I’ve decided to like hipsters. It’s not because I particularly have much in common with hipsters. I don’t possess industrial-ultra-slim clothing, ironic facial hair, youth, tattoos. I don’t live in the Mission, slackline or hula hoop in Dolores Park, drink trendy coffee or date girls with thick-framed eyewear and colorful tights.
In fact, for the past couple of years I’ve been known to ridicule hipsters. Not necessarily because I had anything against them, but more so that I bought into a covert trend unto itself. The anti-hipster club (kinda like the he-man woman hater’s club of Lil’ Rascals) is a prodigious movement that can be traced to it’s origins in the darkest corners of places like 25 Lusk, RN74 and Delarosa. I often think that nobody actually believes themselves to be a hipster. I’ve never met a person that has self-identified in this way.
Yet, there is no doubt that there is a citywide class war being waged between Mission hipsters and Marina types. Cute and fuzzy bunnies (points for the knowing the reference) and professionals of the North gaze somewhat scornfully at hipsters. I secretly think they desire or envy the hipster indifference, while at the same time loathing their fashion sense. Whereas the hipster looks towards those from the Marina with decided scorn. I don’t believe there’s anything about the Northern life that appeals much to the hipster, except maybe said cute and fuzzy bunnies.
I’m between worlds. I run with all crowds. I can hang with the cutest and fuzziest of them, doing my Mayurasanas, Adho Mukha Vrksasana and Koundinyasana B (don’t press me on hip-openers tho). But also spend most of my time Southside, with the exception of the essential Nopa late-nights (neutral territory), and SPQR, who equals my beloved F+W for pasta supremacy. Plus, I live in the Dogpatch where I prefer the sunshine and the shipyard views – and is also the neighborhood where aged hipsters go to nest.
To the point: One thing the hipsters and I do share is Trick Dog. The brainchild of the Bon Vivants (and decidedly hip) Scott Baird and Josh Harris, Trick Dog is a Gastropub that appeals to my sensibilities for Gastro-ing and Pub-ing (really, you went there?). And apparently it also appeals to those of the Mission-hipster species, because it’s teeming with them.
The aesthetics of Trick Dog are lean and modern with elements of Prohibition-era charm, mixed with some steam-punk accents. It feels very hip without being ironic or cliché. Scott and Josh themselves have formed a design business based upon the work they’ve done at the bar. There’s a cutting edge European sensibility to the layout, that reminds me of some of my favorite places in Madrid, Barcelona, Rome and Paris. You could easily find this bar tucked away in the Marais, The Born or the Chueca (yes they are all the gay neighborhoods – problem?).
But moreover, it’s about the food, the drinks and the intangible in the atmosphere that keep me coming. The crowd never gets too dense, and always feels upbeat with lots of engaged groups split between the upstairs in the downstairs. The upstairs being a compact sit-down dining space – the downstairs bar stacked a few deep with some open floor area to stand around. Flow is well considered. Noise is manageable.
The cocktails are exactly what you would expect from the Bon Vivants. Everything has been very, very well-considered. The drinks are incredibly balanced, often surprising in their subtleties: never sweet, never heavy. They go down easily, too easily. I love me some Baby Turtle, a concoction with Ocho tequila, campari, grapefruit, cinnamon, lime, egg white. And the bartenders themselves could be the most affable lot I’ve encountered in any trendy establishment in town. Just plain good-folk.
But it’s the food that really stands out to me. Not what you’d expect from a bar’s bar. The menu is not extensive – it’s very accessible. Yet, there are enough options, and it changes regularly, so that you could go a few times and still find surprises. Most things are functional for sharing – and share we do.
Some of the standouts are the Salt Cod Scotch Egg, which has a gooey yolk to balance the fishy crust and a lovely shredded beet salad underneath. The Fried Green Tomatoes they’re serving right now are outstanding – crispy, yet light with an al dente tomato center. The Radishes with Campari Butter and Smoke Se Salt are incredibly surprising in their simplicity, yet thrilling in their complexity.
Almost everything is good here but the real standout to me are the French Fries. They have an option of Manimal Style which emulates In-N-Out Burger with a tangy sauce and fried onions. And these could be the best french fries I’ve had in San Francisco and beyond. In fact, I was recently in Belgium and I’d put them up against the best I had there. They’re listed as thrice-cooked, which I assume means they’ve been boiled and then fried a couple of times. No matter, they got it right and they’re the most crispy delicious flavorful little piles of spuds you’ll find anywhere.
It took a few visits to slide into the vibe at Trick Dog and frankly, in the early weeks they were still cutting their teeth. After The Bauer gave them three-stars for food, the crowd settled in and the bar hit its stride. It’s too easy to pop in on a weeknight after some Tittibhasanas and Tolasana through to Vinyasa. I’m even thinking about getting a few tattoos and maybe reconsider my stance on dates with thick-framed eyewear – so that I can move freely amongst the hipsters as a regular.