The Weeknighter: Lucky 13
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?
There were a few summers in my mid-twenties where I spent nearly every Saturday afternoon at Lucky 13. Now I know this is The Weeknighter, but I still think it’s worth noting, simply because of how much time I spent there. On summer Saturdays, Lucky 13 does free BBQ on the patio, so my friends and I would drink beer at Dolores Park till the clouds started coming in around 4 pm and then head over to Lucky 13. More often than not, Dog Boi would starve himself all day until he got to the bar, simply because he was really broke. We all were actually; Dog Boi just had better discipline.
I was telling this story the other night to somebody while sitting at the bar. I was meeting a friend at Lucky 13, and she was running late, so I began chatting up the people next to me while we sat on the stools, drinking cheap well vodka, and munching on the free popcorn. Lucky 13 is a dive bar, and it smells like one, so besides the fact that the popcorn is yummy, methinks they also pop it to detract from that special dive bar aroma. Then again, who wants a dive bar that smells like petunias?
If there was a check list for what constitutes a great dive bar, Lucky 13 would probably have more boxes ticked off than any other place in the city. They have cheap drinks, pool, pinball, foosball, Ms. Pac-Man, a really long happy hour, they allow dogs, and employ bartenders that are equally sweet and salty. Plus, they have over 25 beers on tap and tons of other brews in bottles and cans. But more importantly, Lucky 13 takes you as you are. Considering this fine establishment sits a few hundred feet from Church and Market, all manner of weird characters walk through its doors. You’re just as likely to sit down at the bar next to dude in a tie as you are to someone with green hair and a chain connecting their nose ring to one of their seven earrings. Chances are, if you walked in to Lucky 13 in a vinyl gimp suit the bartender would simply ask, “What are you drinking?” because, honestly, she’s seen way stranger.
We live in a time where dive bars now have Facebook pages, and under the description for Lucky 13, it says “Where the pros come to drink.” This is a valid statement. There are a lot of professional drinkers at Lucky 13. Other than the guy the other night who kept stumbling over the same dog repeatedly, most people can really handle their booze. This is an important quality if you’re spending a lot of time in the same bar, which is often the case at Lucky 13, where many of the same regulars remain every time I’ve stopped in over the last decade. I understand why. Lucky 13 is a great bar to be a regular at. I’ve found it to be one of the only bars in The City that consistently does buybacks – the idea that if you’re a nice person, the bartender will buy you a drink after you buy three or four yourself. Well, it’s either that or they recognize the thousand yard stare of someone who’s worked in the service industry for most of their adult life, and are buying that person drinks out of commiseration.
Either way, they had me at “What are you drinking?”