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Sunday, June 29, 2008

La Terraza Bar Restaurant




With the passing of George Carlin this week my entry is dedicated in his memory. Matthew Barry did the same in his blog, The Talented Mr. Roto, and has more of a connection to Carlin than I ever have. I did enjoy his comedy and watched his specials whenever I could.

Carlin’s bit on "Stuff" is an interesting take on stuff. We all have people's stuff. Stuff in our house and our pockets. We’re always taking stuff where we go. Bars have stuff. Some bars have more stuff than others.



La Terraza has plenty of room for stuff. There’s new stuff I haven’t encountered at Mission Street bars before old stuff that seems to be a running theme on my journey.

New stuff:

Two entrances one for the restaurant and one for the bar.
A stage, band equipment and everything, though I don’t see how any more than 2 people can be on stage at a time.
A red padded ceiling above the bar area (maybe for noise or maybe just to give it that nice comfortable insane asylum feel) and padded arm rail to rest your elbows (this is a nice touch).
An old school Mission Street homie who needed a cane to walk and if he wasn’t so drunk I’d ask him about his injury. We did pound fists, so I felt right at home.
A Mariachi bobble head behind the bar (I have to get me one of those for the office).
A Virgin Mary poster (I would have thought I’d see more Mary’s by now).
Dominos being played at one end of the bar with the owner (better than dice?).
Chocolate Milk (Warm chocolate milk, now that’s what I call mixing your drinks. Milk to beer, can’t be good).
Pi├▒atas hanging from the ceiling.
Mariachis asking if we want a song (now I know I’m getting to the Mission when I start seeing Mariachis).

Old Stuff:

Female bartender, Francia, already 3 beers deep when I first walk in.
Almost all guys drinking at the bar and no other women (Except for one who arrived later and ordered the chocolate milk. It did take me a while to figure out it was a girl).
Juke box playing loud Spanish music.
Bad art on the walls this time a painting of a tropical beach scene spanning the wall of the restaurant’s seating area (I bet those colors pop in the dark!).

Falling under old stuff with a new twist:

A TV (old) shows a Spanish Novella (soap opera, new).
Everyone drinking Miller High Life or Modelo (old). Drinking the Modelo with freshly squeezed lime and a touch of salt (new).

After the last couple of bars I expected this place to be a little busier considering it is in a more active part of Mission Street at Cortland Avenue. There’s a bus stop right outside the door which to me would help drive your walk in business. Overall the bar stayed pretty empty.

I’m learning a few things on my journey and it is easier to walk into new dark doorways waiting to see what will happen next. People are always welcoming and as slow as the bar may seem there’s always something I can pull from my time there. Will I go back to La Terraza? Maybe but I’ll have to check and see when a band is playing, now that would be interesting.

I’ll leave you with this using one of Carlin’s more famous bits, Seven Dirty Words which you can never say on television. I’ll call mine seven things questions you should never ask at the bars I’ve visited on my journey so far:

1. Can I have a Martini?
2. Do you have Cold Play on the Juke Box?
3. Can you change the channel to Friends?
4. Do you mind turning the music down?
5. Isn’t it a little early to be that drunk?
6. I’m in the mood for a Napa Valley Pinot, what do you recommend?
7. Is this place in Zagats?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

La Aguila Perdido - Cancholas Bar

Hoy quero decir un cuento de mi visita a el bar Cancholas Bar que paso la ultima Viernes. Otra ves en mi viaje en el calle de Mission no podia hablar con la gente que beber en este establecimiento. El bar tenia mucho ruido porque un gabinete que contiene tocadiscos automáticos juga los discos con el volumen altavoz. No puedo entender la gente por el ruido y el idioma que hablan. Lo de mas to cuento en Ingles porque apenas puedo hacer le en Espanol.

I’ve opened in Spanish because that’s the language I’ve had to use to communicate on my Mission so far. Plus I need the practice before next week’s trip. Communicating was a true exercise in patience this last time because the juke box was playing very loud Spanish music and my neighbors weren’t in the talkative mood. There were about 12-15 people in the place a couple of them playing pool and the rest sitting at the bar, watching TV and drinking away. It was hot on Friday so the general idea was not to move around too much and drink as many cold ones as you could. The heat didn’t help in that it gave you that smelly sensation that you get when you walk into a dive bar that isn’t all that sterile. It wasn’t bad just a little heavier layer of funkiness than you really want to have on a Friday afternoon. The door remained open so the place could get some fresh air.

