For some reason — surely having nothing to do with the increasingly turbulent and pre-apocalyptic geopolitical climate — I’ve been spending more time than usual in bars this month. And it occurs to me: while I enjoy things called “taprooms” and “pubs” and godforbid “tasting rooms,” there really is something to be said for a place that can only in good conscience be described as a bar.
(When I lived in Dorchester, Massachusetts I frequently passed a bar called BAR. I lived in that neighborhood for more than a year and never went in. Another regret to process in my middle age.)
But I am talking about San Francisco bars here. The dark, loud places which before sunset have bright, loud patios. Places where, even if those under 21 were allowed, bringing the kids would not exactly make you Parent of the Year. Places that show you, to steal Steve Shapiro’s line, that there’s “still a little bit of San Francisco left in San Francisco.”
Lucky 13 is one of the great San Francisco bars. I don’t go often, but I think I sleep easier knowing it’s there.
I went for the first time in 2003 or -4ish, when the bar was still a teenager. I did not yet live in the Bay Area. It was Friday night and I could barely hear my friends. I accidentally walked into the mens’ room and no one noticed. (Except the guy at the urinal.)
I’m sure the regulars could tell me ways Lucky 13 has changed over the years, but I’m not seeing it. It’s like when you ask an old friend how so-and-so from back home is and the answer is always “the same.” But not in a boring way, in a reliable, oh-thank-goodness way. It seems like every few years they threaten to bulldoze it, yet it stands untouched in gentrified San Francisco with its middle finger gleefully raised.
It’s always had good beer to choose from, but it’s a bar first and a beer bar second. On my last visit, the only thing on the board I (maybe) hadn’t had before was written as “FIELDWORK IPA.” Which one? Who cares. Shut up and drink it. You’re here to bullshit with your friend and the bartender, not check into Untappd. They’re playing Oingo Boingo and the Soft Boys and Queen. This is a good night. Better get a Chimay white while you’re here, who the hell has that on tap anymore?
Sitting at the bar at Lucky 13 with a burrito and a beer won’t make you a San Francisco native, but it may make you a better person. You’ll find the magic at 2140 Market Street and you should take public transit. Go there now before California is underwater, our president gets us nuked by subtweeting Kim Jong Il, or 2140 Market is condos…whichever comes first.