COCKTAIL HOUR I'm not sure whether it was completely unintended, but after my night at new SoMa gastropub the Willows, one thing was clear: I need to call my mother.
A sister bar to the Mission's Sycamore, the Willows opened a few weeks ago on the corner of Folsom and 12th, in one of those cursed spots that's seen a lot of turnover ever since Hamburger Mary's decamped a decade ago. (Here's hoping the Willows breaks the curse and settles in.) It's walking distance from my job, and at 6pm I had a serious case of the Mondays and was ready to drink.
The place is divided into two parts: a main bar room and a smaller, cozier room dedicated to serving craft beers. The main room is huge with large windows letting in lots of natural light. There were couples sitting at tables doing whatever couples do, people playing pool near the door, and arcade games in the back of the bar. Just a nice open space.
As befits the Willows' arboreal name, the craft beer room has wooden walls and a few wooden tables out in the open, with a couple of intimate booths as well. Relieved by the emptiness, I took a seat in the smaller room and ordered a malt beer. I chatted with the bartender — a friendly young man who looked like a lost member of Vampire Weekend — and waited for my friends to arrive.
When they showed up, we all dove into the menu. This is when you get a bit of nostalgia for home. The food menu takes you right back to your childhood: burgers, roast beef, sloppy Joes ("Just like Mom's" was the caption on the menu), and the aptly titled "Mom's Meatloaf." Just reading it makes you feel like a kid waiting anxiously at the dinner table. Unfortunately, we weren't too hungry at the time. But we decided to order the pork-belly donuts anyway. I mean, how could you not?
They were delicious. And then came the drinks. Most of the cocktail menu consists of traditional classics with a tiny twist — but I think what we enjoyed most was the menu itself. Filled with fun names (Oh, Trisha!, Mom's Mai Tai, Donkey Show) and captions ("A distinctive drink for a discerning drinker" for the 007 Perfect Martini), we had a blast reading it. There was even had a drink called Fuck You, Grandpa!, which is something my mom would totally say.
My buds and I all ordered a couple each. They were pretty good for the most part, but the hands-down winner was the Willows' version of a sidecar. At $12, it was the most expensive drink on the menu and worth every penny — and having ordered about four, there were a lot of pennies. When ordering the last of these, the bartender told me rather candidly that she hadn't memorized the bar's recipe yet.
"This is just how my mom likes it," she shrugged. I should have asked if her mom was a bartender.
So, to recap: The Willows may not be the place to take your mom — but if you want to feel right at home, here you go.
THE WILLOWS 1582 Folsom, SF. (415) 529-2039, www.thewillowssf.com