The Weeknighter: Martuni's


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 was standing in line at Martuni’s, waiting to take a piss, when these thoughts occurred in this order: 1. Martuni’s is Magical. 2. This place is really too big to only have one bathroom. At that moment, both these statements were true. First, how else would you describe a dark, slightly campy, piano bar where giant martinis are $6 and drag queens sing show tunes? Secondly, I couldn’t wait any longer and had to slip out the front door and pee around the corner.

But back to point number one. Martuni’s is magical. It might be the neon martini glass that beckons you in from Market Street like a warm and beguiling new friend. Maybe it’s the sweet (and occasionally terrible) crooning that drifts through the back room, begging you to stay for just one more song. Or possibly it’s the candlelit front room and incredibly potent drinks. Regardless, almost every time I go to Martuni’s, it ends up being a memorable night. That may have something to do with the fact that it’s a great place for a first date. While so many date-ish bars tend to swing towards either a gay or straight clientele, Martuni’s is perfect no matter what gender you find tender. The scene is predominantly gay, but there’s also plenty of straight couples there drinking down the atmosphere, soaking up the booze, and belting out the tunes. I can attest to this; I’ve been to Martuni’s on a number of dates, some more magical than others.

But there’s more to Martuni’s than looking lustfully over your martini glass at the person whose thigh your hand rests on. To begin with, despite the possible allure of $6 martinis, you should know that those are well drinks, and martinis made of well drinks will hurt you in the morning. Martuni’s has a great list of delicious cocktails that are made with fresh fruit and good booze, that'll thereby make the next morning not as painful. Then there’s also the staff. The bartenders are efficient and highly capable drink makers while the wait staff are sassy, no bullshit cats in tuxedo vests, and very happy to bust your balls a little. My favorite is the slightly rotund fella with the Harvey Fierstein voice and the “look sugar, order your drink already” attitude. I wish he served me drinks everywhere I went.

Martuni’s is a true San Francisco gem, a place of charm and near enchantment. I’ve had nights there where I drank myself under the table with new friends that I met an hour before. I’ve also had nights where I was stone sober and watched with wonder as the local institution played its role perfectly in creating another incredible San Francisco night. That said, they really need to get another goddamn bathroom, or I’m gonna keep watering the concrete around the corner.     

4 Valencia Street at Market, 415-241-0205

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. He is also the host for the IFC travel show Young, Broke & Beautiful. Follow him @BrokeAssStuart.

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