Address: 401 Taylor Street, San Francisco
Address: 450 Powell Street, San Francisco
Tel: 415 395-8595
Harry Denton's Starlight Room has a reputation for hiring bartenders who go on to great things: Tony Abou-Ganim, Marcovaldo Dionysos, and Jacques Bezuidenhout have all worked here at one point or another. The top-floor hotel lounge has helped launch the careers of many mixologists, but it hasn't been known for its own cocktails in quite a few years. This fall the Starlight Room had a million-dollar makeover, with new plush red furniture with gold accents, an expanded bar, and other cosmetic changes. They also brought on Joel Teitelbaum (recently of Zero Zero) to develop and manage the cocktail program.
The drinks on the menu are arranged chronologically from punches through present-day cocktails, even including a few drinks from the 1980s. Teitelbaum is not a stickler for historical accuracy: there is a Pisco Crusta from the Jerry Thomas era that includes red lychee tea, for example. The cocktails call upon exotic ingredients but aren't designed to suit the palates of cocktail snobs only, rife with mezcal and bitter amaros: Teitelbaum has made approachable cocktails with these ingredients. The 21st floor lounge has amazing views of the city but with a history of both a tourist destination and a hip-hop nightclub with an entry fee on the weekends, it remains to be seen if this bar will attract the cocktail-hopping crowd it was rebuilt to cater to.
Address: 584 Valencia Street, San Francisco
Wo Hing General Store is the latest outpost from restaurateur Charles Phan, owner of San Francisco's top-grossing restaurant The Slanted Door and the cocktail-driven restaurant Heaven's Dog. Wo Hing also seems destined to be driven by its drinks: the bar (made from a bowling lane) greets patrons in the downstairs room, while the upstairs is for seated dinner guests. The menu of noodle dishes and wok-fried pan-Asian street food should do wonders to absorb the booze.
Bar Manager Brooke Arthur, of Prospect and Range before that, has created a cocktail menu of just nine alcoholic drinks, with another five specialty sodas including Wild Cherry Phosphate. The cocktails include a few familiar drinks - a Pina Colada, a Brooklyn, a 50-50 Martini- and a few spinoffs like a mezcal version of the Tequila Por Mi Amante and a vanilla Hemmingway Daiquiri. On a strip of Valencia Street with dozens of fine dining ethnic restaurants but with few of them serving worthwhile cocktails (if any at all), Wo Hing will surely be warmly welcomed to the neighborhood when it officially opens at the end of October.