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?
They say “Punk is Dead.” It is not. Punk is alive and well and kicking ass at Molotov’s in the Lower Haight. I very rarely do research when it comes to writing The Weeknighter column. I pretty much just sit down at the page and just riff, often writing love letters to places I’ve spent too much time in. Because of this, I have no idea how long Molotov’s has been there. But I do know that it’s been around a lot longer than I have, and that this is indeed a love letter to a place I’ve spent too much time in.
There’s a certain brilliance to Molotov’s. It’s not the kind that jumps right out at you, making you say, “Damn, this place is genius!” No, it’s the subtler kind that comes from knowing what it is that you’re good at, and then just doing the fuck out of that. The name alone should be telltale enough. Molotov cocktails are very simply made bombs, and very simply, you get bombed when you visit this bar. That’s what the fuck they do, get you wastey-faced for very little money, and then let you out onto Lower Haight Street where you can still catch nighttime echoes of the neighborhood that once was.
I spent a lot of time at Molotov’s in my early twenties. The Lower Haight was grimier then, sometimes dangerously so. A number of shootings occurred around The Top (which is now Underground SF), and in 2003/2004 there was palpable difference between the stretch of Haight west of Fillmore, and the stretch that ran east. None of this actually matters to this story other than to reinforce that the San Francisco where a one bedroom apartment at Haight and Fillmore costs $4,000, is a different one than the one that existed a decade ago.
Back then we drank at Molotov’s because it was cheap and centrally located. Some of us lived in the Fillmore, some in the Mission, and some in the TL, so Molotov’s made sense. It smelled like a dive bar and it was full of dogs, and punks, and metal heads, and other people who just didn’t give a fuck. We liked those things because we didn’t give a fuck either. We’d play pool and talk shit and work out all the little victories and tragedies that, looking back, seem so specific to being 23 or so.
What’s cool about the Lower Haight is that, other than being safer than it used to be, not too much has changed in the past decade. Sure some spots have come and gone, but considering what has happened to Valencia, Divisidero, and 24th St. in the same amount of time, Lower Haight is still the same old Lower Haight. Toronado keeps beer unpretentious, Rosamunde supplies the sausages, Memphis Minnie’s smokes the meat, The Noc Noc is still weird, Kate’s Kitchen handles your hangover, and Molotov’s is still not giving any fucks.
No, punk is not dead and neither is Molotov’s. Even if the whole Lower Haight turns into $4,000 apartments, Molotov’s will still be around as a reminder of a neighborhood that wasn’t.
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.