Next stop is Rogue Ale House down near Washington Square halfway to the waterfront. We’ve lucked in or out depending on which way you look at it as it’s Trivia Night at this gastropub. A quick scout for a table proves fruitless so we join the line at the elevated bar for drinks. Rogue are known for growing their own grains, hops and other ingredients on their Oregon farm in the Willamette valley. This ‘we grow beer’ attitude gives them control regarding purity and quality throughout the process. After collecting a couple of large tall glasses of the amber stuff, we retreat outside away from the hub-bub. The ill-lit rear courtyard is more smoker’s concession than vibrant beer garden. A few wooden picnic tables with fairy lights wrapped around umbrellas do little to offset the massive spotlight glare.
From the brand-heavy laminated menu we choose fried tater tots with ranch dip, chicken wings with hot sauce and fried cheese curds with jalapeño jelly. Piping hot fried finger food makes up the bulk of the menu though the odd vegetable does make a token appearance under the guise of salad. Service is perfunctory without being rude. I’m sure the beer nerds who attend to us all home brew on the side, dreaming of taking their hobby next level.
‘If you’re still hungry, you can have desserts. They’ve got beer floats. Chocolate stout over vanilla ice cream with whipped cream and a cherry?’ I offer.
‘Yeah, nah,’ he responds. ‘Think I’ll skip it this time.’
Placing his now empty glass on the table, ‘But I could go another.’
We up sticks and go inside determined to find a corner to perch now the evening has cooled off and the wind picked up. Thankfully, the trivia quiz has reached its conclusion and the bar is emptying out somewhat. I find a slightly sticky table and push the dishes to one side. Although there are guest beers on tap, Steve and I have a philosophy of ‘when in Rome’ so it’s a Rogue double chocolate stout for him and a Rogue barleywine for me. Slightly higher in alcohol, we sit a little longer on these smaller tipples and watch the bar in action around us. Television screens showing sports we don’t understand blare from the corner. Crowded tables of college kids raucous in their laughter. Large groups playing board games on other tables. It appears we are not their core demographic.
‘Fancy a bit of a stroll and some fresh air?’ I posit as our glasses are nearing empty.
‘Don’t mind if I do,’ he says taking my arm in his and we gratefully step from the bustling bar onto a darker, quieter street. Heading along Columbus Avenue, a broad road that cuts a diagonal swathe through the street grid from the financial district to the waterfront, we pass pizza joints, sushi restaurants, closed cafes and Indian eateries. I think we are aimlessly wandering but of course Steve has a plan and it turns out to an excellent one.
I’m not one for gimmicky tourist attractions and if I’m given a choice I would avoid them. Our visit to the hundred year old Buena Vista was not a choice, though an Irish coffee was an inspired idea to cap off our evening. A cocktail of hot coffee, whiskey – Irish of course – topped with a thick head of whipped cream is what The Buena Vista is rightly famous for. Located in the ground floor of a three storey building at the terminus of the Powell-Hyde Cable Car, it is ideally sited to capture the tourist dollar. Waiters in stiff white jackets with bright eyes and broad smiles choreograph their customers with ease. Momentarily, I feel like a teenager asked on her first date when he offers to bring us two Irish coffees. Of course, the answer is yes. How could I possibly refuse you?
I know we had a second Irish coffee but there’s not much more I remember about that evening. In the Uber ride home, I don’t hear Steve and our driver, Parker, make small talk. All I can think of is how warm I feel inside. It is only the next morning laying in bed that I think about The Buena Vista’s human resources department. Staff can be the make or break of any hospitality business. After all the business planning, success really depends the people you have at the coal face. You can have the best Irish coffee in the world but it’s the people that really make your customers feel warm inside.
2765 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94109, United States
TRIP TIME 00:16:19
FARE BREAKDOWN Base Fare 2.00
Booking Fee $1.55
Driver – Parker
RECIPE PERFECTED AFTER MANY ITERATIONS
20 ml dark brown sugar
45 ml whiskey – your choice
60 ml espresso coffee
60 ml hot water
Make sure these are well combined then float 45ml of whipped cream over the top. It helps if you pour it over the back of a spoon.
Enjoy in a minimum of two per sitting.