Nightlife: A Night With the Banana Republic Reich

by Angela Bacca, staff writer

APRIL 29, 2007 7:05 PM

Nightlife Series:

There probably is no worse of a crowd to drink with than yuppies, which is what I think of when I think of Nob Hill. In my opinion, Nob Hill yuppies don’t have much to say, they are overtly and unapologetically pretentious, and there is nothing more disgusting than a drunken stare-down with a rich, blonde woman wearing an inch-thick layer of makeup.

But that being said, a drink’s a drink, and we all like to drink. I decided to bring no more than $40 with me to see just how far that could go, as it should be a feasible college-budgeted night out. Pessimism aside, this city is so many different things to different people, and being confined to the few neighborhoods I frequent, like so many of us, a step out of my boundaries could become a refreshing night out.

In a neighborhood like Nob Hill, where it is easy to become intimidated by the money and attitude, I felt it best to start at the top, and work my way down.

Top Of The Mark

The photographer, Jeff, and I started at the bar and restaurant located atop the Mark Hopkins hotel which is world famous for its class and excellent views of the city, the bay and the bridges.

We instantly knew that we weren’t going to stay. The wait was 20 to 40 minutes, and there was a $10 cover just to get in the room. The lobby was full of overly dressed 40-somethings who just couldn’t wait to rub elbows with the local and international wealth alike.

There was a live jazz band that was pretty decent, but it just wasn’t a feasible or fun place to be for 20-somethings. Because of the wait, we didn’t even buy drinks. On we went, straight to the bar across the street, Tonga.

1 Nob Hill, off Mason between California and Pine; (415) 616-6916
Price range: $15-$50
Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar

This bar, located in the bottom of the Fairmont Hotel, had definite potential. There were tiki huts surrounding a large pool of water, where the band played on a boat-shaped platform. Randomly throughout the night, a strobe light would flash and water would pour from the ceiling into the pool.

Jeff ordered a Mai Tai (which I was later informed has been voted best in the city by multiple publications) and I ordered a passion fruit margarita. The drinks were $9 each, but strong enough for our money. Most of the food was around $15-$20. When we got our tab, it was around $30 for two people each having one drink.

The atmosphere was incredible, the drinks were good, and they even offer a huge list of desserts including ice cream and warm chocolate and macadamia bread pudding.

The dance floor was created from the remains of the S.S. Forrester, which was one of the last boats to sail the trading route between the San Francisco Bay and the islands of the Pacific.

The atmosphere felt tainted however, as I looked around me a bit more. On the left of me I saw a drunk man in a sweater vest dancing with his golf club, and to the front of me, the most ironic display of humanity I think I have ever seen: a crowded dance floor full of rich old white people dancing around to a hula-shirted cover band’s rendition of “Play That Funky Music White Boy.” I really couldn’t make up a moment that could etch itself in my mind as more ridiculous.

After “White Boy,” the dance troupe kept the floor moving with a cover of Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” which was about the time I said, “Check please,” and suggested that Jeff and I head on down the hill to our next spot: The Bigfoot Lodge.

950 Mason St. at California; (415) 772-5278
Price range: $15-$50
Bigfoot Lodge

Although Bigfoot Lodge is on the cusp of Nob Hill (it’s been described as located on the cusp of Lower Nob Hill and Lower Russian Hill, or in the Polk Gulch), this was the spot we were excited to see all night long, and it was worth the whole trip.

The room looks like a log cabin with a huge looming carved Bigfoot to oversee the festivities. It has the potential to blend in with the rest up the snobbery that is Nob Hill, but I felt like the staff kept the room under their spell to create the perfect party atmosphere. Jeff had been told about the first bartender who came to serve us. He’s been working at Bigfoot for a long time, and can whip up some pretty great drinks. He wore gloves with cut-off fingers and a cowboy hat. His first recommendation for me was of course a girly favorite and a specialty of the bar –– the Girl Scout Cookie.

Never has getting drunk tasted so good. The Girl Scout Cookie was a cold green concoction served in a martini glass with a maraschino. At first sip, I felt like I was biting into a Thin Mint; it was delicious, and only about $6. In fact, most every drink was under $10, and they didn’t skimp on the liquor.

Another bartender came up to speak with us, this time a younger woman wearing a Girl Scout uniform. As she was talking, the staff started removing things from the counter in a hurried pace and cleaning it off. Next thing we knew, the bartender came back with a bottle of lighter fluid and started drawing lines up and down the bar. The lights flashed off and the Girl-Scout/bartender dropped a match right onto the bar. We instantly felt a wave of heat as the bar was illuminated by the 2-foot flames.

I was astonished. It really added to the great campy vibe I was getting. The bartender sauntered back to me and said, “Sorry, that really wasn’t our best burn.” If that wasn’t a “best burn,” I can’t wait to come back and see more.

Before we left Jeff and I got bold and tried two more of the specialty drinks. Jeff drank the “Sasquatch,” the drink of Bigfoot himself. I watched as the bartender took a large glass and just let the Wild Turkey flow. She followed it up with a little soda and Worcester sauce.

“I like it a lot,” Jeff said to me. “If you like whiskey, it’s a good fucking whiskey drink.”

I went a little girlier and chose the “Toasted Marshmallow.” This was a tall glass of cream, Frangelico, vanilla vodka, topped with a flaming marshmallow.

All in all, the drinks didn’t dent my pocket too hard, and they were good. I could definitely see myself coming back to this place.

1750 Polk St. at Clay Street; (415) 440-2355
Price range: $6-$8 ( no cover)
La Mexicana

After the Bigfoot Lodge, I met up with a friend in the Lower Nob Hill area for a late-night, after-drinking dinner. La Mexicana couldn’t have been a better place. For $5 each we both ate filling, fresh Mexican food. The restaurant is clean and decorated with Baja-style early Californian art.

The restaurant serves Jarritos brand soda along with a couple beer options. It is your average Mexican fare of tacos and burritos.

It was clear that this was a neighborhood joint. People in pajamas and slippers were coming in to order food to go. It was refreshing because it was Mission-style Mexican nestled at the base of Nob Hill. A great after-drinking spot.

They offer vegan and vegetarian options, along with fresh seafood.

Price range: $5-$15

» E-mail Angela Bacca @

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