Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Where to drink (and eat!): Comstock Saloon


Although it only opened in 2010, Comstock Saloon has over a hundred year history in San Francisco. It originally opened as the Andromeda Saloon in 1907 and is the last bar remaining from the Barbary Coast––the spot the '49ers wet their whistles. Comstock, named after the guy who set off the Gold Rush, was spearheaded by San Francisco bar legends Jeff Hollinger and Jonny Raglin of Absinthe Brasserie & Bar manages.

The bar manages to keep much of its historic feel through a hefty list of classic cocktails and original decor. Overall, we enjoy Comstock. The mood is very relaxed, and there's usually a good crowd. The bar has a very neighborhood feel, and I think they try to cultivate that by harkening back to the old tradition of offering free lunches on Fridays (if you buy two drinks. Easy, no?). The live music makes this place a little livelier after 8pm, especially on weekends. Don't let the antique piano these guys play fool you, the bands rock.

Here's the full cocktail menu.


John Collins: Genever, lemon, sugar, seltzer. Always a classic, and I'm glad they have it on the menu. Tart, cooling, and appetite-stimulating.


Bamboo Cocktail: Sherry, dry vermouth, bitters. I love sherry cocktails. This one was rich and slow going, a nice way to ease into the evening.


America's Cup: Sutton Cellar's red vermouth, Breaking & Entering Bourbon, No. 209 Gin, orange bitters, ginger beer. Sutton Seller's red vermouth is a special red vermouth is made especially for Comstock Saloon. I think this is my favorite Pimm's variation in the city right now. I managed to get the recipe, so if you want to try it at home:

1.5 oz. Comstock Sweet Vermouth in collaboration with Carl Sutton (or 1 oz. Punt e Mes) 
.5 oz. No.209 Gin (Distillery 209)
.5 oz. Breaking & Entering Bourbon (St. Georges Distillery)
2 dashes orange bitters
Muddled with lemon, orange, and lime
Topped with Fever Tree Ginger Beer
Served over ice in a Collin’s cup


Zeinie Cocktail: Cognac, pineapple gum, lime, maraschino liqueur, Angostura bitters.



Since visiting Chicago, Noelle and I have been increasingly frustrated with the lack of food at SF bars. One joy of drinking at Comstock is the food. They've got both snacks and full entrees. Here's the full menu. This picture makes it look really imposing. It's not, actually.


While we didn't try the whole menu, I kind of feel like we did. We started with the pretzel, because those are my favorite.


The homemade BBQ chips and homemade ranch dressing are really good, too, though.


I was still feeling hungry and got the hummus plate, which was light and delicious:


Noelle opted for a full entree instead of a bunch of snacks. She ordered a duck pot pie, which she loved.


And then one for me. Alligator toast–– avocado, grapefruit, jicama, nom nom nom. I liked this one in particular because it was filling but still, somehow, light and refreshing.


I'm going to indulge my inner history nerd and post some pictures of the historical design aspects of this bar that I think are neat.

The mahogany bar itself is original, from 1907.


Atop the bar, you can see a bust of Emperor Norton, cast by a local artist in 1936.


This Pukka Walla fan was made in 1916 and runs the length of the bar, some 35 feet. You can see the whole thing at the top of this post, so here's the belt and wheel that power the spinning blades.


Also running the length of a bar is this:


A pee trough. See, people back then were smart. They knew that drunks would pee on the bar, so they installed little troughs to funnel the pee away. Nowadays, we pretend that drunk guys have the civility to walk to the bathroom. They don't, so they just pee on the bar. [Full disclosure: no one uses this pee trough. Though I think they should.]

The dining room has a great 19th century American feel:



Comstock Saloon
155 Columbus Ave
(415) 617-0071
Saturday to Thursday: 4:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.
Friday: 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.

Free Lunch Fridays:  free lunch when you buy
Happy Hour: 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., every day
Live Music: 8:00 p.m., daily
Food served until 1:00 a.m. every night 

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