As the Bar Flies...
Hi Dive - 21st Amendment - Hotel Utah - Annies Bar
Just when you thought the Food Blogging community couldn't handle another meme, along comes Sarah with a new one. Her brainwave is that those food bloggers, like me, who like to review restaurants, should all critique one, following a given subject, on the same day. The first edition, published today, is on the theme "Bar Fly"
Not one to do thing by halves, I am actually able to present to you a full-on San Francisco bar crawl, as organised by one of my colleagues, in the SoMa district, at about this time every year. This was my, and Fred's, second year of attending. We had so much fun in 2004, accepting this year's invite was a no brainer. Each year, the route is mixed up to keep things fresh. We started, at 8pm, at the Hi-Dive Bar at Pier 28 on the Embarcadero, almost underneath the end span of the Bay Bridge. The bar tender was very funny, teasing me when I ordered a white wine spritzer (something I would never normally drink) instead of the Scotch he was trying to persuade everyone to imbibe. Hey - I knew it was going to be a long night, I needed to pace myself. The drink was served in a wine glass, straight up, no ice and tasted inoffensive. Good start.
At 9pm we took a brisk hike slightly up hill to Second Street and the 21st Amendment (pictured above). This is a modern, large and welcoming bar with a solid reputation, near to the Ballpark. Fred and I had good memories of eating here in the past, so we decided this would be the perfect spot for a quick dinner to line our stomachs.
First, drinks. I ordered another spritzer. Ugh! This time it was served with mountains of ice in a tall beer glass using an obnoxious white wine. After my first taste I didn't even want another sip. Then I saw it. It was a a slice of pretty, pink watermelon, adorning a glass of beer. It triggered a distant memory of a post I read last year on Fatemeh's blog, Gastronomie, in which she described her love of 21A's Watermelon Wheat. I was sold. As beers go, this was a glass full of amber nectar, so summery, so subtle, so lip-smackingly good, even to an irregular beer drinker like me. I am sure macho, real ale drinkers would have looked down their noses at me in disbelief as I enjoyed a beer with a pink fruit aftertaste.
Although they have a blackboard outlining daily specials, both Fred and I decided to order from the regular menu. I went for the Classic Burger "21A" with grilled onions and tomato 8.95 plus swiss 1.00 plus mushrooms 1.50 and a side of their house made kettle chips.
This wasn't a life-changing burger but it sure was good. The meat was tasty and cooked perfectly to my medium rare specification. The bread was fine and the generous pile of plump, juicy, delicious mushrooms added to my enjoyment of the dish. The onions were gently cooked which was another bonus. The kettle chips - a great idea, were less consistent. Here and there I found one that was perfectly light and crisp but too many of them were overloaded with oil making them a greasy and less appealing option as a side.
Fred wasn't keen on his Pizza Margherita, 7.95, on first taste, but by the time he'd finished his pie (which they had smothered in extra parmesan cheese for him, at his request) he was raving about it. I am not quite sure what this suggests about his taste in food, except that he likes to chew on a question before making up his mind.
The next bar on our itinerary was mysteriously boarded up. Just as well, by this time we were behind schedule. So we soldiered on to the next rendezvous, The Hotel Utah. Here, a live band was playing which meant a cover was being charged at the door. We managed to persuade the doorman that we weren't interested in listening to the music, so he let us in without paying an admission and we all had another drink. This time, it was a refreshing campari and soda for me. And another one... I have to admit, Hotel Utah is not my favourite spot in town. There is nowhere to sit down (apart from a few stools in the narrow bar) for a chat and, well, I am getting old, I need to rest my weary pins these days. (Bring out the violins.)
The long and short of rest of the evening follows. A sobering walk to a friend's SoMa loft on 7th Street left us revived and ready for more. Our host had prepared a home bar for our arrival and we made dirty martinis with sweet and sour pickled carrots as stirrers. We had so much fun at his house, our eventual journey to the final bar, Annie's, was a little later than planned. This was a big shame. Annie's was where I was expecting to sing my best Karaoke in the key 'D-flat'. We were just seconds too late to make it onto the Karaoke list. Despite pleading and begging, the evil karaoke mistress would not budge. Hmmph. Annie's loss. It's now going to be at least another year before my work colleagues thrill at hearing me scream my own sorry version of the Sex Pistols' 'Anarchy in the UK'.
Never mind. We ended up, instead, at another friend's SoMa pad where I drowned my sorrows until three in the morning. Good night!