A few guys were already pretty drunk and seemed like they’d been here for a while. One dude down the bar would sing along and kept yelling AYA-AYA-AYA. He later tries to fight his friend but more on that later.

I grab the last seat available at the bar which happens to be by the door next to the potted plants that sit in the window. The plants strike me as weird for some reason; I can’t quite put my finger on it. The picture shows the open door and the plants on the sill next to the closed door. Anyway, I wave towards the bartender, who, once again, is one of two women in the bar (I’m starting to see a theme here) and it is her friend, who’s hanging out with the singer, that comes over to take my order. I can’t tell if she works here or not but order a Corona anyway. The drink of choice is Miller Light or Corona and you can order them in buckets of 5, gotta love that.

The bar is dark, aside from the light coming in from the open door, with a pool table, bad mural art along one wall, featuring my beloved San Francisco 49ers, and a couple TVs (one on Euro Soccer 2008 the other on the College World Series before the SF Giants game).

The first hour and a half here are pretty slow as I trying striking up conversations with my neighbors who are more interested in staring at their beers, the bartender and nothing at all rather than talking to me. The guys playing pool look pretty good and after 3 bars I’m thinking I have to start practicing my game so I can add that to my repertoire as I visit locations with tables. That’s going to be a great way to meet and interact with more people.

Shift change for bartenders seems to happen right around 7pm as Rosanna comes in for the duration of the night. The other bartender leaves with her friend who has been crying at the bar which seems to be a result of her conversation with a couple of guys who she was speaking with at one of the tables. I’m not sure what’s up but it almost feels like a breakup. Anyway, this girl and her friend the bartender leave with another guy, who I later find out is her brother as earlier in the afternoon was sharpening the bar's knife. I didn’t quite feel safe about that whole situation when he was knife sharpening. A guy drinking at the bar is asked to sharpen the knife that is used to cut the limes. Hmm, drinking, knives, sitting next to the angry singing drunk guy never a good idea. There wasn't much action after an hour and a half but people watching has been great up to this point.

At 7:30pm I’m starting to think that this bar is going to be a bust and my blogging career may be coming to a quick end if I can’t come up with something interesting to talk about and that’s when it happens. The guy, who would bust out with the AYA-AYA-AYAs earlier, clearly drunk, starts to yell loudly in my direction. I can’t tell if he’s directing his anger at me or someone else in my vicinity because it’s loud and I can’t make out what he’s saying. That being said, I wasn’t ready to approach him and ask so I figured this would be a good time to order myself a shot of Casadores Tequila. That’s when one of the singer/yeller's buddies walks over, pats me on the back and apologizes for his friend being drunk. I’m still not sure if he’s calling me out or what the deal is but figure it isn't worth the trouble. As the guy walks back to his friend his friend stands and starts pushing him. Who knows what’s going on I’m just glad I’m not in the middle of this squabble. They’re soon broken up and go back to being friends and drinking.

As this is all happening there’s an older man behind me tossing a coin with a woman (at least I think it was a woman) who just walked in. I think they were seeing who would be next on the pool table and playing heads or tails for it. He won a couple times in a row and is telling her how good he is at heads or tails. I’m fascinated by this, maybe it’s the shot I took but this whole interaction is super interesting. He’s holding his arm out to his side, looking in the opposite direction and doing a “no look coin toss”. WHAT? Seriously a no look toss? I love it. I’m a pretty competitive person and like to bet on anything from who’s going to win the NBA Championships to which strongman on ESPN will win the keg toss (Darrin and I have had many fun nights at the Old Pro betting on this one). I will bet on pretty much anything just give me a reason, some odds and the wager (typically a dollar a bet or a beer). This guy walks up to me and asks me to call it. I refuse saying that I just saw him win 3 tosses in a row and it’s a losing bet, at which point he says “you call it and I’ll toss it” I inspect the coin as does the bartender, Rosanna. The confusing part for me is what do I call? What’s the name for tails? I know heads is cabeza but tails? And with quarters these days, tails can be anything from pictures of trees, buffalo, and drummer man to the original eagle. With help from the bartender, we settle on calling tails, eagle or aguila and bet a beer on the toss. As he flips the coin I yell, “AGUILA!” Cabeza came up winner (thus the title of this entry, "La Aguila Perdido" the Eagle Lost? . I buy him his beer and he trots away rubbing it in my face. This isn’t over my friend. I’ll be back. I will be back…

