Back to the Frisco
San Francisco has almost two centuries of history. And I think we can all agree that parts of this city are stuck in the past. No, I’m not talking about the guy in Golden Gate Park who mumbles about how great the ’60s were or the hipsters in the Mission who ironically listen to tape players in Dolores Park.
I’m talking about places that can transform you into another era, when the city felt and looked completely different. Get a reservation for the DeLorean from Zipcar, ’cause I’m going to show you how to time travel through San Francisco in the next 24 hours.
It’s a hard-and-fast rule within the time traveling community that you
never go anywhere on an empty stomach. So our first stop takes us to St. Francis Fountain in the Mission.
Looking in at the place from the sidewalk, you’d almost expect the
leather jacket-clad cast of Grease to stare out at you as they sip
down their malts. Once inside, old toys, trading cards from classic TV
shows, and bubble gum packs peek out from behind a display case. In the back, if you so choose, you can step into a telephone booth and make a call to James Dean. Oh, to be in an era when society coveted private conversations. St. Francis’ wooden benches, metallic accents, and original milkshake machines put all other “retro diners” (cough-cough Mel’s cough-cough) to shame.
Don’t Miss: Guinness Float
Listen To: The Penguins – “Earth Angel”
Back in the day, men liked to get haircuts. And grow mustaches. And wax said mustaches. But then the Great Depression hit, everyone lost their money, and they stopped getting straightedge shaves – opting instead for cheap, disposable razors. It was a sad time for men’s grooming, one that we never recovered from. Which is why we’re going to F.S.C. Barber on Valencia to return to an age when men looked more like bare-knuckle boxers.
Reservations aren’t taken at F.S.C. – probably because in the 1900s,
waiting was considered the national pastime. So, take a look around at the old-timey merchandise and décor while you wait for your haircut or straightedge shave in a turn-of-the-century barber chair.
Don’t Miss: Ungarische Bartwichse von Stern Bremen Mustache Wax
Listen To: Scott Joplin – “The Entertainer”
Even if it does look like an atomic bomb detonated out there, there is
life in the Dogpatch. Take your DeLorean past the abandoned
warehouses, the rusted steel mills, and the gutted gas stations to
seek shelter in the welcoming Dogpatch Saloon.
The walls are lined with a collection of eclectic art that looks like it was salvaged from abandoned buildings after the nuclear fallout.
Ominous purple and red lights shine over the full bar, which will help pass the time until the zombie apocalypse hits. But small plants at
each table help remind us that, according to Dr. Ian Malcolm from
Jurassic Park, “Life, uh… finds a way.”
Don’t Miss: A shot of liquor poured from a pickle jar that contains a dried tiger penis. Yes. It will make you pray for the end.
Listen To: R.E.M. – “It’s The End of the World as We Know It”
If you didn’t happen to bring along your leather jacket and tight
jeans, you’ll be fine. But if you forgot your punk attitude, then you
might as well stay in the car. Because in Molotov’s, you’ll be
transported into grungy garages and basement bars that supported the punk rock genre through its heyday. We’re talking about the early’80s.
A jukebox containing all of the CDs that would make your parents
cringe are here for your listening pleasure as soon as you enter. And
if you look hard enough, you can spot a hidden candy machine filled
with Reese’s Pieces (straight from the E.T. set, probably). A pay
phone with its headset ripped out waits in the back to remind anyone
who’s asking that this establishment is thoroughly antiestablishment.
The red and black motif would be enough, but throw in the stickers that plaster the walls (like the Karate Kid Daniel-san sticker that looks down at you from the ceiling) and the Misfits poster above the
bar, and you’ll almost expect Black Flag to rip through and perform a sound check right on the pool table.
Don’t Miss: Bum’s Choice: Can of Hamm’s and a shot of well whiskey
Listen To: The Clash – “London Calling”
It’s about high time we indulged our inner child on this trip through
time. So, we’re off to The Ice Cream Bar in Cole Valley, where the drinks are nonalcoholic but they’ll turn the average sweet tooth into a full-blown addict.
