Mission on Mission Headline Animator

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bissap Baobab – 2323 Mission Street

San Francisco has many cultures, influences and characters that contribute to the city’s unique flavor – a fact that was quickly reinforced when I entered Bissap Baobab, a wonderful little Senegalese bar and restaurant on Mission Street. West Africa's Ivory Coast is brought to San Francisco with dining, drinking and dancing. The dining and drinking happens at the Mission Street location while Bissap Baobab’s sister location, Little Baobab found around the corner on 19th, turns into a dance club around 10pm. DJs spinning to an energetic and vibrant crowd help liven up the Mission Neighborhood on weekends.

The restaurant’s host - who jumped from his seat to greet patrons the minute they walked in - sat next to me at the bar as I looked over the menu considering one of the many specialty drinks before deciding on a tried and true Fat Tire draught. Fat Tire in hand, I continued to peruse the menu which contained ethnic Sengalese cuisine along with a number of homemade rum concoctions that I'm sure would get the most tolerant of drinkers buzzed after a few sips. No eats for me but judging by the steady stream of diners who came in that night, Bissap Baobab is a popular dinner spot. A few large parties waited in and around the foyer’s padded wall seating while a few scattered couples and groups bellied up to the bar in hopes of ordering a drink before being seated.

As a basketball game played on the TV in the background, I noticed the Bissap Baobab’s community consisted of two very distinct groups, a healthy assemblage of Senegalese transplants and Mission Street diners. The Senegalese wait staff (not kitchen staff who looked to be largely Latino), regularly conversed with their fellow countrymen, who dropped in for some drinks and dinner, exchanging pleasantries and hellos in their native French. The diners consisted of birthday groups, Missionites and a few couples enjoying a Friday night out.

Bissap Baobab … Bissap, the Senegalese name for the Rosell, a species of hibiscus flower and Baobab, is a tree native to mainland Africa, Australia and Madagascar some of which are reputed to be many thousands of years old though this is difficult to verify because the wood does not produce annual growth rings, is a perfect Friday night Ivory Coast-stay-cation experience, and a vivid reminder of the Mission District’s unique cultures and diversity.

Attire is casual, food decent, drinks strong – all good qualities in a Mission on Mission stop.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Ace Cafe SF – 1799 Mission Street

When playing or waiting to play pool never, ever, EVER touch another person's quarters reserving the table. And you never want to take those quarters and dump them in the corner pocket right after you've dropped the game's balls down the same pocket. That can really make a guy angry which is exactly what happened at The Ace Café- a dark, smoke filled bar on Mission Street- Friday night. The bar, modeling itself after a London motorcycle pub, erupted with angry shouts and tough guy bravado just as the last of the quarters clanked down the hole.

As he held the cue ball- last ball standing- for use as a weapon, the pocket stuffer approached table's current player, who yelled and stood ready to take a swing with pool cue in hand. The table’s light hung low providing ample glow as the two men danced around the table waiting to see who would strike first.

As things bordered on pandemonium, a 60ish man with long beard and drunken man's stagger, presumably the bouncer of this fine establishment approached the two gladiators to break up the skirmish. I use the term gladiator loosely as neither warrior was an imposing figure. One an overweight man who skirted around the table at no more than 5'7" and waved the cue ball at the face of the other combatant while his skinny white tank top wearing foe seemed to have the upper hand being younger, more aggressive and with extra reach provided by pool stick. Both men were many drinks in making the potential fight a hard one to call.

The bouncer's goal was to settle ownership of the table while the bartender wanted one of them kicked out. In his drunken stupor he seemed to be miss the point so it was up to each contender’s support group to stand up for their “boy”. Tank top had his grungy, dirty, hipster crew while the instigator was lucky enough to have a group of mellow biker bystanders, clad in motorcycle leathers, generously having his back. The bikers weren’t in troublemaker’s corner because of his pool etiquette instead because they were nice guys who didn’t want a scuffle to happen in their bar. They even proposed that he apologize by taking a few spins around the brass stripper pole. A brass stripper pole located between the bar and tables along a row of columns. One biker went so far as to take an athletic spin on the pole to demonstrate proper form which left me with a whole new respect for him and his crew.

After both men calmed down and decided to settle their differences on the pool table more trash talking ensued as they played the game. My attention turned back to the bar's great atmosphere, its patrons and most of all the neck and hand tattooed biker with long scruffy beard drinking a nice red wine. That’s right, a red wine of which the bar has a decent selection available in a nice wine rack behind the bar. I stayed with Racer 5 on tap which is rare find in the city.

In a bar filled with this much testosterone I was surprised to see a small group of women sitting at the end of the bar catching up. Nothing seemed to faze them, not the smoke, not the commotion, not the loud music playing in the back ground. For them it was just a local watering hole where you come to hang out. As the night bordered on calm and the kitchen served the last order of fish and chips a thunderous clap bellowed from the pool table which emptied the bar.

Tank top with his crew ran out the back as troublemaker and the bikers took off out the front. I’m sure they were looking for a resolution to their argument that couldn’t be settled on the pool table. A few minutes later everyone except the agitator returned to pick up where their evening had left off. I hope he was quick on his feet and made it home before getting caught.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Ace Café at 14th and Mission Street and highly recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind a little smoke, can appreciate a diverse cast of characters and wants a great selection of beer on tap. I also hear the fish and chips are delicious.