About the series: In a saloon town such as San Francisco, the bartender plays a crucial role. Confessor, friend, sounding board — the man or woman behind the plank sees to it that our needs are met with elegance, grace and often wit. They see humanity at its best and most convivial, but also offer a nod and a welcome to the lonely. But what do they see when they look at us? What are the tricks of their trade? And what lessons have they learned along the way? In this Examiner weekly feature, we talk to some of our local bartenders to find out.
Pier 43½, San Francisco, (415) 362-7733
It’s not often we get our drinks at Fisherman’s Wharf. One reason is that it is a hotbed of tourists, and the second … well, I guess there isn’t a second. But then we hit upon places such as the Franciscan Restaurant — with its 20-foot windows that comprise an entire wall, giving glorious views of the San Francisco Bay — and we think, “What is wrong with us?” We drank in the view of Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge and our North Bay neighbors while chatting with one of Franciscan’s resident bartenders, Devin Triplett, who at 26 years old says the restaurant is by far the largest he’s ever worked at — or been to. Known for its heaping fresh catches of Dungeness crabs, the San Francisco institution celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Not to diminish the quality and sophistication of Chef Andrea Froncillo’swell-prepared dishes, the food here is a great blend of comfort and chic. We fully plan to up the residential ratio.
Since this place gets mostly tourists, what’s the most frequently asked question of you? They ask if there are sharks out there and how far away is Alcatraz. And I immediately start to understand that all their questions are related to how to escape from Alcatraz.
How would you plan your escape? Well, it’s kind of hard to be Clint Eastwood with a raft, and I’m not really a great swimmer. I guess I’d have to bribe a guard with a lot of alcohol.
This place is huge. What’s the most drinks you’ve ever served in a single night? Over Fleet Week, we do almost 1,500. So I probably poured at least 300 to 400 drinks that day.
What’s the strangest drink order you’ve ever taken? I don’t know about the strangest, but I can tell you about the funniest. We had a server send in an order for 11 Duck Farts. It’s Baileys, Kahlua and whiskey. There’s something in that mix that curdles and looks really nasty. One of our servers was curious, so he goes down and smells what it is, and someone asked me, “Is he smelling the Duck Fart?”
There are black and white photographs covering every inch of wall space here. Did all these people eat here? I get asked that all the time, and the answer is “no.” Some probably ate here, but most are space fillers. I didn’t figure it out until I saw one of a penguin.
This place has got a long history in San Francisco. You must have served some famous people here. Anthony Hopkins, Dennis Franz and Ludacris. Hopkins was a pretty good tipper, as I remember.
What’s the story behind that gigantic trophy on top of the raw bar? It’s from an oyster-eatingcompetition. One of the chefs here ate over 140 oysters in 10 minutes.
Are you an oyster fan? I am. I love oysters, especially with tomato juice and Tabasco.
If you could serve a drink to anyone, who would it be? Wes Anderson.
What would you serve him? A Rum Cannonball. I have no idea what it is, but that’s what one of his characters drinks — Steve Zissou, in “The Life Aquatic.”