I haven’t had enough fun yet at Cancholas Bar so in walks the girl who not half an hour ago left crying. The bar had cleared out around 7pm so there were only about 7 of us hanging out at 7:50. I’m wrapping up my last beer as she sits down next to me and strikes up conversation in between tears. Alicia (name has been changed to protect her identity) originally from Honduras has been living in the US the past 5 years, 4 in Virginia and the last in SF. I don’t ask the obvious question just focus on keeping the conversation light, as light as possible considering my vocabulary is quite small at this time of night, after this many beers and in Spanish, Honduran Spanish at that. The bartender keeps hanging around and giving me these looks of “why is she crying” and “it sucks that she’s talking to you right now”. Anyway, after a few minutes I’m ready to leave but feel extremely weird cause this girl is half crying and half asking me questions. I stand up and ready to leave and she buys me a beer. I say no but the bartender was quick to bring it. I can’t be rude so I take it graciously. I don’t waste any time drinking it, saying thanks and getting out of there finishing what was a truly awkward situation.

The last half hour was interesting which shows my why I need to stick to my 6-8pm rule in order to get the full experience. Also, I need to start playing pool at these bars and from here on out, I’m having at least one shot of tequila at every one too.

And for those of you who are interesting, food guy never showed…

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tip Top Del Club Jalisco



After visiting the last bar, St. Mary’s Pub, I was really excited to get going on my trek. Tip Top Del Club Jalisco wasn’t as inviting from the outside. The exterior doesn’t look bad, it just doesn’t look inviting (the picture doesn’t really do it justice). That being said, the door was closed and it looked dark inside. But as the Mission states I have to enter and so I did.

The interior of the Tip Top couldn’t be more different from St. Mary’s Pub. The place is a decent size but feels cramped. That’s not a bad thing just a very different feel from the bar across the street. I definitely stood out the minute I walked in. I’m tall for being a Mexican, at least I keep telling myself that being all of 6 feet tall*. The average height for a White Male in the USA is 5’10” and the average height of a Mexican-American in the USA is 5’6”. Tonight I am a good 6 inches taller than most in the bar.

On this night I’m dressed in jeans, sneakers and a long sleeve tee. Definitely not nice “going out” attire but clean and I stick out like a sore thumb. I couldn’t really put my finger on it at first but I figured it out later.

I found myself a spot at the bar and ordered a Modelo. I’m not a Modelo drinker but figured a Fat Tire probably wasn’t the beer of choice at this establishment. There are a few things I’ve noticed in making two trips down Mission Street and one is that 6 pm is not too early when it’s time to get your drink on. The regulars seem to have their spots around the pool table well on their way to tying one on.

The pool table sits in the center of the room which gives everyone just enough space to walk around but when playing you sometimes have to angle your stick just right because you’re either too close to the wall or too close to people sitting at the bar. I didn’t have trouble finding a seat at the bar and met the only female in the house, the bartender, Marta. A TV behind the bar on the Spanish channel (the news was on tonight). I briefly contemplated asking to change the channel but thought better of it. My feeling is there are only two things they watch here, the Spanish station and soccer. I can only imagine what this place is like when there’s a soccer game on.

Everyone here was speaking in Spanish. Now I speak Spanish and understand Spanish, at least I thought I did before tonight. I couldn’t understand a word anyone was saying! I don’t know if it was the speed at which they spoke or if it was the dialect of Spanish. It wasn’t my beer consumption because I just started. I tried talking to the guy next to me but was struggling to understand what he was saying. I did catch that he worked at some factory or warehouse working with iron or something like that. It couldn’t be further from the office job that I have which is probably why I got the funny looks when I first walked in. He pegged immediately as a white collar guy.

