The Real Deal: Rickhouse Rules the FiDi
Just finished my tour of Rickhouse, and I have to say, it's absolutely beautiful. With one wall that's made of bricks and is holdout (ash and all) from the 1906 fire and the rest of the walls and ceiling being lovingly built from reclaimed wood and old bourbon barrel staves, the design of the new bar from the folk at Bourbon & Branch is stunning.
A rickhouse is the name of the warehouses where bourbon is stored and aged, and this bar lives up to its whiskey-inspired name. Contained on shelves that reach all the way to its 20-foot celings, its spirits collection is phenomenal, particularly on the whiskey front. There are two complete bars (one in the rear) and an open mezzanine where drinkers can observe all that's happening below. The lengthy menu has been printed on a sort of newsprint and is designed to look, on some pages, like a dictionary and, on others, like an old drink ad or cocktail book page. There is a painstakingly written glossary of classic drink terms, complete with illustrations. The list is currently 60 cocktails strong, and the few I've tasted like the Trilby #2 and the Kentucky Buck are spot on. Another feature is punch service, with punches made to order and served out of antique punch bowls for small groups.
To understand Rickhouse, owner Brian Sheehy told me, "you need to see it as an extension of Cask" (the liquor and wine shop his group built a few blocks away on 3rd and Market). "Everything you can get at Cask—spirit or wine—you can get at Rickhouse. You can buy the bottle to take with you at Rickhouse, as you can at Cask, but here you can actually taste them too." Wines are sold by the glass, but if you buy the bottle, the price is just retail. All in all, Sheehy said, it's very different from Bourbon & Branch in that the speakeasy vibe is nowhere to be found—no password, no secret doors, etc.
In fact, starting next Monday Rickhouse will open at noon, which is good news for all the bankers and traders that work market hours and get off work at about noon or one. And that's the other great feature about this bar. It brings elements of style, class and real depth to the Financial District which has been sadly bereft of destinations for years. Rickhouse is indeed a destination and a welcome addition to San Francisco's expanding firmament of great bars.