The Weeknighter: The Riptide
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?
I spent much of the night before my first visit to The Riptide passed out on someone’s kitchen floor. I had been out with a group of Irish girls who were big fans of my work. It was my first groupie situation, but as the gods of San Francisco awkwardness would have it, we ran into my ex-girlfriend, my first love, the one I was still heartbroken over in that fine and strange summer of 2006. I drank myself into mental incapacitation and, as mentioned before, passed out on the Irish girls’ kitchen floor. No groupie lovin’ was had.
I was at a real low and needed to get out of the city, so a couple friends swooped me up and we went to the Tourist Club in Marin, then Stinson Beach. Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge back into San Francisco I got a call from my friend Jason inviting us to The Riptide’s anniversary party, saying “Dude, there’s gonna be something like 1,000 free oysters and 200 pounds of tuna sashimi, all for free!” Nobody in their right mind could pass that up, so we aimed the car towards the Outer Sunset.
Sitting a block from the beach at Taraval near 47th Avenue, The Riptide is almost closer to Japan than it is to Japantown. From the exterior, it looks like just another watering hole filled with red-faced, old men alternating between staring into their beer and watching sports highlights on the TV. But once you get inside, The Riptide feels more like a little mountain lodge than a neighborhood bar on the western edge of the North American continent. Americana touches like wood paneled walls and a moose head blend seamlessly with old “Steam Beer” signs and nautical antiques, and on the right night, flames blaze in the brick fireplace. There’s also something cool happening there each night of the week, from open mics to local bands, and free hot dog Tuesdays, to free grilled cheese Thursdays. Plus they have rad bartenders including JoAnn Aita, who is a world record-holding weightlifter!
But on that summer evening in 2006, there were no grilled cheese sandwiches or flaming fireplaces. There was just a shit ton of oysters, sushi, and a collection of really cool people. Whereas the regulars at some neighborhood bars give new blood the hairy eyeball, the folks at The Riptide immediately welcome you to the fold. Other than Jason, the rest of our ten-person group had never been to the bar before (it is at fucking 47th and Taraval, after all). Instead of looking at us like moochers just coming for the free grub (which is exactly what we were), the regulars threw their arms around us and clanked their oyster shells against ours before we simultaneously downed the slimy bastards. It was this warmth and community spirit that has brought me back to The Riptide numerous times over the past seven or so years.
By the end of that day, I felt much better than I had when I’d woken up stiff and depressed at the Irish girls’ house. I’d been on the kind of adventure that can only happen when you live in San Francisco. The kind that takes you from the city to the forest to the beach to a kick-ass bar filled with good people and free food. Looking back I don’t think I realized how good I had it then. Most of the people you’re tight with and who’re part of your everyday life when you’re 25 aren’t around when you’re 32. They get married or have kids or move away or just end up down a different path than you’re on. Or all of the above. Luckily, we have places like The Riptide that can house those memories and remind us how sweet life can really be.