Smoke and Mirrors: A Glittery New Cocktail Bar in SF

In SF’s most hipster neighborhood, the Mission District, a new bar aims to avoid design clichés. It’s called ABV (Alcohol by Volume) and was opened by three restaurateurs with serious Bay Area cocktail creds (Beretta, Dalva, and Bourbon & Branch), along with a chef who hails from local favorites Bar Tartine and Commonwealth.

The stake they claimed is a former 75-seat sushi restaurant that has undergone a modest redesign–expanded drinking space, shrunken kitchen, and aesthetic updates. But before anyone picked up a hammer, the founders vowed that they would keep the interior trend-free: no Edison bulbs and reclaimed wood here. Their bar would be practical, comfortable, and affordable. As they told spirits blog Alcademics, “There’s not going to be a uniform, and it’s not like everyone is going to wear a certain kind of hat.” 

Above: Hand-patinated wall mirrors and sconces hang opposite the bar. ABV aims to keep the drinks at under $10 each–and to make sure they’re not so artisanal that they’re gimmicky. Photograph by Patricia Chang via Eater SF.

Above: The bar counter is made from an elm tree that lived for more than a century on the campus of San Jose State University, south of San Francisco. Photograph by Patricia Chang via Eater SF.

Above L: At night, the mirrors and sconces have a warm sheen. Photograph by Pete Kane via SF Weekly. Above R: In daytime, they’re a cool silver. Photograph by Patricia Chang via Eater SF.

Above: Not much table space is required for food–the menu is all finger foods, and forks are not included. Hand-distressed mirrors and lamps give the space a glow. Photograph via ABV.

Above: Imbibers on the mezzanine have the best perch for people-watching. A pop art mural by SF artist Nathaniel Russell animates a swath of white wall (visit ABV’s home page for a video of the design being painted). Photograph by Patricia Chang via Eater SF.

Above: A sound-absorbing black foam ceiling is visible from the mezzanine. Photograph by Patricia Chang via Eater SF.

Above: In the main lounge, the mural and a light fixture designed by owner Ryan Fitzgerald share center stage. Fitzgerald also designed ABV’s tables, and the founding team of bartenders did much of the construction work themselves. Photograph via ABV.

Above: The facade got a dramatic redesign, including new street-level and clerestory windows to avoid the dungeon-style club look all too common in the neighborhood. A cafe table and chairs accommodate late lunchers (the bar is open from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m.). Go to ABV for more. Photograph by Patricia Chang via Eater SF.

Keep exploring dining in San Francisco: See The Mill: A “Bright and Messy” Cafe, New Restaurant Alert: Souvla, and Boulettes Larder Gets Brassy. For recommended hotels, shops, and garden finds, visit our San Francisco City Guide.

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