America, Experiences

High Tech meets Old Fashioned in San Francisco

13 Comments 08 July 2010

This is why they call it the Golden Gate?

While in San Francisco I had the opportunity to go out to a number of new places. Let’s face it, when you are abroad for 1 ½ years, everything is new to you. When my friend David mentioned going to a speakeasy, I was confused; did I hear him correctly – a speakeasy?

He quickly got on his iphone and started surfing the web. A few minutes later he showed me the screen which read,
Your password is sugardaddy

“Remember that password” he said. “I made a reservation for 9:30.”

“Ummm, ok. ” I replied a bit confused.

As we hung out and waited for our 9:30 reservation, he told me about the new speakeasy in San Francisco. ‘New’ and ‘speakeasy’ didn’t really seem to belong together in 2010, but I had been living outside of the US for a while, so maybe this wasn’t as strange as it sounded.

Apparently this secretive place had a lot of rules and some really strong drinks. You could only get in with the password (which thanks to a computer algorithm was constantly changed) and you could get inside only at the prescribed reservation time. I was intrigued. I love new takes on the old (i.e. Shirley Bassey – The Remix Album… Diamonds Are Forever CD); modern technology meets old ways of doing things. That’s why I loved this idea of a speakeasy with web access. The only way you could make a reservation and get a password was by going to their website as a member and filling out the appropriate info. They generated a password and electronically provided it to you. A far cry from the 1920’s; but a really cool take on an old way of doing something.

We hurried through the dimly lit streets of the Tenderloin neighborhood to a big wooden door with a silver button and intercom. The building had no windows and it looked extremely plain which made it blend in with the surrounding dismal buildings. We rang the bell and you could hear a little electronic buzzer go off inside. A little window peephole opened up and two eyes were staring back at us.
“What’s the password?” the eyes said
“Sugardaddy” I said

The window peephole closed, we heard a lock turn, and the door opened…we were in!

Inside it was dark with burgundy and wood décor giving it a warm, old feeling. Old chandeliers hung from the ceiling and little intimate booths lined the walls with individual lamps creating a soft glow on each table. The music was crackly jazz with piano accompaniment. The atmosphere was clandestine and the place oozed character.

The rules were posted on the wall and went something like this:
No using cell phones
No pictures
No speaking loudly
No standing around the bar

…and that’s honestly all I could remember since I was not allowed to use my cell phone or camera to take notes of the rest!

Tastey Bourbon

The waitress took us to a booth and provided us with a menu that resembled a novel. There was a modern twist on old liquors making reading the menu a pleasure; I never knew that bourbon could be used in so many ways! The waitress was dressed in a funky 1920’s hat with a feather in it and called everyone ‘friends’. She brought us over a small champagne cocktail while we looked over the extensive drink menu; she knew that it may take a while for us to decide. Eventually she sauntered over and asked, “Friends, what can I get you tonight?”

As we sat and sipped our strong bourbon drinks from martini glasses, I noticed a waitress take a group of people through the bookshelf behind our booth. Yes, that’s right; this speakeasy even had hidden rooms. If one were to move the book on the shelf just right, the shelf opened up to a door and led you into yet another bar area.

In some weird way I felt like I was in an adult Disneyland. Someone had meticulously created this environment as a very authentic step back into time. I felt as if I were in another world; a foreign experience in my own country. But it wasn’t foreign from a culture standpoint, it was foreign from a history standpoint which is what really made it unique to me.

I can hardly wait to log into the website, get another password, and go back again next time I’m in San Francisco. Now, you may be wondering why I haven’t told you the name of the place or the location….duh…it’s a secret!  Unless of course you provide me the secret password in the comments below…then I might give up the location!

Your Comments

13 Comments so far

  1. Alison says:

    Ooo! I’ll be in San Fran in Aug. for a weekend. Come on, you know you want to tell me :)

  2. Luke says:

    Arggh, San Fran seems like the most amazing city.
    It always gets me that I have been to so many corners of the world but I have never set foot in the States! When I do, San Francisco is top of my list.
    Thanks for this post, it has certainly piqued my intrigue!

  3. One of the best kept secrets in San Francisco and I cannot recommend it enough. Betsy and I went for our 1 year anniversary trip to SF and loved it. The ambiance, the mystique, and the interesting characters you will meet in the Tenderloin District made for a great experience. Your write up is classic and a wonderful way to capture the moment.

    If you are in SF, definitely try it out.

    • admin says:

      Ah – you know I speak the truth about the bourbon goodness! I’m curious – did you go with a friend who was a ‘member’ like I did, or did you figure out a password on your own?

  4. Cindy says:

    The mysterious Tenderloin Speakeasy should be at the top of any bourbon-drinkers list. And just a couple of hints from this San Franciscan. 1. The building is marked, if you look closely, by a sign “The Anti-saloon League” – aptly named. and 2. If you DON’T have a reservation, there is standing room only for the non-planners in the secret room. Password? – Books!

  5. Alisha says:

    Awww I am in flight on may way back from San Francisco as I am reading your post. I will have to put this on my list for my next trip if I can squeeze the name of the place out of you :)! I have some good recommendations for you next time you are in San Fran!

  6. What fun! Sometimes we give short shrift to U.S. travel destinations in favor of the exotic foreign locations, but here’s a perfect example of an exotic location right here in our own backyard.

  7. Mark H says:

    Wow, what a novel and entertaining idea for a fun evening.

  8. Great fun for a night out – I’d be a bit aprehensive if a fiend didn’t take me but then you can’t wait to let other firneds in on the secret

  9. Lacy says:

    Sugardaddy – location password . Mums the word !

  10. johnny d says:

    your comments have made me very excited
    my wife and I are heading there from Ireland next March would dearly love to know the name.

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Sherry traveling the world

I'm Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it's not just about travel, it's also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.
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