This Friday night, instead of taking refuge in the blue light of the cinema I actually went out into the City. (I still went to the movies on Saturday, though). Somewhere along the way, and I’m not sure exactly when it happened, I became kind of lame. I used to be a bar person. I wouldn’t necessarily say a drunk, but certainly someone who felt at home keeping a shine on the bar with the sleeves of my coat. It’s been too long since the epic days of my youth and I no longer have a television to keep me occupied at home, so I’m making a concerted effort to go out more and reacquaint myself with the places where people in San Francisco gather to consume.
My first stop was a place called Giordano Bros., a bar and grill in North Beach with a decidedly Pittsburgh-ian theme. From the giant inflatable Steeler in the corner to the black and yellow decor, this place really sticks to its roots. A sandwich shop by day, there is a full menu of meaty sandwiches, all of which are served with fries and coleslaw served on the sandwich. It’s a little wacky, but evidently it’s a tradition and a tasty one at that.
But when I went, the lights had been turned down low, and a band was setting up for an evening of live music. There was definitely more of a bar atmosphere in the space. But a generous happy hour and low starting prices make it a good place to knock back a few. There were no beers on tap, which I found troubling. But they make up for the deficiency by having some good bottled beers and offering them in bucket form. I ordered one and sat back on the long bench that dominates one side of the room.
Live music can be iffy for me. There are too many shitty cover bands mangling Jimmy Buffet and Dave Mathews before disinterested crowds. Even good bands can approach the gig like they are having a concert that we bar patrons are attending. This is not the case. While there is a always a sampling of the band’s mothers, girlfriends, and groupies, the majority of people tend to be bar customers who want some background music. At least for me, the level of annoyance rises proportionately with every notch of the volume dial the bassist cranks past and every time I have to repeat what I just screamed into the ear of my friend who is sitting six inches away. The band at Giordano Bros. was a delightful exception to this trend and they filled the bar with mellow rock that I didn’t have to tear my lungs out to have a conversation during.
There was a server and he was efficient, if a little sweaty. He took a liking to a young lady in my party and he paid a great deal of clammy attention to her, hugging and kissing her cheek a great deal. It was all very friendly, and not in a totally creepy or unwelcome way but I can’t imagine he gives the same kind of service to every customer that goes through those doors.
I’d spend another night drinking at Giordano Bros., but I can’t help but think the bar is aimed squarely at displaced Pittsburgh-ers and I’m sure the place hits a certain frenzy during Steelers games. In fact, there was a definite feeling of a sports bar waiting for a game. But for a laid-back bucket of beer, a choleste-riffic (but delicious) sandwich, and friendly atmosphere, you could do a lot worse.