This is really getting old, San Francisco. Every new bar seems to try and copy another one. “Signature” drinks that are actually trendy rehashes like the Moscow mule? Check. Small plates with peppadew peppers, or some take on the deviled egg, or a cheese plate? Check. Freakin' sweet potato french fries? Check. Zzzz.
Here's what sucks about the nightclub ennui that all of this has created: Redford does all this stuff but it actually does it really well. So don't think I'm dissing you, o' midscale Tenderloin saloon. It's just that I've seen it all before. I commend you for the fact that for $13 or $16 you get a pretty gigantic cheese plate or an assortment of charcuterie. The drinks are well-made and the bartenders are top-notch (though the woman who sounded French could not understand my questions, but no biggie). I also liked your nice stools and tater tots.
Redford used to be The Ambassador, a bar that I mercilessly tore into after getting what was probably the worst service I've ever had. I took it a bit further of course and accused it of being a satanic vampire cult. Its new incarnation is supposed to have an “American” theme, but it's super subtle. One of the bartenders was wearing a cowboy shirt with American flag art on it and the décor was “iron railroad fixture chic.”
But even my brother Kevin, who was visiting from Nashville and doesn't know S.F. bar culture, wants this place to find itself. I've done this long enough to know that certain buildings can be jinxed, and I was hoping that Redford would not suffer the same fate as the eerily uninviting Ambassador.
We squeezed into the two last remaining stools and it felt good to sit down after a day of running all over the place. The bartenders answered my brother's questions knowledgably and didn't bat an eye when he asked to try what seemed like every beer on tap before deciding on one. I should add that he also drank each sample in its entirety before saying, “Nah, not that one.” The staff gave us zero attitude, something I don't think I would've been able to do if the tables were turned.
“Check out those dudes down there,” he said to me, pointing down the bar. There they were, three lads with newly washed hair, trimmed nails, and freshly loofah'd cracks; a dab of Tommy Hilfiger cologne on their necks for good measure. They were looking around furtively and not speaking to one another, so it was easy to read: They were all really, really hoping to get laid. “They are in the wrong place,” said Kevin.
Not that there weren't attractive people at Redford, it's just that they all seemed to have just gotten off work with each other. Actually we couldn't nail down any one sort of customer, though at the same time they all blended into one big blob of the sort of people who were not out to have sex, just peppadew peppers.
We've all been like the trio at the end of the bar, though. You go to a new city and try and find the cool bars to hit but can only find vague descriptions because no guide is going to be able to tell you if there will be people there who you want to sleep with — or better still, will want to sleep with you.
“They need to head to the Marina,” I told my brother, explaining why. These guys were good-looking enough to get lucky there, and if not, there's always Ketel One.
“Hey,” said my bro, leaning in to whisper, “The guy next to me is German. Should we pick up a conversation?” I peered over and saw a guy who could only be named “Helmut.” He was drinking a lager of some sort, most likely some import. Europeans hate American beer, and until the rise of microbrews I totally understood why. But, of course, we no longer need to hang our kopfs in schande, because now our beer rivals theirs. Kevin began talking to him and quickly learned that, get this, Helmut was drinking Bud Light. Bud Light! The worst beer known to mensch!
“What are you doing?!” we both said to him, and Kevin broke out the menu and we all tried to find him a decent American beer. Somehow, strangely, Helmut seemed to think that all American beers suck so he was too scared to try anything besides Bud Light for fear of finding something even worse.
After much debate and fractured Deutsch, we recommended the Arrogant Bastard Ale, which of course is also pretty damn strong (heh heh). Danke schoen! Did he end up ordering it? We'll never know.
“Wow, they are still standing there, dazed,” I said to Kevin, referring to the dudes at the end of the bar. It was starting to get sort of sad. I paid the tab and we gathered up our stuff. I asked him what he thought of the bar, overall. He said it was “nice” but lacked distinction. We both agreed that there is something mercury-retrograde about the location; things are attempting to take course but something's still not quite right. I do wish it well though, because it has good people and good food.
We walked past The Three Dudes on the way out, and darn it if they didn't seem to be checking us out. “Wow, they are really getting desperate,” I said. We looked at each other and giggled.