Throw back a cocktail in comfort at Wayfare

Wayfare Tavern: Three months ago, celebrity chef and Food Network star Tyler Florence unveiled his first restaurant in the heart of the Financial District. From the outside, Wayfare Tavern appears to be a quaint little bistro, but as you walk inside, you are suddenly transported into the home of an aristocrat on the Barbary Coast. With dark-mahogany bars, dramatic drapes, plush window seats and floorboards from an old barn in Kentucky, the tavern provides a comfortable, relaxing atmosphere with just a tinge of decadence. While waiting to be seated, a large staff of bartenders is on hand to provide classic cocktails and a plethora of local wines either at the bustling main bar or at a more intimate area on the second floor. Bartender Chris Tunstall is happy to mix up a Manhattan while sharing stories about dealing craps in Vegas or spilling secrets about wineries in the Napa Valley. The powerful trifecta of Florence, experienced wait staff and a to-die-for menu make the Wayfare Tavern a must-go for foodies. 558 Sacramento St., San Francisco, (415) 772-9060

How did you end up in San Francisco? I’m from Flagstaff, Ariz., but I lived in Las Vegas then Napa for a while before moving to San Francisco about a year ago. I was looking for more action and a place where things don’t close at 9 p.m. 

How did you start bartending? I was a craps dealer in Vegas and thought tending bar would be a good substitute to that fast-paced atmosphere. I walked into Ring’s Steak House in Napa and said, “I want to be your bartender. I’ll start washing dishes if I have to.” About three months later, I got the opportunity to get behind the bar.

How did you find Wayfare Tavern? I was managing restaurants at the time and I wanted to get back to bartending. I heard through the grapevine that Wayfare was opening, so I stopped by.

How does Wayfare Tavern compare to other places you’ve worked? It’s more of a comfortable feel. As soon as I walked in here, I felt like I was in someone’s house. It’s just really inviting. I love the speed, the food, the other bartenders, and the people that come in are great. It’s a perfect fit for me.

Why do you prefer a restaurant atmosphere to a bar? The food. The quality is great here and people are excited to come try Tyler’s food. It’s great to provide another level of service by matching a cocktail with the food.

The atmosphere is all about comfort. What about the food? The fried chicken is unbelievable. It’s weird to see on a menu, but I definitely recommend it. In this economy, people want things that are familiar, so we’re going back to comfort food and classic, pre-Prohibition-era cocktails.

What is your drink of choice? My favorite to make is the Manhattan. But when I’m out, I usually just order a beer and a shot of Fernet.

If you could have anyone be your bartender who would you choose? My grandpa. I never had a chance to meet him, but he was one of the supposed inventors of the margarita. I want him to make me one just so I know what it was actually like since everyone has their own version.

If you could have a drink with anyone in history who would it be? Definitely Leonardo da Vinci. He had vast interests and was good at all of them.

Occidental Punch

– 2 oz. Macchu Pisco
– ¾ oz. lime juice
– ½ oz. caramelized pineapple syrup
– 4 dashes Peychaud’s
– Ginger beer

Shake ingredients together then strain into a glass. Top with a thin slice of lime.

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