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The Weeknighter: Horseshoe Tavern

Photo courtesy of gogbot

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?

It was the last session of a six week improv class at Bay Area Theatre Sports (BATS), and I was really sad that it was over. My personal life had been falling apart, my long time girlfriend and I had begun what would end up being a year long break-up, and improv had been my one bright spot each week. But it also signaled the beginning of what was to be a brand new and exciting part of my career. Within a few weeks of finishing the class I’d be flying out to New York to prep for the TV show that I’d co-created and was hosting, Young, Broke & Beautiful on IFC. In an act of reverence towards finishing our last session, the whole class decided to head over to Horseshoe Tavern for a couple drinks.

If you’ve been reading The Weeknighter for awhile you’ve probably noticed that I’ve only written about one other bar in The Marina. That’s because, compared to the old school soul of North Beach, the artsy hipness of The Mission, the proud peacocking of The Castro, etcetera, The Marina is just pretty fucking boring. I mean, sure, there are lots bars and restaurants and it’s a pretty place that’s full of pretty people, but compared to the richness of experience that happens throughout the rest of The City, the things that occur in The Marina can pretty much be taking place in any rich kid part of town in the US. So I rarely go there. That said, it does happen occasionally and when it does, I usually end up at the Horseshoe Tavern.

Whoever decorated the joint must be equal part sports nut and history nerd because the bar is covered with memorabilia celebrating both disciplines. Ra-ra Giants and Niners gear sits on the wall abutting black and white photos of our Victorian garbed antecedents shuffling through 1906’s rubble. You can tell the Horseshoe’s regulars are into both as well. They’re just as likely to be screaming obscenities at the screen during a game as they are to be marveling at the snippets of antiquity that look back at them from the walls. 

I was thinking about all this as my improv class and I pattered through the door. Big meaty motherfuckers with backwards ball caps were “woo-ing” and making each other take vile colored shots while a small crowd around the pool table talked about the Pan Pacific Exposition that built the Marina. During a game or a weekend night, the Horseshoe is generally packed asshole to elbow with a crowd that’s slightly less upmarket than the normal Marina scene. But on weeknights, our nights, you can sit at the bar and find yourself in conversations ranging from raging to reading. It’s a solid dive bar that unlike most of The Marina, just doesn’t give a fuck.

And this is why we went there. Improv is all about saying “yes”, and not giving a fuck. It’s an embrace of looking silly and laughing about it, and none of us were willing to let that go just yet. Between sipping actual drinks, we mimed drinking imaginary ones, and passed around an invisible ball for second or two, until we realized we’d already started to give a fuck again. Plans were made do improv parties at people’s apartments and then we each walked out of there and back into a world where you rarely get to play make believe. 

I’ve been back to the Horseshoe a couple times since then, and each time I think of that night. In the life of a Weeknighter, bars become physical markers of past experiences. They remind us of who we are at our best and at our worst. So maybe that’s my thing with the Marina. Maybe it’s just that each time I’m there, I’m only seeing people at their worst. I guess the only way to find out is go back out there and try again. I just wanna find a place where it’s ok to play make believe. Don’t you?

Stuart Schuffman has been called "an Underground legend" by the SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero" by the SF Bay Guardian, and