Heaven’s Dog: A restaurant with the unlikely name Heaven’s Dog had better have a good sense of humor and a strong self-image, which are thankfully both true at Charles Phan’s latest contribution to The City’s food scene. The name came about following a miscommunication when a bar manager tried to say something in Chinese, but it translated as Heaven’s Dog. But Phan liked the name, and brightly colored paintings of dogs are found throughout the newly constructed space next to the new federal building on Mission Street. There is a slick version of a noodle shop on one side of the restaurant, with an open kitchen surrounded by counter seating. The sleek lounge and bar feature orange leather banquettes, cork walls and a slate like floor. Bartender and bar manager Francisco Benito also has worked at Phan’s famed Slanted Door restaurant and Agricole, the trendy SoMa restaurant. Open only about 18 months, Heaven’s Dog has already been named one of the top 100 bars in the country by Food and Wine’s Cocktails annual survey. Pre-Prohibition cocktails are a big part of the experience, featuring favorite drinks such as the Cap Haitian Rum and Honey, and the Freedom of Choice, which allows patrons to choose their favorite spirit that the bartender then uses to concoct a special drink. 1148 Mission St. at Seventh Street. San Francisco, (415) 863-6008, www.heavensdog.com
What’s your favorite drink? Rye whiskey. The drink has to be unique, whomever is making it. That’s what makes it special.
What are your favorite bars? Beretta, Agricole, Prospect in The City. If I go to Cuba, I like the Hotel Nacional’s bar on the back patio overlooking Havana Bay. In New York, I like to go to the Little Branch, Milk and Honey, and I always go to the Cafe Peju when I’m there.
What’s the best thing about being a bartender? Socializing, personal interaction. Making people happy is very satisfying — it’s like when you fall in love with somebody.
What famous people have you met? Mick Jagger — he was the coolest guy — the Metallica band, Robin Williams — he’s a very simple person, not high-maintenance.
What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had as a bartender? When I was working at the Slanted Door, I had to throw out a couple after they got drunk and made a scene. But the woman came back and apologized for swearing at me. Some customers will never admit they were wrong. I will always remember that.
- 2 oz. rye whiskey
- ¾ oz. lemon juice
- 1 oz. blackberry honey
- 1 egg white
Shake ingredients together in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with orange zest.