After a few beers my confidence grew, I wasn’t talking to many people just nodding and smiling. That seemed to work ok as I was invited to play pool a couple of times. Some of you know I suck at pool. There is a window where I’m decent which is between the 3 ½ to 4 beers range. Any less or any more and I’m no good. I figured why embarrass myself tonight I’ll just hang back and watch the drunk guy who is pretty awful play. There were a group of guys that were serious players. They hit some crazy shots and knew what they were doing. That being said, they too have their windows and I saw one clearly pass his peak losing on a couple of easy shots.

After hanging out for a bit it was time to break the seal. You walk to the back of the bar and get buzzed through a gated door by Marta. Walk upstairs and there’s the bathroom. It was only about 7:15pm and the bathroom already had the stench of someone having tossed their lunch. I’ll leave it at that.

Walking back to my seat at the bar I was suddenly approached and hugged by Francisco. Yup, that’s right, hugged. He gave me a big hug, told me that I was a friend of the bar and that I should get wasted with him. I didn’t quite agree with him, as it was only 7:15pm, but he insisted so we shot a couple tequila shots. After 3 rounds of shots he hugs me again, tells Marta that I’m a friend and should be given plenty of shots to get me drunk. She smiled, served up two shots and walked away. Francisco also walked away so I shot the two shots and sit there washing them down with my Modelo.

The bar doesn’t serve dinner but after I’ve been there for over an hour and a guy walks in with a backpack and a lunch bag/box type container (used to keep food warm) and starts taking orders. He pulls plates, napkins and plastic spoons out of his backpack and starts serving up tortillas with beans and rice. I couldn’t really tell but I think he had some type of meat available as well. This was the weirdest thing but it made complete sense. Go to where the drunk people are, bring them food and they will pay. Genius! People were ordering up like crazy and I realized this guy had a good gig going. He was there a good 45 minutes then took off; I’m sure to the next bar down the street. I wonder if I’ll see him next week when I’m out. I wonder how late he’s out and if he samples his own cuisine? Is he the chef? Does he cater? I have so many questions for this guy. Before my mission is done I must find him and find out. Only problem is, I need to learn the language first…

The Tip Bar was a true exploration for me. It felt like I was in a foreign country and couldn’t understand the language, the culture and a complete stranger to my surroundings. To the people here I was the Mexican who doesn’t work with his hands, on weekends It’s pretty interesting taking all that in and knowing that I’m only about ½ mile from my own house and I’ve lived there for 3 years. I’m sure I’ll have similar experiences at other bars down Mission Street but this was the first time I’ve paid attention to it.

In only my second stop of my mission, I am coming to find out that people are pretty nice to you when you’re the new person to a bar. It’s almost like being welcomed into a community of people. I didn’t say much and didn’t interact much but still managed to engage with a few people, get a few names, have a shot bought for me and meet a few of my neighbors. Not a bad night.

*Note: I am 6 feet tall, I’m not throwing in the extra 2 inches of height that I’ve heard other guys do.

Friday, June 13, 2008

St. Mary's Pub

And the Mission has begun; first stop St Mary’s Pub at 3845 Mission Street. St Mary’s Pub is right on the corner of Crescent and Mission.

From the outside this bar looks like it’s been a Mission fixture for years. My conversations with those inside confirm this. I think some have been frequenting the bar for just as long too. It’s a deceptively bigger bar inside than it lets on. There is an open area behind the bar with tall stools and tables, a juke box and a smaller area towards the back of the bar.

There are several TVs around the bar and from the looks of it the SF Giants’ games are shown here. I, being a connoisseur of sport, asked that the channel be changed from whatever it was on to the Celtics game. This was received with no argument so I had the pleasure of watching the Celtics beat down on Detroit to win the Easter Conference Finals. I’m a Warriors fan but am rooting for the Celts as they fight their way towards an NBA Championship. This game spurred some light conversation with my new friends Jack, Kelly and Poncho. Jack and Kelly were more into the game than Poncho but we all managed to cheer on as the two teams struggled in the 4th quarter.

This night was a night not as ordinary for the bar as there was a birthday celebration honoring Rocky and Richard. Rocky is one of the bartenders at St. Mary’s Pub and Richard I believe is a regular patron. This part was themed Mardi Gras and there were beads, masks and even gumbo to eat. I thoroughly enjoyed having all the activity around me.

