Tucked into the Tenderloin, a block from boarded-up sections of Market Street, sits this gem. It has hidden in plain site among liquor stores and pawn shops since 2006, serving arguably the best fried chicken in The City and other soul food staples. Farmer Brown is no dive, but the intentionally weathered interior and artwork evoking the civil rights era seem to acknowledge the struggle outside. The arrival of Twitter and revitalization efforts may affect the area’s character, but “changes in the hood won’t change Farmer Brown any more than the changing of the seasons,” longtime bartender Diego Herrera said. “The owners have stuck to their vision.” But you’re more likely to see young urbanites popping in from the office or even one of the local strip clubs. “When I saw the neighborhood, I wondered where the heck I was,” said new bartender Jonny, who spoke with The S.F. Examiner recently. “And then the placed filled up every night.”
Farmer Brown: 25 Mason St., S.F., (415) 409-FARM, www.farmerbrownsf.com
When did you arrive in The City and where did you come from? I came up from Santa Monica, where I had managed a tourist trap of a bar. I’ve been at Farmer Brown for a few months.
What are the most noticeable differences between the old gig and this one? Down there, the norm made the money—those customers want familiar drinks. Anytime one of the liquor reps wanted to do a tasting, I’d refuse because I didn’t to waste their time. But here, we consistently take them up on it. The owners perk up their ears when they hear about something new or different. It’s a total change.
It looks like you’ve got a pretty clear view into the Tenderloin through those windows behind the bar. I’ve seen all kinds of things, and I haven’t even been here that long. We took the outside handle off of the side door so it’s an exit-only sort of situation. But you see a lot of tourists and regular folks along with the occasional fight or someone passed out on the sidewalk.
So what do your regulars order? Half of them don’t even order; the bartender surprises ’em. The cocktail menu is seasonal, so it changes pretty regularly anyway. As a matter of fact, we’re rolling over to our new one this week and the Sweet Summer Heat will be on it.
How did you come up with it? It all spawned from tasting the house-made jalapeño honey hot sauce, and I thought it would go well with citrus and tequila. Sometimes the concept in your head doesn’t play out the way you think it will, tastewise, but I felt pretty good about this drink. The managers asked the bartenders to come equipped with ideas to the last meeting and often they’ve got input. This one needed none, I guess, because they didn’t change a thing.
Sweet Summer Heat
Muddle lemon, lime and mint. Combine ingredients, shake with ice, pour into glass and top with splash of soda.