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Left Coast Girl

[whitespace] This Bud's For You

By Jenn Shreve

When the Toronado, a favorite dive of the Lower Haight, was voted best bar by San Francisco Bay Guardian readers earlier this year, the place was packed every night for approximately two weeks. And then, as soon as they came, these late-blooming seekers of the cool were gone. The bar, no worse for wear, returned to its full but not overflowing former state.

The fascinating thing about those two weeks was watching the shock, dismay and finally feature-contorting bafflement register on the faces of newbie customers as they asked what kind of beer was served and were pointed to a menu above their heads, which lists close to 110 ever-changing microbrews served at the Toronado. Could it be this beer-lovers' paradise was simply too complex and varied for your average DKNY-clad, Sierra-swilling schmo? Could it be connoisseurs of the almighty microbrew simply aren't ready for a banana-flavored beer named Lind Drakes Double? Oh, the humiliation.

What's worse than a general consensus that beer with flavor lives and dies with Anchor Steam is a full-blown microbrew backlash. When Miller Genuine Draft blasted an ad campaign at urban know-it-alls urging us to abandon our pansy gourmet brews in favor of the tried and true piss-water of our vomit-saturated youth, I thought it would never fly. Apparently it has had some impact, though not exactly what our friends in advertising land had in mind.

At a recent chichi party, the fridge was top-to-bottom stuffed with long-necked bottles of not MGD but Budweiser. I've noticed whole rows of Budweiser staring out from behind refrigerator glass doors at supposedly good restaurants, dripping condensation into the hands of multiple bar patrons. Vince Vaughn, überhunk star of Swingers, is almost never without the King of Beers in his most recent film, Clay Pigeons.

A month ago, I knew only two people who drank Bud. It was so random, I tried to set them up over it. And it was sort of cool, in a quirky, offbeat kind of way--like Beck's hairdo two years ago. But the ubiquitous presence of this alcoholic sewer water indicates something bigger, more sinister: a trend!

There are really only two responses one can have to this horrible, frightful decline in the taste buds of our city. You can go to the Toronado on a slow night and have one of the bartenders there (I recommend the charming blond named Johnny) give you an education in the ways of hops, malts and bananas. Or you can switch to another delightful pale bubbly drink: champagne.

The place to swill champagne is the Bubble Lounge, located downtown at 714 Montgomery. The upstairs area looks as if some Alaskan cruise ship for baby boomers with marital problems was transplanted into the Financial District. But the cavernous downstairs area, with its plushy sofas and pool tables and good tunes, is a good example of why the phrase "the shit" was invented. So here's the problem: Even downstairs, the place is teaming with suits, drones in ties, personality-less cigar-chomping, har-harring assholes. And their perky dates.

A place this good cannot be wasted on such dweebs. So here's your homework assignment for the week: Get a large, rowdy bunch of your friends together. Dress in your most obnoxiously hipper-than-thou wear--we're talking silver pants, chunky shoes, leopard-skin bags and imported spectacles. Head to the lounge, go straight downstairs, order some bottles from the menu--a champagne manifesto every bit as complex and nuanced as the Toronado's beer list--take over the place. The Financial District can have the upstairs for their 5pm liver abuse. But after that, and on weekends, make it your watering hole. Yours, all yours.

Something bothering you? Want to bitch? Email Jenn at [email protected].

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From the December 7-20, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc.