Nova, an überfriendly neighborhood bar just off South Park, is popular with young techies who work at local video game companies and baseball fans who come in after games at nearby AT&T Park. Nova, which took over the spot that formerly housed the Infusion bar, has a relaxed atmosphere that features red velvet booths facing a long bar. Weekend brunches are especially popular, and customers can pick which sporting events to watch on the TVs over the bar while downing bottomless mimosas. Bartender Lorelei Ryan, a warm and vivacious pro who has worked at many popular bars in The City, greets all the locals by name — and offers up a Jalapeno Kamikaze.
Nova: 555 Second St. (between Bryant and Brannan streets), San Francisco, (415) 543-2282, www.novabar.com
What makes this cocktail distinctive? It’s refreshing, but it heats you up for this time of year.
What’s the crowd like here? The local residents are the best and a lot of them come in after the baseball games. It’s very popular for parties. It’s very neighborhoody; we just had a baby shower. Everybody gets Christmas cards sent to them.
How long have you been bartending? I started bussing tables when I was 16. I started bartending in Boston when I was in college. I was waiting tables one day when the bartender didn’t show up. I wasn’t even 21 yet. The manager fed me to the wolves.
What makes a good bartender? Anybody can put together a Jack and Coke, but what’s important is what comes with it. If you’re easy to look at, it doesn’t hurt. I need people to be friendly, attentive and remember my name and my drink. You can make me a terrible drink, but if you do it with a smile, I won’t be mad at you.
What drinks are popular here? Bloody Marys. We have really good Irish Coffees and Hot Toddys in winter.
What famous people have you served? Baseball players and their families come in all the time. Nic Cage came into the Matrix. He wore a long trench coat and kinda looked like a vagabond. He drank mojitos straight up; I was so star-struck I had to get somebody else to make it. He started checking IDs at the door because he thought it was funny.
What’s the most unusual experience you’ve had? It was during baseball season and there was a long line at the bathroom. People were pounding on the door. Finally, this couple comes out and the guy hands me his card and says, “Send me the bill.” I looked inside and the sink was in three pieces on the floor. Everybody gave them a standing ovation. We sent him the bill and he paid for it.