I’m heading to Europe tomorrow and it’s a funny thing over there in that there are no wine bars. There are cafes that serve wine and beer and whatever else. The concept of just a wine bar is quite unnecessary. You just drink wine when you’re out or you drink beer. No need to be all uppity about it.
San Francisco could learn something from this as the concept of the wine bar is simply out of control. I mean, I love ’em; these wine bars. I love wine and I love having the ability to go out and have good wine at a bar instead of having to pay $8 for a glass of wine from a $4 Trader Joe’s bottle like how it used to be five years ago. But, people seem to have gotten addicted to a good thing and have made it the new, “it” venue. So naturally along with this comes perversion of the original intent.
We have now seen an overabundant use of the word, “and” so that some place that is actually something else can get in on the wine bar vibe by being something like, “Restaurant and Wine Bar” or “Wine Bar and Massage Parlor”, the former example being just the least bit more common. And while this would be fine if there was a wine bar component to these places, it’s just shoddy marketing glitz that might lure in a sucker or two. To illustrate my point, here are a few examples of “Wine Bars” as listed on Yelp:
Amelie – Yes, it’s a wine bar, but it’s a pretty rotten scene. Just a lot of striped shirts crowding the joint at any given moment.
William Cross Wine Merchants & Wine Bar – A good example of the overused ‘and’. This is a wine store and not a wine bar.
The Hidden Vine – Pure wine bar. It’s changed owners in the last couple of months, so we’ll see how things go.
Yield Wine Bar – Another pure wine bar. The staff are quite helpful and the selection is okay, but the hard floors make it pretty noisy and it’s really, really far away in the Dogpatch.
Hotel Biron – Another example of only a wine bar. It’s a decent place, but as it gets crowded, any sense of intimacy goes away and the crowd gets pretty tough to deal with.
Swirl on Castro – Another one of the wine stores trying to pose as a wine bar. yeah, there’s a “bar” in the back, but you aren’t going to sit around and sip here. Plus it closes at 9. What bar closes at 9?
Cafe Meuse – Nearly a wine bar and nearly not. It’s straddling a tough line that they should walk one way or the other on and be just be a wine bar or just be a small restaurant.
Nua Restaurant & Wine Bar – The guys who run it are cool and they have a very good wine list, but really, they are purely a restaurant. Sitting around drinking wine in there feels like you’ve forgotten to order your main course.
Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant – There will be people sitting around sipping wine sometimes, but this is really a store.
Bacchus Wine Bar – Super cool, but super small. If you’re one of the lucky 12 people at the bar that it seems the place can hold at any one time, then count yourself lucky. Definitely a pure wine bar.
The Alembic – I have no idea how this Haight bar is in the list of wine bars. It’s just a bar bar that has some additional wine. If you want to go this route, then I’d recommend Rye on Geary which has a decent wine selection surprising.
Eos Restaurant & Wine Bar – Ha ha, nice try. Just a restaurant.
Dell’Uva – Hmm, I guess it’s something of a wine bar, but it’s like a sport wine bar. I hate to say it, but it’s probably more of a wine bar than Nua across the street, but I’d choose Nua any day.
1550 Hyde Cafe & Wine Bar – Again, just a restaurant.
Bar Tartine – Wha? You gotta be kidding me. Restaurant.
Cav Wine Bar and Kitchen – A wine bar that steps deeply in to be a scene place that is more restaurant. Still, they have a very interesting wine list.
Bacar Restaurant & Wine Salon – Restaurant and a big one at that.
Nectar Wine Lounge – Definitely a wine bar and pretty descent despite being in the Marina.
District – Yeah, it’s a massive wine bar, but no where anyone I know would want to go. Just a meat market that serves wine.
Cafe Royale – I happen to quite like Royale, but it is leaning much more towards being just a local joint than wine bar, but I agree the case could be made for calling it a wine bar, especially if they punch up their wine selection a great deal.
London Wine Bar – An old school spot that is definitely a wine bar, but not one that’s high on my list as their wine selection isn’t tremendously amazing.
Annie’s Bistro – This is a restaurant and this classification is so ridiculous, there must be some mistake here.
So, that’s a shot list and while you may or may not agree with my opinion, you can see that the wine bar phenomenon is pretty widespread across San Francisco. In one day, I am going to look forward to having a 1€ glass of wine in Madrid and any number of cute bars and cafes.