Joe Keeper’s San Francisco Bar Crawl: Nopa

Restaurant San Francisco

I often compare fine cocktails to fine sushi. A fine cocktail is exquisite and full of flavor nuances that explode on your pallet. The ingredients should be fresh, well prepared, and the whole is greater than sum of its parts.

This is true, not only for the cocktail, but for the ambience as well. For my cocktail experience to be complete, the location must be comfortable and pleasing.

While on my “bar crawl” in San Francisco, I had the opportunity to have some delicious cocktails that unfortunately were imbibed at some really uncomfortable settings.

I prefer to drink at the bar…like I prefer to eat sushi at the sushi bar.

I loathe bars that allow its patrons to eat full meals at the bar. The bar is for drinking, not eating a meal. That said, I don’t have an issue with snacks or appetizers. I understand the economics of allowing people to eat at the bar. It allows the establishment to make more money. However, as a patron I hate waiting for someone to finish their salad or soup, then the entrée, then dessert. I hate sitting next to someone digging into their dinner when I’m having cocktails. If a full meal is desired then I wish they would sit at a table in the dining room.

As we all know, bartenders can accommodate not only those seated, but the folks standing as well. I don’t mind standing and enjoying my cocktail. What I dislike is being pushed up just behind the “bar-eater” while they graze.

My wife and I and a friend went to Nopa and had just such an experience. The bar was plumb full, as were the tables. As an alternative they offered “common tables” where individuals or groups could share a table. Nopa has a policy that to sit at any table, the patron must eat. The evening we visited, many common tables were available, however, as strictly imbibers, tables were off limits to us. However, you could eat at the bar and many people were doing just that.

So there we were mashed up against people having multi-course meals glaring at us over their shoulders.

What the fuck?

How could I savor my libations in such an unfair and hostile environment?

Easy! And as quickly as I could!

I enjoyed an Old Potrero 18th Century Rye from the Anchor Brewing Company. It was a little rough around the edges, but with a splash of water, it was just plain de-lic-ious!

Old Potrero 18th Century Style Whiskey is Anchor’s attempt to re-create the original whiskey of America. This release was distilled in a small copper pot still at their distillery on San Francisco’s Potrero Hill, from a mash of 100% rye malt. Rye was the grain of choice for America’s first distillers, and using a mash of 100% rye malt produces a uniquely American whiskey.

Anna, the wife, had a Rum Sidecar. Its ingredients are Scarlet Ibis Rum, Rhum orange, lemon juice and a sugared rim. Rhum Orange is Light Brown, orange-flavored rum distilled from molasses. It offers a rich honey and orange bouquet with a hint of nuts. The initial taste of orange is prominent but not overwhelming followed by more honey and nuts with a smooth finish attesting to the three years this rum has been aged. Thumbs down on the sugared rim but the cocktail was otherwise respectable.

I only wish we could have savored our cocktails.

Joe Keeper owns Bar Keeper in Silver Lake

Blog Comments

good points about the experience of drinking a cocktail. a libation should be savored, not drunk in discomfort or unease.

Leave a Comment