After a successful run at Big, which closed in June, barmen Brian Felley and Mo Hodges have taken up a Monday night residency at Muka, an upcoming tapas restaurant located between Hayes Valley and Civic Center.
The vibe in the long, narrow bar is festive cruise ship with staff wearing nautical stripes and white sailor caps. "The theme was inspired by Isaac the bartender from the TV show Love Boat," said Felley as he flashed me Isaac's trademark two finger point.
As at Big, the pair doesn't want to restrict orders to a menu, instead tailoring cocktails to each guest. "We don't want them stuck ordering whatever eight or so cocktails are on the menu," said Felley. "We want people to be able to drink something different from everyone else in the bar." The crowd plays along: I heard one guest ask for a drink that tasted "like Top Gun."
The nautical theme is embodied in a few rum-focused house drinks. There's The Captain, which is strong and slightly sweet, and Tennille, a hibiscus-based play on a margarita. The Cruise Wrecker combines rum and mezcal, and the Love Boat mixes rum with muddled strawberry and lime.
Of course, you shouldn't drink all that rum on an empty stomach. Luckily, Joshua Wilder Oakley, the man behind Tango & Stache, is on hand in a sailor outfit, dishing up tequila-braised pork shoulder tacos and fried masa cakes topped with roasted eggplant and peppers (both dishes topped with a duck egg.)
Most drinks run $11 and taco plates are $11 to $13. The Love Boat is open at Muka from 5 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. on Mondays, and will continue until Felley and Hodges finalize their new brick-and-mortar spot in Oakland. You can also find Tango & Stache on Wednesdays and Thursdays at Rye, as well as the occasional brunch at Dear Mom.