Original Joe’s The restaurant was a city institution before a fire shuttered the original Taylor Street location. The restaurant has now reopened, but on Washington Square in North Beach — which was running dangerously low on institutions itself ever since the second iteration of the Washington Square Bar and Grill closed down.
Can something so new already be so old? Is instant classic an oxymoron? Maybe not, judging by the parade of good old boys, uniformed police and North Beach fixtures crowding the joint during the early afternoon on a recent weekday.
Here — amid oxford-shirt-and-tie-clad servers and bartenders — the martini lunch is alive and well, the word “badabing” is uttered without irony and there are more types of wine on tap (eight) than beer (four). Behind the bar, there’s more of an emphasis on remembering patrons’ names and faces than knowing 100 types of drinks. We caught up with veteran San Francisco bartender Rachel Bonfigli near the tail end of her very first lunchtime.
601 Union St., San Francisco, (415) 775-4877, www.originaljoessf.com
How long have you been a bartender? I’ve tended bar in San Francisco for 10 years — at Moose’s, MoMo’s, Pete’s Tavern, the Rec Room, the Hi-Dive.
Original Joe’s is a well-known name, but this is a brand-new location. What’s the clientele like here? There are a lot of people here who were at the Taylor Street location all the time. It’s a good mix of Nob Hill, North Beach and native San Franciscan-type people. During the day, it’s a very distinguished drinking crowd. And yes — they drink. The martini lunch is definitely not dead at this place. At night, it gets younger, more of a “scene.”
This is a restaurant town, and North Beach is a restaurant neighborhood. What niche is Original Joe’s filling? There’s really not a place to congregate in North Beach during the day anymore, now that the Washbag is closed. It’s definitely a place to see the neighborhood. It’s an institution already.
What do people drink here? A lot of martinis, a lot of Negroni. Old-school drinks, nothing fancy. Manhattans. Basic, classic cocktails. Not a lot of mixers.
Give us some drink secrets. The secret to a martini is that it needs to be really cold. Give it a good, strong shake. For a Manhattan, you have to stir it. Mix it up really well. And don’t forget the bitters.
Off-hours, what’s your tipple? I’m a beer drinker, personally, but I love a good Sazerac.
What’s the secret to tending bar? Just be nice. Our crowd works just as hard for their money as we do.