Serious Eats: Drinks
First Look: Cocktails at Trick Dog, San Francisco
Note: First Looks give previews of new drinks and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots and interviews with bars and restaurants, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.
You can almost feel the pre-cocktail hour anticipation over on 20th Street these days. Despite high-profile openings and lines stretching down the block, there has remained a dearth of serious, and seriously delicious, cocktails on this long overlooked pocket of the Mission. Restaurants with carefully crafted wine lists are flanked by dive bars; while there's no shortage of whiskey shots, a stimulating spirits environment has been noticeably lacking.
Until now. Enter Trick Dog: the very anticipated cocktail bar just opened its doors last Monday, helmed by some of the city's most prolific cocktail stars. Josh Harris and Scott Baird of The Bon Vivants have gained a reputation for crafting some of the city's best libations thanks to their work consulting on menus around the Bay Area, including at 15 Romolo and Comal, among others.
With Trick Dog, the team is stepping things up even more. "We're the owners of the place," Harris said in the afternoon calm behind the bar. "And it was really important for us to challenge ourselves."
The team designed the sleek, high ceilinged space themselves—industrial greys are complemented by brightly topped bar stools and a pink floor, the colorful accents subtly popping in the cool neutrality of the room. The bar shares the warehouse-sized building with Central Kitchen and Salumeria, and sits across the courtyard from both.
And the drinks? "The goal was to build a cocktail menu that was exciting and approachable," Harris says. "It was always about the menu as a whole for us. We want the experience here to be inclusive to customers." And Harris means all customers, from the wonkiest of cocktail nerds to a total spirits novice.
"This is a neighborhood drinking place. You want to come in here and drink pink bubbles, we've got good ones!"
While wine and beer are given their due, the cocktails are clearly the major focus here. Featuring a brand-new slew of drinks, you have your choice of thirteen headlining multi-element cocktails; three highballs; three large-format options; three "First Drinks" (aperitif, champagne cocktail); and three "Neat With A Side" options (shot-chaser combinations including a fancy pickle back and The Bon Vivants own sangrita).
While the menu will eventually change, Harris is not looking to do so at a frantic pace—he mentions the likelihood of a spring-summer and fall-winter menu, with evergreen favorites keeping their spots.
Trick Dog also has a food menu of small plates available, with plans for a brunch service in the future. "We love that we can serve food until 1:30 in the morning," Harris told us. "It's for our friends, our neighbors, and ourselves." Harris mentions that they've had lines out the door since opening last week.
The team is relishing the opportunity to really put their stamp on the place, and to fill a gap in the neighborhood. "You don't get many opportunities to really do it for yourself," Harris said.
Harris, Baird, and bar manager Morgan Schick took us through some of the offerings on the Pantone-colored menu. Check out the cocktails, and the space, in the slideshow above!
About the author: Lauren Sloss is a bicoastal food-lover who is based in San Francisco. Some of her favorite things include The Black Keys, goat gouda, and guacamole. You can follow her on Twitter @laurensloss.