No matter how many boutiques and drybars it might share the block with, a bar with a beer-and-a-shot special is always going to be casual at heart. This is one of the many, many selling points of The Snug, the newest wine-bar-with-cocktails-beer-and-food on Fillmore and Clay streets in Pac Heights.
A project by industry veterans Shane Matthews, Jacob Racusin, Zack Schwab, and Brian Shin, The Snug’s antecedents include lauded establishments like The Monk’s Kettle and Alembic. Having replaced the already largely forgotten Indian restaurant Mehfil, it’s a fairly enormous space with more than a couple nooks, including a cozy spot up front tricked out with a Parcheesi board, and a stairway that looks as though it leads to the kitchen but actually opens up to a second level. (Well, you can see it from the sidewalk, but still.)
While white subway tiles seemed like they were about to fade away, they’ve recently mounted a comeback, and The Snug dodges that design pitfall with a back bar tiled in green herringbone. Snazzy! (It’s also notable because the overhead bar menu looks like an old-timey train-station schedule board, so they could have gone for an easy joke — but didn’t.) Nobody whose company is worth keeping makes minor design motifs their no. 1 criterion for where to hang out, so both the food and drink menus are worthy of sustained attention.
First, the drinks, which run from $12 to $16. Three years ago, that would have sounded outrageous for a mostly-neighborhood spot, and three years from now it will sound like a bargain, but let’s be zen. Also, be aware that the wines by the glass are right around that price point, meaning there aren’t cutesy, large-format money pits padding things out. These drinks are well thought-out almost to the last, especially the boozy yet perfumed White Lily #2 (gin, rum, orange liqueur, absinthe, and a curry leaf). There’s also the flatly ironizing Willful Indifference (one part scotch, one part glass, one part ice). It’s the priciest one of the bunch, so don’t mix it around with your finger, OK?
The Best Damn Daiquiri comes with demerara sugar (good move) and the Ultima Palabra, or “last word,” is mezcal, green Chartreuse, maraschino, and lime on nitro. You get the sense this cocktail roster was constructed around the need to maximize volume in a packed house, but not by sacrificing originality. Printed in a font reminiscent of an eye chart, the beer list includes lots of favorites — Allagash, Temescal, and a Henhouse-and-Fort Point collab show up — but digging deep yields some slightly off-the-wall hits, like a Grimm Sunshine Pop!, an $8 lemongrass vanilla sour that feels like the marriage of a kombucha with a cream soda.
You’re going to want something to eat with that. If you’re not down with Korean fried chicken (six pieces in a simple garlic-ginger sauce, $11) then consider gravitating toward a trotter hotdog with hamhock “ketchup,” a sesame naan with shitaake hummus, or even sea bream poke. Feeling goofy? There are horseradish sour cream tater tots with chives and “bacon.” Feeling classy? Tsar Nicolai Select caviar is under the same column.
Airy and bright, The Snug is a great late-afternoon escape to read a magazine and ignore your coworkers/roommates/biological troublemakers until they stop sniping at each other. Really, the only downside to is how on a weekend night it feels like it’s drawing the same numbers as Tiësto during his Vegas residency. How snug do you feel like getting? It’s not that the crush is somehow unbearable; it’s just that you shouldn’t even think about coming here to fill your stomach at that hour. Snuggle up any other day of the week.
The Snug, 2301 Fillmore St. 415-562-5092 or thesnugsf.com