You gotta love a bar whose menu board on the street says “Soup of the day: Whiskey.” This proudly self-proclaimed dive bar in Lower Pacific Heights is known for good “drunk” food, such as chicken strips. But I was lucky enough to enjoy delicious sauteed Brussels sprouts during a restaurant pop-up featuring A16 cook Chris Norton. (“This is my old stomping ground, my ‘Cheers,’” he explained.) Veteran San Francisco bartender Christine Imfeld is particularly friendly and easily translated the day’s special for a French customer (“Petit chou, vert”). This small, noisy neighborhood sports bar has a young, local crowd and the vibe of a living room, and big front windows show the busy Divisadero street scene.
BAR info: Fishbowl: 1854 Divisadero St. • (415) 775-3630 • no website
What are the best and worst parts of your job?
The people and the people. But even the worst people have some lesson to offer. I often take it as a challenge to change a big meanie into a decent, respectful person. Sometimes I feel like a teacher and my customers are just like bad, drunk little kids. The best is when my customers inspire me and teach me, and in 15 years of bartending, I have definitely learned a lot.
How did you become a bartender?
I have always been intrigued by the bar world and I love the human experience. When I graduated from college and moved to San Francisco, it just seemed natural for me to take on this trade while I pursued my perpetual education. That was 16 years ago, and I still love my job. And I’m still in school.
What bars do you like?
I’m mostly a dive bar girl. Any place that plays Zeppelin and The Pixies. Photo booths are definitely a plus. There’s also a tiny little bar called Big downtown on Geary that serves highly crafted cocktails. It’s very speakeasy and feels like you’re walking into a different era.
What makes a good bartender?
You gotta know what your customers need before they do. All my favorite bartenders are part psychic. It’s an awesome gift.
What famous people have you served?
I have served tons of musicians and ballplayers — my two favorite kinds of people. Last summer, I reconnected with my old friend Joe Nathan. He used to play for the Giants and was in town with the Rangers for a run in Oakland. I hadn’t seen him in over 10 years, but it was just like the good old days when I worked at Momo’s and La Barca and he, J.T. Snow, Shawn Estes, Ryan Jensen and the rest of the guys in the club were my locals.
What’s the biggest tip you’ve received?
$100 bucks for me and $300 for my annual SFFD Christmas toy drive. We do a lot of great fundraisers here, but that’s definitely my favorite one. Everyone is so giving. We get to party down for an awesome cause, and by the end of the night our toy bins are overflowing with gifts for the kiddos. It really makes my heart soar.
What’s the most unusual experience you’ve had bartending?
A crew of hookers and pimps, clearly up from the night before, walked into my 10 a.m. Sunday morning shift a couple of weeks ago. After about an hour of Champagne and vodka-Red Bulls, one of the guys pours a pile of cocaine on his fist, snorts it, then Tasers his friend out of nowhere. He lets out a little chuckle and strolls out of the bar before Icould kick him out.— Donna Domino
- 2 oz. Corralejo Reposado tequila
- ½ lime, juiced
- ½ oz. jalapeno or ginger simple syrup
- 1 oz. triple sec
- splash of grapefruit juice
- splash of soda
Shake ingredients together with ice. Strain over ice into cocktail or margarita glass. Garnish with lime slice.