Chef and restaurateur Dennis Leary, who has already built a local empire with House of Shields, Canteen, Golden West and The Sentinel, has opened his second bar, with the help of partner Eric Passetti, in the same month. This place is so new you can still smell the fresh paint on the walls. San Francisco has always had a place called Trocadero. In the Barbary Coast days, Trocadero was a roadhouse, and in the 1970s, Trocadero Transfer was a famous disco. The high ceilings, peach stucco and low-lit overhead lighting give the place a calm, relaxed feel you might find in the tropics. We almost forgot we were in the Tenderloin. The only thing missing are the palms. We sat down with Patrick Nyberg, who moved to San Francisco after quitting his job as an engineer, which sometimes required up to 30 days on an offshore platform. He enjoys the increased flexibility and social perks behind the pour.
How’d you find your way into bartending?
I quit my engineering job, moved up to The City and was living off of my savings. Went out to a Giants game with some friends who were associated with the company, got wasted and somehow in my drunkenness found a way to land a job at the House of Shields. And the rest is history.
I’ve spoken to quite a few bartenders who have left their previous careers to become a bartender.
I have a petroleum engineering degree and I was working on an oil rig. At the time I was working 30 days a month, 12 hours a day — if not more. I was 25 years old and realized that my friends stopped calling me because I never had time to hang out with them. When I’d have my two or three days off, I’d have to choose between seeing my friends, visiting my parents or seeing my girlfriend. Then by the time you get done doing your laundry and cleaning your car, it’s time to go back to work.
But you must have worked in some pretty cool places.
Yeah, I worked in the Gulf of Mexico, California and even Hawaii.
Hey! I’m from Maui.
Cool. They tap into the volcanoes for their steam and transfer it over to Kona. It’s basically a free source of energy. They do geothermal tapping in Northern California; it’s an interesting process.
It’s an interesting group behind the bar, huh?
Yeah, they’re a bunch of creative types; artists, musicians — people who bartend and make enough money to be able to fund these creative outlets.
What’s your favorite ingredient to play with?
Rye, because it’s what I love to drink. It’s so fun to be a bartender because so many are interested and educated about what they’re drinking. The cocktail list has become the centerpiece of a bar. Nowadays it seems that it’s more about the cocktail than it is about who you’re with.
Do you notice any changes with what your guests are drinking?
Right now people are willing to try something different — tequila cocktails with a splash of mezcal, an Old Fashioned with a little scotch. People are becoming more interested and more adventurous with what they’re drinking and more willing to try more flavors. Nowadays you’ve got to make something that’ll keep people interested or else you’ll fall by the wayside.
CARTER BEATS THE DEVIL
1½ oz. reposado tequila
½ oz. mezcal
5 dashes chili tincture
1 oz. lime juice
½ oz. agave nectar
Add all ingredients. Shake and strain into Old Fashioned glass filled with ice. Garnish with lime.
BAR INFO: Trocadero Club
701 Geary Blvd.