The Weeknighter: Kennedy's Irish Pub
Weekends are for amateurs. Weeknights are for pros. That's why each week Stuart Schuffman will be exploring a different San Francisco bar, giving you the lowdown on how and where to do your weeknight right. From the most creative cocktails to the best happy hours, Stuart's taking you along on his weeknight adventures into the heart of the City's nightlife. So, who wants a drink?
“Wait, an Indian Restaurant inside an Irish Pub?” For some reason I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. Goose and I were walking up Columbus, away from the candy store I worked at, towards Fisherman’s Wharf. His real name is Zach and I was probably the only person in the world that still called him Goose, a nickname he’d somehow gotten when we were at Jewish summer camp as kids. I hadn’t seen him since high school and when we found out that we both moved to San Francisco around the same time, we got in touch.
“Yeah, it’s like in the center of the Irish pub, like the pub wraps around it. And there’s all sort of games like air hockey and pinball and videogames.” Goose was telling me this as we sped past Washington Square Park. We were both fast walkers and talkers, and somehow managed to catch up on the past half a decade in the ten minutes it took to get from Z. Cioccolato to Kennedy’s Irish Pub. “And the best part about Kennedy’s,” he said as we arrived and he pulled open the front door with embellished courtesy, “is that during happy hour Guinness is just $2 and a pitcher of PBR is only $5! And pitchers of PBR are only $7 the rest of the time!” We were probably 22 at the time, and any place that could get us drunk for very little money excited us. It still does for me 11 years later, which sometimes makes me wonder if I’ve been stunted in my growth. What Goose forgot to mention is that, also during happy hour, when you buy a draft you get another one free. Which is to say: we got properly hammered during that 5-7 p.m. happy hour. Luckily, the grub we ordered from the curry house inside the pub helped keep us afloat.
They used to have a shrine to Jerry Garcia by the bar. Someone who worked at a nearby flower shop would come by every few days and donate a lovely flower arrangement for Jerry’s shrine. One day I was there and the barkeep told me that the current flower arrangement was to be the last. The person who used to donate them got fired. Or maybe I have that wrong. Maybe Kennedy’s used to buy them, but decided it cost too much to maintain. I don’t really remember the entirety of the flower situation to tell you the truth. Stories twist, turn, and change with time, especially the ones you hear in bars. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Kennedy’s, so I don’t even know if Jerry’s shrine is still up. That said, I will always remember the time a hot, surly, female bartender was wearing a t-shirt that said, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful. Hate me because I fucked your dad.” She was also wearing the biggest cold sore I’d ever seen in my life.
There’s no hard alcohol at Kennedy’s. I had forgotten this the last time I was there. I had brought about 40 other hard partiers on the Teacher Bus for one of my epic Broke-Ass Stuart Pub Crawls. When you roll into a place with 40 fucking marauding drunks on a Saturday night, you need a place big enough to handle the onslaught. Kennedy’s is huge, so they handled us with ease, but those that needed a little more fire in their bellies had to pop out to the bar on the corner called the International Sports Club. The awning of the International Sports Club says that Tuesday is ladies night. Just one look at the place and you could tell it is never ladies night in there.
Goose only lasted in San Francisco for maybe six months. After that he did a few other things and then ended up in Tahoe as a professional poker player. I don’t know what he’s been up to since. As for Kennedy’s, not much has changed. I mean, all the prices I mentioned before have gone up a buck or so, and the bartender who “fucked my dad” doesn’t work there any more, but otherwise, it’s still one of those favorite bars we all have. Those bars where you have such fun, sweet, and weird memories, yet don’t get visited nearly enough.
Stuart Schuffman has been called "an Underground legend" by the SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero" by the SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap" by Time Out New York. He is also the host for the IFC travel show Young, Broke & Beautiful. Follow him @BrokeAssStuart.