Soluna Cafe and Lounge: This was news to us, but apparently Soluna Cafe and Lounge — the bar and restaurant you know you have always wondered about that’s adjacent to a lot that’s been empty for years and kitty-corner to City Hall — had a crazy club scene only a couple years ago. That was until Matt Noris and his crew took over the joint. Noris, most notably, manages the bar program, where he has been able to draft a pretty meaty artisan-cocktail menu, and one could conceivably work their way through each during the bar’s impressive 4½-hour happy hour. Noris’ creativity extends beyond his mixing abilities — he’s a painter. Speaking to that passion, Soluna hosts a monthly art showcase, with the first Monday of every month bringing a new opening for an artist. 272 McAllister St., San Francisco, (415) 621-6212, www.solunasf.com
What brought you out to the Bay Area? Originally, to be honest, it was an ex-girlfriend.
It’s always a girl. But you know, my first love has been painting and music, so I was definitely drawn to the Bay Area for the art and music scene.
Now, the happy hour here is from 2:30 until 7 p.m. Are you appealing to the politicos nearby or the law school students? We get some of the politicos, we got Hastings College over here, so we get some of them. Basically, we stop serving lunch at 2:30, so we just started our happy hour. We don’t get a lot of people until 3 or 4 p.m.
So you mentioned your love of the arts. Are there any particular galleries you are fond of in The City? To be honest, I don’t get out as much as I used to ... but I’ve always enjoyed the Minna scene and Shooting Gallery, so definitely some of the more low-brow, outsider stuff. And that’s the kind of stuff that I do, too.
And are you self-taught? Yeah. I toyed around with the idea of art school and then I just bounced around and was traveling a little bit and camping.
What is the strangest cocktail you’ve ever served? Actually, [a couple of] regulars here love to play this trick on their friends. They’ll bring somebody in and [the regulars] will be here already. And they’ll have me make a drink that is not really the drink that they ordered. So the person will order a Jack and Coke and they’ll tell me, “OK, make something that looks like a Jack and Coke, but make it disgusting.” The last time we did it, the drink was supposed to be Kahlua and cream, and it was actually soy sauce, malt vinegar, balsamic and cream.
What did they do? They were freaking out. They said, “This doesn’t taste right.” And they had their friends, the people who set up the drink, taste it, and they were like, “No, it’s fine.” And then I came over to taste it. I made him like three of them.
Fire and Brimstone
- 1½ oz. bourbon
- ½ oz. fire nectar (cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, cloves, allspice, lime, sugar, water)
- Juice of half a lemon
- Ginger brew
- Pineapple juice
Shake all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Double strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a singed lemon peel.