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 first moved to San Francisco in the summer of 2002 for an internship at Bill Graham Presents. My friend Mani and I were sharing a room without a door in a big building at the corner of Haight and Central. We were both abysmally broke and the only places we could really afford to drink were the old Murio’s (RIP), the Gold Cane, and Hobson’s Choice at happy hour. That summer, we collected a good group of people, all young, all broke, all happy to be living something close to what seemed like real life at the turn of the century in San Francisco.
I’d become good friends with a girl named Liz who worked with Mani at a now defunct smoothie shop on Haight St. She was also here for the summer, sleeping on her older brother’s floor and scraping by on the meager money she made working part time at the juice joint. Her brother had been in SF for a few years and had a solid group of friends, who like him, had real jobs. They’d meet a couple times a week at Hobson’s choice for the $2 happy hour rum punches while munching on the magical nachos delivered from Asqew Grill next door. I don’t know how many rum punches the older kids bought me in those days when I couldn’t get a job and a single $2 punch was all I could afford, but it was certainly a lot.
Little did I know at the time how many cool people and experiences would come through my life because of that group of people I shared so many nachos with at Hobson’s Choice. For example: I had a very short-lived web business with Tim, Liz’s brother, in which we attempted to build an arts and culture website and failed miserably. Also, I became friends with the actor Ari Zagaris (son of the famous photographer Michael Zagaris). Through Ari, I met the brilliant music photographer Victoria Smith, someone who, to this day, is one of my favorite people on Earth and whose work has been in magazines around the world as well as in all my books.
That was a special summer. I first fell in love with San Francisco and I first fell in love with a girl. I found what I thought could be a career path (the music industry) and was thankfully proven wrong. Also, I found Hobson’s Choice. What’s great about Hobson’s Choice is that it manages to be everything to everyone. It’s a sports bar on game day, and a happy hour spot during the week. It’s a place where tourists drink away the day when the skies open up and give Haight Street a good cleansing, but it’s also a place where locals pop in to get a Dark and Stormy and the low down on the neighborhood news. Just sitting in the window, sipping powerful punch, and observing the passersby and the bus stoppers is one of the finest ways to waste a San Francisco afternoon. Hip-hop or soul usually drifts through the speakers while circles of people laugh loudly on couches, and new friends are made by sidling up next to someone at the bar. No matter where you are in your day, your year, or even your life, Hobson’s Choice always seems to feel like a place you never left.
And I guess that’s why I like it. I rarely go there any more. Shit, it’s probably been a couple years–but it always stays the same. The punch always flows and there’s always a great assortment of weirdos. And usually, when I do make it by, there’s some new group of fresh-faced young folks, huddled around a pile of nachos, buzzing with the kind of vibrancy that only exists in those excited to finally be living what seems to be real life.
Stuart Schuffman has been called "an Underground legend" by the SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero" by the SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap" by Time Out New York. Follow him @BrokeAssStuart.