Escape from SF
I have to say it: I am definitely one of those industry people who does NOT, under any circumstance, want to go out on a Saturday night and talk about alcohol. Not only do I not want to talk about alcohol, I don't want it to be part of the conversation pertaining to anything that I'm doing once the evening hits. I spend all day and night on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and most of Saturday dealing with the ins and outs of wine, beer, and spirits. It's great. I love my job as much as I love anything in this world. That being said, there seem to be few places left anymore where I can go out at night, escape this subject, grab a beer, do a little dancing, talk to everyday people, and just let my hair down a bit. While I'm 100% in favor of the progression we've seen in American booze culture over the past ten years, I can't say that I'm a fan of the gigantic, elephant-in-the-room-sized chip on the shoulder that's come with it. People are really, really serious about alcohol these days and it's becoming borderline insane. Bars are becoming more like ornately-decorated libraries than they are literal speakeasies (because no one seems to be saying shit when I sit down to order a cocktail, and it definitely ain't coming easily when they do). You order your drink, try not to talk too loudly, and do your best to look really engaged.
In San Francisco, while the cocktails are more forward-thinking than ever, what you can't seem to find along with them is a genuine smile or a friendly face. In an attempt to avoid one of these no-fun zones, my wife and I decided to hit up Esta Noche last night after finding ourselves in the Mission post-dinner. Nothing could be less serious than a Latino-themed dive bar full of drag queens, right? Except that we apparently didn't get the memo. Esta Noche closed this past summer due to financial woes and in its place stood a shiny new atmospheric lounge—full of straight-faced rigidity. Not sure of what to do, we turned our heads toward the loud salsa music blaring from a rather non-descript opening in the wall. El Tin Tan—a tiny room on 16th Street full of caballeros, señoritas, vaqueros, and cervesas with a pool table in the middle and a dance floor in the back. We shrugged and went for it. Within ten seconds of walking in an older Latino gentleman approached my wife with his hands out and whisked her away to the dance floor. I went to the bar and ordered drinks.
By the time we left my wife's hair was dripping with sweat, Monica the waitress and I were on a first name basis, and the transgender woman at the bar was buying us our next round. Now that's what I call a fun night out on the town. I wish it weren't so hard to come by these days.