When you walk in, the first thing you might notice is a display case
full of ice cream. But it’s the classic soda drinks that we’re after.
Soda, as we know it today, was actually invented in drugstores as a
way to replicate mineral water*. Once people realized that soda didn’t do crap for your health, they started adding different flavors and
chemicals like phosphate to make it taste good. Those magical
ingredients can be found behind the counter in small eyedroppers and jars. You can also see a large block of ice that one of the “jerks” – the people who serve the sodas (that’s what they’re called and they’re actually quite nice) – told me is what keeps the traditional soda fountain cold. You know, because they didn’t have refrigeration systems back in the 1930s, they had blocks of ice.
Don’t Miss: Classic Egg Cream
Listen To: Glenn Miller – “Jukebox Saturday Night”
Why would anyone want to travel back in time to the Prohibition? Well, because of all the boozin’ people we’re doing behind the back of Johnny Law. The entrance to Bourbon & Branch is unmarked save for a small buzzer. And so long as you’re not a no-good copper on a raid, you’re free to come on in.
Once inside, we recommend that you make your way to the back bookcase. A secret password that I’m sure no one knows about will get you into the super secret (I can’t believe I’m telling you this!) library room. At the front, a sturdy mahogany bar is all that separates you from the sweet nectar that talented and classy bartenders will shake and mix and transform into fantastic cocktails. If you and your friends dress up like a couple of rumrunners and order a few strong martinis, we guarantee you’ll have a good time.
Don’t Miss: Scoff Law
Listen To: Ruth Etting – “Button Up Your Overcoat”
America is in the throws of the Great Depression, so what do you need to do to get a beer around here? Apparently, barter for anything and they’ll hang it on the walls at Specs’. It’s a collection that glorifies the bohemian philosophy that was beginning to become popular and would later evolve into the Beat culture that thrived in North Beach. And on the right nights, you might even be lucky enough to find some local artisans trying to sell their paintings or poems for beer money.
Behind the bar there’s a large wheel of cheese, and although it won’t exactly feel like a food line, you can have the bartender cut you a slice and he’ll serve it to you along with a few crackers. But at least you’ll have some food in your stomach when you throw back a few.
And if you’re looking for a bit of reading material, we suggest you check out any of the Marxist and political pamphlets that are lying around. Because nothing says Great Depression like Marxism and cheese.
Don’t Miss: Olympia Beer “It’s the water”
Listen To: Woody Guthrie – “Tear the Fascist Down”
It's been a long day. And let's be honest, a long day of drinking. So let's take a break from driving and use public transportation – the 49 Van Ness to be exact. Now, we don't know why, but during certain times of the day the 49 becomes its very own time machine. Or should we say its very own funk machine?
From the instant you see it, you can tell that this bus is different.
The rounded shape, the thick, orange stripe on the exterior along with the fake wood paneling on the inside sets this apart from any other Muni bus that I’ve been on – it’s new modern classic, or whatever style Wes Anderson is really into. If you close your eyes, especially if you’ve had a few to drink, and grab hold of one of the poles, you’ll feel like you’re in a high-speed chase with Michael Douglas in an episode of The Streets of San Francisco.
Unfortunately I don’t have a tip to summon this magical ride – the only real way you can time travel on this special 49 is to wait for it anywhere along its route. But it’s worth it.
Listen To: Jean Pierre Mirouze – “Sexopolis”
All of our hopes and dreams will be answered in the future. And you can find all of our worldly optimism here at the California Academy of Sciences. With its sterile animal exhibits and walk-through, four-story domed rainforest, we clearly know how to preserve life for future generations. And if we need to use that technology after global warming destroys everything (at least, that’s what I’m told), then so be it.
But to really transport yourself into the future, travel upstairs to the museum’s Living Roof. There it will feel like you’re on some foreign planet, with bubbles of glass windows dotting a green roof covered in different plants and flowers. In fact, the design keeps the building underneath cooler, saving on energy. Take that, global warming!
Must Have: A stuffed penguin from the gift shop; they’re cute.
Listen To: Air – “Alone In Kyoto”