If it can be said that you are what you eat, can’t you also argue that you are where you drink? The challenge here is to find the one watering hole in each neighborhood that best defines that neighborhood’s character; its innate personality, the place that best reflects the locals who live there.
We want to know, which watering holes do you think best reflect their neighborhoods?
Here are our picks for Lower Haight, Lower Polk and Upper Haight:
Lower Haight – You can slap a coat of paint on the Lower Haight, but you can’t make it any prettier. Attempts at cleaning up and gentrifying the neighborhood have not gone over well in recent years. Take the opening, and then closing, of such fancy eateries as RNM and Visit Thai, for example. Which isn’t to say the neighborhood lacks great food and drink spots. It’s got them for certain, but it’s a blue-collar neighborhood at heart and evidence suggests that’s not going to change anytime soon.
Our pick that best reflects the neighborhood? Toronado -- A no-frills, working-man’s bar with gruff service and no frilly cocktails or diet beers. Also, like the neighborhood itself, you get the feeling someone could take a swing at you any minute.
Lower Polk Street - Once considered a bastion of danger, drugs and prostitution, Polk Street between Ellis and Sacramento Streets and Van Ness and Hyde, has transformed in recent years to one of the premier nightlife corridors in the city. While it’s still a little gritty, recent additions to the nightlife and restaurant scene have vastly increased foot-traffic, making the area a little safer late at night.
Our pick that best reflects the neighborhood? The Hemlock Tavern -- Crowded and loud, but cleaner than it used to be. Like the neighborhood itself, the Hemlock has undergone a facelift. Still a Mecca for San Francisco’s tattooed hipsters, you’re now just as likely to see a popped collar Izod T-shirt there on a weekend. It’s still crowded and loud though, like the neighborhood, and with recent refurbishing, it’s cleaner than it used to be.
Upper Haight – A melting pot of tourists, local hipsters and folks who are either homeless or who look homeless, the Haight has seen a lot of change since its heyday in the late '60s. The Summer of Love has made way for the endless summer of consumerism. It’s a place to shop, eat and yes, drink. The one constant? On the sidewalk in front of practically any place you go, regardless of how fancy, you’re likely to find someone panhandling, intoxicated, or both.
Our pick that best reflects the neighborhood? John Murios Trophy Room – With a clientele as varied as the neighborhood, you’re as likely to see leather-clad bikers, tourists and dogs with handkerchief collars as you are the occasional patron who looks suspiciously homeless. Either way, you'll definitely find someone intoxicated out front. Or panhandling. Or both.
Which watering holes do YOU think best reflect their neighborhoods? We want to hear from you! Leave a COMMENT below with your picks and we'll check them out and maybe even feature them in this series.