Skip to Navigation Skip to Content

The Weeknighter: Rye

Photo courtesy of Hidden Menu

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?

Booze industry people love Rye. I don’t know exactly why, they just do. I mean, I know why people love Rye, the cocktails are awesome, the staff is super knowledgeable and friendly, and there’s a little smoking patio; I just don’t know why booze industry people are especially keen on it. Maybe it’s just one of those things like Fernet in the sense that, once something catches on in the strange and semi-exclusive cabal of nightlife workers, it becomes part of the general culture of its members. I don’t know how many times I’ve been meeting up with friends who work in bars, or out with someone who reps alcohol, and they’ve been like, “Yo! Let’s go to Rye!”  

Maybe it’s because Rye is run by Jon Gasparini and Greg Lindgren, two veterans of SF nightlife who have such places as Rosewood and 15 Romolo under their belts. These spots have been hip for years, partially because they’re hidden, partially because the drinks are always on mark, partially because they are low-lit and cool looking, and mostly because they always seem to attract all the right people (especially in the case of 15 Romolo). Since pretty much the day it opened, San Francisco’s professional drinking community put its collective arm around Rye’s shoulder and said, “This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”…and then they drank till they blacked out. 

That’s how it works in this industry. Toiling in bars makes you develop a certain disdain for drunk people while simultaneously making you want to drink. You feed people intoxicants that turn them from decent, rational people into absolute fucking shit-pigs who have no place in society. And then, you go out and complain to other bar workers about the horrors you’ve seen while getting completely assholed on booze yourself. Working in a bar might be one of the only professions where seeing your colleagues become wretched creatures on a regular basis is not only accepted, but expected. All things are forgiven the next day, assuming anybody remembers them.

And maybe that’s just it, that’s what makes Rye the booze industry hangout that it is. Sure there’s plenty of civilians who drink and celebrate at Rye, but for those of us who are deep in the trenches, it’s comforting to know you’ll see other pros when you walk through those doors. In fact, there’s this one guy who works there who still never remembers me, even though we’ve met like seven times. And it’s not like I’m easy to forget; I’m all kinds of loud and obnoxious even when I’m sober. But all is forgiven among bar worker folk because we’ve all seen it and done it before.

Like pretty much every place I write about, Rye is best on the weeknights. Weekends are a mess and there are too many people trying to order too many drinks that take too long to make. Here’s a tip for the rubes: you’re not allowed to complain that the drinks aren’t being made fast enough when you, yourself then get to the bar and order a bunch of drinks that take a long time to make. Know what I mean? I think I pretty much just described most people’s Saturday nights. That’s why I go to Rye on weeknights, so I can order a well made drink and not have to compete with the people who the rest of us will be making fun on our way to blacking out.