he'd purchased at the Denver airport between flights. When the drinks cart came around, he asked for tomato juice. “We don't have that,” said the flight attendant. “You can have V-8 juice or Bloody Mary mix.” “What's Bloody Mary mix?” he asked. “You should get it,” we interjected. “You'll like it. It's a little spicy.” It's also better with vodka, but we kept that to ourselves.

Arriving back in San Francisco, five days later, 12 hours late, on the heels of a canceled flight, a delay, and a missed connection, we still had Bloody Mary mix on the brain. At a restorative brunch at Universal Café, we impulsively asked for one to pair with a sauce-drenched shredded-beef sandwich with horseradish cream, watercress, and buttermilk-fried onion rings. Sake, not stomach-searing vodka, flows through Universal's version of the classic pre-noon libation ($9).

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