I had been to this bar once before last December and spoke with a few folks when I was there. After almost 6 months I never expected anyone to remember me from way back then and was surprised when ordering a beer from Gloria that her cousin Paulette recognized me. I was introduced to both of them by a fellow drinker back in December when I first made my way into this place. I was introduced to a couple other regulars back then who didn’t seem to be around this night. After a short conversation with Paulette, mainly saying hello, how are you? I made my way to the tall stools and tables.

Looking around the bar you could tell that it has been around for a long time and some of the guests have probably been around and in their same seats for just as long. Everyone was very friendly and I had no trouble striking up conversation and hearing stories from back in the day. I even met a guy who works at one of the bars further down Mission Street. So now I’ve got a familiar face when I visit.

So what did I take away from St Mary’s Pub? The People here were nice and very welcoming. I was offered a seat at the bar immediately, had the channel changed upon request and after only an hour was bought a beer by one of the regulars. All that and I got to watch the Celts beat the Pistons and move on to the finals. Another thing I learned this trip is that you can have quite a few drinks in only a couple hours especially when you’re chatting away talking basketball, San Francisco history, New Orleans history (Kelly is originally from New Orleans) and even get into it with a lady at the bar who couldn’t believe I was rooting for the Celtics because they reside in Boston and it’s a racist town. I was in Boston last year and have to say I enjoyed every minute of my trip.

So there wasn't anything too crazy, wild or really all that strange in my first venture on Mission Street. I'm sure if I'd spent more time here there would be a couple more stories to tell. I'm not complaining though as this is just my first stop of many, many more to come.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Ramblings

Now that I have my "mission statement" I want to let everyone know that I have started my trek down Mission Street and hit 2 locations. I will have my ramblings posted by the end of the week.

This is my mission.

Family, Friends, Co-Workers, Bartenders, and strangers I’ll meet along the way,

Welcome to my blog, MissonOnMission.com. What is Mission on Mission? Plainly said Mission on Mission is me, Gadiel, walking down Mission Street and hitting up every bar on the street from Crescent Avenue to the Embarcadero.

Why am I doing this? Because it gives me an excuse to drink every Friday, why else would I do it? Seriously, that’s not the reason it is just a byproduct of my mission. I like bars, I like meeting new people, I enjoy new experiences and the starting point is close to my house!

Really, why am I doing this? I’ve lived in San Francisco for almost 3 years and have hit up many bars throughout the city. I find trying new bars fun and enjoy the experience. You meet some interesting people and it’s a great way to experience the neighborhood you’re in.

Why every bar on Mission Street? Mission Street traverses a major part of San Francisco. It starts in the Mission Neighborhood ending at the bay which at last count, by driving the route, had 32 bars. I’m sure by the time I’m done a few bars will be added to the list and a few will no longer be around. Think about the neighborhoods the street passes through, the Mission, SoMa, the Tenderloin and a bit of downtown. These are very distinct, different and interesting neighborhoods in their own rite.

What do I aim to accomplish? Who knows really? My goal is to visit each bar, take in the atmosphere, drink a few drinks with the “regulars” and experience San Francisco in a way most don’t get to or choose to. After living in San Francisco for 3 years I recognize that my own backyard is like a foreign country to me. I’ve barely scratched the surface. So take my writings for what they are, me reporting on my experiences at each place I visit. You may love this blog or you may hate it. But hey, at least it gives you something to do when you’re bored at work. We all have those days, right?

So let’s get to the “rules”, actually they’re less rules in as much as they’re guidelines that I will follow.

1- All the bars* I visit will be on Mission Street.

2- I will follow the bars in order, starting at Crescent Avenue until I reach the Embarcadero.

3- I will visit on Friday nights from 6-8pm

4- I show up alone

5- By every Monday morning I will post to this blog


* Bar: a counter or place where beverages, especially liquors, or light meals are served to customers. This definition is a bit subjective. There are those bars that are obvious drinking establishments while others are more restaurants in nature. These restaurant/bars will be included in my mission

That’s pretty much the scope of this blog so I hope you enjoy it.